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 6: Priorities (Day 4)

It's been a few hours since it happened, but today we almost bought it. We'd become engaged in a sort of running battle with some large black dog-like creatures, which I've since learned are called shadow mastiffs. They set up this terrible howling which chilled me (and others) to the bone.

We'd killed several, and I knew it was stupid, the creatures weren't that tough, but every time I heard that noise I felt this terrible compulsion to run. At least I wasn't alone in that. It's a wonder that none of use were picked off as we ran in every direction at our best speed, but somehow we managed. Asilky seemed the most immune, and held the line against the beasts until we could regroup. In the end though, it turned out that our very succeptability to the creature's howling was what would save us.

You see, the mastiffs also have this ability to fade into the shadows, becoming effectively invisible. We observed it once in an early encounter, but I struck out at the area where the thing had disappeared, and I still hit and killed it, so the ability didn't really fill us all with concern. Definitely a case of underthinking the situation, I'd say.

"Hey, didn't these things have some sort of ability to fade into the shadows?"

You see, we found a room with four of the beasts, they howled, and several of us went tearing off in unnatural fear. Asilky, thinking quickly, shut the door. The things, though clearly more intelligent than normal dogs, didn't have hands, after all. When the rest of us had overcome our terror and returned, we yanked open the door, only to find the room empty, the beasts having left through the other door. Something about the situation bugged me, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

We cautiously moved into the room, and B.B. headed over to check out the far door, while Eaora and others chatted about a mysterious apparatus in the corner with many gears which had apparently been stopped when someone jammed a corspe into the mechanism. It was at this point that I realized what was troubling me, and spoke up: "Hey," I asked, "didn't these things have some sort of ability to fade into the shadows?"

The nine shadow mastiffs hiding around the edges of the room leapt upon us in that instant, and a chaotic fight began that I was pretty sure was going to be my last. Eaora went down almost right away, and it looked like several of us, including Lo-Kag and K., were going to be joining her quickly. I was swinging my chain wildly in all directions trying to keep them off me, and managed to back into a corner, but I wasn't hurting them fast enough, and it seemed clear that if my friends all went down, I would be joining them shortly thereafter.

Lo-Kag has said something a few times about having an evil eye. I didn't know what to think of that before, but today I finally got to see him use it. Badly wounded, and bleeding from many bites and claw marks, he paused in the middle of melee to fix his strange-colored eye on one of the creatures. Exactly how it worked, I can't tell you, but the mastiff jerked as if struck, and made a whining noise like a dog that had been kicked by its master. It didn't take it out of the combat, but it certainly seemed to slow it down a good deal.

"It's either an ally, or we're all dead. Assume it's an ally."

None of us knew whether Eaora was still alive, of course, but several of us were keeping an eye on her, and noticed an armored hand reach in through the door, grab her leg, and drag her out of the room. Despite the still-swirling melee, many of my friends started trying to go to her aid, but I shouted out, "Guys, it's either an ally, or we're all dead! Assume it's an ally!" Which I figure is a succinct a distillation of Matrim's Guide to Victory as I've managed in some time.

Matrim's Guide to Victory: Know your Priorities.
I've mentioned Matrim, the only paladin I could ever stand, before. One time, I was asking him what the typical paladin's secret was. As a rule, they arent't particularly bright or imaginative, they're too weighted down with moral baggage to make really down-and-dirty fighters, and they're always biting off more than they can chew. Yet they still seem uncannily effective. Matrim smiled, and explained that paladins were very good at prioritization. I must've showed my doubt, because he explained further.

Once, he was exploring an underground excavation with some companions, when a door slammed shut and the room they were in began to fill with water. All of them began working on the door, but couldn't get it open. Suddenly, they were attacked by a giant tentacled aquatic creature that had come in with the water. Matrim began to fight it, but it was more powerful than he was, and it became clear that he couldn't defeat it without assistance. His companions began to leave the door alone to help him with the creature, but he yelled "Get back to the door! I'm sure I can hold off this creature long enough for us to drown!"

Paladins, he explained, have a strict code, that lets them know, almost intuitively, how to balance concerns like that against each other. He said he didn't have to even think about whether it was worth him risking his life to give his companions time to get the door open, it was obvious that it was. As a result, they
did manage to get it open, and all of them survived. Now, I'm not crazy enough to think my priorities are anything like those of a paladin, 'cause they're not, but I've been in enough scraps to know that Matrim was certainly right about the importance of quick, correct prioritization.

It did turn out to be an ally, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this down now. A beautiful, if a bit unearthly and heavily armored, woman named Sper entered the room and began to lash at the mastiffs with lightning bolts. They got fed up with that pretty quickly, and fled the scene.

It turns out that Sper had seen B.B. while she was running panicked through the corridors due to the mastiff's fearsome howling, and wondered enough about her to investigate. So, ironically, if the creatures hadn't frightened us so badly, they probably would have beaten us handily.

I've got to eat something. I'll write more about Sper (and her associates) when I can. They've told us a lot, little of it good.

Coldeven 5: Asilky's Speech (Day 3)

Well, we took a little while to find a place to rest, but we finally have. There's a room here where a horrible gigantic spider-like creature was killed by a small bald guy with a spear. Apparently in the final battle they killed each other, because when we found them, they were still there, frozen in combat at the moment of their deaths.

Eaora and Asilky put their heads together, and concluded that the large creature was a demon called a retriever. I didn't like the sound of that, and asked what, exactly they were said to "retrieve". Nobody seemed sure. The spear was magical, so we broke up the tableau to claim it. Hopefully it will come in handy.

