Day 11

I have it! I HAVE IT!!! Were it in my personality to dance and sing in the streets with joy, I would do so. Perhaps the Bards' guild would arrive and threaten me? I have done it. I relate the story of the capture of this nigh-unique item of extreme power: the Staff Of The Magi.

Upon awakening from my dream, I realized I needed a couple of items. I would need something to protect me from all forms of magic, and a Rogue Stone. I had about twenty-four thousand in gold at the time from quests I had completed; these items would be but a wise investment for my future. In the Adventure Mart, I purchased a scroll called Protection From Magic, which throws up a magic-proof shell that cannot be dispelled or removed in any way. It cost 2,800 gold pieces. I combed the city's shops for a Rogue Stone, and found one for sale at a place called Mae'Var's Guildhall in the docks, from a portly gent called Gorch. It cost 5,600 gold pieces. I cannot understand how weeks of work by a talented mage can be valued at half the price of a chip of rock, but I will have to live with this inconsistency.

I traveled to the Bridge district. I was waylaid on the way by slavers who were probably seeking revenge for my dispersement of their base, but I was able to avoid them simply by running away. I could not lure them into nearby buildings and have no desire to cast spells in the street and incur the wrath of the Cowled Ones. I arrived at the house I had seen in my dream, but could not enter it as there were Petrification traps on both doors, and didn't want to cast Protection From Petrification in the streets. I simply ducked into a Temple Of Helm across the street and cast it in there, then ran back. The first door opened easily...I imagined for this reason that it was not the right one. The second one put me into a difficult bind. It was locked and I could not force it. If I cast Knock in the streets, a Cowled Enforcer would show up. There was simply nothing else for me to do but cast Knock and allow the bastard to make his little "Magic is illegal" speech and then leave, my first and last warning. The Flesh To Stone trap bounced off of me and I was free to enter. When I did, the Rogue Stone disappeared (agh!) and I was dimension-doored to another place...

A place that looked for all purposes like a meeting-hall. A huge circular table in the centre of the room...marked with a symbol...a symbol...I know this group: they are the Twisted Rune! Oh, I have really put my foot in it this time. Messing with the Twisted Rune is instant death for demi-gods, and here I am a wimpy mage, on his own...I bit down and gained resolve. I will have that staff!

When I approached the table, there was a glimmering of light and a powerful lich by the name of Shangalar appeared. I told him it was an accident that I arrived here. I expected him to disbelieve that and he fulfilled those expectations. Of course, no organization so cowardly as to hide behind these elaborate mechanisms would fight fairly; he summoned his little Twisted Runies to assist him. So, all in all, it was Wimpy Human Mage vs. a powerful lich, a very high-level female human mage, a beholder (how did he fill in his membership card?), a vampire and a human thief.

No problem! As soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one with the Staff...now that I knew the employee roster, I was able to beat them. Here is what I did:

Equipping the Wand Of Cloudkill I had found (I had two, one with 6 charges and one with 1) and the Scroll, when first arriving I ran to the left of the table before Shangalar showed up and fired Cloudkill midway. As soon as the gas bubble left the wand, I read the Protection From Magic scroll. Shangalar made his speech, then gated his friends in. When they arrived, the mage and beholder were standing in the poison gas, and the scroll took effect right afterwards. Shangalar, the beholder and the mage were now basically powerless against me, and the mage and beholder started to be injured by the poison. I ran through it to lead them to further damage, staying well away from the vampire and thief. The mage, Shangalar and the beholder flung spells at me but they were useless. Many of the mage's spells failed as she was taking poison damage. She did manage to gate in a Pit Fiend...I immediately ran away from her, and she was forced to fight her own summon. The vampire fought it as well. The beholder, the thief and her were now badly injured from the poison gas. However, SOMETHING was getting through my Protection From Magic and killing me randomly. It could not have been running through the gas, as being 12th level I have 10 Hit Dice and therefore cannot fail a Cloudkill save vs. death and die instantly. One of the times I saw a strange spell with a blue display and a twirling blue rune. Could this have been it? Could be Symbol: Death...I will have to look into this.

As hellish as the quest to rescue the Boots Of Speed...er...Ha'er-Dalis was, they again saved me by allowing me to keep my distance when required and lead the enemies through the deadly gas. The Cloudkill ran out, so I hit them with another one (wands can be used with a Protection From Magic active...it just prevents cast spells from working.) The beholder dropped, leaving four enemies...and then the mage! Immediately I picked the Staff Of The Magi from her fresh corpse, identified it from lore alone and equipped it...and its powers became mine. To all remaining enemies, I was invisible. They stood around wondering where I had gone. Shangalar cast True Sight, but with the Cloak Of Non-Detection I was still invisible. If it had worked, I would have just re-equipped the Staff again and disappeared. The thief was Nearly Dead; I pounded him one step further. Now only the lich and vampire remained. I crushed Shangalar to dead bones, re-equipping the Staff with each strike, and suffered not a scratch. His corpse yielded over 2,800 gold pieces, and I gained 50,000 experience points from his centuries-belated demise. Only the vampire remained. The beholder's eye had fallen off when it died; this turned out to be the key out of the place. Knowing of the vampire's regenerative powers, not being able to cast Disintegrate through the magical shield, and satisfied that I had done everything I had set out to do and more, I departed, leaving Mr. Bloodsucker to wonder how a single, fragile human could have caused all this damage.

