Age of Worms - Deree's Diary

The Gathering of Winds Pt 1

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why...?

Moonday 3rd Wealsun 595

A “bad news, good news, bad news” day today.

Bad news: I woke up with another scar on my chest. This is weird ‘cause I know for a fact that nothing happened last night. I can remember everything (much to Grim’s chagrin; a dwarf trapped inside a barrel ‘cause he fell in trying to scoop the last bit of ale out with his tankard, whilst hilarious to, well pretty much anyone who isn’t that dwarf, is not so amusing to the dwarf in question) and I didn’t fall down any stairs or invite any strange women up to my bedroom (although Salty was dropping her usual hints). Will have to keep an eye on this situation and hope it doesn’t get any worse.

Good news: the counsel had checked out Lightboob’s house and underground temple and decided that we’d been right all along and promptly handed over a whole hundred platinum each. They also said that they’d found some notes in his house that made reference to a plan that should have come to fruition today whereby he’d have killed everyone in the arena (spectators and all) turning them all into undead and basically turning the entire city deader than Curly’s imagination.

Bad news: Orc-dropping somehow retained his stupid title which means that I’m going to have to put up with him boasting for another year about how great he thinks he is. It almost makes me wish we hadn’t foiled Lightboob’s plot. Sure we’d have had a city overrun with undead, but at least Orc-dropping would have been one of the first casualties.

Godsday 4th Wealsun 595

I woke up with another scar, this time on my left thigh. Something is definitely wrong. I might have to confide in Grim but I’m not sure what he’d think.

Have just finished re-reading my copy of the Apostolic scrolls and feel much better. I now believe the scars are simply part of the sacrifice I’m supposed to make in order for me to sustain this power. It’s my bodies way of dealing with the energies that would normally pass through a person which I am now holding within myself. I don’t mind this; I’m strong enough to take on this burden, especially as it will only make me a stronger force against Kyuss.

Waterday 5th – Starday 15th Wealsun 595

This last ten days have been, how do I put it? Oh yeah: dull! Without the games going on (which consequently means most people have to work which means less people partying) this city is boring! Curly was alright, he just took the time to reacquaint himself with his god and temple. Muffin was in dreamland what with all the shops open for business. Sneeze, well Sneeze never has any fun anyway so I’m pretty sure that he was fine. Grim was being… Grim and Salty seemed to spend most of it trying on new outfits (I went with her one day… I’d rather be swallowed whole by the Ulgurstasta again than repeat that experience).

Me, I’ve spent most of this week and a day studying the scrolls and believe that I’ve only scratched the surface of the power they can give me. However I also believe that there are more sacrifices to be made if I wish to acquire these powers. This poses two questions: one, am I willing to make these sacrifices and two, how do I keep this from the others. I’m sure the scars (new ones of which appear on a semi-regular basis) will at some time appear somewhere I can’t cover up (I’ve already had to start wearing long sleeved shirts due to the ones on my arms). Still, all that is for another day.

It’s been over ten days since we sent the messenger to Diamond Lake and we were expecting Shrub-beard to be here easily by now, or at least to have sent a reply. I guess I should have said that a gang of lizardmen were on their way to lay siege to his tower; he’d have been here for reinforcements in double quick time then. Still I suppose at his age it must take a bit longer, what with all the extra toilet breaks and the fact that old people seem to sleep pretty much all the time. I figure that, since it takes a normal person five days to get here, Shrub-beard should arrive sometime during next years Champions games.

Sunday 16th Wealsun 595

With our weapons now ready and with still no word from Shrub-beard (according to the company we used, the messenger hadn’t even arrived back yet) we finally left the city and started the trek back to Diamond Lake and I for one can’t wait to get there. Sure it’s at the arse end of nowhere and the general population are about as pleasant as a sober Grim and no matter where you are you there seems to be the insidious odour of Sneeze’s feet, but compared to this so called bastion of civilisation, it’s like a shining beacon of sweetness and light… apart from the priests of St Cuthbert who are just annoying.

Moonday 17th – Earthday 20th Wealsun 595

You would not believe how good it feels to be out of the city. No more worrying about assassins creeping around in the shadows. No shape-changers lying in wait to kidnap you. It almost feels like I’ve been let out of prison. Everyone seems in good spirits! Although Muffin is already whining about the lack of shopping facilities in Diamond Lake and Salty’s worried that her new outfits won’t be appreciated fully by the patrons of the Feral Dog. Grim’s also started on about the narrow range of ales available and cast doubt over their quality whilst Curly’s upset about the leaving the lavish temple of Heironeous behind. Come to think of it, it seems that only me and Sneeze are genuinely happy to leave the city (not that you’d know that by the l stoic look he has constantly imprinted on his face).

Freeday 21st Wealsun 595

Ok, I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t as thrilled to see Diamond Lake as I originally thought I would be. Although that might have to do with the fact that when we got there half of it was either burning, in ruins or both (this included Shrub-beards mansion). Two of the Sheriff’s men rode up to us as we approached town and gave us a very warm greeting (obviously word had spread about mine and my groups deeds in the Free City) before telling us exactly what had happened. Apparently a large black dragon had come to town nearly a week ago now and laid waste to Shrub-beard’s place and some other buildings – they didn’t know why but guessed that some one in town had done something to offend it. I mumbled something about it probably being Porky Smenk whilst trying not to look at my boots at the same time as Muffin put an extra blanket over the rather large, rather black egg that had been secured in my cart.

Our guilt came to the fore and forced us to ask two questions: one, where can we find the dragon? And two (more importantly) was the Feral Dog still standing?

