Day 21

I gain experience for this, and reach 17th level. I won't be advancing any further. I can memorize 5 1st-5th level spells, 3 6th and 7th level, and 2 8th level. I will never experience the joys of Greater Malison followed by Wail Of The Banshee, or Time Stop followed by three of anything. I will have to make do. Three of my saving throws currently are No Good (greater than 1.) I will have to find a way to improve them. Save vs. Death is 6 (ugh!) Save vs. Petrify/Polymorph is 3, and Save vs. Spells is 2..and I have to be holding the Staff even for those. I hope to find some more modifiers for them as I will nevermore improve them by advancing in level. With my Dwarven/Orcish Constitution and the Ioun Stone I have 96 hit points, which is excellent, even superlative, for a pure mage. There are several spells which creatures with 90 or more hit points are immune to (Power Word Stun, Death Spell, etc.) I am glad to be able to break that barrier. My THAC0 is 6 with both the Staff Of The Magi and the Sling of Everard because of my superhuman Orcish Strength and Elven Dexterity. This is better than many fighters, but still could really improve. And, of course, my Intelligence is superhuman as well, so I may not be able to memorize more spells, but I can pick and choose which to memorize from my book among anything less than 9th level, never hitting that horrid barrier that tells me I shall never learn more at a certain level. Why am I telling myself this? Perhaps to feel better...to know that I may not advance any more, but I should still be able to survive anything that might be thrown my way. Only time will prove me right.

I cross a stone bridge, and run into another clump of undead with a Lich in it. Drawing out the faster Skeleton Warriors and Greater Mummies, I lead them right back across the bridge to the fiery room, and their destruction. Now for the Lich. I have no Spell Turnings left. Knowing how poor my Save Vs. Death is compared to the others, and how many Necromantic spells are instantly fatal, I cast Spell Immunity: Necromancy. This turns out to be a very wise decision as the Lich throws two Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wiltings at me, followed by a Finger Of Death and Wail Of The Banshee. As they are all of the Necromancy school, I am totally unaffected. My next wise decision is to cast Summon Hakeashar (a greater Nishruu: immune to normal weapons, with more hit points and better attacks.) The Lich counters with Summon Efreeti, but the Efreeti's weapon is not magical so can't damage the Hakeashar, which ends up draining both of them completely dry of spells. The Efreeti and Hakeashar unsummon, and the Lich is forced to fight me with its bare-bone hands, versus my 19 Strength and +5 Staff.

There is a puzzle of a tiled floor here, but it is relatively simple. Just walking across the room stepping only on the tiles that spell "A-M-A-U-N-A-T-O-R" lets me pass. I am not sure what would happen if I hadn't figured this out.

In a small chamber lies another piece of the puzzle of the Symbol of Amaunator that I have to put together. A suspiciously helpful Shadow gives me this information in return for me helping it across the puzzle (I guess it can't read.) Of course it turns on me when I take it across, so I turn on it one better. I just run back across the puzzle floor the correct way. It follows me the wrong way, and my question of what happens if the wrong tiles are stepped on is quickly answered as it is felled by a Flamestrike. Idiot.

There is a statue here in the other small chamber on this side of the puzzle floor, with its arms folded as if something was supposed to be placed there...it contains a few fire bullets and scrolls. One of them is Protection From Magical Weapons which of course I already just paid for. Great. At least I can sell this one. At least, I can after defeating the Bone Golem protecting it. It falls to sling bullets as I have a lot of hallways I can run around in to keep away from it. It is totally unaffected by the Flamestrikes and the lava lake. As I am running around, I realize that the bullets of fire are the only weapon I've found so far, or am likely to, that I can use that does fire damage...good way of saving the Wand from excessive use when taking out downed trolls: equip one fire bullet to do them in. I will have to conserve those.

I now have two of the three pieces, so the large bust of a man's head that wants to question me must hold the third. I reason together the answers from the pages I found, and do so correctly. The pieces merge into one sun symbol: the Symbol Of Amaunator, and I am free to open the last door and leave.

I know what lies beyond that door, and frankly I don't really want to let it live, but I am just a wimpy 17th level mage....can I do it? Wait a minute...I'm a 17th level mage. Of course I can do it! So I do it...but not before resting. Shadow Dragons aren't easy opponents, you know. Especially when you're all alone.

Before I rest I remove and add spells to ensure that I have the following: five Skull Traps, Protection From Energy, Protection From Magical Weapons, and Lower Resistance.


Day 22

The Shadow Dragon is huge, imposingly so, and takes no notice of me. The child prophetess has surely saved me by giving me this wardstone. There is no way I could defeat this without adequate preparation. It has a name: Thaxll'ssyllia.

As a Shadow Dragon, its breath causes severe Level Drain, like the attacks of Vampires or Wraiths, both Negative Material Plane attuned creatures. My immunity to this is my saving grace, should it decide to breathe on me. However it is still a fantastically fast and strong fighter, highly magic resistant, with very low saving throws...I will have to keep away from it to survive. All dragons are immune to invisibility...it just doesn't fool them at all, so I will not be able to have an easy time of this with the Staff. Pity the poor thief who tries to backstab one. Before doing anything offensive, I carefully scout the area while I can and note the apse areas to the sides, columned off from the open atrium of the chamber. They will prove necessary. To the west of the dragon, about halfway between it and the columns, I cast every single Skull Trap into a small area. Five little heads bob up and down, waiting for someone to come too close...I then cast Protection From Energy on myself in case its breath also has a damage component, ensure I am wearing the Belt Of Inertial Barrier and Cloak Of Displacement, and lastly...the one that causes Thaxll'ssyllia to go hostile: Lower Resistance. Dragons are usually 65% or more magic resistant; this knocks 27% off of it. Had I a cleric, I would cast Magic Resistance on it which would not make it attack, and it would also lower its resistance far more (set to 10%+1% per cleric level, which would set it to 27% were I a cleric.) However, I don't so this will have to do.

