By Bryant Alexander
“We're going to kill a dracolich,” Armand said. “I'd just like to know what it wants with me.”
Upon going through his saddlebags, Armand also found that he had an orb and a rod.
“I thought we got rid of that,” Aeryn said.
“Elminster said we'd need it,” Armand said helplessly.
“ You take the rod,” Aeryn told Grolsch. “Nitwit here falls for every magic item. ‘I will go to the green girl'.”
“It's out of balance,” Grolsch demurred.
I don't think Aeryn liked that excuse. But before we could debate it, a sudden wave of cold passed over us and a tall and impressive, yet desiccated male elf appeared. At least, an image of one did. He was a bit transparent. He was smart enough to make a gesture of peace before we could attack him.
“I mean you no harm,” he said. “I am Molostroi, a baelnorn, undead guardian of this once great city. I send this image to you now because you have touched the Rod of Orbakh.
“The Cult of the Dragon has discovered a pool of radiance in Myth Drannor and used the power of the pool to corrupt the city's mythal. Their ultimate goal is to immerse the dracolich Pelendralaar in the pool, magnifying his dread powers a hundredfold and allowing him to take control of the mythal, bending it to his own ends and unleashing a flood of evil upon Faerûn.”
Somehow, I don't think I was the only one not liking the sound of this.
“The Cult is working with magic it does not quite understand, and is gambling that the immersion of the dracolich will not destroy him. They are hedging their bets by brining Pelendralaar's phylactery here and storing a fresh reptilian corpse nearby so if the dracolich is killed by the pool, he can transfer his essence to the phylactery, possess the dead reptile, and immediately try again.”
“Is that what he wants me for?” Armand asked. “A spare?”
“A spare spare,” Aeryn said.
Now there was a pleasant thought.
“The Rod of Orbakh can be used to cast Shattering,” Molostroi said. “You can use it to destroy the phylactery. This form is only an image and I cannot move objects. I need you to bring the rod into the ruins of Myth Drannor so the mythal may be saved and repaired. It is dangerous, but I know secret paths. Will you aid me?”
Silly question. We wouldn't be able to call ourselves adventurers anymore if we said ‘no', and besides, we weren't certain what the dracolich wanted with Armand. If we left, Pelendralaar might decide to do more than spy on us occasionally.
“And if you reach the pool, don't touch it,” Molostroi warned. “It will drain your life.”
As it turned out, my companions had been to the ruins before, and had something of a map to look over.
“House of gems!” Aeryn exclaimed.
“We are not going jewelry shopping,” Armand stated.
“We could ,” Aeryn said.
As much as I enjoyed jewelry shopping, I was much more interested in seeing the temple to Sehanine Moonbow. It was an abandoned temple, hidden under illusions that made it appear to be nothing but rubble. But it was still holy to my Goddess, making it a good place to rest if needed, and it contained blueglow moss, which was good to rest on.
We were given one final warning. The mythal distorts magic. We could cast spells, but it would be risky.
We advanced down the tunnel and found a snowy woods. Strange. It wasn't snowy when we started this trip. But Cinnabar was certainly pleased to have snow to romp through. We'd left Pain and Suffering behind in our camp with the dwarves, but Cinnabar was a familiar and thus easier to control. Armand was evidently caught up in his familiar's good mood, since he was tossing snowballs around.
“There's someone out there,” I warned.
If anyone should've been worried, it should've been Armand. Seven feet of black armor show up very nicely against a bed of white snow.
Fourteen skeletons came out of the woods. This looked like a job for me. I Turned them all into dust.
“Way to go, Moonshine!” Aeryn called down from a tree.
At least, it sounded like she was in a tree. She wasn't very easy to see, and she compromised by changing her usual lilac scent for a less obvious eau de sage, the better for our enemies not to sniff her out with.
We continued until we caught sight of a troop of soldiers. We followed at a distance and watched as they crossed the polyandrium, ‘gathering place of fallen warriors', and entered the Tower of Bones . Naturally, they slammed the door behind themselves. A side door opened and a mass of skeletons and zombies shambled out. They didn't attack us. They just wandered about aimlessly. We let them wander.
Our goal now was Lyssic's tomb. From the sound of things, my companions had already cleaned the place out.
“Who's buried in Lyssic's tomb?” I asked.
I was hoping someone would say ‘Lyssic'. I was expecting them to say ‘No one'. Grolsch made a grunt that sounded like ‘Grant', but was probably just ‘Grunt'.
I got some more proof that my companions had been here before: They went straight to a hole that looked like it had been boarded up until some time recently. On their previous visit, they'd opened up this secret passage from Lyssic's tomb to some other building. We entered a smelly, damp tunnel and continued along it to a stairway leading up. The dung smelled fresh, but it was still dung. Aeryn scouted ahead.
