Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Nine: The Sorcerer's Citadel - Chapter 1

On Starday, the 8th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, the day after summoning into this plane the true Keraptis and witnessing the eruption of White Plume Mountain, the Righteous Vanguard returned to Greyhawk along with a number of the allies which had helped them bring the evil inside White Plume to an end. Upon their return to Greyhawk, the band tended to a number of important things concerning their adventures within the mountain. But towards the end of the day, they also decided to play with one of the magic items found there, known as the Deck of Destinies. Unfortunately, they soon learned firsthand that dealing with the Deck of Destinies was anything but a game. And while some members of the band benefitted greatly when drawing from the magical deck of cards, others were, in some ways, harmed by it. In fact, it very nearly killed Kieranen.

So by the following morning, on Sunday the 9th day of Wealsun, Kieranen had even begun to consider the possibility of retiring from adventuring due to the extreme aging caused by the Deck of Destinies, and the severe physical deterioration that he suffered as the result of that extreme aging. This then became one of the main concerns for the band over the following week and much effort was put into trying to find a way to restore Kieranen’s youth to him.

But there were other things of importance that needed to be dealt with as well, chief among them being the welfare of the newborn reincarnation of Keraptis. To resolve this matter, Book teleported himself, Nicholas, Echab, Nix (who now took the form of a human to avoid causing any alarm) and the baby Keraptis to where Nicholas’ mother and father lived at the edge of the Barrier Peaks in the Grand Duchy of Geoff. Echab was then returned to his parents and his homeland and all was explained to Nicholas’ parents about what took place at White Plume. Nicholas then presented to them the band’s proposal that they take and care for the child Keraptis. After some discussion, it did not take long for Nicholas’ parents to agree to the idea and it was approved by Nix who was given permission to look in on the child from time to time as it grew up. Nicholas also asked his father to return with him to Greyhawk, where he could have the Church of St. Cuthbert cast a regeneration spell on him and return to him the missing portion of his leg that had been lost in his battle against the troll, Grendel. Over the next couple of days this was all taken care of, and Nicholas’ father was taken back to his home.

Meanwhile, back in Greyhawk, Nero and Book paid a number of visits to the Wizard’s Guild and did some dealing with the mages there, selling a few items of magic and buying a few others in return.

They also helped Dravos out in this area as he was forced to sell many of his items due to the great increase in his size to a 10 foot tall half-elf. He then used the money to buy other items, such as clothing, armor and weapons that were better suited to his new size.

Other matters were tended to during this time as well. For example, Ael increased his intelligence with the wish spell granted to him by the Deck of Destinies. The gnomes at the band’s stronghold were informed of Gildor’s death and a funeral service was performed. Al began looking into either buying a large quantity of lead to be turned into gold using his philosopher’s stone or simply selling the stone to someone who could make an acceptable offer. And Book and Nero used much of the time learning new spells.

But, as already alluded to, Kieranen’s main interest at this time, was to find some means of restoring his youth, though he strongly opposed the idea of asking anyone to make any great sacrifice in this endeavor. He began by seeking out the advice of his good friend, the Greyhawk dragon known at this time as Sturtevant. Sturtevant told Kieranen that his best bet would probably be to find a powerful cleric that worshiped a god of time and longevity, such as the elven deity Labelas Enoreth. So with this idea in mind, Kieranen asked Nero if there might be any elven wizards at the Wizard’s Guild who might know of such a priest. After making some inquiries, Nero met with a grey elf, named Seridann, from the elven Kingdom of Celene, who claimed to know of a High Priest of Labelas Enoreth. Nero then met with Seridann and invited him to his tower. The following day, they met at Nero’s tower, along with Kieranen, and a deal was made for Seridann to take Nero and Kieranen to Celene to meet with the High Priest whose name was Telesaran.

Soon afterwards, the three were teleported to Celene and they were introduced to Telesaran, who himself was a very ancient grey elf. Kieranen told Telesaran of his problem, and the priest agreed to cast a series of spells that would restore Kieranen’s youth. But in return, Telesaran required Kieranen and Nero to go on a quest for him and would even cast a spell on them to help insure that they would complete this quest or die in the attempt. Kieranen and Nero agreed to the terms, and by the morning of the following day Kieranen was back to his natural age. Kieranen and Nero were invited to spend the night with Telesaran, as he could not fully restore Kieranen’s youth in one day, and they entertained Telesaran by telling him the story of their adventures in White Plume while they had dinner with him.

The next morning, as soon as Telesaran had finished with his part of the agreement, he gave Kieranen and Nero the particulars of the quest that he wanted them to perform. He told them that he recently had a vision, as he sometimes did on occasion, and saw a glimpse into what he interpreted as being a possible future. Subsequent divination spells that he cast seemed to confirm his suspicions. He told the two that in this vision, there was a force of great evil that was currently seeking out an item of tremendous power which was capable of much devastation and destruction. He told them that their quest would be to destroy this item of power before it fell into the hands of the evil force.

Telesaran also told the two that in his vision he saw what could result if this item of power were to be used by the evil force, saying that cities and forests could be destroyed by the power of this item. He described this item as a sphere of utter darkness which would literally consume all that came into contact with it. He said that his divination spells led him to believe that this item of power was once possessed by a sorcerer whose name was Crane, and that there were rumors that a band of adventurers had recently discovered the long lost Citadel of the Sorcerer Crane. Telesaran then cast a spell and revealed to them, in a pool of water, an area in the Crystalmist Mountains that was only a few miles from where the sorcerer’s citadel was said to be. He had them study this area, so that they would be able to locate it themselves. He then gave them a magical rod of cancellation, telling them it could be used only once, and that it would be needed to destroy the item of power. Once Telesaran was convinced that the two understood their quest, he cast a quest spell on them and informed them that they had only 24 hours in which to begin their quest or they would begin to suffer the consequences of ignoring the quest spell.

Kieranen, Nero and Seridann then returned to Greyhawk, after which Seridann returned to his business while Kieranen and Nero told the other members of the band about the quest. Book was not pleased by the fact that they would need to leave on this quest within the next day, as by this point the band had only been back in Greyhawk for a week, and he did not get as much time to learn spells as he had hoped to. The band gave him the option of staying behind to learn spells in the hopes that his skills would not be needed. But Book decided to go along anyway, most likely believing that he might miss out on something if he stayed behind.

Before setting out however, the band wanted to learn as much as they could about the Sorcerer Crane so they could better prepare themselves for any obstacles they might face. Again they sought out Sturtevant, to see if he could pass along any information. Once again, with his vast experience and a very extensive library, Sturtevant was able to supply the band with as much knowledge about the Sorcerer Crane as they could have hoped for.

They learned that Crane was a lawful-neutral sorcerer of great power and was obsessed with all things lawful. He paid homage to the gods of law, whether good or evil. He was a great scientist and created numerous constructs, such as golems and homunculi. His other interests ran to the diabolic. Crane studied the use of extraplanar creatures as servants and messengers. He also developed a firm knowledge of trap building and alchemy. He acquired and learned to control a sphere of annihilation, with which he carved a dungeon beneath his mountaintop tower. The sphere of annihilation, no doubt, was also the item of great power that Telesaran wanted them to destroy.

The band learned that, about 100 years ago, Crane set off to do battle with a group of chaotic-evil sorcerers, known as the Violet Brotherhood, whose black arts were linked to the foul demon frog-god, Tsathogga.

Though mightier than any individual evil sorcerer, Crane could not prevail against all of them working in concert. Overcome by his foes, he cursed his own arrogance with his final breath. Yet he had taken a great precaution: fearing that, in magical combat, his foes might seize control of his sphere and turn it against him, Crane had decided not to use the magical globe of blackness against the Violet Brotherhood. Instead, it was believed that he sealed his sphere within his tower and protected it with powerful magic. And though many had since gone in search of the Tower of Crane in the hopes of recovering the sphere, none at this time were known to have had any success.

With this knowledge in mind, the Righteous Vanguard made their preparations and on the morning of the following day, Sunday, the 16th day of Wealsun, they set out on their quest to find the Sorcerer’s Citadel.

Having successfully located the area shown to Kieranen and Nero with a scrying spell, the band was able to teleport to the spot, once again utilizing Nero’s portable hole as a mode of transportation. Upon arriving at the bitterly cold and snow covered mountain tops somewhere in the Crystalmist Mountains, those who were in the portable hole climbed out, while their companions looked about for any signs of unwanted observers. Seeing only the mountainous landscape and the spray of lose snow carried by the wind that bit at their faces, the band decided to cast fly spells on themselves to make it easier to move through the frozen terrain. With this done, the band tugged at their heavy outer clothing in an effort to ward off the freezing wind, and slowly flew off in the direction in which they hoped to find the wizard’s tower.

A short while later, the silhouette of a large humanoid was spotted just over a jagged ridge. It ducked behind the ridge, but Nicholas, Book and Dravos flew off in search of it. They quickly found the figure again, which turned out to be an ogre, but saw that it was now accompanied by a few frost giants. Dravos tried speaking with the giants but was soon told in a threatening manner to leave the area. Book, invisible as always, then cast a confusion spell on the giants, which caused some of the giants to fight amongst themselves while the ogre began striking himself. Moments later, more frost giants appeared from around another ridge for a total of 11 frost giants. These giants also had with them four winter wolves. Seeing this, Nicholas threw his recently acquired hammer of thunderbolts, which killed one of the giants with one blow and stunned everything around him as it issued a loud clap of thunder. Upon hearing this, the rest of the band, which had stayed behind and was unaware of the giants, hurried to join their companions.

A very one-sided battle then ensued as the giants, much to their disbelief and surprise, quickly found themselves being pounded on by the smaller humanoids. Book also cast a suggestion spell, making some of the giants run in fear from a red dragon that they believed would soon appear, while Nero blasted many of the giants with a cone of force, knocking several of them down. Other members of the band likewise added to the giant’s misery and it quickly became obvious that the giants would not survive for much longer.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 21

It was on the morning of Freeday, the 7th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, when the Righteous Vanguard made their final trip into White Plume Mountain. After dealing with numerous obstacles, the band and their allies, which included Nix and Kuhleferan of the Resistance and the drow Wilde, were transported to the Druid’s Fane deep in the midst of a pool of magma by a magical forcebubble.

Here, they found they were standing within a sphere of crystal, bathed in the bloodred glow of magma from every direction. Molten rock roiled and swirled beyond the walls, striated into bands of scarlet, vermillion, and a hundred shades of red. Inside, the air was as cool and fresh as that in a mountain meadow. Miscellaneous debris lay scattered all over the curved inner surface – on the floor, on the sides, and even above, in abject defiance of gravity. Three black obelisks, equidistantly attached to the inner surface, all pointed toward the sphere’s center. Hanging in midair at the very center of the crystal was a blot of dimness. Like a whirlpool, it exhibited a subtle circular movement, seemingly drawing the furious red glare into its swirling interior and obliterating it.

The band looked around and noticed, about 20 feet from their current position, another set of palm-shaped depressions similar to the set they had found above, which summoned the forcebubble that brought them to the Fane, though, unlike the ones above, these were not accompanied by any writing. Assuming that this set of palm-shaped depressions was intended to summon another forcebubble to take them back, they moved on to take a closer look at the nearest obelisk.

This obelisk appeared to be made of onyx and was about 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Signs and symbols from a former Age covered three sides of it, while the forth side had four shelves inset within it. Upon these shelves rested a number of items of great apparent value and powerful magic, ranging from various weapons, and a greatcoat to engraved ornamental stones, though it seemed as if, at some point in the distant past, there may have been many more items. Alavarius cast a comprehend language spell and found that the symbols on the obelisk spoke of the Elder Druids who once guarded the Fane and the powerful magic items that were stored there. Thinking it would be best to examine the other two obelisks before touching anything on the shelves they turned their attention to the next obelisk in line and began moving towards it.

But they did not get far before they witnessed the appearance of another forcebubble entering the Fane from which emerged a single human-like being, though his body was semi-transparent and his eyes, hair, limbs and garments blazed with an ethereal flame. He wore a stern expression and was dressed in the robes of an ancient druid.

This ghostly apparition slowly drifted towards the group and as it drew near, it quickly looked each member of the group over. Then, without seeming to direct its attention to anyone in particular, it spoke in a haunting yet commanding voice, saying, “Keraptis, you have returned!” Nero, apparently believing he would gain some advantage by doing so, answered by saying, “Yes, I have returned”, to which the apparition responded by looking squarely at Nero and shouting out, “Then you shall die!”

