Day 41

I find the promised Kobolds right by the stairs I entered through. Though they are many and several are spellcasters, they are still Kobolds. I cast Death Fog which kills most of them immediately. When they are dead, a few more gate in including one disguised as a Xvart; I killed hundreds of these annoying blue creeps in the days before Sarevok fell and haven't seen one again up to this point. He's as easy as the rest. When no more remain, I retrieve a crystal shard from the central crystal at the cavern's focus. It will no doubt prove to be yet another key out of here.

My curiosity gets the best of me as I pass the raised tome again...the first enemy to emerge after the original Kobold Captain is a Sword Spider, followed by an Umber Hulk. I won't waste a Cloudkill on one...I only roll a 1 vs. its Confusion and still make my save...I give silent thanks to all my wonderful items. I put on the Girdle Of Bluntness, and find that Umber Hulks deal out blunt damage too. Yet another enemy I can now face in melee when required. After that, a Mind Flayer. It stuns me even while I hold the Staff (thought I would be immune) but I am invisible so it waits. When the Stun wears off, I attack it, and it flees after taking excessive damage...right through the north wall and out of sight, as I stare after it slack-jawed. I inspect the wall carefully, but no crevice or secret door do I find.

As I expected, the last to emerge is one I can't deal with. Knowing I will face Jon Irenicus I haven't used the Staff's Spell Trap and I won't do so yet, but I didn't realize that once a Beholder sees you, there's no going invisible on it. I get damaged a bit and in a difficult situation as I can't cast spells while getting hit, but drawing on better judgement I notice the angle of the walls around the Beholder, and as a billiards-player would, sight the angle of the Staff's lightning/fireball combination and trigger. The resulting bolt pierces the Beholder no less than four times through reflection, and it collapses to the floor charred black. Refreshingly, I can use all the items I obtain: Summon Fiend and Simulacrum scrolls, and a Ring Of Free Action. I don't really need the Ring with my low saving throws, but I will keep it anyway. I read Summon Fiend and put the rest away.

I leave through the doorway down the hall through where the Umber Hulks appeared, and end up back where I started, except now I have the keys to leave with. Imoen still waits, probably expecting me to talk to her, but I am not a man to be waited for...I travel my own path and keep my own agenda unfortunately. Perhaps this is selfish, but my peculiar philosophies have kept me alive, and have benefitted many others through my actions, far more than have feigned injury that someone dares be independent.

The last staircase leads to a large bust that is the doorway out of this dungeon, and is guarded by several Yuan-Ti mages, Yuan-Ti and a Greater Yuan-Ti. They are not much of a challenge anymore, and fall quickly. I forget the Cloak Of Non-Detection and their True Sight brings me out, so I lay into them, casting Fireshield to injure those who engage me in melee, Greater Malison, then the Staff's lightning/fireball, and Sunfire (while standing in the middle of their group, which slays three of the mages.) The remaining one injures his own by throwing a Skull Trap while I make my magic resistance save. I engage the Greater Yuan-Ti in melee and my Fireshield does him in, and a tap from the Staff finishes the remaining mage. Time to leave...

Instead of welcome sunshine, there is more dungeon. I find more Yuan-Ti (and the obligatory mage) with the first door I open; they go down to Staff and Sling. There are four panels on the wall with paintings of a Mind Flayer, Troll, Umber Hulk and Djinn on them. I wonder what they are for, so try one. It's a door, but locked. I leave this room for now. Just south of the stairway is a small L-shaped room that holds a rotating wheel. When I turn it, it opens a door just to the north. There are three Trolls and a Spirit Troll in here. I leave them for now, emptying the clay pot they guard and returning to invisibility. There are strange Mithril Tokens in it in addition to other items. To the south, a broken statue dominates an area with a few Minotaurs. I ignore them and instead look at a small round chamber off to the north of it. Three statues are here and a central pool. Each of the statues casts a nasty spell when touched, but they and the pool yield four paintings matching the four locked creature panels; they must be the keys. One of the spells resembles Cloudkill with a fire component, so I lure the Minotaurs and Trolls into the chamber by going visible. The Minotaurs die instantly, their bodies blackened. The trolls are weakened and easier to finish. I leave one as it doesn't matter if it dies. Returning to the panels, I open them. Each creature that appears is a lot tougher than most of its kind; luckily the Noble Djinn casts no spells, and the Umber Hulk can't see me when invisible, so I can take them down from a distance. The Spirit Troll is difficult, so I remember the tactic that felled the Beholder, lure it into the narrow cell it was trapped in after casting Protection From Energy on myself, then use the Wand Of Lightning while standing beside it invisibly. It dies instantly by the reflected bolts at a cost of a few quickly recovered hit points to myself.

The Ularthid Mind Flayer manages to stun me once, but yet again while I am invisible, so I am not harmed. I find that it does blunt damage as well, so the Girdle Of Bluntness once again proves itself a wise investment. Its morale fails but it doesn't run through a wall as the other did, and I bring it down with a Sling bullet. It drops a two-handed +2 sword that adds +10% magic resistance and does extra damage to Chaotic Evil opponents.

One of the cells is not a cell, but a doorway to another hall. Through it I find a Stone Golem which I can melee with the Girdle Of Bluntness (it only gets one minor hit on me,) and I finally find the spell scroll Maze in a clay pot, as well as more of these Mithril Tokens. To the south, a small room has a machine at the centre, and I finally know what these Tokens are for: it will dispense something for them. I will collect all I can before I try it. To the north, three Clay Golems await, and another clay pot in the hallway holds the spell scroll Phantom Blade, which conjures a sword I can use, a +3 that does an extra 10 damage vs. undead. Very handy. When I Knock open the chest, the door slams closed and the three Clay Golems go hostile, but cannot see me and the Staff fells them all, causing the door to reopen. The chest holds more Tokens, the string of the Gesen Bow that fires bolts of lightning and never needs arrows, and a Star Sapphire. Since the door can now be closed and opened by me, and there is no other way in here (and no other dungeon residents would have dared enter with the Golems present) I close the door and rest, completely undisturbed.

On awakening, I push a bit farther, dispatch a couple of trolls handily with the Staff, Girdle Of Piercing and a Scorcher and Sunstone bullet, then enter another large chamber. Bodhi and another vampire confront me just beyond that. She is determined to not let me escape, but I pull one over on her by spontaneously transforming into the avatar of Bhaal, as I have been drained of my soul, the "instinct," as Bhaal put it in my dream, is allowed to take over. I become the Slayer, a hideous monster, but a very strong, fast and deadly one. Bodhi flees in terror yet again. I will put the new form to good use while it lasts, so I open doors as fast as I can as the Slayer and luckily find a Gauth to the north, through the west door. I kill it in seconds, then transform back and kill the Minotaurs in this unfinished chamber with the Sling. A font on the west wall holds a few items. There are yet more Minotaurs in another room at the end of the hallway, but Minotaurs are easy opponents, slow and without ranged weapons. They fall without effort. I now have 21 of the strange Mithril Tokens. Before I go back to the machine I check a large statue by a locked door. It is missing its horns. When I replace them (I happened to find them but didn't know what to do with them) the door opens and I can leave whenever I feel like it.

Returning to the machine, I test it before making a decision. For 5 tokens: Boots Of The North, cold resistance. For 10: Boots of Grounding, electrical resistance. For 15: Boots Of Speed, which I already have. For 20: Jester's Chain Mail +4, a suit of chain as tough as Full Plate (though probably not against blunt weapons.) None of these are of any use to me, already having Boots Of Speed, so I use up the most tokens on the most saleable item, the armour, then depart through the door behind the re-horned statue.

If I thought things were getting strange before, I was sorely mistaken. They take a turn for the stranger. First I appear in an arena-like setting. A few Kobold Commandoes and Goblins attack me with arrows, so I put on the Cloak Of Displacement and one Sling bullet apiece is enough. When they are dead, an Apparition appears, says that I am being tested, and I am again transported, this time to a forest setting with a Spore Colony summoning Myconids (mushrooms that walk like humans and throw Confusion spores like Umber Hulks.) I put on the Girdle Of Bluntness and wield the Staff, happily bashing the Spore Colony nigh-immune to the Myconids' head-butting and Confusion. There are some hidden caches here but they are empty other than one scroll of Friends. When the Spore Colony dies, the Myconids do too, and the Apparition appears again and asks me a riddle. I remember that this is still part of the "testing area" that Dace created, so I play along. The next place is an ornate dining room with Apparitions seated about it. On the table I find a Cloak Of Reflection that makes one immune to electricity and reflects it back to the source. The Apparitions babble amongst themselves and ask me several easy riddles, and then I am somewhere else a cave with three Trolls, one is Spectral. Two go down to a Skull Trap and Sunfire does them in; I don't want to risk them getting up with my slow attacks. That Sunfire also injures the remaining one, but it is not necessary to kill it as the Apparition has appeared ready to take me away. Instead, I ask to check a bizarre Troll altar. One of the Trolls lost its head. I place it on the altar, the room shakes, and I receive...a nice Bone Club that I can't use. I speak to the Apparition again, and I can move to "Judgement". One last time, I am transported I know not where, to an open stone colonnade with the scales of justice embossed in the centre of the floor. I have passed the tests that have been set to me, and I am free to leave. I search the area thoroughly, but all I find is a single silver ring in one of the orifices on the north wall, not even worth the effort to pick up.

When I descend the stairs I am back in Spellhold, just outside the laboratory where my essence was stolen. And who should greet me but the treacherous Saemon Havarian? However angry I was, I suddenly reconsider. Irenicus is certainly a powerful mage; it is quite likely, given the ease with which he felled me, that he had Havarian under some sort of geas or mind control. Saemon seems to have broken it, as he tells me of a way to defeat Irenicus...the only way according to him. Release the inmates and turn them on Irenicus. I am sure they will attack Irenicus if they can, and an army of spellcasters is handy. I will try.

I search the area. In an barrel in a storeroom to the north, I find the first part of Irenicus' journal. It confirms several of my suspicions: Bodhi is an elf, therefore so is Irenicus. Imoen's essence was stolen for Bodhi, mine for Irenicus. Clearly they were cut off from the elven community, a community whose membership confers immortality without the decay into lichdom, or any other negative effects, to its members. They are attempting to steal our souls to replace theirs. Why ours? Because we are children of Bhaal...they don't want just any souls, they want the soul of the god of murder and assassins...they are hatefully angry at being expelled and want the power of the dead god to strike back with.

I ascend the stairs, and bribe a dwarf named Lonk The Sane with 2,000 gold to free the inmates. I meet with them, and they each reply in the manner of their delusion or talent to the proposal to battle Irenicus. Only Wanev and Tiax seem enthusiastic about it, but they all certainly want him dead. Wanev dimension-doors us to the lab, and the battle begins; it is not difficult at all, especially as I don the Belt Of Inertial Barrier first. Wanev turns out to be as powerful of a mage as many liches, casting Time Stop and throwing several Symbols at Irenicus, and the others are competent as well. I am forced to fight a clone of myself while flinging spells at Irenicus, so I just Summon Hakeashar and it works its usual wonders on Irenicus' memorization library while I bash my clone. And how potent of an enemy is a human mage with no spells, no weapons, and no defenses? One of the other mages finishes my clone for me with a Lightning Bolt.. A few Magic Missiles later and Irenicus flees (like brother, like sister...cowards.) Unfortunately he slays all my allies upon leaving. He then sends in six assassins hidden in shadows, so I merely Stoneskin and cast Detect Invisibility, and they appear. I fling a Skull Trap into their midst, three die, and the rest are down in a minute. Even the Hakeashar helps me whack them, though they don't seem to have anything magical and certainly aren't spellcasters.

I leave through the northern staircase and again run into Saemon Havarian. He seems eager to help me, and transports me to the surface...finally. He invites me to stock up and then meet him at the Vulgar Monkey, then departs. I am sure he is up to no good again, but I will end up in a worse situation if I just leave through the portal in Irenicus' lab: it apparently connects directly with the Underdark. I won't be stocking up; I will be selling off. I have long run out of room to carry anything else. I want to see Brynnlaw one more time before I leave it as well.

I return to the store I had found earlier and sell off everything I can't use. When I arrive I have 132,000 gold pieces, but this increases to 161,000. I buy a two new Wands Of Lightning and a new Wand Of Frost by selling ones that are almost discharged and buying them back. I don't even bother to cast Friends...I have enough money to not worry about it. I have 137,000 afterwards. It is a quiet evening and the blueness of midnight hangs over the town, and I am glad to be alive and free of the pressures of what I must do for a while. Brynnlaw has little to offer me now financially or to challenge me, and I seem to like that. When I visit the docks, Sime has finally left, and I doubt I will ever see her again. I am waylaid by a group of pirates who want to use me as a galley slave (then why try to kill me?) but they are easy, including the mage, and when that obstacle is gone I fight four of them at once with only the Staff and still take hardly any damage. I return to the Vulgar Monkey to meet Saemon, and Lhaeozarus lightens the nameless drunken pirate in the centre of the tavern of an emerald. Expensive trinket for a drunkard to be carrying.

Saemon informs me that his ship has been scuttled (uh huh...sure, I doubt he had one) and that we can steal the Pirate Lord's ship by removing the horn that opens the sea gate from his concubine Cayia. Her home is on the east side of town. When I enter invisibly, she is with a lover and mentions she has been with Saemon, though he had said he would only woo her if he had time. Does he ever tell the truth? The horn is on her table...and a Rogue Stone. There is a nasty Disintegrate trap on the upright hutch and only a lousy Rainbow Obsidian necklace in it, but I would not dare open any unknown containers without holding the Staff, and am immune to Disintegrate when doing so. She summons three pirate guards and then leaves. With the Girdle Of Piercing and the Staff, I melee all three of them at once and lose not a single hit point of damage.

I return to the docks as instructed and meet Havarian. On boarding the ship, the Pirate Lord Desharik and several of his pirates appear. Havarian, in usual form, says that he will be below decks and tells me to attack them. Desharik kills Cayia for her infidelity, the pirates attack, but Desharik stays out of it. I don't let him. I kill them all, casting Death Fog and using the Staff and Sling. Desharik carries Studded Leather +1 and dual-wields two +1 Scimitars, but none of the rest have anything. We cast off. Saemon gives me a silver sword blade that I don't want.

Day 42

We are caught and boarded by another ship; the Githyanki have arrived. They are seeking the stolen Relic Of Holies. Guess what that is? The blade Saemon gave me. Guess what he says? Yes...he blames me. The Githyanki attack, but I ignore them and attack Havarian instead. He doesn't need a geas to be a complete scumbag and he has crossed me for the last time. I even cast Disintegrate on him, but he makes his save and dimension-doors elsewhere. I will kill him if I ever see him again, I promise, but doubt I ever will. The ship is boarded by another group then, and runs aground. It shatters, and I am thrown into the sea. My last thought is not for me... it is for poor Lhaeozarus...

