Spike's Journal

Being the ramblings of Revan "Spike" Alleyspawn, about his misadventures in what he believes to be the World's Largest Dungeon.

Coldeven 15: Our Lucky Day (Day 13)

It has been one long day, I ache all over, and these damn harpy scratches itch like the dickens in spite of (or because of) whatever Asilky did to them. Overall though, the day's been a remarkable success, especially considering the number of menaces we had to contend with. I feel that this is evidence that we're finally getting our feet under us.

For instance, I'm actually starting to really get the hang of triggering magic wands, so much so that we decided I should be the one to carry around the wand that shoots lightning bolts. Eaora can already do something very similar with her own powers, and so far I'm the only other person who can make the thing work. I can hardly wait to use it. With the spiked armor and chain I don't look anything like a spellcaster, so it ought, at the least, to be surprising to someone.

We then stumbled into the frozen lair of a creature so frightful that it could have killed us all a dozen times in a row before we entered this place and started honing our skills. It somewhat resembled a dragon, but it had many heads attached to its body with long sinuous necks. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by this (considering the ice riming everything in the room) but it was capable of firing frigid ice blasts from each of its gaping maws, rather than the fire I might have expected from a dragon-like creature.

We reacted with a level of skill, coordination and teamwork that I still find surprising, especially considering how different our styles are. Eaora hit the thing with a lighting bolt, and then the rest of us charged in, spreading out so that it couldn't get many of us in a single blast. Lo-Kag affixed it with his evil eye, and then he and K just sort of waded in, engaging the majority of the things heads with a direct assault. BB and I, meanwhile, dashed, dodged and tumbled past the lashing heads to get at the creature's exposed flanks. The creature was dead before it really knew what was happening, I think.

We all had minor wounds and some of our exposed skin was frostbitten, but it wasn't anything that Asilky (and Boril) couldn't handle. In fact, for the first time in a while, Asilky seemed fairly confident that the favor of Boril would still be available to aid us if we were to continue, so we decided to do so.

At which point we discovered that Lo-Kag was bent on increasing the size of our party by one wolf. In the cave of the hydra, we found a wounded wolf, which Lo-Kag immediately took a great liking to. He's been tending to it, and feeding it bits of food, and it's been following us around all day. When standing next to Lo-Kag, it looks much like a normal man and his large dog. The illusion is shattered when you get close and can see that this thing is bigger than any dog. He keeps going on about how good it's going to be in a fight, but the thing weighs more than I do, and I bet it eats more than I do too. I hope he's got it under control. I also imagine that it's going to die soon, as this is a fit place for no beast, and then we'll have a disconsolate giant on our hands. What a waste of time.

Of course, I'm still convinced that our luck can't hold forever. Sooner or later, one of us is going to die. Other than the obvious problems surrounding the loss of a trusted companion, this also leaves us staring straight at our primary problem. We've got no fallback position. Retreat, in this hellish place, is as bad as advancement, and if one of us dies, we've started down a slippery slope, with the team weakened, more strain will fall on the rest. I predict that after the first of us finally falls, the second will fall within days. I fear a chain of events that will leave us all dead within a week, to be honest.

Shortly after that, we encountered a group of minotaurs, apparently guarding a region of this place claimed by the Broken Axe Minotaur clan. Perhaps encouraged by our victory over the Hydra, we didn't spend a lot of time chatting with them, but rather launched right into battle. Even more remarkable is that when we opened the door, K didn't charge into their midst, rather, he let them come to us through the door, where their large size worked against them and we could focus our attention on them in smaller numbers.

I retract my earlier comment, apparently K's book of tactics is two pages long.

During the ensuing slaughter, one of the minotaurs decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and ran. We assumed he'd be bringing back help, so we sort of entrenched ourselves to deal with an onslaught of angry minotaurs. I guess we made a good first impression though, because when their leader, a 'taur by the name of Markuli, showed up, he wanted to negotiate, rather than fight. This is the kind of negotiation I can get behind.