Realizing the apparition was about to attack, the group sprang into action. But the apparition was quicker than most and suddenly flew past them towards Nero. Nix tried to block the apparition with a lunge of his sword, but it passed through the weapon as though it did not exist. Then the apparition struck Nero sending a wave of negative energy through him, causing him to age a few years in addition to wounding him. Nix, giving Nero an angry glance, called out, “Wait, that is not Keraptis! He does not speak the truth!” Seeing that this caused the apparition to momentarily hesitate, Kieranen then spoke up and said to the ghostly being, “Is your name Aegwareth?” This caused the shade, for that is what Alavarius determined the apparition to be, to stop fighting altogether and turn its attention to Kieranen. “I am Aegwareth”, it said. “And who might you be? More importantly, is this in fact Keraptis, or does he lie?” Kieranen introduced himself, and then somewhat reluctantly admitted that Nero was not Keraptis.

The shade of Aegwareth the Elder Druid backed away, glaring at Nero with a barely contained rage as it did so, while Kieranen explained to it their purpose and their need to summon the true Keraptis back so that they might put an end to the threat of the False Keraptis. Aegwareth listened to Kieranen’s explanation asking a few questions along the way. But it was obvious that Aegwareth had his own agenda and Kieranen was concerned that Aegwareth would attack the true Keraptis as soon as he appeared. So Kieranen did his best to convince Aegwareth not to attack Keraptis unless it was absolutely necessary, while at the same time glancing nervously at Nix, whom he suspected would defend Keraptis no matter what took place. Nix, in turn, scowled back at Kieranen, but told everyone he would wait and see how Keraptis reacted upon his return before deciding any course of action. Nevertheless, there was a definite, uneasy feeling in the air that the current state of peace which now existed within the Fane would not likely last for much longer.

They asked Aegwareth about the items in the first pillar and the shade told them that he cared not for those things and that the group could do with them as they pleased. Then the shade faded away, becoming almost entirely insubstantial, and would answer no more questions addressed to him. So the group moved on to the second obelisk.

This one was also made of onyx, but it was only 5 feet tall, solid on all four sides, and the top 6 inches of it was made of what appeared to be talc. The symbols on its sides seemed to indicate that the obelisk once contained great power, and the group came to the conclusion that it was with this great power that Keraptis destroyed the ancient city of Tostenhca hundreds of years before.

Realizing that this obelisk was now apparently useless, they moved on to the third. This obelisk, made of onyx like the others, stood 7 feet tall and was likewise etched with symbols. But this obelisk had obviously undergone extensive modifications since its original construction – specifically, a long regular depression had been carved into each of the four sides, and each one of these depressions was in the shape of a weapon. To be more precise, it appeared as if each one of these depressions would be a perfect fit for each one of the four powerful weapons that the band had collected along the way. The solution to the problem of what they needed to do in order to summon back Keraptis now seemed obvious. And an augury spell cast by Alavarius seemed to confirm their suspicions.

But before doing anything more, the band returned to the first obelisk, removed the items found there and did their best to identify their magical properties. As expected, and indeed hoped for, the vast majority of these items proved to be of considerable power in themselves. One was a bastard sword that functioned much like a sun blade though it appeared to be made of molten magma. A giant warhammer of similar construction had the properties of a hammer of thunder bolts. The greatcoat, which shimmered in a molten-golden color, functioned like a robe of the archmagi though it worked equally well for those who were good or evil or somewhere in between. In addition to these items, were a rod of quickening metamagic, three rare ioun stones and even a philosopher’s stone.

After temporarily dividing up most of these items, the band then prepared themselves for the summoning of Keraptis, casting preparatory spells upon themselves in the expectation of a terrible battle soon to come. Nero then opened up his portable hole and lowered himself into it so he could retrieve the four weapons. First, he grabbed the hammer Whelm. But it exerted a powerful influence over him and he had difficulty in grabbing the next weapon Wave. So Dravos jumped in the hole to help him. He passed Whelm onto Alavarius and took up Blackrazor. Frostrazor was then passed on to Ael. The four then holding the weapons gathered around the third obelisk while the others stood guard around them. When all appeared to be ready, on the count of three, they placed all four weapons into their respective niches.

As the four weapons clicked into place, the obelisk began to glow with a light as incandescent as the naked sun. A staggering thunderclap accompanied the discharge of a jagged energy bolt from its tip directly into the blot of dimness above. The whirlpool absorbed the bolt, then closed in on itself, shrinking to the size of a human heart. It pulsed once, twice, thrice – then flowered open, shedding a light so pure and bright that it drowned out the magma-glow. The radiance began to wane as a humanoid silhouette faded into view and floated slowly downward, feebly waving its pink arms. As it began to cry helplessly, they all recognized the figure for what it was – a newborn child.

At the same time, several other things took place simultaneously. Those who had hosted a partial K-imprint felt a strange sensation and a sharp pain rip across their temples leaving them momentarily dazed.

The surge of power through the obelisk also caused the trident Wave to crumble into dust. And as the baby Keraptis emerged into the Fane, Aegwareth, the Shade of Vengeance reappeared and quickly began moving towards the falling infant. It was then that Kieranen suddenly realized what was meant by the phrase given to them in a divination spell that said, “Protect the Innocent”. Hurriedly glancing about, he saw that Nix was likewise moving towards the falling baby. He also saw that his companions were momentarily stunned, for only he had chosen not read one of the Keraptis scrolls – so it was up to him to save the child, as he could not be sure of the intentions of Nix or Aegwareth.

All three raced towards the baby, but fortunately Kieranen was closest to where the baby was falling and he reached up and grabbed the child just moments before the others descended upon him. Nix was the next to arrive and as he drew near, he pulled out his sword making Kieranen flinch with concern. But Nix stepped past Kieranen to meet Aegwareth and block the shade from getting too close to Kieranen and the baby, at which point Kieranen turned and ran.

When the other members of the Righteous Vanguard then cleared their heads they felt an intense spiritual relief pass through them, though they knew that the K-imprints were now gone. They then realized that Kieranen and the baby were in danger and came to their aid, though they soon discovered that the shade was highly resistant to spells as well as Ael’s frost bombs. Kieranen tried in vain to reason with the shade who struck the elf from behind as he turned to protect the baby, causing Kieranen to age as he was wounded.

In defiance and completely beyond the words of Kieranen, the shade eyed the child and cried out, “Keraptis you are, regardless of the form you wear. For your desecration of this Elder Fane and the murder of its protector, you have earned retribution. I am the executor of that long-delayed vengeance, as I am the spirit of the druid you murdered!”

With these words the newborn began to cry helplessly. But the Righteous Vanguard and their allies did all they could to stop the shade. Finally, Nix struck the undead druid with a burst of scorching rays that badly wounded the apparition while Kieranen turned back to rejoin his companions. When Aegwareth then turned to follow, Nicholas struck him with his axe and delivered another crippling blow.

The shade, now realizing he could not exact his revenge on his own, called upon the one thing that he knew would be capable of destroying Keraptis and any who would protect him, though he knew it would be the end of him as well. Throwing back his head, he screamed out, “Come to me, Swimmer Below! Appease your hunger, and end this blasphemer’s life!” With this proclamation, the shade dissolved and was no more.

But the band knew what he had done, for they had read the words of warning about the Leviathan and they had been told in a divination spell that in dealing with this monstrous abomination they should run like hell. So they quickly ran towards the set of palm-shaped depressions where one of them placed his hands in them and when he did another spherical forcebubble formed around them and whisked them away.

Once again the group found themselves traveling through a sea of magma, slowly rising to the surface. But along the way something violently jostled the forcebubble knocking most of the group off their feet. Then a gigantic eye, almost half the size of the entire Fane, appeared within the swirling magma above them, gazing at them as if deciding what to do. It followed the group in the bubble as it slowly ascended through the magma. It then moved away and the band was again jostled as they felt the Fane being torn from the massive chain that held it in place beneath the magma.

Moments later the forcebubble emerged from the magma just as an enormous clawed hand reached up and swiped at the bubble, grazing it. The band and their allies were then deposited on the edge of the magma pool as the forcebubble disappeared, leaving them exposed to all around them. Just then the ground began to shake and the pool of magma began to boil. Certain that the volcano was about to erupt, Nero began grabbing some of his companions, including Kieranen and the baby Keraptis, telling them he was taking them to Nightfear’s lair. He then cast a dimension door spell and away they went. Book, who was among those left behind, looked around and realized there were too many left with him for him to take with a dimension door spell. But Nix, who was immune to heat and fire, pointed out that he could turn gaseous and leave on his own. So Book cast his spell and took the rest of the band and their allies. The two groups met up in Nightfear’s lair, then Nero and Book cast two more dimension door spells, which took them outside of the mountain and back on the trail leading to Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket.

As expected, the volcano erupted as they emerged from the mountain. Fortunately, most of the smoke and ash blew in the opposite direction to the north of them and into the Great Swamp. But this did not mean they were out of the danger. So Alavarius quickly cast an augury spell and determined they would be safe enough back at the cave. From here then, the group teleported back to the cave. Once there they gathered everyone and hid at the back of the cave and waited for the violent eruption to come to an end. It was only at this point that they realized they had left much of the treasure that they found inside the mountain in the room above the Fane along with Marty the meenlock, who had been left behind to guard the treasure.

Sometime later, when the noise of the eruption finally quieted down and the cloud of ash began to settle, the band and their allies slowly emerged from the cave to witness the devastation that the volcano had caused. All around was the smell of sulfur and smoke as small fires broke out from the lava as it rolled over any vegetation in its path. On the far side of the volcano a huge cloud of steam, rising from the swamp, merged with the great plume of ash that hung above the northern sky like an angry storm cloud signaling the end of a mighty evil.

As the band and their allies gazed at the spectacle, they began the discussion of what should be done from this point on. The most important decision they had to make was what to do with the baby Keraptis.

Kuhleferan offered to take the baby, to care for it and raise it as her own. And Nix, still the faithful servant despite his evil nature, was in favor of this idea, assuming that he would be able to watch over and protect the baby. But Kieranen offered an alternative plan that the Righteous Vanguard preferred. His idea was to take the baby to Nicholas’ parents and have them raise the child. This seemed more fitting because Nicholas’ parents had been split up so many years before and this would be a second opportunity for them to raise a family together. And considering what Keraptis had done to the Elder Druids so long ago, it also fit well because Nicholas’ mother was a druid, and it seemed right that Keraptis would now learn the ways of the druids and perhaps even come to serve them. Keeping in mind that this Keraptis was a newborn, a complete innocent with no knowledge of the evil man he once was in the very distant past, it was hoped that with the right upbringing, the new Keraptis would turn out to be an entirely different sort of man. Seeing that Kieranen’s idea was preferred by the Righteous Vanguard, Nix asked them if it would be alright if he and Kuhleferan would be allowed to check in on the child from time to time. But Nicholas pointed out that many of the details would need to be worked out including whether or not his parents would even agree to take the child. It was also his hope that his parents would move to Greyhawk, where they could keep a better eye on them and the child. So, in order to resolve these issues, the Righteous Vanguard invited them to return with them to Greyhawk.

This left them with the decision of what to do with Wilde and Camille. Although Camille was no longer a subsumed mind, she was still suffering from the effects of a feeblemind spell. However, even after the effects of the feeblemind spell were removed on the following day with a heal spell, she still was an empty vessel, with no identity, knowledge or purpose. This was very disheartening for Wilde who realized he would never have his old Camille back again. But he decided to take her anyway, and care for her and teach her once again all the knowledge that she had lost, and with any luck, she would learn at a much quicker rate than that of a newborn child. Their other problem though, was how to return to the underdark. For they could not go back through the mountain the way they had come. So the Righteous Vanguard invited Wilde and Camille to go along with them to Greyhawk as well, and they would help them return to the underdark.

On the following morning, Starday, the 8th day of Wealsun, the band and their allies paid Otus Hilltopper the money they owed him, even giving him a little extra for his troubles, and said their good-byes. Then everyone else was teleported to Nero’s tower just north of Greyhawk. Their first objective upon their return to Greyhawk was to take inventory and deal with any pressing issues that needed to be dealt with as a result of their adventures in White Plume Mountain. For example, Ael and Alavarius had become aware that Nero, Kieranen and Nix had all gained a significant increase in their appetite. But when asked about it they all claimed to feel fine and told the others not to worry about it. But Ael and Alavarius soon realized that each of them had some kind of fatal disease.

So Ael did some experimenting with the fungus samples he had collected in Mossmutter’s lair and eventually discovered a substance that would cure any kind of spore infection if inhaled. He then blew some of this substance into the faces of those who were infected and it appeared to have cured the disease.

