Journal Entry: War of the Lance
Entry Date: 2/9/2003
Day 28 - December 7, 351AC
Flint was now somewhat recovered and the party began to think in terms of what now. Thorough searches by Tasslehoff and Gilthanas had failed to find any other way to proceed.
Gilthanas tossed a stone over one of the balconies to see how the hydra reacted. He was startled when it bounced back off some sort of barrier. He tried again with similar results. Tasslehoff approached the barrier. The hydra moved to attack. He punched the air, but connected with something solid, and ran back before the hydra attacked.
This was very curious. They tried on the other side. The stone did not stop, indeed it skipped across the open air, coming to rest in the air. Taking handfuls of rocks, they scattered them down that way, revealing a five foot wide path, hanging in air. Indeed, it appeared to have walls protecting it from the hydra. Gilthanas, Tasslehoff, and Raistlin ran across, the flames of the hydra splashing off the sides of the pathway. Behind the balcony on the other side, they found another hall.
Sturm, concerned about the weakened state of the party, decided, together with Caramon, that the party would not yet explore further. The others were called back, but the orders were promptly disobeyed.
Raistlin made Tas invisible and Riverwind had his cloak. They passed over the invisible bridge and down the hall. They found it wrapped around to the right to another balcony. This balcony was exposed and fire blasted through the opening at them, though they had cover from the walls. They also found a stairway down. This led to another balcony a level below. Riverwind decided to take a shot at the hydra. As he leaned out to fire, the hydra breathed. The arrow bounded harmlessly off the iron hide of the beast, while Riverwind was burned by the flames. The two heroes retreated back to the room.
Gilthanas, meanwhile, decided to check the other side. This balcony also had an invisible floor extending from it, protected by an invisible wall. It went both left and right, rather than across. Gilthanas checked left first. The walkway wrapped around to the left balcony, fully protected. That balcony opened to another hall.
He checked back the other way. Again the invisible hall wrapped around to the balcony. This time, the floor continued past, and widened. Gilthanas had by now decided this hall was sheltered from the hydra and walked into an exposed section. Before he could react, flames engulfed him. He screamed, and fell, badly burned.
The scream drew the others. They rushed out, but stopped as they realized they couldn't tell where the danger lay. Riverwind finally crawled out, using the floor to protect himself from the flames. He reached out and dragged Gilthanas' smoldering body to safety.
Caramon was now furious, mostly at Tasslehoff. He demanded that Sturm take charge before everyone was killed. Sturm ordered everyone to be silent and to stay in the room. He took Raistlin aside to ask advice. He admitted to not trusting the mage, but his knowledge of magic made it necessary. He questioned whether Raistlin believed they could get through. Raistlin admitted he did not know. They agreed to go forward with a small party, sending most of the injured and Tika back as soon as Gilthanas could be moved.
They returned to find bedlam. Tika, Caramon and Tasslehoff had gotten into an argument, Caramon accusing Tas of being at fault for what befell Gilthanas. Tasslehoff was insulted by the accusation and hurt by the harsh words of the other two, so he lashed out with a taunt of his own. Caramon flew into a rage.
Sturm and Raistlin returned just in time. Sturm grappled Caramon, trying to restrain the stronger warrior. He needed help, but as he looked around, Riverwind was gone. He called for the plainsman as Caramon broke free of his hold.
Raistlin, meanwhile, made Tas invisible. The kender ran and hid. With no target for his rage, Caramon turned on Sturm and a shouting match ensued. Caramon declared that without leadership they were all going to die. Sturm ordered him to shut up, repeatedly.
Finally once Sturm got everyone calmed down, he laid down the law. No one would leave the room. All would camp here and no one would go exploring. They would set three eight hour watches. At the end of those watches, Flint , Gilthanas and Tika would go back. They were too badly injured to continue. Sturm would take Tasslehoff, Caramon, Raistlin, and Riverwind on. They would find the way to Thorbardin if they could. Raistlin and Tas would guide them while the warriors defended them from any monsters they encountered.
Tika declared that if Tas wasn't gotten rid of, she would leave. Sturm said that was fine. As a woman she should not be on such a quest in any case.
Camp was set.
When Eben awoke, it was dark once more. The dragon was sleeping fitfully.
Eben made a decision. This was his chance to impress Verminaard. He left the dragon and climbed back out of Skullcap. He took to his heals back towards the refugee camp. He would tell them that the mission was a success, but that the heroes had been killed. He would then lead the refugees astray, towards Verminaard's armies.
