By Bryant Alexander
Down and out in Myth Drannor
The first thing I noticed was the eighteen skeletons chained to the wall. There's just something about undead that catches my attention. Then I noticed the sentry. We could probably just walk right past him.
“You guys stay here,” Aeryn whispered. “I'll sneak over to the secret door and see if it still works.”
It would be nice if it did, since we were kinda depending on it. While Aeryn disappeared, Dreya handed me a platinum ring with Shield Other on it. I was hoping that I could make it through this without getting hurt, but Dreya was a lot more solidly built than I was. If she was willing to take some of my pain for me, I wasn't going to turn her down.
“The secret door works,” she reported. “Be quiet sneaking past the sentry. Oh, wait. Never mind.”
Who did she think she was talking to? Besides, since we were all wearing Seemings, walking confidently past the sentry made more sense than trying to sneak. The skeletons seemed to be straining to get at us, and it wasn't easy for me not to try Turning them, but the sentry paid us no mind.
We proceeded down a narrow tunnel until Aeryn showed us a moveable section of wall. We peered through into a cavern with dimly glowing crystal walls. The pool of sparkling water was probably the pool of radiance. The smell… I didn't want to even think about what that smell was.
“The entire place is magical,” Aeryn announced.
It was hard to tell from here, but it looked like two humanoids were by a cage of some kind. A large, dark shape was lurking in a corner. Aeryn sent out her owl, Silvorglim, to inspect the premises further.
“Okay,” Aeryn said. “There's two guys playing dice or cards, wearing plate. One guy in robes. Some funny oblong in the cage.”
Oblong? We all had the same guess. The phylactery was in the cage. That left the question of how we were going to get to it. We looked like dragonkin, but even dragonkin couldn't get away with claiming to be phylactery inspectors.
“My bluff's not that good,” Aeryn admitted, mainly because nobody's bluff was that good.
“We have to form a plan of action,” Armand decided.
“Get the mage first,” Grolsch said. “The robey guy.”
“Maybe we can lure some away,” Armand said. “We need to take some out or we'll get creamed.”
“I'm not too worried about the skeletons,” I said.
It was the big dark shape in the corner that was worrying me.
“We don't want to be too near the pool when we're noticed,” Armand pointed out.
That was a good point. Molostroi had warned us not to touch the pool, so we didn't want to end up backed into it when the fighting broke out in earnest.
“I could take bat form,” I said. “Then I'd be naked and I could creep along on the ceiling. Grolsch could take bear form and walk in on the ceiling. Then he could just fall on someone. Well, who would look for a bear on the ceiling?”
I think Grolsch was actually thinking about it.
“I'll sneak in and off the magic user,” Aeryn suggested.
“Let's keep everyone together,” Armand suggested. “The clerics can turn the skeletons. Don't get too far ahead of us, Aeryn. After you kakk the mage, you'll be a target and you'll be flanked.”
Be that as it may, she still wanted to kakk the mage. So Aeryn snuck one way, I crept along the ceiling over her, and everyone else crept the other way. When Aeryn offed the mage, the other enemies would be looking at her, and our compatriots would get them in the back.
It was working well until my levitate suddenly stopped levitating me. I was very glad that I had wings. It was a good thing Grolsch hadn't taken my idea, after all, even if a plummeting dire bear would've made a great distraction for the rest of us.
Down below, I could see the dragonkin pointing at me. Of course, caves tended to have bats, so the only thing remarkable about me was that I was a large bat. Then my levitate kicked back in and I was able to stop flapping. But that when it also occurred to me that my Seeming hadn't changed with me. I looked like a dragonkin inexplicably hugging the ceiling.
Aeryn took advantage of their confusion over my antics to backstab the mage. Grolsch started charging forward, a dragonkin on all fours moving at impossibly high speed. And a line of skeletal archers marched forward, bows at the ready. The skeletons were my business, but I had to get closer and get elven to do anything about them. While I was swooping in their direction, Grolsch slammed into a dragonkin and knocked him over the cage. One of the other plate guys pulled out a flaming sword. Oh, good. Someone for Armand to play with.
The skeletons let loose a volley of arrows. I got in under the arrows, but they looked to be heading Aeryn's way. I landed and did a quick Turning that disintegrated four of the five bowmen. Of, course, that left the five skeletons with swords untouched… They immediately started trying to slice me. They didn't succeed, but I wasn't exactly comfortable inside a ring of swinging steel. Then three of them ran away, Turned by Dreya. I Turned the remaining three.
Something in the tunnel was growling. An undead dragon was coming. I was a lot less sure of my ability to Turn something like this. I tried anyways. With a little faith, miracles do happen. The dragon ran away, right into the pool. I ran to join my companions.