It was also discovered that the periapt of health, which had been worn by Nero, was cursed. So it required a few spells to remove it. The amulet of proof versus detection and location, worn by Book, was also determined to be cursed. But it, fortunately, did not require any spells to remove.

Nix and Kuhleferan then asked if they could scry upon Marty the meenlock, as they held out some hope that he might have escaped the volcano. As it turned out, he had escaped and they were eventually able to bring him to Greyhawk as well. Marty had also taken the dragon’s heart with him when he fled the volcano. So this was one item that the group was able to recover from those that had been left behind.

When all of the magic items were positively identified, those items and all of the monetary items were then divided up among the band, including Alavarius, who still had not been officially invited to join the band, though by now he was being accepted as a member of the band. Before dividing up the treasure however, Wilde asked the band if he could take Blackrazor as his own, knowing full well that no one in the band would use the evil sword, and promising to take it with him into the underdark and use it against his enemies there. Considering the fact that Wilde had been so helpful in aiding them and the fact that he kept his word and never betrayed them, most members of the band voted to allow Wilde to have the sword. Only Nicholas and Ael voted against it.

Once all of the treasure was divided, the temptation to play with the Deck of Destinies reared its ugly head once again, and because of it, some members of the band were rewarded while others lived to regret it. Ael drew the Djinni card and was granted a wish. Dravos drew the Giant Crab card and grew to a height of about ten feet. As a result his strength greatly increased, but for some time afterwards his newly increased size made him a bit awkward and clumsy. Book drew the Hammer card, making his fists, and therefore his punches a good deal more punishing. Nero drew the Ice Sword card, which granted him the spell-like ability of casting chill touch once per day. Nicholas drew the Ogre card, which increased his strength considerably, but also made him a great deal less charismatic. Alavarius drew the Trident card, which granted him the ability to breathe under water, swim like a fish, and make friends with all natural marine creatures. Kieranen, who had warned his companions numerous times about drawing cards from the Deck of Destinies, then finally give in to the peer pressure. Claiming he always had bad luck with such things and fearing that the card he drew would be the death of him, he was the last to draw a card. And as it turned out, he drew the worst card in the entire deck – the Withered Hand, which suddenly aged him to within minutes of his death! Only the hurried consumption of a few potions of longevity managed to save his life!

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 20

It was on the morning of Waterday, the 5th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, when the Righteous Vanguard defeated the False Keraptis known as Mossmutter. But the band’s victory came at a heavy price, as two of their own, Kieranen and Dravos, had also fallen in the battle, as did the vast majority of their allies, the Resistance. When the battle was finally over and the dust began to settle, those who were able to tended to the injuries of those who were wounded.

As this was taking place, Nix approached the body of Dravos and the sword Frostrazor, which lay nearby. But as he did so, he was given a stern warning from Nero not to touch the powerful sword; for fear that the efreeti might then, voluntarily or involuntarily, turn against them. Nix was quick to point out that the same could be said for anyone else who might decide to handle any of the four powerful weapons found in the mountain. So it was agreed that Nero, for the time being, would open his portable hole again and as suspicious eyes closely watched one another, Nero kicked the sword and the hammer Whelm into the hole. With all four weapons now secured beyond anyone’s immediate reach, their attention turned to those who had fallen in the battle and their bodies were carried or dragged towards the center of the cavern. Here the clerics were able to heal more of their injuries by channeling positive energy through all of those gathered around, and their enemies were searched for any magic items that might be found on them.

Soon, those members of the band who survived the battle began to talk of retreating back to Greyhawk where they could have Kieranen and Dravos resurrected before going any further in their efforts to summon back the true Keraptis. But Nero’s thoughts began to drift as he pondered over the mystery of who it was that he had sensed spying on them a short while before during the midst of the battle and he mentioned the fact that Nightfear was still out there somewhere waiting for a good opportunity to pounce on them.

Then, as if on cue, they heard the sound of a familiar voice coming from the southern end of the cavern. It was Nightfear himself, announcing that the time had finally come for him to exact his revenge upon the band. The band turned to look but all they could see was a line of six huge ogres as they quickly moved towards them. Some members of the band were quicker however, including Nero who launched a forceball at the ogres, killing some of them and severely wounding the others. Book then, with a fly spell still active, turned invisible and flew over in the direction of the ogres and saw that Nightfear, who was also invisible, was just beyond the ogres and was accompanied by two more invisible beings.

To the left of Nightfear, was the fungus-covered gnome that the band had met tending to the fungus garden in Spatterdock’s territory. And to the right of Nightfear was a werewolf, which Book realized had to be the werewolf Scarla that the band had set free just a few days before. Nightfear then cast a confusion spell at the group which affected several of them, while at the same time a magical sphere of protection appeared around him and he became visible.

Ael, now under the influence of the confusion spell, suddenly turned and threw several of his frost bombs at Nix who was standing nearby and severely wounded him. But Wilde, who had managed avoid the effects of the confusion spell, quickly moved in the direction of Nightfear while trying to use a patch of mushrooms for cover. The fungus-covered gnome standing next to Nightfear, then cried out in anger that the band had killed his brother, Saprophis, who was apparently the gnome that had been wielding Frostrazor. He obviously saw Wilde moving towards them and launched a couple of magic missiles at him, which did little harm to the drow compared to what the band had been facing just a short while before. Snarla, the werewolf, then cast a stinking cloud spell at the band, which, fortunately for the band, caused those who were confused to turn against her, including Nix who began to move towards her. Nero then cast another forceball, killing the rest of the ogres, after which, Book launched a chain lightning spell from a scroll. This killed the fungus-covered gnome wizard and severely wounded Nightfear and Scarla. It also caused Nightfear to turn his attention to Book, who was then polymorphed into a newt. Following this, Nicholas took down Scarla with a couple of well-aimed arrows, leaving Nightfear standing alone by himself. But even this did not last much longer, as Wilde struck him with a lucky shot from his crossbow. And even luckier was the fact that Nightfear suddenly became paralyzed by the drow’s poison and fell to the ground, where Wilde was then able to move in and finish him off.

With the short battle now over, Nero was able to dispel the magic on Book and return him to his normal self. Then between the two of them, they were able to dispel the effects of the confusion spell. Finally, it appeared as if all their enemies had been dealt with and the band once again attended to injuries and gathered any magic items on those they had slain.

With this done, the surviving members of the Righteous Vanguard, along with Wilde and the surviving members of the Resistance, which now consisted of only Nix, Kuhleferan and Marty the meenlock, discussed their options and eventually agreed that they would all now retreat to the cave known as Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket. It took a few hours to make the walk but otherwise they encountered no difficulties and arrived back at the cave in the early afternoon. Once there, they updated Otus, Sonda and Echab on everything that had happened since early that morning, and spent the remainder of the day examining some of the things they had recovered from the mountain while discussing how they would proceed from this point.

A divination spell cast by Alavarius indicated that it probably would not be necessary to spend a great deal of money on resurrecting Kieranen and Dravos. Despite the fact that it would leave Kieranen in a much weaker state, a simple raise dead spell would probably be sufficient. So the following morning, on Earthday, the 6th day of Wealsun, only a few members of the band teleported back to Greyhawk to retrieve the required spell components. Then, upon their return, Alavarius raised both Kieranen and Dravos from the dead. The remainder of the day was then spent resting and discussing plans for what they hoped to be their final venture inside the mountain.

Alavarius also cast a series of divination spells, seeking advice on what to do from here on. Nix had told the band that they would have to return to the Druid’s Fane to bring back Keraptis and that the entrance to the Fane was in the room with the large hole in floor that they had seen previously. From the divination spells they then learned that when attempting to reach the Fane they should not rely solely upon magic nor solely upon technology but should instead use that which was already there. They also were given the cryptic advice, that in their dealings with Keraptis, they should “Protect the Innocent”. And in their dealings with the Leviathan, they should “Run like Hell”.

So the following morning, on Freeday, the 7th day of Wealsun, the band and their allies returned to White Plume Mountain, this time choosing to save all their magic in case it was needed, and walk back inside. A few hours later, they arrived at the chamber which led to the Druid’s Fane, having encountered no problems along the way.

Here, after some debate and some initial testing, it was decided that they would use the iron cable that was in the adjoining room, and have Dravos and Nicholas climb down. Sixty feet down the very smooth twenty foot diameter shaft, they encountered an area that was both magically darkened and silenced. From here Dravos was the first to enter the darkness and he was quite alarmed when he felt a blade swing out over his head and strike the cable on which he was suspended. But it apparently did no harm to the cable, though it likely would have cut through a rope. So Nicholas followed Dravos down into the darkness. After thirty more feet, the darkness and silence came to an end but the shaft suddenly widened out to sixty feet, giving them no surface on which to set their feet. They also saw at this point that they were now suspended sixty feet over a huge pool of bubbling magma. One slip would almost certainly mean their deaths. And to make matters worse, shortly after entering this area, a dispel magic spell apparently went off in the area. They did however notice a ten foot ledge that surrounded the pool of magma.

With no way to communicate to their companions above, and only about ten feet of cable left dangling below them, Nicholas was left with little choice but to climb back up to where he could yell back up the shaft and describe what they saw. Kuhleferan then suggested to the band that they empty out Nero’s portable hole and let most of them climb into it. Then they could cast a dimension door spell and take everyone down to the ledge. She also cast an augury spell to see if this would be advisable.

With an affirmative answer to the augury spell and everyone in agreement with the plan, Nicholas climbed the rest of the way out, and Nero’s portable hole was emptied out. Then some members of the band climbed inside the hole along with Kuhleferan. Nix insisted on remaining outside the hole and Marty volunteered to stay behind to guard the pile of treasure that had been removed from the hole. Nicholas, then using a spell that had been cast into his ring of spell storing, cast a dimension door spell and transported everyone to the ledge at the edge of the magma pool. Dravos, who had been waiting all this time at the end of the cable and had no idea what his companions were doing, saw his companions appear below him and was told to swing out over the ledge and let go of the cable. Nero would then cast a featherfall spell on him to make sure he landed safely. It sounded a bit risky, but fortunately the plan worked without a hitch.

The band was now gathered on this ledge which surrounded a forty foot diameter pool of magma, and despite the fact that they should have practically been on fire, being so close to the magma and in such a confined space, they realized that the area was nowhere near as hot as it should have been and they came to the conclusion that the heat was being magically suppressed. But they had no idea where to go from here.

Then they spotted two palm-shaped depressions in the west wall and a short passage that read in Common: “I Keraptis, claim the protected heart beneath White Plume, the crucible of the Elder Druids known as the Fane. As long as my handprints endure, so too does my claim on the Fane, and a door between”. It appeared that someone had chipped away at these carvings, but the damage was not extensive.

Some members of the group wondered if they should also try to chip away at the carvings. But Nix pointed out that to do so might damage the “door between” and make it impossible to summon the true Keraptis. He suspected that the damage was done by those who did not want Keraptis to return. The alternative seemed to have someone place their hands in the palm prints. So the band drew lots to decide who would place their hands in the palm prints and Nero was selected. He then put his hands in the palm prints and when he did, a filmy forcebubble suddenly appeared and engulfed the entire lower portion of the shaft, including everyone in it. Then it began to shrink until it reached a diameter of about twenty feet, at which point, the bubble and all those in it plunged into the pool of magma. But like the area at the bottom of the shaft, the air inside the bubble stayed relatively cool as it traveled through the sea of magma, until, after a length of about 30 seconds or so, it emerged in a vast crystal sphere where it disappeared and deposited all those within it.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 19

On the morning of Waterday, the 5th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, about two minutes after entering the northern section of the huge cavern that was the lair of the False Keraptis known as Mossmutter, the Righteous Vanguard was suddenly ambushed by three dozen skin puppets which had been hidden and laying in waiting for the band to make its entrance. About one minute later, the band, for the most part, had managed to survive the initial onslaught of spells which rained down upon them with devastating effect, and with the timely aid of the efreeti Nix and the Resistance, even managed to turn the tide of the battle, eventually destroying all thirty-six skin puppets in the process. But despite the band’s heroic efforts, they had done little harm if any to Mossmutter himself, and many members of the band were in dire predicaments while most of their allies, the Resistance, were either dead or dying.

To make matters worse, the band could not even be certain which of the creatures they faced was Mossmutter. At first they assumed that the gnome in plate armor and wielding Frostrazor was their main nemesis. But gradually they began to suspect that the 50’ tower, around which the phosphorescent mists swirled in a visible maelstrom, and which resembled a gargantuan mold worm standing vertical on one end, might actually be Mossmutter. One thing was certain though – for better or for worse, they would soon learn the answer to this mystery.

