A Tour of the Planes

Memory Stone 100918
In which our heroes encounter the Rat King.

We enter the catacombs and are immediately set upon by undead. Their location is more than coincidental. I wonder if they were placed here to defend the tunnel. If this is the case, then they are not very effective.

The next chamber of significant size contains a bier on which lays a shield. It is enchanted. Strange that someone would leave that here with these corpses; they aren’t animate, so they could hardly use the thing. Treasa picks it up and inspects it. There is some religious text inscribed on it. Something about drinking blood and immortal life. Sounds more like vampirism than religion. Anyway, there is a massive horde of rats heading our direction. They swarm over Ryltar as they enter the room, but mere vermin don’t pose much of a threat. They do form up into one giant mass, which is strange, but no more so than cranium rats. The passage they came from appears to be a dead end, but our map says otherwise.

Grumnil and Ryltar, both familiar with underground passages, find and open the hidden door. There are a number of armed members of the inquisition on the other side. They appear to be waiting for us. Curious. Did they hear us approach? Maybe they heard the rats. They fight with impressive coordination, but it’s not enough to stop us and they all fall. Ryltar goes from foe to foe, slitting their throats. A practical precaution; why haven’t I thought of that before? And why did Ryltar start now, with these guards? Has our encounter with Razza changed him in some way?

The inquisitors were guarding a trapdoor into the library. It is very heavy. We manage to open it and incapacitate, or kill, the guards in the library. Grumnil finds the book he spotted the previous day and we leave. We even manage to return to our lodgings with a minimum of harassment from the city guard. Perhaps we will be able to leave this city with a minimum of fuss.

The next morning is likely to prove me wrong. The guards, indeed, the entire city, appears to be on high alert. At first we worry that our theft has been discovered, but if so this is not the cause for alarm. It’s merely that the doge and his top aide have been assassinated during the night. Hopefully we will not be drawn any further into this city’s machinations than we already have been. I suspect my hope will prove fruitless.

Memory Stone 100925
In which Mazzy wasn't really present for most of it.

Ryltar heads out to investigate the situation. When he returns he informs us that the leader of the Templar is planning on making a move against us. Apparently the shield we found could lead us to some holy relic, and he fears that we will attempt to search for it. As if we don’t have enough treasure-hunting to do already. On the following day Ryltar goes to explain our position to the Templar while I investigate the situation of the city. Leaving will be difficult. The guards are taking close interest in anyone wandering the streets, and papers are required to leave the city by land or boat. Ryltar returns with information once more. We are to immediately leave by ship. The papers allowing us to exit the city will be waiting for us, and we have been given documents that should allow us safe passage through the streets. We head out.

We are stopped by some guards. Charles shows them our papers, but all it accomplishes is the delay of their attack. And they are no mere guardsmen; they fight too well for that. Curious. Are they members of the Inquisition, or did the Templar betray us? What would be the purpose of that? Regardless of their origins, they still fall. One of them wielded an enchanted blade, stronger than anything we carry. This is even more curious. Magic is new here, and under strict control. This adds credence to my theory that these were not normal guards, but it does not tell me exactly who they were. Hopefully it won’t matter, but it would be useful to know if the Templar has betrayed us.

Memory Stone 101002
In which our heroes get on a different boat.

We continue our way through the streets. The dock is not far away, but another patrol blocks our way. These ones unleash blasts of holy energy at us. Clearly not typical guards, but even “blessed” as they may be, they fall. The boat, and the Templar, wait for us. Fortunately, the latter have not betrayed us. The Inquisition somehow found out about our actions. Curious, but of decreasing importance as we leave Venice.

The trip will take weeks, and there is precious little to do on this boat. I feel… something, crawling and scratching at the back of my mind. Is the source of this my inactivity? Guilt? I fear if I don’t excise this, it might… no. I’m better now. I’m better. I have to be. I can resolve this.

Ryltar and I watch as the others engage in gambling. Somehow they end up winning a map of Faerun. This, as Ryltar emphatically points out, should be impossible. He seems really upset over this development, and that the rest of us don’t care as much as he does. It is strange, but no more so than any of the other impossibilities that have happened to me. Besides, it’s sort of nice not having anything to do for once.