When I come to, she is alive and well, and I am standing in front of a...something that looks like a shark that evolved into humanoid form but kept most of its...sharkiness? There are several here...I look around. There is a whole city of them here, and far overhead a transparent dome reveals I am deep beneath the ocean. I can't understand their speech until one of them casts a spell, then they speak to me. They are the Sahuagin, and I have heard of them, though I never thought they existed. The High Priestess whom I speak to thinks that I have been sent in accordance with the prophecies of their god Sekolah, the Shark-Father, to save their City-Of-Caverns. I speak to their King Ixilthetocal, who wants me to kill a Rebel Prince and return his heart. The High Priestess doesn't think that's a good idea. They are wasting away and the Drow and Illithid are making inroads. Any enemies of the Illithids are friends of mine, so I am not sure what to do. The King...well, he's the King. I'm not a revolutionary and I know nothing of their politics. But this King is certainly insane. I will have to decide. In the interim, to prove I am this "chosen of Sekolah" I battle an Ettin, a giant with two heads and a large club. The Girdle Of Bluntness is helpful again. I can't use the Sling as it is immune to piercing damage. I take it down a bit with the Staff, then cast Power Word: Stun, which is inevitably effective on magic-susceptible creatures with less than 90 current hit points. It is easy to kill when stunned; I use an Improved Haste to make sure it doesn't live for the Stun to wear off.

I dispose of some Rebels I meet in the city easily. I don't think I want to support them, as they shoot first and ask questions later. Strangely enough, the Sahuagin fight the Rebels and me too. Is no one on my side? They are poor fighters though; despite their bragging of their "conquest of the surface" which they never seem to get around to, one wimpy human mage can wipe the floor with them. I imagine they would fare rather poorly against hardened warriors. In the centre of the city, in a structure that looks like a giant shark's mouth, there is a large battle: about ten Sahuagin and Rebels, a sea Ghast, two Skeleton Warriors and two Ice Salamanders. They all fight each other, me,'s a free for all, and Elmonster is the last one standing. I use two hits of the Staff lightning/fireball to bust up the party.

Aside from the usual junk, I find something...amazing. Something that makes it worthwhile to have put up with Havarian's lies, and these fish-peoples' politics. The priestess of the group drops an item called the Cloak Of Mirroring, and what that does is reflect all spells that do damage back to their caster. I no longer need fear Beholders or Gauths, though Elder Orbs might still be tricky. It's like having permanent, never-drained Spell Turning. I can unmemorize that now.

Day 43

In the southern central area of the City-Of-Caverns, a Sahuagin warns me there is a trapped Drow area beyond, left behind by a Drow mage, that they dare not go into. I stomp an acid trap right away, meet up with a Bone Golem and two Ettercaps and Sword Spiders, but nothing I can't handle with the Staff and Sling. There are two Imps on a round platform, and for once Imps act as cute as they look...they want to play a "game" with me: five famous heroes appear, and I have to talk to them, and behind each one is a chest. Each gives me an item associated with another, and I to figure out who the item is for and place it in the chest behind them. For example, Elminster's item is a pipe, and Drizzt Do'Urden's is a scimitar. It would be easy but the platform is coated with nasty traps, and some have no saving throw. I simply throw up the Staff's Spell Trap and it catches the traps' spells, and it causes me to rememorize spells so don't have to rest, as I'm running short of them. When this is done, the Imps open the sixth chest, the one with no person. A Spectre emerges. The Imps tell me that it would have stolen my life force, but they are protecting me, and it dies. I wonder what would have happened if I had opened that one first. The game concluded, they dimension-door away, and I look in the chest. I find two excellent items (especially for we mages.) One is a pair of boots that makes me immune to normal weapons once per day for 30 seconds, and the second is the Cloak Of Protection +2. I can give that old tired Sewer Cloak a rest. Armour Class now -9 with it, and saving throws all go down by 1. Great!

North on the platform is a Beholder, but a nice one. Actually, it's bored. It's guarding a chest for the Drow mage who built this area. The mage is long-dead, and the Beholder has been here 60 years, with 40 to go. I talk him into letting me peek in the chest; I have to drink a Potion Of Insight to do so, as my Wisdom isn't high enough to be able to think of the right thing to make him give up the chest. When he finds there is only a tooth there, he leaves, freed of his duty. I take the tooth. I speak with the High Priestess who explains that the King is mad, and that Prince Vilynaty should be consulted as he is the Sahuagin's only hope. The tooth is the key to his base, and she gives me an Orb which will show I am there by her request. I pass back through the city. I see a few items from the battle that obtained the Cloak Of Mirroring that I had missed; one is the spell Mordenkainen's Sword I have been looking for. I read it immediately.

A pit to the south in the east side holds several undead, who look like Ghasts and Zombies but are a marine variety. The Sea Zombie Lord is magic resistant and undispellably hasted, but cannot see me with the Staff equipped. He throws several of what looks like Finger Of Death at me, but I still have the Spell Trap active. It doesn't expire so it must have been something else. A few Staff whacks and he is no more. The Sling does in the rest easily; they are slow movers. There is no treasure in the pit.

I have to fight a few more rebels in the far east of the city, but manage to meet this Prince Vilynaty, who doesn't seem much better than the King. I am still at a loss...the King is the rightful ruler and I have no right to interfere with this. However, the ultimate law of this realm is the law and prophecies of Sekolah, and what if I am the Chosen One? Perhaps if this race becomes extinct, the Drow and Illithid will annex their city and will become more aggressive, unstoppably powerful, having an untraceable route to the surface. I don't see how these fish creatures deal with the Drow anyway; one Drow warrior could easily slay a dozen of them with little injury given the easy time I am having.

Prince Vilynaty gave me a fake Sahuagin heart...or a real one that just wasn't his (there has been enough killing around here that they are rather common.) Seeing what else he might be holding, Lhaeozarus picks his pocket of a rather large item for a ferret to be hauling around: the blade of a named halberd called The Wave. I return to the King to try to talk to him about the situation, but he takes the heart immediately and then the Rebels attack. My decision has been made for me. I am forced to kill the King to save myself and Prince Vilynaty becomes the new ruler. Somehow, I don't regret this. I will have to think on this. I am rewarded with a magical rope to descend to the Underdark with, a Rod Of Lordly Might than can become a +1 sword, a +2 mace, or a +3 spear on command which of course I can't use, and some nice spells. I find Protection From The Elements and Protection From Magical Energy. I am done with this place. Before I leave, I must rest; the Underdark isn't a place to be caught tired.

Day 44

I dream again...this time Imoen has returned, but it isn't really her. This one is cynical and controlling. "She" shows me the Slayer form again, and how easily enemies can fall to it. When I awaken I now have an ability to replace the Bhaalspawn abilities I lost: I can become the Slayer whenever I want to. I don't want to. The "instinct" that the Bhaal/Sarevok mentioned has slipped in to replace the hole left by my lost essence. I wonder whose soul I was speaking to as Imoen in the dream.

I descend into the Underdark, a place where most humans would be frightened to death by just being there. I don't worry...I have faced many difficult situations and I am confident of my intelligence outwitting my opponents and outdoing their brute force every time. My eyes finally adjust to the dim light, and I explore the area I started out in. The first thing I find is a portal with an Air Elemental guarding it. I extract the Staff of Air from my bag. It falls in two hits...and another Air Elemental appears through the portal. They do blunt damage; I throw on the Girdle Of Bluntness and I can melee these fearsome creatures. The second and third take one hit from the Staff Of Air to die, but there seems no end to them. They need to roll a 16 or better to hit me, so I manage to dispatch about a dozen of them before the portal finally yields no more. I get nothing for this but useless experience.

To the southwest, I find some deep-dwarf traders, and sell off some items. I was able to pick up quite a bit of gold from the Sahuagin priestess as she bought items for more then she then turned around and resold them for! I just resold and rebought the Wand Of Wonder until I had over 200,000 gold pieces; although I could have millions this is enough for me. So, I don't need the money, just to get rid of a few things. I buy a couple of spells from him: Spell Sequencer, and four scrolls of Freedom. I will never be able to cast Freedom except from a one-use scroll as it is a 9th level spell, so I buy them all, especially when I hear from one of the Duergar that a mage is trapped by Imprisonment to the north of their camp. They have seen Irenicus and Bodhi.

I find another portal to the northeast, this one the same as the last but with Earth Elementals. I debate whether to just pass it by as killing them does me no good at all, but realize that there are a lot of passages out of this cavern; I may be returning and may not want to run into Earth Elementals that I had neglected before. I don't have a one-hit Earth Elemental slayer like I did with the Air ones, so I kill them all with the Sling, using the Staff just to maintain my distance. I get hit once in slaying a dozen of them, and that's only due to my impatience waiting for my attack window between Sling bullets. Unfortunately, one of the Earth Elementals wanders randomly to the Duergar trader camp and kills two of them before I can take it down. Only the one with the tale of the trapped mage survives.

Continuing my explorations, I blunder into a party of Drow to the north of the elemental portal. There are two mages, two priestesses, and two warriors. I throw the Cloak Of Non-Detection on just as they are casting True Sight and remain invisible. Drow are highly magic resistant, so I throw a Cloudkill their way to weaken them, having learned that it may be magically generated but its effects are biological. This works well...they take heavy damage. When this runs out, I first deal with the priestesses to stop them from undoing all my fine work with their healing spells. One of the mages casts Summon Nishruu...eek! It will drain my spells, wands and item abilities if it touches me. However, I remember that Death Fog will instantly kill any summoned (but not gated) creatures regardless of magic immunity or hit dice, so lure the Nishruu back to the Drow party easily as it can follow me when I am invisible, smelling the magic on me. Although the Nishruu is magic resistant to the acid fog, it still disappears instantly when I cast it. The Drow take more damage from the fog, only occasionally making their magic resistance save, and now only two remain: a mage and a warrior. I take out the warrior with one Staff blow. Now the odds are a little fairer. The mage has a Spell Turning up; I cancel it by wearing the Cloak Of Mirroring and inviting him to cast Flame Arrow at me, which rebounds several times between us until his Spell Turning is gone while mine remains. However, I then just melee him with the Staff, canceling his Stoneskins and damaging him until he falls, impervious to the low-level spells he has left.

The Drow were guarding a very strange object; a nearly spherical, faceted container, taller than a man. When I touch one facet...a trapped Sverfneblin (deep gnome) by the name of Belden Daglefodd appears. He misses his father and returns home to the northwest; I will have to investigate there. The next facet produces a lich named Alchra Diagott. He is not as pleased to see me as the young deep gnome was. I cast Summon Hakeashar, but for once a lich does exactly the right thing by immediately casting Death Spell on the Hakeashar. Of course, that is only one of the many spells it wastes during a Time Stop on the Hakeashar, so I am unharmed. Protecting myself with Spell Immunity: Necromancy, and hitting the Wand Of Monster Summoning for some ogres, the lich summons an Efreeti. Amazingly, this particular lich forgot to make himself immune to normal weapons, and the ogres damage it. The lich wastes several spells on them. I wear the Cloak Of Mirroring and reflect the Efreeti's Flamestrike back to it, Stoneskin, smash the lich down, then deal with the Efreeti. It dies without going into Gaseous Form and recovering. I won't touch any more of the facets. I see that it was probably set up so that we left-to-right reading surfacers would free the rightmost innocent gnome last and by blind luck that was my first choice; who knows what other horrors it holds.

I am getting no peace in this cavern...just to the west of the faceted orb, three Spore Colonies and a Myconid King lurk. The Spore Colonies summon many Myconids, but I am immune to their Confusion as long as I hold the Staff. When the place is full of mushroom people, I drop a Cloudkill. Like the other Confusion-tossers, the Umber Hulks, these creatures have low hit dice and poor saving throws. All of the twenty or more die instantly but two, who drop next round, and two of the Spore Colonies wilt as well. The other is easy with the Staff, and anything it summons in the interim wanders into the gas and instant death. Continuing north, I find the Svirfneblin village. I am happy to see friendly and non-threatening creatures finally. I speak with the father of the deep gnome I rescued; he gives me a pair of Bracers Of Defense AC 4. They are nice bracers, but I have better already, so I sell them back to him, along with a couple of other items.

I speak to another Svirfneblin by the name of Goldander Blackenrock in the next room, their sleeping quarters. There is a way into the Drow city that he will show me by giving me a light gem that allows me to visit someone named Adalon. She is not a Svirfneblin. He says that she is quite beautiful. In order to get the gem, I will have to rid the village of an unnatural beast that was unearthed when mining. I can only imagine that it must be some form of demon, an awful one. I could probably kill him for the gem, but he is such a small being that it would be an act of childish bullying, he may not have it on him, and I would prefer to try and do this the honourable way, but when I enter the cavern of the beast and see the tiny bodies of the Svirfneblin who challenged it, I am filled with dread.

I lay three Skull Traps around the pit to save two for later, not knowing where the monster is, and then look down it. What appears is indeed a demon: a Balor, one of the worst. Tanar'ri in appearance, it casts Paralyze. I first hit it with Lower Resistance so that my spells might get through, and then cast Mordenkainen's Sword to give me an ally that can at least damage it (the sword is a +4.) It walks over one of the Skull traps and loses 36 hit points, and is now Injured. It immediately kills my sword with a gaze, but I have made all my Paralyzation saves so I am alright for now. I stupidly trip one of my own Skull Traps and am injured, but not badly. Knowing that it works immediately on occasion, will at least cause some damage since the Balor's magic resistance has been lowered, and having three of them, I cast Chromatic Orb. It dies! Gone, and on the first try! I thank whatever force in the universe controls luck and use the scroll that the Svirfneblin gave me to bring the cave roof down, forever sealing it. My dead Mordenkainen's Sword has dropped something interesting which I identify as a Greenstone Amulet. Equivalent to the Mind Blank spell that I still haven't found, it makes one temporarily immune to all forms of mind control magic: Hold, Stun, Confusion, Chaos, Charm, Domination, Fear, and Psionics. I stash it and return to Goldander Blackenrock. He gives me...a +3 mace called Skullcrusher, which of course I can't use, and the Light Gem. I still don't know where this Adalon is, so I will explore further.

I leave the Svirfneblin village and just south of it notice there is a passage to the east, unmarked, so since Adalon is in hiding and I needed this gem to find her, I figure this must be it. I find an area with paths marked with strange spiraling symbols, which are traps. The Cloak Of Mirroring protects me from their Flamestrikes. In a dark shelf-lined chamber, a large statue of the most powerful demon there is: the ruler of the lowest plane of the Abyss: two headed, tentacle-armed Demogorgon, stands at the north end. An inscription on the statue invites an animal sacrifice to "awaken his children." Sounds evil to me...and you remember what evil means, right? Yummy magic items! So, I cast Monster Summoning close to the statue, and a Dire Wolf appears. When it walks onto the pedestal, it dies immediately and five Demon Knights appear. I only dealt with one of these in Durlag's Tower near Nashkel before Sarevok fell, and it was difficult, but I didn't have as many nice items or levels then. I have too many hit points (96, 6 over the 90 cutoff) for their Power Word: Stun spells to work, and I save against their Symbol: Stun. When their few spells are exhausted, they are, like so many other enemies, dumb sword-swingers I can keep away from with the Boots Of Speed while peppering them with endless Sling bullets. A very wise investment that Sling was. Instead of spreading the damage out, I instead concentrate on one if possible until it falls...a creature with 1 hit point left can still damage as much as if it was uninjured. I have several Stoneskins left in case they get a hit on me while I run off, and using the sling gives them a large bonus...when one of them hits a Stoneskin the modifier to his hit is +14! How can this be? It got +4 for me holding a ranged weapon...but that doesn't account for 10 more. It must have a very powerful weapon and be very strong too.