After wiping out a major organization of darkest intent singlehandedly and obtaining an item worthy of my close namesake, I think I need and deserve a rest...I have a LOT of quests I can finish now.

Of course, I have to go and investigate just what the second trapped door leads to...turns out there is a sarcophagus in the basement in an elaborate tomb, guarded by an Elemental Lich. However, I don't take a scratch killing him. One whack with Staff and he is mad, and he makes the fatal mistake of casting Gate. Reusing my technique of the battle that obtained the Staff, I simply run away, and it's Pit Fiend vs. Lich in the duel of the century. Pit Fiend is highly magic resistant and emerges victorious, then promptly unsummons himself. Inside the sarcophagus, I find a torso of golden bones...I seem to remember these. Something from deep arcania I heard in classes as a young acolyte...I should have been paying more attention to the lectures instead of the elven girl who practiced her minor divinations and enchantments in a gauzy robe. I am sure the meaning of these gleaming remains will become all too clear soon.


Day 12

I also solve the Skinner Murders, flaying murders of innocents in the Bridge district. A local courtesan has smelled something odd on a man who passed her. A friendly and helpful merchant gives me some samples of odouriferous items that are similar. She identifies the odour as oak bark tannin, useful in leatherwork. I question a beggar and he turns out to have found a strange sample of leather when the last murder occurred. The merchant identifies it as elephant hide. There is a leatherworkers' shop nearby. I question the proprietor, a Rejiek Hidesman, and he admits to the crimes, and escapes. I follow him into the basement tripping some Cloudkill floor traps, but he has fled the scene aboard a boat through a secret subterranean connection to the docks. A mage, two Rune Assassins (the Twisted Rune is popular in this area, I see) two ghasts and a hideous Bone Golem, a giant skeleton with bone scythe blades for arms, remain behind. The mage promptly disintegrates himself, perhaps to avoid being caught, and the assassins go invisible. I do too...but they can still see me. To avoid their backstabs I cast Stoneskin and their stabs are wasted. The other enemies can't see me when invisible...thankfully that Bone Golem is one of them. I concentrate on the assassins, whacking them hard through their useless leather armour when they are visible. My Stoneskins run out so I cast it again. The assassins' repeated invisibility runs out, so they don't. When they are dead, it is a simple matter to kill the golem and ghasts while invisible...this battle would have been difficult or impossible without the Staff as all golems are immune to magic. Now it becomes easy. There are some nasty traps in chests and boxes here, but nothing that waiting to regenerate won't fix. I gain some jewels, scrolls, experience, and reputation and gold for solving the murders. I find a very disturbing item under a bed: a tunic sewn together out of the flayed flesh of the murder victims. I feel sick looking at it, but keep it as it may be useful to track down the killer. A cryptic note indicates that he is hiding in Imnesvale in the Umar Hills and I can show him who I am by purchasing a certain book from him.

Making up for my slow start, I am off to the sewers. I rapidly dispose of the Lesser Earth Elemental (remember him?) that I had hidden at the end of a corridor. He had found his way out. The tough-looking party of six that I had bypassed earlier turn out to be brigands in hiding and demand 1,000 gold or my life; they fall to the Staff...and leave a tremendous wealth of magical weapons, armour and gems. I had 24,000 gold pieces even before returning to the sewers; now I have over 40,000. Roger The Fence buys it all as fast as I can harvest. A couple of Green Slimes, a host of kobolds and a Rakshasa...this weapon is truly wonderful and I am taking a fifth of the time or less to advance while taking little or no damage. With its 2 Armor Class improvement and a cloak called The Cloak Of The Sewers from the Rakshasa knocking another 1 off, my Armour Class is now -6 when wielding the Staff. Not bad for a wizard with no armour nor shield.

I investigate the Cult Of The Unseeing Eye. I encounter a Carrion Crawler, some Ettercaps and Shadows. All are easy. A tough encounter is with two Vampiric Mists in a chamber with a Cloudkill trap. Using Minor Spell Turning to reflect their Larloch's Minor Drain spells back at them is most helpful...they can see invisible creatures. Finally they are dead, and I meet with Gaal, the cult's leader, who asks me to retrieve a rod of power. He gives me a key. Just inside the sealed area is another elaborate tomb, just like the one the Elemental Lich was found in. There are some ex-cult-members here who want me to find the rod and destroy it rather than giving it to the cult leader. I think I will listen to them. The cult worships a Beholder, of all things, as a god. I just don't understand some people...

I descend into the bowels of the underground. There are a couple Sword Spiders and Giant Spiders...easy stuff. There is also a Wandering Horror and it is Not Easy At All. It can see me while invisible (being a mist,) it is completely magic immune (damn, I hate that) and its attacks can stun. I get stunned once and almost killed. I cast Blur to improve my saving throws and Armor Class and manage to get rid of it. I set off a Cloudkill trap grabbing a few spells and gems, which actually turns out to be handy. When I encounter a group of Gibberlings just beyond that, I lead them into the gas and they die instantly.

