Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 2
Chapter 11 - The Slaver King (1359DR, 17-18th Eleint)

The Dungeon level 2Worens Secret Lair

As the sleek hunting spiders swept towards us with almost mechanical speed and single-mindedness of purpose I called upon Silvanus to aid us. My prayer was answered and the four lead spiders froze in their tracks, held motionless by the hand of The Oak Father. Colatto and Faergil acted in unison each unleashing a barrage of magical darts that tore into two more of the spiders, killing them.

When we had first glimpsed the spiders through the curtains of webbing our imaginations had swollen their numbers to a veritable army but now only a pair of the eight-legged hunters reached our front rank, leaping at Colatto and Primrose with their envenomed fangs. Colatto jumped back at the last moment but Primrose wasn't as fortunate and was borne to the ground under the weight of the viciously biting spider. In an instant Baldric was at her side and brought both of Twin Deaths iron heads crashing down on the spider, which literally burst in a spray of orangey-yellow fluid under the impact.

I called to Bazil to try and pull Primrose out from under the spiders mass and then turned my attention on the last of our attackers, once more calling upon Silvanus to restrain it as he had the others. However this time the spider was unaffected (which marked the beginning of a run of ill fortune, as far as my prayers of power went, which dogged me for the next few hours). The spider continued its attack on Colatto managing to sink its fangs into his neck before being sent into the next world by another barrage of magical darts from Faergil.

Bazil had been unable to pull Primrose free so I forced my way to the halflings' sides and knelt down beside her. Wiping away the orange slim which covered her face I noticed at once that the skin around her wound was bleached of colour and her eyes were unfocused (though whether that was the venom or shock I couldn't tell). I called upon Silvanus to purge the poison from her veins and then, using my staff as a lever, lifted the spiders corpse so Bazil could pull Primrose free.

As I may have said in the past, Baldric is a skilled healer as he is a priest and by that life-giving art had drawn the poison from Colatto who then, to my dismay, proceeded to dispatch the four paralysed spiders. During this time Faergil had been harvesting some of the more interesting bits of the dead spiders (I believe that Bazil helped himself to some venom sacks too). Baldric called upon Tymora to heal Primrose's facial injuries.

The battle over we continued down the web-lined corridor. Baldric had put away the Light Stone but pulled out a shuttered lantern into which a powerful miracle of light had been placed some time ago. It was then that I noticed he had, at some point, fished out and donned a set of studded leather armour.

The corridor led into a crossroads. Here we found another of these strange hybrid-beings. I looked it over careful to try and determine what had killed the poor thing and was unsurpassed to find several puncture marks indicative of giant spiders. This settled to my mind that the Patchwork Man ("Men" as we latter found) was not undead, if it were spider venom would have been ineffective. To me the answer seemed clear, Woren was suffering from the power fed delusion that mastery of The Art gave him the right to play God. I wondered had what his objective had been. Had he tried to turn beasts into men or men into beasts?

Taking the right-hand fork off the crossroads we passed down a corridor which opened into a larger room. As we approached we could se metal rods extending a short way down from the top of the doorway. I am sure many of my companions though it was the bottom of a raised portcullis, particularly as the webs stopped abruptly in the door way. As we reached the rods, however, it became apparent that it was all that remained of a heavy metal grill which had once barred the way onward but had eroded almost completely away. The room beyond was almost cross-shaped with two exits. There was a passage on the wall opposite, which had also once been barred, and an impressive set of double doors to our right. We didn't have time to digest this however as two shapes darted towards us. The creatures looked like five foot woodlice except they possessed only four legs, the back pair being particularly long, muscular tails which ended in a double ended paddle and a pair of long, supple tentacles which sprouted from just under their eyes. The creatures were ochre in colour and as they approached we could detect a strong odour of corroded metal.

Before they could reach us Faergil unleashed another volley of magical darts, firing three into one and two into the second. Though clearly injured the creatures pressed on like wolves chasing down prey. As they reached us the two creatures flailed at Bazil and Colatto with their tentacles, or rather at Bazil's and Colatto's weapons. Within moments of being brushed by one of the appendages Colatto's magical bastard sword, the mighty Sarth had first turned red with rust and then crumbled away to nothing. Quickly Bazil stuffed both of his weapons into his bag of holding, the magical bracers he wore joining them a second later. I called out to Primrose, who had been moving up to defend Bazil, to keep The Tears of Tymora out of harms way; whatever purpose it was destined to fore-fill it could not do it as a pill of metal flakes.