Memory Stone 101016
In which our heroes acquire even more magic shoes.

But we arrive before I do what I should do, before I say what I should say. And now there is no time. Or is that just an excuse for my inaction? Am I doubting myself? Why did I do nothing?

Once off the boat, we are able to make our way through the gate with little delay. There are some minor demons, but nothing of concern. That is curious. We are in hell, at the point where this dimension touches the earth. Shouldn’t the denizens of this plane be clamoring over themselves to overtake this place. It’s so… empty. I expected twisting rocks and lakes of fire. But there are just floating platforms in the void, connected by portals. We make our way across the expanse. This place makes no sense. Is it broken? Sometimes things break, and can’t be fixed. The final way is blocked by a puzzle. Yan manages to solve it. Even seeing the answer, I still don’t completely understand. I suppose it doesn’t matter. I suppose nothing matters. The gate opens the same, regardless of my comprehension.

The next room is most curious. A large patch of ice, right next to a river of lava that starts and ends nowhere. And in the middle of it all, the Jackal, gibbering about the destruction of the multiverse, and naming us as the threat. How reassuring. We must spend even more time fighting those who should be our allies. The Jackal puts up a strong fight, teleporting across the room and throwing us around as though we were dolls. Grumnil is tossed into the lava, but pulls himself out unharmed. Apparently the lava is illusory, covering a small trench. This makes… no sense. You disguise a danger as something harmless, or bluff with the reverse. Why hide one hazard with another, more dangerous one. Oh, the Jackal has fallen. But… when did that happen?

Memory Stone 101106
In which our heroes get on the same boat

The Jackal will not be able to answer my questions, however, as he seems to be falling apart. We leave through a newly opened portal and we find ourselves… back on Teach’s ship, apparently only minutes after having disappeared. Razza’s grand plan to be rid of us gained him nothing. Is, is this my fate? To struggle against idiots like Shade and Razza, who are threats only by means of their strength, not their intelligence? So be it. Hopefully my companions will be understanding of the steps I need to take. But it doesn’t really matter if they’re not.

However, that will have to wait. The crew has been captured by pirates, and we must pursue them across the kelp walkways. Some of the kidnappers stand in our way. Interesting that they thought this was worth sacrificing their lives for.

Memory Stone 101113
In which our heroes kill the orcs, slay the orcs, destroy the orcs

We reach the pirates’ island, and there we find the remaining crew. They tell us that the pirates are cannibals. That makes quite a lot of sense, actually, given their behavior. It also means negotiations are unlikely to bear fruit. So be it. We confront the pirate’s leader, a large, brutish orc, as well as the rest of his degenerate followers. But the savages are no match for us.

We decide to leave via the pirates’ own ship, rather than traverse the kelp with half a dozen injured men to worry about. Their ship contains a good deal of stolen treasure, and also a shrine to their abominable god. I hope to throw the statue overboard; I have no intention of having that thing at my back for the next few weeks.

Memory Stones 20101205 through 20110213
In which our heroes suffer from heat stroke.

Our voyage is mostly uneventful. Charles spends the time watching over the pirates’ gold while Yan begins constructing the means with which we will carry it. As we approach the coast, however, the weather starts to turn. Unnaturally so. A storm appears from nowhere, and in the center stands a giant figure. We have little time to guess towards his nature, though, as our ship is being torn apart by winds and rock. We hurry to the rowboats. Grumnil is not quick enough and falls into the water. Can he swim? He certainly wears a lot of armor. And as a dwarf, he might not have had the opportunity to learn. I reach out through the possibilities and place him on the boat, and myself in the sea. I have little trouble swimming to our small craft, and we make our way to shore.

The storm quickly passes, and it becomes unbearably hot on the beach. We clear out a campsite and decide to rest until nightfall. But for me, sleep brings no relief from the temperature. I remain… completely aware of the heat. In an attempt to alleviate this condition, I begin to shed extraneous parts of my armor. I doubt it will help much. A small sandstorm starts up around us, but our tents protect us from any dangers such a thing might bring.

