The Giants of Tharizdun

Tales from the Adventures of the Company from Kerr:

Jake, David, Bisonbit, & Gilden

Session 4 - Chapters

Part I: The Decision

Part II: The Descent

Part III: Iron Golems

Part IV: Cleric Avalanche

Part V: Forgotten Fountain

Part VI: Into the Fountain

Part I: The Decision

David looked cautiously up each stairway. Nothing showed but darkness past the radius of light from his sword. No fire giant wizard. Turning to Renki he asked, "Which way do you think he fled? From which side would you expect the fire giant wizard to counter attack?"

"The answer to your questions is the same, either. That one is wily. He may attack from both sides and will certainly look for any magical traps we might set. Expect him to send the orcs first. They make excellent trap detectors." Her statement was flat with unexpected black humor.

Jake asked the large woman, "Tell us more about this thing the clerics are going to release."

"There is little to tell. The senior human and frost giant clerics all had the same dream about seeking a lower level, finding this creature, and releasing it. I know nothing more of it, other than they researched all known sources and this creature is so ancient that it has no name. They refer to it as The Destroyer of Nations."

"We need to stop that from happening!" Trust Jake to state the obvious.

"NO! We need to make sure the giants don't hit us from behind! We will be crushed between opposing forces if we don't! Never leave live enemies between you and the exit!" David said heatedly.

"If we don't stop them it won't matter, we'll all be dead," Jake countered.

"Their god wants this thing released so badly that they've stopped their efforts to release him." Renki paused and looked around at the six small figures. "His entire focus has been on his release. I fear that he is unhappy with their lack of progress and intends to exterminate his followers, along with everyone else. My people's records from the time of the fall of the Empire of Bahman indicate that the human empire fell because their god caused it to. Five hundred years of failing to release him exhausted his patience." Note 16

She took the time to look each in the eye again. "Two thousand years prior to the rise of the Empire of Bahman the humans threw off the yoke of slavery. This previous race, of which no traces remain, had worshiped this god for a score of centuries and it is believed that the god lost patience with them and encouraged the humans to destroy them. So powerful was the urge he implanted that they destroyed every trace." Renki has huge, imposing, and seemingly fearless, but never the less this entire tale disturbed her.

"We believe that this effort exhausted the god so badly that he was untouched and untouchable until he raised the Empire of Bahman." Pausing she looked at her audience, all rapt upon her story. "My people have never been part of any of this, remaining off on their own. Up until now. To our regret." She swallowed and continued, "Even our histories are fragmented. We know nothing of this previous race."

Bisonbit spoke, "So is this monster they want to release of that race?" He looked at the ground and thought for a minute, but obviously wasn't done speaking. "Or is it what destroyed them?"

"Neither. My people's savants believe it to be a creature of elemental chaos, one that hasn't been released within the memory of any god. Not even one as ancient as the dwarven god you all follow."

The explosion that followed was a noisy one as each of the five humans repudiated the ogre's statement.

Bisonbit calmed the others down and turned to the ogre. "I am a cleric of Demeter, and Jake and David follow her as well. They were educated in the Temple of Kerr." Bisonbit, some five years older than the other two men, had been their primary tutor in reading, writing, mathematics, history, and philosophy. "We follow Cieldren's path with the blessings of Demeter. Faraz is a nature cleric of Silvanus and Trilla follows the teachings of Donblas. Only Gilden follows Cieldren."

"You all do the Defenseless One's bidding. That is sufficient."

It was Gilden's turn to sputter. "DEFENSELESS ONE??"

Calmly looking down upon the vexed dwarf she continued, "Your god is unique in that he has no war-like abilities. His power of war rests within the hands of his Champion. This you know well."

"Well, er, yes. But the way you say it sounds so insulting!"

"My apologies. My gods strongly respect the Defenseless One. For one with no power he is quite deadly and worthy of respect. Although we all wait while his new champion works her way into her role."

The blood drained from Gilden's face. "Gendin is dead???"

"The former Champion? No. He voluntarily handed the Sword of Cieldren to another."

Visibly relieved, Gilden caught something the ogre said. His forehead wrinkled. "Did you say her?" Note 17

"Yes, the former Champion raised quite a stir by handing the Sword to a woman." Renki laughed. "You dwarves are far too protective of your women." She flexed a massive bicep. "We are not fragile," laughing softly again. "Word is that the chief cleric of Cieldren at Rendelshod is now the chief floor scrubber. He disagreed with the former Champion's choice, very strongly, and your god appeared in person to correct his error." Renki was obviously amused at the whole thing! Note 18

Pausing to let them digest this news, she continued, "We learned something we did not know. The Champion of Cieldren is the High Priest of Cieldren."

Gilden sputtered. "That's not so! The Champion is always a mighty soldier, not a cleric!"

"I did not say the Champion is a cleric. Just that her temporal authority is greater than any cleric's." The huge woman was vastly amused at the dwarf's discomfiture. "But we digress. Do we stay here to block the giants, or do we stop the clerics from releasing a fiend?" Note 19

David voted to stay ... but gave in as gracefully he could when Bisonbit, Jake, Gilden, and Renki voted to go down. Jake looked at Trilla. "What is your vote?"

She squeaked, "I get a vote?"

Jake smiled at her. "Your life is at stake here, same as the rest of us."

Her voice leveled. "We have to stop that thing. I follow you." Jake felt his face heat up. Not that Trilla was in love with him or anything, but even someone as dense as Jake regarding interpersonal things could see that she was on the verge of becoming his acolyte. The idea of being a leader scared the heck out of him!

David spun on Faraz, "What is your vote?"

The human looked at his employer with a strangled expression. This adventure had proved far more dangerous than he ever conceived, all the dangers of years of border fighting condensed into 2 days of battle. He met David's direct gaze for a brief moment and quickly looked down at his feet. "I signed on as your soldier. I do whatever I'm told."

David's reply was explosive. "WRONG!"

The mage rarely showed any anger, but it was etched on his face now. The taller human backed up two steps in surprise. "I hired you for your ability. If I wanted a dummy to die in battle for me, I'd have hired an orc." David didn't like being a leader any more than Jake did. Fighting with himself for a short while, the short mage gained control of his emotions and continued in a lighter tone. "What do you think we should do?"

Still unsure of what he should do, the pain of the decision to speak telegraphed on his face. Finally he decided to be honest. "We need to go down."

Clearly David expected the response. "Ok. My ideas aren't always the best ones." Ignoring a snort from Jake, Bisonbit, AND Gilden, David continued, "Let's do it!"

DM Notes

Note 16

The Empire of Bahman was a previous human government organized and controlled by Tharizdun. It collapsed in civil war approximately 500 years before the present, falling when Tharizdun lost patience with the attempts to free him, caused the civil war, and encouraged the goblinoids to fall upon the disorganized humans. Worshiping a chaotic evil god has its rewards but has some VERY strong drawbacks.

