Another day has now passed in Miners’ Reach.
Turns out Thorn made some new friends; I’ll call them Useless and Smarmy, since I didn’t pay attention when they were introduced at the Deep Shaft Inn. Too busy vomiting in my mouth at the sight of Smarmy’s moustache.
These ‘friends’ led the way, out of town to see some tower they’d scouted out. No real inkling of what to expect, just that they needed help. So when I saw an animated skeleton wandering suspiciously about near the tower, I thought ‘GET IT!’ and hurled a fire bolt at the damned thing. The others didn’t seem to agree that there was a strong chance Thorn’s ‘friends’ might be walking everyone into an ambush to rob me of my precious money. Somebody had to take action.
A skirmish unfolded against hidden enemies. I was on the money when I set a bush on fire and exposed them. Everyone else did some stuff, but it was really obvious that Useless was living up to his name, firing arrows right in between the ribs of the skeletons, further adding to my suspicions that these ‘friends’ of Thorn’s were up to something. Nobody is that dim; I’m sure he was aiming perfectly to fail intentionally and determine how much impact and damage the party could do. Probably going to cut everyone up in our sleep. I will sleep with one eye open, or have Meeses keep watch when I finish this journal entry.
Smarmy was acting like a lecherous pig, and even though he did help in the skirmish, I am convinced his ‘attentions’ are a front for his and Useless’s intentions to catch everyone off guard. I will not allow him to get near me with a ten-foot pole. Tieflings have it hard enough being stared at all the time; his slimy looks and asinine moustache-preening don’t help.
Adding to my suspicions yet again, Useless and Smarmy stayed outside the tower under the guise of ‘guarding’ the entrance, while everyone else went into the tower that they had originally wanted to investigate themselves. So much for ‘helping’ them; more like ‘doing all the work for them’. Speaking of, bloody Erin seems to have ditched the cause. She should have been back in town by now. Must have decided to avoid actually doing anything. I’ll wager she’s sitting around on her piles of noble coin at the inn, flashing that fancy staff around like she owns the place.
Anyway, inside the tower there was a door, covered in runes I knew were to keep a space’s contents preserved in time. Delekhan snuck around and scouted ahead as usual. On that note, he tends to volunteer for that a great deal. Given what I noticed in town last week, I’m not sure he’s entirely trustworthy… I’ll bet he’s going first to loot whatever he can. He is a rogue, after all. Although, it’s a difficult topic – he has helped me out on many occasions and so far as I know, he could just be acting valiant and going first to spare the group from potential danger. I will keep an eye on him before I completely make up my mind.
Through the door, Delekhan walked, tied to Shandarr’s hempen rope, right into some kind of forcefield trap. By the time all were ready to approach the chamber he was in, he’d already become trapped and couldn’t escape the flames that came from two statues in the chamber. Shandarr, being the self-sacrificing one, stuck his arm into the chamber to try and pull Delekhan back to safety, but only got himself burned. That’s what you get for being so blindly trusting, as Shandarr is. Back in my home town, now on a (thankfully) different plane of existence, there was a saying to that effect. I could have gone into that chamber and avoided the damage Delekhan exposed himself to, but how was I to know that it wasn’t some trap Thorn’s ‘friends’ had set to snare everyone. Just because he spent a week hunting and ranging with them doesn’t mean they aren’t time- and plane-travelling thieves with arcane abilities that they’re cleverly hiding behind false bravado and feigned uselessness. You can never truly trust anyone but yourself.
In the end, I had to save them by setting the brazier in the centre of the room alight. I deduced that the brazier was the key here, as quite a few features of the tower, doors and statues erred on the draconic side of things. I was right, and the magical barrier went down and Shandarr and Delekhan were safe. Until, of course, the party went on.