The dragon attacks, and I'm running as fast as the Boots Of Speed and screaming fear will take me, just far enough from the Skull Traps to not set them off, then dodging so they lie on a straight line between the dragon and myself...come on draggie...run over them...it does and they explode. On four of the five the dragon fails magic resistance save and it's Injured already...however, it chases me into the apse! I didn't think it could fit there, oops! I'm running for dear life again after getting 15 hit points nibbled off me immediately...but I turn midway, cast Protection From Magical Weapons and drop a Cloudkill. It follows and starts taking damage. Around the poison gas I sprint with Thaxll'ssyllia hot on my heels, back into the apse, then back out. Draggie isn't so fast to follow me this time, so I use one of my very few charges on the Wand Of Monster Summoning to raise some gnolls. I control them from charging forward into the gas to attack Thaxll'ssyllia, instead keeping them right on the border. It attacks them, but it's still in the gas and they aren't, so has to kill them one by one while taking poison damage with every round. Dragon now Badly Injured. Even with the fast attacks, it takes a while to do them in, and I'm certainly not standing around watching the show...I cast Summon Efreeti to give Thaxll'ssyllia something else to work on, and then unload damage spells: Magic missile, Chromatic Orb, finally Agannazar's Scorcher.

I hit the jackpot with that one...the Efreeti must have damaged Thaxll'ssyllia before it got powdered. Scorcher does 15 damage out of a maximum of 18, and Thaxll'ssyllia becomes a giant black spot, like a hole of nothingness. The dragon is dead.

I see there are some gems and things in the middle of its corpse, but I don't pick them up for a few minutes....I don't even move at all. I did it the first time...this is too good to be true. I am down only 30 hit points, and half of that was from running through my own Cloudkill. I still have two gnolls should I wish to discuss the matter.

Eventually they unsummon, and I am alone with the giant charred remains. I calm down and continue my journey.

The dragon yields several gems, almost 3,300 gold pieces, scales which can be made into armour that is as strong as Full Plate and allows thieving skills to be used while wearing it (but tough luck for me) and a scroll that details how a superweapon named Crom Faeyr can be forged from it and some other components. Unfortunately this superweapon is a war hammer, so I am yet again left out in the cold. Perhaps these items are saleable. I emerge into the welcome open air, and the Shade Lord confronts me. He is a pushover compared to the Shadow Dragon. He can't see me with the Staff, neither can his shadows, and they all go down after I kill his Altar's persona and then him. He casts Negative Material Plane spells which would Level Drain me, but I am immune. He casts Blindness but it goes away a short time later. The Sling Of Everard's bullets work just fine on him, and I score two Critical Hits. Glad I sprung for that item...

When the Shade Lord falls, it is revealed that he was indeed possessing the body of the lost ranger, Merella, who dies. She yields the Shade Lord's treasures: a cloak that will create six +5 darts daily, a Rogue Stone, a King's Tears gem, and 4,700 gold pieces. I am awash in money! I wonder if I will find a use for it all, given that I already have items that are second-to-none, and there isn't a lot a mage can use. I head back to Imnesvale with the good news. Minister Lloyd is overjoyed, so much so that he forgets that I am a mage and gives me...some nice highly enchanted leather armor that I can't use, plus 25,000 experience that will not go towards advancing me, and a higher reputation I don't want. Great. I talk with Madulf and his group; they have fit in well into Imnesvale and are so happy that they give me...a nice shield that of course I can't use. It adds 5% to one's magic resistance, which I really would like; damn.

I have about 42,000 gold pieces before I sell all the items I collected off. I have over 57,000 afterwards. I return to Athkatla.


Day 23

Stopping in at the Adventure Mart, I cast Friends. From Ribald Barterman, I buy both scrolls of Protection From Undead, his last Protection From Magic, and sell then buy back my Wand Of Monster Summoning so that it is fully charged. From Lady Yuth, another Protection From Undead, and the spells Limited Wish, Sunfire, and Wizard Eye. From Galoomp The Bookkeeper in the Promenade's north end, the spell Greater Malison and another Protection From Undead scroll. That's enough shopping for one day. I still have 43,000 gold pieces left, and I am not feeling any more experienced when I read the spell scrolls. I check and find I have 2,950,000 experience points. It will never increase. I have reached my limits of personal advancement. Now to fix those awful saving throws with something magical...

Before this, I notice that my inventory is getting a little packed. I have all these documents in my Scroll Case that I don't think I will ever need again, and keys and items from done quests. I don't just want to throw them away...they are like mementos of great triumphs and interesting places I have been. I find a lion's head motif design in the wall of the west Promenade that is hollow, and objects can be stored in. I return here often...it would be an ideal place to keep them. I fill it with keys, papers, quest items and things I have no idea what to do with.

There are a couple of "loose ends" I can tie up. I find I still have the toy bear of a little halfling boy who was murdered by a thief. His spirit, wandering the cemetery, was not at rest, and he had asked me to obtain the Littleman bear from the thief in the Copper Coronet. I did more than that; the thief will never murder another innocent child again. I return his bear to him...he sleeps peacefully in death now.

There is also the zig-zag quest for the temple...but I will put this off for now. Temples don't usually pay well (I already did the well-paying quest for them,) I already have too high of a reputation and experience is useless to me. Instead I head down to the Bridge District...there is a trapped chest in a house with a fish merchant in front of it. The chest will cast Maze when opened. Now that I have the spells to deal with this as I can't disarm it, I cast Spell Immunity: Conjuration and open it without effect. There is a Silver Horn of Valhalla inside. It will summon a berserk 5th level warrior from Valhalla to assist me once a day; very handy, and I won't feel bad throwing him at dangerous situations as he's already dead, and probably wants to get back to Valhalla as soon as possible! Remembering the fellow named Maheer in the Promenade who said his specialty was musical horns (and that even the dwarven arch-smith Cromwell couldn't make them) I return to him. He upgrades the horn to a Bronze Horn Of Valhalla (summons a 7th level berserk warrior) for 2,000 gold and a diamond...and says that if I ever find a Berjuril gem to return. I have been carrying around the Berjuril I got from the chicken for just such an occasion, and upgrade the horn a second and last time to become an Iron Horn Of Valhalla (summons a 9th level berserk warrior) for 5,000 gold. I will make good use of this horn, especially in my battles against spellcasters. Berserk warriors are immune to: Stun, Horror and fear-related morale failure, Confusion, Charm, Feeblemind, Sleep, Hold Person, Domination...and even Maze and Imprisonment! Amazing that a state of mind can do all that. If only wizards could berserk...sigh. Well, we have our way of becoming immune to all of that as well through the spell Mind Blank, but I haven't been able to find one of those.