Note 17

IMC dwarven society is matriarchal. Everything is determined through the female line. A quick primer on dwarves IMC:

Because of biology only 1 in 4 births is female. Females are strongly protected by the male majority as they are the key to the propagation of the clan. Females of child bearing age are never seen by outsiders, nor are children. This gives rise to many fanciful tales regardless dwarves appearing full grown from certain rock types.

This is not male conceit. Females view the need to protect the future of the clan with stronger emotion than the males, and their minority holds the majority of the political power. Married dwarves (99% of females, 33% of males) are strongly protected along with their children. The dwarves that outsiders see are 99.9% unmarried male dwarves who handle all outside contact. The clan chief is always an unmarried male for this reason, but his supporting council is at least half female.

Unmarried dwarves will sacrifice anything, even their lives, in protection of the married ones. Protection of the clan and its future is the paramount concern. Such decisions are not made blindly or unthinkingly. Unmarried dwarves are not drones, they have fulfilling lives in whatever craft they may pursue, but protection of the clan is part of their fabric.

The new Champion of Cieldren is the first female ever chosen. She is an extreme rarity, an infertile female. Such ones never marry as there is no value in such an action (from the dwarven POV), and although they are treated as unmarried males, all either leave the clan or become members of the clan Border Guard. Such a one who never be driven out of the clan -- it's unspoken pity that they can't fulfill their normal role in the clan that drives them to leave. In the current campaign the new champion (who I haven't named yet) is a trainee of Gendin, the past champion. Cieldren told him to follow his feelings in choosing his replacement and he chose the bravest yet most level headed of the dwarves who fit the role.

One of my goals in designing the dwarven culture is to make them different, unhuman. Not inhuman, but clearly different. They are something other than short, stocky humans. They have their prejudices which are often as pointless as real world prejudices, although quite different.

Note 18

Most of the conversation depicted in this thread is fictionalized. It occurred to me when I started this part of the CJ that a HUGE chunk of the story would mean nothing to anyone without a background on dwarves IMC. My players know as they literally have grown up with it (both like my story telling). But you who know my only through DF??? Yeah, extra background is necessary so I took the time to write out exposition.

Besides, I enjoyed writing it!

Note 19

This has nothing to do with game mechanics or how an adventure is run. Just an interesting point within my campaign.

Part II: The Descent

The staircase down to the next level was a long one. Renki indicated it went down 80, maybe 100 feet. A quick conference resulted in a plan that varied not at all from previous ones. David cast Invisibility on Gilden who scouted down the steps.

Moving carefully and cautiously, mindful of stonework traps, Gilden descended the steps which dropped easily 100 feet towards the west. Below him he could see faint light. The stairway opened into a large room dimly lit with torches. In the room were six humans dressed in old chain mail, their cloaks a riot of colors, mostly purple and green. None came even close to matching the others in hue, shade, or patterns. A drunk with buckets of paint would be hard pressed to make such a chaotic collage. Looking up ... sure enough, ledges covered all the walls about 20 feet up and every 10 feet was a 5 foot statue of a hunched humanoid figure.

"I have a feeling I'm really going to regret finding out what those things are," he thought. Note 20

Two large passages exited the room, one to the west and the other to the north. He turned and quietly went back up the steps.

Gilden reported the humans' dress to the others. Renki confirmed they were human clerics of Tharizdun. Each was armed with those ugly, barbed pole arms designed to do more damage when pulled out than when poked in. Note 21

"I can go invisible," Renki stated. "The littlest one and I can sneak in and when you attack from the stair case we can hit them from behind." The others were getting used to Renki referring to them as 'little people', as it wasn't meant with any rancor. If anything she was far kinder to them than they expected ... not that they had any personal interactions with ogre magi to base anything on.

"I have one more Invisibility spell," David said. "We can use this to give us more tactical advantage."

Trilla's hand shot up. "I volunteer!" Embarrassed by her own actions, she continued, "I'm not as good a fighter as any of you. If I hit them from behind I can do more good."

Jake nodded his approval. Everyone agreed it was a good plan.

The party moved cautiously to within 60 feet of the room. The three invisible people had a count of 120 to get into place. Three clerics were clumped near the door, playing cards. The visible ones would hit them with missile fire and when the other clerics turn to help the invisible ones would strike! The plan was for a short and brutal fight.

At a count of 90 Jake, David, Bisonbit, and Faraz prepared missile weapons and started moving as quietly as they could. Stopping at the edge of the light emanating from the room they could see the three card players were still at their game. At 120 the four fired!

Arrows and sling bullets lanced into the unsuspecting card players, dropping one and wounding the other two. Dropping their bows and slings the four champions of good charged down the remaining steps with weapons drawn and ready! David and Faraz barreled into the wounded clerics, while Bisonbit and Jake veered right and left to take on the nearest foes. As the other clerics reacted to the attack Gilden, Trilla, and Faraz became visible as they attacked. There was no surprise that Renki's spear crushed her victim to the stone floor. If she had hit him with that much force using a pillow the result would be about the same, but without as much blood.

Gilden's beloved axe whistled a short tune before thunking into another cleric. The chain mail armor held but the collarbone below it failed. With an anguished shriek this one followed his first brother in a rapid descent to the stone floor.

Trilla's luck demonstrated that good things don't always come in 3's. She struck with her staff but her foe must have realized at the last second that he was under attack, spinning and interposing his shield. They traded blows with her taking the worst of it. The cleric kept trying to drive the barbed tip of his weapon into her soft vitals. Only her honed reflexes kept her from more than relatively minor cuts. Her mind trembled at what would happen if he drove that sickening weapon into her belly! She could feel her hot blood running down her sides but couldn't stop long enough to find out how badly she was wounded.

Evading yet another near miss left Trilla with more skin gone. Her strength was failing and she knew she was done for. Winding up for another stab the cleric froze and the front of his helmet parted, his skull opening up as something leaped out at her!

She recoiled in horror until she realized that the parting wasn't a magical attack, the odd protrusion was a sword tip! She gasped as Jake yanked his sword from the cleric's cloven skull. Looking around she realized the evil clerics were all dead.

"Faraz! Trilla is hurt!"

The druid rushed to the woman and lowered her to the floor, quickly assessing her injuries. "She is badly slashed. She came as close to being disemboweled as anyone can without really doing it." Calling upon Silvanus he invoked healing magic that closed her wounds, knitted her muscles back together, and revitalized her blood. Her body jerked in response to the flood of magic. Trilla kept her eyes closed, praying to Donblas that she hadn't embarrassed herself.

When she opened her eyes, after the spasms had left her body, she saw them all standing there, staring down at her. Jake's hand was there for her to clasp, and he smoothly and effortlessly drew her to her feet. Trilla had never encountered anyone nearly as strong as the small man. He was nearly as short as a dwarf and even stronger than them!