A group of Mummies and Ghasts are also easy kills, not being able to see me. Easy is short-lived...over a riddling bridge, three Beholders lie in wait: a full Beholder though not an Elder Orb, and two baby Gauths. They can't see me while invisible, but as soon as I whack one I go visible and their spells come fast and furious. Minor Spell Turning reflects one or two back before it's gone. Again I am glad I have 4 Minor Spell Turnings. I throw a Cloudkill at them and they take heavy damage while I run off and put up another Minor Spell Turning. When the cloud disperses, I throw a Fireball their way and now they are close to death. When I whack the Beholder, a Gauth's spells reflects back and toasts it. Two to go. The next strike takes out a gauth, and the Beholder's spells reflects back and kill it, canceling the Minor Spell Turning. Whew! There are some easily dispatched Shadows here too.

In a large underground cavern there is an ancient abandoned temple (with a nasty Petrification trap on its bridge.) The undead yet nonaggressive residents of this temple are haughty and hateful, resigned to their fate of eternally guarding it. Their hate has given the Empathic Manifestation (which looks like a tanar'ri) inside the temple existence. It invites me to attack with my hatred and feed it...well, this invitation is a little too obvious. Sorry, Manifestation, but you gave the game away. (I am a mage, you know. Hee hee.) Although I am not a priest, I do have a couple of Bhaalspawn abilities, one being Cure Light Wounds. I cast Cure Light Wounds on the Manifestation, the healing being the opposite of the hatred it feeds on, and it dies. When I do, the avatar of the missing god Amaunator appears. I can free his people by a positive act: taking the rod of power, using it once to destroy the Unseeing Eye, and then returning it. I agree to do so.

Returning to the ex-cult members, they are happy to see me and inform me that there is a "spy" of theirs inside the cult who knows how to enter the Beholder's lair for the second piece of the rod. I meet with the spy Tad there, go down a secret passage and into an area chock full of undead: Ghasts, Ghouls, Zombies, Mummies, Greater Mummies, Skeleton Warriors and even a Bone Golem. Luckily for me, not one of these undead can see me when invisible. I even use the sling for a while on the Ghasts and Ghouls as they are vulnerable to normal weapons, just to break up the monotony. Without the Staff, which strikes as a +5 weapon, I could not even hit the Greater Mummies as they require +3 or better. I achieve 14th level when the Bone Golem crumples. I also find a useful spell for this area: Hold Undead, as well as the usual crop of saleable items that are useless to me such as Gauntlets of Dexterity which would actually reduce mine by one point if worn. The Staff also casts three fireball/lighting spells a day. By clumping the undead into small areas, I can weaken them before having to resort to the very slow process of killing them with the ridiculous one attack per round the Staff gives me. Most undead are highly vulnerable to fire.

Through the undead "city" (with a zombie that proclaims itself the "mayor") lies a very difficult area: the lair of the Unseeing Eye. Itself a fearful Elder Orb, there are three other full Beholders and numerous baby Gauths here. My invisibility and excessive Minor Spell Turnings save me again. I am able to take out the lone Gauths with a Minor Spell Turning; when it wears off the Gauth is injured by its own spells, and I go invisible, then whack it once or twice. There is a clump of a Beholder and three Gauths. For them I use Cloudkill and go invisible while they take damage. Another Beholder arrives from the south and also takes damage. When the gas disperses, I cast another Minor Spell Turning, and it lasts just long enough to launch a Skull Trap. All three of the Gauths are killed, and one Beholder panics and flees. I pursue it and one strike from my Staff is enough to finish it. I am now out of Spell Turnings and spells...but not to worry. I still have the Spell Trap ability of the Staff, and one of the bonuses of Spell Trap is that one gains spells of equivalent level that are trapped, rememorizing them without resting. I cast Spell Trap and go up against the remaining Beholder. By the time Spell Trap is gone, I have rememorized three Minor Spell Turnings and a few other spells, including a Skull Trap. I take it down with Flame Arrow. The remaining Gauth needs no spells; I just go invisible and whack it, then return to invisibility quickly. The Beholder flees after two of its more potent spells are reflected; I take it down with my Staff, and the Eye Tyrants of Athkatla are no more. The Unseeing Eye itself fell to one flamestrike from the Rod Of Power, which left it so near death that any damage at all after that was fatal. The Rod is now useless to me.

There are a group of Blind Priests in the centre of the lair; they fall quickly and easily. Their spells are too slow in the casting to target me. I cast Monster Summoning to distract them. (Funny that their spells work at all, since their god is dead! Personally...and now Journal, you won't let other eyes fall upon this, will you? Personally I doubt that those thought of as gods really are...I think they are expressions of some essence within us, elevated mortals. Some are noble and loyal and honorable, some not, an amplification of our own natures. But even Djinn are immortal unless killed outright. I would like to think gods exist, but if a bizarre, mad mortal like Cyric...or my father...can become a god, it rather brings down the whole notion of godliness. I think that the magics of priests and mages spring from the same source but are opposite in character...like fraternal twins born of a single seed in a single egg in a single womb, but opposite in gender. But I digress...)


Day 13

The completed Rod and the lost god Amaunator are reunited, and the Rod is destroyed forever. The undead followers of Amaunator are finally free in death to join him. I am rewarded with...a nice shield I can't use. There are some useful spell scrolls in the altar of the now-abandoned temple.

Returning to the cult's lair, I finish it off. Gaal, the high priest, and several of his followers wielding crossbows, attack me. I cast Stoneskin and then send a Death Fog into their midst. Gaal panics and flees. I follow him and cut him down with sling bullets and the Staff. Only two of the followers have survived and they are near death. They take one hit apiece before falling. The rest of the cult disperses quietly, never to be heard from again, and I make no move to interfere with their peaceful departure. I can't open most of their chests; I will have to return later.