“Goblins,” she reported. “Singing goblin drinking songs. Do you want me to translate? There's at least a dozen. I killed the one on the toilet. You don't want to know what they were using the stairs for.”
I didn't want to know, but the eye-watering stench gave it away.
“It's natural,” Grolsch pointed out.
Somehow, knowing that didn't make me enjoy the stench any better. I think Aeryn was considering making him a very tight necktie out of one of her lilac scented handkerchiefs.
We advanced up the stairs, weapons drawn for combat. The battle was rather one sided. We had, after a fashion, caught them with their pants down. Some of them tried to run, but Aeryn chased after them. Two of them got stuck in the door. My original intent was to keep behind Armand, but these guys clearly didn't have anything that could hurt me. My blessing kept me pretty safe from non-magical, non-silver weapons. I killed one and Grolsch got the other one. We found two more on the other side of the door, armed with spears. Again, we each killed one.
That left us facing the biggest, ugliest hobgoblin I ever seen. He was armed with a nice big double bladed axe. I hit him with my staff but all he did was grunt. He swung at me but didn't even come close. Then Armand hit him, knocking him back into a table. He probably wasn't too badly hurt yet.
The hobgoblin threw down his axe and raised his hands in surrender. Armand nearly cleaved him in two with his sword.
“He's surrendering!” I shouted.
“I don't care,” Armand said.
I was not going to let him kill an unconscious enemy after he'd surrendered. I cast a minor healing spell to save the hobgoblin's life. Aeryn, at least, agreed with me.
“We can get information from him,” Aeryn suggested.
“Are you crazy?” Armand shouted. “You're wasting spells on the enemy!”
Grolsch added a touch of healing, too.
“He surrendered!” I reminded Armand.
“I'm going to kill him,” Armand insisted. “What do you want to do, drag him along with us?”
“Would you like to explain to him why this isn't happening?” Aeryn asked me.
“I don't think I can explain it to him,” I said.
“Surrender is for cowards!” Armand declared.
A sudden gust of cold and the Bale Warden's image was back.
“I'm glad you people are quiet,” he said.
“Do we have any more of that sleep stuff?” Aeryn suggested.
“Night in Myth Drannor is dangerous,” Molostroi said. “If you want to go to the temple, I can cast an invisibility shield on you. If you insist on going in now…”
He began drawing in the dust on the floor.
“We don't need him for information anymore,” Armand said.
“If Armand kills him…,” I said. “If Grolsch reincarnates him, he won't be a hobgoblin anymore.”
“You need to learn something about ruthlessness,” Armand said. “Would he still think the same as he does now?”
A good point. We could easily end up with, say, a moon elf, but it would be one that thought like a hobgoblin.
Aeryn cast a web into the room. Now our friend the hobgoblin wouldn't be going anywhere. Armand just couldn't let go, though. He drew his flaming sword and set the web on fire.
Molostroi began reciting ancient elven curses.
“I have a sudden urge to pray,” I muttered.
“Stupid idiots!” Armand shouted.
In a matter of minutes, the entire barracks was merrily burning. Demonic looking things began swooping down out of the sky. Draconic looking soldiers were marching towards the fire. Going to the temple sounded like a really good idea right now…
“Now might be a good time to go into the building,” Aeryn noted. “This is a great distraction!”
“The goddess must know we can't possibly repeat this,” I nodded.
We headed for the castle. It was guarded by two dragon-like soldiers, with wings. Armand had to carry Dreya to keep her within the sphere of invisibility. Her dwarf legs were just too short for her to keep up, otherwise.
“Nobody fart,” Armand mouthed to the rest of us.
Aeryn shot Grolsch a look that bounced right off of him.
One of the dragonkin swung some kind of sphere-thing at Grolsch. If Grolsch had farted, I'd been lucky enough to miss it. The other dragonkin roared. Me and Aeryn knocked a reptile down… but that's when things went bad. Grolsch unexpectedly morphed into a huge bear, knocking me to the side, into the wall. I was surprised enough that I lost control over my own form and turned into a bat.
Druids did tend to turn into animals, so maybe Grolsch's transformation shouldn't have surprised me. You'd think that when Fred the dwarf was reincarnated as a bear, Grolsch might have said something to him about his own experiences as a bear. Maybe Grolsch had, when I wasn't listening. I did try to limit my time in his presence.
Right now, I couldn't get away from him. I was feeling like a very flat bat, pinned to the wall by this bear. The bear didn't have any easy time getting into the room. I bit at one of the human guards. Finally, the bear got clear and charged down the hall. I flew after him. I saw Aeryn kill a guard. I took a bite out of one. The bear was swiping at the guards. One of them tried, unsuccessfully, to claw at me.
Alarms were being shouted throughout the castle. Maybe we weren't doing such a good job of sneaking.
