I, Torben Eastlander, sat down with the half-elven cleric of Bahamut, Z’alden. It was late in the evening, and Z’alden had just returned from prayers. He was contemplative. His symbol of Bahamut seemed to shine brightly in the firelight, and surely my eyes were playing tricks, but a light outline of an aura of silver and purple flames seemed to surround the cleric. I recalled that the others had called the half-elf, Silverflame. No, it must be the wine. The aura was gone. Surely the recording of this story was starting to get to me. Still, I would hear this fantastic tale out.
Z’alden ordered two more goblets of wine for us, then sat down. The other members of the party were out. The great Dragonborn Paladin Felsmon and the human Ranger Erik were testing their longswords in a contest to the west of town. Rift the Eladrin wizard was working on learning a new ritual. The dwarven fighter Barrick had decided to see if the ale was better over at the Inn of the Chestnut Charger. Or, at least cheaper.
So, this evening, I sat with the cleric. Z’alden finished his goblet and turned to me, “Torben, you have been dutifully recording our missives in prose and poetry, but the tale is not yet complete. Before you passed out last night after your time with Telnara the dwarven maiden, Barrick had related to you much that had happened as we tried to find the four Minotaur items of testing: Mask, Bell, Blade, and Tome. Only the Tome was missing, and we presumed it was behind a door that was magically sealed. We hoped that finding the four items would aid us in our quest to rescue the Harkenwoldian prisoners from the gnolls before they were sacrificed and the gnoll’s demon god was unleashed upon the world.”
“Indeed the world was thinning. Occasionally we would hear screams rip through the fabric of reality. But, by the Dragon, our resolve would not be undone. Leaving the magic doors, we went to find the gnoll leaders and gain some information on where the prisoners were and, perhaps, how to get through this magically barred door that Rift’s wizardry could not open.”
I would tell my readers here that the tale becomes fantastickal. Even more than in the previous segments. Not only did the group miraculously find the Tome on an altar where they least expected it, down a hallway containing the gnoll’s quarters, they had a battle with another Balgura demon and a gnoll priest. In the course of the battle, the dwarf Barrick jumped onto the Ranger’s back and leapt over the gnoll to swing his axe into the evil creature’s back. Now, as I am not one to malign the words of a cleric, surely a dwarf cannot leap more than a staff length and a half in the air, so I nodded thoughtfully and tried not to chuckle at this absurd notion. Yet, Z’alden spoke with such conviction that I am almost tempted to believe him. As I am when he spoke of how the Paladin’s longsword grievously wounded the demon and the wizard’s frosting magic sent it back to its place of origin or nearest forthwith dimension. Or how the Ranger’s sword drank the life of the gnoll, covering Erik in a soul-powered magic armor for a time.
What seems more reasonable is that they found some items: gold, a jeweled necklace, and a jeweled bracelet which Z’alden placed into his bag. Indeed, he shared some of the gold with Tiefling adventurers, Azkelik and Katel, who arrived on the scene saying that they had heard the fight. Note how, even in the cleric’s story, somehow the tieflings were not present for the demon or for the dwarven leaping. I am no barrister, only a humble scrivener dutifully recording the tale of my patrons, but I am becoming less and less convinced that this tale would survive before a judge.
Z’alden looked at me, “did you get the part about the magic gloves? We gave these to Rift before the Tieflings saw them. They may aid the wizard by changing her magic from a type that a creature can resist to something from the underworld. And the alchemical sling pots. They burst into flames. We gave those to the Paladin. Felsmon has a sling.” Torben nods his heads dutifully, “Oh, yes, I think I missed that. Again, some amazing things that the Tieflings did not see? Interesting.”
Z’alden related to me that they also found more markings on a wall, the four blue dots over the black inverted T. Crossing a hallway, they returned to the north and south doors of a room in which they reported hearing howling and laughter. This time all was quiet, until the Ranger opened the door more loudly than Barrick’s snoring.
Erik, with Rift, Felsmon, and the Tiefling Katel behind him, was greeted by 4 gnolls, two with longbows and the others with hand axes. Katel ran into the large room to attack the gnolls but to no avail. The faded minotaurs fighting on the walls may have inspired Erik more; he quickly dispatched a gnoll back to its demon god. Rift’s magic exploded into the room, filling it with a massive ball of fire that made her comrades warm but singed the gnolls and set a wall of hay on fire. On the other side of the hay was a Dire Bear, chained behind a fence, surrounded by hyenas.
The other four had been by the room’s presumed north door, waiting for the signal whether they should open the door to flank, or join their comrades through the southern door. With the signal given, this they did. Z’alden eyes grew large as related to me, “by the Claw, when I reached the southern door, I called to Bahamut at the sight of these gnolls, and brilliant light enveloped one and sent him back to the pit from which he was spawned. His scream was an answer to my prayer!” The dragonborn Paladin’s breath dispatched another after Barrick’s axe had grievously wounded it. The hyenas leapt over the flaming hay and attacked the dwarf for his trouble. The ranger’s sword felled another gnoll, and the dwarf and the others killed the hyenas.