We told him that really we wanted passage through his region, and Asilky mentioned that he needed some unguents for some ritual or other. Markuli told us that he'd kill us if we had to, but that he really wanted to keep his warriors around to fight the other nearby minotaur clan, the Red Horde. I see his point. When six unknown people kill eight of your folk without any of them dying, it's probably a good idea not to mess with them unless you absolutely have to. Eventually, we agreed to give him a crystal key we'd found in exchange for being guided through his lands to the territory of something called a "sphinx". He must really rule his people effectively, because he did in fact manage to take us through his people without incident. (Some of them looked really resentful of that fact, too.)

We were then, apparently, in the sphinx's territory. I asked my companions what a sphinx was, but they didn't really know. "Some sort of bird-like thing, possibly" was about as good as I got, and that was from Eaora, our supposed expert on such matters. If I'd have known then how annoying the thing was going to be, I'd have encouraged stealth, rather than curiousity.

I'm going to take a break, eat something and rest my writing hand. It's been a full day, and there's still more to tell. And if I fall behind on keeping this damn journal, I'm sure I'll never catch back up.

Coldeven 14: Mighty Keothi (Day 12)

Like Lo-Kag, my friend K seems like a truly remarkable specimen. (I write "seems like" because I only know the two goliaths, and the thought of making the acquaintance of many more fills me with trepidation.) But, regardless of how he compares to other goliaths, to me he's terrifyingly powerful. I've seen him wield a variety of weapons, but it almost doesn't matter, as he can seemingly cut a man in half with a club as easily as with a sword.

Unfortunately, that particular trait seems to have left him ill-prepared to deal with situations where strength alone is not enough, or, as I like to say, it seems like K's book of tactics is only one page long. Unfortunately, he's also frighteningly quick for someone his size, so when there's trouble, he's often in the thick of it, swinging away, before anyone can suggest a more restrained approach.

Sadly, we're still encountering these accursed shadows, and as often as not, K's mighty swings pass right through them without any effect whatsoever. We ran into a particularly tough group of them, he waded in, and before we knew it, we were in over our heads. Eaora has continued working on her new spell, the particularly fearsome incantation which results in a tiny glowing ball that flies from her hand and then unexpectedly explodes to fill entire rooms with fire. However, with K already in the midst of them, and visibly weakening, she didn't dare to use it. Lo-Kag apparently reached the conclusion that we were going to lose, because he started running back the way we'd come.

Asilky had already advised us that if we succumbed to the weakening influence of the shadows that we would lose our physical forms and become shadows ourselves. But when things were looking particularly grim, it proved that he had more than advice to offer. He raised the symbol of Boril above his head and called upon his deity, and with a flash of light, two of the Shadows were destroyed. Lo-Kag regained his composure and returned to the fray, and we were victorious.

Possibly I should say they were victorious, because I didn't help in the slightest. Not, of course, for lack of trying, but every blow I struck passed through the things, and when the last of them fell, I'd had no hand in their defeat.

In fact, since I've been so useless in destroying the shadows, my main contribution today has been destroying priceless works of art. Sometimes we find treasure that's easily portable and worth taking just for its weight of gold, even though it's broken or ugly. For instance, today we found some gold mandible covers. Since I don't think any of us is likely to be sporting mandibles any time soon, they're useless to us in their current form, but I imagine that the gold they're made of will still spend rather nicely.

But what broke my heart today was the bowl. It was a thing of beauty, made of silver, with careful inlay, exquisite craftsmanship, and adorned with beautiful gems. It wouldn't have looked out of place on a king's table, and must have taken the silversmith a month to make. I estimated its worth at 500 gold coins. Yet we have no use for a bowl; it's too heavy and unwieldy to carry. So, I wrecked it, prying the gems from it to produce a handful of gems worth perhaps 100 gold, and leaving behind a disfigured silver bowl for someone else to melt down. Tragic.

I don't know, maybe I'll talk to K about tactics before we turn in, at least then I'll feel like I'm contributing something useful to our efforts.