Day 29 - December 8, 351AC
Gilthanas stirred during the second watch. Burns bandaged, he was up and able to walk by the time Sturm was ready to move out.
Sturm led the remaining heroes out. They stepped onto the balcony. The hydra reacted to them immediately. Riverwind took point, with Tas close behind. Sturm was next, followed by Raistlin. Caramon took rear guard. They took the left path, following Gilthanas' trail of pebbles to the balcony. Riverwind carefully led with his sword against the invisible wall to be sure whether it was there.
At the balcony, they entered the interior hall which wrapped right to a set of stairs. They descended steeply to the next level of the maze.
This lower balcony was opposite the one they entered through. Riverwind tossed a number of stones. He discovered that this balcony was exposed, and that an invisible hall led left. He dashed across, drawing the hydra's fire against the invisible wall. While the hydra was distracted, the others ran into the protected area.
The invisible hall wrapped clockwise to the next balcony on this level. As the party approached, they could see the hall beyond. What they could not see was the invisible stalker, which lay in wait for them in the entry.
The Invisible Stalker lay in wait for the Plainsman when Tasslehoff called for a stop. Peering ahead, something had caught his attention, though he couldn't say what. He crept to the front of the column and moved forward stealthily, unaware that his every move was observed by his invisible opponent.
Then it struck, slamming Tasslehoff twice, nearly flattening the kender. The kender lashed out with his dagger, and struck something, but he was reeling.
The warriors rushed in. Riverwind stabbed at whatever Tasslehoff was fighting and tried to shove it back, only to be tossed away and bludgeoned. Caramon grabbed Tasslehoff and pulled him away, stepping between the badly hurt kender and whatever it was fighting them. Sturm moved to the other side of the opening, unsure whether his back was exposed to the hydra, and struck something with his sword. Finally, Raistlin cast a spell which allowed him to see the creature. He called out "Invisible Stalker!"
Sturm and Caramon moved to flank the creature, while Riverwind cut off the route into the maze. Raistlin hit it with magic missiles and the warriors swung where they thought it was, sometimes hitting, sometimes not. It tried to flee, trying to push Sturm aside, but the knight held his ground and, almost by accident, impaled the charging creature on the Brightblade.
Sturm tended to Tasslehoff as Caramon questioned Raistlin about the thing they had fought. Raistlin explained that it was a summoned creature of air. Caramon asked if that meant something in the maze summoned it, but Raistlin said no. It could have been summoned by a caster, or it could have been triggered by their entry into the maze, or given Fistandantilus' power, it could have been bound to this place for hundreds of years.
They pushed onward. After a few wrong turns, they got through the maze and into the lowest levels of skullcap. A statue of a Cyclops confronted them, flanked by two sets of doors. Towards the right, it smiled. Towards the left it frowned. It made no other moves.
They decided to go left and opened those doors. Inside was a long room with a giant statue of a dwarf, apparently holding up the ceiling. At the other end of the room were more doors. Sturm and Caramon stepped in, and fell up, slamming hard against the stone ceiling. They could now see a ladder next to the door. Tasslehoff grabbed the ladder and swung up to the ceiling.
Sturm and Caramon approached the statue. As they did so, it came alive, getting to its feet on the ceiling and swinging a mighty fist at Caramon. Both warriors attacked. Sturm's blade bit into the thing, but Caramon's glanced off harmlessly, even though it was a solid blow.
Caramon fled the room, while Sturm covered with a fighting withdrawal. Raistlin cast a lightning bolt at the thing, but it ignored it. Sturm was battered mercilessly and only just reached safety. Once they had left the room, the golem resumed its place.
The party decided to try the other room. This one looked exactly like the other, except the walls were scorched by fire. They moved through this room, and thankfully, the statue did not move. Opening the doors on the other side, they found a dead end.
They discussed how to get past the golem. It had not moved till Sturm and Caramon approached it, so they would try and sneak past. Using the ladder, they all swung up to the ceiling and crept along the wall. The statue remained unmoving.
The hall beyond the door angled to the left and a statue in an alcove. Raistlin smiled, telling the party that this was one of the aspects of Nuitari, knowledge. He detected divination magic about it, but nothing menacing. Opposite it was a set of locked doors. In addition, the passage angled back the other way.
Tas set to work on the doors, but they defied his best techniques. Finally, Raistlin suggested the keys he had found above. Caramon tried them, and the last one finally opened the door.
