The fight with the gongorinan qlippoths had left everyone in a downbeat mood, with one notable exception: Theodora’s charmed hill giant.
“See! I am strongest! Not stupid ettin!” he proclaimed, exulting over the body of his fallen comrade.
While he boasted, the rest of the party was drawing themselves into marching formation. No one knew exactly how far they had left to go, but neither did anyone believe there was a lot of time for resting. They advanced into the room where Scratchy had encountered first gongorinan, and everyone else felt the wave of crushing sadness that he had. Luckily, the sensation was fleeting, and they moved on . Beyond the room was what appeared to be an old apothecarium, now abandoned and covered in a thick layer of dust. Scattered throughout the broken equipment, however, were vials of gemstone dust, bits of gold, and finely crafted tools that the party snatched up eagerly. And then it was time to descend to the next level.
The stairs going down were in the room with the magically-induced sadness, and everyone clustered at the top while Scratchy scouted ahead, now on the lookout for boulders. The room he found himself in had no boulders, but was decorated with slabs of pale green marble along the walls, covered in bas-reliefs depicting a tangled forest. There were passages leading out to the south and east, but the most interesting feature of the room was to the north: yet another door bearing a skull-shaped lock.
Scratchy got up close to the door to investigate. It was made of a single massive block of serpentine, but as Scratchy grew nearer he noticed that it hummed and shuddered at irregular intervals. Whatever it was, it was magical, and he knew just the person for dealing with this sort of thing.
Minutes later Theodora was standing before the thing in question. “Um, it’s a door.” she said.
“Yes, but what’s causing it to shake and hum like that?” Milacent prodded.
Milacent was not impressed.
“Okay, I don’t know. It’s highly unusual, whatever it is. Let’s just open it and see what’s behind it.”
Everyone got into position and Zelcor deftly used Mage Hand to insert the key they had found. He went through the motions of the combination without incident, and then the door swung open.
Followed by a enormous blast of force and noise.
Theodora ignored the ringing in her ears to peer at what the open door had revealed, but all she saw was a solid a wall of blasted stone. It was then that she had her revelation. “It’s a malfunctioning portal!” she proclaimed, “when we opened it we released all its pent-up energy!”
“WHAT?” shouted Milacent.
“It’s a malfunctioning por…”
“It’s a malfunctioning – wait, were you deafened by the blast?”
“I CAN’T HEAR YOU! I THINK I WAS DEAFENED BY THE BLAST!”
Scratchy touched his hand to the blood running out of his nose. “She’s deaf, we’re all hurt, and everything within earshot knows we’re coming. I think it’s time we went back to Casamir to get patched up.”
“MAYBE WE SHOULD HEAD BACK TO CASAMIR,” Milacent added. And so they did.
Back in the lighthouse, Casamir and Theodora went about healing people and restoring the hearing of everyone who had lost it in the blast. Scratchy, meanwhile, sat in a corner staring at one of the spy eyes they had gotten from the Dark Rider’s keep. Presently he called Zelcor over. “You can cast a spell to see invisible things, can’t you? Can you look at this and tell me what’s there?”
Zelcor looked into the spy eye. Evidently, Scratchy had placed other eyes in the corridors leading out of the room with the broken portal, and he’d been watching them through the eye he held in his hand. The first thing he had noticed were hairless creatures on back-bent doglike legs coming to investigate the noise. It took a little time, but Scratchy eventually recognized them as sinspawn, the twisted creations of the Runelords that the party had previously encountered in both the Crow and the Lady’s Light. That wasn’t what Scratchy was asking Zelcor to look at, however. Instead, he was asking him to look at a door that had just opened. The sinspawn were standing in front of it, moving their mouths as if they were talking, but there was no one there for them to talk to. No one visible, at least.
Zelcor cast his spell, and the translucent shape of an invisible creature came into view. It was a tall, lanky humanoid creature, with sharp features and, mysteriously, no mouth. There was no sound transmission through the spy eyes, but the sinspawn looked in its general direction when they moved their mouths, and it looked directly back at them. After a short time they all moved back to where they had come from, although Scratchy noted with alarm that there was now a boulder that hadn’t been there before in the portal room.
Scratchy and Zelcor relayed this information to the rest of the party, and a plan was formed. When they returned to the portal room, and Milacent started things off by walking into it alone, nonchalantly not looking at the boulder. In one hand she held an adamantine dagger, taken from one of the various treasuries they had looted. Adamantine was an expensive but greatly prized metal, mostly because it could cut through most any other substance, including stone. Or more specifically, a creature that could turn itself to stone in order to disguise itself as a boulder.
Milacent walked forward until she was right next to the boulder, then in a single fluid move plunged the dagger deep into its center. There was a high-pitched scream, and the now-wounded qlippoth unfolded its legs and scuttled back away from its attacker. Milacent, however, kept pace with it and began lashing at it with her spine flail, once again enchanted to be a weapon of law. The creature screamed some more as it realized its fight had gotten off to a very bad start.
The rest of the party filed into the room, just in time to see a second boulder appear from a corridor. This one had also been seen through the spy eyes, and the party was ready. Theodora cast a spell affecting both of the qlippoths, and suddenly they were moving too slowly to attack with all of their arms. The party’s satisfaction, however, was short-lived. The sinspawn Scratchy had seen before emerged from the darkness and began firing their bows. Theodora heard them chattering amongst themselves in Thassilonian about ‘Humanbane arrows’, and she learned what that meant when several of them slammed into her, hurting far more than arrows should. Zelcor cast a Black Tentacles spell to slow them down, but all but one evaded it and kept coming. He cast a fireball to kill them, but they took the blast and still kept coming. Then the qlippoths decided to make things interesting.