Returning to the ex-cult members, they are very happy with the outcome and depart...leaving me alone in the tomb, with the sarcophagus. Tomb...sarcophagus...very familiar. I can't resist. I have rested so my Staff's Spell Trap is available again. I open the sarcophagus. The lich that appears is a Shade Lich, as contrasted with the Elemental Lich before. It is no less fearsome, and its magic is darker, mostly necromantic. I cast Blur to give me a saving throw bonus and throw up a Spell Trap, then cast Monster Summoning after the lich arrives. The lich casts Time Stop, then three of the high-level Symbol spells at my monsters, wasting them (and the monsters, of course.) It then casts Finger Of Death at me...and I get a Monster Summoning back. I cast it immediately, still having one more. Another Finger Of Death, another Monster Summoning. Soon the lich is too busy dealing with the hobgoblins and gnolls, ignoring the fact that they can't damage it. It summons an Efreeti, I summon an Efreeti. It casts two Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wiltings, but because one is directed right at me, only the other one damages me, and I make my save. I will heal. The lich then does something I have never imagined a lich could do: it runs out of spells and is forced to use physical attacks. Its Efreeti is still alive while mine was toasted many rounds ago, and won't leave the lich, so I Stoneskin and smash the lich down. Now only the Efreeti remains...and can those buggers ever move. I can't get far enough from it to use the sling, and I don't want to risk getting killed when I have just defeated a powerful lich in a long battle, and have to do it all over again. I cross my fingers for a saving throw failure and cast my emergency reserve: Disintegrate. The Efreeti powders and falls to the cold stone floor. Inside the sarcophagus, I find another set of golden bones: arms and legs for the torso. I imagine the next find will be a golden pelvis...or more reasonably, a skull.

I emerge victorious and am rewarded at the Temple Of Helm with...a nice mace I can't use. I will sell it of course. My reputation increases, I gain experience, and I am paid outright 7,000 gold pieces, as well as given another quest (one of those zig-zag fetching quests I suppose...it appears the important task of the temple has been completed.) With this reward and selling off collected items, I now have over 70,000 in gold. Time to go shopping!

I would like slightly higher reputation for better prices at the stores before my shopping expedition, so I do another quest, this one for the Order Of The Radiant Heart. While I am no paladin, I respect these men (and women). Many of them are nobles, who have eschewed the cushy and pampered lifestyle they could afford, and unlike the bigoted, useless, arrogant fop noblemen I abhor, hold no prejudices, respect justice, and will gladly wade into the most dangerous and foul situations to lay down their lives for innocents of any social strata. Regardless of their demeanour (which some find haughty) I cannot help but respect their courage and motives, so agree to help them. One of their Order has left on poor circumstances, taken other members, and formed a group called the Fallen Paladins. They pretend to be paladins still, while practicing slave-trading and other crimes. I meet with one of their leaders, Reynald de Chatillon, in the Bridge district, on the pretext of helping him to slaughter some smugglers. He wants me to retrieve the real leaders' cup from the Order, as it is the symbol of his lost paladinhood and he cannot go near the Order. Returning to the Order, I obtain the cup on the premise that I will return it, which I agree to do. I am then able to meet the leader of the Fallen Paladins, Anarg. He is not fooled. He knows what I am there for, and the entire group of well-armed and armoured men turn on me. However, none of them have ranged weapons, and with the Boots Of Speed they all eventually fall to my tired sling, with a few choice Staff blows interspersed. I still can't cast spells in the streets without getting into trouble. Reynald de Chatillon is killed by one of his own for unwittingly betraying his group. I sell their plate mail, two-handed swords and Anarg's slightly magical halberd at a nearby merchant's stall, then return to the Order for my reward...Gloves Of Healing that I can't use, and a reputation increase. Doesn't anyone see that I am a mage??

First, I rest to memorize spells, one being the Charisma-increasing Friends. On awakening, my shopping spree begins. At the Adventure Mart, I ensure I am wearing the Ring Of Human Influence and then cast Friends. My Charisma hits 24. I speak to the sellers and note the items that stand out in high-contrast from the dreary rest that I can't use. The Robe Of Vecna strikes my fancy, and the +4 Staff Of Rynn, and a Lower Resistance scroll (finally.) I am done with the Adventure Mart for now. Rushing as fast as possible to the Copper Coronet before my spell wears off, I purchase the Sling Of Everard, a +5 that makes its own +2 bullets. Whew! After my wild spending spree and selling off my tired sling, magic bullets I don't need and the Gloves Of Healing, I still have 18,000 gold left. I'm off to the Government district to purchase a Magic License.


Day 14

This turns out to be a wise decision. I leave the government office, new license in...in...where is it? I don't get an official document for forking out 5,000 gold? I hope there's proof I paid! I didn't even get a receipt.