Eventually the light and heat fade, and we prepare to travel. Something has changed during the storm. We’ve… been moved? We are no longer on the coast; rather, we are significantly inland. Is Razza trying to throw us off course, or are our mysterious benefactors attempting to push us in the right direction.

There is some sort of commotion in the distance. We approach. A flock of giant birds, rocs, are attacking an encampment. There are no people visible, but they’re taking advantage of the meager protection offered by their tents. Their animals lack even that. We drive off the rocs with little difficulty. The inhabitants, nomads, are understandably grateful. We tell them where we need to go, and they offer directions. We must head east to the Crossroads of Destiny, and then south to reach the city of Huzuz. So we head off.

While our voyage through the desert is calm, it is not without its interests. As we travel, we see various figures on the horizon. We do not approach, and neither do they. It is possible they did not see us, but we are not moving stealthily. The riverbed we are to use as a landmark is in fact an ancient aqueduct. I wonder how long it has been since water flowed through it.

As we make camp, I ask to see the treasure map that Charles won in our previous planar travel. He hands it over, and I compare it to the map given to us by the nomads, noting several shared landmarks. Charles is annoyed that I did not bring this to his attention earlier; the destination noted on our first map is not far from where we were, but we’ve spent hours walking directly away from it. However, we don’t have the supplies to turn around. We must continue to Huzuz. From there we can purchase more food and water before following this peculiar map.

On the next night, we arrive at an abandoned city. We skirt around the edges until we notice an engraving in the streets. It is a representation of one of the wardstones. Intrigued, we enter the empty city. There are more inscriptions, but they are not like the first. And then we see people, or shades of people. Flickering translucent images of vendors selling wares and children running in the street. The city’s memory, perhaps? But then they disappear. Some of my companions look uneasy, and we return to our previous path.

We eventually arrive at an inn, rest, and begin the last step of this journey. On the streets we pass more curious inhabitants of this realm: a battalion of heavily tattooed warriors. They are heading in the direction opposite of ours. I assume they came from Huzuz. I wonder if there is a war to be fought. From the dispositions of the people we’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely, but it could be that they have yet to be affected by the fighting.

At last we reach the city of Huzuz. As we move through the marketplace, I notice that the population is much more diverse than that of other cities of Toril, although not nearly as eclectic as Sigil. As I think of my city I feel a twisting pain in my chest. What, what is this? But there’s no time to dwell; Grumnil is bellowing about something. I look up and see the cause of his outcry: a group of robed thugs are attempting to burn down a stall full of scrolls. Of course. Grumnil’s peculiar and arbitrary faith would not allow such a thing. He charges across the marketplace. I follow, and then outpace, him. Curiously, some random beggar is rushing to help us. I suppose he must thing we are equally odd.

The arsonists are not simple thugs, but rather potent pyromancers. Still, we are able to defeat them. The beggar proves surprisingly adept, aided in some way by his pet monkey. The guards arrive shortly after the danger has passed. At first they meet us with suspicion, but that changes to reverence when they recognize the beggar, or rather, the prince.

We are taken to the palace where we are introduced to the royal family. The princess seems rather unhappy to see us, but perhaps she is confused as to why we are here. I must admit, I share the sentiment. Why bring us to the palace? We also meet the royal advisor, Jafar, and his parrot. No, not just any parrot. The same parrot that followed us back while we fought the Black Talon. My mind races, things start to fall into place. Gant mentioned that Razza placed a spy in our group. But, with the timing, there are only a few possibilities for what the spy could be. The parrot is easily the most likely candidate. I start putting together the equations for killing the bird immediately, but we are being dismissed. It is suggested that we take the opportunity to clean ourselves up. I look down at myself, covered in dust, splattered with blood, and sporting a few burn marks. I reach up to my face and feel a cut that could easily turn into another scar. Yes, a bath doesn’t sound bad.