The next chamber’s floor featured a large pentagram, from which skeletons appeared and began to attack. The group defended and I noticed there were four small braziers near the rune-covered door at the end of the chamber. Somehow, after the skeletons were defeated, they rose again. Action needed to be taken again. I cast a firebolt at one of the braziers and it stayed alight. I thought “of course, it must be another puzzle to solve,” and hurled firebolts at the other braziers to discern the order they needed to be lit.
Eternally unlucky (although not as unlucky as the time I lost all my hard-earned and precious money and loot when sucked through that portal), none of the fire bolts worked after the first. While the others continued holding the skeletons back, I took a closer look at the runes on the door and braziers and noticed triangular symbols, which I vaguely recognised from my hasty arcane studies in Lord Uthar’s keep in Neverwinter. Thorn came to help and after trial and error, unlocked one brazier with a breath of air. Delekhan relieved himself on another (I am certain he is drinking something potent, or not drinking enough clean water. The colour and stench was so similar to that of the street urchins I avoided back home. You can’t trust those street urchins when you’ve barely got more than the clothes on your back; they’ll steal those clothes and leave you naked and defenceless in an alleyway and hawk their spoils at any vendor they can, just for a speck of bread or a sip of mead). As there seemed to be no dirt or dust on the immaculately preserved floor, I scraped some dirt from my boot into the final brazier, unlocking the door. A thud from behind proved that the skeletons were tied to that spell – Shandarr had fallen on his face.
The break from fighting skeletons left Delekhan to explore a room on the left of the chamber. The room apparently held cages and a bag containing herbs and multiple items, probably all as useless as Useless pretended to be in that earlier skirmish.
I investigated the room to the right of the chamber myself, just to be careful. If anyone else had, they could have pocketed any precious loot themselves. Again unlucky, there were only barrels of food. Nothing shiny, nothing precious, nothing truly valuable.
Continuing down a hall, down some stairs and into a large octagonal chamber was the only path after that. An imposing and impressive door seemed to lead somewhere, but was closed and protected by yet more tricks and runes. This was certainly an elaborate plot set up by those ‘friends’. I mentally prepared myself to foray into the Underdark; Useless and Smarmy had to have been dark elves disguising themselves as humans.
A zombie, skeleton and ghoul appeared and each started attacking. They re-spawned until they were defeated in order. The lighted runes above the massive doorway changed colour and the door gave way to a hallway onto a chamber containing drums of creatures and large eggs that appeared to be experiments, and another chamber where it seemed a lich had attempted, and failed, to store its soul in an item.
Thorn had been acting incredibly strange and suspicious throughout the day, claiming odd dreams and blacking out at times during our exploration of the tower. He was acting especially strange at this point. It seemed that this chamber did not lead to the Underdark, but his behaviour and this whole incident still could have been some result of mental control and nefarious plans set up by those other two, who were presumably standing around outside doing nothing, or long gone, leaving the party to suffer and die. He called for attention in the chamber the group had left, and then presented Orcbiter.
Apparently, he’d kept it secret that Orcbiter’s soul had been stored in his onyx gem when everyone travelled through the portal, and one of the large eggs in the drums had been calling to him this whole time. The egg hatched and Orbiter appeared – in pseudodragon form.
Now, I’m certainly pleased for Thorn, having his trusty companion about again, but is it really his companion in a new form? Is it really Orcbiter? How will I ever know? So many questions to be answered.
The best part of the story is that that lich’s room held FIVE HUNDRED GOLD. I could do so much with so many, shiny, pretty coins… I could even do so much with one hundred and twenty shiny, beautiful gold pieces. But one hundred? My share of the precious gold was reduced because Shandarr wants to give Erin a share of the gold that she wasn’t even there to earn. That extra gorgeous, lustrous gold, lost. To religious ethics. Religion never helped me on the streets, but GOLD could have.
In a huff, I exited the tower with the others, and my lessened spoils, to find Useless and Smarmy standing outside near a scene of collapsed bones. They had plenty of time to arrange the bones on the ground to seem like they’d actually been doing something helpful. I see through the facade. I. See. Through. It.