Armand killed the guard that was bothering me. More guards appeared, carrying crossbows. Crossbows are bad.
“Retreat!” Aeryn shouted.
Something made the floor shake.
“Run, run, run!” Aeryn shouted.
She cast a web behind us and started taking her own advice. I flew for the temple. A baker's dozen winged things took off after me. I flew faster. I was inspired. As it turned out, it was an open air temple, and to me, there weren't any illusions hiding it at all. The silk screen that used to serve as a roof had rotted away long ago. I came in for a landing. The demon things veered off. I like my Goddess.
The rest of the team arrived shortly thereafter. Dreya had actually allowed herself to undergo the indignity of being carried in Grolsch's mouth. Grolsch himself had seen better days. He'd left a lot of fur and blood behind, but changing back to his usual self helped a lot.
Molostroi's image appeared again. He was a bit flickery, probably because of the temple's shields against the undead. He wasn't too pleased with our performance so far.
“They heard us,” Armand explained.
“They heard you ,” Aeryn corrected him.
“Do you remember the map I drew?” Molostroi asked.
Armand remembered it well enough to write it down.
“They probably think there's more of us than there are,” I pointed out, “because they couldn't believe that so few of us could make so much noise.”
We decided to try sneaking again. We'd seen the opposition and we didn't want to fight if it could be avoided. We could try invisibility again and run back here the next time it failed… or try disguises. Armand looked like a cousin of the dragonkin stationed here.
“I could change to bat-form,” I offered. “I can hang onto Armand's back and spread my wings.”
“I could put my cloak over her,” Armand said.
Of course, my wings wouldn't quite match the rest of him…
Molostroi had some spells he could cast on us if we wanted. We just had to decide what he should cast on whom. I volunteered to take a Stoneskin spell, as did Aeryn. Stoneskin might even help disguise us, a little.
“Maybe we could pass as gargoyles?” I said.
“They won't mistake me for a gargoyle,” Aeryn said. “You won't make it, either. Maybe golems.”
“Really ugly golems,” Grolsch said.
“Oh, shut up!” Aeryn said.
All things considered, I didn't really mind that orcish ideals of beauty differed so strongly from elven ideals. In the end, Grolsch and Armand opted to take the Stoneskin spells. I wasn't likely to need the extra protection of a Stoneskin unless we encountered an evil cleric, and evil clerics would probably hesitate to cast spells due to the mythal's distortion effects.
Molostroi would be able to provide us all with illusion spells to make us look like dragonkin. Even Cinnabar would be disguised as something appropriately lizard-like.
We also chose to rest for six hours on the Goddess' bed of blueglow moss. To take full advantage of sleeping on the moss we had to all strip naked, but none of us are too shy. I was able to see for myself that Armand was proportional, although I might have appreciated the sight more if he hadn't been calling me a stupid bitch earlier. And I was very glad that orcish ideals of beauty differ so greatly from elven ideals. It was nice that Grolsch had changed back from bear-form, but this was more of Grolsch's orc-form than I'd ever wanted to see.
Sometime around four in the morning we got up and had Molostroi cast his assorted spells. Armand sort of glowed after he had Endurance cast on him.
“We can bring a bucket of gold,” Armand suggested. “Tribute for Lord Pelendralaar.”
“We can say that girl from the Tower of Bones sent us,” Aeryn said. “Or wherever we met her. We've been ordered to present ourselves.”
“We'll either be guards or brining tribute,” Armand decided.
It actually sounded like a plan.
“Dragonkin smell really well,” Molostroi warned us in parting.
Then Grolsch had really better be careful about farting, even if it is natural.
“Hold down the elf and pour on the gore,” Armand said.
He really seemed to be enjoying the idea of holding Aeryn down and pouring gore over her. Aeryn and I were willing to splash on a little blood and forgo anything lilac-scented, but we had our limits.
“The indignities elves must suffer in the company of these... these…,” I started.
I couldn't think of an appropriate word, so I left it at that. Aeryn already knew what I was thinking, anyways. As she snuck out, I noticed a pair of flying things in the sky over the temple. I should've ignored them. If I had, I might not have tripped over the candelabra. Still, I recovered myself. Until I tripped over the fallen pillar and tangled myself in a swath of rotted silk. Still, I persevered, and when I tore my robes open disentangling myself from the silk, I simply held my robes closed. No one would notice under the illusion I was wearing, anyways.
We paraded through the streets. The human guards gave us a wide berth. The castle doors were guarded by twenty two guards. We stopped and saluted. Since I don't speak draconian, I kept my mouth shut. I was definitely going to have to learn some more languages.
The guard captain didn't seem overly impressed with our bucket of treasure, but he passed us through. We went inside and headed downward into a castle that reeked of reptile…
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