A vampire is outside. It charms a Shadow Thief, and they both attack me. Now I can take it on the only way I know how. Knowing how difficult they are to kill, I cast Disintegrate, but it makes the save. No wizards appear, so the license must be in effect and recognized. Two Amnish soldiers attack the Shadow Thief. I cast Agannazar's Scorcher on the bloodsucker for 10 damage. It is only Barely Injured. I can hit it with Sling Of Everard bullets (which do damage it, so I did purchase a good sling...I was somewhat afraid its bullets weren't magical.) It regenerates faster than I can damage it. I knuckle down, cast Stoneskin and use the Staff Of Rynn I just bought, which is actually deadlier than the Staff Of The Magi in straight combat. I manage to take it to Badly Injured before the skins are gone. I still continue to hit it after they are as well, wishing I didn't but determined to beat this thing into the dirt. Finally when I am badly hurt and the vampire is Near Death, I lure it to near the charmed Shadow Thief and cast Skull Trap, rapidly becoming one of my favourite spells. Both of them die. I am terrified by the notion that soon I may be fighting roomfuls of them due to my choice of allegiances, but I must press on.

I visit the cemetery to see what it has to offer...a load of undead I expect, and am not disappointed. There are Skeleton Warriors, Mummies, and Shadows, and a really tough Crypt King (no idea what he his, other than a dead man in armour with a magical sword.) The extensive hidden underground of the cemetery holds spiders galore, Ettercaps, Mummies, Skeleton Warriors, Shadows, Wraiths and a very out-of-place drow named Pa'ena in a spidery lair. None of these can see me with the Staff protecting me and the Sling Of Everard can damage all of them but the Crypt King, so they all fall almost easily. I get poisoned once by a spider (the little ones are really deadly) but the Bhaalspawn Slow Poison ability saves me. Pa'ena drops a couple of nice scrolls and a statuette, like Drizzt Do'Urden's, that summons a spider ally once a day. Nice to find an arachnid on my side for a change. In her lair, I find an Ioun Stone that lowers my THAC0 by 1 and gives me a 10% hit point bonus, which couldn't be more useful. I have heard some say that mages can't use Ioun Stones, but they are wrong about this...I have checked and we can. I put it on my head and it's a perfect fit. (You can even see it in my portrait, if you check carefully. Now why would I be painted wearing something I shouldn't?) There are other assorted jewels and things but nothing major.

There are a couple of doors in the underground I can't open. The handle exudes fear...the decor shows the trappings of a culture that worshipped death. Vampirism began there...the vampire's lair is beyond those doors.

I wonder when I will meet them.


Day 15

I must be tired...I accidentally fall asleep right in the middle of the cemetery beside a pathway. No one (or nothing) disturbs my rest and I wake up in the middle of the night, refreshed. I have long been able to sleep at any time when tired and not care whether it is day or night when I awaken. I leave the cemetery area, and am waylaid by a group of toughs who are busy murdering someone. They are easily dispatched by Staff and Sling. I use my Bhaalspawn Horror ability as well to distract a couple of them while I finish off the rest, then talk to their intended victim when they are all dead; he says he is poisoned and asks to be taken to his friends' compound in the docks. I do so and the guard in front of it thanks me and pays me a small amount of gold and experience.

Near this compound is an old...acquaintance. A conniving, deceiving, horrid man. His words speak nothing but fawning lies. I know this man...a fellow mage, and the kind that gives magic and magery a bad name. Xzar is his name. He wants a "favour" from me. He wants me to rescue his "friend" from the compound, a compound that he reveals to be the secret Harper base for the city of Athkatla. His "friend" is Montaron, a halfling thief who is almost his equal for lies and conniving. I consider and ponder. Any request from this man, who waits and waits outside, is trouble. This man is trouble...he is up to some twisted purpose being here. I was raised by a Harper: Gorion, a man who was more a father to me than any god who planted his seed and walked away...I talk to some guards, they don't mention him. I talk to the concierge of the compound, and I can't tell him Xzar's plans. How can I tell anyone what Xzar is planning, and stop his plans? No one else can. I cut him down in the street, mage vs. mage. His spells bounce off me, his summons are weak. When he dies I lose no reputation, I gain experience, and he carries numerous nice items...a +2 staff that turns into a spear, Bracers AC 6, some gems and scrolls. I feel no remorse at all, knowing I have stopped whatever plans he had.

Xzar...he was nothing. The three vampires I then face are something indeed. However, Tymora's luck is with me this eve as two badly fail their saves and go down to a Disintegrate and a Chromatic Orb immediately. The third falls to flame arrows, Agannazar's Scorcher and a Skull Trap. When I have the money, I will definitely, positively be buying a new, fully charged Wand Of Fire. Fire seems to work more consistently than anything else on them, and I will be facing more in future I suppose. I will buy a Sunfire scroll as well if I can't find one; this fireball spell is more potent than the standard Fireball and so is excellent for slaying massed undead.

Feeling lucky, I perform the requested task for Aran, seeing to Mook the thief, as she guards a shipment (of what?) Aran won't tell me but I am sure it is something that is harmless but would be viewed with great suspicion. Mook unfortunately talks to the vampire that appears, not knowing the fearsome powers of these creatures, and is killed instantly. I take out the vampire with Agannazar's Scorcher, Skull Trap, and Magic Missile.

I end up selling off some items I hadn't identified yet, and buying new fully charged Wands Of Fire and Cloudkill from the thief merchant at the front of the Shadow Thief Guildhall by selling my nearly-drained Wands and buying them back again. They will prove most useful I am sure. They are expensive (even with Friends cast they are over 7,000 gold apiece) but my life is more valuable, and my required moneys (the 20,000 gold for the voyage) has already been raised and safely earmarked away by Aran Linvail. Even as the chief of a thieves' guild, I know he won't let me down. Something about him strikes me as being a man of his word, and I'd trust him over a pack of vampires any day. I have just over 7,000 gold left, but I am sure I will never find better in some of the items I have...a robe worn by the legendary lich Vecna, perhaps the most powerful spellcaster in history (far more so than any living being,) the super-potent Staff Of The Magi, a sling that makes the best possible bullets by itself and was forged by a god...I have been very fortunate. Now if only I could find some good spells!