Renki clapped her on the shoulder, nearly driving her back to the floor. The ogre mage smiled down at her, a very frightening sight! "You chose one who was reputed to be among the best with their nasty weapon. Brave you are!" she said with great approval. Note 22

DM Notes

Note 20

Patrick and Eric are REALLY wondering about the statues. They assume they're all going to animate at some point.

Note 21

The pole arms used by clerics of Tharizdun cause 1d6/1d8 when striking. If the roll to hit is 5 greater than the minimum to-hit roll required, the weapon sticks in the victim. The next round when the weapon is withdrawn it causes 1d8/1d10. Note that the weapon has the disadvantage that it may restrict what the cleric can do on the second round.

Note 22

Luck of the draw, Jake's henchwoman, who has the worst AC and damage potential in the party, chose the strongest cleric of the bunch to pick on. She survived with 2 hp to spare!

Part III: Iron Golems

Gilden performed his role as scout, this time visible. He quietly tread the darkened western passage until it turned north. A mere 30 feet beyond he could see a huge, dimly lit room. He returned to the others and reported his findings.

They all sneaked up the northern passage, no mean feat for a group in armor. This one went about 50 feet north and turned to the west. On the eastern and northern walls of the corner were each a door, small sized for a giant ... meaning a full 8 feet wide and 15 feet tall. Gilden peered cautiously around the corner -- the short passage opened into a huge room, dimly lit with torches on the wall around this entrance, and around a huge altar at the other end of the room, at least 150 feet away. Near the altar clustered a group of clerics, intent on something involving the massive stone block. Judging from the size of the humans it was about 20 feet wide and 6 feet tall.

David interrupted their discussion with a Fireball. The blast caught them by surprise, knocking down all but two of them. Those two ducked behind the altar, out of sight.

The party charged into the room to close with the foul enemy. They were barely in the room when a ringing chant echoed through the massive room. A grating sound caught their attention. In each of the corners of the room behind them stood a 15 foot iron statue. As the cry ended each animated, drawing a huge iron sword from a sheath across the back, and turned to attack the small group.

"This doesn't look good." Jake wasn't sure if David or Bisonbit spoke, not that it mattered. Black humor was part of their collective, keeping each going when things got bad. "Which is most of the time," Jake thought with grim humor.

David issued commands: "Renki, Trilla, Faraz! Get those clerics and keep them off of us." With that he turned his attention to the near statue.

Jake sheathed his bastard sword. It was enchanted, but probably not enough to touch these things. He drew his Wand of Force and spoke the command word that transformed it into a bastard sword with a blade of blue magical energy. By far the most powerful magic item the group possessed, he used it sparingly and at critical need. There was no telling when its power would be used up.

The group divided, Jake and Gilden attacking one while David and Bisonbit attacked the other.

Drawing the first one's attention, Jake jumped a low slash and barely got in a return slash. He couldn't block that gargantuan sword -- the only answer was to get out of the way. Even if his Wand of Force blocked the iron sword from hitting him the force of the strike would swat him like a fly.

Gilden slid in and hacked at the knee. His axe barely nicked it -- he realized that if his axe hadn't been an enchanted steel/mithril/adamantium it would have shattered against the iron target. He prayed that Cieldren's axe would hold together long enough to destroy the thing.

Meanwhile David distracted his golem while Bisonbit drove his spear into the thing's hip. It was a perfect strike, one honed by hundreds of hours of practice. It didn't even scratch the golem's finish, but screeched an agonizing howl of metal on metal. Bisonbit realized that if the point of his spear had caught on anything the magical spear point would have snapped.

"DAVID! I can't hurt it!"

David ducked a swing, realizing even as Jake had that blocking the sword would be only slightly less damaging than having it shear him in half. He stabbed his enchanted long sword in response, pinking it on the thigh opposite to the one Bisonbit had tried. His sword, stronger in enchantment than Bisonbit's spear, slit a gash in its iron skin.

Since that first day when the 11 year old boys David and Jake came to the temple to be tutored, and Bisonbit, 5 years their senior, had been assigned to teach them, Bisonbit had made a career out of keeping them out of trouble. Today he embraced that destiny, fully screaming out, "I am the chicken!"

Kerrean hunters used lived chickens as bait when trapping carnivores. As one might expect the survival rate of the bait wasn't high. In Kerrean slang of the men's' youth "I am the chicken" meant the person volunteered for hazardous duty, acting as bait.

Stepping in front of David, Bisonbit jabbed with his spear, hitting the abdomen just enough to get its attention. The golem directed its impersonal ire against the taller human, hacking downwards with a blow that shattered the stone floor. Barely escaping the blow and lurching off balance, Bisonbit nevertheless pinked its abdomen again, skating to the side and getting it to turn away from David.

Biding his time, watching Bisonbit narrowly avoid several slashes -- any of which would have killed him -- David took his time waiting for a disabling shot.

His timing came too late, Bisonbit was unable to evade a slash. The huge iron sword impacted upon Bisonbit's shield, slamming it against his chest and pounding him into the air. His spear flew wildly as Bisonbit gyrated through the air, rolling as he hit the stone floor. His unmoving form stopped 30 feet farther on.

Concentrating totally on the task at hand and ignoring he friend's probable death, David hacked at the golem's knee. The strike was true and his sword's enchantment overcame that of the golem. It dropped to one knee with a deafening crash. David hacked the sword arm at the elbow, then at the neck, and the crown of the head. The last strike split the iron head and the golem crashed a final time to the floor.

Turning to Bisonbit, he watched his friend struggle groggily to his knees, lose his balance and fall, hitting his face on the rim of his shield. The cleric lay unmoving.

Meanwhile Jake and Gilden played tag with their golem. Both were fast enough that it couldn't get a good strike, yet neither could get a good enough strike to disable it. The iron skin was slashed in numerous places but being iron it didn't bleed, didn't weaken. The human and dwarf both bled and tired -- the golem would kill them unless one quickly got a solid hit.

Gilden timed it perfect, he ducked as a slash came at his head, spinning his axe downward and following behind the golem's strike to hit the back of its hand. Not enough to take the hand off at the wrist, the blow was strong enough to send the iron sword flying.

Jake stepped in and using the technique taught him by his grandfather Trajan, his and David's sword master when they were teens, let his hips lead the swing. With his full body weight behind the swing his blue bladed sword bisected the golem at the waist. The two pieces continued to move and squirm for another minute, gradually slowing down and grinding to a halt.

Faraz ran neck and neck with Renki and Trilla, their goal to prevent the two clerics from wreaking havoc while the their employers dealt with the statues. The evil clerics came from around the altar, no weapons in hand, looking like they planned to claw their foes.

The druid hacked with his scimitar, missing as the multi-hued cleric deftly side stepped. The fiend in human form ducked in close and laid his clawed hand upon the druid's leather armor clad breast.

