Apocalyptica

Deeper into the Howling Caverns
Huge Place. Where is that drow?

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The battle with the Nycaloth continued in it’s frustration as the demon would rush in to attack and then teleport away. It was difficult to get many attacks off on him. It also led Badding, Puck and Earendil into a battle with 4 of the deep gnome spectres that had been previously avoided. But between Badding’s holy strikes, Templeton’s sneak attacks, and Puck’s magic 3 of the 4 specters were destroyed and the last one sunk into the floor and ran off.

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But meanwhile Brenn and Quintus were trying to free the prisoners from the horrific chains and hooks running through their bodies. Brenn had pried loose one of the humans but the fall from the ceiling had killed him. Quintus used his revivify spell to bring him back to life. Brenn then pried loose the second human but this time Quintus was there to catch the human as he fell and shield him from the heavy chain with his armored back. Using the same method, Brenn and Quintus freed the aarokokra and the drow. But once they were all down on the ground, they each still had nasty chains and hooks running through their bodies and were wracked with terrible pain.

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Quintus tried using his field medic skills to carefully remove the chains from the aarokokra. It proved very difficult and damaging a process, however. The aarokokra died. But Quintus used another revivify spell to bring it back to life. Then he used a mass heal spell to heal all the prisoners and increase his chances of success in freeing them from the chains. Templeton spoke with the prisoners as they were all conscious now. It turned out the aarokokra was a female. Her name was Kasra. She warned Templeton that she had been captured by the Feathergale Knights of Feathergale Spire. The Feathergale Knights had brought her down here as an offering to the Air Cult. In fact the two human prisoners were actually Feathergale Knights. Templeton found the aarokokra difficult to read but his gut told him she was telling the truth. This was reinforced by his closer examination of the two humans. Their garb although obscured by being torn and bloodied was in keeping with what the Feathergale Knights wore. Being so deep underground really unnerved Kasra even more than the Nycaloth’s chains. Badding understood. He gave her one of his silvered javelins and wished her well on her attempt to get back to the open air. Templeton showed her his makeshift map he had made of the complex and tried to explain the best way for her get up and out. And with that she took her leave and flew off.

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The drow’s name was Balix. He was an explorer who came into the howling caverns from the Underdark. He found more than he had bargained for as the howling hatred priests captured him and gave him over to the Nycaloth and his hellish torture. He just wanted to be set free. Quintus said, ‘Praise Tempus I am going to set you free, Balix.’ as he slowly removed the chain from the drow’s thigh. Balix was silent when encouraged by Quintus to praise the name of Tempus. Templeton gave Balix a piece of leather to bite down on as the pain was excruciating. Quintus was successful but he had one more chain to go that was run through the drow’s bicep. Quintus began to pull gently but then said, ‘oops…’ Templeton looked over at the cleric with wide eyes, ‘what do you mean oops?’ But the drow’s arm popped off and his blood poured out of the empty socket as he expired. ‘Dag gum, I thought I had it. Guess not. Oh well, who’s next?’ said Quintus.

The two Feathergale Knights looked away from the dead drow in horror and then looked at each in terror. Quintus approached the knights and said, ‘Now that here drow didn’t praise the name of Tempus and I think it cost him. But I know that if you two give yourselves over to Tempus and his glory he will see you through this.’ Both knights started to scream the praises of Tempus as Quintus tried a faster approach thinking it might be better to just yank out the chains instead of going slowly. The first knight was already hurt from Brenn having tried to cut his chains earlier and pulling out the chain did just enough damage to put him over the edge into death. The last feathergale knight yelled so loud that Quintus thought he was indeed truly a believer in Tempus. And in fact the knight did convert to Tempus right then and there. Just before Quintus accidentally ripped out his spine along with the chains and he died instantly.

Templeton shook his head as he surveyed all three remaining prisoners dead before him. ‘Quintus, you are definitely much better at taking people apart than putting them back together.’ But Quintus just smiled, he had converted his first believer in Tempus (and earned an inspiration point).

The party decided to leave the Nycaloth. It had not showed itself for some time and was probably content to watch Quintus’ pain inflicting attempts to remove the chains and hooks. The party needed to find Vizeran Devir. Time was running out. Templeton turned invisible and began to scout ahead using his darkvision. A large area of the Howling Caverns was explored it turned out to be a vast and expansive complex.

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Far to the northwest, Templeton found a huge air elemental with blood and body parts strewn about the caves. He wisely avoided the creature and snuck around. He also found a connection to the very cold and frigid caves previously encountered. There was once section that could not be seen. Badding wanted to fly in and out quickly to see if anything important was beyond the frigid caves. Puck thought it was a bad idea and counciled against it. But Badding went for it anyway. He flew in only to find naught but ice and cold. As hew flew out he was forced to make a constitution save. He failed and got pushed to level 2 exhaustion from the cold. That means his speed is halved – a major penalty. Phil apologized to Sam but Sam said nothing giving Phil the silent treatment for some time. But everyone laughed when it turned out Sam had just gone to the bathroom and wasn’t really ignoring Phil.

To the east Templeton found a group of 4 Howling Hatred Priests guarding a tunnel. He tried to sneak past them only to discover that the priests were illusory as 2 Barlgura Demons leaped to attack him. The demons had been hiding invisibly and were able to see through Templeton’s invisibility. They got the drop on him, but Templeton sprinted away and got back behind Brenn who moved forward to engage them.

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The two Barlgura Demons moved swiftly up the passage. The first tried to flip over Brenn but his readied attack stopped the creature in its tracks. The second, however, was able to flip over Brenn and reach a flanking position. Both demons tore into Brenn pretty good with their claws and teeth but the brave warrior held his ground. Brenn and everyone else focused their attacks on the northern demon and destroyed it. But the southern one fought on. Nineteen of the 24 hours that The Dark Lady said we had to stop Vizeran Devir had passed. Time was running out.

