We sought more information about the upcoming beholder, but this was soon interrupted. As we were sitting down to dinner, the door of the Ivory Branch Inn slammed open and one of the scouts from town shouted about a fire in the nearby fields. Our meal forgotten, we rushed out of the building to discover that flying, horned kobolds were flinging rocks and torches. Our party split, some of us going west and some east. We eliminated the urds (those flying kobolds), but far worse monsters had targeted the center of town: manticores, which are huge, winged lions with faces of men and scaly bodies- and vicious tail spikes. While Linora, Vordb, Shocko, and I fought these, Ghost and the rest of our group battled two trolls while some of the townsfolk joined in.
After we destroyed the monsters (with help from an air elemental, Dwight and his men, and Ghost's Deck of Illusions) we found that the manticores had the symbol of the eye painted on them; clearly these had been sent by the beholder. We heard another shout of ″Fire!″ and discovered a group of drow with torches. We left one alive to question, but to little avail as all she would do was spit back words in her language.
The next morning there was a town meeting addressing the attack. Dwight volunteered to help with security and combat training while the rest of us planned to continue our quest to find the beholder. Zyquis, the mayor, told us of an abandoned village a few days to the south, so this was where we headed.
In Wood's Edge:
When we reached what had once been the town of Wood's Edge, we found that it was built similarly to Greenhill, but many of the houses were burned to the ground. Hoping to discover what had happened, I tried my memory spell in the center of town. The memory I picked up this time was not a pleasant one. The vision I received was similar to our recent experience with flying kobolds and fire, but the man who had experienced this memory had been killed by one of the attacking drow. (This spell is useful, but I'd rather not experience death again!) While I was doing this magic, Ghost searched around for tracks, finding some that mostly led around a well in the center of the town. She dropped a shard of magical light down, but there was no splash when it hit the water. Vordb cast a spell to detect magic and saw that the water was actually an illusion, so Ghost climbed down to investigate. Unfortunately the rope snapped as she was climbing and she fell- and she heard whispering coming from further down the tunnel. Orfeo dropped his magic rope down and Vordb decided to use this first, but proved to not be particularly dexterous: the wizard managed to land on poor Ghost. Trying to find a better solution for descending into the well, I cast an illusion spell of my own to create a wood and rope ladder; this worked for some of the group, but those who could not see it still had to brave their way down with Orfeo's rope. There were no more accidents (thankfully both Linora and I can fly) and we followed Ghost down the tunnel.
We discovered a group of seven drow in a sort of bording house and knowing that these were horrible creatures in league with the Eye, we immediately started to attack. I summoned a few giant ants and figuring that the female drow was the leader, I set the ants upon her. Our group prevailed, leaving only this particular drow alive to question later. Linora caught her in a choke-hold, causing her to pass out, then tied her up before she could fight. Again we found the insignia of the Eye on these enemies.
We made our way back to the others we had left behind to guard the well, then headed back to Greenhill to hand over our prisoner to the authorities. We tried to question her but could not get much more information out of her than we did the previous drow, despite the fact that I could speak her language this time. She cursed at us and all we could learn was that the Eye would apparently eat all of us and that it now knew of us. As a parting bit of revenge, Vordb cast an irritation spell on her. Before we left town, Ghost learned that an elven warrior had gone to fight the Eye months ago but had never returned. We picked up a few more pieces of gossip, but none were overly useful.
The next day I prayed to Hermes asking for advice on how we could find and defeat the beholder with the least amount of damage to ourselves. The answer I received was as follows:
Hide the hill
A lonely tower
Shows the way
Right and back,
Left, push, roll
So stay away
The palest dwarf
Is a cunning foe
Watch your step
Or lose a toe
The eye sees all
From any side
Beware his gaze
Or meet your doom
No spells afore,
But from the back
Remove the eyes,
His power dies
This I shared with the group in the hope that we could soon make sense of the poem.