Turns out that the others weren’t as interested in the Feral Dog as I was (even Grim seemed less than enthusiastic) and were more concerned with Shrub-beard’s whereabouts so before heading into town we decided to stop off at his mansion; and by mansion I mean big pile of rubble. The whole house was now shorter than me and half melted. It reminded me of the time me and Grim crashed that wedding and he sat on the three tiered cake before letting one rip. Good times!

Anyway we concluded that there was no way that Shrub-beard was here so we turned and started towards the town centre. As we set off a figure appeared on the road ahead coming our way. I fingered the hilts of my weapons as we got closer until suddenly Salty started running towards the man. At first I thought that her desperation to be with me (or any man for that matter) had finally got the best of her but her screams of “Dad” were filled with genuine affection rather than the moans of a dirty, naughty girl addressing her sugar lover.

So anyway it turns out that this guy was actually Salty’s dad (and here’s me having thought that she must be an orphan or at least some kind of summoned creature) and he’d been trying to track her down for a number of weeks (he’d apparently just missed us in the Free City). He’d come with bad news; her mother was dying. She’d contracted some kind of wasting disease that even the best clerics and medicine men were unable to cure. Her mother (selfish as it sounds) had asked that Salty, her only child, could come and see her one last time before she leaves this mortal coil. I have to say I was genuinely moved by the story, unlike Sneeze who less than sympathetically pointed out that we’re on a quest to save the entire world from destruction and that the feelings and wishes of one dying person were of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.

Due to the utter shock of that remark I forget exactly what happened next but I think it involved a slap, some hugs, a bucket of tears and I’m pretty sure a squeeze of my ass before Salty and her pepper, sorry, papa rode off into the midday sun. I guess I’ll miss her but it’ll probably be the best thing for her. It’ll give her time away from the object of her unfrequented affection and let her feelings fade slightly (or at least enough for one of those home town boys to take advantage of her vulnerable state).

With the red marks both mine and Sneeze’s cheeks fading we headed into the town proper to assess the damage. Fortunately there was very little apart from the Emporium which had been levelled. The clerics of St Cuthbert had set up a shelter for the wounded and dying and just one look at their faces sent Curly into a guilt ridden depression. Somehow he felt it was all our fault and that we should put it right by seeking out and killing the dragon. I know he’s a bit slow but I’m pretty sure I already said that’s what we were going to do, although it’s nice to see that he’s behind me.

Curly was all for going after it right now but it was decided that with a foe as fearsome as a dragon it would be prudent for us to find out as much as we could about it and for Muffin and Grim to make sure they’d read up or prayed on some spells that could help us. Curly sulkingly agreed and set about trying to wrangle some help from the St Cuthbites who managed to scrounge together a couple of potions that would protect us against the serpents acid breath and a couple that would allow us to fly and guess what; they gave us a ten percent discount on the purchase. Just the thought of those self-righteous morons is bringing back all the anger. We’re risking our lives to slay a dragon and they’re charging us!

I had to leave and get a drink and so I stormed off to the Feral Dog (which was thankfully still standing) and walked in to find the place busier than I’d ever seen it. Tak spotted me and called me over, sliding a tankard my way. We chatted for a bit which allowed me to calm myself. As I got started on my second I spotted one of the Sheriff’s men. Wanting to find out more about the attack and the whereabouts of our benefactor I helped myself to another tankard and plonked myself down in the recently vacated seat next to him. As he supped he spoke of what had happened:

“The black dragon struck without warning. Its first onslaught was directed at Allustan’s house which he destroyed before seeming to search the carnage. I arrived with the second wave of militia to find most of the first troop dead and the dragon clutching a bloodied man in each claw demanding in a raspy voice to know where the master of the house was. One of the men, Dernon, gods have mercy, was barely able to wheeze his answer before the dragon tore him asunder. The dragon then flew off across the town flying straight through the Emporium before disappearing from sight.”

I pressed the obviously distraught man for the location that his friend had given before leaving him and his still full tankard to his grief; The Whispering Cairn!

So it seems we are to go back to where it all began. Funny how things work out!

I looked around the bar and at all the sullen faces and decided that it was my job, as indeed it once was, to cheer everyone up. I stood on the bar and banged two tankards together to gain the silence I desired.

“Friends of Diamond Lake” I began “I know that the town has been ravaged and that you are all rightfully living in terror of the beast that has laid waste to this town and to so many of your friends and family. But I am here to tell you that you no longer have to live in fear. That you can all dare to hope and dream once more for I, Deree Silentfoot, and my band of Daring Dynamos are here and I promise to any god you would wish to name that we will find this dragon and we will slay it!”

My words did do what I intended but not in the way that I intended it. My arms aloft in anticipation of the cheers and shouts that such a rousing speech warranted, I was instead greeted by a brief moment of silence before laughter erupted throughout the building. I’d have been annoyed but I got a load of free drinks off a lot of the patrons. Apparently it’s the first time anyone’s laughed since the attack.

Starday 22nd Wealsun 595

Not sure how much sleep I got last night and not for a good reason either. I couldn’t sleep. Anytime I did I had dreams about worms. I woke up in a sweat each time and each time had a desperate need for… for something. I’d had my fill of drink and food and neither satisfied the ache. I opened my magical haversack and sitting on top were the two remaining worm potions. Instantly I knew this was what I wanted. I uncorked one and placed the rim of the bottle to my lips. It was then that Grim staggered past my cart. Quickly I stoppered the potion and feigned sleep for the few seconds it took him to pass out on top of a none too plussed Lavender. I reached into the haversack once more and held the bottle once more. I wanted nothing more than to uncork it and feel the wonderful agony of that worm infesting my brain one more time. I held the bottle to the moonlight to see the worm inside when something caught my eye; another scar. It was only then that I remembered the sacrifice that went with this pleasure. It took all my strength to place the bottle back in my haversack and all my will to close my eyes once more.