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Descent into the Howling Caverns
Nycaloth's Chains

Using his Commune spell, Quintus asked Tempus for guidance. The first of three questions he asked was if Vizeran Devir was done in the Howling Caverns. The response was unclear. Next he asked if he was down in the earth cult area. Again the response was unclear. Puck and Templeton surmised that Vizeran Devir was cloaked in some sort of magic which was thwarting divination attempts. So for the third question, Quintus laid it out there and asked Tempus if going down into the Howling Caverns was the correct move if the party was to stop Vizeran Devir’s ritual before the 24 hours had run out. The answer was yes.

So the party began their descent down the vertical shaft filled with buffeting wind blasts. Badding used his summon mount spell to call upon his old friend Earendil. Badding saddled the giant eagle with his Saddle of the Cavalier which made it nearly impossible for a rider to be separated from his mount. Templeton and Quintus mounted Earendil. Puck was carried by Badding in his special leather flying harness. And Brenn used the magical balloon pack that Templeton had found in the air cult lair which enabled him to feather fall down the shaft.

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Safely reaching the bottom, Templeton cast invisibility and darkvision upon himself. He then proceeded to explore the caverns using stealth while the rest of the party waited and kept in communication via a Rary’s Telepathic Bond spell. The tunnels to the north led to a cold and frozen area that Templeton avoided. He also crossed a large chasm with the help of Badding and found the ruins of a deep gnome settlement to the northeast.

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Moving through the ruins, he found the Snirvifneblin homes had been reduced to rubble and there were some undead lurking among the ruins. Templeton found 4 deep gnome specters haunting the area. He turned around and explored south east. There he found a large mushroom cavern which he also avoided. To the north he heard moans and metallic sounds.

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There Templeton snuck up on an cavern holding a demon guarding some prisoners. Two humans, an aarokokra, and a drow were hung from the ceiling by chains and hooks in a horrifically painful manner. The winds through the cavern pushed their bodies causing them to spin in different directions. The chains would rattle and the poor creatures would moan in delirious pain. Standing in front of the prisoners seemingly admiring his handiwork and reveling in the pain it was causing was a Nycaloth.

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Templeton snuck up close and saw to his horror that the chains were threaded through the humanoid’s biceps and calf muscles. He used his Helm of Telepathy to figure out that the prisoners were still alive but barely. Immediately the party launched an attack on the Nycaloth to try and destroy it and free the prisoners. The creature proved elusive and difficult to battle. It cloaked itself in an area of darkness. When Badding dispelled the magical darkness, he found the Nycaloth was gone. Puck cast detect invisibility but it was nowhere in sight. Templeton suggested it might be teleporting. Suddenly the demon would rush out to attack. Readied spells and attacks would hit it, but it was difficult to keep a bead on as it would constantly be teleporting away. These hit and run tactics proved troublesome indeed.

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Brenn managed to use his rope of climbing to get to the ceiling where the chains were attached. Using Templeton’s crowbar, Brenn managed to pry loose the chains from the ceiling. Unfortunately, the human he freed suddenly fell to the ground with the heavy chain landing on top of him, killing him.

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Artifact Theft
Drow Chasing

With Tinder Strike hurled through the fire node, Imix was slowly being pulled towards the fire node. Imix was using all of his power to try and break free but continued to be pulled inexorably towards the gate leading to his home plane. Meanwhile Halinaxus and The Dark Lady were fiercely tearing each other to shreds high above in the massive cavern. The two dragons were breathing on each other, tearing with their claws, biting fiercely with their teeth. It was a titanic battle.

Leaving the dragons to kill each other, the party focused its attention on Vizeran Devir. The drow mage had approached from the south. Templeton tried to parlay by asking him simply, ‘What do you want?’. But the drow was not very talkative, instead he surrounded himself with a glove on invulnerability. Puck matched him and did the same.

In a bit of a stalemate, the two sides sized each other up until Imix was finally sucked through the portal back to his home plane. The fire node then exploded spitting out the largest fire elemental anyone in the party had ever seen. Templeton reached into his bag of holding and produced his earth elemental gem. He hurled the gem towards the approaching fire elemental on the ground releasing an earth elemental. The two creatures smashed into one another and started pounding each other. Puck unleashed ice storms and cone of cold to quell the fire that burned inside the fire elemental. Templeton fired Sky Piercer, Brenn and Quintus attacked with their blades, and Badding attacked with his spear.

Vizeran Devir raised his hands and suddenly the two artifacts inside Templeton’s bag of holding – Ironfang and Wind Vein were no held in each of his hands. The drow mage then vanished. Templeton cast see invisibility but the drow was gone, most likely having teleported away with his two prizes.

Imix was gone, the drow was gone with two stolen artifacts, the two dragons battled furiously high above, and the party had all they could handle with the huge fire elemental still raging against them. The party finally destroyed the fire elemental and shortly thereafter Halinaxus fell out of the sky to splash down into the lava pool, dead. The Dark Lady flew down to land next to the group. She was clearly very wounded and near death. Quintus offered her healing but she scoffed at such a notion. Templeton thanked her for her aid. She said that she was too gravely wounded to help in any further capacity but explained how urgent it was that Vizeran Devir be stopped. He was going to use the two artifacts to summon the Elder Eye. And he would complete the ritual in less than 24 hours.

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Templeton assured her that the weapons would be retrieved and the drow dealt with. With that, The Dark Lady teleported away and the party holed up to rest. They awoke refreshed and ready to pursue the drow wizard.

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Closing the Fire Gate
Imix Showdown... Wait this gets worse? Come on!