Coldeven 13: Rooms of Forgotten Import (Day 11)

Today was strange, We traveled through many rooms that provided a lot of material for thought. (However, not any kind of useful thought, like thinking about ways to escape our predicament.)

The first room we found was a lab. Like many rooms in this area, it probably belonged to one of the old celestial jailers, now long since dead. It's not the first room like this we've found, preserved by magics, undisturbed by the frightened denizens of this forgotten place. Mostly, we used it as an opportunity to refresh our inteventory of odds and ends such as tindertwigs, antitoxins and sun-rods. I was excited by the find of a nice magnifying glass, because I always wanted one. Maybe I'll be down here long enough to find a use for the stupid thing. Eaora was also very happy to find some scroll and potion-making materials.

But I did pause for a minute while we were tossing stuff into our sacks to wonder about the celestial whose room this used to be. By all accounts, the celestials are pretty good, which is another way of saying that they put a great deal of emphasis on the big picture. (Spike's Law of Goodness, which I've mentioned before.) But regardless of how good a guy he was, his stuff is now ours, and pretty much without us giving too much thought to it. There's an important lesson in that I think, so I formulated a new rule.

Spike's Looting Consideration: Dead People Don't Need Things
Occassionally there are things lying about that used to belong to someone who is now dead. I've found, sadly, that sometimes I even had a hand in the previous owner's death. I've noticed, however, that when people pick up these things to put them to further use, that often there is a bit of guilt attached to the action. There needn't be. Either the person in question was allied with your personal aims or opposed to them. If he was allied with your aims, he would doubtless want you to have his possessions so that you might better carry them out. If opposed, you doubtlessly want his goods not to fall into the hands of those who he would more naturally consider allies. Either way, there's no reason you should have problem with it, so set the guilt aside.

Having thus set my mind at ease, I also took a set of high quality lockpicks that he had in a drawer.

Shortly after that, we actually met one of the Inevitables that we'd been warned about, a being by the name of Morsak. I'd been worried (after the somewhat evasive description we'd been given by the Celestials) that any Inevitable we met would be a supremely powerful, supremely arrogant, jerk. Luckily for us, Morsak, while he did seem a little chilly, was helpful enough to warn us that the rest of the Inevitables that lay the way we were headed were going to be supremely powerful, supremely arrogant, jerks. After a short discussion, we turned back. I let my friends do the talking, since I got the impression that Morsak didn't really care much for me.

After that, however, things got really weird.

We found a room with a large (and valuable) rug, a hook hanging from the ceiling, and a sword mounted on the wall. The room felt very important, there was a palpable aura of immenence, like something truly monumentous was capable of happening there. We fiddled with things for a bit, and nothing happened, so we moved on. Considering the circumstances, it seems likely that I will die still wondering what purpose the room was waiting for.

Then we found a room with thousands of tiny alcoves, each of which contained a candle and was labeled with a name. Eaora suggested that each of the alcoves represented one of the Celestials that were assigned here. Only nineteen of the candles were still lit. BB, apparently moved to a rare bit of emotion, observed that it was very sad. I let out a small chuckle, and had to hurriedly explain that I was thinking about Spike's Looting Consideration and how much stuff that meant we could take. With my friends all glaring at me, I retracted the statement, but I still think it's kind of funny.

After that, in quick succession, we found a room with an ancient legal document that appeared to be the charter for this hellhole, a room full of rugs and pillows where there was a dead archon, and a small room with cushioned chairs sitting around a table with a crystal embedded in it. It turned out that we couldn't get out of that room until we all sat in the chairs and were "shown" some of the history of this place. It was making me very uncomfortable, so I tried not to pay too much attention. I was only partially successful at that, however. as it felt like the damn crystal was trying to crack my head open. Strangely, despite the ordeal, we all felt pretty good afterward.