I’m so drunk! I mean really drunk! I need to write down now what we did today because I’m not sure I’ll be able to do anything tomorrow. Or do I mean today? What time is it? Why am I asking a piece of paper? Maybe Grim knows.

Grim doesn’t know and I think he was a bit upset that I woke him. I’d ask Muffin but I have to be honest, I don’t want to. I don’t like him that much. Although I will have to admit that I do respect him a lot more after today. Or do I respect him less? I’ll read this back tomorrow and find out.

Anyway today we fought and killed a big, huge, massive black dragon and we kicked it’s big, huge, massive ass. It looked bad for a while, especially when Muffin disappeared with Grim leaving me, Sneeze and Curly (who looked kind of like a flying tin of… human in his armour all flying about really slowly in his suit of armour. I say slowly but he could have been moving really fast but not compared to that dragon. Wow, that thing could move.

I suppose I should really try to start at the tart. Hee hee hee; start at the tart! That’s what Grim does at a banquet. Anyway, me and Sneeze decided we should sneak up to the entrance of the Whispering Cairn and see if we could see a big, huge, massive black dragon shaped thing in or around it. We couldn’t. So you’ll understand that it came as a big, huge, massive surprise when it appeared behind us and breathed a line of black acid towards Curly, Muffin and Grim who took it all in their stride. Oh yeah, those three had taken them potions that would protect them from the breath weapon. Muffin responded by, and I quote, “channelling a lot of my magical energy into a spell in order to make it more powerful”. All I know is I heard a big bang and the dragon got pissed. It flew over to them and bit and clawed and flapped its wings at them. Funny thing was that the more it mauled Muffin, the more it seemed to injure Grim. After it had done that, me, Sneeze and Curly set to work on the underbelly of the beast. Did I mention it was hovering just off the ground? Well it was! Well we whacked on it before it struck out again (it got me with one of its wings) hitting Grim and Muffin who moments later disappeared (wimps) from sight which was bad as the dragon then turned its attention onto the rest of us. We handled it ok, especially when, after another loud bang, it flew up in the air and breathed another line of acid towards Grim and Muffin who’d just appeared… over there. Down a bit from the entrance. Towards the town! Anyway, Curly flew after it but as I said, the dragon was very fast and curly was very slow, in all senses of the word. This didn’t matter as the severe wounds I’d caused it coupled with the little bits that Muffin and the others had put in (including stealing the killing blow with yet another spell – that one that that produces the lightning.. not sure which one.. it was blue and streaky and looked like lightning) the beast fell like Curly’s perm in a light drizzle.

Although the dragon dying was great, me and Grim weren’t satisfied. Between us we chopped off its head and slit open its belly to see if Shrub-beard was inside. Not sure if he was or wasn’t as there was a lot of partially dissolved bodies in there – well not in there now; they spilled out on the ground (there not even there now – Curly spent his night digging graves).

With the absence of Shrub-beard in the dragons stomach we figured he must be in the cairn somewhere so we went and had a look. It wasn’t the same as last time. As we went in one of the corridors that had been collapsed was now not collapsed. The rubble had been moved and at the end was a shiny black thing with a circular door in the middle of it. Muffin said it was probably a portal. I tell you, that guy’s a genius! I never would have guessed that! Curly chucked a coin at it and it disappeared through the surface of the shiny part which rippled.

People weren’t really interested in going in what with being beaten up by the dragon and all so we decided to check out the rest of the cairn which turned out to still be the same as when we left last time.

It was at this point that we decided that there was nothing left to do but go and show all those people who didn’t believe in me and my band of Daring Dynamos just what we can do! So we did! Well me and Grim and Muffin did, Curly and Sneeze stayed behind to bury the bodies and keep an eye on the portal. We walked into the Feral Dog with the head which scared half the patrons initially (there were a couple of suspicious “spills” which needed cleaning up) but after my rendition of how we slaughtered the scourge of the town I received the cheers that my groups efforts truly deserved.

The rest of the night was spent drinking and singing songs (more than a few about me and my group I might add) and eating and drinking and then staggering back to the cairn where I’m about to go to sleep. Or do I mean pass out? I’ll let you know.

Sunday 23rd Wealsun 595

Pass out!

I’d never noticed it before but Curly’s voice is quite possibly the most annoying thing in the world to wake up to. I’d rather be woken up by one of Sneeze’s punches (which, by the way my head’s pounding, may have also happened).

Anyway Curly was trying to explain to Grim (who couldn’t possibly have heard through the pillow he had wrapped around his head) that he and Sneeze had been talking last night (not sure which one of them I feel more sorry for) and they had come to the conclusion that the portal was probably linked to the Wind Dukes. This revelation was only made shocking by the fact that it hadn’t come from Muffin, the master of “State the obvious”.

Well as we’d all rested (in theory) Sneeze pushed for us to go through the portal. I muttered agreement and helped Curly drag Grim to his feet whilst Sneeze impatiently moved to the portal. As he touched it he reeled in pain. At first I thought he must be reliving some of the conversation he’d had with Curly last night but he screamed that there was something in the portal. My hangover immediately gone I sprung though the black surface and found myself floating in a substance that looked a lot like the substance that drools out of Grim’s mouth when he’s sleeping. I recognised the gangly limbed clawed beast that was causing Sneeze distress; an Abyssal Ghoul.