Baldric had not been idle during this time, instead he had called out to Tymora and one of the two creatures, Baldric later said they were (the aptly named) "Rust Monsters", scurried away. The rust monster that had destroyed and now was eating the remains of Sarth had not fled and, never one to shy away from hand-to-hand combat, Colatto sprung forward and grabbed hold of it's tentacles. Elladyr had moved into a flanking position and cut at the rust monster with my scimitar, he injured the creature provoking one of the most pathetic yips you can imagine. Unfortunately on the back swing the scimitar brushed against one of the tentacles and (after seeing loyal service since before the Time of Troubles) it fell to pieces. Colatto had managed to get a strong enough stance to planted one of his feet into the rust monster's face. I would deny anyone with a heart in their body not to feel sympathy for these creatures. They seemed incapable of hurting us and it was only their seemingly endless hunger for metal that made them a threat. I wanted to try and drive the rust monster away so, as I had during the fight with the wererats and carrion crawlers, I called upon The Force Divine to blind the remaining blind the remaining rust monster with light but my timing was off and I "missed".

The second rust monster had got over its fear and was rapidly coming back only to be decoyed away when Bazil threw it one of the short swords he had taken from the wererats while simultaneously stabbing the other one in the flank with a second short sword. As Bazil moved clear Baldric moved in and, placing his fingertips against the creature, invoked Kolanthian's magical ring. A jolt of lightning from the ring finished off the creature (as well as giving Colatto a shock) and its companion was laid low by a volley of magical darts from Faergil.

As we surveyed the battle scene Faergil fished a small piece of metal out of a pocket and touched it to the dead rust monster's tentacle only to have it turn to dust. Carefully he began to remove the tentacle from the carcass. Intrigued by Faergil's experiment I fished around in my many pouches and touched the first piece of non-ferrous metal I could find (a silver coin) against another tentacle, it didn't rust.

Once Faergil was finished we went over to the double doors. They had fallen free of their frame at some point but had fallen at such an angle that they still blocked the doorway. As we set to work moving the door aside the reason for their collapse became apparent, all the nails, hinges and brackets were gone, no doubt eaten by the rust monsters.

Beyond was a broad corridor that led straight to a large room that seemed once to have to been used for religious purposes. The back half of the room was raised and on it was a stone altar. There were holes in the back wall where once a large religious symbol may have been fixed but it was now gone, indeed there was nothing in the room made of metal. Cautiously we entered. To either side of the doorway were statues of diabolical, winged beings with fearsome faces and forked tails. Most of The Company had met and fought gargoyles before, vicious creatures of living stone that could remain immobile seemingly endlessly, waiting for a victim, so we kept our weapons drawn while we in the room. Another characteristic of gargoyles is that only weapons reinforced by The Art can hurt them. With that in mind I passed my magical quarterstaff to Elladyr.

At Bazil's suggestion I employed the magical lens again, looking along the walls for any secret doors. By chance I glanced back down the corridor and spotted a door back there. I also checked out the altar and through the magical crystal saw a hidden panel in the far side. Opening the panel Bazil produced a human skull with a candle stuck to its head, some blooded white robes and six daggers; their use seemed clear. Colatto took the daggers and left, heading back the way we had come. Later he told us he had tried to destroy them by touching them to the dead rust monsters but their corrosive power had now gone. While he was there, however, he thought he heard movement coming from the corridor we hadn't explored.

After finding nothing else in the room we headed for the secret door, where we met up with Colatto. Elladyr was the last one out of the room, keeping a careful eye on the statues, if that is what they were. The secret door opened onto a straight corridor that headed onwards for about fifty feet before turning to the right. Before he went to investigate I invoked another charm of trap detection on Bazil. Immediately he spotted a covered pit trap where the corridor turned. Carefully avoiding the trap he headed around the corner. A couple of minutes later he returned saying that the corridor ran another twenty feet or so before ending in a door. The door had a trap built into the lock that would release a poisonous gas if triggered. After making sure we knew how to open the secret door from the far side we headed down the corridor as far as the turning. Bazil went on alone to work on the trap. After a couple of minutes we heard an almost inaudible click and Bazil leapt back, the trap had gone off. The mechanism that released the poisonous vapours was an efficient one but luckily the toxin itself was not very strong. All of us felt a burning sensation in our eyes, which endured for a few a few minutes, but only Elladyr and Faergil were effected to any degree and even then they only felt weak for a few moments.