This left the strangely chained bear. Z’alden spoke to me almost softly of how what should be a fearsome creature was injured and seemed to want care. He tried to heal it while the Ranger used his nearly magic way with nature to calm the beast. Once becalmed, they looked underneath the collar that the Bear had on – the name Ulthand was on the collar, one of the merchants in the Seven Pillared Hall. Could it be that this Dire Bear was a pet that the gnolls had stolen and been torturing? Such conduct is consistent with gnollish ways. So, the group took this pet, Frothy, with them, so as to return it to its master. Before leaving, the Tiefling Azakel noticed more of the strange symbols, this time four blue dots over the yellow arrow shape.
Here, I believe the story, although I suspect it was an ordinary bear, rather than some huge creature as the cleric made it out to be. Clearly too many blows to the head for the servant of Bahamut. What comes next is less believable. Yet, I dutifully record that which the cleric has told me. And, I note, that he bought me another glass of wine. Very kind. And a third. And then we got a bottle of 76 Harkenwoldian red. Now he was ready to tell me what happened next. After the ‘76, I was pretty certain that I too had seen a dragon.
The half-elf cleared his throat as the last of the ’76 was finished, “With Frothy in tow, and all four items in hand, we divided up to place the items on the enchanted azure circles. But, first we fretted over whether the symbolic clues were indicators as how to place the items. Did it matter which item went in which circle? We decided, lacking enough information, to simply try with each item in the circle closest to the room in which we found it. Felsmon and a Tiefling took the mask to northwest circle in a room with minotaur statuary, Barrick and a Tiefling took the Tome to the northeast circle in a room with demon statues and an altar, Erik took the Bell to the southeast in a room with skeletons chained to the floor, and I took the Blade to the potion room. Rift, Surina, and Frothy stood at southern end of the corridor on the blood-stained floor. It would not be long before we understood the mystery of that blood-stain.”
“At Rift’s signal, we placed the items on the enchanted circles. The items vanished. A ginormous roar filled the entire Well of Demons. The minotaur trap was sprung. I could see the blue pool in the potion room swirl, and suddenly, a water elemental was making ready to attack me. The Tiefling with Felsmon fled immediately, as he later told me, when crossbow turrets descended from the ceiling in his room. The Tiefling with Barrick also fled as the demon statue came to life. The skeletons on the floor with Erik rose up in an undead trap. And the track on which Rift, Frothy, and Surina were standing became the rolling ground of a giant blue sphere of death!”
Z’alden’s hand begun to rub the holy symbol on his chest. Perhaps it was the ’76 but I thought I saw that silver flaming aura surround him.
“Before the elemental could reach for me, I ran towards Erik after hearing him yell, ‘Skeletons’! Undead, I thought, by the Wings, something meant for my powers! But, I called upon the power of Bahamut to banish them back to their horrific dominion, and nothing happened. This minotaur mystical trap evaded my command of undead. And there was more powerful magic to come. Even as we all yelled and gathered out of the other trapped rooms to join Erik with the skeletons (with their chains, they were not much of a threat if you didn’t get too close for them to grab you), a white dragon emerged from the deathly cold of the Well and began to attack us.”
“Felsmon had to make a quick duck to escape the sphere after it bowled over Surina, and he was grabbed by the vortex of water elemental. This did not last long, and we were all together fighting this evil impostor of a Dragon. Its breath of icy cold crystals blasted us, and its eyes were able to glare at the Ranger and draw him closer to its claws. And, of course, it could fly away when we went to attack. Erik was able to store his bow, and launched into a sword attack like a Wolf with massive Jaws that tore at the dragon’s wings. Barrick bravely charged at the dragon, but it turned and massive waves of fear emanated from its being. Rift and Felsmon were both frozen in place, stunned.”
“It was not looking good at this point. Then, the dragon had to escape from the giant sphere, which showed it no mercy, and it flew into the room with the skeletons and attacked me where I stood. It landed to attack us all, and raked its claws across the Paladin. Well, we showed the dragon no mercy, Barrick threw axes, Felsmon threw his flaming sling pots, Rift’s flames flew out her hands, and the dragon flew away, injured badly. Erik, in a flash, stored his swords, pulled out his bow and fired two quick arrows at the Wyrm. It fell to the ground.”
I note for the reader that the appearance of the dragon, much less its defeat, was yet another amazing happening not seen by the Tieflings. Even with the ’76, it is only through the zealous recitation of the cleric that I am willing to scribble down this tale. Getting paid in gold also helps.
The cleric continued after pausing for moment to recall in his mind’s eye the fall of the white dragon. Or, perhaps he paused to get his story straight. Regardless, he then related to me, “But, this was not the last of the magical events. The magic double door, which had been barred to Rift’s ritual, flung open. In fact, all of the doors in the Well were suddenly open. We went through that magic door and entered a 10’ by 10’ ante chamber with another double door in front of us with magical carvings. The Ranger’s sense found a secret door. Through it we discovered a room that had the symbols we had been seeing arrayed in a line of stones on sliders that we could manipulate. An unmarked stone at the bottom of the tower of symbols seemed to be a button that should be depressed once the stones were aligned in the proper order. The painted markings on the walls were a key to the solution of this puzzle. But what was the meaning of the markings. And what was the solution of the key? We paused for a moment to rest, and the very fabric of reality warped. We could see into the Abyss. It was terrifying. Then, the horrific vision passed. We rested and thought on the puzzle.”
Here, the cleric paused. He closed his eyes reflectively. Then, the ’76 being too much even for him, he put his head on the table and slept, peacefully dreaming on the Wings of the Great Dragon.
The symbols that the adventurers saw.
Print out the image, cut out the pairs, and rearrange…