My major "loose end" is those golden bones I have found. Considering I had to fight two potent liches just for those and am not even done yet, they must result in something powerful indeed. I know where the last part of this quest can be resolved: the one sarcophagus I didn't open yet...I travel to the Docks. When I arrive, an idiot called Habib with about four names after that confronts me and says he will throw his mighty scimitar at my head. I go invisible and whack him a Critical Hit which kills him. I would have gained no experience from him and all he has is that non-magical scimitar. Weird. I place it in my bag and continue. I had best rest first as I know I have a hell of a battle coming up, and I want to memorize a few new spells as they may matter.


Day 24

The innocuous-looking house seems normal enough, but it radiates evil, and you know what evil means...yes, yummy magic items! (Not the response most would imagine, but I have as much fear of zealotry in good as evil, and good's magic items are usually less yummy.) There were three Minotaurs guarding the top floor, but they were easy opponents, not having ranged weapons, not magic resistant, and slow movers. They were eliminated long ago. I descend to the basement sarcophagus, nervous but confident of my abilities (and items.) I know what will happen when I open the sarcophagus: a lich will emerge. He will probably be holding something very valuable, something that I might even be able to use to protect myself against him.

Indeed! Setting little Lhaeozarus down, when Kangaxx The Lich arises he is slightly disoriented for a half second or so, just long enough for my little rodent friend to lighten him of a ring, which I immediately lighten her of. Of course, I then return her to the safety of my pack as she is bound to be killed instantly when Kangaxx attacks. I don't even bother to identify the ring but wear it immediately. Nothing requiring this much effort could be harmful. Instantly my Armor Class falls two points, I am more magic resistant, my saving throws are better, and even though I removed the Ring Of Regeneration to wear this one, I am still regenerative, and it's faster! Also, I have become completely immune to poison and disease. Truly, this is an item of extreme power. Little do I know that it has a twin...and I will have it soon as a well-matched pair.

Kangaxx throws up Spell Trap, Protection From Magical Weapons and Stoneskin. I don't even bother attacking, just throw up a Spell Trap of my own and get away from him. He throws a Sunfire my way, but I will heal. He then summons a Efreeti, which I toast instantly with Death Fog (which kills summons instantly regardless of hit dice or immunities.) Who knows what else he will throw at me, so since the Death Fog isn't near Kangaxx I throw a Hakeashar at him. Again it works its usual wonders...the worse the Lich throws at it, the more it heals. It can't touch the Lich at all to drain its spells, but it drains them well enough by being a target. I use the Wand of Monster Summoning to give Kangaxx even less chance to target me; he wastes a few spells on hobgoblins. Drained, he has to attack me physically, but I keep this one at a distance. The Sling Of Everard takes it out just fine.

When this Lich dies, it changes...into something worse: a Demi-Lich, a floating skull that casts Imprisonment indefinitely, interspersed with the occasional Demi-Lich Wail Of The Banshee. Imprisonment is nasty stuff: it's a 9th level spell that requires another 9th level spell (Freedom) to undo. And, as I am alone, there is nobody to undo it should I be affected. The demi-lich is also completely immune to all my magic and needs +4 or better weapons to hit it. Luckily I have nothing else, and even the Sling Of Everard can damage it. Rather than casting Spell Immunity: Abjuration to avoid the endless Imprisonments I instead read one of the Protection From Undead scrolls (after removing anything I wear that confers magic resistance...it fails to work if they are in place.) This turns out to be a good decision: the duration is far longer than Spell Immunity and Kangaxx the Demi-Lich completely ignores me as if I did not exist, even when I damage it!

However, the problems are not solved, and seem insurmountable. I only get one attack per round and this bugger is about 80% damage resistant, has a very low Armor Class and regenerates. I can hit him for 1-3 points of damage, but if I miss a few times (and I do even with my 19 Strength and the Staff Of Rynn adding 7 to all my attack rolls,) he gets all the damage back. To double my attacks per round to 2, I drink an Oil Of Speed and remove the Boots of Speed so they don't ruin my attacks per round. To become even stronger, as I can't use Giant Strength Potions, I use my Bhaalspawn ability Draw Upon Holy Might. This works! My damage roll modifiers with the Staff Of Rynn (which is better for straight fighting than the Staff Of The Magi) go to +10; Kangaxx goes from Barely Injured to Injured to Badly Injured, then...then...then he has a Morale Failure and runs away. He runs very fast for a floating head, and even though I can catch him I can't damage him. He recovers. Even hasted, I can't damage him with the Sling Of Everard as fast as he recovers. Dammit!

I rid Faerun of him by combining all these techniques: Protection From Undead scroll, Oil Of Speed, Staff Of Rynn, Draw Upon Holy Might, and trapping Kangaxx in the narrow walkway that leads up to the sarcophagus with monsters from The Wand Of Monster Summoning when he is trying to run away. I don't summon anything until his morale fails as they won't be protected by the Protection From Undead and he will just imprison them. Finally, after hours of whacking he is dead...or deadER. Were I able to receive them, I would have earned 55,000 experience points from his demise. He drops some gold, a pearl necklace, and another ring that exactly matches the one my friendly ferret picked. Now I know why he regenerated. I can wear both rings simultaneously. If it is the same, then the hours of effort were well worth it...

And they are the same, as I find when I take them to a little fellow named Ikert who sells from a nearby stall to have Identify cast on them, and gladly pay the 200 gold. They are called Rings Of Gaxx, and their stats. are like this: 2 bonus to Armour Class and Saving Throws, Immune to Disease and Poison, regenerate 1 HP every 3 seconds, +10% magic resistance, cast 3 x Improved Haste and 1 x Invisibility daily (and only the last ability is not useful to me.) With both on, I find they ARE cumulative, and my Armour Class has sunk to -8 (with the Cloak Of The Sewers), I regenerate 2 HP/3 seconds, and am 20% more magic resistant (35% in total with the Robe Of Vecna and Amulet of Power.) With the Cloak of Displacement, my Save. Vs. Death is 2 and all others are 1 or less (some are negative.) So without Greater Malison or a spell with a built-in penalty, I can only ever fail a save by rolling a 1 on a Save Vs. Death.