Bazil was more successful at picking the lock and soon the door was open to reveal a torture chamber kitted out with all the more common implements of painful death and bodily disfigurement. As some of our group carried out a brief search I retrieved my staff from Elladyr took the opportunity to ask him if he still wanted to die at Colatto's hand. I was heartened to hear the desire live in his voice even if his words were full of indecision.

Since the torture chamber was a dead-end we headed back to the secret door. Bazil had no sooner stepped through it than a grey mass, all wings and claws, pounced on him, driving the halfling to the ground. As the gargoyle bit and clawed at Bazil Colatto unleashed a storm of magical darts into it and Bazil stabbed at it with his dagger, the gargoyle was hurt but not killed. The rest of us got as close as we were unable to get through the secret door while the battle raged on its threshold. I handed my staff forward to Elladyr. Faergil saw an opening and then cast a spell, firing a thin ray at the gargoyle, which visibly sapped its strength. A second later Colatto leapt at the weakened gargoyle and was able to wrestle it off of Bazil. My warning that there had been two gargoyles had barely passed my lips when the second of the stone pair leapt on Colatto's back, racking with its claws and swinging its tail like a mace. The first gargoyle also tore at Colatto but its attacks were now comparatively weak.

Rolling to his feet Bazil plunged both of his magical blades into the beast. With the doorway clear Primrose, Baldric and Elladyr could join the fight. Baldric and Primrose concentrated on the one that Bazil had just hit, Twin-Death went wide of the mark but The Luckblade struck home, almost severing a wing. The gargoyle turned its attention and fury on to Primrose but her magical ring-mail withstood the onslaught. The creature didn't have time to try again as Baldric swung Twin-Death a second time and reduced it to rubble. Having cast a spell of shape-changing on himself at some point in the recent past Colatto retreated from the fight by becoming a rodent. This gave Elladyr the room he needed to get to the remaining gargoyle and, with two expert sweeps of the quarterstaff, finished it off.

Faergil and myself came out to join our comrades and I called upon Silvanus to heal Bazil's wounds. Impressed by the staff Elladyr suggested, and I agreed, that he should keep hold of it for a while.

As we were about to head back to the room where we had fought the rust monsters Colatto reminded us that he thought he had heard movement in the corridor. Bazil went on alone to scout (Colatto giving him to the slow count to three hundred before we would come looking for him). Without my staff or scimitar I had only my dagger and the weaponry that nature had provided for me to defend myself. Normally I would have been satisfied with that but I was sure that we would encounter more creatures that, like the gargoyles were immune to non-enchanted weapons. With this in mind I asked Faergil to open his magical hole and I fished out my old oaken cudgel and tucked it into my belt.

When he returned Bazil told us that he too had thought he heard movement coming from the third exit from the cross-shaped room and went down it to investigate. At the end of the corridor was a room. While its floor space was considerable the room seemed almost funnel like because of the high ceiling. There was a broad staircase, flanked by humanoid statues, which seemed to lead into a blank wall. The floor was littered with bones and there was the sound of heavy breathing, perhaps snoring, coming from somewhere. There were two corridors leading off of it, down one of which he caught a glimpse of a figure darting.

Cautiously we went to the room that Bazil had described. With the room illuminated we could see that the stairs did indeed run into a solid wall. Something had been written on the wall at the top of the stairs but it had been clawed away. Many of the bones which littered the floor seemed to be a composite a different animals, the skeletal remains of the Patchwork Men. We could all hear the sound of heavy breathing but could not see its source. Colatto headed up the stairs to investigate the writing.

