Well, that was certainly an exciting day back in the field! It seems hard to believe just this morning that I met Luitprand in Silverpoint. Kalseth had mentioned that he was a noble-seeming mercenary that could help me track down and protect my friends. I don’t know what they did to make them flee Silverpoint, and I don’t think I want to know. What’s important is that I get them to Dorn so we can break the Kingdom of Sol and deal a blow to Orcus.
Luitprand hardly said a word to me the whole trip out, just a gruff voice behind his steel helmet. Fortunately, we met a more friendly companion just outside the city, an old Dwarf Paladin named Whitehart. His silver hair and long beard reminded me of old Sterlheim, and I found it easy to talk to him. Perhaps too easy, as I was not paying attention and nearly got bowled over by Kaylia. Guess what? She not only knows Whitehart, but considers him family. But as they talked, she seemed to get upset. I don’t know the whole story, but from what she said Whitehart loved her sister, who had died some years ago. But it seems he gave up all memory of her, and I think Kaylia felt like a part of her sister had died. I tried to comfort her by telling her that her sister’s spirit was still out there, and she would meet her again, but it wasn’t enough.
But, double guess what. Kaylia is pregnant! With Rond’s child! I thought I saw some sparks between them, but a baby? She moves fast. She’s concerned about the baby’s health, something about a dark ritual, so when a cleric of Melora showed up and offered to help her baby, Rond willingly left with him. I just hope Melora isn’t trying to force Rond into the Godswar.
I think I insulted Luitprand. He just kept calling me “My lady” and I was just so tired of all the false flattery that I snapped at him. But before I could apologize a little Gnome boy came running out of the woods. With Kaylia translating, we learned that his village had been abducted and taken through a portal. Well, we weren’t just going to leave that alone, so Kaylia disguised the child as a tree and we stepped into the portal…
To appear in a puddle of mist. Moving carefully, we pressed forward into the haze until we came to a group of Gnomes standing like living, breathing statues. Nothing we could do could wake them. We moved past that incredibly creepy scene to an even creepier, vine covered wall. Nacht and I scaled the wall to scout. I respect Kaylia’s companions, but could he please not make pleasantries during a stealth mission?
It paid off though. We found two Dragonborn soldiers and a strange stone structure. Energy seemed to flow through it like flame on a candlewick, from… somewhere else? The mist was too thick to tell. So we laid our ambush. We could have taken the Dragonborn easily, but they somehow controlled the Gnomes and ordered them to attack us. And let me tell you, trying to knock down dozens of grasping Gnome thralls without killing them is not easy. We prevailed, eventually, without any deaths or major injuries to ourselves. I swear, those Dragonborn prisoners were the jerkiest jerks to ever wear armor. They kept rambling about the master and harvesting knowledge, and when we tried to press them, they just responded with crude jokes and spittle. No amount of diplomacy or threats could make them do more than soil themselves. Finally, we tried smashing the stone. The earth shook and threw us to the ground with a great peal of thunder. Strangely, the mist thinned and we could see a large building in the distance.
“Well, glad we have thee more of those.” one of the foolish prisoners chortled. I gagged him.
Somehow, we made it through the choking grayish vines to a large temple. More Dragonborn guards outside, and no other entrances. Kaylia transformed into a snake and scouted, only to return with troubling news.
“There’s a Titan in there! All bent over play’n a big pipe piano. And a little priest and more guards. An’ some sort of portal, but its all foggy. They didn’ seem hostile.”
“I don’t know about that lass,” said Wilkins. “There’s strains of evil coming from that temple. If you think they can be reasoned with, I’ll go in alone. Not even all of us together can take down a Titan.”
“The Titan seemed not himself, like he were controlled.” I saw a shiver run through her frame. “And there’s bad tables in there!”
We agreed that it might be possible to free the Titan if we could disrupt the control. But where was it coming from? The portal, some spell or artifact of the priest? What kind of power could enslave a godlike being? Maybe the other stone obelisks, as Whitehart called them. But where. Excitedly, I pulled out my chalk and slate and drew a crude circle surrounding a cross. “I bet it’s like a wheel! Or a compass.”