Having both given and received healing magic, Faraz was quite familiar with the cold surge of healing magic that merged cloven wounds back together, relieved pain, and killed infection. This was the opposite -- a cold burn that made the muscles of his chest feel ripped apart, torturing his nerves, and leaving quivering horror in its wake! He heard someone scream in agony and barely realized it was himself.

Renki's stab with her spear missed the first time and she barely stepped back as the human clawed at her. She had no idea what he thought he was going to accomplish by that feat, even if he did touch her. While the leather breast plate she wore was hardly the enchanted Maurk wood of her normal armor, it was more than sufficient to break puny human nails! It continually amazed her how potent some humans could be when nature equipped them so poorly to survive against creatures such as herself. It made her laugh to think of how deluded the remaining 99% of that race were!

Surprisingly quick for a human, he slid forward at an angle in response to her second stab and slapped her upon the breast. Her irritation at his presumption in touching her in such an insulting fashion was absorbed by the flash of agony that seared through her entire body through her chest.

Seeing both Renki and Faraz struck by evil magic, Trilla stepped inside Faraz's attacker's defense. Using a trick Jake taught her, she planted her feet, shifted her weight forward, and spun at the waist, snapping her staff into the cleric's shoulder. The force of the blow with her full weight behind it picked him off his feet and tumbled him to the floor. Chasing him she slammed him repeatedly about the head, shoulders, and anything else that presented itself to her as a target. For once in her life she had the upper hand and she gloried in it, raining blow after blow upon the evil cleric.

Her staff finally caught him on the upper lip and stretched him out cold. Spinning her body as she whirled her staff, she dropped her weight just as she struck, the crunch of his skull cracking echoing through the room.

Turning she saw Renki and Faraz literally hack the other one in chunks. Faraz's scimitar snapped chain links as it bit into his kidney as Renki's spear drove into his shoulder and caused his right arm to fly off on its own trajectory. The evil cleric opened his mouth to scream when the next blows silenced him forever.

The three checked the ones fallen from David's Fireball, ensuring they'd not rise again. Turning they saw David lift Bisonbit to his feet as Gilden rushed to his aid.

By the time the three limped back to their employers Gilden had invoked healing magic and relieved Bisonbit's injuries. David's face was wet with tears. Far less emotional than Jake, he had cried tears of fear and then tears of joy when he discovered Bisonbit would recover.

Both clerics turned to Faraz and Renki and used their healing magic to cure the damage caused by the evil cleric's perverting of magic that should heal, not harm. Any that would do such at least deserved death.

It occurred to Trilla, as she watched the clerics minister to the injured while the soldier and soldier/mage stood guard, that her employers fully accepted the ogre mage into their ranks without question. She wasn't an inhuman monster -- she was one of them. Looking at the ogre mage's face, she realized that the inhuman monster was thinking the same thing.

Part IV: Cleric Avalanche

With all injuries healed the party searched the altar, finding nothing of note. Apparently the clerics of Tharizdun had been searching it when the party encountered them, but left no evidence they found anything. A check of the huge altar room turned up nothing other than a passage out the south wall. This matched up with the western passage Gilden explored from the staircase room.

The brooding statues on the ledges above the room made everyone nervous. Even Renki glanced up at them frequently.

Having checked everything else the party investigated the two doors previously located. Listening at both doors, they heard nothing. Cracking the northern door they found themselves in a large L-shaped room, into which the other door also opened. Like every other room and corridor in the place the ceiling was about 25 feet high, and a 3 feet wide ledge ran around the room about 20 feet up, with a 5 feet tall humanoid statue every 10 feet.

Twenty foot wide passages exited the room through the northern and eastern walls. Seven doors were visible along both walls in the northern passage; eight doors in the eastern one. Torches in sconces next to each door lit the hallway. The party elected to check the northern passage first.

Listening at the first door they heard nothing. Opening the door they spotted three human clerics of Tharizdun who reacted to the opening door by picking up shields and their horrible spears. Jake, David, Bisonbit, and Gilden rushed forward to engage them!

The battle was short and brutal -- at least from the point of view of the evil clerics. These clerics were not very skilled at arms and none had the opportunity to cast spells. But they all shrieked out a strange yell that carried through the still air of the ancient temple. Trilla, Faraz, and Renki turned to watch both directions in the hallway.

Gilden led the way back into the hallway as the remaining doors on that hall burst open, disgorging twenty more clerics wearing old chain mail and multicolor cloaks, their clawed hands extended like garish raptors. Bisonbit, Gilden, Trilla, and Faraz formed a line to block the hallway, shields and weapons at the ready. The first rank of clerics engaged them with extended hands.

The previous experience in the altar room made everyone especially skittish of being touched.

One by one the clerics of Tharizdun managed to reach through their opponents' guard, touching them to inflict magical damage. Forewarned of what would happen, each champion stayed on their feet and fought through the pain by willpower alone. After each cleric expended his spell he drew his ugly spear from a special sheath across his back.

In regular combat the evil ones fared badly -- none were as skilled as Bisonbit or Gilden, and even against Trilla and Faraz they were losing the fight. Bisonbit's opponent dropped first, then Gilden's, increasing the party's spirits. Unfortunately at that same time Faraz's opponent got in a good lick, a nasty slash along his right side. David stepped in as Jake pulled Faraz out of combat.

The nature priest's face was ashen from pain and shock. Bisonbit and Gilden were fully engaged so Jake made the hard decision -- pulling out a Giantish Healing Potion he poured it into the failing druid's mouth. He choked and sputtered from the thick harsh liquid, then his body went rigid. Fearing that Faraz's weakened body failed to survive the harsh and potent potion, Jake watched as the slash along the ribs appeared to slam shut it healed so fast, and Faraz's face resumed its natural color and his eyes cleared from the pain inflicted haze. Bouncing to his feet Faraz was ready to dive back into battle! Note 23

David spitted his henchman's attacker and while the next evil cleric stepped up to take his place, yanked from his belt his Wand of Fear. Pointing it at the man and angling it so that the beam would catch as many of the reserves as possible, he intoned the word of command that triggered the wand's power.

The wand's magic flared across the group. Half of the dozen humans failed to maintain control of themselves, including David's new opponent. Their minds failed as they gave in to imagined terrors, turning and scrambling through their compatriots in an all-consuming need to flee. Several of the clerics, both those standing and those fleeing, managed to touch each other and trigger the evil perversion of healing magic that was their favorite attack.

Renki invoked magical darkness on the remaining reserves. While it didn't hurt them they couldn't see the battle. Their cries of fear and anger rang through the hallway, along with the clash of their armor as they bumped each other in the darkness. They started making that same weird call that had summoned them to battle.

Answering cries came from the L-shaped room, probably coming from the other hallway. David, Renki, and Bisonbit turned to face that threat while the remaining party members faced the magical darkness.