With the situation at this point looking very grim for the Righteous Vanguard, the band did what they could to try and increase their chances of surviving and despite what may have appeared to be insurmountable odds against them, they held on to some measure of hope and gradually turned the tide of the battle in their favor.

Nero started off by grabbing Ael, Alavarius and Wilde, each of which had been caught in a black tentacles spell for nearly the entire battle up to this point, and transported them to a nearby location via a dimension door spell. Ael and Alavarius were still feeling the effects of a confusion spell. But it had occurred to Dravos that, with perhaps a sprinkling of divine luck to assist him, he might be able to cast a calm emotion spell that would counter the effects of the confusion spell. His idea worked and soon the band had three more members back in the battle. Meanwhile, Dravos also cast a spell that stabilized Nix, who was still caught in the mouth of a dead mold worm, and kept the efreeti from bleeding to death. Then Ael cast a heal spell on Book and cured him from the effects of his rebounded feeblemind spell.

While this was going on, Nero, whose detect scrying spell was still active, suddenly realized that he was being magically observed by some unknown entity. This of course was cause for some concern, but in the midst of the battle there was little he could do about it.

And unfortunately, for the time being, there was nothing they could do to help Nicholas, who had been polymorphed into a wart hog and who was likewise suffering from the effects of the confusion spell. So while the band was making progress in some aspects, they were still being hampered in other ways by Mossmutter’s continued spell casting. Fortunately, it was becoming apparent that Mossmutter’s list of available spells was now beginning to run low. The first evidence of this was when he cast a web spell which caught several members of the band including those who had just escaped the black tentacles spell. He then followed that up with a cloudkill spell that threatened to move over those who were caught in the web. Fortunately, most members of the band managed to escape the webs one way or another before being overtaken by the poisonous cloud of gas.

Gradually the band and their allies moved closer and closer to the gnome that wielded Frostrazor, and which stood his ground before the giant fungus column and the two groups of skin puppets that flanked the column. This seemed to be another indication that the fungus column was actually Mossmutter. So the band’s spellcasters began to include the column in some of their area effect spells. But like the gnome, the column appeared to be highly resistant to magic, which further supported the hunch that it was Mossmutter.

As the battle wore on, it became clear that the band and their allies were somewhat hesitant to charge into the final chamber and confront the gnome in close combat, knowing full well the danger they faced. Kieranen was anxious to get back into the fray, but knew he needed healing first or he would not last long. So the healers in the group did all they could to heal up their allies and even managed to revive Nix so he could return to the battle.

Finally, when it appeared that the group was about ready to make their final assault on Mossmutter and his followers, Hammond and Marthy of the Resistance led the charge. But they did little harm to the gnome before he cut them both down with Frostrazor. Then Mossmutter cast a reverse gravity spell, which caught Kieranen, Wilde, Kuhleferan and the sole remaining gnome of the Resistance, and suspended them 40 feet in the air where they were left helpless. He then blasted them with a prismatic spray, causing damage to all except the gnome which had apparently been thrown into another plane of existence. In desperation, Wilde produced a sphere of darkness around those who were suspended in midair to try and prevent them from being the targets of further attacks. Then, one by one each of them found some means to remove themselves from the area of the reverse gravity spell and fall to the ground.

Meanwhile, the spellcasters of the group continued to throw their spells at Mossmutter, which they now felt certain was the giant fungus column, and the gnome with Frostrazor, but had little effect on them due to their high spell resistance and the gnome’s ability to turn spells. They did however manage to destroy the skin puppets with a flamestrike from Alavarius and a cone of force from Nero.

Book also managed to get Nicholas back into the battle, by casting a remove curse spell on him from a scroll, which dispelled the polymorph spell, and by this point, the confusion spell had run its course and had come to an end.

With the group now coming together once again to make one more assault on Mossmutter, they were then struck by Mossmutter’s last two spells. The first was a dispel magic spell, which had minimal effect on the group as most of them had little or no magic going for them at the time. The last spell was a slow spell, which only affected a couple members of the group. The slow spell was then countered by a haste spell and other beneficial spells that the band cast upon themselves.

While Nicholas stayed back and shot arrows from his bow, Ael sent another swarm of insects at Mossmutter, the spellcasters continued doing what they could and Dravos moved in to take on the gnome. Dravos’ first encounter with the gnome nearly met with disaster as he was nearly killed and was then forced to play dead and heal himself when the gnome was otherwise distracted. Dravos then managed to retreat and better prepare himself for another assault.

Nero, meanwhile, opened up his portable hole and retrieved the hammer Whelm, which he then gave to Kieranen, whose magic weapons were still hampered by the mage’s disjunction spell that had gone off at the beginning of the battle.

Dravos was now ready to take on the gnome once again, but this time using a different tactic. Taking advantage of a true strike spell cast upon himself, he ran up to the gnome and wrestled the sword Frostrazor from his grasp. The gnome, suddenly finding himself without a weapon, then tripped Dravos and knocked him to the ground. Mossmutter, who was indeed the 50 foot fungus column as the band had suspected, or to be more precise, a gargantuan mold worm, had come to life and now tried to swallow Dravos with its gigantic maw. But thanks to a wall of force put in place by Alavarius, the giant mold worm was unable to reach him.

The gnome, which had previously been wielding Frostrazor, was then attacked by Ael’s insect swarm and knocked unconscious, leaving Marty the meanlock the opportunity to dimension door behind the fallen gnome and deliver the coup de grace. Then despite his serious injuries, Dravos moved around the wall of force to take on Mossmutter. This proved to be the demise of Dravos, for Mossmutter then quickly killed Dravos as Frostrazor fell from his hands. Kieranen then stepped up to Mossmutter and attacked him with the hammer Whelm. But, like Dravos before him, Kieranen was also killed for the second time in the same battle.

By this time however, Mossmutter was badly wounded, and it was at this point that Nero finally managed to cast a spell that got past the giant mold worm’s spell resistance. With a ball of force aimed at Mossmutter’s head, Nero killed the creature with a spectacular explosion and what remained of its dead body then fell to the ground next to the band’s two fallen companions.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 18

In the morning of Waterday, the 5th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, approximately seven minutes after entering the cavernous lair of Mossmutter, and casting a few preparatory spells on themselves, the Righteous Vanguard approached the northern end of the cavern where it began to narrow from a width of about three hundred feet to an opening of about eighty feet. Beyond this opening, it widened out again into a grouping of large alcoves ranging from about forty feet to about eighty feet in diameter. As the rest of the cavern before it, this area was also forested with giant mushrooms, toadstools and various other forms of fungi and lichen, with the largest specimens lining the perimeter of the cave, while the floor was carpeted with a thick layer of moss. Much of the details however were obscured by the familiar green phosphorescent mist that floated through the area. Now more cautious than ever, the band made their way into the narrow portion of the cavern, keeping an eye out for vampire moss, phycomids, traps and other obvious dangers, while at the same time expecting, at any moment, to come face to face with groups of skin puppets, which the band reasoned Mossmutter would have a large number of waiting to waylay them.

As they made their way further in, several members of the band spotted more phycomids off to the left of them, preparing to launch more of their acidic spores at the band. But Ael tossed a couple of bombs in the direction of the offending fungi and quickly eliminated any threat from them. Then the group continued their cautious advance into the northern sections of the cave with a few of them invisible.

After another forty feet or so, just as some members of the band had feared, dozens of skin puppets in groups of three suddenly sprang up from under the moss or from behind the giant toadstools at the perimeter of the cavern. They had all clearly been arranged and spread out around the entire cave to lessen the effectiveness of the band’s large area of effect spells and well hidden in their efforts to ambush the band. There were thirty-six in all, which meant that Mossmutter would be able to launch up to a dozen spells at them practically at the same time. It was obvious that Mossmutter had some idea of what to expect from the band and how powerful they were, but these were odds that even the Righteous Vanguard had little chance of standing up against.

So Nicholas’s first action was to use his spell resistance ability, while Nero tried to increase the band’s chances of survival by creating a wall of force and cutting off about half of the cave and thus about half of the skin puppets. Other members of the group followed suit with various defensive measures. But soon the band was being bombarded with devastating spells and their defensive measures appeared to be too little too late.

First, the band was struck with a horrid wilting spell, which badly injured some members of the group while it nearly killed others. Only Nero, who was flying well above the area, managed to avoid being struck by this. But then he was suddenly hit by a power word stun spell and he was effectively taken out of the battle for more than half a minute, which is a very long time in the course of such a deadly battle. Before being stunned however, Nero told Kieranen through a message spell about the wall of force he put up, and Kieranen informed his companions. In the process however, it seems that Kieranen may have inadvertently warned Mossmutter about the wall of force as well. For the band was then struck by a mage’s disjunction spell, which, not only eliminated all of the spells currently active on the band and suppressed the magic of many of their magic items, but, unknown to the band, also took down the wall of force. This in turn, made them more susceptible to the spells that soon followed, which included, just to name a few, a hold spell, a black tentacles spell and a confusion spell, each of which effected several members of the group. Some members were affected by two or three of these spells.

Almost as soon as the battle began it seemed certain that the Righteous Vanguard was doomed. But unknown to them, it appeared that the band had been closely shadowed by an unexpected ally who saw the terrible predicament that the band was in and immediately came to their aid. This ally was in fact the Resistance, led by the efreeti Nix. Nix began blasting the distant skin puppets with rays of fire, while the rest of the band moved into position to take down the nearer ones. Kuhlefaran, the cleric of Boccob meanwhile, moved up and began channeling positive energy to heal the group’s injuries.

Book, realizing their desperate situation, took a chance and cast a time stop spell from a scroll to try and better prepare himself. Still unaware that the first wall of force had been taken down, a second wall of force was then created cutting off even more of the skin puppets, while a swarm of insects, which had been summoned by Ael before falling victim to the confusion spell, managed to slowly eat away at them. Despite the barrier, the skin puppets on the far side of the wall were able to create an ice storm over the band. But many of them were quickly destroyed by Book as he flew up and tossed a fireball over the wall.

Meanwhile, back on the band’s side of the wall, Nero’s familiar Raaze also launched her fireball and destroyed several skin puppets. And Kieranen managed to escape the black tentacles and headed towards another group of skin puppets, which resorted to fighting in hand to hand combat. When they surrounded him, he took a defensive stance and killed several skin puppets before he fell victim to a finger of death spell and was killed. Alavarius did what he could to heal those around him. But like Ael, Dravos and Wilde, he was hampered by the black tentacles spell that was slowly strangling the life out of them. Nicholas too had been caught in the black tentacles for a short while. But he was then polymorphed into a wart hog and soon after managed to escape the black tentacles. Still in the form of a wart hog, he charged at the skin puppets and was able to kill a couple of them, while Dravos eventually escaped the black tentacles with the aid of his lucky boots.

By this point, thanks in no small part to the timely aid of the Resistance, the band had managed to avoid certain defeat, and the last of the three dozen skin puppets were quickly dropping. But the battle was far from over and many of them were still in danger. Garcon, the ogre from the Resistance led the charge into the far northern section of the cave, followed by the humans, Marthy and Hammond, and the five, slower moving gnomes who moved in behind. Kuhlefaran, meanwhile, saw that Kieranen was dead; so she hurried over to him and pulled out a scroll with a raise dead spell on it. But it was at about this time that Garcon got a good look into the last of cavern’s chambers and saw what awaited them there.

Like the adjacent vault, this cavernous antechamber was flush with unrestrained fungal growth. Here, however, the phosphorescent mists swirled in a visible maelstrom centered upon a 50-foot tower in the center of the chamber. Nearby, a large gnome in full plate armor stood waving about what appeared to be a long crystal staff, while two enormous mold worms began taking shape behind him.

As Nix moved up to get a good look at the chamber, two more groups of three skin puppets stepped out from behind giant toadstools and put up magical spheres around themselves. So Nix threw up a wall of fire, which caught the two mold worms and the large gnome as they slowly advanced towards them. The mold worms and the gnome then continued on through the wall of fire, taking damage as they went. Garcon then charged the gnome and was quickly killed for his efforts, as the gnome wielded the crystal staff like a large two-handed sword in the hands of an expert swordsman. It was then that everyone realized that what they thought was a staff, was actually the sword Frostrazer.

Suddenly a cone of cold spell was cast and most of the wall of fire was put out. Then a chain lightning spell went off, killing all but one of the gnomes, taking down Hammond and badly wounding Marthy, Kuhlefaran and the fifth gnome. Despite the severe injury, Kuhlefaran was able to cast the raise dead spell on Kieranen and bring him back to life, though he still needed to be healed some more before he could return to the battle.