I smelled smoke. Aeryn must have tossed a web somewhere and someone who wasn't Armand had set it on fire. I knew it wasn't him because I found Grolsch and Armand attacking the cage. Grolsch was swiping at the bars, but despite appearances, his paws were too large to get at the phylactery.
I looked back at the undead dragon I'd Turned, in case it turned back. It was heading out the far side of pool. But something else was coming our way, something equally large, but with red skin.
“Run away!” I shouted.
“Which bolt hole?” Armand asked.
“The other way!” Aeryn said.
If nothing else, the cage wouldn't have fit through the secret door. Grolsch ripped out another bar. Armand grabbed the box. I'd seen enough. It was time for me to fly. Something behind me was flying, too. I flew faster. I landed in front of the tunnel and was about to change back to my elven form and run when I was rammed from behind. If I had changed back, the shock of having a nose up my rear would've changed me into a bat again. As things were, all I could do was go along for the ride.
When the blast of hot air washed over us, I wondered if maybe it was worth having that cold nose where it was in order to have a bear between me and the flames. Finally, however, the tunnel narrowed to the point where Grolsch had to get small again, which afforded me the chance to get back to my own smaller shape and take to my feet.
“I hope it was good for you,” I told him. “By the way, your butt's on fire.”
The dragon roared. If it was too tight here for a bear, it wouldn't be following us, so it was probably pretty frustrated. We kept moving, just in case it tore the tunnel apart to get at us. We emerged in a basement, followed closely by a blast of hot air. Aeryn had a pair of arrows sticking out of her butt, and Grolsch was singed, but we seemed unhurt, otherwise.
“Get back to the temple!” he said.
“Can you show us how to get back without being spotted?” Armand suggested.
He provided us with another sphere of invisibility. We found some stairs and discovered that we'd come out inside a mansion. Outside, we could see that things were jumping around the castle. A red dragon was flying overhead, and a very large skeletal dragon was approaching from the south. We hurried along to the temple. Molostroi's image was waiting for us.
“The Shatter spell didn't work,” Armand said.
“And you just placed it in a bag of holding?” Molostroi said. “Take it out of the box.”
The box held a crystal. A diamond? Aeryn tried whacking it with a mallet. The mallet bounced. Aeryn vibrated. We decided that it might be better if I prayed to my Goddess for a Shatter spell. I settled down to pray, while Armand tried attacking the crystal with his sword. The sword bounced. Armand vibrated.
Dreya actually got a chip off the diamond using her jeweler's kit. Unfortunately, we didn't know what chipping it to pieces might do… and a dragon roared somewhere in the distance when she did it.
“Molostroi…,” Aeryn said. “How strong are Sehanine Moonbow's protections these days?”
“I don't know,” Molostroi shrugged.
There was a lot of noise outside. Another group of adventurers was led past in chains. I finished my prayers and cast Shatter on the crystal. It exploded in my face. On the one hand, I was glad that I'd destroyed it, on the other hand, I felt icky. An earsplitting roar sounded.
“Now what?” Armand asked Molostroi.
Now Molostroi wanted a rest so he could regenerate his spells.
“Don't leave the temple,” he advised us.
I was quite comfortable staying in the temple.
“Would now be a good time to kill him?” Armand asked.
“They're alert now,” Molostroi said.
We decided to hang out on the moss some more.
“It's almost natural,” Grolsch said.
“As long as he's alive,” Armand said, only slightly stretching the definition of ‘alive', “he'll keep spying on us or at least me. And now he's really mad at us.”
This was true, but killing Pelendralaar was a bit out of our league. We'd be better off sneaking out of town under cover of darkness. And… We might have to rethink our theory about Pelendralaar spying on us because he wanted Armand to play spare. There seemed to be a lot of other dragonkin around here.
“They're not real dragonkin,” Armand said. “The original sorcerer woman said the effect fades when they leave the mythal. I'm real. …maybe we should sneak out.”
“Maybe we should check the Tower of Bones ,” Aeryn said.
“If we can get there unnoticed,” Armand said.
“Maybe we should hang out here until Molostroi gets back,” Aeryn said.
“We might wanna take the Rod of Orbakh back to Elminster,” Armand said.
I knew I didn't want it. Dreya didn't want it. If Armand had used the two Shatter spells it contained, then all it had left was clerical powers that neither of us clerics wanted to touch. Elminster could have it with my blessings.
By the time Molostroi reappeared, we were pretty much decided on getting out. Unfortunately, getting out of Myth Drannor was going to be a bit more difficult than getting in had been.
“The Lyssic's tomb entrance is gone,” Aeryn pointed out.
“Your best bet would be using the main road,” Molostroi said.
“We could look for something to blast these suckers,” Aeryn said.