I find out when they are all dead, a long time later, and not losing a single hit point. My patience is nearly limitless; I suffered through that first critical battle with just dwarven Mencar Pebblecrusher in the Promenade five or more times longer than it took to kill all five Demon Knights, a testament to how far I have improved through experience and the items I have acquired. The strong one drops a +4 two-handed sword, some very potent armour, and a girdle: The Girdle Of Frost Giant Strength, which makes my Strength 21, the same as a Frost Giant! This is another of the components for the superweapon Crom Faeyr, and I haven't been able to bring myself to sell the Hammer Of Thunderbolts yet. I will wear this belt of course, as the completed hammer would consume the Girdle and be useless to me.

Leaving the chamber I retrace my steps back and continue exploring. There are a party of Drow here guarding the gate out...I ignore them for now. North I find an enemy I can't ignore: the Kuo-Toa. They can all, every one of them, see me when the Staff's invisibility is active. They are also just about the most annoying enemies I have yet encountered; I've had about enough of fish people already from having recently been involved with the Sahuagin whom they superficially resemble, they make an annoying mechanical noise when struck, and I can't run away from most of them to use the Sling as they are naturally very fast without hasting. They aren't difficult melee opponents and their mages know only simple spells that I am immune to or reflect back to them. Had I not the Staff and other magical protections, I would find myself getting stunned often as their crossbow bolts stun enemies on a saving throw failure. When they are dead, I find that the chamber is lined with fish tanks, and I can take some "corrupted tadpoles" from them. I don't really know what to do with them, but if they are available, they will probably be important.

I soon find out; there is another set of Kuo-Toa chambers here with far more of them. I hit the Wand Of Monster Summoning to give them something else to worry about, and then concentrate on taking out the crossbow archers with the Staff, wearing the Cloak Of Reflection so the mage's spells reflect back to them. When I have only a few remaining and the mages are dead, I draw them into the chamber of the "Prince" of the Kuo-Toa, who looks very blurry compared to the rest. There are more fish tanks lining the walls here: they contain healthy tadpoles. By dumping the corrupted ones I found into them, the healthy ones are ruined, and the Prince changes appearance to match the rest of them. I cast Sunfire which kills two of the pursuers outright and weakens the rest, then Stoneskin and turn the Staff and my newly-found 21 Strength on them...they don't last long. The Prince carries about 4,700 gold pieces and too many gems to put in my Gem Bag, so I just carry them loose. I certainly don't need the money. He also drops some of his blood; I keep it as most of the weird items I find turn out to be essential. This has been another very busy day I see, as it draws to a close. I am not tired yet.

Day 45

Returning to where I entered, I find a chamber with a full Beholder and two Gauth. They are easy...with the new Cloak Of Mirroring. I cast Agannazar's on the Beholder to weaken it as they can sometimes throw deadlies such as Maze or Imprisonment (from the Elder Orbs) that are non-reflecting. All three damage or kill themselves, requiring only two Staff hits on a Gauth when they are done. The Beholder has petrified itself; I hope it wasn't holding anything important. Still no Adalon...this is not the area. I will have to explore another exit from the main chamber that I first descended to.

I return to the little Svirfneblins and sell off some items and gems. The Armour Of The Hart, two-handed Soul Reaver +4 blade and Skullcrusher +3 mace fetch a good coin. I also sell the Greenstone Amulet and then buy it back instead of just the one charge, it has increased to 50 charges and is now a useful item. If I have any trouble with mind control magic I shall put it to good use, though I am loathe to remove that Amulet Of Power for any reason whatsoever. I return to the cavern and continue my search for Adalon. Just north of the Earth Elemental portal, I discover one I had missed: Fire Elementals. So, I fell all dozen of them or so with the Sling again. There is still no reward.

I push further to the east, and run into more of those stupid, ugly and bloody annoying Kuo-Toa fish people. If there is a race I have met so far that I feel any sort of raw hatred for, this is it. Even the dragons were less trouble. The Cloak Of Non-Detection does not stop their endless innate True Sights, they are about 80-90% resistant to magical damage, and I can't shake them no matter how far I run. I Cloudkill them and run a few times around the perimeter...they take full damage from that. I run a long way away to split them up and three Monitors follow me very closely. I use the Wand Of Monster Summoning to give them something else to keep them busy. I end up casting Disintegrate on one as I am so frustrated, and it does the trick. Once I have separated another one out I can melee them one at a time. When the two Monitors are dead, I melee the remainder of the crossbow archers, then return and finish off the wizard...the rest fell to the Cloudkill. I am glad I polluted their spawning grounds and killed their Prince; I would wipe their entire filthy species out without a second thought if I had the opportunity.

I find a passage the southeast that points in that direction, so take that...then I wish I hadn't. There is certainly nothing or no one beautiful in this...I recognize the round room and garish alien colouration I had seen from the Athkatla sewers...I have just blundered into an Illithid lair. Three of them appear and knock me unconscious (saving throws be damned) and I am taken to a cell. An ogre appears and explains what is going on; he is the jailor and this is an Underdark version of the Copper Coronet's barbaric gladiatorial matches before I showed up and put an end to them. I am then forced to fight for the Illithids' amusement in an arena. My first opponents (not fair odds) are three Umber Hulks. I waste another Cloudkill on them just to get them out of the way. When I am returned to the cell I am given five Potions Of Extra Healing, which is good as I had to use two when I dealt with the Kuo-Toa, the first in a long time.

The door which was locked before to the north can now be opened. I do, and there are five Githyanki here...the same five who attacked my ship before for the blade that Havarian stole. Their leader is Simyaz. I speak with him, but he doesn't even ask for the blade back, though I don't even want it and would give it back if asked...It's not useful to me, it's not mine and its owners are still alive. They have to fight for the Illithids' amusement as well. When they return, there are only four. Simyaz explains that we are next to face each other. He has a plan, though: he and the other Githyanki can disrupt the mental powers of the Illithids long enough for me to escape and find a way out of here. I agree as it seems as if our situation is hopeless otherwise, and as barbaric as the Githyanki are, they are certainly preferable to the Illithid...the enemy of my enemy may be a friend.

We are taken to the arena...guess what? Annoying fish people again. There is quite the supply of them just outside so the Illithid have no doubt put that to good use. I cast Fireshield and happily bash away while the Githyanki demonstrate that they aren't just pretty faces...or barbaric. I gain a new respect for them from their abilities to disrupt psionics magically. When the Kuo-Toa are dead, I leave through the east door and take on the Ogre jailor. With the Girdle Of Bluntness on, he is a pushover, though he has about 200 hit points and takes a long time to go down. He can only damage me on critical hits. In a hollow table here, I find the hilt of a longsword which might be possible to reforge, as if that will help me.

To the southeast, an empty room except for a couple of Illithids, and with my invisibility and negative Save Vs. Spells they can't damage me at all. Further east a truly strange sight meets my eyes: about a dozen humans lying on beds in another circular room, stunned. Their mental energies appear to be being tapped, possibly to feed the "Master Brain" that I heard from the Githyanki lies somewhere in this hellhole. Alien devices here seem to be able to accept a kind of liquid; I will have to find that. Returning to where the Ogre's body now lies, I find another hallway to the east. I am invisible, so the Illithid that guards another circular room with six vats of liquid doesn't notice me take some and leave. I return to the humans, add some of this liquid to one of the devices, and they awaken from their trance. They were indeed captured while in the Underdark and used as brain-energy sources by the Illithid. They will wait until I find a way out. There is a large silvery machine here, and waking the humans has activated it. I am able to make four "control circlets" with it before it runs out of them. It appears that putting them on a creature will dominate them. Interesting...the illithid are almost totally magic resistant, and if these circlets will dominate them with no save possibility, they would probably dominate anything.

I return again to where the Ogre's body lies, and another hallway is open to the north. There are two locked doors here that I would have to Knock open, but I don't want to, as I can see they only lead to small cells; probably more Kuo-Toa. If I don't find something better to have to open, I will try them later. I go north, and find a bard's harp in a recessed hollow in the north wall of this room. Such a strange and out-of-place item to find here; bards are such dreamlike beings of light and song and happiness, and this hellish pain pit is just about the last place I would expect to find one. I suddenly miss light and song and happiness, having had so little of it in this life of death-dealing and sinister enemies, and regret leaving Ha'er-Dalis matter what my accomplishments, I feel empty inside sometimes. I hope the Primes are treating him well and learning as I have that a creature is who, and not what, he is.

Both doors of this room are locked, and can only be opened by Illithids. I return to the Illithid I ignored earlier, who guarded the fluid that woke the humans, and use one of the Control Circlets on it. It is charmed and will follow me. Leading it back to the two locked doors, they spring open when it approaches, and the Githyanki dimension-door in. They are leaving without me, despite all my efforts, and my respect for them falls back to its previous level. I take out the Illithid with the Staff as it has gone hostile again. To the east, the doorway out. I could just leave...but I won't until I wipe this place out. To the west, several Illithid and Umber Hulks. I'm becoming rather singleminded in my use of Cloudkill and all the Umber Hulks are but a memory seconds later. I hide out in invisibility while the Illithids are damaged, suppressing a laugh as they try to heal themselves but are magic-resistant to their own curative spells. The Cloudkill disperses and I bash them to death with the Staff. I notice that one of my successful saves is a 0: their Psionic Blasts DO have a save penalty. Eeesh...I was so close to death so many times and never knew it. Soon they are dead, and I find yet more to the north. There are eight vats here: seven along the walls and a central one. From each I can make a Brine Potion that confers temporary immunity to Psionics, but I am permanently immune to them already so don't require them. There is nothing else here but the three fresh Illithid corpses.

Continuing to the west, I find a doorway that leads to the arena, the "privileged" seat of the Illithid who watched the contests. Further west, yet another pack of Illithid and Umber Hulks, yet another Cloudkill. I notice that even when invisible, the Illithid can still target me with Psionic Blasts, but only when they take Cloudkill damage...and then I understand why: they are able to psychically determine who is causing the damage to them and seek me out. There is a secret door here, and another door that requires a living Illithid to open it. Unfortunately I killed them all, but I am sure I will find others, which I do to the north three more and an Umber Hulk. I don't use a Cloudkill this time but do them in with the Staff, then remember that I needed one to open the other door. Must have been that I had five Intelligence points drained away for a few rounds...oops. In one of the tables here, I find a quarterstaff which I will identify later.

I return and find that the locked door has already opened...I travel north and find the object I was seeking: The Master Brain. It stuns me as soon as I open the door, but no other enemies are in view and I am invisible, and recover quickly. Not wanting to risk this again, I decide to use the Greenstone Amulet. Each charge will last only one turn, or six rounds, but it is better than being stunned again. Inside, there are two Illithids and an Umber Hulk in addition to the Master Brain. I am invisible; I use a charge on the Amulet and whack the Brain. It summons three Brain Golems to defend itself. They can't see me either, but I am terrified of getting stunned while visible. So, I clump the enemies and cast Greater Malison and Symbol: Stun, which I don't expect to stun the Illithid or Golems but instead to stun the Master Brain, with a bonus of stunning the Umber Hulk as well, with Greater Malison the save penalty is -8. This works, so I can now kill the Master Brain popping into invisibility after each strike. It is not magic resistant at all, either.

When it dies, a psychic backlash goes through my mind and I know that all the doors have now been unlocked. I deal first with the Umber Hulk, then the Golems and Illithid. I have such a low Armour Class with the Girdle Of Bluntness (and Illithids, Golems and Umber Hulks all do blunt damage) that I can melee two Brain Golems and two Illithid, and the danger is not damage, but Illithid Intelligence drain. Only Illithid critical hits get through. Unfortunately, one gets two in a row, which...uh, drops my Intilluh...uh...Smarts to 9, which, bad. So i like, uh...stand around a while, ok? And i, uh...get bored, but they like cant see me, ya know? Which is like good. And when my Intelligence returns again to 19, I am free to melee the Illithid again, though I am a bit more careful to become invisible immediately if any more critical hits are encountered. I check my spellbook carefully to make sure they are all still there as well. When all enemies are dead, I check what the Brain dropped: a King's Tears, two Emeralds, three Diamonds, fifty-three Shandon gems, several hundred gold pieces...and more blood. I now have an Elder Brain and Kuo-Toa Prince blood sample. (Will I be opening a clinic?) Strange, but of course I will keep them both.

Leaving the Brain's chamber, I find another hallway south, and three strange-looking containers. When I open the first, an Insane Dwarf Warrior is inside. I don't want to melee him, so I use the Sling, and he uses his sling. My Sling is a little better than his and he dies easily. He drops a Ring Of Fire Control that gives 50% fire resistance, charms Fire Elementals, and casts Flamestrike and Burning Hands daily. I consider that I can now sell the other one...I doubt I will meet any more Red Dragons...until I check more carefully: the previous Ring increases fire resistance by 40%, this one SETS fire resistance to 50%. I will keep both. The next container holds an Umber Hulk; I handily melee it with the Staff and Girdle Of Bluntness. The last holds a Kuo-Toa priest, and the Cloak Of Mirroring reflects its Flamestrike and Unholy Blight right back on itself while I Staff it down. The Illithid lair is no more.

I meet with the former slaves at the exit, their leader thanks me, and my reputation unfortunately increases again. They depart as free men, and I follow soon after. I notice another passage out of the main cavern just south of the one I arrived from. Perhaps I can find Adalon in there. First, I need to rest...I am out of spells and I want to sell off a few things; the Svirfneblin can provide both. I would never wander through the Underdark in any condition but invisible; in this state I encounter Simyaz and his Githyanki while on my way back to the village. I ignore him; I know what he is waiting there for. I will try and give him the blade, and his barbaric rituals will demand my head as he refuses to believe my innocence in the matter, though a mage has no use at all for a two-handed sword of any potency. I sell off gems and other items, take the best room in the place (I earned it,) and sleep soundly, oddly comforted by the fact I am hours' walking distance straight down, beneath the surface of Toril.