It was at about this point that Book cast a feeblemind spell at the gnome, which bounced back upon Book and took him out of the battle, while the gnome retreated back into the antechamber. But then Nero finally recovered and got back into the fight. He cast one of his toppling cones of force at the gnome and the two mold worms. But the gnome remained unaffected due to his spell resistance and the mold worms could not be knocked over.

The mold worms then advanced even further and breathed clouds of greenish-grey gas, or to be more precise, mold spores, catching a number of people in the clouds and causing them to be sickened, including Book, Nix, Kieranen, Marty the meanlock and the only surviving gnome. Several of these people then pounced on one of the mold worms, which turned on Kieranen and almost took him down once again. But the mold worm was then killed.

Nix meanwhile took on the other mold worm, which by now was badly wounded. It managed to grab on to Nix and was on the verge of swallowing him, when the heat from Nix’s body killed it. It appeared at that point, as if Nix would survive despite being badly wounded. But as he was half caught in the mouth of the burning mold worm, the skin puppets in the antechamber launched a series of magic missiles at him which took him under, though it did not quite kill him.

Nero meanwhile retreated back to the area where Ael, Alavarius and Wilde were still caught in the black tentacles to try and free them so they could return to the battle. By now, it had been nearly a full minute since the battle began and Ael, Alavarius and Wilde had been trapped in the tentacles for nearly the entire time.

At this point, despite the timely aid from the Resistance, whose members many of which were now dead, the situation for the Righteous Vanguard looked very grim. Several members of the band were effectively rendered useless or even worse by a number of spells, while many of their magic items were likewise temporarily transformed into relatively worthless bits of junk by the mage’s disjunction. And while it appeared that Mossmutter had lost the vast majority of his skin puppets and had burned through most of his spells, it also appeared that the band had done little if any actual harm to Mossmutter himself and there was no telling what other dangers might be awaiting them.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 17

It was about ten in the morning of Godsday, the 4th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, when the Righteous Vanguard left White Plume Mountain for the second time, after having spent the previous forty-one hours inside the mountain, battling the False Kerapti that infested it. At this point, it was their intention to return to Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket where they could rest up for what they hoped to be the final assault upon their enemy’s forces.

But Nero, to put it mildly, was not in favor of allowing the two drow, who now accompanied them, to return with them back to their only hideout outside the mountain, and he took the opportunity at this time to voice his opinion. The drow Wilde, as one might expect, did not appear to be pleased by Nero’s objection. But he apparently realized that it would do him no good to argue with Nero, and seemed to begrudgingly accept the fact that he and the mindless Camille would be left to fend for themselves overnight. Fortunately for the two drow however, Kieranen took up the argument for them, telling Nero that they could blind-fold the two drow on the way there so that the location of their hideout would remain unknown to them. The elf’s reasoning for this did not appear to be out of some misguided trust towards the two beings who were traditionally his ancient enemies, but rather to keep a closer eye on them in the hopes that it might prevent their being turned against them somehow. After some debate, Nero finally relented to Kieranen’s suggestion and the two drow were blind-folded.

Because of this, the group’s descent back to Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket took a bit longer than it would have otherwise, for the two drow had to be guided the entire way. But it made little difference, as there were no other difficulties along the way, and it was decided that the group would be spending more than enough time at the cave resting up.

Once the group arrived at Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket, shortly after noon, and saw that everything there was as well as they could have hoped for, they had to explain to Otus, Echab and Sonda about the changes in the group’s personnel. Kieranen broke the news to Sonda about the death of Gildor and she, of course, took the news rather hard, insisting on being left alone for a time afterwards. Kieranen gave her Gildor’s holy symbol so she could have something to remember him by. Then the group explained about the additions, temporarily at least, of Alavarius, Wilde and Camille to their numbers.

With the approval of Wilde, they asked Otus, Echab and Sonda to keep an eye on Camille who they intended to leave at the cave when they returned to the mountain the following day. Then the two drow moved to the back of the cave where they stayed for the remainder of the day.

Time was spent tending to personal matters, such as the cleaning and sharpening of equipment and weapons, and a good evening meal was prepared for all. While eating their dinner they discussed plans for their return to the mountain, and Nero, once again, ate twice his normal amount. But when asked about his unusually large appetite, Nero shrugged it off, insisting that he felt just fine. Later on, as the band was relaxing, Dravos discovered that if he touched any patch of dirt or other fertile surface with his slim-covered hand or arm a one-foot-diameter ring of mushrooms would spring up in about ten minutes. Nothing happened however if he touched another living being.

That evening, Wilde addressed the group and told them that he realized there was a certain amount of distrust towards him and Camille and that he understood why and accepted it for what it was. But he offered to make a pact with the band not to betray them for as long as it took to end the threat of the False Kerapti; and when it was all over, he made a promise to the band that he and Camille would walk away in peace if they would do the same for him. All the members of the band agreed to accept these terms as long as the drow kept his word.

That night, Otus, Echab and Sonda stayed on watch the entire night so that the Righteous Vanguard could enjoy a full night of uninterrupted rest. Unfortunately, this was not to be. At some point in the middle of the night, Otus suddenly let out a scream, waking everyone up. They then saw that the undead creature that had killed the gnome Ethan had appeared and was now attacking Otus. Nero wisely cast the dimensional anchor spell from his ring at the creature so that it could not escape, and the rest of the band destroyed the creature entirely with spells. With this done, the remainder of the night passed without further disturbance.

On the following morning, Waterday, the 5th day of Wealsun, the Righteous Vanguard made their preparations, and by ten o’clock had returned to the Wizard’s Mouth just outside the tunnels leading into White Plume Mountain. From there, Book and Dravos used their spell-like dimension-door abilities to transport the entire group back to the scriptorium on the Indoctrination Level. Unfortunately, the scriptorium just happened to be occupied at the time by four fungus hulks. The band, however, was able to defeat the plant-like humanoids without too much difficulty. Afterwards, the band made their way to where they expected to find the southern entrance to Mossmutter’s lair, according to Wilde’s directions.

There, just as they had at the northern entrance on the previous day, they found four more fungus hulks guarding a chamber, where a huge rounded boulder appeared to be blocking the access to a tunnel. Nero took all four of the fungus hulks out with a single mass-damage spell and the band moved into the chamber. Kieranen and Nicholas then combined their strength and were able to roll the massive boulder out of the way to reveal the expected tunnel that lay beyond. The band then took the time to prepare for battle by casting numerous spells upon themselves.

When they felt they were ready, the band entered the tunnel, which stretched for some eighty feet until it opened up into an enormous natural cavern. Before them stretched an eerily beautiful landscape, colorful enough to rival the finest flower gardens on the surface. Gigantic mushrooms, small polyps, toadstools, puffballs, molds, fungi, and lichens of every shade ran riot. Green phosphorescent mists floated over and through this strange garden, obscuring what lay beyond and above. Bioluminescent caps on towering toadstools provided additional light, bathing the garden in a cool, blue-green glow. The odor, a combination of citrus, baking bread, and pure rot, drowned out every other competing smell.

Nero, with a fly spell on himself and utilizing a ring of invisibility, scouted out ahead of the group, making sure to stay near the ceiling of the cavern some fifty feet above. In the distance, about a hundred and fifty feet away, they spotted a giant slug dinning on a patch of mushrooms – but this appeared to be the only creature in sight. So the band cautiously entered the cavern making sure to keep a close eye on their surroundings. But almost as soon as they entered the cavern, all except Nero began to feel a strange prickling sensation coursing through their bodies. The band immediately retreated into the tunnel and the prickling sensation quickly passed. It was then that Alavarius noticed a small patch of pale green moss near the entrance to the cavern that he recognized as vampire moss. According to what he had recently read about this rare variety of moss was that it could slowly drain the life-force out of any warm-blooded creature that passed within thirty feet of it. So the band headed back into the cavern, but this time making sure they kept their distance from the vampire moss.

As a result, the band was forced to stay near the western edge of the cavern where the various forms of fungi grew the tallest. This meant they had to pick their way through a forest of mushrooms and toadstools, while keeping an eye out for more patches of vampire moss. Along the way they encountered clusters of phycomids, which shot their acidic spores at the band, and forced the band to destroy them with spells that the band was trying to remain conservative with. One such cluster lay just beyond two patches of vampire moss that the band was trying to move in-between, and not far away from the giant slug. Nero blasted the cluster of phycomids from above with a cone of force and accidentally stirred up a cloud of dust and spores in the process, causing his nearby companions to cover their faces to avoid inhaling the stuff. Fortunately, only Wilde seemed to be affected by the cloud of dust, as he fell into fit of coughing.

However, the disturbance also appeared to have upset the nearby giant slug, which then moved as though it was preparing to attack the band. The band was quicker though, and launched several attacks at it from a distance before it could strike, including a searing light spell cast by Alavarius which caused a great deal of harm to it. When the slug did finally attack back, it shot a giant blob of acidic spittle at Alavarius. Fortunately, Alavarius was partially protected from acid by a magic ring that he wore.

The giant slug did not get another chance to attack, as it was soon killed after that. Now with the giant slug dead, the band was free to move through the center of the cavern, which they could see was almost three hundred feet wide at this point and more than three hundred feet long, though they still could not see its northern end. Off to the eastern side of the cavern, they could see glimpses of a pool of water partially hidden in a forest of toadstools. In a few other places around the cavern, there appeared to be openings for smaller caves or tunnels. But the band decided to continue heading north instead, where there was still much more of the cavern to be seen.

As before, the band was forced to stay clear of a patch of vampire moss that lay to the east. But gradually they drew closer to a section of the cavern where it began to narrow, though there still appeared to be much more that awaited beyond, dimly visible through the green obscuring mist that lay ahead of them.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 16

It was early in the morning of Godsday, the 4th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, shortly after their second defeat of Killjoy and the elimination of the remainder of his forces, when the Righteous Vanguard resumed their investigation of the Indoctrination Level of White Plume Mountain. After considering Wilde’s description of what remained to be seen of the level, the band decided to take a look at the area north of the labs, where, according to Wilde, each of the False Kerapti had an inexplicably uncomfortable feeling about. Wilde could not tell the band why, for indeed not even the False Kerapti appeared to know why they seemed to exhibit a certain dread for that particular area. But the band was curious about this fact and wanted to see if they could learn something useful by examining the area.

So they came back through the lab area and headed north through the last of the uniformly carved passageways until they came upon a door on the west wall. This door was unusual in that it was apparently made of solid but rusty iron. A detect magic spell showed that there was some kind of evocation magic coming from the door. But they did not want to expend a lot of spells in an attempt to remove the magic. So Alavarius cast a clairvoyance spell and took a look beyond the door. All he could see was a relatively small room, lined on all sides by sheets of rusted iron, in the center of which sat an iron cauldron with an iron lid on top. To the band, this did not appear to be anything of great importance. So they decided to leave it behind and move on down the passageway.

As they continued towards the north, they began to smell the odor of rotting flesh coming from the chamber just ahead. About 60 feet further on they came to a doorway where the iron doors lay on the floor of the chamber, warped, buckled, and nearly rusted through. Lying within the forty foot by forty foot, iron-lined room was a scene of terrible carnage. Bodies of gnomes, both long dead and freshly slain, lay intermingled with corpses of beings that seemed to have more in common with toadstools and other fungal oddities than with humans. Another detect magic spell revealed a magic earring worn by one of the bodies. But anything else of possible value that lay among the corpses was ignored by the band as they were drawn to the far side of the room where two more rusted iron doors had been smashed in and lay on the floor of the adjacent room.

Gazing into this forty foot by sixty foot iron-lined chamber, covered on all surfaces by red rust, the band saw that it’s only other feature was a large, round, dark opening in the center of the floor. Torrid heat could be seen rising from the hole in waves as the entire area was very hot. And on the far side of the chamber lay two more smashed in doors leading to yet another very similar room.

The band took a few minutes to examine the hole in the floor, but could see nothing but darkness inside. So they moved on to the next chamber, which looked much like the previous two except that it had a large hole in the wall and the metal sheathing of the northeast corner of the room. Here also was a complex iron mechanism of some kind which had been bolted to the floor. It supported a massive wheel with thick cable wound around it and lying on the floor around it were rusted cogs, gears, chains, and pieces of cable. It appeared as if the mechanism was some kind of device meant to raise and lower something out of and into the hole in the floor in the nearby chamber. But beyond that, the band could not determine much more, except for the fact that, for some reason, this area had seen more than one battle in apparent attempts to take and maintain control of it. For now however, it seemed that all had given up on the idea of holding the area, for it was currently unoccupied.