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Templeton quickly communicated the layout of the room beyond the bronze plate tapestry. Especially the part about Vanifer waving Tinder Strike in front of an altar and the huge form of Imix emerging from the pulsing sphere of the fire node. Badding grabbed hold of Puck and flew into the huge room, past the invisible Templeton and right adjacent to Vanifer. Puck then cast a wall of force spell creating a 30 foot long 10 foot wide tunnel of force with a roof encapsulating and trapping both them and Vanifer inside. There was one 5 foot opening facing opposite the location of Imix. Vanifer suddenly came out of her exultation at the completion of her ritual and looked quite surprised by the Aarokokra and gnome that were right next to her. As she decided what to do about the intruders, Templeton slipped invisibly inside the wall of force via the opening and took careful aim. A heavy crossbow bolt slammed into Vanifer’s thigh severing a major artery as Templeton faded into view. Vanifer cried out in pain as blood poured down her leg. Quintus ran up and jumped with his magic ring enabling him to close the distance and get inside the wall of force. Brenn ran up as well to get just outside of the wall of force entrance. Imix’s gigantic form was alive with burning flame yet he made no noise whatsoever. He eerily pointed his hand at Puck and Badding. Two huge bolts of fire blasted into the wall of force doing no harm to them. Imix seemed to gather himself as if he were taking a huge breath and then released it outward in a storm of fire that filled the entire room and flowed into the area inside the wall of force via the opening. The heat and fire did damage to some but even worse added a level of exhaustion to most including disadvantage to saving throws for Puck and Quintus while Brenn and Badding experienced the next level of exhaustion – cutting their speed in half.

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Vanifer sensed she was in trouble so she tried to misty step out of the trap to get herself beyond the wall of force. But Puck had something to say about that. And that something was … counterspell! With her escape spell ruined, Vanifer bit her lip and shrugged. She followed it up with a fireball that filled the entire inside of the tunnel of force with fire. Badding’s aura of magic resistance helped lower the burning pain by half for all party members and Templeton was able to avoid it completely with this evasion ability. Quintus cast protection from fire on himself. Templeton used his mage hand to gently rub Vanifer by the breast to distract her. This allowed him to fire Sky Piercer with advantage. Another heavy bolt tore into Vanifer, this time in her shoulder quite close to her neck. Brenn then swiftly closed the gap and lit into her with his longsword reserving the final attack for a commander’s strike, encouraging Templeton to fire again. Templeton needed little prompting. Another deadly heavy crossbow bolt hit Vanifer this time squarely in the throat. She gasped and fell to the floor, her entire form turning to ash. The only thing that remained was Tinder Strike lying in the ashes.

Imix floated closer and unleashed a wall of fire that closed off the entrance and exit to the wall of force. There was now no way for party members to get out of the assembled walls of force without getting burned by the wall of fire. The wall of force had served its purpose – to cut off Vanifer from Imix and let the party focus all of its attacks on her. Now that Vanifer was destroyed, Puck let go of his concentration on the wall of force spell in order to better allow the party to attack Imix and possibly close the gate. Puck went for it and cast banishment on Imix. The fire elemental prince of evil failed his save but used his legendary resistance to make the save instead. Later Puck cast the banishment spell again. This time Imix made his save, but Puck used his Lucky feat to force Imix to try and save again. The second time he failed his save and was forced to use his legendary resistance again to avoid being hurtled back to the elemental plane of fire by Puck’s magic.

There was a great deal of lava between the altar and the fire node. It was floating about 20 feet above the top of the weeping colossus which was about 100 feet off the ground. Badding was slow from exhaustion but he still could make it as it seemed flying would be the only way to get to the fire node. Badding reached down and grabbed Tinder Strike. He paused for a moment gazing into its obsidian blade. He then shrugged and tossed Tinder Strike into the lava next to himself. Imix floated down towards the party from on high to close into melee. As soon as the dagger left his hands he realized what a terrible mistake his clouded mind had made. Badding seemed ill equipped to deal with the powerful artifact and the power it had over him. But the paladin tried again. He desperately reached down into the lava and pulled the dagger out. But the red hot lava burned away parts of his hand and he pulled away unable to withstand the pain. But Badding looked up at the behemoth form of Imix floating down towards him and then looked back at his ruined hand as Tinder Strike began to sink beneath the lava. With a powerful squawk! he plunged his hand into the lava to firmly grasp the hilt of the dagger. The acrid smell of burnt feathers and his own burning flesh wafted over his nose holes. With his beak clenched in pain he pulled it out and held the dagger just long enough to toss it onto the ground at Puck’s feet. Puck snatched the dagger off the ground and touched Badding who was doubled over in pain gently on the shoulder and said, ‘Come my friend its time to end this!’ Puck swirled his Cape of the Monteback and teleported both himself and Badding adjacent to the fire node. Badding’s flapping wings held them both aloft as Puck gathered himself to plunge Tinder Strike into the fire node.

But before Puck could strike another huge form burst out of the lava below them. Halinaxus flew up and with a mighty pulse of his huge wings hurt Puck and Badding and forced them back from the fire node. The huge red dragon then interposed its scaly body between them and the node. Halinaxus looked down at Imix as if seeking the Fire Elemental Prince of Evil’s approval. Templeton yelled out across the huge cavern, ‘Halinaxus, you two timing double crosser! We had a deal! We have at least 4 hours left in our arrangement.’ Halinaxsus let out a loud scoffing noise, ‘Why would I honor an agreement with you petty fools when I can impress Imix with my loyalty and prove my worth to him.’ Templeton frowned, ‘I will remember this Halinaxus. Your casual tossing aside of our deal will have consequences… dire consequences… A Daltrey always pays his debts…’

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Meanwhile Quintus, Brenn, and Templeton played pound the Imix. Templeton used his mage hand to distract Imix allowing him to fire with advantage and sneak attack. The deadly enchanted bolts hurt the creature but it was hard to tell by how much. Clearly it had an enormous wealth of hit points. Brenn launched strike after strike trying to his goading attack to force Imix to attack only him. But Imix made all of his saves and resisted the urge. Even worse, every blow that Brenn landed on Imix caused nasty burns and fire damage on Brenn’s body. Quintus hit Imix with another banishment spell but Imix saved.