Beyond were two more statues and another set of doors. Caramon moved carefully forward. The statues did not move, but the sword he held in his hand changed, to wood!! Caramon quickly checked his other belongings. Only his weapons had been affected. Sturm and Riverwind abandoned their weapons, and Caramon used another key to open the next door.
Two more statues and more doors. Caramon moved between these with some trepidation, wondering what would happen, but nothing seemed to. The others followed as he opened the next set of doors.
More statues and a final set of doors. Again, there appeared to be no effect and the last set of doors opened into a large, round chamber. The ceiling had caved in, and in the debris could be seen some metal circlets and a skull. Caramon remembered the skeletal warriors above saying something about circlets and he cautiously reached forward with his spear to try and drag them away from the skull. As he came nearer, the skull began to raise up, gems in the eyes glowing with an evil light, dust swirling up to form the body. This was all that remained of Fistandantilus.
Caramon recovered circlets and the ghostlike being only glared at him. Deciding not to bother it more than necessary, the party skirted the edge of the chamber, as far from thing as possible. The next set of doors was unlocked. They passed through, but as Raistlin reached the doors, the demi-lich moved. It flew quickly across the room at him and vanished as it reached him, the skull fallen to the ground, it's eyes gone dark. In his head, Raistlin heard the voice, almost forgotten from the tower of high sorcery at Wayreth, "Time to conclude our bargain."
Raistlin was stunned, dazed, unsure of what had just happened. Caramon asked him if he was alright, what had happened. Raistlin assured them all he was fine. He told them it had spoken to him, but then he lied, telling them he could not recall the words.
Tasslehoff looked around, and his mouth fell open. To the right and left were two rooms brimming with treasure. Piles of coins, jewels and gems. Also, a dwarven helm and a map case. He was for diving right in, but the rest of the party told him to wait, fearing more traps. So instead, he went to check out the next set of doors straight ahead.
The doors were locked, with no sign of a keyhole. It was Riverwind who finally found it, hidden by an illusion. The last key opened it.
Beyond was an empty chamber with alcoves to the left and right. Tas went to search the left one and disappeared, finding himself in one of the treasure rooms. Caramon followed and found himself there as well.
Caramon could see the map case on the top of the pile. He reached out with his spear and tipped it off. Nothing terrible happened and Tasslehoff ran out to grab it, opening it eagerly.
Riverwind threw a stone into the alcove. It vanished. He went back out and looked around. He saw Tas and Caramon in the treasure room. Caramon walked out to him, smiling, and then walked back in, vanishing. This time he found himself locked in an old, rusted cage. Tas found him, but he had already bashed his way out.
Tas studied the map. It was the battle map used by the Mountain Dwarves in their final assault on Skullcap. It showed the route from the gates to the fortress. This was what they had come for.
The party tried the other alcove, and sure enough, it led to the other treasure room. Here they claimed the helm and also an exquisite suit of dwarven plate. They loaded up on treasure. Raistlin selected the choicest gems for himself while the others piled what appeared to be the most valuable into the armor, wrapped the whole thing in a cloak, and dragged out about a hundred pounds of gems, jewelry, and platinum.
Now that most of the monsters were dead, and they knew the safe route, getting out was much easier than getting in. When they finally got back through the maze, they found Flint, Gilthanas, and Tika still waiting for them. Flint had refused to make the long climb.
His reward for his stubbornness, new armor and helm. He tried them on. When he placed the helm on his head, he was suddenly possessed. He was now Grallen, Prince of the Mountain Dwarves. Grallen thanked them for rescuing him and asked that they take his spirit back to the Valley of the Thanes for proper rest. They agreed and asked how they would speak to the Thane. Grallen told them to show proper respect and the Thane would see them.
Now the long climb back up. With Tas' rope, this was not difficult. They reached the top to find Blaize waiting for them, but Eben was gone. Blaize explained that he had been asleep when Eben left and he did not know where he had gone.
It was decided that the most injured, Tas, Gilthanas and Sturm, would ride the dragon back to the refugees and carry word of their success with them. The rest of the party would follow as quickly as they could. So it was that the heroes arrived shortly before Eben, and his treachery was foiled. The rest of the heroes arrived at the refugee camp the next day.
Entries in this Journal:
This item has been published here with permission from the author(s) and may not be reproduced without permission. This is a fan submission and its contents are completely unofficial. Some characters, places, likenesses and other names may be copyright Wizards of the Coast.