As we traveled, the woods became thicker and darker, the sounds of animals fading away. When we reached the end of the trail we were stopped by two centaurs and a wood elf; these were on guard to prevent people from entering the Night Wood. Ghost explained our quest and we were allowed through with a warning to take the dangers of the wood seriously. The next day we came to a large stream running across the path. Vordb was wading in to see how deep the water was when he was bitten (and almost knocked over) by a giant eel; several others soon circled. SwampFox and Linora were able to bring him back to shore and the group attacked. I used a spell to mentally control one of the eels and managed to beach it on the shore, but it had a creepy, slimy mind that left me feeling awful. (Note to self: don't mind control gross creatures.) Finally these eels were all destroyed and Orfeo tied his rope so everyone could get safely across. We picked up the wagon trail again on the other side and continued on.
Soon we came across a tree that did not look quite like a normal tree. We quickly figured out why when it began talking to us, trying to convince us to come closer because it ″had a gift″. Vordb, being Vordb, walked forward to reach for this and – surprise- vines dropped down to snatch up him, Shocko, and Oakskin. Not wanting to deal with this, I Commanded the tree to ″Release!″, which caused it to pause and appear to think for a few moments before lowering the three to the ground and whipping its vines back up. Shocko, wisely for once, shouted ″Move!″, but Vordb instead went forward- and was immediately grabbed again. Linora managed to cut him down and we got away before the wizard could repeat this mistake for the third time.
After more traveling we spotted the tower from my prophecy; this was ahead of us, atop a hill, but what lay closest to us was a large dead tree with burned branches. This had an opening in the trunk with a tunnel leading down. We decided to investigate this later and continued on to reach the tower. This was surrounded by a clearing and perched around the top were several stone gargoyles. At the top there was also movement. It was bright afternoon so Linora was unable to shift into a bat to fly up, so I got voted for this wonderful task. Unwilling to go, I finally (reluctantly) agreed when Ghost let me borrow her ring of invisibility. Using my winged boots, I flew up to see what had been creating that movement; what I found were a group of kobolds marching around the top. One of these was standing on the shoulders of another kobold in order to look through a large telescope. I cast a mind reading spell on this one and discovered that kobolds have … odd minds. It was not disgusting like the eel's, but it skipped around a lot, making it strange to follow. I learned that it was trying to look for something through the telescope because ″the dwarfs said it was coming″- when it said this, I picked up a chill as though the dwarves terrified the kobolds, and a mental flash/momentary image of a glowering, very pale face. I flew back down to tell everyone what I had learned.
Linora and SwampFox entered the clearing and immediately horns were sounded while the telescope spun towards them and the kobold archers began to fire down. They ran to the door of the tower and with Tonk's help, knocked in the door (squashing a kobold). Meanwhile Vordb and I followed while Orfeo began to climb the tower from the outside and Ghost circled around the building; the others remained hidden in the treeline. Once we began fighting we quickly learned that there were more than just kobolds to contend with: the gargoyles came to life and began to dive at the group. Ghost, Linora, and Vordb began to attack these while SwampFox, Tonk, and I faced the kobolds inside. Hearing Orfeo's agonized shout from above and knowing no one else could get to him faster than I could, I used my battering ram ring to quickly eliminate the kobolds I met as I worked my way upwards. At the top I saw that a gargoyle was viciously attacking Orfeo and the arrows being fired at it were not hurting it in the slightest. Still having my ring at the ready, I put as much power into this as I could to shove the gargoyle backwards off the tower. It crashed to the ground and I called for Sten to help while SwampFox helped Orfeo inside.
I discovered that there was one remaining kobold up on the tower and, waving my ring at it, told it to drop its weapon in Orcish. When it started flailing and running around, I realized that scaring it would not help, so I Charmed it (unfortunately this meant that it began to follow me around, smiling that creepy kobold grin...) to hopefully get some help out of it later. Meanwhile the rest of the group continued to attack the gargoyles, Sten managing to wrestle one down at one point. We killed all but one, which flew away but was knocked back into the trees by the air elemental which Ghost now controls. The battle now done, I questioned the kobold I had Charmed. I was led to the telescope, where he pointed it to a hidden valley: this was where we would find the beholder. This particular kobold said that he could take us there and told me that he had seen the Eye close up, but had not been to where it usually is found. He also told me that there were kobolds, ogres, and derrow (the ″masters″, the pale dwarves) in the lair. What I did not learn was his name; it turns out that kobolds do not have those (perhaps they have smells instead?) so we decided to call him Chip.