Day 16

With new and potent weapons, wands and spells, I am ready to depart Athkatla to see what quests lie outside of its boundaries. I travel to the city gates, and rest in a little inn called the Crooked Crane that has only peasant accommodations. The innkeeper is a jovial fellow who makes me feel at home, and I sleep as soundly as if I were in the finest and most expensive room in the Mithrest. When I awaken, I discover that this inn has a secret: a hidden door on the first floor. I have to cast Knock to open it. Inside is secret room with a lich who, like the pirates in the other inn, is not happy to be discovered. However, he is a far easier opponent than the liches who guarded the golden bones. This one can't see me when invisible. I pop out of invisibility to summon monsters a couple of times so that he wastes his best spells on them, then take him down with the Staff. The Cloak Of Non-Detection prevents his True Sights from working. When he is finished, I Knock open a chest in the room and find...a nice magical longsword called Daystar that of course I can't use.

I leave the city and journey to Trademeet. I am waylaid by bandits; an easy battle requiring no spells. When I arrive in Trademeet, animals are attacking the militia there. I help them defeat the marauding beasties, then speak with the Lord High Merchant Logan Coprith, who refers me to Cernd, a druid currently interred in the prison not for any crime, but to avoid his lynching. The townsfolk have noted druidic involvement in the animal attacks. I speak with him and he tells me that he has been sent by the leaders of the druids to investigate why this grove is no longer part of the order, but has cut itself off. This would explain the attacks, and I smell Shadow Druid involvement. They have caused problems for me before. I believe Cernd as he seems a honest fellow, and agree to meet him at the grove to find the source of this problem.

Trademeet is also beset by Dao Djinn who have stopped all trade in the town as they are searching for a Rakshasa criminal that has long evaded them. Why they would hold human trade captive for this is beyond me, but they seem agreeable enough provided I find this criminal Rakshasa named Ihtafeer and return her head to them. Having no love for Rakshasa I agree, as it will no doubt benefit the town. In the north end of the town, I meet a Shadow Thief who tells me that Ihtafeer has stolen the form of a harmless potion seller in the grove, and disguised herself this way. She may also have allies. Now I have two reasons to go to the grove.


Day 17

I travel to the druid grove. There are many trolls here, but I can go toe-to-toe with them one at a time with little trouble. Once I have exhausted my fire spells (ie Agannazar's Scorcher, Flame Arrow and the Fireballs of the Staff) not wanting to waste the Fire Wand, I clump the remaining ones (no trolls can see me when invisible) and Cloudkill them, using a fireball or two to soften them up. A little-known way of killing downed trolls is poison, in addition to fire and acid damage. If a troll falls in a Cloudkill, it dies almost immediately. Poisoned weapons also work on them when they are down.

I manage to do in all of the more difficult trolls in the large mound at the western side of the grove with this method. I leave two of them, not wanting to exhaust the Wands, and already finding two treasure caches there. I will need the Wands for later; if I have to take on a great many vampires I will be lost without them. I reach 16th level taking on the trolls, and can now memorize an 8th level spell. I have only one so far: Protection From Energy which reduces magical damage by 75%. Good defensive spell.

This completed, I enter the former potion-seller's home. She knows why I am there, morphs into her true form and gates in two other Rakshasa. They are actually easy opponents as they can't see me when invisible. Only Ihtafeer can cast spells, and they fizzle when I pop into invisibility during her casting. As they are fearsome swordfighters with large scimitars and a very low Armor Class, I take them down from a distance with the Sling Of Everard after Ihtafeer's spells are gone. I find that to get from the southern part of the raised area on the west side of the building to the floor just south of there, one must walk all the way to the north wall, then east, then south again. I use this much to my advantage by luring them to the point where they have the longest possible walk to reach me, then running back to that furthest spot and targeting one. I can get two or three bullets off before they get close enough that I have to become invisible again. When Ihtafeer is down I retrieve her head; it is much like the head of a tiger. She also drops an amulet that confers immunity to poison and cures poisoning once per day.

There are several Shadow Druids here disguised as fighters, taking on some trolls. When I help them, they then turn on me. I let them finish off the trolls while invisible, then take them down...easy when they can't see me. This goes for the group of six Shadow Druids to the east as well, through I cast Death Fog to make the job a little easier. All but two perish to the fog.

I meet Cernd in a clearing in front of the druid's "grove" which is actually a cave, and I tell him we will enter and see who has taken over. It turns out that it is someone I am familiar with. Her name is Faldorn, and I had met her in the Cloakwood forest near Baldur's Gate when I was journeying to the mines to put an end to them (they had been reopened by the Iron Throne and populated with slaves, for the purpose of starting a war with Amn.) I had been suspicious of her motives then and refused her help, and now I was glad I did so. Faldorn has clearly slipped from being a druid and become something else...but the rules of druidic ascension must still apply. I invite Cernd to challenge Faldorn's rule of the grove, and she has no choice but to accept. Cernd is a type of druid known as a shapeshifter, who has purposely infected himself with lycanthropy, though with supreme self-discipline and technique is able to change at will and keep his personality and consciousness when in werewolf form. He uses this form against Faldorn in the challenge pit, and she is dead in seconds. The grove is free of her taint, and I can return to Trademeet.