Day 46

I return to the passage near the Illithid lair, and enter. Nope, nothing beautiful here either, unless one has an eye for Beholders...and they certainly have eyes for me. The Cloak Of Mirroring goes on. There is an Elder Orb and Beholder here, right at the front door. For some reason, none of my spells work here so I can't cast Spell Immunity: Abjuration and waste both Spell Immunities trying. This day is not starting out well. When the Elder Orb charges me I know it will try and cast Imprisonment, so I keep away from it, and run right into a party of five Drow warriors fighting another Beholder. It manages to petrify one before they bring it down. Since I am invisible to all but the Elder Orb following me, they then turn on it, and it doesn't attack them as it is concentrating on me, and can't reach me since they have blocked the passage. They kill it for me. Whew! It drops an Amulet Of Spell Warding, a sword blade probably for the hilt I picked up in the Illithid lair, and its own eyeball.

Now to deal with the Drow...and it's right back to Mencar Pebblecrusher in the Promenade again. Their armour is phenomenal, and some carry shields. Even with invisibility it takes a long time to even bring one down. When I have done so, I work out some stats while safely invisible...I had to roll a 17 to hit this particular one. My sling added 5 to my hit rolls; my THAC0 is 6 with it. Therefore they have a -11 Armour Class. I retrieve one set of their armour: it is Adamantine Full Plate +5, Armour Class -4. Unbelievable! I have never seen armour like this...and they are all wearing it. Their shields are +3. Their weapons are all +3. With -4 armour and a +3 shield for another -4, they must have a Dexterity of 17. Elves and variations can have up to 19 Dexterity...I am glad they don't or I'd be only hitting them on 18's, 19's and 20's. I have some tough battles ahead if I will be going up against these buggers, invisible or not. And they are all magic resistant too. I have only one Lower Resistance spell. I hope none of them can ever see me. When only one Drow warrior is left, I throw on the Girdle Of Bluntness, which nicely undoes his +4 To Hit Bonus as he is using a flail (+3 flail, so his Strength must be 15) and melee him successfully. I take heart...I can still compete with fair odds. I don't like this as much as I expected we are, two humanoids so closely related as to be indistinguishable except by colour by many more alien species, and we are battling it out in a lair of Beholders. We should be working together to defeat the Beholders, not each other. But I reconsider...the Drow always wanted it this way. It's Drow vs. everyone and everything else, and damn all that get in their way, and any Drow who expresses the sentiments that I just thought gets killed very quickly by their own people for being weak and sentimental. So I finish the job. Perhaps someday this will change, but not in the foreseeable future.

I feel even better after defeating three Beholders and three Gauths near there. I throw a Skull Trap into the clump to soften them up and let their own spells do the rest with the Cloak Of Mirroring, fearing Maze or Imprisonment and having only Spell Trap to deal with it, and that would disappear in seconds from the incessant pounding. The only damage I take is 3 hit points from getting nibbled by an angry Gauth. One of the Beholders petrifies itself as well. Further south, Illithid and Gauth do battle...there are about four of each, I just toss a Cloudkill in the mix to see what falls out. A couple of the Illithid lose morale and emerge, only to be rudely introduced to Mr. Staff. I get stunned when the Cloudkill has dissipated, but for the third time in a row I am invisible. When it wears off, the remaining take one Staff blow apiece to go down.

In the southeast of the lair...I can't believe what I run into...six full Beholders, about six Gauths, and an Elder Orb. I could be in real trouble from the Orb. Luckily it is in the back of the pack and can't get further being blocked by the rest, but it will cast Imprisonment on me as a last resort if I let it. I throw everything at them...two hits of the Staff's lightning/fireball ability, Cloudkill, and hit the Elder Orb with the Fire Wand. Every spell fails if I try to cast anything, even zero-casting-time spells like Magic Missile. I keep having to re-equip the Staff as their Anti-Magic Ray even dispels the Protection From Evil it provides. The Orb falls. Ahhhhh......close call. Fully three of them have petrified themselves this time.

Without the Cloak Of Mirroring? I might as well have packed up and gone home. I would have taken weeks to do this even memorizing nothing but Spell Turnings...and living through it. I smack the Gauths with the Staff and keep searching. I finally find what they were guarding in a hidden cache in the northernmost chamber: 5,600 gold pieces, 5 Emeralds, 3 King's Tears gems, and a couple of other lesser valuables. I hope that there is something to all of this other than money...however I search the lair quite thoroughly and aside from the location I just described, and a much more obvious cache in an east central location containing a few minor valuables, there is nothing. There aren't even any Beholders, so it's time to leave. Perhaps my search was hampered by wanting out of this place; being here is like walking through a monster's bowels. I sell off the jewels to the Svirfneblin.

I then remember the tale the dwarf told me...the trapped mage. Surely I would not want to be in a similar situation. He had mentioned this took place just north of the Duergar encampment. Having nothing else to do except to continue to find Adalon, I will see whether this furthers it. Near the Earth Elemental portal, I read a scroll of Freedom, and indeed a mage does appear. His name is Vithal, and he isn't sure who imprisoned him or why, though doubtless it was a Drow who didn't need a reason and probably had a good laugh about it afterwards. Vithal was in the midst of actually entering the three portals that all the Elementals had come out of when he was imprisoned, searching for magical treasures left by yet another mage. He needs his spellbook to continue, and it was scavenged by the Svirfneblin when he was imprisoned, so I return to their village and buy it from one of them for 300 gold pieces. When I return, he is ready. He will enter the portals and probably attract one of their guardians, who won't be pleased.

Since I have to defend someone, I don't have the luxuries of invisibility, distance or time. I drink an Oil Of Speed, remove my Boots Of Speed as they tend to mess up my number of attacks per round and the Oil is doing what they do, Stoneskin, don the Girdle Of Frost Giant Strength and wield the Staff Of Rynn for maximum damage. I make sure I am between the portal and Vithal so he isn't killed immediately by what emerges. A Greater Earth Elemental is what does, but because of my preparations, Vithal is saved and I don't take a bit of damage in felling it, doing 15-20 points of damage per strike twice per round, and plenty of Stoneskins left over afterwards. He disappears into the portal and emerges a short time later. We then do the same at the Fire portal, with a Greater Fire Elemental emerging. It damages me very slightly as the fire components of its attacks go right through the Stoneskins, though I am unharmed by the much greater physical damage. My Stoneskins are still present. At the Air portal, I use the Staff Of Air and the Greater Air Elemental fails its save on the second hit. All three portals done, Vithal gives me a magical rod and prepares to leave. I ask him to increase the reward a tiny bit, and he adds on scrolls of Simulacrum and Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wilting. I haven't the latter yet; this is good. I am satisfied, and Vithal teleports out of this awful place. I could have pressed the issue further, but I wouldn't want him to fight me considering the effort I just underwent to save his life. Oops...I should have asked Lhaeozarus to pick his pocket first. Ah well, live and learn.

Finally, I find an almost hidden pathway to the north, just to the west of the wooden bridge where all the Kuo-Toa were...this is new. I progress north to another bridge. Crossing it, a Drow war party dimension-doors in, but they don't see me; as was mentioned before I am always invisible when I explore. Not wanting to take hours to do them in, I Cloudkill them, relax while they take heavy damage, and then turn the Staff first on the priestess. Again I am able to melee one of their warriors with the Girdle Of Bluntness though he is uninjured. Since the odds are fair, he loses morale and runs away...typical. I can then finish the job with the Frost Giant Strength girdle and Staff Of Rynn adding 8 to all my attack rolls and 11 to my damage.

The path to the north forks, the eastern path leading to the closed gates of the Drow outpost of Ust Natha. I am able to enter a cavern to the western path...I have finally found Adalon, and as soon as I see her I put on the Ring Of Human Influence, because when one meets anything as rare and beautiful as a Silver Dragon, one wants to make the best first impression possible. Finally, I noble I want to meet...I could fall in love with her if she were in humanoid form as dragons can appear. I speak with her and she is friendly enough, but only once breaks from this to command silence from me, and then I understand why as she is clearly shaken afterwards and appears to regret her outburst...her eggs have been stolen, by no less than Irenicus. He stole them to curry favour with the Drow and they now hold them. If she leaves to retrieve them, they will be destroyed. I tell her I will help her regardless of reward...and she changes me...changes me into a Drow, no less. When I peer at my reflection in the pools that line her lair, I am indistinguishable from the Drow I have seen. It is the only way I can enter Ust Natha without being immediately attacked. Though I know my invisibility is unbreakable by the Drow, this is still a matter for subtlety, not brute force. They will destroy Adalon's eggs if they think I am there to retrieve them, and invisibility won't save them.

I depart and this time take the eastern fork in the road to Ust Natha. A Drow guard sees me and flees through the I doomed already? Will he sound the alarm? Perhaps he was just announcing my approach. I remember my persona: I am Veldrin of Ched Nasad, sent to assist while Ust Natha is shorthanded with most of its warriors, mages and clerics fighting the surface elves. While in the city, I must remember never to show weakness, sentiment or fear lest I be suspected. I will have to control the urge to scratch constantly as well; this new appearance is itchy and a little uncomfortable as if it were clothing rather than illusion, so I twitch on occasion, and hesitate when walking. I must always listen and obey to anything a female Drow tells me, as they are fiercely matriarchal, with a Matron Mother of the dominant House (family clan) controlling the city. All the clerics of the spider god Lolth are female...what better symbol of a malignant matriarchy than the spider, whose females are several times the size of the males and devour them after mating?

I approach the gates...they open, and a Drow dimension-doors in. He questions me...I could say I am the humble Veldrin from Ched Nasad who begs entry, but that wouldn't be very smart. I simply say I am Veldrin from Ched Nasad, and I am allowed entry as I was expected (because Adalon killed a party led by the Veldrin whose name I bear, and she knew their plans.) I should meet with a Solaufein of the Male Fighters' Society immediately as I am expected there. He is "only" a male, but being in such a position he must carry the favour and protection of a ranking female of a dominant house...I will do so.

When I enter, I am in sort of a promenade. The Drow decor is bleak, but interesting. The symbol of Lolth is everywhere; radial legs around a central body emblazoned on every possible flat surface. There are several Drow merchants here, and even two Githyanki for some reason. I immediately am witness to the brutality the Drow can deliver: an unarmed Duergar slave is attacked by his armed master and murdered in cold blood. But even here, there is justice. A priestess arrives and is furious that he took it upon himself to kill one of her slaves...and Disintegrates him. She is his mother; there is no sentiment among these people. I sell off a few items to them, including the Adamantine armour and weapons...they are not valuable considering their potency as they are so common here. I identify the rod Vithal gave me: it is a Rod Of Absorption and will absorb nine levels of any spell per charge, a great complement to the Spell Trap of the Staff. It has just one charge, so I sell it to a Drow merchant and buy it back. Finally, I decide to check with them to see what they all have for sale. It is a treasure trove, and I buy many items: a +3 quarterstaff called the Rod Of Smiting made for destroying golems. They must Save Vs. Spell or be slain. A Staff Of Earth like the Staff Of Air; Earth Elementals are slain if they don't Save Vs. Spells. A +3 throwing dagger that returns to the thrower and does fire damage with every hit...I can sell those Sunstone bullets taking up room in my inventory and never worry about Trolls again. The spell scrolls Conjure Earth Elemental, Conjure Fire Elemental, Ruby Ray Of Reversal (one of the few that will get rid of a Spell Trap) and Finger Of Death. I read them all successfully and then hurry over to see Solaufein, making sure I am wearing the Ring Of Human Influence whenever I talk to anyone to be as believable as possible.

I speak to him in front of the Male Fighter's Society. I don't expect a good reaction and I don't get one, but he is tolerable, and he seems angry about something other than my presence. He asks for my name, and I tell him it obviously doesn't matter given his reaction; he actually enjoys the jest...something is different about this Drow and I am glad it is he I have to deal with. He tells me to meet one of the Handmaidens at the entrance to the city...I won't be stopping to shop this time. I return to the entrance and meet Solaufein and Imrae there. A Handmaiden has been captured by Illithid (whom I correctly identify from the Drow name 'devourers', which builds more much-needed respect from them) and they will be bringing her to the lair I just finished cleaning out. I am to meet Solaufein there in less then twelve hours, and he will intercept the Illithids' astral travel. I won't wait the twelve hours...too risky. Instead I go immediately.

On the way to meet Solaufein, I am attacked by a party of adventurers, probably evil though they fight me as I appear Drow (as I find several yummy magic items on them.) Their thief has a high Detect Illusion but the Cloak Of Non-Detection stops that. I throw a few Wand Of Lightning discharges at them, two Skull Traps, and all of them die but two. I take them down with the Staff. I won't be able to use area-effect spells when helping Solaufein, so might as well use them here. Invisibly, I see Solaufein ahead. As I cannot use Cloudkill nor go invisible on the Illithids when they arrive, I drink a Potion Of Speed (I found one on the bodies of the dead party, so no loss,) Stoneskin, wear the Girdle Of Frost Giant Strength, and wisely drink a Potion Of Genius to counteract their Intelligence drain. My intelligence hits 23, so I am positively displaced from my median state of neural function during the current temporal region. I converse with the luminescence-absorbing nether elf whose moniker is Solaufein (I must try to maintain my composure through the effect of this potion...ahem) and test my waters. I tell him I am sorry for his punishment; he comes out with the standard Drow reply of this being a sign of weakness, but changes his mind, albeit warily. He hesitatingly thanks me for my concern; I have made a friend amongst a friendless people. I will trust Solaufein from now on...he is clearly the spark of hope for the Drow that I expressed before. It may be stupid or naive to believe so, but if a hero like Drizzt Do'Urden can arise from them, then perhaps Solaufein and many other Drow have the same potential.

Solaufein performs his casting, and they arrive: the kidnapped Handmaiden Phaere, three Illithid, and three Umber Hulks. We plow into them with earnest. Solaufein is a brave and powerful fighter who is truly helpful, far more so than anyone else who has pretended to assist me yet done nothing. Phaere casts several spells which even injure the Illithid. They drain my Intelligence twice right through my Stoneskin to 13, but this is certainly higher than zero. When our enemies have been vanquished, Phaere insists on returning herself, and leaves. I could have been angry with her, but showing this is not a sign of Drowness. When she is gone, I find out why Solaufein seemed irritated; he is clearly tired of serving her. He asks me to meet him back in Ust Natha's tavern, which I will do. When I arrive, I find I have a few days in which to rest before being given another task. I am an outsider, so don't wish to wander randomly as I will have too many opportunities to put my foot in my is clear however that Phaere not only treats Solaufein poorly through custom, but actually enjoys it.