It had become clear by this point that all these rooms, meaningless though they may be at this point, were once considered pretty important. Amazingly, they were in fact protected by an intricate series of traps and tests. Somehow though, we started on the wrong side of those tests, and as we progressed, we worked our way back through the tests, which were strangely impotent because of the direction we came at them from.

Just as I was beginning to think that the day would end without any sort of true menace, we encountered a group of four barghests. We defeated them fairly handily, and found a place to rest. The troubling thought that occurs to me as I recount the various things we saw today is that we failed to understand what most of them were for. In fact, most fixtures of this place are nearly impossible to figure out. Even if we find the exit, will we recognize it for what it is?

Coldeven 12: Loose Ends (Day 10)

This morning (if you can call it that) we decided to take care of the shadow mastiffs that had so nearly killed us a few days ago. It sounds crazy, put like that, but it actually made a fair amount of sense. First off, the constant struggle to keep alive in this place is really honing our skills, and Eaora's newfound ability to fill entire rooms with searing fire encouraged us. Secondly, we knew our enemy, and what to be careful of. But most importantly, we were able to take full advantage of what I see as the first key to victory.

Spike's First Key to Victory: The first blow falls hardest.
People have this idea that a fight can somehow be "fair". I thnk this is obvious insanity, as the best kind of fight is clearly a onesided battle. But even in a fight between two relative equals, someone is going to strike the first blow, and that person is more likely to win. When I was a kid, there was a bully among the steet children. He was regarded as nearly unassailable by the majority of the kids, and to be honest, by me. He liked to torment me in particular, probably because I was younger, and thus smaller than he. His pattern was always the same, he would pick someone younger and smaller, and then would thrash them publicly. I remember nursing a split lip and black eye for a week. If anyone challenged his authority, he would sic his followers on them.

After 2 months of this, I began to realize that this was a sign of weakness on his part. Now, no way was I ready to take this guy on in a "fair fight". He was twice my size. I needed a different approach. I found him, shadowed him until he was alone, and hit him in the back of the head with a board. He was tough enough that I had to hit him with it three times before he stopped twitching.

So, we went back to the shadow mastiffs that had given us so much trouble before. B.B. used her silence to keep their howling from affecting us, Eaora softened them up by filling their lair with flame, and then K, Lo-Kag and I went in and put the rest of them down without too much trouble. Some of them were pretty tough. K. had to hit one of them more than once.

We continued to explore the area.

We found a giant spider that had been enchanted to obey someone's commands. It didn't seem too threatening, so I was inclined to leave well enough alone. Others weren't feeling quite as charitable, however, so we killed it. It turned out that the thing was the servant of a goblin mage that had been working with the shadows of the region. Considering we outnumbered him by 6 to 1, I thought we could probably negotiate with him. He proved very unreasonable though. Maybe he knew what we'd done to his pet spider.

Surprisingly, he also proved pretty difficult to deal with, throwing lightning bolts and turning invisible. But in the end, I looped my chain around his neck and yanked. Invisible or not, his neck snapped like a twig. Among his possessions, we found a wand, from which I "pushed" to see what it did. I succeeded in electrocuting myself with a bolt of lightning, nearly killing myself. Since Eaora can do similar things all on her own, we decided I should keep the wand handy, though I'm not sure I'm ready to use something so hard to control in a really threatening situation.

It was at this point in our exploration that we found the strangest room yet. It was, to all appearances, a walled forest under open sky. Despite assurances from others that the ceiling still lay above, the illusion of being outside was hard to shake. Sadly, any joy I might have felt at being outside was completely destroyed by one thing. It was raining, and all of us were very shortly a sodden miserable mess, enveloped in the odor of wet dwarf. After exploring the area somewhat, we decided to call it a day, and found a dry room.

Coldeven 11: Salvation

Lo-Kag made it out! He was apparently wounded enough that he had to hole up for a few days, since he didn't have Asilky with him to restore his health, but after that, he travelled back to where Sper was, and got her to come drive off the hornets!