After that, we made camp, and Lo-Kag cooked the Krenshar we'd killed earlier in the day. It wasn't great. After dinner, Asilky had something to say. Here it is as best as I can get it written down. (I probably should have taken notes.)

"OK, in light of our recent encounter with the celestial I think a confession is in order. I have never been successful in the priesthood. In fact many have questioned why I have not given up the trade. Well the truth be told I have often considered it but for some reason Boril would not listen to my requests to leave his service. I think perhaps now I understand why. Let me explain.

"Boril Ironbeard is one of the minor Dwarf god’s. He is not blessed with a strong following but there are points in any dwarf’s life that he will pay tribute to Boril. His domain is that of law and justice. Those who serve Boril are few in number but our services are valuable throughout the clans. For the most part the clerics of Boril, Adjudicators as we are known, travel throughout the dwarven realms acting as impartial judges on all cases brought before them. An adjudicators strength is his ability to weigh the evidence brought before him and then to discern a true and just settlement to any dispute. Impartiality is his constant companion and ally so that none would question his verdict. That is where my troubles start.

"For you see I have a certain 'problem'. I have never been very good at seeing shades of grey. I tend to see right and wrong, good and evil. There are cases when a bad person can be in the right, and a good person can be in the wrong. When that happens I am at a loss. Can evil ever be right?

"Suffice it to say that my many years as an acolyte of Boril seemed pointless to the Adjudicators that I was assigned to. Each time I was assigned to be aid to a new priest they would test me. Each in turn tried to mold my perceptions. Finally each in the end would suggest that I take up a different trade. Their wishes however were not Boril's. I have prayed often for guidance and Boril would always assure me that my time would come. I personally find it is best not to argue with a deity, no matter how 'minor' others say he is.

"So it was that the high priest sent me out into the world to 'get a greater understanding of Boril and how he works even in other realms'. Simply put they were tired of dealing with me. My travels were many and tedious, and not worth wasting your time over, but I seemed no closer to gaining favor in my god's eyes. I began to think I was being punished for some misstep I had made, and when we first landed in this festering dungeon I was certain of this. As of late however I am thinking that this is why Boril has so long held me in his service. Boril is with me now more then ever, and my abilities have grown dramatically in only a few days. Some things ARE simply evil, and it is a different brand of justice that is reserved for them. Here I see right and wrong, and my justice can be swift and final. If the need arises for diplomacy I have been fully trained, but since so many of the rest of you seem eager to talk I will hold my skills in reserve until the need arises."

Well, time for me to turn in. I've got a watch tonight, and I'm going to have to be sharp. We've heard some terrified screams, and it's possible our cooking fire will attract whatever caused them. I'm also not feeling very well.

Coldeven 5: Bugs in the Fog (Day 3)

Despite my increasing pessimism at our prospects, today has not been a total waste. In fact, four things have happened today that are good enough that I think I should record them.

Firstly, the group of orcs led by the mysterious wizard in red has lost a few more of its number. We found a room where a battle took place between orcs and dark mantles. Since the orcs bodies hadn't been looted, it seems safe to assume that the dark mantles won, but the sheer number of bodies would seem to be a good thing since I'm not anxious to deal with a large group of either.

Since the bodies hadn't been looted, we took it upon ourselves to do so, and actually found a fair bit of stuff, mostly little bits of gold, silver, and semi precious stones, but we did find some ivory knucklebones, which neatly doubles our recreational options during down time, so I'm counting it as a win. I also took the best of the orcs falchions and tossed it into the portable hole, figuring that a backup weapon might come in handy.

Nearby, we found a lone orc survivor named Tirag. Needless to say, he was eager to offer us the benefits of his experience. After we'd asked him what we could, and learned what he knew (not much), we sent him to wait with the Ogre, figuring that we'd at least know where they both were that way.

But the best news is that we found an area that seems significant, and which will hopefully offer up some answers.

So far, this place has been full of nearly identical doors. Most of them are of iron-bound wood, and very solid and well built. They are maintained, so despite the apparent antiquity of this place, they are mostly functional and in good repair. I stressed the importance of not killing anyone or anything that seemed to be doing maintenance to my friends, as whoever is responsible for maintaining these doors must know something of this place's layout and purpose.

Anyway, today we found a door that was very different. It was stone, and had a huge eye/sun thing sculpted into it. Beyond it lay a trap, further heightening my anticpation that at last we had found something that might offer clues or escape. This area is also lit by magical lanterns set into the ceiling, which I take to be another sign of its importance.

What we found was a large room, with foggy mist covering the floor, many corridors criss-crossing between mighty pillars of rock, each of which has writing in a multitude of languages. The room was occupied by many horrible insects, and our explorations attracted yet more, yet the fighting, though hard, gave us a chance to work as a team, which is an experience I think we were all needing badly. In all, we were attacked by 5 halfling-sized beetles, 7 man-sized insects with horrible stingers poised above their bodies, and 3 man-sized spiders. While feriocious, they were not intelligent, and we were able to put a doorway between us and them so that they could only come at us one at a time, an advantage we employed mercilessly.

As I believe I mentioned before, tempers had been becoming a bit frayed, and I think the need to work together quickly has done some of us good. I'm not used to fighting with groups, and I think K. comes from a tradition of mindless ferocity, so most of the sound tactical reasoning came from Lo-Kag, but his shouted orders came at the right time in battle, and when the last of the insects fell, while many of us were injured, not one of us was seriously hurt. Hopefully our shared victory will keep us from sniping at each other when we continue.

A few of us are sick from spider bites (albiet not myself), and Eaora is looking at the writings, so we're staying here for at least a little bit. It's possible we may make it into a permanent camp.