We camped in the tower that night after learning from Chip that more kobolds were not due back until noon the following day. The next morning we had a familiar visitor: the Master pulled up in a hippogryph-drawn cart. He thanked us for making it this far and gave us a message along the lines of ″This is the most danger you've ever encountered, the beholder's not pulling any punches, he's at home and knows you're on the way, and to take heed, but this is all the help I can give. When in doubt, get behind something, look up, look back, look around, and be careful who you trust″ and went on to say that Chip will be more useful than we think, so we should take him along with us. (Presumably this means that the kobold is someone we can trust?)
Grateful for this extra bit of advice, we traveled towards the clearing where were would find the beholder's lair. We found a round stone door cut into the side of the hill which was guarded by two ogres and two armored men, all with the sigel of the Eye. Clarence told us that he had a Silence spell ready, so he and Ghost snuck ahead; Ghost backstabbed one while the humans silently blasted their warning-horns. We eliminated these guards then plotted a good way to get through the lair. We decided that disguises would be our best bet and Clem and I (the only two trained in this kind of thing) helped dress a few of our number as guards while Ghost found a hidden key to get us through the door.
Inside Ghost went invisible to scout ahead while Linora did the same in bat-form. Moving forward we soon came across a tunnel filled with large purple mushrooms. As soon as we came near, they because to shriek. Clarence again tried his Silence spell and managed to reach all but once, which Ghost finished off. We continued along until we reached a room with a large pit and the path corkscrewing down; floating along the path were things that looked like beholders. Chip warned us that these would go ″boom!″ if we got close. Ghost shot one from a good distance away and sure enough, it exploded when the arrow hit it, causing a chain reaction of several of them going off. Between the shouting mushrooms and the exploding floating eyes, clearly our presence was now known. We continued through the tunnels and reached the room Linora had earlier seen while in bat-shape. In here were several statues of warriors, elves, centaurs, and ogres, all looking horrified, and in the center was a big stone statue of what looked like a beholder. Branching out were several other tunnels; picking one we found a small room with a single prison cell. Inside was an elf who said that he had been there since July- this was the elf warrior we had learned about back in Greenhill. Orfeo broke him out of the cell and Sirilas explained that he had been turned into stone but the beholder had changed him back, possibly because he was worth more alive. He had scouted into the tunnels before being caught, but either the tunnels had changed (I find this rather unlikely) or his memory was faulty because the tunnels we took did not lead to the places he recalled.
Soon after freeing the elf we met our first derros (derroes?). Ever so pleased to see us, they fired off their crossbows before turning to run in opposite directions. I tried Charming them to get them to stop, but to no avail. Vordb had similar luck with the insects he summoned, as these would not follow the dwarves. Linora, Vordb, Ghost and SwampFox gave chase and followed the derro into a dark room. One of the dwarves had begun cutting at something, which caused another something to swing around from the center of the room to cut at the four who had followed. This was not enough to deter them, however, and they took down the two derro. We then met up again and tried the next tunnel. This one led to a large room with a pool of water spanning the entire width. Linora flew ahead as a bat to investigate and discovered a small alcove cut into the ceiling where two derro were waiting with loaded crossbows. She flew up behind and turned back into a human behind them in order to shove them off the ledge; the one fell but the other managed to smack his head and fall out when he tried to get away from her. Ghost meanwhile took care of the one that had first fallen and the women shoved the bodies into the water. We all made our way across and traveled on until we were stopped by Chip.