Several clerics of Tharizdun stumbled out of the magical darkness and died quickly as a clatter of armor echoed across the L-shaped room.

Bisonbit yanked a wand from his belt and invoked an Ice Storm into the room just as a group of evil clerics crossed it. None fell but all were slowed by the stinging snow and ice. David followed that with a Cone of Cold, freezing some of the clerics into morbid sculptures.

Renki cast an unknown spell that had no obvious effect as the remaining clerics resumed their charge.

Without warning one of the leading clerics of Tharizdun turned wildly upon a cohort and grabbed him, channeling the hateful harm magic into him. The victim stumbled but quickly caught himself. Yelling incomprehensibly, he expended his spell upon his attacker. Both yanked their vicious spears and set about trying to dismember each other. The remaining clerics flowed around them, single-mindedly focused on attacking the invaders.

Jake, Faraz, and Gilden plunked arrows and sling bullets into the attackers just before they engaged David, Renki, and Bisonbit. Sandwiched between two forces things looked grim.

The fight was fierce, the magical harm inflicted by the evil clerics horrendous. That mere touch would kill most humans, but this group was hardened by training and battle, painfully shrugging off the effects to grimly fight on. But once that one spell was expended the clerics resorted to mundane weapons and that fight went badly for them. Very badly ... Note 24

Behind the battle the charmed cleric and his victim fought on, unwatched in their bitter struggle. Both were better at defense than offense and neither could get in a telling blow.

Renki blinked as the last cleric fell. Her arm burned from where a cleric touched her, although she didn't remember it happening. Battle was like that, even serious wounds unrecognized until the fighting was done. "That which doesn't kill us ..." she thought.

The cleric Renki charmed finally fell to his attacker, who was only slightly less inept at combat than the charmed one. Both hacked upon each other with little effect, chopping each other's shields to splinters without inflicting much damage on the person - until that last lucky hit. Turning towards the party with a gleam in his eye, the victor dropped as Faraz plunked him between the eyes with a sling bullet.

That weird scream came from the darkness. She had forgotten about those clerics that had be affected by the wand David had used. That magic, whatever it was, had ended and they were returning. Bisonbit pulled his Wand of Cold from his belt and triggered it into the darkness once, and when he heard more cries did it again. The cries stopped.

The ogre mage revoked the darkness. As expected several clerics had fallen within its confines. Farther up the hall were half a dozen new sculptures, clerics frozen in place by the wand's cold, clawed hands reaching longingly towards unseen victims.

Silence reigned.

Checking each other all had wounds, some serious. The three clerics healed themselves first, then moved to the other party members. The dwarf moved quickly to the ogre mage, checking her arm and several other wounds she didn't remember receiving. Her natural regeneration would heal all the wounds, but it was a matter of time. She let the dwarf invoke a healing magic which corrected much of the damage, and more importantly, filled her with renewed strength.

Renki marveled that after just a few hours association, hours that seemed like months, she not only let a dwarf get within weapon range of her body but let him cast a spell upon her. The little creature smiled up at her as his spell closed her wounds and the raw feeling in her arm faded. She smiled back at him and said, "My thanks to you and your god."

"It will be just as well that I die here in this temple. I could never explain this to my family." Note 25

DM Notes

Note 23

Giantish Healing Potions act as a full Heal spell, but have the drawback that they might render the recipient comatose or even dead. When drank the recipient/victim must make a System Shock roll, failure meaning they are knocked unconscious for 3d6 turns. If the first roll is failed a second must be made, failure indicating the recipient dies from shock. For characters with good constitution it's a reasonable risk, especially in deadly circumstances.

Note 24

The clerics of Tharizdun encountered so far are all 3rd or 5th level. Armed with a Cause Moderate or Cause Serious Wounds spell, their first attack is brutal. Not only for the damage caused (2d8+l or 3d8+2) but because the touch attack ignores armor. Shields, rings/cloaks, and the plus of magical armor count, but not the armor itself.

The relative ease of hit and the high damage by what are minor monsters to a name level party produced a sense of fear in the players. That and having ranks of them coming at the party produced the atmosphere I wanted.

Eric outsmarted me. I expected the second group to knock at least a couple of PCs down ... but David kept that Cone of Cold in reserve and I forgot that Bisonbit still had a few charges on the Wand of Cold. It was a great battle -- we all enjoyed it!

Note 25

In game we roll reaction dice, add in whatever modifiers seem right, and use the result. We report favorable or unfavorable reaction and move on.

But what happens 'in character'?

I'm exploring this with Renki. Although they express caution of her and keep an eye out for betrayal, the party accepted Renki into their ranks. What goes through the mind of a lawful evil creature when a good party accepts her -- freeing her from bondage, healing her, guarding and protecting her? She's lawful and used to being part of a group ... but not like this. The initial reaction rolls were VERY favorable so I went with it. I'm having fun with this entire situation and will be taking it in interesting directions.

Part V: Forgotten Fountain

David looked down the two hallways. "This doesn't look right. Seven doors on one hall, eight on the other, but they're otherwise identical. There should be a door here, let's search for a secret one."

Less than a minute later Faraz found a small panel, about the size of a giant's thumb, at head level on a human. Upon pressing it a short, narrow door (well short & narrow for a giant) swung inward silently.

In the gloom of the revealed space a 10 foot wide corridor led northward.

Treading slowly and carefully the party followed the corridor as it doglegged to the north. After 100 plus feet it opened into a huge domed room. The room was at least 100 feet in diameter and easily 70 feet at the top of the dome. Ornate carvings resembling ocean waves covered the walls and domed ceiling. In the exact center of the room stood a fountain.

Something was odd, missing. Everyone realized it and Trilla was the first to identify it. "There are no ledges, no statues." Sure enough, the 3 foot wide ledge twenty feet up on the wall -- ledges present in each and every room and corridor on this level and the one above -- were missing. The atmosphere of the room differed strongly from the brooding air of the remainder of the temple complex.

As the party moved cautiously closer to the fountain they realized it was a marvel. Water cascaded down into a white stone basin from 20 feet up. It cascaded from ... nothing. The water sprayed down from a point in the air, a column of water probably 10 feet across, pouring into a basin 20 feet across which had no outlet but did not overflow.

Jake tossed a copper piece into the column of water. A slight splash, instantly washed away, marked the disappearance of the coin into the water. Tossing the coin into a normal stream would have looked the same. When Jake got within 10 feet of the basin the column of water disgorged a humanoid figure about 6 foot tall. It appeared like a grotesquely fat human with blank facial features and chalky white skin. Fists balled, it charged the smaller human.

Jake ignited the Wand of Force and struck before it could strike him. The hit was a solid one, hitting the base of the neck at a downward angle. As the magical blue blade struck it winked out, barely tearing the skin. Jake felt the wand go dead in his hands, reverting from its weapon form to a slender wooden wand. Lacking all magical talent, even Jake could feel the wand rendered inert.