I knew that the corridor down which Bazil had seen the figure fleeing must lead to the lair of the Patchwork Men and I felt an overwhelming desire to make contact with them. I headed over to the doorway but before I could reach it a figure leapt out of the second corridor and blocked my path. This was the first of the patchwork men I had seen alive. I was prepared for its appearance, mostly a mix of ape and bird (it was its breathing, caused by the deformity of its face, which we had heard). What did take me aback was the pain and directionless rage that I saw in its eyes, a pain I could only attribute to its dark genesis. The patchwork man growled at me for a few seconds and then turned and headed down the corridor. I called out after the fleeing figure that we were not its enemies but it didn't stop. With quick strides I followed it with a worried Baldric in pursuit. On a hunch I invoked the power of Silvanus to allow me to speak with animals and called again. The corridor stretched some sixty feet ahead of us before turning left but there was a junction about half way along on the right. It was down this corridor the patchwork man had darted and as Baldric and I turned the corner we came face to face with over twenty of them. The room was clearly their lair, it was full of dung and half-eaten meat. There was also a chute in the middle of the ceiling. "Bird-Ape" was telling its fellows something as we entered, despite the miracle of animal tongues I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying so I proceeded to go through my repartee of languages, also with no effect. The patchwork men were starting to advance on us despite my attempts to show we were no threat (some of them looked hungry) if we hadn't been standing in a doorway they would certainly have surrounded us.

Baldric invoked the power of Tymora to give him the power to speak any language and tried to negotiate with them. When Baldric suddenly began to speak their language the patchwork men were taken aback though they looked like they would attack at any provocation. At that point I heard the rest of our group heading along the corridor, presumably to see where we had gone. I took a few steps back so they could see me and signalled them to approach no further.

Baldric was able to press upon the patchwork men that we were not here to hurt them and they agreed not to molest us as long as we left their lair and came no further this way then the room with the statues (or the "room of bright light"). During the conversation Baldric learnt that the patchwork men had no clear notion of where they came from, every now and again the chute in the ceiling would open and a newly "born" brother would fall down. If it survived the drop it became part of their community, if it didn't then it became food.

We returned to the room with the stairs and statues, though I was unhappy that I hadn't been able to convince the patchwork men to leave these dungeons for the caves beyond or, perhaps, the outside world. Upon returning I noticed that one of the statue's heads had been rotated to one side. Colatto and Bazil explained that while they had been standing at the top of the stairs they had noticed the heads could rotate and were easily reachable. Further more Bazil had sensed that the statues contained some form of trap, though he couldn't determine its nature. I glanced up at the wall through the lens and discovered a magical door. It had to be the way up into the citadel!

Colatto was eager to get through it and headed up to try the other head. He turned it around so the two statues were now looking at each other. No sooner had he done so then a bolt of lightning leapt from one head to the other. Colatto was catapulted, smouldering, down the stairs; dazed, burnt but alive. The noise attracted Baldric's attention (he had been exploring the corridor from which Bird-Ape had leapt, it lead on to a pair of empty rooms) and he did what he could for Colatto's injuries.

We decided to try again. This time I pulled a small length of silver wire and a spring of mistletoe out of my pouches and performed a ritual to Silvanus which would absorb any electrical energy in the area. Once done I headed up the steps and turned the heads (they had returned to their forward looking position after the trap had discharged) so they looked away from each other. As soon as I did so a blazing red light sprang into being marking out a square on the wall. The stone within the square simply vanished to reveal the way onwards.

With Bazil once more in the lead we passed through the magical portal. We didn't go far as we found ourselves in a cell. The cell was just one of about ten which were clustered into one end of a cavernous chamber. The room was huge, about eight feet by two hundred and forty with two exits, both double doors. A good two-thirds of this huge room was dominated by a wizard's workshop; it was a mass of books and alchemists equipment. It was clear from the stone work that the room was far better maintained then the catacombs we had just passed through and the area was well light by globes of glowing light.