The kobold warned us to be quiet and that the ″pit room″ was ahead; Sirilas clarified by explaining that it was a store room and that our disguises might fool them if we acted nonchalant. We found that it was a large room with many alcoves along the sides, a few tunnels leading off, and a huge hole in the center. The room was also full of kobolds, ogres, and derro- not good! Ghost went first to pull a card from the Deck of Illusions (suddenly a good portion of the room was filled with a hill giant) and while the monsters were distracted by that, I used my Wand of Fear to frighten as many as I could. A few of the kobolds and ogres ran away, leaving us with still a good number of enemies to fight. Before the battle started Ghost threw a Greek fire at an ogre, then the melee began. We seemed to be doing well when one of the derro did something that changed the outcome: he pulled out a glowing vial and drank from it, then breathed out a great wave of fire. Seeing that this severely hurt most of our party, I flew down to frantically begin giving out healing potions, but this was too little too late for Shocko, who had been killed by that fiery attack. Now I began praying frantically and grabbed the magical scroll that I had been keeping near at hand (figuring I would need it for one of our foolhardy wizards) to try my hardest to bring Shocko back. The scroll faded and nothing happened for a few moments- but then Shocko gasped. Thank Hermes, he was alive!
Back at the Tower:
After as much healing (both magical and non) as possible for the time being, we wisely decided that it was now time to flee before any other fire-breathing dwarves arrived. Running as fast as we could, we made it back to the tower where I cast a protective spell around the building and everyone piled as much heavy debris in front of the door as they could. That night Vordb attempted astrology to see if he could see what the future held for us. One constellation stood out: the one known only as ″The Dragon″. Without any doubt, the wizard was sure that there would be a dragon in his near future. (When he told me of this, all I could hope was that it would be a friendly dragon.)
If we were not grateful to have Sten with us before, now we greatly appreciated having a healer along. The priest of Apollo worked through the night and by morning everyone's wounds were healed completely. We gratefully waited another few hours so that he could have a well-earned rest. During her watch, Ghost decided to use the spyglass atop the tower. Through this she saw an orb shape rise above the trees then stare at her until it sunk back down below the treeline. Meanwhile Vordb worked to find some sort of shield that we could use as moveable protection from the beholder. With our help he was able to build three thin, portable walls. (″Portable″ only because we have an ogre with us.)
Instead of heading directly to the lair, we decided to first investigate that fallen tree. Inside the tunnel led down into a big, dark chamber containing some old human and equine bones. At the back were piles of rocks and coins with a large beholder-type thing sleeping atop. Ghost and Linora went ahead to sneakily attack, but they missed, causing the monster to spring up and open its large eye. Instead of eye stalks, this particular monster had tentacles, which popped out from all sides. Vordb summoned a swarm of flying bugs to attack while the fighters joined the fray. I cast Entangle, hoping to reach the roots of the ancient trees in the area; this worked, pinning the tentacles to the ceiling. Soon it was able to free a few of these, however, and hooked them into Linora and Ghost. Once the fake-beholder was killed, they were able to hack the tentacles to get free, then Sten used his healing skills to free them completely. We looted the treasure in the pile then headed straight to the lair.
Back to the Beholder's Lair:
Once we reached the stone door we discovered more guards than before; this time there were four ogres and four armed men. Seeing that this might be a good time to use the horn she had looted from the previous guards, Ghost moved off towards the tower before blowing into it. This caught the attention of the guards and soon a group of ogres, kobolds and an orc went off in the direction of the horn. Again Ghost and Orfeo did their sneaky thing and went ahead to backstab the guards, then Vordb summoned more insects while I used the Wand of Fear to try to scare the guards away. This turned out to be a mistake. Not realizing it had an area affect, the wand hit Ghost as well as the guards, sending all of them running and screaming away from me. A few minutes later Ghost came back to her senses and returned (I apologized), but the guards did not, so we took this opportunity to reenter the lair. Ghost rigged the door to hopefully jam and prevent anyone from opening it from outside, then we headed back down the tunnel.