From here, the band decided to investigate the hole in the wall, which led to another lava tube lined with fungus, some of which gave off a faint glow. They followed this passageway and came to a natural cavern guarded by four fungus hulks. In the northeastern corner of this cave, a large rounded boulder blocked a passageway, which according to Wilde, led into Mossmutter’s lair. Another passageway led off to the south. The band fought and defeated the fungus hulks fairly easily. But rather than enter Mossmutter’s lair, they headed off to the south, for they did not feel they were ready yet to face Mossmutter.

The southern passage led to another cave where they found some kind of large fungal egg mass. Unsure of whether or not to go anywhere near this thing, Book put up a wall of force that would cover them and allow them to move through the cave on to the next passageway without being exposed to the mass. This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision because, as they were passing through the cave, the egg mass exploded and covered the far side of the wall of force. Had the wall not been there it would have covered the band instead.

From this cave the band followed another fungus-lined lava tube that continued south until it came to another natural cave. Here, there appeared to be several places where the fungus may have covered up any number of useful bits of information or items of value. So the band took some time to look around to see what they could find. While doing so, Kieranen spotted some graffiti on the wall that read in Common, “The Leviathan, born of the arcanowaste Keraptis left behind, swims the molten seas at the center”. At the time, the band had little idea what, if anything, this could mean – but it could possibly have been an important clue. In that same cavern, Ael also found two half-rotted fungus hulk shells that appeared to have been bitten into by a mouth the size of a dragon’s. Again, this did not mean much to the band at the time. But it could be a sign of a danger that the band had yet to face. And as it turned out, it would not be long before the band encountered a creature capable of causing such a wound.

Adjacent to the fungus-lined cave was another large chamber that was once a part of the lab area. But like many rooms in that area, much of its walls and ceiling had collapsed and there appeared to be nothing of value to be found there. This left two tunnels leading from the cave for the band to explore, one heading off to the northwest and the other heading off to the southeast. They chose to investigate the northwest passageway first, which gradually began to descend. In fact, as Nicholas continued to map the area, they noted that the natural passageway through which they traveled actually went under the carved passageway that they had passed through just a short while before. This tunnel went on for some ways until it finally opened up into a large cavern lined with patches of fungus that emitted a faint blue phosphorescence. Lying on the floor were the slowly decomposing corpses of nearly two dozen humanoids, most of which were gnomes but also included at least two cavefishers, a duergar and a kuo-toa.

It was not at all clear what had killed these humanoids. But as the band was examining the bodies, and as they located a magical battleaxe and a suit of chainmail, several of them began to feel faint. Realizing that something was very wrong, they all immediately retreated from the cavern until they could breathe easier. Kieranen, who wore a necklace of adaptation, was the only one who remained unaffected and the band came to the conclusion that, for some reason, there was no breathable air in the cavern. So they decided to try an experiment and have only Kieranen and Dravos go back to the cavern. But a short ways into the cave, Dravos suddenly passed out. Kieranen brought him back to the others, where he soon revived. Then Kieranen returned to the cave by himself.

There, he was able to move through the cave and on into another nearby cave, where he discovered the bodies of four more duergar that had recently died. One by one, Kieranen brought the bodies of the four duergar back to his companions, who then examined them and found several magic weapons, shields and suits of armor on them. They also found several coins, gems and a bone scroll tube. Inside the scroll tube was a letter, written in Common, that read, “Greetings to the noble wizard Keraptis! A devout priest of Laduguer seeks your aid in a pressing matter and is willing to reward you handsomely for your indispensible attention. If you wish to learn more, send an envoy back to me; my duergar escorts will show the way.” It was signed, “Naentoth of Selvandel’s Colony”. Most of this meant little to the band except that it was obviously another example of the potential spread of Keraptis beyond White Plume Mountain – that and the fact that the caves to the northwest were quite literally a dead end.

So the band returned to the previous cavern and took the passageway that led to the southeast. This passageway eventually connected to the area where they had earlier battled both the forces of Killjoy and Mossmutter. But another passageway led off from there to the southeast and quickly came to an intersection. Here, one passageway led to the west, while to the south there laid another fungus lined cavern. The band decided to investigate the cavern to the south.

Much of the fungus in this cavern however, appeared to be different, as it was gray and scaly and grew over the other varieties of fungus. At the center of the cave there was also a large cairn built of sharp obsidian rocks. Book decided to cast a fly spell on himself and investigate while the others waited at the edge of the cave. As Book approached the obsidian rocks at the center, the gray moss suddenly began to move and form a mound at the center of the cave. Book hastily retreated as his companions prepared for battle. The gray fungus then formed into a giant worm-like creature, which Wilde then recognized as something called a mold worm, and which used the obsidian rocks as its teeth. The band tried to battle the creature from a distance. But it suddenly lurched forward, grabbed onto Nero, despite his invisibility, and very nearly swallowed him whole. Fortunately, the band was able to kill the worm before it actually engulfed Nero completely.

After extracting himself from the remains of the mold worm though, Nero was plagued with a fit of coughing that left him incapacitated for a short while. Gradually he began to feel better, but his cough was soon replaced by an insatiable hunger. So he found himself digging into his rations as the band continued on their way.

From this cavern, the band followed another tunnel that led to yet another fungus-lined cave. Much like the cave with the graffiti in it, this cave looked as though it might contain items of interest. So the band took some time to look around. After a short bit, Dravos found a skeletal hand clutching on to a magical wand, while elsewhere the band found an unusual growth of fungus with the appearance of a mouth-less man. After some investigation, it appeared that the oddly shaped fungus was merely a bizarre coincidence – though they could not be sure of this.

Three more passageways led off from this cave. So the band decided to take the one that led to the west. It eventually connected to the west side of the Basin of Boundless Life, and as they were observing this, they were suddenly attacked by three bloodwights. The band was able to defeat them quickly enough, although Book was almost caught in one of their catastrophic blood expulsions.

From here the band followed a passageway that led to the southwest. But it soon opened up into a cavern with another large patch of gray scaly fungus and a collection of obsidian rocks at its center. Not wanting to fight another mold worm, the band decided to retreat.

At this point, the spellcasters were low on spells and it was beginning to look as if the only worthwhile place to investigate was Mossmutter’s lair. Since it was obvious that they were not prepared to face Mossmutter at this point, the band decided it was time for them to rest, and this time they would be retreating to Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket outside the mountain. They went ahead and looked inside one more cave though, which turned out to be another dead end. Then, taking advantage of their new abilities, Dravos and Book cast dimension door spells and took everyone outside the entrance to the mountain.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 15

It was about half past two in the morning of Godsday, the 4th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, when the two halves of the Righteous Vanguard got back together, following the reattachment of Dravos’ severed hand and their discovery of some of the more unusual magic items found in one of the labs. At this point, the band was about to resume their search of the remaining rooms in the lab area, when they heard a commotion coming from behind them and turned to see the drow Wilde hurrying towards them in a frantic state, bringing with him the female drow Camille who still appeared to be oblivious to everything that went on around her.

Obviously in a bit of a panic and visibly short of breath, Wilde told the band that something had just attacked the deep gnome Ethan and killed him, despite their efforts to fight the creature off. He told the band that it was the creature that they had left back in Killjoy’s holding cells and that it had appeared suddenly out of nowhere as if it had just stepped from out of the shadows. He said that their magic weapons did no harm to the creature and that he did not know why the creature did not attack him after killing the gnome. The band speculated that it may have had something to do with Killjoy, but this was only a guess at best. Still, it was quite clear that this creature represented a possible threat to them and it was in the band’s best interest to immediately investigate the matter. So they turned and headed back in the direction of the storeroom, where they had left the two drow and the deep gnome just a short while before.

Upon entering the storeroom, they found the body of the gnome lying on the floor, his magic dagger resting just beyond his extended reach. His face was frozen in a grimace of fear with his eyes wide open. A closer look revealed that he had apparently been drained by negative energy, but no sign of the creature could be found anywhere. So Alavarious cast a spell that would provide him with information about the nature of a creature’s death and with it he was able to corroborate the story told to them by Wilde.

The band then returned to Killjoy’s holding cells and again was able to confirm that the creature was no longer there, though the door to its cell still remained locked. They unlocked the door and looked inside the cell for any possible clues, at which time Nero collected a sample of the creature’s hair. He then cast a scrying spell in an attempt to locate the creature, which appeared to have been a human who died in the cell, probably due to neglect, and somehow became an undead creature of some kind. Unfortunately, Nero was unable to locate the creature, despite having a sample of the creature’s body. So the band was left with little choice but to continue on as they had been, with the disturbing realization that the creature might come after them on its own time.

Now with the possible threat of this creature stalking them, the band agreed to allow Wilde and Camille to travel with them as they resumed their search through the laboratory area. Picking up where they left off, the band investigated several more lab rooms, again some of them having been opened and looted previously, while others were still intact, were locked, and had traps on the doors. After having already lost a hand to one of these tapped doors, Dravos was even more cautious than before in inspecting the doors. Fortunately he was able to deal with all of the trapped and locked doors with the exception of one, from which he detected an aura of magic. This door took no less than four dispel magic spells from Book and Nero before they were able to remove all of the magic from it.

Inside the intact labs, they found several more magic items, including an hourglass known as the Delaying Glass, a leather gauntlet called the Gauntlet of Life, a periapt of health, a phylactery of long years and a scroll with a time stop spell on it. In addition to the lab rooms, they found a few more rooms and other areas where the ceiling had collapsed, and anything that may have been in these places was deeply buried under mounds of rock.

Eventually the band made their way back to a hallway at the end of which Dravos had earlier locked a door when they had decided to look in another direction. The band now gathered around this door and prepared to investigate whatever lay beyond. Checking the door once again, Dravos found nothing different except that this time he heard the sound of movement and urgent voices coming from beyond the door. Alavarius used his clairvoyance ability to get a look inside the chamber and saw what appeared to be a stand-off between a band of subsumed gnomes with the aid of a burning golem and what must have been a band of skin puppets, which according to Wilde were the subsumed minds under the False Keraptis known as Mossmutter.

The skin of these skin puppets resembled ill-made garments, torn and patched in numerous places, and a gray fungal goo oozed forth from cracks and gaps in the skin, where it then hardened into patches of crusty material. Hundreds of fibrous threads covered the skin puppets like too-tight bodynets, which appeared to support the creatures and prevent them from collapsing into so much fungal jelly. Obviously allied with the skin puppets and standing next to them was a fungus hulk.

The two opposing forces were separated by a clearing and crouched behind mounds of rubble and debris that had fallen from a partially collapsed ceiling. What must have been the forces of Killjoy were waiting just beyond the door, while the forces of Mossmutter were arranged on the far side of the chamber. Alavarius put forth the suggestion that the band move on and let these two forces fight each other before engaging either one. But Wilde suggested that the band take the initiative and put into motion the battle that the two opposing forces seemed reluctant to begin. In this way, the band could have a greater influence in how the battle proceeded as well as take care of eliminating the few remaining forces of Killjoy, and indeed, Killjoy himself, which was what the band really needed to focus on at this point

The band decided to go with Wilde’s suggestion and began making plans for how they would begin their assault. But as they were making their plans, the burning golem shifted positions with the subsumed gnomes, so that the burning golem could better defend the door through which the band would presumably enter. Then, unknown to the band, while they were busy preparing themselves with spells, the subsumed gnomes were doing the same.

When they felt they were ready, Nero started things off by casting a dimension door spell and took with him, Kieranen, Book and Ael, all of which were invisible, to the edge of the clearing in the center of the chamber. Assuming they would catch both opposing forces by surprise, those members of the band who stayed behind were instructed to wait for the others to attack before entering the room. But it was the band, particularly the four who had just appeared within the chamber, who was taken by surprise, when they were suddenly attacked by the subsumed gnomes who unleashed a wave of spells at them. Despite being invisible, the four band members were struck with a fireball, a black tentacles spell and a cone of cold. At first, the band assumed that the gnomes were able to see through their invisibility.

But whatever the case, it became obvious to those who had stayed behind that something had gone wrong, for they should not have heard a fireball going off so soon. So Alavarius opened the door to the room. Unfortunately, Nicholas, who stood next to the door, was not ready to go at this point. So he was forced to retreat back into the hallway while the burning golem tried to reach through the doorway and attack them.

The situation however, took a dramatic turn then, in favor of the band, when Nero unleashed a spell he referred to as his toppling cone of force, a spell that he had recently been working on and now put into use for the first time. With this spell, he blasted Mossmutter’s forces with a powerful wave of energy, which blew the skin puppets to pieces, sending them flying in a splatter of goo, and knocking the fungus hulk on its rear, nearly killing it. Then Ael turned on the subsumed gnomes and killed most of them with a couple of well-aimed bombs. Book was forced to retreat back to the hallway with a dimension door spell in order to escape the black tentacles. But Kieranen and Nicholas then ganged up on the burning golem and soon were able to take it down.