Reaching through the bars Bazil picked the lock and we left the cell. Unsurprisingly Colatto and Faergil headed straight for what were presumably books of spells. I invoked a minor miracle that allowed me to sense it was two hours after sun down. As it had been dusk when we had gone to The Shackle that meant we had been underground for at least a day. Colatto cast a spell of magical detection. One set of double doors radiated powerful magic and seven books registered. One of these books, one of the largest books that I had ever seen, the mages identified as Woren's primary book of spells while four smaller ones were travelling spellbooks. The two remaining books were odd. One had thick wooden covers while the other seemed to be made of wood folded back and forth. Concerned that they may be hidden dangers in the room I renewed the charm on Bazil and he located three traps all of a magical nature. The magical door had "explosive runes", the wooden bound book was cursed and the other wooden book would summon an extra-plainer entity if a certain picture were looked at. I quickly viewed the room through the lens, noticing a secret door and, more importantly a small, bat-winged humanoid sitting invisibly in the middle of the room. I didn't know what exactly it was, but it had to be Woren's familiar. By the way it was looking at me I guessed (incorrectly as it turned out) that it knew I could see it and I shouted out to my fellows to grab it. With a start it took to the wing and headed towards the secret door with myself in hot pursuit and Bazil a step or two behind. Baldric, hearing my description of a demonic entity, tried unsuccessfully to banish it by the power of Tymora. It passed out of sight for a second as it passed a bookcase and when we reached the door it was gone. The secret door hadn't been opened and, looking around, Bazil spotted a small hatch in the ceiling. Stepping below the hatch I looked straight upwards and could just see the critter disappearing out of sight.

As we were considering our next move the trapped double doors swung open and five figures in plate-mail armour and bearing swords walked out. The armour was blackened but an emblem, a circle of flame, was still discernible on their breastplates. It appeared that Woren was indeed a necromancer and the Knights of the Circle of Flame now served him in death as they had unwittingly served him in life.

What followed was one of the most chaotic combats that I could remember. I think the initial plan was to withdraw from combat via the secret door and try to find Woren ("cut of a snake's head" etc.) but none seemed to want to be the first to disengage.

Faergil was the first to react. When he had seen the doors swing open he had expected to see Woren himself and cast a spell which shielded himself from the lower order of magics. He followed this up with a fireball spell on the knights before they could split up to engage us. For a moment hey were obliterated from view by the raging ball of flame. When it faded a second later all the knights were still standing. Their armour was even more blackened but we couldn't tell if the knights had withstood the inferno because they were supernaturally durable or immune to flame.

A second later Baldric ran forward to confront the knights. Once more he held forth his holy symbol and demanded that the knights leave in the name of The Lady. They kept on coming. Elladyr, his face pale at the sight of his once comrades-in-arms reduced to undead mockeries of life, added his voice to Baldric's, commanding his men to lay down their arms. Still they kept on coming.

It was then that Elladyr told us that the Knights of the Circle of Flame had numbered himself and twenty-one others! Bazil was calling on everyone to fall back to the secret door. Primrose leapt on the nearest undead knight and, as she slashed at it with her sword, shouted that she would hold them off. At this point someone, Faergil I think, suggested with grim humour, that perhaps the undead knight had been guarding the Crown of Flame. As soon as heard those words I realised how true they might be and shouted for someone closer to the doors to try and see what lay beyond. Then I produced a shamrock leaf and another spring of mistletoe and called upon Silvanus to enchant my cudgel

No sooner had I done so then one of the knights reached me and slashed at me with his sword, opening a long but shallow cut on my side. Baldric and Elladyr were also hit, though Bazil proved to quick. Colatto used his shape-changing spell to take the form of a bird and flew over the combatants and through the double doors.

In the lab the battle raged. Elladyr and Bazil but scored a couple of hits on their opponents and Primrose finished of her enemy. Faergil, never one to relish close combat, created a number of illusionary duplicates of himself but how good they would be against the undead knights I didn't want to guess. As for myself; necromancy is one of the few things that make me angry and the sight of the animated corpse in front of me literally made my blood boil. The heat of my anger boiled up inside me and I spat a ball of flame at the knight. It rolled over him back as it dispersed it was clear the fire hadn't hurt it at all and I received a sword thrust in my calf for my pains.

Then all of a sudden the knights stopped moving. I called over to Colatto and, receiving no response, run across the lab to see where he had gone. Faergil was also on his way. Bazil declared that he was going to find Woren and that he believed the secret door would take him straight to the mage. Primrose, who had just cut down one of the immobile knights, went with him leaving Baldric to finish off the rest. Elladyr seemed torn by indecision; should he purse the man who ruined his life or stay to protect the son of the man he betrayed? I called out for him to go with the halflings; they would probably need his combat skills and certainly need his knowledge of the citadel's layout.