I wander through the bar, but listen without speaking. However one area makes me curious...a locked pit on the east end of the place. I speak to Szordrin, who stands just before it, and he tells me it is a fighting pit, where monsters are challenged. I have had enough of challenges, but I know I will be more respected if I can perform there...this is a standard test of Drow maleness, so I accept. I am still Stoneskinned. My first opponent is an Umber Hulk, easy with the Staff and Girdle Of Bluntness, for a reward of 250 gold pieces. My second is anything but easy, but I make it so: a Nabassu Tanar'ri that casts Death Gaze. I cast Lower Resistance and throw a Skull Trap at it, and it's Nearly Dead already. Magic Missile is all it takes to do it in, for 500 gold pieces. Next, a Sahuagin Prince (could it be Vilynaty?) He drains my Stoneskins and is a tough melee opponent, so I throw up a Fireshield to make him suffer for all the damage he causes me. It works well; the Fireshield does him in by a maximal amount on his last hit and his body is charred. Barbecued belly rumbles, but eating a felled opponent would not appear honorable. I collect my 750 gold pieces. The last, and most difficult for most, is one that has even cost several Drow warriors their lives: a Beholder. I don the Cloak Of Mirroring, hit it with Agannazar's before it can mess with my spellcasting, let it petrify itself, then bust it into bits with the Staff and collect my 1000 gold pieces. There are no more opponents. I get to ask a few questions to Szordrin, but he doesn't know what the Drow are up to. They are massing to either fight the surface elves or the 'devourer' Illithid. I hope it's the latter.

Across the bar is another fighting pit, but this one is Drow-versus-Drow. I disdain this kind of barbarism, even among willing participants, so decline. I find a stairway near this pit and ascend. There are a couple of bedrooms here. Curious as to what this place is other than just the bar's inn, I speak with an attractive Drow female and she makes me an, ahem...offer, given that I have proven my prowess as a virulent male, and I even did so without having to resort to killing other Drow. I am tempted; as I stated before, the pleasures of this life are few and far between. I am not even a drinking man as I need to preserve my mind above all other concerns. Besides, one will never know until one tries, and I trust that Adalon's disguise was all areas. This is no enslaved prostitute forced against her will to sell herself; there is no coercion here, just desire and sensuality. I just hope she's not a big enough follower of Lolth that she tries to kill and devour me afterwards.

So I partake of her dark and willing flesh, and she of mine, and we are not disappointed.

Day 47

Pleasures being few and far between, I return to task on awakening. I meet Solaufein and Phaere again at the entrance to Ust Natha; this time I need not speak to Phaere through Solaufein, but can address her directly. Our next assignment is to deal with a Beholder that has been smuggling Adamantine in the southeast of the city. I meet them there, and make short work of it with the Cloak Of Mirroring. Phaere tells Solaufein that some acolytes will be inspecting the corpse (though it was shattered after being petrified) so to leave it alone. I don't know what has transpired before this between the two of them, but Solaufein becomes very angry at this; he sounds as though he thinks he is being betrayed. When I next meet them at the bar, the next task is rather distasteful. The Svirfneblin have not been giving proper tribute, and Phaere wants us to massacre a patrol and bring the leader's helmet back as proof. Solaufein, as I expected, manages to become angry with this task though draws no suspicion by attaching a nicely Drow meaning to it: gnomes are not worthy opponents for a warrior. I know his true meaning, but say nothing. We have several days to complete hurry.

I don't wait around, though, leaving Ust Natha and returning to the Svirfneblin's village. I encounter Solaufein south of there, and tell him that I will take care of this dirty task for him. Happy to be relieved of it, he returns to Ust Natha. When I go north and approach the bridge to the Svirfneblin's village, the patrol leader greets me, in a friendly manner even though I appear Drow. I feel very bad for these little folk who are kind and trusting in the face of the dark hatred that brews in the Underdark. I ask him for his helmet...of course, he would like to know why I need it, so I tell him the truth: I was sent to kill them, but I won't, and I need it as proof. Why, he wonders. Again I am honest: the Drow feel that the Svirfneblin are not showing enough fear and/or respect to them. He is very happy that I have explained this and parts with his helmet; his comment that "...we will be telling deep lords that much bowing and scraping to the dark ones is to be done, if war to be avoided is" almost causes me to laugh out loud, such is my relief at not having to senselessly murder these tiny innocent people. If only I could explain to the Drow that sometimes asking properly can get as much done as killing, and not cause one's people to be universally despised.

When I return the helmet to Phaere, Solaufein cannot contain his anger anymore. "I save my wrath for the Drow's true enemies..." he says, which finally seals into place that his feelings are true to mine. He even insults Phaere; as leader of the Male Fighter's Guild, there would certainly be consequences to his punishment, and he may be the male in Ust Natha with the greatest right to do so, but it still may not be enough. Phaere wants me to meet her in her quarters in one hour. I go quickly, though I dread any of Phaere's "tasks". My dread has basis...she wants Solaufein dead and his Piwafwi Cloak to prove it. As her lackey, I probably will take his place as he doesn't seem to like the position anymore. He is in the Male Fighter's Society. I have three days.

I don't need three days. I meet Solaufein there, and having tested the waters, I plunge in...I tell him the truth, all of it. I have been sent to kill him and there is no way I will do so...and I even invite him to leave with me if he would like to; he is the first person I have met that I would willingly travel with, and a Drow of all I have said, a person is who and not what they are, a lesson lost on many, and Solaufein is as true and honourable and brave as any human could be, and far quieter, introspective, more intelligent and less annoying than many I have met. Only a surfacer could be this merciful to him, and now that this is now longer a secret I give my friend my real name, and my mission. I know he will never betray me. We have fought the true enemy as human and Drow together and such shared loss of blood goes further than any manufactured hatred built by those who seek power on the corpses of their underlings. He knows that leaving with me would endanger both of us, but he does not depart me before giving me a secret of his own in return for mine, one that seems minor but would as quickly end his life among the Drow as mine would: he does not worship Lolth, he doesn't even like her. His goddess is Eilistraee, Lady Silverhair, the only non-Chaotic Evil deity in the Drow pantheon...and the goddess of just those things I missed: music, dancing and beauty. He will stay in Ust Natha but out of sight, until this is over. I turn away to allow my friend to make his escape in peace, and also to not let him see I am near tears.

His Piwafwi cloak, as with all other Drow goods, is superior to anything I have ever encountered. It adds 75% to both of the wearer's stealth abilities and gives +6 to breath weapon saving throws...and it will crumble to dust in sunlight. I return it to Phaere, and get another...offer. This one I decline at any cost. I tell her I am already collared by a Handmaiden in Ched Nasad, and whether by myself or my Ring Of Human Influence, she believes me. Miffed but too overwhelmed by her earnest to let it affect her, she tells me to meet herself and Matron Mother Ardulace at the Temple of Lolth. There I am introduced and given another task, one of three and I may choose among any of the them as befits me as all these required items are of equivalent power and value. Little do they know I have already completed all three of them: they require either an Elder Orb eye, Kuo-Toa Prince's blood, or the blood of an Illithid Elder Brain. Nothing else could establish me as a respected male of power more than presenting all three of these items that I had no idea what to do with to the Matron Mother at once. They are overjoyed, and for a short time a disguised human has become the most respected Drow in the place where the Drow came to exist.

Phaere asks me to yet again meet her back at her quarters, and gives me one hour to arrive. On my way back, I meet a Drow mage named Visaj. He has a magical rope for sale, and he says it used to belong to the Drow mercenary Jarlaxle, and can be used to enter the house of Deirex, the founder of Ust Natha who transformed himself into a lich (somehow this is fitting) and resides in the mage tower. I buy the rope for 1,000 gold as it is indeed magical and if it is a fake, then I haven't lost enough money to matter. When I am almost in the Female Fighter's Society, another Drow female, a Matron by the name of Taso Kala, dimension-doors in. She tells me in no uncertain terms to go forth and destroy a sect of Ghaunadaur worshippers in the southeast of the city (the same area the Beholder was in...they should just close that area off and save the trouble.) When I arrive, there are two priests of Ghaunaduar, two Othyughs, and about a dozen slimes, oozes and things, including a couple of Mustard Jellies; Ghaunaduar is the god of slimes and oozes, just in case they find they need one. Clumping them, I Cloudkill the clump to weaken the priests and Otyughs. I need something to work on those Jellies though...something that strikes as a magical weapon, and it would be nice if it was immune to most damage as well. Is there such a thing? Mordenkainen's Sword. It makes short work of both weakened Otyughs, both priests, and acts as a target for all the flying slime while carving up the Jellies. It is immune to all the damage of all the enemies, though it is slowed by the Jellies' slime and Otyugh's tentacles. I Stoneskin and am able to finish the Jellies with the Staff while it distracts them, then the rest of the slimes are easy. I work fast with Phaere's time limit. When I return, out of breath, Taso Kala gives me...absolutely nothing I can or can't use. Just nothing at all; tells me I can continue to exist and she has no further use for me. Nice lady...pleasure to serve, ma'am, hope your cavern collapses.

I have made it within Phaere's time limit, and my final goal, the reason I came here, is within reach. Phaere tells me why the items I gave the Matron are required: they are going to summon a powerful demon to slaughter the surface elves with. The magically potent blood and eye is the bait to attract it, and the eggs of Adalon are the gift to be presented to it to earn its alliance. She has made fake eggs, and wants me to steal the real ones, bring them to her, and substitute the fakes. She hopes to become the Matron Mother by doing so. Another typical task from her...she will become the Matron because the real Matron will be killed by the Demon Lord for offering fakes, and she will then step in like a little hero and offer the real ones. Of course I will steal the real ones, just to keep them safe...but then what? The city has been sealed by the Matron mother so that nothing will disturb their ritual. I can't leave until the ritual is done, or until the Matron Mother is dead, which will break the wards. If I kill her, I may be doomed...I will complete this task but I know not what its resolution will be. I depart with a heavy heart for the Temple of Lolth.

Before I go, I decide I will check into this mage tower business. I don't have a time limit for retrieving the eggs, so I had best go while I have a chance. I enter...and there is indeed a lich. He imprisons me...I don't have a chance, I can't even move...and I end up...I end up in Jarlaxle's headquarters. He is part of the scheme. The rope actually worked, not only lowering the wards but also redirecting the Imprisonment target to here, rather than some tiny sphere deep underground with myself in suspended animation for hundreds of years until someone happened by blind luck to cast Freedom in the area. They explain that they need me to retrieve gems that contain the souls of Jarlaxle's men that the lich stole...a likely story, but at least I will get to kill a lich and take his goodies for whatever reason. And, they know who and what I am. I am returned to the mage tower. When I retrieve the gems, I will be automatically pulled back to Jarlaxle.

The lich is, well, like the other liches. I throw up a Spell Trap before I even go in, which is a good decision. He doesn't have another Imprisonment up his sleeve though. I immediately cast Summon Hakeashar, so that even if he kills it, it at least took the brunt and not me. He does. I summon some Ogres, and like the lich I fought previously, he is not immune to their normal weapons. He wastes numerous spells getting rid of them. When he summons an Efreeti, I immediately toast it with Death Fog, which also damages him. He throws a few Fingers Of Death at me, and I get Summon Hakeashar back due to the Spell Trap, but if I use it, the Death Fog will kill it. His Mislead comes after me, so I turn the Staff on it while the spells he flings at me get lower and lower in level. Finally I can put on the Cloak Of Reflection and bash him, which finishes him for good. He drops a House Jae'llat wardstone and one of his teeth. I have to Knock two of his chests but it is worth it; there are numerous scrolls in his house of spells I don't have yet, too many to mention, but I don't pick up the gems that I was sent here for yet. His tooth lowers the wards of the upper floor, and a pond contains three King's Tears, five Pearls, a rogue Stone, a few other gems, and several magical weapons and scrolls. I only find one I don't have yet in my spellbook: Cacofiend. I take all the items to the merchants at the front entrance and sell them off, then return for the gems. As soon as I pick them up, I am gated back to Jarlaxle. Indeed, this was a ruse: he just wanted his payment from House Jae'llat and I was the patsy to steal the gems for him, and they certainly weren't his men's souls. I play along as I didn't believe them anyways, and he says I am a "good sport" before returning me to the mage tower.

Just before returning to the Temple Of Lolth...I remember something. There are slaves from the surface in Ust Natha in pens, just north of the bar, including children. Only those of a House can buy them. I was nothing when I entered, now I am a highly respected male with the foremost House Despana's favour. I speak to the slaver and he is glad to get rid of them. I can buy them all for one thousand gold with nothing, or for two thousand gold equipped, armoured and armed, ready for battle. I wouldn't want to let them into the Underdark without the best possible protection, so I buy them all, armoured and armed, and tell them they are to be free, to tell the gate guards they are on a mission for me and get to the surface...I know they will. My reputation increases again, but this time I don't mind at all. I return to my mission to the Temple.

Just before I enter the Temple...I stop. A dimension-door clearly is appearing before me, and I shudder at what I could have done wrong...I didn't have a time limit. What's happening? I have come so far...I was so close. My relief at seeing my friend appear from it is almost more than I can bear. Solaufein has come through for me more than I ever could have hoped for. From the shadows, he has been watching the activities and plans of Phaere's double-cross and has come up with a little variation of his own. My confiding of my mission to him only helped him in this. He has had fake silver dragon's eggs made as well, but Phaere will not recognize them and will think they are the real ones. I can steal the real ones, substitute Phaere's fakes for them, then give Solaufein's fakes to Phaere while keeping the real ones for Adalon. I take Solaufein's gift to me and he again departs, probably forever this time...I know I will miss my friend and always wonder how things turned out for him for the rest of my days.

I enter the Temple, and the invisibility of the Staff makes the process very easy. Heading to the northeast, a long path curves around the temple proper to the egg chamber in the far north. The door opens with the key Phaere gave me. Several golems are inside protecting the precious contents, but they are blind to me. I remove the genuine eggs from their container and put Phaere's eggs where they were, then depart, closing the door so that the golems can't follow. I notice the two Egg Guards have gone hostile, but no one else has; a good sign. I return with all speed to Phaere, and I am very careful to give to her the eggs that Solaufein gave me, not the real ones. She is pleased of course, and tells me to meet her in the Temple immediately for the ritual, and dimension-doors away. As soon as she does, an Imp appears, a servant of Adalon. It tells me a few really obvious things that would have been required if the only one available one for this job had a Feeblemind cast on them, but hello...go back to preening your wings or whatever Imps do when they aren't delivering really obvious messages. Yes, thank you...I rather figured out that the priestesses might get a bit mad when I cause the death of the Matron Mother and her heiress, and I might consider leaving Ust Natha when this is done. Really? And I was just about to set up shop in Deirex's place and maybe become a lich myself. I'm already doing this for Adalon's benefit and I don't need some hellspawn putting pressure on me when I'm 99.9% done, comprehend? It leaves and I hurry to the Temple.

The plan works well. The Matron Mother Ardulace's ritual gates a Lesser Demon Lord. She offers Phaere's fake eggs to the Tanar'ri, and is struck down immediately by a Flamestrike. Phaere, as planned, steps forth and confidently offers Solaufein's fakes. She is stunned to find out they are fake as well, and dies screaming curses of my name...but instead in my mind I hear Solaufein's laughter. The Tanar'ri asks if anyone else has anything to offer it, and I reply "Return to whence you came. Your summoners are dead." It obligingly disappears. The Matron Mother's corpse reveals several thousand gold pieces, three Rogue Stones, magical armour and a Ring Of Spell Turning. Phaere's corpse holds nothing but the items I have given her. I take Solaufein's Piwafwi Cloak to remember him by, then recall it will turn to dust when I leave the Underdark. Instead I keep the fake eggs he made for me. I leave Ust Natha immediately without speaking to anyone, the Boots Of Speed working harder than ever to make the door before the word gets out about me and the whole place goes hostile. Just before I exit...I hesitate. Why hurry? I don't have to run. I am impervious. Let them go hostile; I could take on a thousand Drow and if not one can see me it's no more difficult than taking on one. I could wipe this place right out. It might take a while, but I have nothing but time now: I have the real eggs, the gates are open and there is no Matron Mother to close them. But I reconsider as Solaufein again enters my thoughts, and I think of how many others like my friend might be here, how many others could be like him if only they live to hear there is another way, another goddess, and another chance. And so I pass through the gates of Ust Natha for the last time.

