It is a joy to put pen to parchment once again.
It is the sixteenth year of the reign of Anthor, during the summer of the late rose. But there are certainly no roses here underground. For the reader, I am Atrei FaintWalker, adding my conjurations and arcane knowledge to our noble band of adventurers. Forgive my lengthy words, but I gain joy as I write and this dank underground stirs all but joy within me.
We’ve just completed our intriguing conversement with those mushroom creatures. I must remember to return again, to delve further into their knowledge of the arcane. However, all of us must have breathed too many mushroom spores and we did have a mission, after all (to put an end to the “gravedigger’s curse” and the disappearing children), so the thoughts of return to the surface were voiced. Poor Jack hollered about his earlier snake-bite poisoning, and our lengthy discussions were too much for his active nature. We returned to the light of day to bring Jack to Master Soto’s healing hands.
No offense to Master Soto, but I think Jack’s true healing was when he suddenly remembered the silver tea service we had discovered and how much coin he might gain from its sale.
We reentered the underground, but Thamior decided to stay in town for some unspoken reason. We traveled past the mushroom men and discovered a large ruined common room and a nearby locked armory. The lock was little challenge for Jack, the arms inside reasonably preserved, but an odd box garnered my interest: wood box long and thin, covered with runes. When we discussed what might be inside, and I mentioned it was sized to hold a large snake(!), Jack immediately left and ventured ahead.
(reminder: ask Betha to aid me in making pennance for my remark)
The box told in Silvan about Tashtiba’s vengeful entrapment of a “Gerald” for past romance, and my conjurings were sufficient to discover arcane runes underneath about an “Alice” thanking Gerald for his kindred spirit.
Jack found a beast.
It was sleeping in a ruined kitchen. Our first clue was our intrepid rogue running right past us and a deep growl from ahead. Large humanoid wolf-man. Not hostile but curious. My arcane skills could understand him but not speak back to him, he said very little, and we struggled with making an understanding. Hadrian went back and asked the mushrooms who said it was another Tashtiba-created creature, a “quaggoth”. It departed peacefully and we hindered it not.
Now that I think about it, that might be the most I’ve ever heard our bard Hadrian speak. Most bards can’t keep their mouth closed to save their soul, but this chap is reserved and disciplined. Unusual.
Mara decided to open one of the doors in the common room and ended up bringing down the roof and walls for half of the common room. She claims it was a triggered trap, but Jack laughed otherwise about our impossibly loud warrior while we quickly pulled rocks off of her before she suffocated. Fortunately Mara did not hear his comments or Jack might have received a bitter battleaxe to the brain.
I was able to open the rune box with my mage hand (no traps) and lift the ornate white-with-green-swirls quarterstaff within (no reaction) and then touched it. The voice of Gerald started talking in my mind! He was confused, kept asking about where he was and how Fort Strade was (maybe the name of our current locale from long ago?). Everyone was only hearing my words and I had to repeat everything Gerald said for their sake. Hadrian touched the staff and recoiled in pain and anguish. I could detect enchantment and transmutation qualities to this staff, worthy of future study.
After an hour or two of this research, Jack returned. Apparently our intrepid rogue had traveled back to Master Sato to gain some arcane tongues to talk with the beast, and he ran the whole long way (!). But the beast was nowhere to be found and he advanced forward. Jack hears screaming and tells us about it, we run forward. Angry hungry beast. Screaming little girl in a cage. Cooking fire. Heroes leap forward. Chaos and clatter. To my chagrin, I couldn’t get a good line of fire and we strived to avoid hurting the girl, but Betha stepped forward and shouted a blessing and and flash of light and all but crippled the beast. Huzzah! We quickly released the girl from captivity, and with a morsel from Mara she was eager to return to her home while she asked where her friends were.
Betha has been so quiet lately. She seems distant, and she has muttered something about her work here almost being finished, as if she feels a call to travel on without us. I hope she is not seeing some kind of death vision. Perhaps her deity has other plans for her.
Most of our band returned to the town with the girl (and bags full of armory goods to sell), but Jack and I were eager to continue onward. I am most impressed with his energy and initiative in our endeavor. We find several passageways and a large room with a large cargo door (emblazoned with the words “TOOPLOOGDO banished zone” in Common) and a half-buried sailing ship! Her name is the Sailor’s Mistress, and we cannot fathom (sorry for the pun) how this ship got in here. We are underground and well beneath the river level, mind you.
We weren’t touching that door.
We explored the ship’s upper deck, and Jack went into the hold and found it was clear of rubble, so we went underdeck to the other side of the ship and then topside. The ship back end is hanging twenty feet over a pool of water, filled with eerie fish. The ship has a dinghy but one look at those odd fish was enough to prompt us to return happily to the surface. We’ll wait on this until the group returns together.
Jack and I made it to the entrance to the underground just as the rest of our band arrived with dozens of townsfolk, eager to search for the other missing children. Hadrian led us to the water cavern we had passed earlier. Fungal growths concealed a child-sized corpse, and we led the villagers away from it lest they despair. Flooded hallways. Floating cargo boxes and decayed mattresses. Mold. Dry side passage with half-caved-in door (scrawled with “Don’t let the children in!” in Common). Several prison cells. Dead fish-people. I found a loose brick with daggers and tools and a note about “the damn hag that sunk the fort”. Jack found a spiral staircase up to a trapdoor, which was a wine cellar in some villager’s house (which he could hear some of them talking, the parents of a boy the band had met earlier).
We found one barely-alive fish-person in a cell. My arcane skills could understand it but it didn’t say anything. On a whim, I spoke “TOOPLOOGDO” and it recoiled – it did not like that word at all. We had nothing else to say so we gestured for it to leave in freedom and it quickly stumbled out of the cell and up the staircase, and we heard fearful shouts of the creature running past the village family.
Leave it to Jack – I swear he could find wine in a hurricane.
(reminder: place some wine in a safe place so if we ever get lost or in trouble, we can have Jack guide us through travail to freedom)