Deprived of their many attacks, the qlippoths resorted to their magical abilities. The one that Milacent was abusing tried to cast a spell, but Milacent had defeated many a magician, and she shrugged off its effects. The other one was more effective. It unfolded its limbs to assault the party with the full mind-rending horror of its true form, and they once again fell into confusion. Helanda, who had been attacking the qlippoths, swung her sword at the hill giant. Zelcor began punching himself in the head, then had a moment of lucidity and decided to run away.
Milacent could feel the confusion effect swirling around in her head. The Seducer’s Bane was supposed to protect her from spells like this, but it wasn’t foolproof, and it had failed her now. Nevertheless, she kept enough of her senses about her that she managed to finish off the qlippoth she had been attacking, then staggered toward its surviving comrade. That qlippoth, whose attackers were now striking each other, turned to her and cast the same spell its partner had tried. This time, Milacent did not shrug it off. She turned into a mouse.
While this was going on, Theodora was getting sick and tired of being shot at by sinspawn. She cast a Confusion spell of her own to turn them against each other, then a web spell to block any unaffected ones from reaching her. Turning toward the surviving qlippoth, she beheld a scene of utter chaos: Zelcor was rushing into the room, comically large sword in hand, trying to attack. Scratchy was firing arrows at the hill giant, trying to get it to chase him away from their comrades. Milacent was missing, but a mouse was nipping ineffectually at Helanda’s armored boot. The former Gray Maiden was standing in place, babbling incoherently. And then her head cleared.
Helanda looked over at the qlippoth, now between her and the hill giant. A wave of anger rushed over her and she rushed at it, sword in hand. She swung, expecting the sword to bounce off the creature’s stony hide with minimal effect, as had happened so many times before. This time, however, it stuck in a previously-unnoticed crack. Helanda was about to pull her sword back to prepare for a second strike when suddenly she had an idea. Instead of pulling the sword back, she put both hands on it and pushed forward. Her hunch was right: the sword pushed deeper into the creature, and she could feel the squish of organs and the cracking of internal structures as they vibrated through the hilt. When she had pushed it in as far as it could go, she didn’t pull it out, but instead used it as a lever to pry open the creature’s shell. This was an enormous gamble; many swords would break if used in such a way, but this time it didn’t. The creature’s shell cracked, then lifted off its body, a fountain of viscera spewing into the air. It fell down onto Helanda as a greenish-gray rain, but she didn’t care. She turned around and walked away from the twitching, dying mess that had once been a gongorinan qlippoth.
With the qlippoths dead, the sinspawn were finished off with little difficulty. Their Confusion effect soon wore off, and Theodora was able to dispel the magic that had transformed Milacent, returning her to human form. They were healing their wounds when Scratchy noticed that the door he’d seen through the spy eye was now open. He was about to say something when he heard a voice say, “Ah, thank you for defeating those ruffians.”
Fortunately, Zelcor’s See Invisibility spell was still active, and he could clearly see the tall, mouthless humanoid he had previously seen through the spy eye. Despite its lack of a mouth, it was clearly the source of the voice. Zelcor motioned to Theodora, and the final part of the plan was executed: she cast Invisibility Purge.
The creature’s eyes went wide when it realized it could now be seen by everyone. It clearly had not planned for this possibility, and began to stammer, “I, I …”
“Who are you?” Theodora demanded.
“I, I am the librarian.”
“Yes, I guard the ancient library. Of the temple of Groetus.”
“This temple dates back to the days of Thassilon. Are you saying you’re ten thousand years old?”
“Well, I’m a ghost.”
Theodora knew what undead were like, and this creature was definitely not one. Her guess was that it was some sort of fey.
Milacent was similarly unimpressed. “You were alive during the time of Thassilon, you say?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Do you know her?” Milacent said, gesturing towards Theodora.
The creature peered more closely at Theodora, then its eyes went wide again as it pointed an accusing finger at her. “You! You’re dead!” it shouted.
“Well, I’m back” Theodora replied.
“What about the others? Karzoug, Alaznist, Xin the King?”
“No, they’re still dead. It’s just me. I’m taking everything over.”
The creature began to tremble, and Theodora decided it was time to stop messing around and use a Suggestion spell on this thing. “Now, tell me everything you know,” she commanded.
Unfortunately, the creature resisted. “No! No!” It screamed, then turned to gas and fled back into the room from whence it came.
“Still making friends I see,” Scratchy teased, then followed the creature into the room. Whatever lies the thing had told, once thing was true: it had been in a library. There were roughly eighty books neatly arranged on shelves in the room, which Scratchy promptly threw into the party’s bag of holding. There was no sign of the creature, but everyone supposed it had taken advantage of its gaseous form to flee through cracks in the walls. Searching further, however, the party found a hidden alcove. Contained therein were several magical scrolls and a large, leather-bound book.
Theodora eagerly took the scrolls, then looked at the book. Written in Abyssal, it seemed to be a treatise on the manipulation and refocusing of magical portals. A cloth bookmark was placed at the spot where very detailed instructions were given for refocusing an established extraplanar portal to a new location, but the ritual was a difficult one that could take several days or even weeks, during which the caster would not be able to sleep. Written in the margins were the words “Lesser Restoration.” Theodora smiled knowingly at the name of the spell that would allow one to ignore the effects of sleep deprivation.
She conveyed this information to the rest of the party, but they had other concerns. “How much can we sell it for?” everyone asked.