Day 18

I am showered with items, gold and recognition when I return. From Lord High Merchant Logan Coprith's aide...a nice shield that of course I can't use, some gems (including a Rogue Stone) and 2,000 gold. From the Dao Djinn, who keep their word and depart when Ihtafeer's head is returned...a nice scimitar I can't use. They don't leave soon enough to stop my wonderful ferret Lhaeozarus from picking the pocket of the guard Djinn outside their tent, for a bottle that summons an Efreeti once per day. This may come in handy. The Lord High Merchant also holds a "ceremony" in which I am presented as the hero of the town (and it is nice of him to count Lhaeozarus as well, as he keeps referring to us in the plural sense. He must mean my familiar, right?) My reputation increases, he presents me with 10,750 gold pieces and I gain experience. I also have the inkling of two other quests: a woman approached me when I left the Djinn tent about her son's troubles, and the feuding premiere families of Trademeet seem to want my help. I check the fountain in the centre of town; my statue is there. I am a little embarrassed to be made such a fuss over; merely upholding the law as any of the militia would on a daily basis.

First, I sell off all the items I can't use that I mentioned, and as well the Bracers Of Archery, some Plate Mail I picked up, and four full quarrels of magic ammunition from the Rakshasa's chest. I now have over 47,000 gold, but the merchant I sell to has two nice items I can't pass up...the Belt Of Inertial Barrier (+5 to Breath Weapon saves, 25% reduction in missile damage, and the clincher: 50% off all magic damage) and the Cloak Of Displacement (+4 bonus to Armour Class vs. missiles, and +2 to several saves.) Very handy...I can't resist and spend about 15,000 on them, even after casting Friends and wearing the Ring.

Curious as to what the families of Trademeet need my assistance for, I decide to visit the Alibakkar household. Lord Skarmaen Alibakkar seemed more passionate about the matter, where as Lady Lillith Lurraxol seemed sensuously manipulative and conniving. I speak with Lord Skarmaen. He indicates that a Mantle Of Waukeen is present in the town crypt, but that it is haunted. This Mantle would establish his family as the founders of Trademeet, and he gives me a key to retrieve it. I travel to the cemetery with a growing sense that something is wrong here. I am sure that I would have received exactly the same response, story, and key, from Lady Lillith. What will happen when one family has this Mantle? If it has no family name on it, surely they will kill each other for it...they have come to violence before. Just before entering the crypt, Lord Logan arrives and saves me completely from the dilemma. He indicates that if I bring the Mantle to him (and he certainly has nothing to gain from it) he will ensure neither family has it, and so end the feud. Although he cannot pay me as much, he asks that my conscience be the guide. As his word is the word of law and he has proven a most honourable man, I would not think of doing otherwise.

The crypt is haunted by a couple of Skeleton Warriors, one of whom is a minor cleric and casts many Animate Deads until the crypt is filled with skeletons. The click and crackle of walking bones follows me constantly as I take them down one at a time with Staff and Sling...invisibility makes me invulnerable. I can sell their +1 two-handed swords. The Skeleton Warrior cleric holds the Mantle of Waukeen; I return it to Lord Logan, and my reputation increases again. I don't want it to go TOO high.

When I visit the woman living just north of the Alibakkar estate who met me outside the Djinn tent, she refers me to her son. He tells me a sordid tale of Skin Dancers who remove their skin and have kidnapped his lover Raissa. He mentions a familiar and ominous name: I have finally tracked down the vicious murderer Rejiek Hidesman after he fled in his boat in the Athkatla docks from me. I meet a warrior named Darsidian Moor in the southwest of town, who mentions he is also hunting Hidesman. In the east I meet up with him again. Hidesman is down and nearly dead, and the missing girl Raissa is there. They beg me to kill Hidesman, but luckily I talk to "him" first, noticing that he doesn't look like he did in Athkatla, and I find out what it really going on. The downed "Hidesman" is actually Raissa, "Raissa" is actually Hidesman, and Darsidian is certainly not on my side. As a Skin Dancer, Hidesman is able to remove the outer flesh of other humans and disguise himself as them! Eagh! When I talk to Raissa, Hidesman knows the game is up and attacks, as a skeleton, with Darsidian Moor. As skeletons, they are very easy kills with the blunt Staff. When they die, Raissa is free to pick up her own skin and put it back on. However, she is not free, being cursed with the dark Skin Dancer magic, and requires a Restoration. Luckily I have several Restoration scrolls in my scroll case and she is restored to normal.

I meet with the lady again back at her house; Raissa and her son are to be married. My reputation increases again! I am sure I will find something to bring it down a bit. However, the choices being presented to me don't require heroic decisions...I am just choosing order over chaos, and everyone seems to be treating this as original.

I sample the wares of all the merchants in the area, and none have anything as good as what I already possess. One, in tent on the southeast side of town, does have a very important spell I have been searching for: Protection from Magical Weapons. I have no qualms about spending 1,600 gold for this scroll. My Trademeet quests are done.