Reaching the double doors I found myself staring at the back of a creature which could only come from another plane. The Beast stood erect with the body of a great black bear, a pair of bat's wings and a set of curled ram's horns on its head. Though the creature blocked most of my vision I could see enough to tell that the room was some form of crypt. Taking hold of the cudgel in both hands I swung at the beast's back but as the club hit it the beast's body seemed to become like thick black smoke and my blow passed straight throw. Clearly I would need a more potent weapon and just the one arrived. Faergil (or rather several Faergils) arrived and with barely a pause he swung at it with his magical staff, shouting the command to unleashing some of its stored energies. The staff hit (just) and the blow was like a clap of thunder. As the Beast reeled back we caught a glimpse of Colatto; he was standing in the crypt and a circlet of living flame danced at his temple. A second later creature exhaled a cone of flame at Colatto. The crown protected him from the worst of the flame but Colatto was still burnt.

Quickly I told Faergil to pass the staff to me and I swung it was all the force I could muster at the Beast, calling out the command as I did so. The Beast took the blow and turned on me, tearing at my flesh with its claws and fangs. And so the fight swept back and forth; staff and claw, claw and staff. It turned into a war of attrition but the Beast's stamina was far greater then mime. Faergil had fallen back from the door. He was almost out of spells and, unfolding his hole, went rummaging about for the spell-book he had acquired months before from the mage-come-thief "Flame".

Just as I felt that I was about to breathe my last Baldric was at my side, having finished destroying the fifth and final knight and sprinkling holy water over the remains. We struck simultaneously; Twin-Death from one side and Faergil's staff from the other. The Beast roared with fury and collapsed into a cloud of oily black smoke.

Later I learnt that about the same time Bazil and Elladyr had reached the top of the staircase, which had run up the length of the citadel with secret doors at every level. Primrose, not having their speed, was only about halfway up the staircase. Just as they reached the top step they felt a burst of air streak past them. A second later it past Primrose and Bazil shouted down to her to go back to the lab and warn us that something was coming.

Dashing through another secret door the ex-paladin and the halfling made straight for where Woren's chambers should be. Arrayed in the corridor they found the remaining sixteen Knights of the Circle of Flame. It appeared that they had been in the process of forming a defensive wall in front of the bedchamber door but were now as stationary as the ones down stars. Pushing past the inert knights the pair had entered the bedchamber to find Woren standing in the middle of the room. He was wearing black robes and concentrating hard on a glass or crystal sphere which hung from a chain. In the sphere could be seen a blazing circle of flame. Without a second thought Bazil advanced on the wizard fully intending to cut out his throat when something jumped on his back, laughing evilly, and he felt a sting in his neck. It was Woren's familiar, later Colatto and Faergil identified it as an "Imp", and its sting was a lethal poison. Halflings are a hardy folk and Bazil is a fine specimen of his race, the poison only made him feel a little light-headed and he kept on after the mage. Elladyr swung the staff at the familiar once, twice. The imp ducked the first swing but took a solid hit from the second but it refused to be budged. Bazil sprang at Woren but the blade passed harmlessly through him, it was an illusion!

Down in the crypt we had come to the realisation that while Colatto was standing still he was far from inactive. His brow was creased with concentration and streaked with beads of sweet (and not because of the flaming crown). Afterwards he told us how he had flown into the crypt to find a figure laid out in kingly robes of stated on a bier (indeed the body had still been there when we entered, though we were too busy to pay it much attention). Lying on his chest was the Crown of Flame. With more then a little reverence Colatto had taken the crown (it was cold to the touch and danced in his grasp like a living thing) and placed it on his head. Instantly he had become aware of the twenty-one undead warriors and knew he could control them. No sooner had he commanded them to stop than he felt the presence of another mind, the mind of Woren. Since that moment they had been engaged in a battle of wills with the mage for control of the knights. Woren was strong willed and focused but Colatto was driven by the desire to avenge his father and family and slowly but surely he had worn down the traitor's defences.