Meanwhile, back in the hallway, soon after the battle got under way, Wilde, much to the surprise of those who stood nearby, suddenly turned and slapped Camille with a vicious blow that knocked her up against the wall and sent her reeling. When asked what he was doing he yelled out to the band that it was Killjoy. Apparently, Wilde had come to the conclusion that Killjoy had taken over the body of Camille, which would explain how the subsumed gnomes had gotten the jump on the band in the battle – for Killjoy would have been standing right there while the band was making their plans. Wilde then pounced on Camille and held her down; putting his hand across her mouth to prevent her, or rather Killjoy from casting any spells.

Realizing that Wilde was probably right, Alavarius cast a spell on Camille that would force Killjoy to have regrets and thereby distract him and prevent him from taking any further actions. When the rest of the band had finally finished off what remained of the two opposing forces, the situation with Camille and Killjoy was explained to them.

Wilde was obviously concerned about Camille and wanted no further harm to come to her. He still believed that she could be saved. But it was clear that Wilde did what he did, feeling it was necessary to be rough with her, in order to prevent any of the band members from taking more drastic actions against her. It was also obvious that Killjoy had to be stopped and kept from casting any more spells, which might have included a spell that would allow him to escape. This may have been Wilde’s greatest concern, because if Killjoy had escaped, it would have made rescuing Camille even more difficult.

The problem now was what to do with Killjoy and Camille. A number of suggestions were put forth. But the one that seemed to make the most sense was to feeblemind the both of them. This would render Killjoy completely harmless, while at the same time keep Camille’s subsumed mind occupied so that neither Nightfear nor Mossmutter could try to take control of her body. Unfortunately, it took four attempts from both Nero and Book to successfully cast a feeblemind spell on them.

When it was finally done, Nero took a moment to put forth a suggestion that he had been thinking about ever since the band had found the scroll of protection from possession. It occurred to him that if anyone read one of the Keraptis scrolls while being warded by this protection scroll, it might just prevent the harmful side-effect of being subsumed by the Keraptis scroll. But he could not be sure of this. So he convinced Alavarius to cast a divination spell to see if it would be a good idea to try it. According to the divination spell, it appeared that Nero’s theory was correct. So the band took the time then for each of them to pick one of the Keraptis scrolls, all except Kieranen who did not want to lose any intelligence since he could not cast any spells. When they were ready Nero read the protection scroll. Then each of them who had a Keraptis scroll read it. By doing so, each of them was granted a spell-like ability: Nicholas could make himself resistant to spells; Nero and Alavarius could produce walls of force; Book and Dravos could both cast dimension doors; Ael could cast three magic missiles a day; and even Nero’s familiar Raaze, thanks to a scroll of comprehend language, was granted the ability to cast a very powerful fireball!

When the band was done with this, it was about six in the morning and the band was ready to continue their explorations elsewhere.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 14

It was late in the morning of Moonday, the 3rd day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, perhaps only an hour or so after killing the False Keraptis Killjoy, when the Righteous Vanguard lost one of their founding members, Gildor Ironhand. The gnome cleric had literally exploded only a minute or two after diving into a pool of glowing liquid, which sat at the bottom of the Basin of Boundless Life. Several minutes later, the majority of the band was able to continue on with their investigation of the pool, which eventually resulted in the curing of both Book’s and the deep gnome, Ethan’s feebleminds, as well as the injuries still suffered by several other members of the group.

But Kieranen found it difficult to tear his thoughts away from the tragedy that had just occurred, feeling both anger and sadness at the poor decision made by his good friend Gildor, which ended with his tragic death. So, while his companions continued to experiment with the liquid found at the bottom of the basin, Kieranen could only stand there in a daze, thinking about the loss of his friend. He realized that he and Nero were the only two original members of the Righteous Vanguard who were still in the band, and he thought about all the friends he had lost over the years. As he pondered over this depressing revelation, he absent-mindedly ran his hand across his mouth and felt something wet. Without giving it a thought, he licked his lips and looked down at his callused hand. It, like much of his armor and equipment, was splattered with the blood of his fallen companion. Momentarily, this thought sickened Kieranen. Then another thought crossed his mind, “Did I just swallow some of Gildor’s contaminated blood?” A brief flash of panic passed through Kieranen and he turned to look at where Gildor had been standing when he exploded. To Kieranen’s amazement, Gildor was still standing there! Gildor then smiled at Kieranen and gave him a knowing smile and a wink. Now in some confusion, Kieranen turned to see if any of the others saw Gildor standing there. But all the others were still preoccupied and were not looking in the direction of Gildor. So Kieranen looked back to where he had just seen Gildor standing – and saw that he was gone.

At this point, Kieranen could not be sure if he had actually seen Gildor standing there; perhaps it was a vision of some kind; perhaps his mind was merely playing tricks on him; perhaps it had something to do with the contaminated blood he had just swallowed. There was no way that Kieranen could be certain of anything. So he chose to remain silent, and not say anything to his companions. But at about that time, some members of the band began to take notice of something else – something that was very disturbing: The blood from Gildor’s body was now moving, and gradually it began to form a pool.

Just like the bloodwights that the band had fought just a short while before, the blood of Gildor’s body rose up in a blob before them, threatening to attack. In the midst of this blob a distorted face appeared, disappeared and reappeared intermittently – it was, of course, the face of Gildor. Suddenly, it became very clear to them, the origins of the bloodwights – they were all past victims of the Basin of Boundless Life. And with the contents of the basin now seeping out through a crack in its side, one could not help but wonder if the liquid in the basin was not also at least partly responsible for some of the other strange creatures found so far within the mountain, such as the fungus hulks. If so, one might also be led to wonder if there were any other monstrous aberrations to be found there that the band had yet to encounter.

Whatever the answers to these mysteries might be, they would have to wait. For the time being, their immediate objective at this point was to destroy the one bloodwight that now threatened them. Fortunately, there was only one to deal with and the band had a much better idea of what kinds of attacks did and did not work against it. So they were able to kill it without too much effort, though it did manage to cause some injuries before being destroyed. This was not good, for without a cleric in the band, their only means of treating wounds was with the use of healing potions.

Once the bloodwight had been taken care of, the band felt it would be best if they rested for a time so that the spell casters could regain their spells. And they all agreed that they did not want to rest in the chamber of the Basin of Boundless Life. But before moving on, Kieranen wanted to do one more thing. He had been thinking for some time about the feebleminded gnome that he called Derp, and considering whether or not it was a good idea to continue bringing him along and protect him. At this point however, he decided it was time for him to come to some resolution on the matter. So he gave the gnome a dose of the liquid from the pool and cured his feeblemind. Then, knowing full well that the gnome was evil, he gave the gnome a choice: either he would willingly join up with the Resistance, or die by Kieranen’s hand right then and there. Naturally, the gnome told Kieranen that he would join the Resistance. But Dravos could sense that the gnome was lying and had no intention of joining the Resistance. So, despite the gnome’s insistence, Kieranen drew his sword and decapitated him. With this grim task behind them, the band was ready to move on.

However, as they were about to gather their things, including those items that until recently belonged to the band’s cleric, they noticed that Gildor’s shield began to glow a silvery golden light. Then the light seemed to be absorbed into the shield until it winked out. Seeing this as some kind of manifestation of Gildor or perhaps his deity, and possible proof that his earlier vision of Gildor was more than a mere illusion, Kieranen picked up the shield and instantly felt blessed by its touch. He knew then that from this day forward he would have a different perspective on life and a different purpose to fulfill, for something stirred deep within him that he knew was well worth defending.

After gathering all of the things previously owned by Gildor, the band made their way back to the storage room where they had first encountered Wilde and Camille. There, Book cast a secure shelter spell, which barely fit within the chamber, and the band decided how they would take watch. Kieranen, feeling blessed by Gildor’s shield, which he now claimed as his own, informed his companions that he would take watch throughout their entire rest period. In fact, it was agreed upon that the band would now divide up what magic items they had so far collected since coming to White Plume Mountain. So some time was spent doing this first. By then it was only about noon on what had already been a very eventful day and several members of the band began to rest while others stayed on watch.

About an hour or so later, a noise was heard just outside the secure shelter, and when those on watch went to investigate, they saw a rather distinguished looking gentleman carrying a staff. The man claimed to be a scholar and a cleric of Boccob who had come to White Plume Mountain to investigate the rumors and unusual occurrences surrounding it. He introduced himself as Alavarius (who may in fact be a distant relation to the author of this tome) and claimed no affiliation to any of the False Kerapti or to the Resistance, though upon further questioning he appeared to have similar objectives with those of the band. Dravos sensed the man was good and could discern no lies coming from him. And, since the band was always on the lookout for allies and in need of a cleric in particular, they offered to let the newcomer join them while they rested. The man accepted their offer and took a seat to rest his tired feet.

Several hours later, at about six in the evening, those who were on watch, Ael and Kieranen, heard the sound of very heavy feet approaching the storage room where they were resting. They woke the others up and took a look outside their shelter, where they saw the door to the storage room being smashed in by two burning golems! The golems were too large to fit through the door. So the lead golem began to smash the wall around the door, and it quickly became evident that it would not take long for the golem to break into the room. This gave the band a little time to prepare themselves however, though the spellcasters had virtually no spells with which to fight. This meant that the warriors of the band, would for the most part, be on their own against the two golems. Fortunately, the warriors, Kieranen in particular, were up to the task and somehow managed to destroy both golems, thanks in part to Alavarius, who used some rather unusual magic during the fight to heel up Kieranen.

When the battle was over, the group pondered over the fact that the golems seemed to know where they were at and came right for them after exiting the nearby smoking pit. They checked to make sure two more golems weren’t coming from the other pit and investigated the nearby pit to see if there might be a way to close it off. But they could find nothing that might prevent more golems from being summoned through what appeared to be a gateway from the plane of elemental fire.

So the band thought about how the golems were summoned to begin with and how they found the group so quickly. That is when Wilde told the group about a theory he had that, although the band had killed the efreeti Nox, otherwise known as Killjoy, the hierarchical mind of Keraptis might still survive. If so, it would probably have to take over the body of a nearby subsumed mind if any were still alive, and if none were available, it might still be able to take over the body of an imprinted but not yet subsumed mind. This was assuming that the hierarchical mind could not survive for long without a host, and therefore it must find a host quickly. If Wilde’s theory was correct, it could mean that the mind of Killjoy in essence, could still be alive in the body of a subsumed gnome somewhere – or even in the body of the drow Camille, who was with the group though she still appeared to be mindless. The band pondered over this dilemma a while though there was little they could do about it.

So they resumed their rest, hoping they could get through the remainder of it without further interruption. Seven hours later, at about one in the morning on Godsday, the 4th day of Wealsun, after about 14 hours spent in the secure shelter, the band got what they had hoped for. With no more unwanted intrusions, the band was now fully rested and ready to go once again. During this rest, some of the spellcasters were able to figure out a few spells that had recently been eluding them, and now had these at their disposal. One of these spells was a detect scrying spell, which Nero cast immediately.

Following this, Book produced the deck of cards that he had found in the scriptorium, and despite Kieranen’s emphatic warnings not to do so, he began tempting the others to draw a card from the deck. Nero was the first to be drawn into this temptation and drew a card signifying Magma. Immediately after drawing the card, he began to sink into the earth. Book cast a levitate spell on him which prevented him from sinking any further and allowed him to rise up into the air. But he could not touch the ground for ten minutes without sinking back into it. Following this everything went back to normal. But had he not been prevented from doing so, he surly would have sunk into the earth until reaching magma.

Book then took his chances with the deck and drew the Druid card. Nothing good or bad appeared to happen to him however – so, at least at this point, no one could know what the consequences of that card were. Then Alavarius drew the Hand of Youth card. It was not at first clear what this card did either, except for the fact that Alvarius somehow sensed that his natural lifespan was greatly increased. And because of this, it has been rumored that this Alavarius and the author of this book are one and the same. But whether or not this is in fact the truth, is a tale that must be saved for another time.

Finally, Dravos was tempted into drawing a card and drew the Gauntlet card. Immediately afterwards, a layer of slimy fungus grew over his off-hand and forearm. But other than this, he could find no harm or benefit to the slimy fungus, which grew back if he scraped it off. No other members of band were tempted into drawing a card from what would later be termed the Deck of Destinies.

