And we’re back! Thanks for your patience while I mucked about behind the scenes of the sites in the Helper Monkey Network. I didn’t get quite all the forum topics started–but we’ll get to thank in a minute. First things first, you want to know what’s new in Vallora’s diary, don’t you?
From Vallora’s Diary
Thank Melora I’m even able to write down the last leg of our mission to Holk House–it was a narrow escape, for some more than others.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
We had settled down into the one bedroom, it was cramped but we thought the close quarters would be more beneficial than not. Since both Teran and Kira have the ability to keep watch in a trance-state, they’ve gotten in the habit of taking the early watches, allowing those of us without that talent to get some rest first off. I didn’t get much, though, as something decidedly odd-feeling woke me from slumber.
LaShonna–or whoever, whatever she was–had changed her appearance more than just a tousled bed head. She was floating at the far end of the room, hovering over the two girls from Teran’s vision who were still very weak, entrails were spilling from what had been her midsection and her head–her head!–it was no longer attached to her body but floating just above. I’m afraid I didn’t wake up with as much stealth as I could have, and those entrails of hers snapped out and grabbed me tight! Thankfully she was no match for my fellow adventurers–Vlax dealt the final blow with his staff–and after checking on the girls (one was rather more drained than she’d been before), we continued the rest of the night in relative peace, if not ease.
The next morning our mission was clear: make it into the closed room, which we did, only to find a chamber filled with swirling mists from a vortex above. Vlax dispells the mist with his mighty Thunderwave, revealing a a sword embedded in the raised dais in the middle of the room. I… cautiously made my way up onto the platform and the sword came away easily from the stone. It was a beautiful weapon, but I had little chance to study it further as the blade burst into flames as three grotesque creatures jumped out from behind a mirror in the corner of the room.
The first swing I made with the flaming sword didn’t feel like much on my part–I think I was still in shock–but it dealt mighty damage to the first creature and continued to chip away at them until, as a team, we vanquished the trio.
As the foes were extinguished, so was the blade, and I was finally able to read the engraving:
Firestorm, Holy Blade of Eldath
What a boon!
My joy was short-lived, however. We were in a room that we expected to find stairs leading up to the next level but there were none. And the vortex above the dais still swirled.
With no way up, we headed down to look for an alternate route, and found our way into the lower chambers where skull sentinels in the walls shouted out warnings on behalf of Merkel. Vlax was, in particular, intrigued by this as he currently holds two rings of Merkel on his person. After dispelling magic on the primary door, it immediately shuts again and the fountain begins to bubble over, the stairs close off and the windows in the room prove unbreakable. A check of the “water” proves it dangerous, even with our enchanted rings, and we attempt to force the door once again.
A cry from behind and suddenly another of those creatures from the mirror is attacking us and, once again, the holy blade springs to life. Thankfully, he proves less hardy than his brethren and falls with little effort on our part. The door now opens and we are able to escape into the new room, filled with murky water. At least this water wasn’t poisonous!
Teran got a small shock from a secret door–into the library of our earlier battle–but nothing else is amiss in what was once a scribal room of Eldath, but now sodden ruins. We find the front door but are not ready to leave, yet, so head the other way into another fountain room. The skulls sound their warning, again, but Vlax is prepared and silences them with his ring of Merkel.
Then the funniest thing happened! Vlax dispells magic on a stone pillar onto have it… charge at him, for lack of a better word. This hulking pedestal thunking towards Vlax put up little fight to my morningstar, though it was almost worth the levity to let it chase him a bit more. Even Melora would have laughed, I think, and we needed the laugh right about then.
Continuing to explore, we finally find the back staircase off the kitchen, and start to explore upward, hoping to find the source of the vortex, and maybe a few answers.
We were a bit stumped when we got to the third floor and only found a landing, until Teran finds a hidden door and we finally get a glimpse of what was waiting for us.
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
In the center of the swirling vortex stood a large, scaly, lizard-like creature, gigantic by any measure, and wielding a lethal looking trident.
Retreat was not really an option, so in we charged, vowing to do our best against this thing before us. Vlax’s ring does nothing against him, even the holy blade makes nary a dent on the first blow, with Kira and Teran missing their first shots as well.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of the bell in the tower, with the cryptic writing none of us could read. I send Larem to the tower to ring the bell, hoping it will aid our cause, and not hinder it. Meanwhile we fought, and seeing that it’s hide was repelling even our heaviest blows we attempted to attack it by other means, finally making some progress towards beating him down. We even manage to shove him down into the atrium below, though our hopes that the foul liquid would harm him went unanswered when he shook himself off and flew back up to us.