The battle still raged when we found him. I volunteered to stay and guard him while Baldric and Faergil went to help the others. Baldric did what he could for my injuries and headed for the secret door, Faergil used The Art to take the form of a bat and flew after him. Quickly I got to work and used almost the last of my divine favour to create ward around the crypt, it was a minor thing capable of only stopping an orc or a common foot-soldier but it was the best I could manage. Baldric had barely reached the foot of the stairs when a blast of wing passed him and shot into the lab. He turned around and started back for the crypt while Faergil flew up the stairs.

The first I knew of the invisible assailant was when it struck Colatto who, not daring to disengage from the fight to control the knights, did his best to ignore it. Bring up the lens I spied a tall, gaunt and translucent creature standing beside Colatto, another Invisible Stalker. I stepped towards it and struck at it with the enchanted club, I hit and hurt it but this Stalker was a single minded as the last one

Despite a desperate last stand by Woren Colatto proved triumphant in their battle of wills. Instantly he ordered the undead knights to find and kill the mage. Up in Woren's chamber the illusion cried out and dropped the orb that shattered on the floor. Unfortunately for Woren Bazil heard the sound of the real Woren cry out as well from where he had been standing on the far side of the large, canopied four-poster bed. As Elladyr struck at the imp again and again Bazil rushed around the bed and lunged at the mage scoring a pair of vicious but not instantly fatal wounds. At that moment all the remaining Knights of the Circle of Flame began to file into the bedchamber and attacked the illusion of Woren. A few seconds later Faergil flew in too.

Desperate to put some distance between himself and death at Bazil's hands Woren produced a wand from his robes and blasted the halfling (and much of the room) with an icy wind. Before he could do it again however Elladyr managed to finish off the imp causing its master to real in pain. Faergil, shifting back to his elven form, cast virtually his last spell on the illusion of Woren, dispelling it. The knights instantly fanned out looking for Woren. Three found him and attacked. The mage was hit once, twice, three times and then, dodging nimbly around the armoured warriors, Bazil drove his weapons home; killing the tyrant.

Down in the lab Baldric and myself we bludgeoning away at the invisible stalker, we hit it repeatedly but the being from the plane of air was made of stronger stuff then mortal flesh. It was a one sided fight as it only had eyes for his specified victim, Colatto. Unfortunately its victim had other ideas. Now free of his battle with Woren Colatto quickly assessed the danger he was in and summoned a tight, circular wall of flame around both the invisible stalker and himself. Whether he suspected that the Crown of Fire would offer some protection from the flame, or was simply very brave, the invisible stalker was destroyed by his spell. He came through it with minor burns.

Just then a very out of breath Primrose arrived to warn us about the invisible stalker. Colatto told us that Bazil and the others had found Woren. Baldric and Primrose headed back to the stairs while Colatto and myself, taking the form of small birds, flew up the shaft that the imp had used.

As we arrived in Woren's room and resumed our natural forms the remaining knights turned and formed a circle about their new master. Colatto introduced himself as "Colatto Carifar, Lord of Nimpeth". As one sixteen dead voices asked for their release from servitude and, after Colatto gave them their release, they fell, truly dead, to the floor. No sooner had the sound of falling plate-mail stopped ringing around the chamber than the red pigment on Colatto's cloak, blood, liquefied and fell away leaving it pure white once more.

At once Elladyr knelt before his lord and offered him his sword. For a split second I though Colatto was actually going to run him through but instead he borrowed The Tears of Tymora and knighted Elladyr and declared him the first of Nimpeths "Knights of the Silver Coin".

We had no time for celebration however as at that moment fifty armed men lead by Duke Folkwain arrived. He called upon us to surrender, saying that our plan could not succeed and our friends on the Undying Gaze were dead. At the double sight of Woren's corpse and Colatto resplendent in flaming crown and gleaming white cloak he soon changed his tune. His men, first in ones and two and then on mass, through down their swords and knelt before their new ruler. Quickly, and by no means politely Colatto and myself demanded to know what he knew about The Undying Gaze. Folkwain replied that Woren had sent him to investigate the Sailors Rest where he had found a note from Amber asking that we deliver a few things to her on the Undying Gaze. By the ship had left port so three warships, under the command of Admiral Taramont had been despatched with orders to find and sink her.