She has the power (it appears) to turn into a whirlwind, which allowed her to do it. Unfortunately, now that she's saved us twice, I feel like we really owe her. I have to keep reminding myself of Spike's Exchange Axiom, and that I'm not necessarily in any hurry to pay her back.

My curiousity about what happened with Lo-Kag has been more than satisfied, since he tore out a page of his book to leave us a note in the room he holed up in...
Sure.... lets open the door... how bad can they be?... its probably just bees.... If we don't open it I'll always wonder what's behind it... Note to self: NEVER LISTEN TO K OR THE OTHERS EVER AGAIN. If I ever see them alive again I'm going to strangle them.

The swelling is going down somewhat but it is starting to itch. The poltice is helping although it stinks. Thank goodness Aunt Gathnik stuck them in my pack. I've had some time to reflect overnight. Courage be damned, Eaora has it right. I'm staying out of the way from now on. The things down here are too nasty. I like a good game as well as the next guy, but I prefer to win. When playing with my life, I like even more of an edge. From now on, when it starts looking bad, it is time to go.

It sounds like at least some of my friends were still alive. Judging by the sounds they made another attempt at the bees. I still hear the humming, so I don't think they won, but I did hear a door slam so I think that's good news. Anyway yesterday we decided to open a door with a loud humming noise behind it and got attacked by bees. I've never seen anything like them, thousands of them and with stingers that went right through even MY hide. They were crawling all over you so that you couldn't breathe or or even think. I think I stabbed at them but my magic spear did nothing. Anyway I barely got out alive but my idiot friends went out the wrong door. I'm going to rest here another day, then go for help if they don't show up. I just hope the priest was right when he said the shadows can't go through the doors. I've spiked them shut for now. I think I messed up my thumb hammering in the spike though. I seem to be very clumsy with all of the stings.

*  *  *

*  *  *
I think I need some heavier armor. I think I'll see if I can fit up a new set from the armor laying around in the smithy I'm holed up in.

*  *  *
Note to self, don't put heavy armor over bee stings: ouch! Since I've still got time to kill, I might as well try something else futile.

*  *  *
Success! I've been working for years on some of the spells that old Blighter taught me. He told me they would work because we both had what he called "the blood" and that my evil eye proved it. None of them ever did much. Mostly I'd been trying the laughtodeath spell, but that never worked. I guess I'm just not funny. Anyway given my recent experiences, I've decided to work on the runfast spell and I finally got it right. I'll try out a couple of the others to see if I can make them work too.

*  *  *
I'm not going to wait any longer. I should probably leave a note.

Lo-Kag seems glad to have found us, but grumpy. I didn't mention it before, because it seemed unimportant next to the fact of our inevitable death, but the portable hole we found closed up, and we failed to get some of the stuff that was in it out. I rescued much of the important stuff, including the bag of miscellaneous booty. Lo-Kag doesn't seem impressed though, he keeps going on and on about some sort of horrid icepepper sauce he had stored in there. Like I could conceivably pick something that makes food effectively inedible over a bag of gold and gems.

Since our rescue, We've done a little additional exploring, with two interesting results. Firstly, we've found a second Ward Staff. So, we're halfway done with the job we told the wardens of this asylum we'd work on. I guess that's good, since it means I have to worry less about owing them favors.

Secondly, we found a magic door that wouldn't work for anyone. After everyone gave it a shot, I decided to try and "convince" it to work. I guess talking with Eaora was good for something, possibly clarifying my thoughts on the matter, because I was able to make it do its thing.

It took me to a cloak room where many robes and much clothing was stored. Yes, a magic portal to a wardrobe, I've never heard of anything like it. With something like that, you'd think you could protect something more important than a few scraps of mildewed clothing. I grabbed some of the nicer looking clothing in the hopes that it would be good for something, and made the door take me back. I didn't tell the others, but I had a bad moment where I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make the portal work in the opposite direction.

Now that we're free of our prison-within-a-prison and able to move about, I'll rest a little easier tonight, and leave off worrying about the bigger prison until tomorrow.