Luitprand was skeptical. But I was right. We headed out at a right angle and found another obelisk, this one blessedly unguarded. The earthquake this time was much larger, and the sky cleared enough to see that the land had a strange downward curve toward the temple. It was like we were in the middle of some huge marble. In the distance, we could see a large party a black figures heading to the last obelisk.
“Um, does anybody else think this pace is getting less stable?” Nacht asked. The prisoners laughed through their gags. Well, so if the obelisks are holding this little pocket plane together, then destroying the last one would probably make it collapse. Wonderful.
We debated what to do next. Maybe destroying the obelisks had loosed control on the Gnomes or the Titan. Maybe we should head to the last one and threaten it in order to gain a parley. But we would have to fight off the other party, which would weaken us…
“That temple is the source of evil, I ken feel it.” said Whitehart. “I ask none of ye to come with me, but I’m going.” And he ran off. We all shrugged our shoulders. Our arguing was getting us nowhere, and crazy plans seem to have worked for us in the past. We did send Nacht off to get as many Gnomes out as he could in case we should fail.
The temple guardians were very friendly, almost too friendly. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, these are misguided acolytes of Ioun who can be persuaded to stop.
That naive notion got shot to hells pretty fast. The priest, thinking we were willing initiates, seemed gleeful as he told us they were destroying the Gnomes, body and mind, to harvest knowledge for masters who were definitely not Ioun. Kaylia started berating the priest, who shot back with a quiet “Then we will ship your minds off to the masters themselves to deal with. I think a very small traveling cage for the cat-Elf.”
Kaylia shrieked. Whitehart roared and charged the guards. I jumped up on a table to better shoot the priest in his disgusting little face.
“Focus on the priest!” Liutprand yelled as he charged the man. We got a few good shots off before the Titan himself lumbered out, stretching to a fearsome height.
“Crush the Knight and burn the rest!” Yelled the priest, as Luitprand knocked him to the ground and prepared to thrust in his spear. The Titan’s fist came smashing down, missing Luitprand by a hair. Then Mages started shooting at us from the balconies. I had only one goal, to reach that coward priest who was crawling behind the Titan. I dodged behind the small tables as the Titan operated some massive bellows. The ground below began to get uncomfortably hot. I was five feet from the priest when Kaylia’s spell hit him and his body crumpled into a mass of robes. The control has to be in there. It was a desperate hope, but our only one.
Just as i grabbed the robes, the whole temple erupted in fire. “Retreat!” yelled Whiteheart. “I’ll hold them off. Takes more than a little flame to bring down a Dwarf, fools.”
I ran, praying to Avandra to cool my burnt skin. It worked, so I guess she has not yet abandoned her wayward servant. I was so close to the door, ready to rush out behind Luitprand, when a horrible chill shuddered through my body and sent me reeling. I felt close to passing out when the metal-clad man picked me up. And then another chill hit both of us. I remember the world as a hellish fog of smoke and flame…
The next thing I knew Liutprand was shaking me awake outside. “The Lady Kaylia pulled you out, and went back in for the paladin.” I could hear her roaring as a panther, scratching and banging against the other door. Luitprand thrust a bunch of shards into my hands. “Can you fix it? Maybe we can still break the Titan’s control.”
I managed to put the broken pieces back into a broach, which showed the figure of…
A Mindflayer. I cursed loudly. Luitprand tried to use the broach, but it seemed like it was just a stupid, mundane ornament. We were fools, and our friends would pay for it.
“We have to run, my lady.” Luitprand said urgently. I shook my head, trying to pull myself up against the wall. I could hear Kaylia’s roar turn to a whimper, and then silence.
“We cannot help them right now. I think they want to capture, not kill. We must regain our strength.” He was right. I could barely stand, let alone fight. So I ran, limping as I was, to where I could throw myself down into the safety of the vines and retch up the last of the mage poison.
We watched the guards, trying to form a plan. We learned that our captured friends were being “prepared” for the masters, and that they needed to keep us from the fourth obelisk.