The mighty head of Halinaxus drew in a long breath. Badding and Puck who were both terribly wounded grimaced. They knew what terrible fire was about to be unleashed upon them. But suddenly before Halinaxus could use his breath weapon, something large and fast moving detached itself from the shadows. Another huge Dragon but this one formed of shadow came hurtling out of the darkness to smash into Halinaxus with her fierce claws. It was none other than The Dark Lady.

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As Templeton and Brenn continued to fight Imix down below. Brenn exclaimed at the sight of the Shadow Dragon. ‘Ah ha!’ said Templeton, ’That’s right you missed the part earlier on when we met The Dark Lady in her lair. Of course at that time she was in the form of a beautiful drow woman. I convinced her to help us after a bit of parlay with her and a bit of a game of wits. Clearly my powers of seduction and eminent charm had an effect on her.’ Brenn burst out with a huge guffaw, ‘You seduced that thing?’ pointing at the huge shadow dragon. Templeton frowned, ‘yes… well… you should have seen her in her drow form… Much more appealing indeed.’ Quintus winced, ‘Are you two done blabbin’ yet? Come on, there’s more ass kickin’ to do. Let’s get to it!’

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Although Brenn, Templeton, and Quintus were doing tons of damage to him and should have been occupying all of his attention, Imix seemed suddenly drawn to the aerial dragon battle above. He seemed to look right past it, however, and focused on Badding flying closer to the fire node and what wee Puck was holding in his little hand. Faster than a blink of an eye, Imix disappeared and reappeared directly adjacent to Badding and Puck.

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Imix unleashed a torrent of fire that burned through Puck and Badding’s body. A holy nimbus of power, however, surrounding Badding, protected both him and Puck. If it weren’t for this paladin’s aura, Puck would have died and Tinder Strike would have fallen into the lava below. Barely clinging to life, Puck steeled himself against the searing pain of the heat and fire. He yelled, ‘This is for you Scandarian!’ and thrust Tinder Strike into the fire node. With a horrible sucking sound the obsidian dagger was consumed by the fire node and disappeared within it.

Imix’s form suddenly shuddered and seemed to be drawn closer to the fire node. The two dragons continued to attack each other ferociously. And Badding carried Puck away down towards the ground where Templeton, Quintus, and Brenn watched down below. As they descended, through the lick of the flames, the party all saw a humanoid form stride into the room from the south. It was a drow male. Templeton and Puck exclaimed in unison. They both thought instantly that it was Vizeran Devir. But how could that be? That was the drow wizard who had actually forged the The Fane of The Eye and crafted the legendary weapons of the various cults.

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Too Late... Imix is here
Of Dragons and Parlay

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The battle on the iron bridge over huge pools of lava continued. The remaining two fire salamanders were slain in short order but they were replaced quickly by two cultists trying to hold the bridge. They were Razorblasts with deadly fiery spear attacks. But Brenn moved up quickly to hold the line. The fire priests also hurled fire spells such as fireball. A foul black acrid smoke billowed up from the lava below to obscure the battle and make it very difficult to fight. Quintus was very frustrated. He wanted to honor Tempus by smashing these dumb cultists but he couldn’t see nothing. But he quickly had an idear. He pulled out his potion of bottled breath and cracked it open to drink. The air rushing out of it flared his lips out and flapped the skin of his face in all kinds of directions. Quintus laughed as he tried to yell, ’I’m a gonna blow this smoke the Hell out of here you Motherscratchers!’

And blow the smoke he did. The powerful gust of wind magic sent the smoke swirling away in a nice line down the iron wrought catwalk spanning the pool of lava. Templeton was able to rain deadly bolts down on his enemies again and Puck was able to unleash mighty spells on them. As the Razerblasts died, however, they exploded in fire and shrapnel ripping through the party and hurting everyone badly.

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After a hard fought battle, finally the cultists were slain, but everyone in the party was badly wounded and out of spells. Finding a place for a long rest was paramount in order to continue. Then suddenly a huge creature flapping scaly leathery wings burst out of the lava waterfall in the northern section of the room. An ancient Red Dragon swooped down to beat its wings and hover over the lava at the bottom of the room. Its enormous head was at the level of the bridge. The creature’s huge predatory eyes scanned the party as it spoke in a deep and menacing tone, ‘I am Halinaxus and you are doomed. I could easily destroy you all in short order. But I am feeling generous today. If you each offer me magical tribute of sufficient worth, I shall grant you a stay of execution. What can you offer me?’

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Knowing there was no way to defeat this foe in their current state, the party acquiesced to the dragon’s demands. One by one he sniffed each person as they offered Halinaxus tribute. Quintus gave the dragon his magic plate mail +1 armor which was actually a blessing because of all the noise it made. He had a spare set of plate mail in Templeton’s bag of holding. Puck gave the dragon his Wand of Web. Templeton offered the Immovable Rod. Badding gave up his longsword +1 that could detect dragons. Halinaxus enraged by the item, hurled it into the lava below. Finally Brenn gave the dragon The Crown of 7 Spikes. Deftly, Halinaxus placed the crown upon one of the huge horns coming out of the the top of his head. The dragon then gave a mighty flap of it’s wings and hurtled its body up into the room. It’s deep voice shook the entire cavern. ‘You have bought yourselves 24 hours and safe passage through this tunnel.’ Then he flew back through the waterfall of lava and disappeared.

Quite shaken, the party secured the next room to get out of the lava tunnel. Quintus used his Claws of the Umberhulk to dig out an area to hole up and rest. Puck used ritual magic to cast a Leomund’s Secure Shelter. After the long rest everyone went up to 13th level. Templeton cast invisibility upon himself and snuck into the adjoining room beyond a wall of hanging brass plates. There he saw a cavernous room with a huge stone statue of a human head. Lava poured out of the eye sockets of the head. It had to be the place known as the weeping colossus.