Returning to Adalon, she rewards me with...a nice crossbow I can't use, and then transforms herself into her humanoid form that I so longed to see, which to look upon is worth more than any crossbow...the Svirfneblin was understating when he said she was beautiful. But she will leave this place and never return, I fear. We transport to the Drow party near the Kuo-Toa lair that I originally bypassed, and she assists me greatly in purging them, casting several Lower Resistances so my spells can get through, and a few other deadlies that leave me half as many enemies to deal with. Then she is gone to where Silver Dragons go when it's time to move on, and I am filled with a sense of longing as I know I will probably never see her again.

Through the door, past a Drow war party I clump and then Cloudkill is the disputed border between the surface elves and the Drow, and they are battling fiercely here. Forgetting all thought of personal well-being, I drink an Oil Of Speed, wield the Staff Of Rynn and wear the Frost Giant Strength Girdle, then smash into the Drow as hard and fast as I can. I take a lot of damage but get it back almost as fast from the two Rings Of Gaxx. Amazingly, two of my instant-death spells work perfectly: I manage to Disintegrate one Drow and Chromatic Orb kills another instantly...very lucky. I hit the Wand Of Monster Summoning twice to raise Gnolls and Hobgoblins to distract the Drow from their task of killing the elves, who seem pathetically weak compared to them, with no magic resistance, or magical weapons and armour, casting first-level spells against opponents with +3 weapons, +5 armour and 65% or more magic resistance. I suppose that the elves are only holding out by sheer force of numbers; their casualties must be terrible. Today, however, only a few die and the Drow are slaughtered.

After five days in the sea, under the sea, and underground, I finally emerge into a place too bright and beautiful for me at first: a forest. There are many elves here, mostly warriors. At first they think I am a Drow, but quickly realize I am not...good thing Adalon dispelled the illusion. I am taken to see their leader, General Elhan. At first he is defensive and suspicious, and I don't blame him a bit as humans don't usually come popping out of the Underdark in the midst of battles with the Drow, but I am able to convince him that we are here for the same reason: Jon Irenicus. He has stolen the elves' entire city of Suldanessellar by hiding it beneath a cloak of illusion and they cannot return until the Rhynn Lanthorn, an ancient artifact lantern, is found. It will dispel any illusion that gets in its way of returning to there. Who would have known removing this lantern was the only way to cloak the city, and exactly where it was and how to retrieve it? Only other elves, only Irenicus and Bodhi. I will have to finish Bodhi once and for all.

But Elhan lies when he says this conflict was born in the mind of a human...barefacedly lies, and no War Sage checks his statements as they are checking all of mine. Clearly the elves are embarrassed that their Exile (which is what they call Irenicus) has caused them more distress than they thought was in his power. They should know better than to lie to a mage about anything elven; magic being in the nature of elves and so many elves being powerful mages, an acolyte spends much time studying elven lore, magic and history. Suldanessellar is the cornerstone city of elves, built on trees, the largest being the source of their lifeforce, what keeps them nigh-immortal but without negative effects. If Irenicus, whose immortality was stripped from him and who has my soul, has stolen this place after being removed from it, he wants that tree to himself. I wonder how far he has succeeded. I obtain several sets of stakes and three vials of holy water blessed by Rillifane Rallathil, the elven god whose avatar is said to dwell within the tree. If so, none could be more potent, as he will suffer more than any other deity could at the hands of Jon Irenicus.

Day 48

I am back in Athkatla. I sell off gems and other items, and now have over 235,000 gold pieces. Money will certainly never matter to me again. I had an interesting experience returning: I was waylaid by Drizzt Do'Urden and his famous party of adventurers while they were searching for a lost warhammer. I had a friendly enough chat with him, but I think Cattie-Brie was a little confused as she kept peppering me with arrows. Perhaps she thought I had stolen his armour and swords when I first met him back in the wilds near Nashkel, but why would a mage, especially a nice one, do such a thing? Drizzt was willing to help me should I require it, but I don't want any others shouldering these burdens. I am certain that although Drizzt would emerge unscathed, his friends would be massacred by the vampires I know I must face. I check with Ribald Barterman and he has a few items I could use that he never showed me before. I buy every 8th level spell he has that I don't know already: Pierce Shield, Power Word: Blind, Incendiary Cloud, and Symbol: Death from Lady Yuth. I buy all of his 9th level spells as well, though I can only cast them once. Never know when these might come in handy, and there isn't much else I can use to spend money on.

I memorize two of the spells (Symbol: Death and Incendiary Cloud), change a few more and rest. Without hesitation or contemplation, I am off to the cemetery to meet whatever gruesome fate Bodhi has in store for me, and I for her. I don't have to wait long: she confronts me right at the front gate with four vampires, then leaves, thinking they will finish me. I simply read a scroll of Protection From Undead, after pulling off all the magic resistance items I can so that it works properly and then replacing them. They then ignore me, flitting here and there as if I don't exist. I don't have to worry about protections or Armour Class, and I can use the Staff Of Rynn and Girdle of Frost Giant Strength. I beat them handily into the ground with no damage, not even any opposition. My biggest challenge is just keeping up with their endless running to and fro, so I switch to the Sling when they get too far away.

It is no different when I enter the underground. There are at least fifteen vampires down here, and they might as well be fifteen petrified Gibberlings. I will have to find out who enchanted these scrolls and thank them for saving me from a gruesome death. As I noted before, vampires are regenerative, so I gulp an Oil Of Speed between Staff whacks to hurry their demise. One near the horrid spike chamber is a spellcaster, I talk to him to force him acknowledge my existence and he throws on his protections, then I blissfully slip back to non-entity status and finish him with the weaker but dispelling Staff Of The Magi. I remember the three coffins near the entrance and return several times to ensure that any of the more powerful vampires are staked. I hit a couple with flame columns from the Fire Wand to ensure they fall, and cast Sunfire to kill two immediately, and a Skull Trap to kill more. Into the blood pool in the northwest chamber goes one of the vials of Rillifane's holy water, and the neutralizing reaction between the light magic of the water and the dark magic of the pool froths and churns the blood. It goes still, and I know that many of the of vampires will now regenerate more slowly, and will not return when they fall.

When the dining area is cleared of them, I descend to the octagonal chamber where I know Bodhi must far from me as possible. Protection from Undead has recently run out, but I have seven more of these scrolls and can read one whenever I wish; Bodhi might have something to tell me before I send her to the Abyss. Perhaps she will shed a little light on the situation, a sort of deathbed confession from one who died long ago but refused burial. There are three vampires here, two Grimwarders, and Bodhi of course. She "greets" me and our exchange goes as I expected...she tells me nothing I didn't know but at least comes clean with her elven background and her knowledge of Elhan. Her words are defiant as usual but there is fear behind them...I have come farther than she ever expected, and she knows I will not stop until she is removed from this world. I will deal with her one-on-one, face-to-face, with no scrolls or tricks...I equip the Staff Of The Magi and am invisible to them all. With two Skull Traps and a Sunfire interspersed with Staff blows, she is alone in the dim chamber, and a second vial of holy water in the blood pools has neutralized her last connection to her vampirism. Cut off from her second lifeforce as she was from her first, there is nothing left for Bodhi, and suddenly I pity her and the depths to which one can sink to shakily grasp any fleeting trace of existence rather than surrender to the nothingness...I choose the nothingness over where she is about to find herself due to her refusal of it.

Bodhi is alone, but still deadly. She will hit me fast and hard, I must return those offenses with ones of my own. She is also highly magic resistant, so I first cast Lower Resistance on her to make this a little more manageable. Foolishly thinking this could be easy, I cast Disintegrate at her...and it is successful, but she has powers I dare not imagine as another Bodhi rises phoenix-like through her own dust to replace the one I destroyed. I drink another Oil Of Speed, Stoneskin and raise a Fireshield, wield the Staff Of Rynn and wear the girdle of Frost Giant Strength, then charge to the fray. I have eight Stoneskins she must cut through with her devastating hands to reach me, and with every strike the Fireshield damages her while I am unharmed and continue to pound her closer to the oblivion she so desperately avoided. It doesn't take as long as I expected; she dies just after the last Stoneskin is gone, though with the regeneration I possess and the battle-fury that has possessed me I would have continued long afterwards, perhaps to my own death.

Almost lost in the oppressive gloom of the chamber, a bat escapes from her evaporating corpse and I follow it to the boat of the dead in the northeast chamber that contains her coffin. Death, said the culture that created this elegant mode of funerary conveyance, is a journey down a river. But Bodhi's river is of lava, and her destination unquenchable fire that would consume this craft to ash in seconds. Though only a bat entered the coffin, her body is there when I open it; I stake her as I did the others, still feeling the pity but no remorse, and her black heart separates from her body in my hand as she withers before my eyes to take on the appearance that she should have had without the blood of innocents and rituals of darkness. The sought Rhynn Lanthorn gleams in her final resting place, and the vampires of Athkatla are finally just a fading memory out of nightmare. I find a few other interesting items in the coffin's boat and elsewhere in the lair, including a selection of unique tomes on vampirism and the ways of curing it (and the lost god Amaunator, whom I had hardly heard of before my adventures is once again mentioned) but my mind is somewhere else right now, far from items and money. I stumble into breaking daylight surprised at just how long this ordeal took, and find the walk back from the cemetery difficult, resting almost immediately and falling into a blackness where no dreams...or nightmares...can live.

Day 49

I awaken in the middle of my rest briefly, perhaps from a noise as it is daytime outside, and when I return to sleep, a vision meets me on a great tree's limbs, and I know it is THAT tree that I mentioned before. The vision shows me the mass murder that Irenicus has wrought upon the elves, and tells me that I must stop him, for my own sake as well as theirs.

I know I am entering the final days of my journal now and my saga's time is running short...I have nothing left now but to pursue the course that has been charted to me by Irenicus and I leave Athkatla upon awakening without bothering to say goodbye, even in my mind, to the city I have explored and come to know these past weeks. For two-thirds of a day I walk in a straight and unwavering line towards the place where the sunlight first hit my eyes after days in the Underdark. No brigands waylay me for my gold. I see not another sentient being before reaching the elven encampment. A word comes into my is a word whose meaning I distrust and refute, but it speaks clearly and quietly all the same: Destiny.

Day 50

When I return the Lanthorn to Elhan, he is no more helpful with information than before...after the risk I took in singlehandedly rescuing it for better than the Roenalls though I suppose he has a better reason for his actions. We are transported to the hidden entrance of the forest city of Suldanessellar, made even more so by Irenicus' illusions. They are dispelled as predicted by the Rhynn Lanthorn and we enter. Elhan briefs us on the nature of what we face: the Rakshasa are here. I am sure given the ease I have defeated them with before that far worse can be found. Dead elves litter the once-beautiful city; Irenicus has been very busy indeed.

I must find Demin, the elven priestess who may have some knowledge of how to open the palace where Irenicus has sequestered himself. I take the west path and run into a large group of Golems, several Stone and two Adamantites. I break out the Rod Of Smiting golem-slayer that I purchased in Ust Natha and wear the Frost Giant girdle. By alternating between the Staff Of The Magi for its invisibility and the Staff Of Smiting when ready to strike, I fell all the Stone Golems, and not having the luxury of time, use tactical invisibility to lure the Adamantites to a dead-end platform where they will loiter and harm no one. I return to where I found two of them, and a raised platform holds two elven children, who I convince to go to the front gate to be evacuated. The Golems will not see them; they are too far up the dead end. I enter the Priests' House; the priests are dead. I find a 9th level spell scroll here: Meteor Swarm. In a desperate situation, I may be able to cast this from the scroll, losing it in the process. On the east side of the circular structure, there is a box which has several buttons that I have to press in "The Natural Order." Elven history was a subject that I didn't skimp on (perhaps to impress that elven mageling, I imagine) and I am able to press the buttons in the order of: Correlan Lotharian (from whom all elven gods sprung,) Rillifane (the god of this tree and therefore the bearer of elven immortality and lifeforce,) water (from which the tree grows,) the Tree Of Life itself, and then finally Suldanessellar. When I do, I receive the Talisman of Rillifane. I have no idea what to do with it, so I put it away for now.

I continue east, and four elves are being attacked by three Skeleton Warriors. Although I summon Dire Wolves to keep the Skeleton Warriors distracted, disregard my own safety by using the Staff Of Rynn and wading into them, and don't waste time by bothering to protect myself first, I am unable to save any of the elves. I feel impotent, useless and enraged by this. I am able to vent my rage on a Nabassu that I next encounter. It does not throw spells at me, so I can lead it to where there are no elves for it to kill with the Boots Of Speed while flinging Sling bullets at it, which do full damage. Seven bullets is all it takes.

When I return to the place the demon was...there is a Drow fighter/mage named Raamilat there, but he is no Solaufein. Irenicus must have hired him as a guard, as this is the Priestess Demin's home. He cockily challenges me. I throw on the Cloak of Non-Detection and grab the Staff just before the bastard casts Time Stop and he has no one to throw his three rounds of spells at when the casting is done, so completely wastes an exceedingly potent 9th level spell on True Sights that don't work. Stupid move number one. Stupid move number two is casting Gate against a mage who's dealt with Gate before and knows that running just out of their visual range is all it takes for demons with the intelligence and loyalty of a turnip to attack their summoner. He wastes Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wilting and Maze (whew!) getting rid of it. And the third and final stupid move in the list (the rule of threes must apply) is mixing it up with a mage with the Staff Of The Magi. He must be wearing elven (not Adamantine as we're outdoors) chain to allow spellcasting; his armour class is poor against blunt weaponry compared to the Drow warriors I had tangled with in the Underdark, and I don't miss a hit bashing his spider-loving waste-of-an-18-intelligence brains in.

When I enter the house of Priestess Demin, three Rakshasa are there. She begs me to protect her from them, and I know I cannot...not in the usual way. I have no spells that will affect all of them at once; few spells will affect them at all. She will be dead long before I bring them down. A man whose mind was not his greatest asset would see no hope, but instead of eliminating the three enemies, I take the simpler route of eliminating the one friend. I cast Maze on her, and she disappears temporarily and harmlessly. Without her to focus on, the Rakshasa turn on me, and I know just where to lead them. Someone else's mazing should just be ending about now, or very soon...I lead them outside and into the waiting arms of the Pit Fiend summoned by Raamilat. Their spells are useless against it, and it kills one of them outright, brings another near death and injures the third before they send it back to hell. I take them down at my leisure and return to the unharmed Priestess Demin who thanks me for saving her, albeit in a strange way. In her home, I find another 9th level spell scroll: Absolute Immunity, which makes one immune to all normal and magical weapons and physical attacks of creatures, except for those with greater than +5 enchantment, which I have never heard of. I save this one for later as well, another one-use item.