This is good.

Returning to the cemetery, I enter the southern area's dungeons that I avoided before and clean house. Again, all the undead are blind to me, but I can now go toe-to-toe with Mummies as their diseases won't affect me. My best kill comes from finding a group of four Mummies and three Ghasts together while invisible...I cast Skull Trap and they all die, every one of them, instantly. I find a few small items and gems, but nothing really interesting or worthwhile. I even kill a Vampyre with the Staff, finishing it with a fire column from the Wand. The ornate tomb that this leads up to has already been stripped, the fingers of the corpse broken to retrieve what it was holding.

I guess I will try to complete the zig-zag for the Temple, so next stop is the ore merchant Jerlia in the Promenade, who refers me to a Duergar named Unger Hilldark in the Copper Coronet. Of course, I don't make a fuss about him being a Duergar, but he doesn't have any Illithium either. (I wonder, are Illithids made of Illithium?) It was stolen by a Neb, who he says "left a lot of families crying" and is on the run from Baldur's Gate. I know why...I was briefly imprisoned with Neb when Sarevok had me arrested, after he placed his flunkey Angelo in control of the Flaming Fist. Neb is a child murderer, and in order to escape I had to answer his riddle of how many children he had murdered: 33. I will not let him live if I see him.

I don't have to worry about him fleeing. When I enter his house in the Bridge District he attacks me openly, drinking potions to haste and go invisible, and trying to backstab me. I simply cast Stoneskin and his backstabs do nothing. He also...summons the ghosts of the children he has murdered to attack me. He has Wraithed them and they would level-drain me if I were not immune. Ugh...I find this more disturbing than any of the horrors I have seen so far. I ignore them and concentrate on Neb alone. He only has about three invisibility potions and when they are gone, he is an easy target. When I whack him with the Staff his Haste is gone, and he can then be dealt with easily. He dies, and the spirits of the children are freed, thanking me for the peace I have brought them. The last one to leave casts Lesser Restoration on me which would have undone any level drain. For once I wish a divine order to things, so that the children may sleep in peaceful innocence, and Neb may burn forever in the Abyss. Neb drops the 200 stones of illithium ore I sought him for. His head has come off as well. I pick that up as he doubtless is wanted for his crimes and this is proof of his death. A trapped painting holds a few gems and as well there are some potions on a shelf.

I know that Illithium has uses in making weapons to fight the undead, but I am certain that I wouldn't be able to use them. So, I keep my word and give the 200 stones of Illithium to Sir Sarles, who is pleased. I then advise the Temple Of Helm I have done so, and they give me...a nice helmet I can't use. They send me for one more mission to the Temple of Lathander. One of their relic Dawn Rings has been stolen by Talassians and they want me to retrieve it. This is getting a little too far into the politics of the religious for my liking, but I have given my word. I hope they have no other tasks for me. I check what the temple has for sale, and there are two more scrolls of Protection From Undead, so I buy those, and into the scroll case they go. I now have five of them. That should be enough for whatever I encounter.


Day 25

I encounter Travin, the Dawn Ring thief, in the north end of the Slums, and he indicates it's with Borinall, a thief who lives overtop of the Copper Coronet (so much goes on there!) I enter his residence. He is about to give me the ring, but wants me to swear allegiance to Talos to prove who I am. I'm not about to swear allegiance to any god, so I have to fight him. He is very easy to take out; although he calls in a few cronies, I just cast a Skull Trap when they are close and all of them die. Borinall carries the Dawn Ring, and there are other minor goodies here. Hardly anything in the two chests (I force one and Knock the other.) I return the ring to the Temple of Lathander for 1,000 gold and experience that does me no good. Helm has no further tasks for me. Checking with the priest of Helm what's for sale, I buy another two scrolls of Protection From Undead, so I am up to seven, and some Potions Of Insight which give me maximal Wisdom. I will need them for the Limited Wish spell; this spell tends to fail if the wisher's Wisdom is low.

I have two areas to still visit, but I won't be getting any more experienced for visiting them. They sound like the kinds of quests that fighters would do; I will probably gain a heap of weapons that I can't use and little else, or items I can use that aren't as good as I have already. There are still some spells I need (Maze would be nice, and who knows what else...could use Mordenkainen's Sword too) so I had best do them as I may not be able to buy them.

First I meet with the Shadow Thief leader Aran Linvail, and he does want me to go forth into the vampire lair and do battle. I am glad I prepared, and even more prepared after replacing a few spells and resting. I awaken and the streets are silent; it is early morning. I am a little afraid, so for fun I drink a Potion Of Insight and try my new Limited Wish. I wish "to see all as it really is" and get Glasses Of Identification. They will perform Identify three times per day. Great! No more worrying about Identify scrolls and I can free up that spell slot for something useful. I memorized two Sunfires, three Chromatic Orbs, a Hold Undead, and I have all those Protection from Undead Scrolls and the Fire Wand. I should be OK....should.

I enter the underground of the cemetery. Mage Haz is there with his golem. They open that set of double doors I could not get through earlier. A vampire named Lassal "greets" us, then several Grimwarders (specters with flails and helmets) lay into us. Haz dies immediately. His golem helps me kill them, and disappears after a minute or so. I can go toe-to-toe with them; they injure me but I heal as fast as they can hurt me with both the Gaxx rings. They are immune to missile damage, but they can't see me when invisible. Neither can any of the vampires. I scout the lair, find where all of them are, and clump them into the central room by popping out of invisibility and luring them there, killing a Clay Golem in a chamber with three ornate coffins safely and invisibly in the interim with the Staff Of The Magi. The vampires don't stay put long, constantly running around, but when I go visible they seek my current spot and I can go invisible, back off, and strike.