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Creeping forward, Templeton saw an altar and a humanoid figure standing in front of the altar. As he approached the details came into view. It was clearly a Tiefling male holding an obsidian dagger. This had to be Vanifer and TinderStrike. There was the largest fire elemental Templeton had ever seen standing at the base of the weeping colossus. Floating above the Colossus was a shimmering ball of fire – most likely the fire elemental node. As he communicated this fact to the party via telepathic bond, he saw something terrible occur.

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Vanifer seemed to finish some sort of ritual and the fire elemental node exploded with power that flowed into the fire elemental waiting below. Templeton realized with horror that they were too late. Imix had made it through the gate and was here on the prime material plane. He urged his friends to get into the room and battle this foe.

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Pushing Deeper into the Fire Level
Badding where are you going?

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With everyone in position with readied attacks, Puck gave a final 10 second count down before the fire giant suddenly reappeared at the conclusion of his banishment. The surprise round pummeled him with heavy crossbow bolts, sword swings, and spells, but he was large, in charge, and tough as nails. The fire giant continued to fight on until finally he was overwhelmed but not before he put a powerful hurtin’ on Brenn and Quintus.

But finally the fire giant was slain and Quintus used his healing magic to bring everyone back up to a fighting level of health. Templeton cast invisibility on himself and snuck ahead to explore the rest of the fire level. He found a passage that led to an adjacent room. The room opened up into a large cavern filled with pools of lava and a waterfall of sorts of flowing lava. A walkway ringed the outside of the room but it appeared to be a dead end.

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Badding searched a previous room to find a secret door, however. Templeton opened the door and slipped inside invisibly. There he found a number of alcoves in the circular room with the floor of the cave convex. Nasty fumes also filled the air in the room related to the heat and burning rock. Templeton found the room quiet but reached with his detect thoughts spell from his Helm of Telepathy. He heard some thoughts thinking about chewing and eating the flesh of the living. He telepathically asked Brenn to cautiously enter the room to flush out whatever was hiding out in wait. Brenn lit up his flaming longsword and boldly strode into the room. 4 Flaming Skulls emerged from the hiding spots of their alcoves and began to attack. The undead creatures unleashed fireballs and tried to sink their bony jaws into Brenn’s flesh.

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Quintus came in and managed to turn one of the flaming skulls but the rest continued to fight on and proved difficult to slay due to the poisonous gases in the room and the fact that Badding instead of focusing his attacks on the flaming skulls instead flew out down the passage to the next room alerting a plethora of 4 giant fire salamanders and 6 smaller fire salamanders to the party’s presence.

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As the rest of the party still dealt with the flame skulls Badding flew into the room to try and draw the attention of the salamanders away from the other room. And in the process he was surrounded by the fire salamanders in the center of the room in the middle of a gangplank set into a small cave of stone. Badding was protected from being totally surrounded but was still flanked on 2 sides.

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Badding managed to occupy the salamanders long enough for Puck to come to his aid. A well placed cone of cold and ice storm spell destroyed most of the smaller salamanders and greatly wounded the larger ones. But before the rest of the party could come into the chamber and finish off the salamanders, Badding again flew forward into the next room to alert the flame priest there of the party’s presence. The flame priest called out an alarm and razerblast and another flame priest joined him as they ran to join the battle.

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BY the time the party moved forward into the room and closed in on the last Salamander, the fire cultists had moved into position to attack the party in an exposed position. Everyone was still up but many were wounded badly as three different encounters had been combined into one thanks to Badding’s erratic flying.

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On to the Fire Level
A Surprise for Puck and Badding

After a long rest, the party decided to head out of the water level and move directly to the fire level to confront Vanifer and claim Tinder Strike before it could be used to summon Emix, the elemental prince of evil fire. The group worked their way back up the water level without incident to get back up to The Fane of The Eye. From there they found their way to the circular disk floating in the middle of a shaft leading up and down. Templeton, Quintus, and Brenn got onto the floating disc but could not get it moving. Badding carried Puck in his harness and flew down the shaft. It went down a long long way to finally open up into a lake of lava. They saw one guard on watch – clearly a fire cult priest. He was standing next to a hand sized depression in the wall. Seeing only 1 man on watch, Badding and Puck sprung into action. The flew in to attack.

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Puck unloaded his wand of magic missiles into the priest and Badding flew up and struck him twice with his flaming Morning Star. Badding unleashed a smite as well but still only bloodied the priest. So the quick strike with surprise to take out the lone sentry had gone terribly wrong. Not only was he not dead and began yelling, but his comrades were very close and entered the fray immediately. So it turned out Badding and Puck were the one’s who were surprised. They saw two other cultists – a flame wrath and a razerblast and one huge Fire Giant.

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Hearing the consternation of Puck and Badding over the Rary’s Telepathic Bond. Templeton used his mage hand to strike the gong. The disc moved for a moment but then came to rest again at the same level. Templeton willed in his mind for the disc to lower and yelled it aloud. Nothing seemed to get it to move. The fire cult priest cast blur on himself and the fire giant hurled a rock that just barely missed Puck’s wee head. Puck reached out with his little hand and pushed the depression that had a hand sized mark in the wall next to where the priest was standing. Templeton confirmed through the Telepathic Bond that the gnome had done it. The disc was moving down the shaft toward the level below.

Puck and Badding saw a walkway of stones also rise out of the lava pool from where the disc would land to the northwest side of the room. The two flew over to the Razerblast to get out of harms way and get cover but in fact they got two fireballs explode around them, the razerblast smashing into them with his flaming spear, and the fire giant closing for melee.

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What ensued was a comical juxtaposition of Templeton, Quintus, and Brenn casually riding the disc as it slowly lowered down the tunnel while a massive battle raged below. Puck and Badding both took a terrible beating but Puck managed to banish the fire giant and stay alive until the rest of the party finally made it down there.

From there Brenn and Quintus ran into the fray and Templeton fired his deadly crossbow. Soon the situation was in hand with all three of the cultists dead.