All was quiet for a while until we neared the ″pit room″. Here Ghost and Linora scouted ahead and found one of the important derro speaking with the beholder. The dwarf was waving around the now blank illusion card and saying in Common ″Rigar, my son, they killed him″. The beholder responded with ″You have my blessing- find them, kill them, and bring them to me″ and both went down one of the lefthand tunnels. Inside the alcoves Ghost found weapons and tools and inside one was also a secret door. She and Linora returned to us to tell what they had found and Chip explained that the tunnels led in the direction of the derros, the kobolds, the bathroom, and the ″stuck workers″ (slaves? Guards?). We decided to check out the secret door first. This opened into a chamber about a quarter of the size of the ″pit room″, filled with bottles, casks, and vats. We had stumbled across the derro's brewery. Here we found a few bottles of glowing yellow-green wine and, not knowing if they were useful or not, took them for later.
Sirilas told us that he had found a secret way around from the back of the kobold chieftain’s lair. I was somewhat leery of this, considering that he was having trouble recalling where the tunnels led, and Ghost seemed to share my opinion. We got Vordb to cast his magical detection spell under the guise of investigating the glowing bottles (nothing was magic about these) to scope out Sirilas, but the only magic showing on the elf was his club. I am not convinced, however, and will be keeping a close eye on him, heeding the advice of the Master to ″be careful who you trust″ (not that I trust people anyway, of course).
Figuring this was a good place to hide for a bit, most of us stayed behind while Ghost again went ahead to explore. She found the guards who had gone off after her horn; they were saying that they could not find any trace of us. The derro they spoke with said that they would deal with us regardless of what the Eye said, then they all left the room. Moving on, Ghost went down the tunnel leading to the kobold's part of the lair, finding two guarding the end. These she past invisibly to find a chamber with a kobold wearing chainmaille seated on a pile of straw. This one was guarded by six kobolds: three holding one halberd, three holding one lance. True to Sirilas' word, Ghost found a wooden door off to the left of this room.
She returned to the rest of the group and inquired of Sirilas about that door. He said that he had been able to sneak in when the chieftain was out, that it went past the slave quarters to the hallway where the derro quarters are, and that the door had not been locked. We agreed that now would be the best time to test out our disguises and Chip and the three dressed as guards led us ″prisoners″ past the gawking kobolds. The chieftain came out wearing a broadsword almost as large as he and a ridiculous tufted helmet. When he saw that Chip had prisoners, he slapped the kobold on the back and gave a toothy grin. We were led into the chieftain's room while those of us tied up worked to secretly untie the ropes knotted at our wrists. The chieftain walked over to the door and hammered on it with a mallet. Two derro opened it and our disguises worked for them, as well; they looked us over and said ″Gulgar will be happy″. They led us down a wide tunnel where we passed above chambers filled with the ″stuck workers″- these turned out to be slaves- before tapping a code out on another door. The derro that opened this was the one who earlier spoke with the searchers sent after us. He was quite pleased to learn that we had been captured and after saying ″Gulgar will be pleased″, told our guards to take us to the larder.
The larder turned out to be what he said it was: a room of foodstuffs, plus a few more people-shaped statues. Here our ruse no longer held up and we switched back to action to fight the kobolds and derro in the room. Ghost questioned the last derro while Linora held him in a choke-hold. We learned that the way to the Eye was through the derro lair, there was only one way through, and that there were about thirty derro likely in their lair. Gulgar, the derro we had been hearing so much about, is their leader (″savant″ was the term used) and the prisoners were slaves of the Eye for whatever purpose it wanted of them; the beholder would turn things into stone when it was angry. He also told us that he thought that the Eye and its trophies were the only thing in that room and that the Eye does not sleep, but he did not know why we had been brought to the larder. After we had gotten this information, we tied the dwarf up and left him gagged behind some of the crates in the room.
On our way back through the tunnel we met with Gulstad and a few more derro. Apparently Gulstad was some sort of anti-magic dwarf (because he is a dwarf? Note to self: research this for later) because Vordb's spell failed while Ghost's sword lost its magical edge to become a normal weapon. We managed to take down all of these derro, but both Linora and Sten were hit with their poisoned arrows.
~Cyneric Conroy, Order of the Fleet Fox