First, to deal with the vampire mage Tanova near a room full of nasty-looking spikes. I put on the Cloak of Non-Detection to stop her True Sights, then Summon Hakeashar. Fortunately she is not smart enough to realize she could kill the Hakeashar in seconds with her bare hands. While she wastes every spell she has on it, I deal with the massed vampires in the dining room. I first cast Greater Malison to lower all their saving throws, and note the strong and weak ones. Chromatic Orb takes out two of the weak ones as the strong (named non-fledgling) ones probably have very low saving throws. I cast Sunfire and two go to Nearly Dead; they fall to Agananzar's and a fire column from the Wand. Two are Badly Injured and one Injured now, they both die from a Skull Trap. One is now left, Badly Injured. Fire column and Magic Missile is all it takes. I return to Tanova; she is Injured as a result of her own fireball spells, and has killed her own Simulacrum. While she wastes more spells on the Hakeashar, then attacks it with her bare hands, I pound her down with the Staff.

I return to their coffins and am able to stake two of the three of them. Another vampire, probably the strongest, must remain. I also take a small hit of damage but find a mace designed for undead slaying in a pool of human blood. Of course, I can't use it. Perhaps this is a weapon I could have used the Illithium with to make it more powerful.

I descend further, into a room filled with blood pools, encountering a couple of easily disposed Ghouls on the way; one is a fast Greater, but after a dispelling tap with the Staff, he slows down to normal ghoulish speed. Just before entering, I read one of the Protection From Undead scrolls. This is a good idea, as there are three vampires in the room in addition to two Grimwarders and two Grimward Archers. The vampires now completely ignore me. Lassal waits in a small antechamber but ignores me as well. I put on the Cloak Of Displacement to avoid the arrows, and whack the archers with the Staff. Every attack connects with the large bonus I get using a melee weapon against ranged opponents. When they are gone, I deal with the Grimwarders, casting Stoneskin and toe-to-toe fighting, then backing off into invisibility when the skins are gone. After that, the vampires are easy. I just follow them with the Staff Of Rynn, using the Ring Of Gaxx's Improved Haste from time to time to speed up the bashing so they don't regenerate. I don't take a bit of damage. Lassal will not fall, however, no matter how much I whack him. Ahh...he has something to say. I let the scroll wear off, and he talks: he wants me to meet him upstairs in the nasty spike room. He disappears. When I go upstairs, he is not in the spike room, but at the top of the stairs. I use the Staff's special Lightning/Fireball ability, and he is no more. I can probably stake his coffin now.

When I do...someone appears...the Queen Of The Damned, the Negative Material Girl...Bodhi, clearly the true leader here, the "mistress" the woman who offered me better than the Shadow Thieves referred to. Bodhi is strangely elven in appearance and even more strangely...attractive, with a melodic voice that manages to be sultry and girlish at the same time. Too bad she's a bloodsucker. I try to be agreeable and find out just what this is all about, but she insists on fighting me. She does reveal two important things though: she knows I am a Child Of Bhaal, which confirms Irenicus' interest in me, and she is his sister. She uses the word in quotations though; clearly she is his sister, but she is undead and he is not. Despite her powers, with the Staff's invisibility, she is as blind to me as the rest were, and I can casually pull back to ponder what to do. She is highly magic resistant, so I Stoneskin, Improved Haste, Draw Upon Holy Might and wield the Staff Of Rynn. Half a minute later she is overwhelmed and fleeing to whatever coffin she will recover in. I have won for now, and the vampires' lair is no more...I hope. I have definitely earned a good rest. I change a few spells before resting.


Day 26

I awaken, and begin my journey to the Windspear Hills, not really sure of what I will find there. Lord Jierdan Firkraag had said I would earn 10,000 gold pieces for simply killing a few trolls, ogres and other simple monsters. I am certain time will tell, and equally so it will be nothing like that.


Day 27

Arriving, I am beset by a group of "monsters"...an Ogre Mage who casts no spells? A Baby Wyvern that drops Plate Mail when it dies? And an Ogre who clearly uses a mace as Ogres usually do but drops a two-handed sword, and Plate Mail? Something is wrong here. All the "monsters" are easily slain with Staff and Sling alone, but when they are all dead, they polymorph into dead humans. The former Lord who named this land, Garren Windspear, appears. I have been cruelly tricked. I accompany him to his residence. Lord Jierden Firkraag, it appears, lured a group of paladins to these lands at the same time as myself. As Firkraag is a master of illusion, I must have appeared a monster to them, while they did to me. Windspear's land were stolen and he has been endlessly taunted by this Firkraag. He will go to the Order Of The Radiant Heart and explain the situation. I rest at his residence while he goes, leaving his daughter to watch over me and his home. While he is gone, she is kidnapped by other associates of Firkraag to make it appear I have done so, and they then fight me. I slaughter them all easily with Staff and Sling, not even requiring spells, and Windspear returns. He has explained the situation to the Order, and knows Firkraag to be responsible for his daughter's abduction. I will find her, and finish this Firkraag's "fun" if I can.

I explore the Windspear Hills...there are a few easy encounters with Orcs and Orc Archers, some fighters who are actually Werewolves who attack me after honing their skills on some Gnolls, and an Ankheg (giant acid-spitting insectoid.) In the northeast, I meet the Fairy Queen...I have been carrying the acorns of her Dryads since I was stuck in Irenicus' dungeon. She replants their trees to free them from that awful place, and they depart. In the north end of Windspear, an entrance to an underground area awaits. Its columnar gateposts bear dragon insignia...I have a hunch as to what, rather than who, Firkraag might be...

I enter. Guarding the front hallway are some Hobgoblins (including a shaman and mage.) Easy stuff with the Staff. When the archers, mage and shaman are dead I use the Sling. There are more Hobgoblins north of them, and some Orcs and Orc Archers. All equally easy. A small underground lake conceals some minor treasures and a Vampiric Mist that invisibility doesn't fool. I cast Minor Spell Turning to reflect its Larloch's Minor Drains back to itself and use the Sling; its THAC0 is low so I want to stay away. Guarding the northern door is a Rukh Transmuter, a type of Rakshasa. It has several pet Kamikaze Kobolds, so I don't let them get close to me. They can see me when I am invisible. The first sling bullet causes one to explode in a fireball, which kills all the rest of them in a chain reaction. The Rukh is easy, not having any ranged weapons nor spells.