“We don't know enough magic to use a powerful enough scroll,” Armand pointed out.
“What happened to the other band?” Aeryn asked.
“Half of them are dead,” Molostroi said. “They had their uses. They were adventurers. They took their chances.”
“Remind me,” Aeryn said. “Why are we working for you?”
“He asked,” I reminded her. “And we said yes.”
“Stupidly,” Aeryn said.
“Scary thought,” I said. “ We're the party that succeeded.”
Molostroi did have some more info for us. The red dragon was Pelendralaar's daughter, Palasiraks. We already killed his son. Mirror boy was named Shamoor. I hadn't even known that one of the plate guys had been wearing a mirror mask. By the time I'd gotten near them, they were dead. We were curious how we could have killed a son of a dragon without noticing. Dragons, as we all knew, are shapeshifters. Pelendralaar apparently got around. Sonny boy was in human form when he died because he was mostly human.
“He was something akin to me, then,” Armand said.
“If you go after her ,” Aeryn warned him, “you're on your own. I pulled your ponytail with the green girl.”
“You didn't have to watch,” Armand said.
“I didn't,” Aeryn said. “I took off with the pixies.”
“So I like to get laid!” Armand said. “You should try it sometime. It might improve your disposition.”
“I get laid,” Aeryn said. “But I'm picky. How's your paper bag collection?”
“Why are you so interested in my sex life?” Armand asked. “…maybe I better leave before she sends me flowers.”
We decided to sneak out in mid-afternoon, wearing Seemings. The sky overhead was sort of greenish. And there was a red dragon in that greenish sky. Palasiraks.
“Remember that name,” I advised Armand. “You'll be screaming it some night.”
Aeryn high fived me. Armand didn't dignify that with a response.
We marched past the burnt remains of the barracks, which neatly covered our secret entrance.
“Nice going, Armand,” Aeryn said. “You didn't have to set the place on fire.”
We couldn't help but notice the red dragon standing in the street, talking to some dragonkin. We hurried along. We passed a really ugly tree with an odd fog surrounding it. Grolsch seemed oddly perturbed, and half orcs don't perturb easily. It's unlikely that perturb is even in their vocabulary.
“Walk quietly,” Aeryn said abruptly. “I wanna hear this.”
Aeryn snuck off into the ruins and snuck back again.
“It appears to be a small child,” she reported. “So it's probably a ghost. Does anyone want to do their priestly/druidic duty?”
“This is not good,” Armand said.
“I didn't detect any evil,” Aeryn said.
“I meant not good for us,” Armand clarified. “I didn't mean not good in the moral sense. I don't understand any of that stuff anyways.”
“We noticed,” Aeryn said.
I decided to fly in, do some listening of my own with my superior bat ears, and lay the spirit to rest if necessary. I flew in just fine, but the ruins were in worse shape than I thought. When the wall fell down, a twelve year old girl wearing the dirty remains of what might have once been a nice dress tried to run away, screaming. I flew after her. I caught her up in my wings easily enough, but she was screaming and struggling to get away.
“Quiet!” Aeryn told her.
For a ghost, she was awfully solid. Wings were good for keeping her wrapped up, but I couldn't gag her like Aeryn wanted me to. I managed to change back and keep my grip. Together, we got the girl to calm down a bit, although she kept sobbing for her Mommy.
“Where's your Mommy?” Aeryn asked.
“Mommy's dead,” the girl said. “She was killed three days ago.”
“Has there been a change of seasons since then?” Aeryn asked.
“Since three days ago?” the girl asked.
“Who was your mother?” I asked.
The girl told me her name, which, naturally, didn't mean anything to me.
“How did you get here?” Aeryn asked.
“The slavers came,” the girl said.
“Then how did you get here ?” Aeryn asked. “Here in the ruins.”
“They took us to the slave pens,” the girl said. “Down thataway. I escaped when there was a disturbance. Another building caught on fire and they made us all carry buckets to try and put it out.”
A building on fire. However could that have happened?
“How have you survived for three days?” Aeryn asked. “What have you been eating?”
“The rats are tasty,” the girl shrugged.
The others caught up to us, but not everyone was too enthused over the idea of rescuing this poor little girl.
“Why are we doing this?” Armand wanted to know.
“We just spent a few days taking refuge in the temple of a good goddess,” I pointed out. “We might want to consider doing a good deed.”
“I'll plant a shrub,” Grolsch volunteered.
“Stay away from the tree,” the girl recommended.
We could guess what tree was the tree. But why should we stay away from it?
“It's hungry,” the girl said.
“How do you know?” Aeryn asked.
“I saw it eat cultists,” the girl said. “Like you.”
“We're not really cultists,” Aeryn explained. “We're in disguise. Have you ever played dress up?”