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Everyone got into position because Puck warned everyone that the fire giant would be returning from his banishment in short order. Everyone was in position with readied actions when the fire giant actually reappeared and they let loose…

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The Water Node Closed
Gar Shatterkeel Slain... Twice!

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The battle with Gar Shatterkeel raged on. Badding had taken the brunt of the attacks. Gar had crushed him with his giant claw arm, pierced his body with his trident – Drown, and commanded his giant crocodile to grab him in his jaws and shake him like a rag doll. Badding’s tattered body was bleeding profusely with the brave paladin just barely clinging to life. Just as he was about to lose consciousness, Quintus’ voice rang out through the huge cavern, ‘Tempus I know you never listened to me before and you’d rather me swing my sword than talk, but in your name I call on you to heal this mighty birdman in order for him to kick more ass in your name!’

Suddenly Quintus was wreathed in a holy nimbus. Surprised that his divine intervention had worked, he called out, ‘Holy Crap I think he heard me this time!’ The radiant nimbus drifted away from Quintus and coalesced around Badding. The holy light bathed Badding and washed away all of his wounds. The light buoyed him and he floated up into the air to hover right in front of Gar Shatterkeel who’s smug smile had turned upside down into a dour frown.

Suddenly a flaming blade came slashing through Gar’s guard as Brenn Buckman cut deeply into Gar’s barnacle encrusted chest. Gar grimaced and raised his huge claw above his head to strike Brenn, when the crafty fighter called out to Templeton to fire. Templeton obliged the commander’s strike and let a bolt fly that critically hit Gar shattering his claw into a myriad pieces that rained down onto the wet rocky island. Howling in pain and fury Gar thrusted Drown towards Brenn. But Brenn was faster knocking the trident aside with a riposte spinning around and thrusting the burning blade of Macallan straight through the chest of Gar Shatterkeel. In a moment of brief silence in the din of battle, Gar stared at his chest in disbelief and then up to the grinning Brenn Buckman until the silence was broken with the clattering clang of Drown falling upon the rocky shore of the island. Gar’s body then slowly slid off the blade and fell into a heap on the rocky island.

There were still two water elementals and three giant crocodiles left to deal with but the tide had definitely turned in the party’s favor with the healing of Badding and the death of Gar. But the grin on Bren’s face faded away as he looked over his shoulder and into the writhing mass of the roiling sphere of water floating in the center of the island. There was a shape inside.. A huge shape of something trying to get out. Suddenly a massive pulse of necrotic energy exploded out of the watery sphere. The necrotic energy tore through Brenn Buckman and everyone else including the water elementals and the crocodiles. The only one who was spared was Templeton as he was outside of the 60 foot radius around the sphere. The force of the pulse sent Drown flying through the air to splash into the water below the flying Templeton. Everyone was hurt badly but Brenn took the worst of it. His lifeless body was hurled clear of the island to land hard on the water buoyed only by the persistent water walking enchantment. Two of the crocodiles were ripped apart by the blast leaving only one remaining.

Then there was a loud crack as if a piece of reality had broken free around the water sphere. A black tendril of negative energy emerged from the crack and snaked its way through the air to touch the body of Gar Shatterkeel. Smaller black tendrils wended their way through Gar’s body forming a thin mesh around his skin. The thick black tendril then lifted Gar’s body from the ground like a macabre puppet. This fell marionette was hoisted aloft and moved in front of Quintus. The Gar puppet lashed out with his reformed claw and smashed it into Quintus. The blow staggered the cleric and his concentration on his banishment spell was lost. The water elemental he had previously sent to the elemental plane of water suddenly returned. Now there were three water elementals again to defeat along with one crocodile and the Gar puppet.

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Puck unleashed a cone of cold and an ice storm wearing down all of the enemies, Badding attacked, and Templeton put a heavy crossbow bolt straight through the Gar Pupet’s chest but it didn’t slow him. Water pumped through the black tendril filled in the damaged parts of Gar’s body and he fought on. ‘The Tendril!’ yelled Templeton. ‘Sever the tendril!’ Badding flew over and attacked with a holy smite trying to sever the tendril. But the only part of the attack that seemed to anything was the radiant damage from the smite. Quintus grasped the hilt of his sunsword and a beam of pure light shone forth forming the greatsword’s blade. With that he struck at the black tendril. All of his damage was radiant and a huge chunk of the tendril fell away. But the Gar puppet fought on.

Templeton flew down to the body of Brenn Buckman and poured his last potion of healing down the man’s throat. As Brenn came round Templeton whispered, ‘There we go… Everything’s better with some wine in the belly. Now let’s get you back in this fight.’ Bren smiled and used his second wind. ‘Aye!’ He got up and cut the head off the giant crocodile. Puck bathed all the enemies in a toxic acid from his vitriolic sphere spell. Badding cut down a water elemental. But the two remaining water elemental bore down on Brenn and almost took him out again but he fought on bravely taking them out. Quintus then delivered a wicked blow to the black tendril and severed it completely with his sun blade. The black tendril fell away to water and the body of Gar Shatterkeel also melted away to be slain for a second time.

There was a furious keening noise and a huge thick fleshy tentacle burst forth from the elemental node. It seemed Al-Hydra the Evil Elemental Prince of Water had taken a foothold in this world and was trying to come through the portal. The huge tentacle and smashed into Brenn knocking him out and sending Templeton flying as well. A second tentacle then broke free of the sphere, picked up the dead crocodile and hurled it at Quintus hurting him badly as its crushing weight landed directly on top of him.

Badding screamed out, ‘Squaawk!!! We must get the trident Drown from the bottom of the lake and use it to close the portal!’ Templeton and Quintus moved away from the writhing tentacles to rendezvous with the Badding and Puck where Templeton had seen the trident fall into the water. Badding who was flying high above the water with Puck in tow suddenly dropped Puck since he was the only one who did not have a water walk spell going and could swim. But Puck who was badly wounded yelled, ‘wait… what?’ And as his little body fell towards the dark waters below, he managed in a disrespectful manner as possible to raise both middle fingers towards the bird man flying above him. Then he hit the water and promptly refused to try and swim through the mirky blackness in his current state.