Through the north door, I am stuck in a central room with apses containing numerous Orc Archers trying to make a human pincushion of me. I put on the Cloak Of Displacement and Girdle Of Piercing; my Armour Class is now improved by 7 against them and only critical hits get through, which I heal quickly from. I exhaust their ammunition and they do a funny dance, trying to walk forward to engage me in melee. Numerous Sling bullets do them in. I am glad these Orcs are not remotely as powerful or cunningly skillful as the fearsome Half-Orc fighter/thief Karzak I have heard many tavern tales of. Like myself, he travels alone and has done in Dragons, Beholders, Liches and other strong enemies singlehandedly. However, he is rumoured to be Friendly.

Further north lies one of those challenges that should be impossible for me, but turns out to be easy: three Stone Golems and an Adamantite Golem, the most powerful Golem there is. The Stone Golems can follow me through the doorway, but none of them can see me with the Staff making me invisible. I quickly dispatch them, and the Adamantite Golem falls eventually to a rain of Sling bullets through the door. Each one does at most 3 points of damage to it, but it has a surprisingly low Armour Class. (What's the definition of boring? Watching a mage with one attack per round killing a 80% damage-resistant Adamantite Golem with sling bullets.) I am untouched throughout all the Golems' destruction.

A room to the east holds two non-aggressive Orcs who I let go; they tell me Firkraag expects me to die. A room to the west holds a Troll Cook and some Hobgoblins. The cook wants me on the stove...uh huh. When he's down, I don't even waste a Sunstone bullet on him, using Agannazar's Scorcher instead. Under a broken chaise lounge chair, I find a strange Orcish Cookbook that the troll used...it details some of the enemies I will face. South of there is a room empty save for one of those ugly Otyugh creatures I described before...and it can't fit through the door either. I can switch to the more destructive Staff Of Rynn and happily mash it while impervious to damage. Another chamber holds shade creatures: Shadows, Wraiths, a Greater Wraith...all blind to my invisibility and damaged by Sling bullets. I retrieve a Chapel Key from the chamber.


Day 28

I meet someone named Samia here, and she wants me to find a tome detailing King Strohm III's life. In my explorations of the dungeons I have to defeat seven guardian Djinn. All their attacks are fiery (as they are elementals from the Plane Of Fire,) so I read a scroll of Protection From Fire beforehand, and they are all easy. I make a lot of magic resistance saves and their fireballs damage themselves more than I (and I wonder how this is possible: again, they are creatures of the Plane Of Fire. Fire should actually heal them.) They go invisible but attack again as soon as I am visible, can't backstab, and despite their fearsome swords are not even a match for me in straight combat. There is a Director, very much like a Beholder, here...its spells are more like my mage spells than a Beholder's innate ray spells. It ends up damaging itself severely by casting Ice Storm near itself. It goes down with a few Staff hits. When I have collected all seven pieces, the Death Mask Of King Strohm III forms itself, and I can enter the lair of the Guardian. The Guardian itself is a Greater Fire Elemental, as blinded to me with the Staff's effects as a Glitterdusted Gibberling. I finish it with the Sling as it seems one of the rare enemies less resistant to piercing than blunt damage. Inside the room that the Guardian was protecting, I find a hidden treasure cache containing a Dragonslayer sword and a Dragon Shield. I can't use either, but they will doubtless fetch a good coin, and they certainly confirm indisputably with all the other evidence that Lord Jierden Firkraag is a dragon, who assumed human form when he met me in the Copper Coronet. Given the "Fir" in his name, which he distinctly pronounced "fire" rather than "fur", he's probably a Red. Ouch!

Samia has prepared a little surprise for me. I suspect Firkraag was her target as well, and she wanted the blade and shield I just retrieved, not some tome. She ambushes me as I leave the treasure cache room, and has several of her little friends with her. I save the treacherous bitch (excuse my language, journal, but my anger at her betrayal was so thick as to have substance) for last, killing all of her friends one by one, starting with the mage, and not taking a single hit of damage. They drink their healing potions when they are nearly dead, but I will bet my last gold piece I have more bullets than they have potions, hmmm? When she alone remains, I Stoneskin and see just how tough she is in a fair fight. I score three critical hits on her in a row (such odds!) and she dies just as the last of my Stoneskins vanishes. Her troupe and her drop a wealth of magical armour and weapons.

Passing through the area Samia was in, I find a trio of Greater Wolfweres and some Dread Wolves. I don't even bother with them. Greater Wolfweres regenerate about three times as fast as I do with both Rings Of Gaxx...it takes a skilled and powerful fighter to bring one down, or a whole party, or an instant-death spell such as Chromatic Orb or Disintegrate. I don't feel like wasting my spells on a group of furballs who are too stupid to be crucial or enlightening opponents, can't give me more experience as I am at the limit, carry nothing, and will probably make their saving throws anyways, so I invisibly pass them by.

The area I am in now has a deep chasm crossed by a narrow plank bridge to the north, and a well. I remember from the Orcish Cookbook that there is an Air Elemental down there, so I reach deep into the bag, blow the dust off the Staff Of Air +2, and peek down the well. I find a saleable magical helmet (the Dragon Helm...go figure) and the promised Greater Air Elemental. One hit from the Staff Of Air and it is history. Across the narrow bridge is another Adamantite Golem, two Stone Golems and a host of Orogs. The Adamantite can't cross the narrow bridge, and none of the opponents have ranged weapons. Using my noodle, I walk up the bridge to just before fist range of the Adamantite, so that all the other enemies clump behind it trying to get close to me. I then walk back a bit, and pick them all off at my leisure one by one with the Sling, saving Mr. Big And Shiny to last.