In the shock of the destruction of the most potent item in the party, Jake failed to react in time to the counter attack. One blow then another hit his body, knocking Jake 10 feet back onto his side. He knew something else was wrong but couldn't be sure what.

Meanwhile David invoked Magic Missiles into the foe. To his dismay the creature absorbed the bolts of magical force like a pool of water absorbing a dropped stone. The slight rent on its neck, which gaped open but was not bleeding, sealed shut.

Spinning on David it struck before he could draw his sword, striking with its two clubbing fists. Along with pain David felt the magical energy ripped from two of his scrolls, strengthening the creature further.

Discarding the dead wand and stumbling to his feet, Jake wrenched his backup sword from its sheath. Instead of the normal dim glow the blade was as dead as the wand. Cursing he plunged the sword full length into its side. Unlike the wand's blade this blade struck true.

Their shock broken, the others moved to help David and Jake. Ignoring Jake and the damage he had done, the creature struck David again. This time the wizard let out an anguished scream and collapsed backwards onto the stone floor, curled in a ball. His scream gurgled into sobbing. Bisonbit drew his Mace of Disruption. While he didn't believe the thing was undead the use of edged weapons appeared to be a problem. He struck with the mace and like Jake had, felt the magic wink out as did the glow of the mace's head. The hole Jake had punctured in its side closed. Abandoning its attack on David the obese figure turned its attention to the cleric.

Jake yelled, "It eats magic!" and struck again with the now non-magical sword.

Anger trumped fear in the others. Surrounding the figure they drew non-magical weapons and beat upon it.

Ignoring the others the thing focused on Bisonbit. It struck glancing blows on his shield and armor, and like David he felt the magic of two of his scrolls sucked into the creature, further healing damage that had been inflicted upon it. Then he felt a tearing in his mind, as if clawed fingers ripped into his thoughts and memories to tear out pieces. Vaguely understanding what was happening Bisonbit hardened his will and shaped his thoughts into a fortress, blocking the clawing fingers. white hot pain lanced through his head but his fortress held. The clawing fingers in his head subsided.

Screaming his rage at the attempted rape of his mind, Bisonbit pounded his now non-magical mace through the thing's pitiful guard and dented its chest. At the same time Jake drove his sword again into its side, twisting and yanking the weapon as he withdrew. The gaping wound the sword left behind would have been horrendous in a living being but was simply a hole in nauseating white material. Equally white bones showed.

The thing clubbed at Bisonbit again but it was weakening and he shunted the blows aside. Faraz's scimitar dug a massive hole where man's kidney would be, staggering it. The others, ranging around it, quickly cut the thing down. It shrank and collapsed to the ground as if melting. Then it burst into a nauseating green cloud that sent the mortals stumbling away, retching. A minute or two later after they composed themselves they could see the thing was nothing more than dust on the stone floor.

"What was that thing?" Renki asked.

"A bereaver. I think," Jake answered. "My grandparents fought one -- Grandpa told David, Bisonbit, and me about it when we were kids." Note 26

As they moved to where David still lay unmoving on the floor Jake spoke again, "The one he fought killed Etjar, Grandpa's best friend."

Other than bruises David appeared to be physically fine, but he stared vacantly into space. He didn't resist as they sat him up. He made no response to their attempts to engage him.

"That is its name. What is it?"

Watching his best friend sitting vacantly Jake continued, "My grandmother who was a wizard said bereavers are magical constructs, kind of like a golem. They are either used as guardians or to attack other spell casters. But they're dangerous to the creator, nearly impossible to control. They eat magic, draining the power from magic items and even ripping spells from the minds of spell casters."

Bisonbit broke in, "I know what David experienced. It tried to rip a spell from my mind. He's going to be ok but will require some rest. Maybe a lot of rest." As if he heard, David's vacant stare relaxed and he looked around at the others, but made no effort to speak.

Bisonbit, Gilden, and Faraz checked everyone's injuries and invoked healing magic for those who needed it. Then they turned their attention to the fountain. After casting a series of spells they turned to the others.

Gilden spoke. "It's definitely magical."

"REALLY!" intoned Jake, watching as water fell from nothing into the pool, and drained away to nowhere.

Glaring at the human who was only slightly taller than he was, the dwarf continued, "It does not radiate good or evil, nor law or chaos. It is magical but does not appear aligned to any given ethos."

Voices babbled, "That thing came out of it, is it a teleporter?" "Wonder what drinking the water will do?" More ideas poured out of everyone in an audible chaos.

Jake shrugged his shoulders. "One way to find out." And with that he stepped into the pool.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing." Pulling his drinking cup from a pouch he scooped up some of the water and sniffed. "No smell." Sipping gently he swirled the water around in his mouth. "Tastes like normal water." Upending the cup he gulped the contents down. "Noth-" he started to say and then a shudder wracked his body from ankles to crown, rippling in a wave.


As the others rushed to the side of the basin Jake surveyed the spell casters with a broad grin. "I ALWAYS wanted to know what it felt like!"

They looked at him as if he was mad. "Wow! This is amazing!"

Jake stepped out of the pool. "I feel it!" He reached out a hand and closed his eyes. "I can do it if I want."

"Do what?"

"I can cast a Shield spell!" Spinning in a full circle. "I know I can do it!" Grinning like a mad man, he spun again. "I can cast a spell!!!"

Each of the others drank from the pool, even the partially recovered David. Each found that they were granted the ability to cast a spell. Gilden received Invisibility, David Detect Invisibility, Bisonbit Hold Portal, Faraz - Mirror Image, Trilla - Tongues, and Renki - Spider Climb. Note 27

Jake shrugged his shoulders again, took another sip of water from the fountain, and promptly turned his head and vomited the water back up. "Bad idea." Making a disgusted face he rinsed his mouth with fresh water from his canteen. "Really bad idea. looks like one each." No one else made any move to sample the water again.

Renki looked around. "As fast as we need to find the chaos creature before they release it, we desperately need rest. We are out of spells, our magic items are badly depleted no thanks to that thing, and we are not ready to fight further. Let us rest here "

The others jawed it around and eventually agreed. Everyone was exhausted from the horrible fights, and spells were badly depleted.

Renki approached David. "If you will grant me the boon of using your spell books I will be more useful tomorrow with my full spells at everyone's disposal."

Looking at her blankly David asked, "You need spell books?? I thought your powers were innate?"

"My people have natural magical ability. But I am a noble and have wizardry as well. While I do not have your range of spell use, mine are not trivial." The ogre mage spoke with quiet pride. Note 28

David thought about. Most wizards are naturally paranoid about their spell books, but he wasn't an average wizard. "Yes. will you need them in the morning after you rest?"