Being hardly able to move let alone strike at the beast I decided to exit the other side. I stepped out into a corridor that resembled the entrance to the Whispering Cairn though the holes on either side of the walls that piped out the eerie whispers in the Cairn positively shouted with the power of the wind being forced through them. I turned to strike out at the ghoul when I spotted a black cloud (or rather several clouds) in the distance. However what concerned me was the fact that it was moving towards me, against the wind. A bit worried about what impending doom was coming towards me I tried to call the others through but I couldn’t even hear my own voice above the wind.

Quickly the smoke started to form into what would later be identified as six Belkers. I have to be honest, they kind of terrified me at first – that was until they struck out at me. I say struck out but I’ve seen more venom in one of Muffin’s girly slaps.

After I easily dodged the blows from the elementals that had surrounded me, I turned my attention back to the ghoul. From this side of the portal I could see that Curly had gone through the portal and was currently stuck in the goop with the ghoul. He was struggling to exit to my side but the Belkers had blocked the exit. With Curly and the others focussing on the ghoul I decided to try and make space for them on this side. I set about slashing away and within moments the others were able to step through and the Belkers soon faded back to smoke beneath our blades.

With the wind blowing through the corridor at a rate more akin to that of Grim’s post beer farts only not quite as toxic, we moved quickly along the corridor which opened up into a far less gusty room that had a few bizarre features. Just to the right of the entrance and ahead next a set of double doors, were masses of spikes that were protruding from the floor in all directions. Two other double doors on either side of the room stood behind shallow depressions in the floor. The walls were covered in frescos depicting the tall androgynous humanoids we’ve come to know as the wind-dukes. Interspersed in these pictures were the same holes although the noise was a lot quieter and deeper than in the corridor. The floor was criss-crossed with shallow trenches that seemed designed to carry water that was long dried up.

I was just about to step into the room when Grim stopped me. He said that he believed it might be trapped. After a search of the area around the entrance I saw no trigger mechanism and so Grim confidently stepped out into the room. On hindsight I think too confidently. How did he know there was a trap there? How did he resist the wind that should have thrust him into the bed of spikes? Why did he make me look for traps in a place where he knew I wouldn’t find any? Is he trying to make me look stupid? Is he trying to usurp me from my position in the group by embarrassing me in front of the others? What is his motive for this? I’m going to have to keep a very close eye on him.

With Grim’s help (obviously furthering his plot against me) we all made it past the trap and headed towards the door on our right. As I stepped into the curved depression in front of it a mist like vapour started to rise around me and spread along the frescos seemingly bringing them to life. The pictures showed the Wind-duke called Icosiol at the battle of Peche, the same battle depicted in the four pictures that we saw below Zosiel’s burial chamber. As the animation continued we saw Icosiol seem to make a pact with a monstrously huge humanoid that looked like it had an axe-head through its skull (Muffin later identified it as a Marut-Inevitable – a little too easily I might add). The picture faded and reformed to show Icosiol holding a square seal and a rod that split into seven separate pieces.

It was at this point that I lost sight of the pictures as the mist gathered more thickly around me. Forced to inhale, my legs suddenly felt like lead and as quickly as it came, the mist disappeared leaving me with that sluggish feeling. Grim, who just happened to have prayed to Hanseath for the exact spell needed to restore my nimbleness, smugly came over and lay his hands on me. I thought twice about letting him cast the spell on me but I came to the conclusion that I need to be at my blistering best to hold off his challenge so for now I’ll use him to help me derail the prophecy before I deal with his treachery.

With my strength restored and the doors opened we stepped into a corridor that had another corridor intersecting it. The entire place was lit by six floating torches (one of which Muffin tried to steal but when he let it go the torch simply floated back to its original position). In the centre of the cross… corridors I guess, stood a statue of a wind-duke impassively holding a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other.

I wonder how much Curly’s hair weighs? I bet it’s a lot. Maybe that’s the reason why he’s so dim – the hair puts too much pressure on his brain. I might do him a favour and shave it all off – that way I could put it on the scales and answer my original question although as Grim, who actually licked the statue, informed us, the entire thing was made of granite (apart from the mithril sword that is) so the scales wouldn’t actually work anyway. Guess I’ll have to find another way.

Anyway, as we were getting over the disgust of seeing Grim, who apparently will put anything in his mouth (I hadn’t thought it could get worse than the time at the Feral Dog when he started sucking at the bottom of the last barrel of Dwarfbane), lick an ancient statue I got a tingling on my neck hairs. Before I had the chance to warn anyone (not that I’m sure I should. I mean none of them warned me despite Sneeze’s obvious knowledge as he joined me in diving on the floor) as a fireball erupted around us. Looking up from the floor I spotted the door at the end of the corridor on our left ajar and a figure stepping back to try and avoid my gaze allowing a flickering light to stream through the gap.

I saw Grim start towards the door but suddenly come to a dead halt half way along the corridor which gave me the chance to overtake him and reach the room first although in hindsight this could have been a brilliant move on Grim’s part to try and get rid of me by legitimate means. I charged the door open only to release an inferno like heat that emanated from a huge moving mass of fire that was standing behind a not quite as huge, but still pretty big, fiery lizard with a very long spear (Muffin later revealed that it was a Noble Salamander).

The heat of the room stunned me as it hit although not quite as hard as the enormous fists of fire that struck immediately after. Sneeze ran in after me but such was the heat that his robes began to smoke before he even struck a blow. Curly showed his colours when he stayed behind to cast a spell on Grim to allow him to move again. And what did he do with this regained ability – he cast a spell of healing… on himself! Here I am nearly burned and bludgeoned to death and he goes and sees to his own wounds!