I finally get an insider's explanation for Irenicus' actions and it isn't too different from the one I already knew. This isn't the first time he violated the Tree Of Life. His exile from the elven community and banishment from their afterlife was caused by his first attempt to "merge" with the tree and become godlike. Queen Ellisime decided he was to be banished so that he would have taken away from him what he had almost taken from all other elves; as he had been socially prominent the death penalty was not imposed. Bodhi had purposely become a vampire before Irenicus was able to develop the method by which they stole the souls of Imoen and I; Irenicus must have known more about the effects of vampirism, or had too much confidence in his abilities, to do the same. He has sealed the palace to the point that it would that it would take a god to open it...and that is exactly whom I must summon. I am not afraid; I would like to meet one to finally know without needing weak-watery faith or feelings whether they are godly, whether they deserve the worship that is accorded them. The Talisman I found is one of the three components required...and Irenicus' black dragon in the northwest may be holding one of them to keep Rillifane Rallathil from being summoned by the elves to disturb his plans.

Knowing that another component is there I must go immediately to where the Black Dragon awaits...and this one will not wait around for me to prepare, I fear, if it let it know I am there. On the way to meet it, another group of elves are massacred before my eyes, by three golems this time, and I can do nothing until it is too late. There are two Iron and a Sand Golem. The Sand is weak but constantly hastes itself and the other two, so I deal with it first, then the Iron Golems, using the same technique of swapping the Rod Of Smiting and Staff Of The Magi. They get a couple of nasty knocks in but I am fully recovered in seconds. The bridge to the northwest and Irenicus' Black Dragon awaits.

The other dragons were juniors compared to this one, who as I expected didn't stand around much arrogantly expecting that a tiny human couldn't touch him, and had a few tricks up his sleeve to frustrate we mages...but I have a few tricks of my own, and since I'm writing this, you can probably guess who walked back over the bridge wondering where he was going to rest, having exhausted most of his spells in one battle, but having suffered no damage whatsoever (that time...there was a secret to this battle, which when found made it go from damn near impossible to a walk in the forest, dear journal, and I hesitate to mention it lest others read this and dragon-slaying heroics fall to the level of mere workaday washing, but I will have to be through if this is to be a meaningful or believable disclosure.)

Nizidramanii'yt (for that was his name) was out of sight when I left five Skull Traps near the bridge, but not too close I would trigger them by standing close to it...I needed a little maneuvering room as I would be sprinting too fast to be in full control when I returned to them. I headed west but not south, as this is where he waited. Just before his visual range, I cast...Mordenkainen's Sword. Now here is the secret, dear journal: A dragon will attack physically if you are close, and magically with his breath if you are distant. Mordenkainen's Sword is immune to all physical attacks. So even if it never struck Nizidramanii'yt, it would be sufficient to just soak up all his attacks by being close, being immune the sword would last for the spell duration and the dragon would ignore me until it was gone. As well, a piece of magical metal has good saving throws against Wing Buffet and would most likely not become unconscious. Had I summoned monsters, they would be ripped to shreds within a few rounds and I would then be Nizidramanii'yt's next meal before I got another spell off.

The magical sword had another good purpose: it soaked up the Insect Plague that Nizidramanii'yt cast to destroy my spellcasting ability by causing me to be encased in a swarm of biting insects and slowly nibbled to death. All in all, a most valuable ally.

I send the sword south ahead of me, out of visual range, and then follow it, so that Nizidramanii'yt can finally see me. I don't bother with fancy words or banter...I merely call Nizidramanii'yt a "wyrm" which is sure to provoke him and stop all attempts at further conversation, and attack him magically by casting Lower Resistance, the first of two. The sword attacks him physically. Nizidramanii'yt stoneskins and hastes, then casts the dreaded Insect Plague; I run just north out of its range and back again, and the sword has absorbed it; no swarm haunts my every step and the next Lower Resistance can be cast. Nizidramanii'yt adds to the danger by casting Plant Growth (I had no idea a dragon could be a cleric) but the sword is unharmed whether trapped or not and I am just beyond the growth's border. Nizidramanii'yt now concentrates all his effort on physically destroying Mordenkainen's Sword, and to no effect at all. While he does, he is ignoring me and naked against magic, and I can cast Greater Malison at him and then summon a spellcasting ally with the Efreeti bottle to cause as much damage to him in as short a time as possible, while I still have the sword. I do so, and the Efreeti and I throw everything we can at him. I hit him with the Fire Wand's column of fire several times and cast Magic Missile twice, while the Efreeti casts Magic Missiles of his own, Agannazar's Scorcher, Flame arrow...and then runs forward when I don't tell him to cast another spell quickly enough and gets stuck in the foliage. Not what I was expecting, but I keep up the pace, and the Efreeti is soon free and unharmed as Nizidramanii'yt is still determined to damage that immune sword. I back the Efreeti off a bit to avoid him being closer to Nizidramanii'yt than the sword is, and have just enough time for him to get off a Flamestrike before he unsummons. The Sword quickly does the same, and now I am alone with Nizidramanii'yt, but I am not worried.

Protection From Magical Weapons casts instantly, and I can now lure the badly injured Nizidramanii'yt close to the Skull Traps immune to his attacks as I don't want to get too far from him, lest he decide to breathe on me. He follows close behind and I know I would be getting ripped apart terribly if not for this fine piece of abjuration magic that protects me. As I approach the Skull Traps, I sprint, breaking away from him in a semi-circle that leaves me on the other side of them as his Haste has expired and I now outrun him easily. Nizidramanii'yt charges across them and dies, leaving one unexploded. I have to explode it to pick up the items he has dropped, but I make my magic resistance save and am unharmed. Irenicus' great black dragon is no more, and I take a small amount of pleasure in the fact that the elves' wards will never allow him to ethereally travel from this place; without Nizidramanii'yt, he is now trapped here to his death, regardless of my success or failure in defeating him and his allies...that is, unless he becomes a demi-god.

The dragon's corpse reveals several valuable jewels, a suit of Elven Chain which fighter/mages can cast spells in, know the drill, journal...and the Golden Goblet Of Life, the second of the three parts required to summon the avatar of Rillifane. I don't need the money from the jewels anymore, but I take them anyway, as I certainly earned them, and depart the way I arrived over the wooden bridge back to the warzone of Suldanessellar. I have a map of the city from Elhan, and I don't want to visit any locations other than those I absolutely need to get the job done without any more risk to the elves or myself. The House Of The Moon certainly sounds like a place to find the Moonblade, so I travel there immediately.

I don't have to fight for it, though a Balor is present. A brave elf, wounded terribly, is holding it, and the Balor demands the blade, saying his life will be spared if he gives it up. Rather than do so, he calls to Rillifane for death and victory, and both of them die. A noble and selfless act...I will avenge these gentle and merciful people for what Irenicus has done to them though it may cost me my life, for I have no life left if Irenicus survives. I no longer cling to the views that I have for so long; passion and hardship, blood and fire have shaped me into a new form, and I have seen enough of the evils of the world to know that I will use what I have and what I can do to fight them while there is breath in me. I may even have changed alignment, though I will have to check this at a later time...when this is over. I take the blade, the work of master craftsmen and enchanted over the course of years by the finest in magery. It is magicless, mute and cold dead steel in my hands, and would be in any others that had not attuned themselves through elven ritual to unlock its powers. I find my third 9th level spell in this place: Gate. I will only read this scroll as a last resort.

There is no delaying...there must be none...I am not tarried in the slightest as I approach the Temple Of Rillifane on the opposite side of the treetop city. Five Rakshasa stand guard outside it; I ignore them and pass invisibly within. A mage, an Iron Golem, a Rakshasa and a Tanar'ri await me. They oppose no one but a human mage, drained of spells, carrying a few elven artifacts; who would guess that they have but seconds to live. The Tanar'ri can see through my invisibility, but I feel no concern for anything except placing the three artifacts into the altar in the centre...the enemies have approached me too closely for me to escape now, but I am overwhelmed with a feeling of peacefulness, the calmness before a great storm, a security that something powerful and yet benevolent is protecting me.

A loud rumble bursts forth from the altar, the shaking of the Temple almost knocks me over, and a large form appears...for the second time in this journal I am able to document that I have come face-to-face with a god, or at least an avatar of one, and this time there is no denying its godliness. Like a lost and frightened child I seek shelter in its shadow from the encircling horde. Enraged at my enemies, it smashes all of them instantly like teacups beneath a hammer and then speaks to me, in a booming voice of clear reason. It...he...the avatar of Rillifane Rallathil tells me that the palace is open now to me, but I must be the one to end Irenicus' assault on the Tree Of Life. When I try to speak back I am interrupted when half-done, not through rudeness but through divination that is able to predict the remainder of my question and answer instantly. Rillifane summons his forest spirits to cleanse the city of Irenicus' minions, and departs. I am now safe from anything that is left, and I so leave too. I have met true godly power, and was not afraid, was not struck down by it, because I was doing the right thing...I was rescued by it in fact. I leave feeling as though I am the luckiest man alive.

Day 51

The forest spirits have removed some of the taint of Irenicus, and I can now explore Suldanessellar in relative safety, and find two more elven artifacts: a horn and a harp. The Stone Golem in the House Of The Horn falls as I enter, and the elves within are free to leave. There is a cloak here called the Cloak Of Elvenkind that adds 50% to the wearer's Hide In Shadows, and they match a pair of boots I had found earlier that do the same to Move Silently. I remember the Piwafwi Cloak of Solaufein and how one item was able to do 75% in both, and improve resistance to breath weapons by a surprising amount...the Drow have much we could learn from if they could be persuaded to teach it.

I still encounter some enemies that I had missed before as I had tried to collect the artifacts as quickly as possible. I find two trolls attacking several elves but again I cannot save the elves. In desperation I throw a Cloudkill at the trolls; they die instantly having low hit dice. However, I make a stunning (at least to me) discovery when the Adamantite Golems that I had hidden up a dead end charge into the scene and attack me...and take damage from the Cloudkill! I have finally discovered their fatal weakness and they are all dead in a few rounds, having been weakened by me before. Whereas I could do at most two or three points per strike no matter what my strength or weapon, Cloudkill does the full 1 to 10 per round on them. I would not have thought it possible, but there they lie dead as proof.

Finally, I am ready to enter the palace. Suldanessellar is free of the minions of Irenicus. No guardians appear when I step through the door. There is a tree growing here, a tree that is actually a mere twig of the Tree Of Life below me that this palace is built on, and in. I wonder how many of humankind have glimpsed it. Nuts grow on it, and they seem magical, and they seem to want me to pick one. When I do, all of them fall off...I glance around half-expecting to meet the stares of disapproving elves having to deal with the second mage attempting to mess with their tree...but no one is there. I suddenly realize that I didn't pick the nuts: instead Rillifane Rallathil wanted me to have them. So, I carefully gather them into my pack and continue into the foyer, which I find absolutely beautiful, an indoor forest glen. Birdsong fills the air, and twin waterfalls converge into a glimmering pool. A fountain plays nearby amidst huge green leaves that cover the walls and floor. I need to rest, and I couldn't hope for a more relaxing and tranquil place than this to do so before my inevitable confrontation with Irenicus, which I know will not be as simple I would hope. Changing a few spells, I let the environment drift me into blissful slumber.

When I awaken, I check the area, and notice that the two statues beside the fountain are missing one piece each: the horn and harp I had found earlier. When I replace them the waterfalls are stopped, the pool is gone, and in its place is a stairway downwards...down to what I know is my final confrontation with Irenicus. One of us will die, and whether he or I, I have done the best I can and have no regrets. He will never leave this place; soon the elves will return and mass on him, and they have power enough drawn from their home that they will smash him. As soon as Irenicus' connection to the Tree Of Life is severed, Rillifane will wreak his revenge on him. So he is doomed, regardless of one human mage's intervention. But I would enjoy it if it were me who struck his death-blow.

Descending, I find I am not in some gloomy dungeon but on the great limbs of the Tree Of Life in sunlight. Queen Ellisime, projecting her image from the cage Irenicus has imprisoned her in, immediately confronts me with a way to defeat Irenucus. He is nigh-invulnerable encased in energy at the tree's centre. He has conjured or cajoled three large insectile parasites to drain the energy of the tree and feed it directly to him...their discharges resemble the rays of Beholder-kin. If I get rid of the parasites, then Irenicus will be vulnerable. When I explore the tree to find these parasites, the nuts from the tree that I found upstairs cause the growth of the tree's limbs, and I can reach areas that would otherwise have been inaccessible. Each one of the parasites summons either two of Air, Water or Fire Elementals to defend itself, but having the Staffs of Air and Earth alternated with the Staff Of The Magi to stay invisible, they are easy, and the Fire ones go down to the Sling. Each parasite is then an effortless kill when its guardians are vanquished.

When the last parasite has fallen...Jon Irenicus is free. Free, but disoriented and more vulnerable than usual, though still deadly. Queen Ellisime is free as well, and confronts him. Not only was he a favourite in the elven court...they were lovers once. What could be have given it all up for, I wonder...power? The coercion of his sister? No matter now; it is over for him. Queen Ellisime departs (thanks for the help) through a dimension-door, leaving nothing but Irenicus and his bitterness, and the battle begins. I don't wait for anything to get started but fling on the Belt Of Inertial Barrier and throw up a Spell Trap immediately, as does he, and then use the Wand Of Monster Summoning to raise a few whatevers for him to waste his spells on. He casts Time Stop and then proceeds to do so. As soon as he is done, I summon a Hakeashar, and let it go to work on him, draining him to nothing (or so I thought would happen) as he already wasted his instant-death spells on the Hobgoblins. The Hakeashar endures, and I can plink away at his Mislead with the Sling until it goes down while the Hakeashar steals one of his high-level spells every round and 4 hit points to boot. When the real Irenicus reappears, I start to work on him...he is now out of spells except for Magic Missile. Unfortunately for me, he has a lot of Magic Missiles...I think it is innate to him and he never runs out of them. The Hakeashar unsummons and he starts to throw them at me instead, about 3 discharges per round. I summon more monsters to take the heat and then cast Spell Immunity: Evocation. Now I am immune to Magic Missiles, and finish him with the Staff easily. I could have used the Cloak Of Mirroring to reflect the Magic Missiles back to him, but I was too worried that he had another instant-death spell up his sleeve to remove the Cloak Of Protection +2. Irenicus was not nearly as difficult as some of the enemies I fought in order to reach him, but mages know best how to take on others of their kind.