Day 19

The next unexplored location on my map was the town of Imnesvale, in the Umar Hills. I arrive and the townspeople are gathered to hear Minister Lloyd, their mayor. There are bad things happening in the town, and no one is sure who to blame. Some think it is a pack of wolves gone bad, some think it is a group of ogres that moved in to the north, and others a long-dead witch come back to wreak her revenge.

Outside of the Imnesvale inn are four merchants. One is selling a lot of books...I haven't seen a merchant with this many. He has 40 copies for sale of a book called the History Of The Zhentarim...where have I heard this? I fumble, quickly, through my scroll case searching for the note I found in Hidesman's place. Yes! This is the man...the monster...who makes armour out of the flesh of murdered humans. Though he goes by the name Fael, I am able to find his true name and call him by it: Darcin Cole. He then asks whether I have the missing "component" for the armour: the blood of a Silver Dragon. His game, and life, are up. I confront him with his monstrosity, and he tells me I am "crossing the Rune" and tries to flee. Sorry, Darcin, but the Twisted Rune are no more and you are about to join them. He doesn't get far. I will sell his slightly magical leather armour, and with the death of Hidesman behind me I can finally consider the case of the Skinner Murders closed.

In the Imnesvale Inn, I talk to the owner Vincenzo, who gives me a book called "The Umar Witch Project Journal." He has about a hundred more copies in crates at the back, as his wise-cracking stableboy points out. In other chests in the Inn, I also find a Wand of Fear, 480 gold pieces and a Summon Efreeti scroll, which I will sell.

Just north of there, a farmer named Jeb indicates that something valuable is hidden in the chicken flock to the west. Speaking to the chickens' owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hendricks, I buy a Berjuril gem for 100 gold from them they had hidden in a chicken's gullet. These gems are even rarer than Rogue Stones, though less valuable for some reason. I will hold onto it; given the use the Rogue Stone had, this may be equally handy.

To the north of the town, I find Madulf the Ogre Mage and his band of deserters from the Sythsillian army. There is an ogre, gnoll, orc and minotaur. However, they all seem pleasant enough. Some of the townspeople are blaming them for the disappearances, but they have had disappearances from their own group. They seem just want to be left alone and trade occasionally for food with the village; an interesting arrangement. They will even protect the village since their ranger has vanished. I advise Minister Lloyd.

I find a cave inhabited by a strange creature called a "Mimic" that drops some of its blood when it dies; it looks like a treasure chest, probably to attract humans. I seem to remember that the blood of these creatures is used nee making golems. It's actually killed, not by me, but my two Umber Hulks that live there. I manage to take them down with the Staff; wouldn't dream of using anything else as when wielded I become more impervious to the Confusion magic they toss at enemies. I find some minor treasures with the Mimic and in a hidden area in the Hulk's lair in the cave, which I sell.

Marella the ranger's cabin holds some clues as to her disappearance; she was aware of the wolves causing the disappearances and left to find them, and never returned. Another note left by the halfling paladin Mazzy Fentan for one of her friends to find indicates she was on the same trail too. A ruined temple to the north of the Umar Hills is my destination.


Day 20

When I arrive, I find Shade Wolves, Shadows, and Shadow Fiends abound. Clearly, dark magics are at work here. A werewolf named Anath is here, and claims to have had her pack stolen by a "Shade Lord" who has taken over the temple. This temple was dedicated to the god Amaunator, the very same whose avatar I met in the bowels of Athkatla, and whose disciples I freed from their endless vigil. Having read Merella's journal, I believe Anath as Merella had indicated that the (were)wolves here were friendly and peaceful towards humanoids before these recent events. I agree to meet her at the temple, and have to fight through packs of shadow creatures to get there. None of them can see me when I am invisible. Knowing that many of them cause more than just physical damage when they strike, I use the Sling more often despite its slowness to keep away from them, and use the Staff just to become invisible and maintain a safe distance.

By the time I see Anath, I have killed most of the shadows and other shade-creatures in the area. She tells me to turn a mirror to light a huge crystal in the centre of the temple altar area and avenge her pack, then dies. (No shadows were around her at the time...perhaps she was frightened.) When I do, shadows and shade wolves pour from the darkness to attack me but are struck down by the light of Amaunator. I enter the temple. There are more shadows, shade wolves and some Skeleton Warriors here, but they are easily felled by the Sling. One of them holds a prison key, and with it I free the halfling paladin (and I don't see why she can't be referred to as such; she is a paladin in every sense of the word) Mazzy Fentan, a well-spoken and noble albeit very small being. The ranger Merella has been possessed by the Shade Lord, so is probably undead. Mazzy was being kept for the same purpose. I free her and continue.

I find a large bust that wants to ask me questions, pages of rituals (with which to answer them) and the defiled bones of the child prophetess Amauna (Amauna...Amaunator...makes sense.) Across a room with a lava lake in the centre, several undead (Greater Mummies, Skeleton Warriors and a Lich) lie in wait. I weaken them all simply by making them cross the lake to pursue me, while I scoot around the edges. The lake's fire is not magical, so it even damages the lich. The sling's bullets will even hit the Greater Mummies. Once they are dead, I can magically duel with the lich; the fool casts Finger Of Death while I have a Minor Spell Turning active and kills itself.

Across the lake of fire lies the tomb of the Child Prophetess Amauna and her spectral guardians. They are relieved forever of their duty by the return of her bones. She appears and gives me a wardstone that will cause the Shadow Dragon to not notice me...unless I want it to.