"No, I am sufficiently rested now." Note 29

With that they setup camp, such as it was, and posted guards within the light of the fountain.

DM Notes

Note 26

My brother Kevin made the bereaver up during our first campaign. Its purpose was to dispose of the massive excess of magic items we had built up by slavishly using the Monster Manual treasure tables. It was brutal but effective, and during the battle we had lost a tremendous about of magic items. Too many ... but we all agreed that it was a cool monster and that his decision to use it was a good one. Lot of players fear their loss of magic items more than PC death or level loss ... although loss of magic items is by far the easiest to correct. The DM taketh away, the DM giveth better loot ...

MY version of the bereaver, posted on my web site, is more brutal than Kevin's. I added the part about ripping spells out of the spell caster's mind to make it more interesting. The look on Eric's face when David failed his saving throw and went down was priceless! Tension in that battle was sky high!

I'll not use this monster again in this campaign. It's a good monster to use, but pretty much a one-shot deal. Which reminds me, I need to post the Ecology of the Bereaver. I've written a number of "ecologies" featuring Trajan, Marissa, and Etjar. These pastiches flesh out some of the back story of Jake, David, and Bisonbit -- who were Patrick & Eric's original characters along with a "DMPC" who provided clerical support and taught Patrick & Eric (aged 7 & 8 ) how to adventure. I was going to retire Bisonbit a couple of years ago but instead of rolling up a new character we agreed Eric would take him. The idea of Bisonbit not being there bothered both players greatly!

Eric has been doing a great job of running David as highly intelligent but unwise, and Bisonbit as the voice of reason.

Note 27

I recently formulated this idea. Noble ogre magi have MU ability in addition to their innate powers. Ogre magi are normally 5+2 HD. Nobles vary in power from 6+3 to 9+6. Renki is 7+4 HD and has the powers of a 5th level MU cast at 7th level. They require spell books and their spells generally conform to human wizard requirements, e g., spell components, casting time, etc.

Note 28

While I wanted something special here, like the trees in the cyst of the FToT ... the PCs had already had their stats bumped once; I didn't want to do that again. I made a list of relatively minor spells, assigned percentages for them (higher for 1st level spells, lower for 4th), and added in a couple of opportunities for a stat bump (2%) and saving throw bump (2%). Each character could roll once and it granted 1d4+2 castings of the spell rolled as a temporary innate spell. For the most part it's a trivial ability ... but as with anything, a good player will find a use for just about anything.

Note 29

I made this up on the spot to emphasize Renki's inhuman nature. It's a benefit of regeneration.

Part VI: Into the Fountain

Surveying the room, the group agreed to setup a camp half way between the fountain and the eastern wall. There was no telling if anything would come out of the fountain the way the bereaver did or out of the walls or ceiling or floor for that matter. So this location was the best compromise.

Jake kept looking at the fountain, a 10 foot round waterfall that materialized 20 feet up and fell into a white stone basin that did not overflow. "Where does the water come from and where does it go?" he wondered. Walking up to the fountain, or waterfall, or whatever it was -- Jake peered into the water. The turbulent water stream limited vision to just a few inches into the cascade.

"We need to check this out."

David walked up beside him. "What are you thinking?"

"Was the bereaver hiding inside the water or is the fountain a transporter of some kind?"

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking of walking into the water to see what happens."

"Jake, that's not a very smart idea." David continued, "That is MY department, not yours!" David's decisions weren't necessarily bad, just rash and rarely thought through far enough. The entire group joked about it, including David, who poked fun at himself more easily than he did anyone else.

"We've thrown coins in, they look like they're just entering the water." Shrugging his shoulders Jake drew his now non-magical sword, stepped over the edge into the basin and plunged into the water. His form could be seen and then faded. but David couldn't tell if Jake was too far into the water to be seen or if something else had happened to him.

David realized the others had arrived at the fountain just as Jake entered the water. A minute passed, then another. David drew his sword and said, "Jake may be in trouble." With that he plunged into the water.

Bisonbit shook his head in wonderment. Another minute passed. Hefting his spear Bisonbit looked at the others. "I've made a career out of keeping those two from getting themselves killed." Laughing grimly he continued, "Doesn't look like anything has changed."

Faraz spoke up, "Surely you're not going in there?" Recoiling from the black look the cleric gave him, he further asked, "How do we know they're still alive?"

Trilla interjected, "There's one good way to find out!" Her look indicated assent so Bisonbit, followed by Gilden and Trilla, stepped into the water.

Faraz and Renki looked at each other. Faraz normally had trouble reading her expression, but not now -- she clearly thought the little people were insane. Faraz thought of the danger of going into the fountain ... versus staying there alone with an ogre mage. into the fountain he went! Renki stared at the fountain for a minute, shrugged (a human mannerism she had already picked up and if she lived had best not express in front of her family!), and entered the water.

The streaming water blinded her, and then she was through. instead of the silence of the stone temple deep underground, she could hear birds and the light breeze that instantly dried her skin and clothing. Blinking her eyes she realized she was in a forest glade, a grassy meadow in front of her with light, airy forest all around. Ahead of her she saw the three humans and the dwarf walking, and beyond them she saw Jake and David in conversation with a tall human woman and a dwarf.

Her long stride ate the distance and she caught up with her closest compatriots. Slowly they approached the other group, close enough to hear the conversation.

Jake, David, the human, and the dwarf turned to face them. Renki felt her knees weaken. Later she could never determine how she knew they were gods. Just that they were. They looked like typical little people, but the force of their presence overwhelmed her.

"Welcome," the woman said. Renki could tell the others were as overwhelmed as she was. Bisonbit grounded his spear and bowed deeply, apparently a ritual greeting.

The dwarf looked up at the ogre mage and said, "Your presence is a surprise, although you are welcome. Your gods find it as strange as do we to be allies." Renki wasn't used to dwarves smiling at her, first the cleric and now his god. She stuttered, "My thanks."

Turning to include the others Cieldren continued, "Come, refresh yourselves." Indicating to their left, an empty space that now contained a table with various foods and beverages, along with chairs including one that would accept Renki's much larger frame. The food and drink were tremendously refreshing, although afterwards none could say what they had consumed.

After the eating slowed down Cieldren spoke, "We face a grave danger. An unknown creature from eons before my own beginning will be released if you do not prevent it. While this creature is not of sufficient strength to destroy this land, portents indicate it will cause havoc and great destruction. Destruction not only to the enemies of the Ancient One We Do Not Name, but to all mortal life. Those that work to release it will suffer as much as any, maybe more so. Thus is the reward for worshiping a being of Elemental Chaos."

David thought a moment and said, "Why can't you stop it? You are gods, aren't you?" In another his question would be impudent although coming from the rash warrior/wizard, it was a leading question.