It was at this point Muffin moved in between myself, Grim and Sneeze and, with a single spoken word transported us back to the wind fuelled corridor. Not sure what to make of that particular tactic. I know Grim is attempting mutiny but at least I can respect the fact that he’s picked a side. How can you respect someone who’s content to just sit on the fence and see who comes out on top? Although if he hasn’t completely turned on me yet, maybe I can persuade him fully over to my side. That might even things up a bit what with Curly (who managed to find us without further incident) seemingly camped in Grim’s corner.

I allowed Grim to heal me. Once again as he lay his hands on me I could feel the energy coursing through my veins with the empowered feeling I’ve been experiencing ever since I overcame the Kyuss worm.

Tonight’s been awkward. We’ve spent the entire evening up what Muffin calls a Rope Trick. This of course meant I had to leave my haversack in the corridor below us and my watch is the first time I’ve had chance to come down and write.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Why am I feeling this way about people that I’ve stood beside in battle time and again? About people that have shown me nothing but honour and respect and taught me about a world beyond the physical and how to access that world through the power of the gods? Even now with my mind fully aware that what I’m feeling is wrong, I still have those feelings. I know that Grim isn’t plotting against me.

So why this infectious feeling? It must be something to do with the worm. It has to be. But I’d read the scriptures, I performed the absorption to the letter. I should have control over it! Is it possible that I’m not strong enough to handle the worm and it is slowly taking control of me? I need to think on this. Hopefully I can get some uninterrupted sleep and see what the morrow brings.

Moonday 24th Wealsun 595

Today’s been quite… interesting. Not sure where to begin so I suppose I’ll start at the beginning:

After I finished my watch last night I managed to get to sleep surprisingly easily although it wasn’t the peaceful sleep I’d hoped for. I dreamt I was back in the Free City under the Champions Arena in the room where we slew the Ulgurstasta although this time it was empty. As I looked around I felt a sudden sharp pain in my stomach. I ripped open my shirt just in time to see my skin rip open and, in a spray of blood, a Kyuss worm erupted out and onto the floor. I fell to the ground and back away from the creature that was now starting to grow and soon reached a size that filled the entire chamber, squeezing me tight against the wall. Just as I thought the pressure would cave my rib cage in we were suddenly in the spacious arena above. The creature reared its massive body up and seemed to look down on me. With a scream that showed row after row of razor sharp teeth it plunged towards me. In my dream I remember closing my eyes and hoped for a swift death that didn’t come. I gathered enough courage to open my eyes to see the large worm lying motionless on the floor. On top of it crawled two other worms that quickly devoured the beast before one started devouring the other. When only one colossus worm remained I was once again fixed with the creature’s almost lifeless gaze. Slowly the worm crawled towards me and wrapped its mouth around my feet. Unable to move I closed my eyes to shut out the pain before realising that I wasn’t feeling any. I opened my eyes once more only to find that it wasn’t the worm eating me but a smaller humanoid figure which looked up. I found myself looking into my own eyes for what seemed like an age before my other self nodded and smiled as he continued on where the worm had stopped. Still no pain came instead I was overcome with a feeling of what I can only describe as contentment. It was as my other self opened its mouth to consume the last of my body that I awoke feeling more refreshed than I have in a long time.

I’m not a hundred percent sure what the dream means and until I do, I’m not going to rush into doing anything. Which is kind of ironic considering what spell Muffin cast on us before heading back into battle with the salamander and elemental. Grim and Muffin spent almost half an hour after breakfast discussing and casting spells on themselves, each other and the rest of us the last of which doubled how quick we could move.

As soon as Muffin finished this incantation we charged the door. I say we but once more Grim was stopped dead in his tracks by some sort of trap and Curly was once again forced to cast a spell on him in order to dispel the dweomer. So once again myself and Sneeze were the first into battle. The elemental was at the front protecting the Salamander but Sneeze managed to acrobatically tumble past the creature leaving it at my mercy. I stood head to toe against the monster but fear didn’t even enter my mind. With the added speed given to me by Muffin and the blessing that Grim had placed on all our weapons I ripped into the heart of the fiery beast with a flurry of blades so quick that even I almost missed it and smote it back to whatever hell it had come from (Muffin also cast some kind of spell on it but he was miles away from it and in absolutely no danger so personally I don’t think that counts). I was just about to unleash my fury on the Salamander when the creature threw down its weapon and hissed its surrender. Sneeze gave it the old ‘Salty wake up call’ so we could decide what to do with it.

After much deliberation (and by that I mean arguments and threats and a little fisticuffs during which I checked out the chest we’d found at the back of the room – didn’t contained much: some money, jewels, a wand designed to turn people invisible and three bottles of very expensive liquor which Grim instantly recognised as ‘Efreet Brandy’) it was decided that we’d wake the creature and question it about the area before banishing it back to its own dimension, by death if necessary.

Not sure if pouring a whole waterskin of the wet stuff over a fire demon is the ideal way of waking it up but it did the trick. We explained our terms to the salamander who, when faced with the idea of a painful death plus (apparently) a hundred years of banishment on its home-plane or give us info about the area and get a nice fluffy cloud ride home without the hard time, hissed up info about the rooms across from us. He said that beyond the next room was a wraith on one side, a load of xorn’s (deep earth dwelling creatures) on the left and a couple of unidentified creatures somewhere about. Somehow the creature managed to draw us a map without burning the parchment

With a ‘Thank-you and goodnight’, Grim banished the demon and we mostly ignored everything it said (although Curly, bless his naïve heart, thinks he could have been telling the truth) and headed to the far end of the main corridor only to be greeted by the stupidest position ever for a false door. I mean come on! I thought these wind-dukes were meant to be a superior species and they’re putting false doors in at the end of a fifty foot corridor that must have taken who knows how long and cost Hanseath knows how much to build! They didn’t even trap it! Amateurs!