I head west, find another Greater Wolfwere and a few Wolfweres, and a room with a table and chest. The chest contains an interesting device called the Horn Of Blasting which does 2-20 damage and stuns all enemies once per day. I wonder if Maheer can upgrade this one as well. There are also some useful spell scrolls here too. To the north, a few of Firkraag's flunkies; the "human" goes Wolfwere and attacks the Troll and Hobgoblin...I bash his head in. There is another area here full of golems including an Adamantite. Not needing the experience, I simply walk to the back of it invisibly, take the Heartseeker +3 longbow, Berjuril gem and Moonbar gems from the hidden cache, and leave, going back north on the plank bridge.

Down a curving flight of stairs, who should I meet but a resurrected Tazok, Sarevok's half-ogre toadie, the one who ran the bandit camp. No idea what he's doing here, but he's working for Firkraag. As brash as his threats and those of the others with him (three Orcs, and Chief DigDag of the Orogs) they are all dumb sword-swingers with no skills, who can't see me when invisible, and fall to Sling bullets without me taking a scratch of damage. In a hutch in the room I find a cache rivaling anything else so far: several hundred gold, two Rogue Stones, A King's Tears, and two spells I haven't found so far: Minor Sequencer and Teleport Field. Garren Windspear's daughter Iltha is here in a prison cell as well. The key is with a mage...below. Where Firkraag waits.

Firkraag is indeed a Red Dragon, a giant beast...strangely beautiful to behold. Such creatures are intelligent, conversant, elegant and rare, but unfortunately unswayably nasty. Without Garren Windspear's help, I would have been pursued to the death by paladins forevermore because of this dragon, and it has stolen his lands, his daughter, and probably tried to kill Gorion by its own description. It knows of my past, of Irenicus, of my lineage. It must end here.

Red Dragons are the classic firebreathers. My Protection From Fire Scroll is still active for 50% fire resistance. I have a Potion of Fire Resistance for another 50% if required, and a Ring of Fire Resistance for another 40%. As well, I am sure to wear the Belt Of Inertial Barrier for +5 Breath Weapon saves and 50% magic damage resistance on top of that, and cast Protection from Energy at a critical time for a further 75%. I defeated the Shadow Dragon without too much trouble. I may just survive this encounter.

I certainly survive the encounter with Firkraag's pet mage Conster, who can't see me with the Staff equipped. I know the wily Firkraag just sent him forth to waste my spells. Instead, I don't waste a single one on Conster. Iltha is freed with Conster's key and departs. Only the Firkraag and I remain, and some far-off Greater Wolfweres.

Ten minutes later, only the distant howls of Greater Wolfweres will pierce the ominous silence of the dungeon...

Returning to Firkraag's lair, I am well-prepared for him, the tactics of the battle with the Shadow Dragon still fresh in my mind. I still have the five Skull Traps memorized, and now have two Lower Resistances as well. I am already 90% fire resistant from the scroll and Ring of Fire Resistance (one of the few occasions I would dare remove a Ring Of Gaxx in battle.) I arrange the five Skull Traps in a neat line midway between Firkraag and the doorway, far enough from myself and him that they will not immediately trigger. I equip the Wand Of Monster Summoning and the Potion Of Fire Resistance in addition to the Wand Of Cloudkill. I move forward to the north of Firkraag and summon Ogres with the Wand. They do not attack him as he is not hostile. I cast Lower Resistance, and 27% of his magic resistance falls away. He goes hostile, Stoneskins, hastes and attacks the Ogres. While he is busy shredding them like paper dolls, I cast Lower Resistance a second time, and another 27% falls away. He is now almost naked against magical attacks. His Wing Buffet knocks me unconscious and sprawling almost the length of the cathedral-sized lair, but his attacks focus on the Ogres. I return to the fray and lead him over the Skull Traps. Only two of them explode, but both damage him. Just before he breathes fire, I quaff the Fire Resistance potion and I am now 140% fire resistant. My pleasure at being completely immune to the fireball that engulfs me shortly thereafter is indescribable. I run towards the back of the room again, and he follows me, setting off another of the Skull Traps which also damage him. I turn, drop a Cloudkill and then another Monster Summoning in quick succession. As the Shadow Dragon did, he stands in the poison to kill them. I cast Protection From Energy, then he breathes again, toasting all the summons (some for over 100 points of damage!) I am not singed in the slightest. He is now Badly Injured. Back I lead him again through the poison gas to the remaining Skull Traps, taking a couple of nasty 15-20 point knocks, but nothing Gaxx won't fix. The two remaining trigger, and he is Near Death. I throw another Monster Summoning at him, then Magic Missile (all of them damage him; his magic resistance is close to zero,) then use the Horn Of Blasting I found upstairs. Firkraag drops like a ton of bricks as red as his scales, and the battle is over.

His treasures, like those of so many other battles, aren't useful to me, but I have fought a creature that would have challenged a small army, alone, and won. This is reward enough. One of the treasures is a two-handed paladin's sword called Carsomyr. It is the easily the most powerful weapon that doesn't need wheels that I have ever seen, or even heard of. Far more damaging then my Staff Of The Magi...but no invisibility, and that is the key to it all, no? You can't fight a dragon with invisibility, but you can fight everything leading up to him, and win the treasures and gold to buy items that will enable you to fight him. Firkraag's red scales will make very strong armour, more so than metal Full Plate, with built-in fire resistance...a fighter could wear it and the Ring and never need a scroll or spell to be nearly immune to fire. However this is all moot to me. Firkraag is no more; I depart the Windspear Hills forever, laden with treasures and wondering what I will find next, stopping only to say goodbye to the freed and reunited Garren and Ilsha Windspear.


Day 29

Trademeet is half the distance to Athkatla, so a good place to sell off the goods I have harvested. My 51,000 gold turns into 86,000, more money than I could possibly know what to do with at this stage. I arrive at night, and the only remaining merchant is a dwarf named Wallace, but he happily buys it all. I have one last location to visit before departing this vale of tears for gods-know-how-long on the ship hired by Aran Linvail.

I journey to the D'Arnise Hold. Scouting the area, there are a couple of Trolls; easy prey. I try the Sunstone fire bullets on them when they are downed, and they work very effectively. Nalia informs me that the keep is overrun by Trolls, Yuan-Ti and who knows what else. There is a secret door in the keep wall north of the palisade she has retreated too, along with the captain of the guard. A few people are still trapped in the keep.