All of us bar Yan, who uses magic to keep himself clean, head to the palace’s bathhouse. I disrobe. The others seem a little uneasy around me. I don’t know why, and for now I don’t really care. The bath reminds me of the pool in the gymnasium, although it is too shallow to do proper laps in. Besides, the splashing would probably annoy my companions. So I just slide into the water and concentrate on becoming clean.

I close my eyes for just a second, allowing myself to relax for the first time in weeks, and I realize we are about to be attacked. I rise from the pool as I prepare to protect my allies. My sword may be in my quarters, but the blades in my hair are here. I pluck one of the latter from its place and, with a little concentration, replace it with the former. The others, curiously enough, brought their weapons in with them. While that is certainly helpful, it is also rather strange. Were they expecting an attack, or are they finally sufficiently paranoid given the forces arrayed against us. We fight off our assailants with relative ease, but now I’ll need another bath. The guards finally arrive, and after making sure that we’re still alive, they say Jafar wants to see us as quickly as possible.

After getting cleaned up, we went to Jafar’s laboratory. He appears to be in the middle of a creation ritual, but he quickly finishes when we arrive. He starts explaining the various religious and arcane factions in the city; apparently we were attacked by a group of religious assassins. At this point I am no longer surprised that zealots are trying to kill us. These ones are just another group of barmies in an ever-growing mob. Jafar also asks us what our reason was for visiting the city in the first place. We tell him the truth, or the minimum amount that passes for it. He seems to recognize that we’re holding something back, but he does not press. We put forward that the princess might be responsible. He doesn’t believe this to be likely, but he admits that her behavior has been peculiar lately.

In return, we question him about his parrot and its behavior. He claims the parrot is his familiar. That is curious, as most familiars are not as independent as the parrot has been. Still, Jafar seems to be telling the truth. But, if this is so, then it seems very unlikely that the parrot is the agent Gant mentioned. And if not the parrot, that would leave… the pig statue? I must have muttered these last words, for Jafar snaps to attention at them. He is rather interested in the statue, asks to see it, and then offers to purchase it from us. Before we can accept, he takes the statue up and smashes it against the floor. It shatters, more like ceramic than the bronze it is made of. Amidst the shards is a cloth bag, from which Jafar pulls a deck of cards. He claims that it is a rather dangerous artifact for which he has been searching for some time. He reimburses us with a number of jade statuettes and a sharpened metal card. The card has a very pleasing feel, but it would serve better in Charles’s hands than mine.

I must admit, Jafar has made a positive impression on me. I don’t make a habit of trusting people; in fact, I make a habit of not trusting people. But I’d be willing to make an exception for him. Maybe. For now, however, we need to procure transportation to the library, as walking across the desert again would be unpleasant. We browse what the marketplace has to offer in terms of horses and camels. I suggest that instead of animals, we should see if someone is selling figurines of wondrous power. While certainly more expensive than horses would be, it would allow us to take our purchase with us wherever we go; something we were not able to do with our previous mounts.

We search, and find a stall that offers what we seek: a marble statuette of an elephant. I watch as Charles, Grumnil, and Yan attempt to haggle with the merchant. It is not exactly impressive. Perhaps the vendors are more stubborn than Charles is used to, or perhaps the lack of rest is starting to catch up with us. Seeing that he’s getting nowhere, Charles changes tactics, instead engaging in a game of chance, using some of our newfound wealth as the wager. He loses, so he then bids his sword. This time, he’s successful, winning the elephant statue as well as recuperating his previous losses. I can’t help but wonder if he just peeled the merchant.

In their curious way, Grumnil and Yan immediately begin gambling against each other. Yan wins most of the rounds, thanks in part to his blatant cheating. They’re wagering watch duty, which is strange because only a couple days ago they were content with letting me watch over them the entire night.

The elephant passes into my hands, as no one else seems interested in taking responsibility for its activation. It is a… curious thing, a bit heavier than a statue its size should be. I focus on transforming it, perhaps putting a bit more of myself than necessary, but I am successful nonetheless. The tiny statue has been replaced with a life-sized but still marble elephant. Whoever crafted it had a sense of humor, or at least thought they did, for the elephant is wearing a fez and a monocle. From a more practical viewpoint, a ladder and tent posts have been cut out of the creature’s mass, allowing for easier mounting and more comfortable travel. I’m… not sure how I feel about such things. I suppose it is the right of the maker, but shouldn’t the creator have some obligation to the creation? Oryx. It- no, his name is Oryx. If I have a name, then so will he.