Shouting to me that I was in charge till he returned Colatto threw open a window, changed into a bird and was off. If he thought that I was going to remain behind while Amber and the valiant crew of The Undying Gaze were in danger he clearly didn't know me very well. I was halfway to the same window when I realised I had already taken the form of a bird once that day. I would have to get to the docks and become a sea mammal instead. Dashing past Baron Folkwain I raced down stairs to the ground floor where I almost ran into Andle and a contingent of the Thieves' Guild. After some initial misunderstanding I learnt that Taramont had been an agent of The Revenant for years and they had made only a pretence of pursuing The Undying Gaze. Colatto discovered the same thing when he caught up with the war ships.

Colatto returned before dawn and was immediately caught up in matters of state. Baldric, aided by Elladyr and Primrose saw to the proper disposal of The Knights of the Circle of Flame. This left Bazil, Faergil and myself to search Woren's library for some clue to the elven city that was our destination. No record of it was found in any of his books but Bazil found a curious scroll tube imprinted with the same leaping lion symbol as the magical bracer Faergil had been given in the Vale of Lost Voices. Noticing that the embossed symbol on the bracer and the inset symbol on the scroll tube were the same size I placed the two together and, which a flash of silver light, the tube opened to reveal a map. Comparing it to hit own map Bazil found a few matching local features. Faergil, told us that the delicate elven writing read "I wait thee my beloved in Rucien Xan. Follow the waters of the Chondath Stream to the three falls of Sehanine. By the light of the bloody tears of Correllon invoke my name and I will come for thee". It was clear, we only had to follow a certain river to its source, and we would find Arriane Maerdrym, the bearer of the Swords of Demron.

Book 3 Chapter 1....

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Vilhon Reach.
Didn't use much in the way of resources this week (other than the normal three - PHB, DMG, MM), as it was all my own stuff.
Pages from the Mages...
As I said in last weeks DMs notes, the maps came off the net ,and the maps for the Citadel came out of Castle Spulzeer.

The evening went much quicker than the previous week, and proved a suitable climax to the game - though that wasn't my original intention (I had another 4 weeks prepared, but it was decided that after 11 weeks of Realms we should give it a break)
The spiders were 'Huge Spiders', that are only 2+2HD and proved no real challenge for the PCs. Bazil (Edd) got a bit of a hard time for running back through the front ranks, but as he said - he's no fighter (This was disproved somewhat later with his heroic fght with Lord Woren...)
Its official, Rust Monsters are great monsters! Call to all DMs to use these more, especially when your players aren't really used to them. The two lead characters (Collato and Bazil) both had well-loved magical weapons (Bazil had 'Kithril' a +3 Shortsword of Quickness, and Collato had 'Sarth' +2 Bastard sword and sister to 'Taragarth' - See the Magister for details). Both weapons were hit by the innocent ickle Rusties and I called for percentile rolls. Bazil rolled a 02 and Collato in the 90's - one of them knew that they had lost a weapon, but I didn't tell straight away. Collato was the unlucky one and his sword fell to pieces.
I never really decided what evil god was worshipped in the temple, but I suppose it was probably Mirkul (prior to Godswar back then, or Bhaal). Some of the players, especially Darrell, seemed convinced that the two statues were gargoyles, they were right of course, however Bazil suffered pretty badly in the ambush that followed.
The Patchwork Men, are Broken Ones as per the Monster Manual.
Once up in the Citadel, the mages in the party were somewhat excited by the seven spellbooks laying around.
Woren was came aware of the characters when they were espied by his nasty little Imp. He sent the, now-undead, Circle of Flame knights to investigate. These were my own invention, esentially weak skeletal warriors, with immunity to fire. Of course the players started by Fireball and then breath fire to fend them off!
Again, the Crown of Fire is my invention.
The Bear Beast in the Tomb was a Greater Guardian Yugolath. A nasty beast that kept them busy for a few rounds.
Fortunately for the characters Woren, who I changed from a 12 level Wizard (in The Vilhon Reach) to a 15th level Wizard, didn't get a chance to flex his magical muscles. Bazil took care of him. Well down Captain.
You should have seen the look on the faces of some of the players when they were told that Amber (Traycie character - who is on a sabbatical) was dead. Gotcha.

Finally, here is meaning behind the text on the map. But that is for another day.