“I've dressed in Mommy's clothes,” the girl said after some consideration. “Sometimes I've dressed in Daddy's.”
Too much information! And, oddly enough, now that I wasn't trying to hear something Aeryn was listening for, I noticed something… Strains of elven dance music were filtering over to us from… someplace we probably didn't want to go. My feet did not feel like dancing. My feet felt like beating a path out of this creepy city.
“What's your name, little girl?” I asked.
“Claudette,” she said.
Getting Claudette out of the city wasn't going to be easy. We probably could've bluffed her into the city, but out wasn't going to be easy. We'd chosen to look like human cultists this time, not dragonkin. If we were dragonkin, we might've been able to say we were taking her with us on patrol so we'd have something to snack on, but as things were…
“Put her in a sack,” Aeryn suggested.
“I don't like bags,” Claudette said.
Three gargoyles flew by overhead.
“Then you'll have to be tied up,” Aeryn said. “We'll have to pretend you're a prisoner.”
“I don't like to be tied up,” Claudette said.
“That's good,” I said.
“Wait until she grows up,” Aeryn muttered.
True, her tastes might change when she was older… Claudette decided that being bagged was the lesser evil. Armand, naturally, got to sling her across his back. We moved on. When ten skeletons decided to inspect us, I Turned them into ten piles of assorted bones.
We continued past a cult patrol that ignored us. A small head popped up behind Armand's.
“It's stuffy,” Claudette complained.
“Down,” Aeryn ordered.
Claudette put her head back in the bag without Armand having to shove her, but next we heard the sound of canvas tearing. Claudette ripped a small hole in the side of the bag.
“Be quiet!” Armand hissed.
“I'm quieter than you,” Claudette said.
True, but that wasn't the point.
“Feed her something,” I suggested.
Aeryn passed Claudette some jerky. The girl couldn't complain with food in her mouth. Could she? In her mouth, the jerky crunched. I didn't know that anybody could make jerky crunch.
“Remember,” I remarked to Armand. “She's too young for you.”
“Ew,” Armand said.
It was good to know he had some standards, although his objection might be that she was too short for him to fit. Then a fragrant whistle sounded from the bag.
“I'm gonna get you for this, Aeryn,” Armand muttered.
“Are we sure she's not a half orc?” I wondered.
Grolsch proceeded to demonstrate the difference between a true orcish belch and a little girl burping. A true orcish belch is a wonder to the ears. I was very glad that I only heard it with my ordinary elven ears and not with superior bat ears. The nuances came through clearly enough as it was.
Claudette urped again.
“This is not a competition!” Armand pointed out desperately.
“ You ,” Aeryn informed Grolsch, “have to cover any bodily noises she makes.”
Now there was a job Grolsch could do well. We reached the gates to the city as evening fell.
“Pick up your pace,” the gate guards suggested.
We sort of grunted in reply on hurried onward. We still had a ways to go to get back to our camp. We paused when we heard chittering noises in the trees. Aeryn decided to do some scouting.
“Spiders,” she reported.
That probably explained the big white bundled thing strung between a pair of trees. The bundle was still squirming. As was Claudette.
“Can I come out?” she asked.
“There's big spiders,” Aeryn warned her.
“Ooh,” Claudette said.
Apparently, the kid liked big spiders. I think we were all beginning to wonder how the big spiders might like the kid… Aeryn disappeared again. The white bundle suddenly came loose from both of the trees and fell to the ground in slow motion. A big spider lowered itself after the wrapped body. The body reached the ground and the spider jumped on top of it possessively.
“It's a cultist,” she reported.
In other words, nobody we wanted to save. We marched on until we were within sight of Mystra's cave. We let the girl out of the bag.
“I can't go any further,” Claudette said. “I have to thank you for getting me out of the city.”
She grew. Mostly, she grew up, although her chest grew out. We'd rescued a succubus. She probably wasn't named Claudette, either. She planted a quick kiss on the nose guard of Armand's helmet.
“Thank you, lover,” she said.
Then she disappeared. I thought she was getting a little ahead of herself, but I don't suppose she had any reason to doubt that he would be her lover when our paths crossed again. For the moment, Armand simply laughed at me and Aeryn.
“Poetic justice!” he said.
I took out my holy Crescent Moon and bonked him with it a few times. On the arm, not over his head. I couldn't reach that high unless I flew.
“It was a noble cause,” Aeryn said.
We returned to our camp. We bathed. I was so glad to be rid of the grime of Myth Drannor. Unfortunately, the pool's drains could only carry away so much filth. And our dwarven camp-keepers were only doing so much to keep up with the mess the animals were generating. We put in another shift cleaning Mystra's temple.
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