Just then the bell rings out loud and clear, and the creature cringes and holds its head in its hands. This gives us our much-needed opportunity to gain the upper hand against the beast–we could only hope Larem knew to keep ringing that blessed bell.
Suddenly Vlax is hit from behind–and unseen force has entered the fray and it seemed to be weakening Vlax more than just by blows, it was actually sucking the life out of him–the air around him seemed as if to shimmer with each new attack! The mysterious foe appears, dressed in the red robes of a cleric, and with sinking dread I fear this is, in fact, Verrick Redshield. For all that LaShonna was or was not, she may have been telling the truth that he’d turned against the light.
In one hand he held a gnarled staff, in the other the crystal from my vision.
I wanted to aid Vlax and try to wrest the crystal from Verrick’s hand–I felt it keenly that this was my duty–but Teran convinced me to keep my attacks on the giant and he would go to Vlax’s aid. Teran may be many things, but cowardly is not one of them. This decision nearly cost him his life, and I just made it to his side in enough time to lay hands on him. By the grace of Melora it was enough to revive him.
But we had other problems: the bell had stopped ringing and did not resume, even when Vlax sent a mystical whisper to Larem. Fearing for the safety of our comrade we sent Shannon to his aid just as the beast finally fell. Verrick was not deterred, though, and it took all our combined efforts to divest him of the medallion around his neck (lest it be the thing binding him to this new, evil path), the staff from one hand and, finally, with the noble effort of Moshca, my animal companion, to pry the crystal from his other hand.
Finally, the battle was over.
As soon as we could all safely head back downstairs, I rushed to place the crystal on it’s pedestal, closing the vortex. I think it was only then that we breathed a sigh of relief.
For the last time, we bed down in this crumbling house, to rest up and save our strength for the journey home, tomorrow.
If you made it this far, bless you! That was a long one mostly because it encompassed both our gaming sessions from January. Just as well, as the break wouldn’t have made as much sense for a diary entry between them (it was just before rolling initiative in the upper room). That monster was totally bad-ASS, though. My first roll was a 28 vs AC, plus whatever bonuses the holy blade gave it (DM was sneaky and wouldn’t tell) and didn’t touch him. For a change, everyone was rolling high and no one was making even a dent until the mage attached with will and a 28 succeeded. It was insane, prompting the phrase of the game:
If it ain’t a crit,
It ain’t legit!
Luckily, we each got a natural 20 somewhere in the session against him (unheard of in our group), but man!
Vlax’s Mage Hand came in handy, as usual, and there was much ferrying of Greek fire from us to our foes. This led to another memorable snippet from the peanut gallery:
Mage hand… 3-fisting.
Because, you know, regardless of age or gender we all seem to revert to 12-year-old boys at some point.
Oh, and can I get a shout-out for the sweet sets our DM made for the last two sessions?! Inspired by some podcasts and youtube videos, he constructed these semi-3-D models for us to play in and it made things even more fun. Kudos to Todd for that!
One more thing and I promise I’ll wrap up this post (what, I was silent for a month, did you expect this to be brief?!). Since I did write a cookbook to encourage people to feel their gaming groups more than just junk food and take-out every time, I thought it’d be good to show you what WE feed our raiding party.
For our first session in January I played around with the Stuffed Meatloaf from the cookbook. Played around with because I’m still working on the substitutions supplement (and when better to test my changes, right?) and also because my own eating habits have gone through a necessary overhaul since Thanksgiving, creating some challenges that we’re solving with creativity and, so far, successful ingenuity! (You can read about the whats and whys over on my “regular” food blog, Nibbles ‘n Bites.) The meatloaf was served alongside a version of my garlicky green beans (also adapted from What to Feed Your Raiding Party).
The second session January session saw another cookbook revision, this time the Bowties with Ham & Peas, using gluten-free pasta, etc. We’d fairly gorged ourselves on meats, cheeses, and other goodies, but it was a nice, warm, filling supper on a cold Sunday evening.
We were all so full, though, because we also had all of this to nosh on:
See, we practice what we “preach” over here at Raiding Party HQ. Now, why don’t you show me what you’ve been cooking up–I dare ya!