That left only one more option on this side of the spiky wind trapped room – the way the salamander said. The salamander at least had drawn this part of the map right (but then again it’s not a stretch to put a room beyond a door at the end of a corridor) and we stepped out into an unusual room. The room was almost like a pit with the entrance being at the bottom. Stairs to the left and right led up to a walkway that rimmed the basin below. Doors led off the walkway on the three sides it rimmed. The room was lit by four chandeliers although from the light they were giving off the room should have been brighter. In the centre of the chandeliers was a black sphere the presence of which was made more ominous when I got to the top level and got a better look at the light fittings; they had the same shapes and symbols as the Amulet of the Sphere that Muffin was at that exact time holding up to the ceiling and, in the most pathetic effort at a commanding voice I’ve ever heard (and that includes the time that Curly tried to order Grim not to drink), ordered the sphere to come towards him… now I know I’ve been off form lately but even I know that commanding anything called a ‘Sphere of Annihilation’ to come towards you is a bad, terrible and outright dumb thing to do. Fortunately the sphere didn’t move. It did, however, detect as type of magic that conjured things into existence.

Whilst all this was going on Sneeze had moved into the base of the room where he announced that the walls were covered in more frescos that was telling a story which we didn’t get the chance to hear as Sneeze screamed like Muffin did when he got caught in a light rain. Give him his due thought, he had a good excuse; he’d stepped on what was identified as a massive black-pudding. On the announcement of this, Grim jumped of the ledge and hacked away at it with all the vigour he normally attacks a full cooked breakfast (he did look kinda disappointed that there wasn’t any bacon and eggs to go with it). However all he actually did was to split the entire thing in two and spurt acid all over himself and his weapons and armour. At this point I have to give a huge amount of respect to Sneeze; despite this knowledge he pummelled into that thing, or rather those two things, with his bare hands. Truly he has more guts and less regard for his own physical wellbeing than any person I’ve ever met and I’ve bore witness to Grim’s eating habits. I mean even I stopped hitting hit when my mace and hammer dissolved (wasn’t about to risk using my kukris on them – they cost a ruddy fortune and I’m not that far gone… yet).

The desserts succumbed before the acid completely ate through Sneeze’s arms and whilst Grim sorted out his injuries we managed to get a better look at the story. It seemed to show a succession of demons succumbing to the wind-dukes but there were two that showed something different; one depicted a host of wind-dukes holding out amulets as if to ward off a field of floating black orbs and the other showed a marut-inevitable reaching for a square object being held by a group of glowing creatures. No idea what that’s all about and I have to be honest, I don’t actually care. This whole place is starting to annoy me. Well not exactly this place but more the fact that we’re forced to waste time searching for Shrub-beard so he can give us the information we need regarding his master and where we can find him as Legless wasn’t considerate enough to leave that tid-bit for us before he was brutally murdered.

With everyone sorted we decided to check out the door to the right. Unsurprisingly the map the salamander drew didn’t match, although this itself put us on edge as to what might be down here. A short downward sloping corridor led out into a room containing two double doors each guarded by a pair of large, ominous looking statues and another single door. Identical chandeliers to the previous room illuminated this room. With an uneasy feeling running through the entire group, I decided it would be best to investigate elsewhere before venturing forth into this room.

The door opposite opened into a very ornate room the focal point of which was a large red urn with gold decorations. The arched ceiling depicted two entwined lovers and four chairs stood in each corner. Muffin detected magical emanations coming from one of four boxes at the rear of the room and from the top of the urn. The boxes contained various jewels and gems coupled with a wand that apparently makes people more attractive (Muffin’s eyes lit up at this news – I think he thinks he’d have a better chance with Tira if he were better looking… poor deluded fool). A bit worried about what I determined was a magical trap on the urn, we retreated out of the room whilst Sneeze took pot-shots at it with javelins. After several frustrating minutes he eventually hit a bulls-eye and smashed the urn open, an action which sent a ray of energy hurtling towards him. Sneeze was quick enough to dodge it and the rest of us were quick enough to run and check for what treasures it encased. On hindsight we should have figured out that it contained the ashes of two long dead lovers but hey, I’ve had other things on my mind.

With this anticlimactic outcome we decided to rest up before we went into the statues of death room… I mean the room with the statues guarding the doors that are bound to animate and kill us… the statues that is, not the doors… I’m pretty sure we could take a group of animated doors.

Godsday 25th Wealsun 595

Managed to get a dreamless sleep last night; wish I knew how to make that a permanent state of affairs but I guess that’s not going to happen. Although I’ve started thinking that maybe it’s someone’s way of trying to tell me something although if they’re powerful enough to put dreams in my head, why can’t they make them a bit less obtuse? No time to ponder it now though; we’re heading back to the statue room as soon as Grim’s finished picking the remains of his breakfast out of his beard.