Renki quivered. Any of her kind speaking to their gods in such a fashion would be immediately squashed if they were lucky and the god reacted hastily. If not things would be unfortunate.

"We can stop it. But that may be a trap. It may be that direct godly power will bring about that which the Ancient One desires -- his release." Demeter paused. "Mortals must do this, must stop the release of this thing!" The distaste in her voice made the mortals quail. "Failing that you must destroy this thing before it lays waste to the lands."

Jake questioned, "What are its powers? What do we face? How can we fight it?"

Cieldren answer, "Sadly, we do not know. This is a creature of another time. Our powers are vast, but they are not without limit." Demeter gave him a pained look at this admission.

"This is one of the very few limiting things l have experienced." Looking around at them he continued, "While we cannot give you the counsel you seek, we do not send you on a hopeless task. Nor do we send you out unequipped."

Everyone realized that others had joined them, standing quietly off to the side, yet none had seen them arrive. "Some of you will spend some time with these wise ones, who will help prepare you for the trial to come." A centaur beckoned to Faraz. A short, wiry-looking human nodded to Trilla. Hesitatingly both got up from their chairs and moved to their callers. None saw them leave the glade.

A tall woman in the robes of a cleric of Demeter bowed to Bisonbit, who immediately moved to her side. None saw them leave.

An immense ogre mage glared at Renki, who glared back before walking to meet him. A tall, fair man and much shorter, darker woman waved to David, who hopped out of his chair and nearly ran to greet them.

This left Gilden and Jake alone with the two gods. "Gilden, build a fire," Cieldren suggested. Gilden built a fire using coal that was handy, stoking the fire in the stove until it was tremendously hot. Jake realized he should wonder where the coal and the stove came from.

"Jake," Demeter said, "You need a new weapon. For that Cieldren requires a sacrifice."

Jake quickly unstrapped the sheath of his clerical-made sword that had been broken in a bad fall. He had dreamed of the sword reforged! From the sheath he removed the shards of his beloved sword and gave them to Gilden. "Funny, I thought the sword was strapped to the back of my pack."

"We need more metal," Gilden said. Reaching into his pack Jake pulled out the bag of Mithril coins they had taken from slain giants. He handed the bag to Gilden, who hefted it and said, "This should be enough."

Jake sat patiently while Gilden reforged the sword, heating and reheating the metal, hammering the Mithril into the shards of the blade upon the anvil. Hours passed, many hours, while the dwarven cleric worked on the sword. Jake didn't bother wondering where the hammer and anvil came from.

Eventually Gilden quenched the blade a final time and handed it to Jake.

The human swordsman hefted the sword. Its balance was different than it had been, but it was well crafted. Maybe better balanced than it had been. "I didn't know you were a sword smith."

Gilden looked at him oddly. "I'm not." He laughed. "It's what happens when your god is with you."

Demeter and Cieldren were there, suddenly arrived or never having left. Jake wasn't sure which. "Your sword is no longer what it was before it was broken. Cieldren has infused dwarven magic into mine." Jake handed the sword into her outstretched hand. Looking at the blade critically she said, "This fusion of human and dwarven magic may produce unexpected side effects. You'll have to experiment to find out."

A dwarf stood next to Cieldren. "Raganan will work with you, as you'll want practice with the blade before using it in combat."

Jake nodded and realized that he and Raganan were alone. The gravelly-voiced dwarf was obviously a trainer. He put Jake through dwarven training drills for hour after hour after hour. in the glade the sun was always high in the sky so telling time was impossible. Jake lost track of the number of times they took a break to eat. They never slept.

Sometimes they swam in the stream that ran through the glade, although Jake had not noticed it previously. Raganan indicated that swimming was difficult for dwarves. "Our bones and muscles are denser than humans. We don't float as well so swimming is harder. Good reason to practice more." Practice was the dwarf's mantra.

Then the first monster appeared, an orc. Jake cut it down as it attacked, stepping forward at an angle to hack it down before it even completed its swing. Then three orcs appeared, hacking viciously. Jake weaved his way through their blades, none came close to touching him before he cut them down as well.

Wave after wave of monsters appeared, growing larger, more numerous, and more dangerous. Jake evaded their attacks using the techniques Raganan taught him. Giant clubs and swords missed him by horrifyingly slim margins, but the close evasion placed him inside their guard which he exploited with morbid alacrity. Suddenly there were no more monsters. "You have learned well. Farewell."

Jake blinked and he was standing with his compatriots. Renki was wearing the enchanted wooden armor of her kind and had a new spear. The others looks similarly healthy, fit, and their armor and clothing were clean and gleaming.

Jake asked a question that had been burning in his mind for minutes or days or weeks or months or years or however long they had been in this place of no time. Directing his question to Cieldren, "You said that the reforging of my weapon required a sacrifice. What sacrifice?"

"The materials you provided."

Jake looked puzzled. "You mean the Mithril coins? That isn't a sacrifice." Jake cared little about money, having had lived both with and without money for his entire adult life.

"No. The shards of your sword." Jake looked even more puzzled, so Cieldren clarified himself. "Even for gods the creation of magic items takes time and effort. What Gilden did took neither, regardless of how it appeared to you both. Your sword will hold its enchantment for 24 hours after leaving this place, and then it will fade." .

"My sword goes away??" Jake looked horrified.

"Unfortunately yes. THAT is your sacrifice."

Demeter added, "We have increased the enchantment on most of your weapons, enchantments that will also fade after 1 day. But unlike Jake's weapon which required reforging, those weapons will resume their normal abilities."

Jake nodded, clearly unhappy.

David asked Demeter, "You said we had little time to stop them, but we've been here for ... for ... months. Is it too late?" His expression indicated that he didn't think it was too late.

Laughing, Demeter gently admonished the warrior/mage. "Time is not always what it seems. You entered the fountain but a few minutes ago."

Everyone blinked and they were standing next to the fountain.

Jake looked around the empty room, a disgusted look on his face, and said, "l think they do that just to amuse themselves."

DM Notes

This was interesting -- before this adventure I used direct interactions between the PCs and their deities very rarely (mostly hand waving). I'm exploring new territory here, looking to provide an interesting scene for the players while keeping things balanced and not too easy (or hard for that matter).

I also did something I have never done before -- awarding XP in the middle of an adventure. I did this primarily to give the two 3rd level henchmen a better shot at survival. It's been brutal on them so far and it's not going to get easier. So l provided an opportunity for training in the middle of the adventure, and arranged things to speed up the elapsed time within the adventure, creating a sense of urgency.

There was an unforeseen side effect of the training -- David went into this adventure VERY close to leveling in both F & MU. Since I allowed the henchman to train I couldn't think of a reasonable reason that he couldn't as well. The BBEG encounter may be brutal enough that I suspect this will give the party a better edge in avoiding a TPK. I'm treading on thin ice here, wondering if I'm hitting them with too much. Time will tell ...

Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas