With the efreeti defeated, the party moved back to the jars containing the blue mist. While Scratchy and Theodora investigated them for traps and other dangers, Zelcor made light conversation with the others.
“You see,” he was saying, “with all the other priests dead, Casamir would have been the new head of the abbey. But now that we’ve found another priest alive, Casamir might not have seniority, and he’ll have to fight for position against this other guy. That’s why he was disappointed when we showed up with the prisoner. He didn’t say it, but I could see it in his face.”
“You’re weird, Zelcor,” Helanda said.
In the meantime Theodora had declared the jars safe, their aura of necromantic magic notwithstanding. She figured whatever danger they might hold would at least not be released until they opened them. Scratchy concurred, and slipped them into his pack. The party moved down another corridor, this one ending in a short bend and a door at the end. Everyone set up in a good position while Scratchy went ahead to scout.
Theodora yawned. They spent a lot of time like this, waiting for Scratchy to scout someplace out, or for Zelcor to magically open a door. Usually it was a tense experience, but you couldn’t do it as often as they had without getting a little bored now and then. She looked around to see if anyone else was …
“WHERE ARE MY JARS????” a voice boomed through the narrow corridor. Suddenly Theodora wasn’t bored anymore.
“GIVE ME BACK MY JARS!”
“Who’s speaking?” Theodora demanded. Looking around, she saw nothing. An invisible opponent? Ethereal? The walls speaking?
“I SHALL COUNT TO THREE! ONE!”
“Well, I can count too,” answered Theodora.
Everyone looked around madly. Everyone, that is, except Zelcor. The See Invisibility spell he had used before to see the ‘Librarian’ was still active, and he was focused on something at the rear of the party.
Zelcor shouted, and a volley of magic missiles shot from his hand. They sped to the point he’d been looking at, and something screamed as magical energy crackled in the air, the aftermath of a Lightning Bolt spell disrupted in the casting. Whatever the enemy was, however, it was quick, and soon was casting another spell, one that Zelcor wasn’t ready soon enough to disrupt. As the casting finished, the party’s new enemy phased into view. It was a thin, horned old crone, floating in the air with a dagger clutched in her hand. She was becoming visible because she had just finished casting her spell, the dreaded Confusion spell.
Theodora braced for chaos, but they were lucky this time around: most of them resisted the effect. Only Helanda fell victim to the mental scrambling, and even she managed enough lucid moments to rush to the other side of the crone, where she would do the least damage.
Milacent noted with some dissatisfaction that she wouldn’t be able to trip the crone, seeing as it was floating in the air, so she would have to resort to simply hitting it a lot. She lashed at it with the spine flail, but its hide was tough; Milacent resigned herself to a long fight.
Scratchy, for his part, decided to have a little fun, and maybe distract the creature a bit in the process. He pulled empty jar from her hand and threw it down so it shattered loudly against the ground. “Oops,” he said.
The crone shot an angry look in his direction. It began to cast another spell, but Zelcor was ready this time, and once again disrupted it. In a rage it threw itself against the hill giant, which stood between it and the gnome, and began to rend with powerful claws.
The hill giant, unaccustomed to being the physically weaker party in a fight, fell back in shock. It tried to strike back at the thing, but its club rebounded harmlessly off the creature’s hide.
Theodora rushed to heal the giant, then dispel the enchantment on Helanda. The thing was hard to hit, but Milacent drew some blood, as did Scratchy’s arrows. They were many, and it was one. If they could keep standing long enough to hit it repeatedly, eventually they would emerge victorious.
The creature, too, soon came to this same conclusion. As the torrent of blows against it continued, it lunged past the giant at Zelcor, but Milacent followed, and soon had it trapped against a wall. It tried to cast one last spell, but the full party was now focused on it, and the spell fizzled as Milacent’s last blows crumpled it to the floor.
“What is that?” Helanda demanded.
“A night hag,” Theodora answered after touching it, “I think they steal souls and store them in these jars. Be glad it didn’t take any of ours.”
“Always glad of that,” Helanda answered.
With that, the party moved on to the door they had been investigating before being so rudely interrupted. Opening the door led to another fight, but this one was more to the party’s liking: no magic, no confusion spells, just a straight-up fight against a twelve-foot-high, horned, blood-red apelike monster with a hideous fanged orifice set in the center of its chest.
Well, Milacent liked it. Scratchy was much less pleased as it grabbed him while he was trying to ride around it firing arrows. He shot an expectant look toward Zelcor as he was being dragged toward the creature’s mouth, and Zelcor responded by magically covering him with grease. The now-slippery goblin popped out of the monster’s grasp, and Milacent and Helanda moved in to bloodily slay the thing, happily noting that not only could it be knocked down, but was far easier to stab than the night hag had been. Once it was dead, Scratchy immediately jumped on the corpse and began searching for treasure. Theodora, on the other hand, took a look at what the creature had been guarding: a jail.
In the room where the creature had been there was a desk sized for a human, and a wooden shelving unit containing several sets of manacles and some cudgels. In the back wall were two steel gates leading to parallel rows of prison cells. The party investigated them all with their usual caution, finding all of them to be empty except for one, the cell farthest away from the door. Through the bar they could see an emaciated man covered in welts, and they also saw that whoever had imprisoned him had little intention of ever setting him free; Not only was the door locked, but someone had used a Stone Shape spell to weld it shut.
Theodora ordered the giant to break down the door, and soon they were pulling the prisoner from his confinement. His mind was shattered from the trauma he’d endured, but when they brought him back to Casamir he confirmed that this man was Nildus Thilano, the abbey’s former cleric of Erastil.
“Wow, two priests recovered.” Zelcor said, “Bet you’re really upset about that, huh?”
“Why would I be upset?” inquired Casamir.
Helanda began to say something, then just put her palm to her face and turned away.