Templeton fetched the Ring of Swimming from Brenn’s limp fingers and raced over to the gnome. And Badding used his Light Globe to shed some light on the depths below. With the swim speed and light to guide his way, Puck finally acquiesced as a third tentacle burst forth from the sphere. Two of the tentacles plunged into the water and began sucking up water like an elephant’s trunk. As Puck frantically searched the bottom for the trident, the tentacles blew out the water at a firehouse velocity. The streams of water smashed into Badding and Quintus hurting them badly. Finally Puck found the trident. He grasped it and felt Drown tug on his mind. But the gnome was prepared and had girded himself, he swam quickly up to within 30 feet of Templeton who whisked the trident up and away and into his bag of holding.

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With Drown in an extra-dimensional place in the bag of holding, Templeton thought its ability to summon Al-Hydra would be broken. He glanced up at the writhing tentacles, but hope soon drained from his face as they continued to push their way out. Badding yelled, ‘Let me use it. It is my destiny!’ Templeton and Puck looked warily at the paladin who had already let one relic take control of him. Badding had almost run away with Wind Vein. Templeton suggested strongly that Quintus take the trident. Badding agreed and lent his aid to the cleric’s resolve.

Quintus reached into the bag of holding and brought forth Drown. He raised it over his head but before he could do anything else three streams of high pressure water cut into him from the tentacles. He dropped the trident as he fell into unconsciousness into the water below. Badding grasped Drown in his talons as it fell from Quintus’ hands. Badding raised the trident above his head and yelled, ‘At Last! My Destiny will be fulfilled!’

Templeotn and Puck looked at each other with worried looks as Badding pointed the trident at the sphere of tentacles and yelled, ‘Go Back from whence you came. This Portal is Closed!’ But nothing happened, the tentacles continued to push their way through. Templeton through up his hands in frustration but Badding was undeterred by his failure. With a mighty flap of his wings he flew into the air, swerved around a lashing tentacle and thrust the trident directly into the watery sphere. Drown was ripped from Badding’s hands and sucked into the sphere. The tentacles suddenly sucked back through the cracks in the sphere and the entire sphere itself shrunk to half its size and then exploded outwards in a huge blast of magic.

The force of the blast pushed Templeton and Puck away and forced them to look away. When they looked back they saw the watery sphere in the center of the island was gone with no sign of Al-Hydra. But Badding was lying in a puddle of blood on the edge of the island. Puck and Templeton looked at each other and slowly exhaled as a strange quietness fell over the water filled cavern. Templeton ran over and used his healer’s kit to bind the brave paladin’s wounds. Puck brought Brenn and Quintus bodies over to the island. Both had been saved by their Periapt of Wound Closure. Puck performed a ritual casting of Leomund’s Hut and the two began nursing their fallen comrades back to health and studying their spells. For they both agreed Vanifer and the fire cult must be next.

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Gar Shatterkeel Found
A Return to Sanity for Templeton

After making contact with the 2 dark tide knights mounted on water weirds while chasing after One-Eyed Shiver, Bren closed for melee. Brenn did a great job of holding the creatures at bay while damaging them with his flaming sword. Puck used a Cone of Cold to freeze them and Badding used a moonbeam spell to burn holy radiance into them. Templeton continued to babble incoherently, he struggled against his bonds, but could not escape the ropes that Quintus bound him. Quintus pulled Templeton along by his rope tether and tried to get into the fight but had to settle for bathing a knight in sacred flame.

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One-Eyed Shiver surfaced and cast a spell of fear on Brenn but he resisted its effects. Puck then followed up with an icestorm spell that sent its spell effects deep into the water and managed to hit not only the dark tide knights and their water weird mounts, but also the One-Eyed Shiver who was lurking under the water. The Ice Storm’s myriad shards of ice tore through the Shiver’s body, it went limp and floated up to the surface.

Quintus used destroy water to take a big chunk out of the water weird and Badding consistently re=positioned his Moonbeam to bathe his moving enemies in damaging moonlight. Puck used frost bite to kill the remaining water weird and the only remaining dark tide knight swam away to the south. Brenn gave chase into a large room with a stone island closed in by a door. Badding guessed where the final foe had gone and directed his moonbeam to that location. His excellent guess paid dividends as the moonbeam killed the final dark tide knight.

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Badding searched the stone hut only to find some cots and basic equipment. Quintus collected the now drooling Templeton who was staring off into space. Some in the party were very hurt and Templeton was clearly not right in the head. The party decided to hole up and rest. Quintus got to work in the northwest corner of the room with his Claws of the Umberhulk. But instead of creating a safe place to rest, he dug through into a different section of the complex with a huge collection of wrecked ships and a driving rain. Not wanting to go looking for any more trouble just yet, Quintus started burrowing a new tunnel in the northeast section of the cave and created a nice spot to rest. Rest did everyone some good, especially Templeton who calmed down and managed to return to a sound mind. He was still quite shaken and he still wasn’t exactly sure what had happened but remember it all like a bad dream. He was glad to feel somewhat more like himself than before, however.

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The party decided to send Puck’s Owl familiar, Widget, to investigate the passageway to the southeast. Badding flew closer with Puck in his harness in order to properly see through his familiar’s eyes. The tunnel dropped down a 50 foot waterfall and into a huge water filled room with a stone island. Pulsing upon the island was a huge Globe of Water. And standing in front of the water globe was a strange looking man covered in barnacles with a huge crab claw instead of one hand and the other hand tightly gripping a glowing trident.

Puck instantly recognized the barnacle covered man as Gar Shatterkeel. He told everyone via Rary’s Telepathic bond that Gar was in there seemingly alone trying to summon Al-Hydra, prince of elemental water, using his trident, Drown. Badding reacted immediately by flying straight into the room and across the water towards Gar and warding himself with a shield of faith spell.