I enter the secret entrance and rest, memorizing plenty of fiery spells beforehand: Flame Arrow, Agannazar's Scorcher, and Burning Hands. I am awakened by a couple of Yuan-Ti, but I send them to eternal rest for disturbing mine with Staff alone...they can't damage me nearly as fast as I regenerate. I find plenty of trolls indeed, but they are no match for me one-on-one, so I use the Staff of Rynn to damage them faster as they regenerate with such speed. All the larger ones do piercing damage, and my -7 Armour Class becomes -10 against them. When they are down, a fire spell does them in every time. I have a problem with the Spirit Trolls on the first floor, but manage to do them in with Death Fog weakening them and a couple of hits from the Fire Wands. They drain my Strength for several rounds with each hit, so they aren't good to melee against. I can't target them with spells as they are under a permanent Improved Invisibility spell.

Upstairs there are more trolls, and one of those nobles I can't stand. I save her life and she insults me, calls me a peasant, and accuses me of dirtying her home. She says it is my "duty" to save those who are "above my station." Briefly tempted to deal with her as I did the trolls, instead she sulks off, probably to powder her pretty nose. Her guard accompanies her. In the room by the stairs I came up to this floor on, I find a secret door (in addition to a Flamestrike trap in the fireplace protecting a Frost Wand.) There are a few trolls in the rooms beyond, and a possessed fighter named Gracais who mentions the sorcery of his master before attacking me. He hastes himself, but the Staff dispels that easily and he is no match for the Sling's bullets. He carries another of the heads of the Flail Of The Ages, a relic weapon that Lord D'Arnise was going to put together to fight the trolls with before being abducted. I strongly doubt he lives. I now have two heads of the three, not that it makes any difference to me.

Beyond that room is another secret door, and a chapel containing five Golems: two Flesh, one Clay, one Stone, and one large Iron in the centre. There are three statues containing magical items (including another of the flail heads; now I have all three.) When I take anything from each statue, it activates one or more of the Golems. They are all easy kills with the Staff, except the Iron Golem, whom I lure to the door. It can't fit through and a few sling bullets bring it down.

The other part of this secret area is a set of stairs to the basement. I descend. There are no enemies in the dank cellar room I find myself in, but through the door are more Trolls, and beyond that five Umber Hulks, those ugly and strong beetles that cast Confusion. While holding the Staff, I am totally immune to this. I know that if I were in dire straits, I could kill the dogs near the pens outside, cook their flesh on the upstairs stove and tempt the Umber Hulks into the prison area to the south with it (as Umber Hulks like dog meat, for some reason,) but I know another way to take them out that is even better: I lure the Trolls and Umber Hulks together by popping out of invisibility at strategic times, and hit the Wand Of Cloudkill. Three of the Umber Hulks drop dead immediately, having poor saving throws and low hit dice. Next round, the other two are dead. The trolls are damaged and I can isolate them when the Cloudkill is gone and take them out with the Staff Of Rynn.

Another chapel is here, and it holds the protagonist of these troubles at the Keep: TorGal the Troll and two of his friends. For them, I Stoneskin and Improved Haste from a Ring Of Gaxx and they fall. TorGal doesn't even need fire to finish him for some reason; he dies as he falls. I take a lot of damage in the process but nothing serious; within thirty seconds I am back to uninjured state. I find gold and gems hidden in a hollow column...near the body of the unfortunate Lord D'Arnise, who must have died protecting the location of this cache. Such a waste...I could have loaned him ten times that much to recoup his losses and still never wanted for anything.

I leave the basement, and the few chests I cannot open, doubtful they hold anything of real interest, though I found a few spells I didn't have. Returning to the main floor, I reforge the Flail Of Ages on the magical forge to the west of the main hall. It is indeed a powerful weapon, a +3 flail whose three heads add one point of acid, cold, and fire damage per strike. The ideal troll killer...if only I could use it.

There are stairs to the roof here; there are a few Yuan-Ti there but they are easy opponents with the Sling. As I come through the main hall, I encounter a Spirit Troll I had missed. I can't target him with spells, so I Stoneskin, but not until he has sucked two points of Strength away. I need two Improved Hastes from the Ring Of Gaxx to bring him down (and I wonder what's so improved about it...it lasts about two rounds.) I hit him with the Fire Wand when he's down, not wanting to risk him getting back up again. In the main courtyard, another ugly Otyugh. By my standing between the well and a rock beside it, it's in the same situation as the others were of being too wide to attack me; I take no damage. I pass by the dogs a second time...I think I may be done here. I check the keep thoroughly, and my enemies are no more.


Day 30

I return to a rather anti-climactic reaction from the residents. After having risked life and limb to save their home, gathering only a few token items in reward, and asking for nothing more, the lady of the keep is as snotty as ever, and I feel the blood boil within my head. Nalia wants to join me; as the Lord of the keep is dead and there is no male warrior to replace him, it will fall to the Roenalls, another group of nobles who may even be snottier if this is possible. I travel alone, always have, always will, so she tells me that she will waste away here, and that there is no fighting man to replace her father. Hello? Toril calling Nalia...any intelligent life out there? I just went toe-to-toe with twenty Trolls and ten Yuan-Ti...and I'm not a fighting man? And may I remind you that Mr. Irreplaceable Fighting Man got his ass handed to him within hour one, and I had to be dragged out here to clean his dirty laundry? She leaves. I wouldn't want such a sucky self-defeatist in my group if I had one anyways. I promise myself that the next snotty noble I meet will wish I hadn't. I leave the D'Arnises to their cold, drafty barn of a home and return to Athkatla in disgust. For all the good I have done in the short time I have been traveling, I am for once really glad that I don't have that pegged on my alignment...those of good alignment are supposed to bow and scrape to idiots like the D'Arnises, for some gods-know-why reason. Personally I think useless, snotty, leech nobles are as evil as any Trolls or Yuan-Ti could ever be...and those so-called monsters don't treat their own, especially their saviours, like garbage.