“I can sneak in there, with a distraction.” I whispered. Liutprand nobly offered let himself get captured, but that would be a very last resort. The sickly vines weren’t very good kindling, but I managed a small campfire. Maybe they would think we we foolish enough to set up camp and leave the temple unguarded. Before we left, I apologized to Luitprand, thinking we may very well be dead soon.
Two of them did come out, but the party from the obelisk also returned, talking about engineers up at the third obelisk. Our plans for the temple shot, we decided to “persuade” the engineers to get us in, or at least tell us what the hells was going on in this place.
And it was the right plan, because as we were sneaking up on the engineers, we were snuck up on by Kaylia and a very naked Whitehart.
Now, I’m not too fond of seeing my companions naked- Moonshine was bad enough- but an elderly Dwarf that reminded me of one of my mentors? Ew-Ew-Ew-No. Just…no. I threw the priests robe at him and told him to make a loincloth.
One short explanation later, and we learned that our friends had been thrown into separate cells. Kaylia had escaped through the drain, while Whitehart had ripped his cell to shreds. They had both come to separate rooms where their gear was placed on either end of a cruel balance that made them choose which of their gear was dumped into a flaming pit. Kaylia used her excellent control of stone to save all her gear. Whitehart at first refused to play the sick game until he heard Kaylia calling. Then he did not hesitate to grab his weapons. Hence, the nakedness. They found a control room where the priests could watch the prisoners. Then after smashing a few more doors, they found themselves back in the temple. The whole thing makes no sense except as a cruel torture designed to make people insane. Providing hope of escape at great sacrifice, only to end up captured again. Who knows how long it would have gone on .
But with the chaos we created, Kaylia and Whitehart slipped out and spotted us. Now all four of us could question the engineers. Which turned out to be surprisingly easy. The engineers had no allegiance to the Mindflayer. I might disapprove of their lack of empathy for the Gnome victims, but they seemed to think of nothing but numbers. So we put them on the back of Kaylia’s phantom steeds (reminder- see if I can learn that ritual from her) and put our final plan into action.
The engineers had told us that the plane would take some time to collapse after we destroy the fourth obelisk. So Liutprand and I would ride to help Nacht, and Whitehart would destroy the pillar. Kaylia insisted on going with Whitehart, a look of concern on her face.
The earthquake hit just I was loading a drooling Gnome onto the horse. It’s a good thing that the steed was made of insubstantial smoke, or else we would have been crushed under it. The Gnome, a pretty female, stopped drooling and looked at me with panicked eyes.
“We have to go.” I told her, grabbing her hand. We spent what seemed like an eternity herding confused Gnomes, as the world seemed to shrink around us. The temple cracked, and we could hear the joyous cries of the freed Titan as it smashed its former masters to pulp. The temple collapsed around the giant as it stepped into the portal. I hope it smashes that Mindflayer. Neither could I feel grief for the priests. Anyone willing to do that has gone beyond redemption. But where were Kaylia and Whitehart?
And then there they were, their steeds struggling against the constricting vines, as they were chased by the two foolish Dragonborn. We pushed the few remaining Gnomes through the portal just as they arrived. The Dragonborn took one look at us, all assembled, and ran the other way. I was about to shout. “Wait, come back, I didn’t mean all that about wanting to kill you.” But a big metal arm picked me up and threw me through the portal. Kaylia and Whitehart followed. Then, for a horrible moment, nothing.
But Luitprand came though, diving and rolling to a halt. The portal flashed, and then was gone. The whole glade was filled with confused Gnomes wanting explanations, while the little Gnome boy Shadow gleefully ran up to his parents. Once the Gnomes understood the situation, they were very grateful. I grieve for the Gnomes we could not save, but it seems most of them made it.
My companions seem well. Kaylia is dancing joyously with the Gnomes and patting her belly. The Gnomes somehow dug up clothing large enough for Whitehart. I wonder if we could pitch in to replace the gear he lost. I may not trust the weapon he wields, which screams evil artifact to me, but if anyone could wield such a thing without damage to their soul, it would be a Paladin of high honor like him. Luitprand is staring at the fire. Without his helmet, he looks so young. His face has that haunted look of loss I’ve seen far too often lately.
As for me, I think a lot of wine and hot food is in order. And sleep. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I would take a day like this over any day in Arborea.