I’m not dead and it wasn’t the statues that caused my current predicament but other than that my prediction about the room was perfect. We entered the room and were surprised to find that the statues didn’t immediately animate and attack. Maybe that’s why we were surprised when a huge (what later became obvious) shadow spider appeared from nowhere and attacked us. And by us I mean me. It dropped down from the ceiling and reached out for me with one of its claws. As it touched me my vision seemed to blur but when I looked back to the spider I realised that it was the room that was blurring. In the briefest of seconds everything came back into focus. I was in the same room only everything seemed to be darker. It was as if the shadows were deepened both in colour and size. I glanced behind me only to find that the rest of the group hadn’t travelled with us. Figuring my only way out f this shadowy hell would be to kill my abductor I channelled my inner rage and flew at the spider. Obviously intimidated by my sudden increase in power, the cowardly arachnid ran. And boy could it run. It disappeared out the room faster than a thought out of Curly’s head.

I tried to follow but as I moved out of the room the world went blurry once more only this time I didn’t appear back in the room but somewhere else. As the world came back into focus I fell to the hard stony ground. I tried to rise but my body wouldn’t respond. I looked around the landscape only to find that there wasn’t much to see. I was on a flat, barren plain that stretched almost to the horizon. The only focal point I could find was a volcano in the distance. The whole place looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.

I sat there for an hour before I could muster the energy to move myself to a more defensible position, a position I’m still occupying now some four hours later. I have to be honest I don’t feel as apprehensive as I think I should be considering I’m exhausted, alone and lost. It’s almost nice to have time to myself without worrying about who’s doing what around me. I’ve spent a lot of this time thinking about that dream I had the other night and if I’ve figured it out then my future doesn’t look great. Some parts I’m not yet sure of so I don’t want to elaborate too much. The one thing I’m sure of is that I have to infuse another worm and I need to do it soon otherwise the one inside will consume me from the inside. I wish I weren’t feeling so weak; this would be the ideal time to do it away from the prying eyes and ears of the others but I daren’t risk it until I’m fully fit.

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, it’s started to rain. It’s laughable really. I’m just waiting for the thunder and lightning to top off what’s been a wonderful day so far.

Today has been a very long, very boring but ultimately… no, the first two pretty much cover it. I’ve spent most of it fatigued, cold, wet and alone and the times when I wasn’t those things, I was beat up, electrocuted, wracked with headaches and stuck with someone who makes Curly and Sneeze seem like bastions of intelligence and interest as well as making Muffin look like a battle hardened knight of legend. He didn’t make Grim look like anything apart from the drunkard he is but then again I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t. Despite this I’m still in a remarkably good mood and I don’t know why.

Just before dusk the spider appeared near me. Still feeling fatigued I unsteadily drew my weapons preparing to go down fighting. It was then the spider spoke. He told me that it’d made a bargain with my group for my safe return (obviously why it took me; it must have sensed that they couldn’t do without me and that I wouldn’t have bargained anything for the safe return of any of the others.. maybe Grim but to be fair, he is the one carrying the Efreet brandy) and all I had to do was trust him. Well that wasn’t going to happen so I sent him back with a question for them – what happened to Salty (which I quickly had to change to Insalla – unless the others have been reading my diary they wouldn’t have known who I was talking about. Although thinking about it that may not have been a bad thing to have known). The spider quickly returned and gave me the correct answer and also a tankard with some Efreet brandy in it. At this point I was a bit concerned that the spider had killed Grim (he’s not someone who gives away good ale) but came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to trust the arachnid. It touched me once more and once more the world turned blurry and dark before we reappeared in the statue room in front of the rest of my group who had been waiting with baited breath for my return.

Once back the trade took place. It’s nice to see what the rest of the group think I’m worth; the hyper-long spear we got from the noble salamander. Whoever did those negotiations deserves a medal although they could have done better – they could have traded me for Sneeze.

I was a bit disappointed that they wouldn’t let me kill the arachnid on my return – apparently Curly had given his word that we’d perform a task for the creature in exchange for my safe return – however when I found out what the task was I felt a bit better. The spider (apparently the guardian of the tomb) wanted us to go and kill something that called itself the ‘Marquis of the River’; an undead (possibly a ghoul) that lives – is that the right word? I mean the thing is dead – that makes its abode in a cavern at the end of the ‘River of Blood’ (sounds nice). Apparently this ghoul not only fights with a great big sword but is also a powerful spell caster (maybe we could persuade him to join us – sounds more useful than Muffin – apart from the being an evil member of the undead ranks. Still Muffin isn’t exactly perfect).

With the spider good enough to point us in the right direction, we left its lair and moved through the double doors opposite where we entered and found ourselves in a small shrine. There was a door to our right and opposite was a golden statue that was illuminated by a very focussed and bright light. This statue was holding a sword in one hand and the other was covering its eyes which, closer inspection we found were blue topaz. On the wall behind was a bas-relief of Icosial standing triumphant against the armies of chaos (not sure I’m for that, although it makes me less guilty about ransacking his tomb).

We took the door and found ourselves in a very odd room. The first thing that hit was the smell – it reminded me of the air when there’s a thunder storm. The room itself was roughly circular and sloped down like a funnel to the centre of the room and an archway opposite led onto some stairs. Oh yeah; floating in a flickering ball of lightning that was hanging from the bottom of a spike protruding from the ceiling at the centre, seemingly inanimate, was a very battered and bloody Shrub-beard (might have to come up with a new name for him – his beard was very scraggly and distinctly shrubless).

Anyway, with Tramp-face being about as useful as he normally is I decided to get a closer look. Unfortunately as I stepped in the room a bolt of lightning shot at me. Sadly even lightning is too slow to catch me and I easily side-stepped out of the way and back out of the room. With the best spell-casting minds our group had to offer mulling the situation over I figured I’d make a run for it whilst I was still young enough to do it. The lightning struck out at me once more but I dodged it once more.