Of course, it couldn't be that easy. Irenicus' soul is bound for the Abyss...but he shares the same soul as I do. A strange pulling sensation occurs as though I am standing in a powerful downdraft, but I feel it from the inside as well and lose consciousness. When the blackness dissipates, I am in hell. Perhaps I am dead, or dreaming, but it certainly feels real...I can smell the sulphur, and the far-off cries of the tortured damned ring in my ears. The ground is stone, but warm to the touch. Determined to find out where I am and what I can do, I explore the area. A huge door dominates the north of the cavern. Five eye "locks" surround it and require five keys. There are also five paths leading radially from this cavern. Proceeding clockwise, I take the first, easternmost one.

There is a Tanar'ri here called Pride. He tells me I am a valiant warrior and to kill the beast in the adjoining cavern for one of the Tears Of Bhaal, which I quickly surmise are the keys to those five eye "locks". This is Bhaal's personal property of the Abyss, so I hold some sway here by being of his bloodline. I am sure I can still get my tuckus kicked by things I will run into here regardless, so ask what type of beast it is. One that opposes me and so therefore deserves death, responds the demon. Not good enough...I ask what it is and tell it I don't just kill things because they oppose me. The Tanar'ri admits that I don't have much pride in me to be asking, rather than just killing it...and I have earned the Tear Of Bhaal. It was a test, and the Red Dragon guarding it gives it up without a fuss and departs in a cascade of Flamestrikes.

The second cavern's Tanar'ri is Fear, and he motions to two rooms beyond, neither of which I can see into, and each equal from this perspective. He indicates that he holds a cloak made of nymphs' skins, and that it will prevent me from feeling the fear beyond. I tell him that it's not something that I would wear, and he departs. I wonder what's there...I have a choice to make, right or left. But before I go, I cast a spell to do the same thing that the cloak would have, a cloak that I am sure my refusal to accept was the "test" itself: Resist Fear. I walk forward into the cavern on my right. There is a chest here, and I Knock it open; it holds no Tear Of Bhaal but a nasty Incendiary Cloud trap and some strength and invulnerability potions I can't even use. The Tear itself is found at the far end of the stone partition wall dividing the two halves of the cavern from each other. Unfortunately I make the mistake of checking the other room after I have it, rather than being sensible and just leaving. There are two Elder Orbs here and a Gauth. I immediately wear the Cloak Of Mirroring and cast Spell Immunity: Abjuration to block the Imprisonment spells the Elder Orbs are known to occasionally fling. Luckily I get it active before the Anti-Magic Ray these things throw comes, which I now know is why I had trouble casting spells in their Underdark lair. The Spell Immunity is not dispelled by it. One of the Elder Orbs and the Gauth kill themselves with their own rays, and the second Orb chases me around. It is highly magic resistant. I summon some Ogres with the Wand in case the Imprisonment comes after Spell Immunity has worn off. It stuns one, kills two of the remainder with a Death Ray, then turns on me...and kills itself with another Death Ray after a Cause Serious Wounds. Whew!

The third and southernmost cavern holds another Tanar'ri (I will probably see a lot of them around; this is their world, after all) called Selfish. He explains that he has conjured an innocent human from the Prime Material and I have two path choices: the left will sacrifice me, the right will sacrifice the innocent. I don't really care about the human, but he's still a human, and I wouldn't want to see him die because of my inaction. Besides, this is a test, so I had best do what is required, and it is clear that these tests are to determine how little I have let the nature of Bhaal rub off on me. There are three doors I must open to reach the human. The first takes 2 hit points from me, the second 1 point of dexterity (ouch!) and the third some experience points. My experience doesn't drop as I am way beyond maximum and it came off of the excess, I still have 2,950,000 when I check, and am still Level 17.

The fourth Tanar'ri is Greed, who gives me...a very powerful sword I can't use. The test is to use it to kill an enslaved genie who holds the Tear of Bhaal or to give it to him, either being equivalent. No choice here. Even if I were inclined to kill the genie, I can't use the sword. The fourth tear is mine and he departs, free at last.

There is no Tanar'ri in the fifth and last, though a Tanar'ri would be easy in comparison; there is no "test," yet it is the hardest test of all in terms of endurance and ingenuity. The fifth and last is held by a Wraith of my "brother" (who of course isn't for the reasons I defined earlier) and whom I rid the world of not long ago: Sarevok. He says that he could "teach" me to use the Slayer form and summon it at will, but he's really just jealous that I got it and he didn't. I don't even want it, and I tell him so by telling him I pity him. This enrages him and he attacks me, and yet again, I am reminded of that long-ago battle with Mencar Pebblecrusher in the Promenade...I have to roll 19's or 20's to hit him even with the Sling Of Everard; everything else misses and after hours running and firing, running and firing, he still hasn't gone further than Barely Injured. A truly horrible thought...imagine if he regenerated. I Stoneskin in case I get too close, and even let him hit me once when Stoneskinned to see what his modifier is: it's +15! 15! Only 4 of that is due to the sling I hold, so he must have a strength of 25 and a +4 weapon, or a strength of 24 and a +5 weapon. Nothing else will explain it. Armed battle isn't my strong point, but I need my spells for what must lie at the end of these "tests." I can beat him with the Sling alone by just keeping away from him, being as he is another dumb sword-swinger with no other skills, but I figure that it will take over a day to beat him assuming he has as many hit points as he did in his Temple Of Bhaal beneath the city of Baldur's Gate, so I decide to use magic. He is probably highly magic resistant as he was then, so I cast what I was unable to in that long-past epic battle: three Lower Resistance spells on him in a row. He is now highly susceptible to magic, so I follow with a few Skull Traps. He goes to Injured status. My next step is that wonderful undefeatable spell against sword-swingers: another sword, Mordenkainen's to be precise. and by careful maneuvering I have him worrying about and whacking the damage-immune Mordenkainen's Sword, ignoring me and leaving me free to pepper him with even more damage-causing spells, which unlike weapons never miss. The magic sword has a very low THAC0 and takes huge damage off him too, but he has huger hit it turns out, a truly ridiculous amount that is well over 400, perhaps as high as 480! This is twice as many as a ranking dragon does. I use the Wand Of Monster Summoning to raise some gnolls to surround him...even if they hit only on Critical Hits, with four of them they will have enough attacks that some should connect, and I get two from them, plus all the damage my spells and Mordenkainen's Sword are doing. By the time the sword and gnolls are gone, he is Nearly Dead. However, he could still be hours, and I am tired of waiting. I have him follow me to the centre of the room, drop a Cloudkill there, and hope that the biological effect it has can still affect one long-dead. It does, and I use the trick of running around the perimeter tactically to keep him in the centre taking damage while I am unharmed. He takes full damage, and a second Wand Of Cloudkill hit finally does him in. Some say that to die on one layer of the Abyss is to move to a lower one, some say it is to cease to exist, but whatever it may be, I doubt I will ever see him again. All five Tears of Bhaal are now in my possession...and I can finally determine what's behind the locked door to the north, though I am pretty confident of who, and not what, awaits me there.

There are five locks on the door to match the five Tears I hold. I unlock them, one by one...and find that each one is a gift, a powerful gift that I earned by doing the right thing. Surely one who did the wrong things would not have been entitled to such gifts, given that this power would be abused...or would they?

The first makes me immune to any weapons of less than +2 enchantment. Simply stunning... The second adds 10% to my magic resistance. Less stunning but still very useful. The third removes 2 from all my saving highest with all protections in place is Save Vs. Death, at 0. Very nice. The fourth gives me +20% to fire, cold and electrical resistance. Also very nice.

I don't open the fifth...but hesitate. I haven't rested yet, I haven't changed spells, I haven't prepared for whatever is coming out of there. I don't know whether I could sleep here; it is hell after all, but it's a necessity. Knowing of Irenicus' power in this infernal place, he will be a more difficult adversary than before; I memorize every single instant-death spell I can: three Disintegrates, five Chromatic Orbs, several Polymorph Others (as he can't be too dangerous as a squirrel,) and ensure I have three Lower Resistances, one Pierce Shield and one Greater Malison. This will bring his magic resistance to zero even if it is total, and destroy his saving throws...with the luck of Rillifane on my side, Irenicus should fall.

I encounter no difficulty resting in hell...I just let my mind drift from this place back to the places I have seen that brought peace and tranquility to me: the Suldanessellar palace, the Sverfneblin inn, the warm and fragrant night on the terraces of Brynnlaw, back and back my mind goes through my adventures and my life...the peaceful house of Mendas on the shore of Ulgoth's Beard after it had been cleansed of cultists and Mendas was no more, the snug halfling dwelling in Gullykin with a warm fire and a friendly tale-teller, back to my once-seeming endless childhood in Candlekeep and my father, my TRUE father Gorion reading to me by candlelight and delighting in the enjoyment he brought to me with tales that inspired the life I lead, back until there is only the darkness of my pre-birthing and the greater darkness that sired me, which does not detract from the peacefulness because I know...I know I have used its power to worthy ends and become a better man for it and risen above it, and for the last time in this journal I sleep.

Final Battle And Epilogue

Elmonster arose on the final day of his saga to defeat Irenicus refreshed, and with little hesitation unlocked the final key on the Abyssal Door, not knowing what he would find, but confident that Irenicus was finished no matter what the outcome of this battle. His Wisdom and Charisma were increased by one point as the final gift to him for obtaining the Tears of Bhaal, and the door opened to reveal nothingness. A great roaring of hot fumes blew him down and back, and the form of Irenicus appeared in a blaze of fire and spell, conjured from the eyes that had served as locks.

Elmonster was calm as he faced this, his greatest challenge, one-on-one with the powerful mage...but Irenicus was not prepared to play fairly. Gesturing, he summoned forth four powerful demons as allies, and transformed himself into the Slayer through the use of the very soul he had stolen from Elmonster. Elmonster, however, was not to be dissuaded. Irenicus had not planned on the Staff Of The Magi, that had seen Elmonster through so many situations that would have been impossible otherwise, and had failed to check that his demons could see invisible creatures, or even that he could. As he had done so many times before, Elmonster wore the Cloak Of Non-Detection and Irenicus and his minions were blind to him. Irenicus, confused by this, cast several useless True Sights and then teleported southward away from his minions...a fatal error, as now he was alone. Elmonster could follow him, and the four demons he had summoned could not follow Elmonster in turn, so were eliminated from the battle to come.

Invisibly catching up with Irenicus, Elmonster struck him once with the Staff, knowing that with the Slayer's regenerative powers he could only damage it slightly and that it would heal almost instantly...but it was not his intention to injure it, but rather to trigger any protections that Irenicus' Slayer might have so that they would not be available to him later. The Slayer Stoneskinned and erected a Spell Shield, and a Mislead, exactly what Elmonster was looking for. Now, there was only to wait for the Mislead to wear off, as he could not target Irenicus' Slayer while it was invisibly misled and had no means of dispelling this, having memorized many destructive spells. As well, he had to drain Irenicus' spells and had no Hakeashar or Nishruu summoning spell memorized to do so with, having removed that to make room for more destructive spells. So he used the Wand Of Monster Summoning several times, summoning more when they had been killed by Irenicus through spells. Irenicus summoned an Efreeti, but Elmonster ignored it. He summoned more monsters instead. Then, Irenicus' Mislead ran out. To ensure that there was nothing more remaining that would destroy the delicate process of finishing Irenicus once and for all, Elmonster again struck him several times with the Staff Of The Magi, and another Mislead was then cast...had Elmonster foolishly started to cast his sequence of spells he would have lost his target and they would have worn off by the time he could continue. The Efreeti unsummoned, and Elmonster waited for the Mislead to wear off, them summoned more monsters. This time, Irenicus' Slayer attacked them physically, killing them instantly but using no magic. He was out of spells. Elmonster struck him once more with the Staff, and no new protections arose to take the place of the ones that had worn off. Irenicus was no more a mage.

Elmonster knew he had to work very quickly. The last remaining protection Irenicus' Slayer had was Spell Turning, so the first spell Elmonster cast to lower his magical resistance was Pierce Shield, which lowered it 27% and dispelled the Spell Turning. He then cast all three of his Lower Resistance spells one after the other and equipping the Staff after each casting to prevent attack, for a total of 108% reduction with the Pierce Shield, which meant the Slayer's magic resistance had to have been reduced to zero. The last spell in the sequence was Greater Malison, which could finally affect the Slayer with no chance of failure as it no longer had any magic resistance. This spell causes all saving throws to be reduced by 4, which is required when going up against powerful creatures and expecting instant-death spells to work.

The final spells Elmonster cast were two Disintegrates. The first was saved against, the second was successful. Very fearful was Elmonster that Irenicus' Slayer might have had that power that Bodhi had possessed, as she had risen from her own dust unharmed when he had cast Disintegrate on her. But Irenicus' Slayer had no such powers. Despite its high regeneration, former magic resistance, and incredible strength and speed, it turned to dust and drifted to the warm igneous rock of the Abyss, and the four waiting demons to the north were struck down by its destruction.

Irenicus arose again in his own form, but it was just a finale before his ultimate demise and his magic had left a brilliant Sunray, Elmonster's soul shot upwards from Irenicus and returned to its rightful mortal coil, and Irenicus began the long fall towards an even lower layer of the Abyss, probably the lowest lava lake, the realm of Demigorgon and Irenicus' original destination in death had not the Bhaal essence of Elmonster stopped his descent short. Imagine the surprise Elmonster must have felt when he then awoke, back in Suldanessellar, under the care of the elves whose city he had saved. He had been feared dead for days, but the elves had kept constant vigil and would not give up on him, knowing full well of the theft Irenicus had performed on his essence. He had indeed been fighting a battle in the realms of death for his own soul, and its return had restored life to him. In less than a day, he was restored to full health and function.

In an elegant ceremony in the Temple Of Rillifane Rallathil where Elmonster had encountered the god's avatar and been finally convinced into accepting gods as real entities worthy of the devotions of sentient beings, Queen Ellisime welcomed his newfound acceptance with a holy relic of the elven pantheon, decorating Elmonster with the Amulet Of The Seldarine, and proclaiming Elmonster eternally welcome in Suldanessellar and a hero to the elves. She also accepted much of the blame for Irenicus' actions, but Elmonster did not believe that she was responsible, convinced that Irenicus would have found some other way, some other horror to commit, if this particular door had not been opened to him.

Elmonster departed Suldanessellar thereafter, but returns from time to time and is welcomed with enthusiasm. He dreams of and works towards a peace between the Drow, and elves and humans, and would like to see this formalized during his lifetime though he knows there is little chance at present. He misses his friend Solaufein and has said so often, and someday he may get to see him again. Although still traveling occasionally, Elmonster has returned to a normal life for a time with few battles, and will probably do so until he is thrust into yet another saga. And he made good on his promise to check his alignment at a temple when his saga had drawn to a close. Forged through passion and hardship, blood and fire as he had noted, Elmonster has shifted to Chaotic Good.

"Chaos shall be sown in their passing..."
-- Alaundo The Wise, prophet and founder of Candlekeep