Once the band had finished playing with the magical deck of cards, they decided to return to the laboratory area and explore the rest of it. Telling Wilde and Ethan to stay in the storage room and keep an eye on Camille, as they had not yet decided what to do with them, the band headed back to the lab area. Some of the rooms they came to were not locked and had already been stripped of anything of value. One room was mostly caved in. Other rooms were lab rooms that were not locked but had also been looted already.

A couple of the rooms however were still locked and had traps on the front door. The first of these had a poison needle trap which Dravos detected and disarmed. Inside this lab room they found all kinds of lab equipment, much of it still in good shape. They also found one magic item – the Skull of Prophecy. When Nero picked it up, the skull spoke to him and loudly proclaimed that it had the ability to predict how a questioner will die. But it would respond to no other questions. Not being too particularly interested, at that point, in learning how he would die, Nero put the skull in bag and the band moved on to the next room.

At the second trapped lab room, Dravos could not find a trap, nor did he detect any magic on the door. But when he moved to unlock the door, a mouth appeared and suddenly bit off Dravos’ hand! (The one that did not have the slimy fungus growing on it.) Dravos fell back, horrified and in shock, while his companions came to his aid and wrapped a tourniquet around his arm. Fortunately, the door then spit out Dravos’ severed hand allowing the band to collect it. Upon closer examination, it was determined that the door was actually some kind of sentient construct or creature of some kind, thus explaining why it did not detect as magical. Nor did a knock spell have any effect on it. So Alavarius used a clairvoyance spell to see beyond the door. Then Nero used a dimension door spell to take half of the band into the lab room, while the other half went with Dravos back to the Basin of Boundless Life to see if it could be used to reattach Dravos’ severed hand. This was Dravos’ second sip of the liquid from the pool, so there was some concern about using it. But fortunately it worked, and Dravos’ hand was reattached with no side effects other than the fact that Dravos’ body lost several years of aging.

Meanwhile, back in the lab room, Nero, Book, and Alavarius found more lab equipment and a three more magic items: Alavarius found a six-foot tall glass tube containing a male humanoid body with mirror-like skin suspended in some sort of clear liquid. On the side of the tube was a painted palm print. Unsure of what to do with this, they opened up Nero’s portable hole and carefully lowered the glass tube into it. In addition to this, they found what appeared to be the ancient heart of Dragotha the Undead Dragon, which they also placed inside the portable hole, and a periapt of health, which Nero put on. With all of this done, they used another dimension door spell to leave the room and meet up with the rest of the band.

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 13

It was late in the morning of Moonday, the 3rd day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, when the Righteous Vanguard killed the False Keraptis known as Killjoy, formerly known as the efreeti Nox. With the death of Killjoy, most members of the band moved on to search the private chambers of the efreeti, which lay beyond the doors to the north of them. Nero however, stayed behind and produced his portable hole after which opening he then kicked into it the sword Blackrazor, which still lay on the floor next to the body of its previous owner. Kieranen meanwhile, told the male drow Wilde to go with him back into the room where they had left the female drow Camille and the feebleminded gnome Oasen whom Kieranen had nicknamed Derp. Despite Wilde’s recent actions against his former master and the dangerous predicament that he claimed to be in, it was clear that some members of the band, particularly Kieranen and Nero, did not have much trust in the drow and kept a sharp eye on him. As they came upon Camille, they saw that Camille appeared to be in a mindless state, much like Derp, now that Killjoy was dead. But Wilde warned Kieranen that one of the other False Kerapti could assume control of her. So they kept her tied up as they gathered her and Derp and rejoined the others.

Back in Killjoy’s chambers the band found a stash of gold coins and gems as well as a few other magic items, including more Keraptis scrolls. In another chamber they found what must have been the quarters of Killjoy’s subsumed gnomes as it was filthy and contained nothing of value. They then entered a passageway, at the end of which they found a keyring with keys and several cloaks, boots, gloves and other adventuring gear. Among this gear was a small satchel adorned with the initials E.O. Inside the satchel they found a set of thieves’ tools, a magic dagger and a magic ring. Then, in an adjacent chamber, they found six holding cells, three of which still held prisoners.

The first cell they looked into, they found a figure completely wrapped in a greatcloak, which sat on a stone cot facing the wall. The figure just whimpered and made no response when asked questions by the band. Dravos sensed evil in the figure, so they decided to just leave it alone.

The second cell they looked into held a half-starved, slack-jawed gnome wearing a loincloth. The gnome recognized the band and began threatening to have its revenge on them for betraying him. Gradually the band realized that this gnome was a subsumed gnome that was still mind-linked to Nightfear and through this gnome, Nightfear traded insults with the band until Nicholas decided he had heard enough and buried an arrow deep into the gnome’s skull, thus ending the heated conversation. From there, the band moved on to the last occupied cell.

In this last cell, sat a deep gnome who did not appear to be in as poor a health as the previous gnome. At first the gnome, who introduced himself as Ethan Orithay, was both cautious and glad to see the band, hoping they would release him. But when the band began to show signs of distrust towards the gnome, the gnome, no doubt frustrated by the torment of his situation, appeared to lose sight of his helpless predicament and apparently said some things he probably should not have. Whatever was said, it obviously angered Kieranen who then pulled out his sword and threatened to stab the gnome. Unknown to the others however, it was Kieranen’s intention to merely intimidate the gnome and not to kill him. But Nero, apparently mistaking Kieranen’s intent, decided instead to cast a feeblemind spell on the gnome, thus rendering the gnome harmless. It was not until after the deep gnome had become quite mindless, that Dravos decided to sense his aura and realized that Nero had just feebleminded the only good person they had so far encountered inside the mountain.

Nero, of course, showed little remorse for his hasty action. But some of the others apparently felt bad about what had just occurred, particularly Kieranen, though he still insisted on blaming the gnome for causing the misunderstanding. As a result, they released the gnome from his cell and added him to their collection of mindless bodies that were now following them around, which, at this point, included Book who had been feebleminded in the battle against Killjoy. Fortunately for Book, he wore a circlet upon his head that boosted his intelligence somewhat, giving him the mind of a child and thus making him not completely helpless, though they still had to keep a close eye on him.

With all of the chambers of Killjoy now searched, the band turned their attention to eliminating the burning golems that still stood in their way. The first golem they then fought was the one beyond the wall of force which soon expired. Ael used the last of his bombs to bring this one down. Following this they focused on the two golems that were beyond the sphere of force. Here they were able to take more time and prepare themselves before the duration of the sphere came to an end. Using sound tactics then and fighting the golems one at a time, they were able to destroy the golems without much difficulty.

With this done, the band was able to look for a means to restore the minds of those who had been feebleminded. Here, they followed the advice of Wilde, despite any distrust they had towards him, and followed him into an area of laboratories, where he said he had heard rumors of a place called the Basin of Boundless Life. According to Wilde, this basin was once a part of the original Keraptis’ experiments and research into immortality and he had heard of another being whose mind had been healed by the contents of the basin.

With Dravos at his side looking for traps, Wilde led the band through several rooms, most of which had already been ransacked and searched. But in one chamber, which apparently used to be a scriptorium, the band found several magical scrolls, two magical books and a set of magical cards, which they had to try and keep Book from playing with, as he had found the cards.

Finally, the band came to a room that Wilde had not been into, but very near where he expected the Basin of Boundless Life to be. After opening the door to this room, they discovered the partially emaciated bodies of three gnomes. Upon closer inspection the corpses had unusual tiny spots all over them but did not appear to have obvious clues as to how they died. They also found a trail of dried blood leading into an adjacent chamber. So the band moved to the archway leading into this chamber.

There they saw a marble-paved room measuring about 60’ on each side, except for the northwest corner, which fell away into the depths of an even larger basin. A profusion of rusted iron coils covered the southern wall, and in the heart of this metallic nest was a broken iron bowl. A particularly wide pipe extended from this assembly over the edge of the basin to the northeast – a clear indication that it must once have collected the distillate from these coils. A dank, copper odor suffused the air; it seemed to swell and fade in conjunction with the movements of several undulating, man-sized blobs of ruby-red mucous on the floor.

As the band slowly began to enter the chamber, a few of the red blobs rose up and moved towards them as if to attack. The band reacted by tossing several spells into the room including a fireball while the warriors fought with their weapons. However the fire did not do as much damage as they might have expected and their weapons hardly did any damage at all. Then suddenly, several more of the red blobs rose up and attacked. One of them took Nero by surprise, grappled him and in seconds drained nearly all of the blood out of him. Nero then, barely conscious, dropped to the floor where he stayed until he could cast a dimension door spell taking him safely way. The other members of the band, meanwhile, continued to fight, but eventually decided to retreat. Keiranen then tossed his last bead of force towards the three remaining blobs, which were later to be known as bloodwights. When the bead of force exploded, not only did it cause severe damage to the bloodwights, the sphere of force created by it also hindered their advance towards the band – though not entirely, as the bloodwights were able to flow through the spaces left at the corners of the sphere. Fortunately the band was able to finish them off with spells before they got through.

With the bloodwights now dead, the band healed up and looked around some more while they waited for the sphere of force to expire. When the sphere of force disappeared the band moved into the room with the strange apparatus took a closer look there. Then they began to investigate what was obviously the Basin of Boundless Life.

It was a vast basin in the floor measuring some 80’ in diameter and adjoining three equidistant ledges. About 20’ below the level of the entryway, the surface of a pool shined brightly, illuminating the entire cavern. A strange silvery material coated the sides of the basin itself, reflecting the light from the pool. The shifting of the earth had evidently breached the wall in the southeastern section of the chamber, opening a wide fissure and cracking the side of the basin itself.

It appeared that much of the shining fluid had already leaked out through this crack; what remained was viscid, phosphorescent, and constantly in motion, swirling slowly in random currents generated by no visible source.

A detect magic spell revealed the liquid to be highly magical and radiating an aura of the conjuration school of magic, indicating that it might have curative properties. Ael then used a mage hand spell to lower an empty vial into the pool and bring some of the substance over to him to further examine. He was able to determine that this highly magical liquid appeared to be infused with an extremely high amount of positive energy. But as he was examining it, without touching any of it, the vial in which it was contained began to shake violently. Then it suddenly flew up out of the mage hand and began dancing about the room until it finally exploded. Puzzled by this unusual effect, Ael wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that the liquid was removed from the pool. So he threw an empty vial into the pool to see what might happen. It too began to shake violently and finally exploded. So the band began to suspect that anything touching the liquid, except for the silver coating of the basin, might become infused with the positive energy from the pool and become animated. But they had yet to see what it might do to anything living.

As Gildor watched all of this, it seems that he became fascinated by the pool and what it did, and gradually he apparently became convinced that it might grant something truly special to anyone who immersed themselves in the liquid. So without warning, he dove into the pool of glowing liquid, as his companions gasped out loud in shock! At first however, it seemed that the liquid was actually quite beneficial, as it healed all of Gildor’s wounds, then it began to reduce his age back to the point of his best health. Then the liquid appeared to go even further by increasing his stamina and constitution as it continued to pump positive life energy into him. As Gildor’s companions looked on, at first they thought to themselves that they all might want to jump into the pool. But then some of them began to realize that something was horribly wrong and they started calling out to Gildor to get out of the pool. They tossed a rope to him and pulled him out. But by then it was already too late.

Unable to do anything to help him, they looked on in horror as Gildor’s flesh began to expand and his veins began to bulge out. Then suddenly, Gildor exploded! Moments later, all that remained of him, other than his equipment, were gobbets of pulverized flesh, shards of bone fragments and a great blood stain that covered a large area where he had been standing.

The band was stunned by what they had just witnessed, perhaps Kieranen the most, and it took some time for them to clear their heads enough to move on and do what needed to be done. Despite the loss of their friend Gildor, the band still had a very important job to do, and there were some among them who might still benefit from the effects of the pool. So some members of the band turned their attention then to the further investigation of the pool.

This time they took a tiny amount of the liquid and diluted it in water. Then they let Book drink the water. As hoped, it cured Book of his feeblemindedness. So Nero took the next bold step and sipped a tiny amount of the liquid, but this time undiluted. It too cured all of his injuries with no side effects. So, following this, several more members of the band took sips from the pool to heal their wounds. They also gave some to the deep gnome Ethan and cured his feeblemind, after which they asked him a few questions and worked out their misunderstandings. They even gave some to the female drow Camille in the hopes that it would reverse her subsumed mind. It did not however. The only ones, who did not drink any of the liquid, were Kieranen and Nicholas. Nor did they give any of it to the feebleminded gnome Derp, whom they knew was evil.


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