The stairs on the other side led down only a short way until it dropped off into a pit forty foot deep that split off into two passages. A ladder started where the stairs ended and travelled all the way to the bottom. I turned to inform the others only to find that the best spell-casting minds had come up with the genius idea of moving the statue into the lightning room (apparently it was meant to attract the lightning so people could walk through unharmed) and, in doing so had attracted the attention of the bas-reliefs that had come alive and were busy attacking them.

I sprinted back across the room but in my haste to aid my group of genius’ (and people wonder why I’m the leader) I have to say I didn’t pay as much heed to the lightning strike as I should have. As I flew through the air with smoke trailing from my ass all I could really think about was how the rather large, stone, club-like fists of the now animate bas-reliefs were getting awfully close. Then, after the thudding pain in my sternum suddenly appeared, all I could think was how the rather large, stone, club-like fists were rapidly getting further away.

As I landed I looked up in time to see Muffin get back to his sparkling best. With concentration etched on his face he uttered words of such magical power that even I was sure that the creatures would crumble beneath its might. The short version is that they didn’t. The long version is that the crackles of lightning trickled off their back like drool off Grim’s beard. Curly was busy slashing the monsters but the edge of his blade skittered across the rock with little affect. Sneeze, on the other hand (or more accurately on both of his hands) was knocking chunks out of the upperty decorations. Seeing the effectiveness of his thudding blows I decided not to run in with my kukris but rather resort to using my sling. After the dust had gotten out of my eyes I rained in blow after blow. More dust came into my eyeshot as Muffin pulled out his bow and started pinging arrows in with more accuracy than I thought he possessed (although it would explain the outcome of his shots if he was actually aiming for me) and Curly drew his dagger (a large man with a huge shield poking a stone carving is quite possibly the most amusing thing I’ve ever seen).

Despite this hindrance, the décor was soon put to sword (or more precisely dagger, arrow, fist and bullet) and we once again set about trying to figure out a way to free Tramp-face as Grim healed us through the blessings of Hanseath (it still shocks me when I feel that healing energy surge through me amplified by the worm).

I ran around to the other side of the lightning room once more only to find that the top of the pit had been sealed over. Over the buzz of the lightning ball I could hear a rush of water battering the walls beyond the barrier.

With options running out I risked the room once more and tried to disarm the trap with no success. I think I was a bit distracted thinking about the times that Salty had tried to help me. Yup, even when she isn’t here, she still manages to put me off.

With all other options exhausted I decided to allow Muffin to have a go. I don’t know what spell he cast but I do wish he’d cast it on our enemies. It doubled me over, restricted my breathing, produced a severe ache in my sides and caused my eyes to water. It rendered me absolutely helpless! It was either that or the fact that when he dispelled the ball of lightning, Tramp-face plummeted from his suspended animation to the floor cushioning his landing with his face. I’m serious – he landed right on his bearded mush. In hind sight it’s probably a good thing; at least this way he was in no danger of damaging anything important – if he’d landed on his feet he may have broken his legs and we’d have had to carry him out.

This scuppered my attempts to offer any kind of assistance but Muffin, obviously concerned for his master ran into the room and dragged Tramp-face back to Grim who brought him round. As soon as he did, I knew we’d made a mistake as he started to speak. It was worse and more inane than I remembered! Firstly he repeated what we already knew – that he’d been penned in here by a black dragon. He ran through the portal and somehow managed to make it all the way to the lightning room where he got zapped. That was the last thing he could remember.

Muffin, being the empathetic and sympathetic person he is, nodded all the way through his tale before saying, and I quote:

“Interesting… can I get some new spells off you?”

Tramp-face duely handed over his travelling spell-book which Muffin took with the giddy joy only usually seen on children the morning of their birthdays. This look was soon wiped from his mug when he actually looked inside and saw the true limitations of his mentor.

This then brought about the second most hilarious part of the day when Tramp-face said that he had more spells in his main book which was in his house. Due to further stomach pains and watery eyes I was forced to let someone else tell him that his house had been completely destroyed by the dragon. The look on his face only furthered my inability to function for the next ten minutes.

Other than comic relief, Tramp-face did offer one piece of useful information. When I described the plains and volcano I had been abducted to, he said that it sounded like the Fields of Peche which, he clarified, was about five hundred miles north-east of Diamond Lake.

When we told Tramp-face about our investigations in the Free City and what had happened to Legless he did show some concern. He said that he agreed with Legless that we should get in touch with their old master who he named Manzorian, regarding our findings. Just when I though it was safe to unplug my ears, Muffin had to go and ask another question regarding why he left his master. Apparently they had a difference of opinion; Tramp-face wanted to go exploring (why? He’s crap at it! Anytime he goes anywhere all he wants to do is bugger off home as fast as his spells can carry him) where as his master (who sounds like a wise and intelligent man) said that he wasn’t ready.

This seemed to satisfy everyone so before anyone else could give Tramp-face another opportunity to open his trap I got Muffin to conjure another room at the top of a rope (no matter how many times or from what angle I see it, watching Grim and Curly struggle up that rope is still funny. I’m also pretty sure that Grim comes up with a new swear word on each occasion) and everyone settled down for the night. I waited until the orchestra of snores started (although Tramp-face even managed to ruin this symphony – that man has the timing of a St Cuthbite) I snuck down the rope and opened up my haversack. There sitting neatly on top were the two vials containing the worms. It took all my willpower not to quaff both, especially after the exquisite pain of the first embraced my entire, working its way down from my head. I wiped up the blood from that had dripped onto the floor from my nose and climbed dizzily back up to the chorus above.

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