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With a clack of his crab claw, Gar Shatterkeel unleashed a bolt of lightning that tore through Puck and Badding. Puck responded by teleporting onto the rock island directly adjacent. Badding swooped in and attacked Gar in melee. Suddenly three huge water elementals surfaced and attacked Puck and Badding. Gar himself cast powerful spells but each time Puck counter-spelled them. Templeton moved closer and cast a spell of invisibility on himself. Brenn moved forward as well trying to get into the fight. Everyone then heard a loud shouting of a prayer to Tempus and Quintus came jumping down the waterfall and into the room. He ran across the water and cast a banishment spell on one of the water elementals. It hurtled back to the elemental plane of water leaving only 2 water elementals left protecting Gar Shatterkeel.

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Brenn flew into the room over the water fall using his Wingwear. Templeton followed suit but veered off to the right as soon as he flew into the larger room staying as aloft as possible. Invisible, He had advantage as he aimed carefully through the melee and gently stroked the trigger of Sky Piercer. The advantage paid off as the heavy bolt flew through the air and smashed into Gar Shatterkeel’s claw cracking it and forcing him to cry out in great pain. The critical hit was followed up by another deadly attack when Brenn used his commander’s strike to urge Templeton to shoot again. Brenn then reached the melee and began to attack Gar Shatterkeel with a dizzying array of attacks by using his action surge. He tried to use his goading attack to get Gar to only attack him, but the calm Gar Shatterkeel kept on attacking Badding who was really hurt.

Suddenly three giant crocodiles surfaced. One reached Badding and chewed him up but good and kept him clenched in his jaws like a rag doll. Puck unleashed an Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere that froze the water encasing the crocs in ice. All three were stuck in place but the one already had Badding in his jaws and continued to rend him by tossing his body from side to side.

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On to the Water Cult
Templeton Goes Insane

With Marlos defeated and Ironfang in the party’s possession, there was talk about trying to use it to destroy the The Black Geode. In the end, all agreed that it would take too long to prepare the proper spells and that the more pressing situation was to collect the other two artifacts to prevent the summoning of the any of the elemental princes. The destruction of the nodes could wait.

So the party made their way back up to the Fane of the Eye and over to the rushing water section. They tied everyone together with Brenn’s magic Rope of Climbing and Quintus at the end of the rope had the Templeton’s Immovable Rod to stop them sinking if it turned out to be deeper than expected. Quintus cast the ritual water breathing spell on everyone and down into the water they went led by Brenn Buckman.

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Deep below the water they found an underwater passage that led to another room with air in it and more stone steps. Two passages led out of the room. One to the northeast and the other to the northwest. A small skiff was moored at the foot of the stairs with a push pole in it. Also a strange 7 foot diameter ball of water hovered in place, hovering about 1 foot above the rest of the water in the room.

Quintus cast a water walk ritual on everyone but Puck. Puck got into the skiff and again using the rope the party began moving through the northeast passage. Puck also cast detect magic on the sphere of water. He found it to be magical and transmutation magic.

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The currents and eddies in the water made moving across it while water walking tricky. But the party got the hang of it and managed to avoid a waterfall and find a room filled with a large iron cage in the middle of it. A number of water cultists were trapped in the cage. They had the water cult mark tattooed on their forehead. Some were alive with their heads barely sticking out of the cage while others floated in the water seemingly already dead.

The cultists called out for help saying something similar to ‘We have displeased It. And It put us in this cage.’ Further questioning yielded no more useful information. As soon as they realized the party was not with the water cult, they clammed up and said no more.

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One strange thing that happened was that while in the room Templeton had a sudden vision of unnerving symbols on the walls and a strange alien looking altar. But he soon regained his composure. When he tried to use his helm of telepathy to read the minds of the trapped cultists, he found them completely blank. Strange indeed, so the party moved on leaving the cultists to their fate. Badding used his detect evil ability and could sense two ghouls within 60 feet to the southeast. So the party left the boat moored outside this room and negotiated going down the waterfall.

Badding carried Puck and flew down to secure the area. Then Brenn used his rope of climbing to rappel down. Templeton followed suit but got caught up in the swirling waters of the waterfall. He wasn’t sinking thanks to the water walking spell, but he did not have the strength to pull himself out. Quintus rappelled down as well and together with Bren, the hauled the little man out of the waterfall and set him on his way.

Further on Brenn encountered a host of ice mephits and One-Eyed Shiver sitting on a throne. But just before the battle with them began, Templeton inexplicably turned to Quintus are shot him with his crossbow. Thus began Templeton’s descent into madness. He went from fighting the party to babbling nonsensically, to sitting quietly and staring off into space, to yelling to get these things out of his head, to weeping uncontrollably.

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The Ice Mephits surrounded Brenn, but he kept looking back at Templeton and yelled, Quintus you have to help Templeton. I can’t bring him back to his father like that. Quintus was quite concerned about the little guy. He tried casting a 4th level dispel magic on Templeton but it seemed to have no effect on his madness. Brenn growled and swung three times cutting into the three ice mephits adjacent to him and then maneuvered safely back to a choke point in the cave. He grinned to Puck, ‘Light ’em up’.

Puck complied unleashing a fireball on the ice mephits. All eight of them were vulnerable to fire so whether or not they saved, they all turned to steam and were destroyed. Badding grappled Templeton holding him tightly while Quintus pulled the Helm of Telepathy off his head to try and help but it also did little to heal his madness. So Quintus tied Templeton up with his rope and dragged him along with him to try and sort out his affliction later.

The shiver moved up and tried to use some sort of fear attack on Puck, Badding, and Brenn, but they were warded against it by Badding’s paladin aura and were unaffected. One-Eyed Shiver then withdrew diving into the water and swam away.

Brenn followed around the next bend in the tunnel and saw two water cult knights riding water weirds. There was also a small room on an island they seemed to be guarding.

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