Oryx carries us well out of the city, but as is our curse, we are stopped. An efreet stands before us, commanding that we cease our efforts in the name of his mistress. Is this the work of the princess? If so, she will regret dragging us down with local politics. Hopefully, the destruction of her servant will be a sufficient clue that she should leave us be.

Memory Stones 20110220 through 20110306
In which our heroes are separated into "nerds" and "jocks"

The efreet conjures flame and fiery minions against us. The heat is nearly unbearable, but we are clearly overcoming him. He is about to fall, but instead he drops his sword and yields. He claims that in our next confrontation, we will know more of each other, and he disappears before we can get anything more out of him. I pick up his blade. It is curved, and much lighter than the weapons I am used to. Still, it may be worth experimenting with.

Oryx carries us to the library. There are three buildings in the complex: one looks abandoned, one is boarded up, and the third is adorned with banners of the Brotherhood of the Flame. We look for someone who can direct us to our goal, and we find such a person in the form of a priest of Oghma. To find such a figure here, curiouser and curiouser. He explains that the barricaded structure is the map room, the occupied one is some type of arcane sanctum, and that the dilapidated building is in fact the entrance to the library proper, with the books and scrolls to be found underground. Evidently the Brotherhood barged into the map room, accidently setting off the building’s security systems in the process, and then retreated to their current location. Now the building has been barricaded to prevent others from entering and getting killed by whatever guards the halls. A sensible precaution, but one we will by necessity be ignoring.

Still, it would be better to not alert the Brotherhood of our actions. From the main library we find a hidden passageway. We follow it, and find ourselves in the map room. So, these are the guardians: a trio of… golems, I suppose. Constructs of some sort, I suppose, but their bodies are formed from scrolls and books pulled from the nearby shelves. They appear to have noticed us. Yes, they definitely have. Precision will be required in this fight; can’t risk damaging what we came here to find.

These are elusive foes. One gets pinned down, only to disperse and reform on the other side of the room. As they fall they are absorbed into their companions. Still, we disable them, and find the map we are after. Time to leave.

Memory Stone 20110313
In which I stop using this format for taglines.

We emerge into some manner of commotion. Doubtlessly my companions will want to investigate, and then I’ll need to try and dissuade them, and of course they’ll ignore- wait, what? They’re not investigating. Perhaps they truly do grasp the importance of our burden. How relieving. As we depart, we pass a litter bearing the princess. None of our concern.

We begin to follow the map. At first our journey is uneventful, but what’s this? An encampment, of some sort, that’s been attacked. By, birds, perhaps? There are large feathers scattered around. The footprints might have been left by rocs. Curious.

Our path leads us into a ravine. There is movement along the walls; we are being attacked. Ah, these are what wiped out the camp. Large, bipedal lizards that have adorned themselves with feathers. We dismount from Oryx and deal with them handily. We press on.

Ahead of us is a large arch. Some of the others are nervous about approaching, but I lead Oryx forward. We have almost passed through, but something is happening. A field of electricity blocks off the entrance as a number of spectral figures appear around us. One of them addresses us in a language we cannot understand. They don’t seem to be aggressive, but the way is still blocked. There is a cavern in the cliff that we did not see before. We enter, and wait.

Memory Stones 20110320 through 20110327
The elemental passage.

Eventually a way opens. The passage leads us through a series of ancient chambers, each loosely related to an element. Perhaps some meaning has been lost over the years, but the obstacles presented by each room are hardly challenging. I emerge on the other end with barely a scratch, although some of the others are not so fortunate.

We are underground, in front of a ruined city. Light comes from… somewhere. I can’t see the source. I make my way to the city gates as do the others. Spectral figures, dreams of the stone, appear, just as they did in the city above. We enter the city, and it comes to life. Cracks disappear, colors brighten, and the cavern’s roof becomes the sky.


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