The Journals of Old Greyhawk and the Founding of NewHawk City
- Chapter Twenty

Adventure Date: November 24, 2007
Last Updated: January 15, 2009

Day 228 - 10 AM

The undead sorcerer lay at their feet, but the cost was high: after a titanic battle, Nuria had been struck dead by the lich's spells and the rest of the party was exhausted. Though they were on the verge of collapse, the heroes knew they had to act quickly if they were to prevent their recently fallen foe from rising back from the realms of the dead.

Gathering the valuables off of the lich, the party collected 7000 gp, 5 black diamonds, and the black crown from the lich's head. Scanning the items and the close environs for magic, Agrona detected a strong dweomer on the crown. Relaying the information to the rest of the group, HHH came over and checked the crown for any signs of evil. A feeling of pure hatred and unfocused rage blazed from the crown. "Whoa," HHH muttered.

"We need to find this thing's phylactery, or we're going to have to go through this all over again," Agrona opined. "The problem is finding it. I don't want to have to go around hunting for it in the state we're in, but we don't have much of a choice if we're going to prevent its return."

"Well, we've got the rod," PW mused. "It must be able to do something to help us. I'd hate to think we've been lugging around a useless bunch of rods."

HHH agreed. "The rod allows us to contact deities. We can use it to contact my patron and get the necessary information. Let's relocate to a more easily defendable area, and I'll commence the contact."

Moving to the room where they had first met the lich, they noted that it had remained unchanged since their last visit. Nonchalantly, PW strolled over to the table and began reaching for the silverware.

Thinking out loud, Xana mused, "I wonder how possessive that lich was of its possessions? Would it have gone to the trouble of trapping them?"

Stopping in mid-grab, PW turned to Agrona and HHH. "A little help, please."

Sighing, Agrona and HHH checked for hostile magic and any traces of evil. Finding none, PW grabbed the silverware with gusto. Noting that the only good pieces were 5 untainted goblets (worth a total of 10 gp), PW placed them into his sack.

Searching the room for other signs of magic, evil, and secret doors before communing, the party found nothing. Before preparing to commune, Ebreck grabbed the rod and focused on the final piece. Feeling a sharp pull straight down, he felt confident that the last piece lay within their grasp. Informing the others, he passed the rod to HHH.

Using the rod as a conduit to contact his deity, HHH grasped the rod tightly. Focusing on the rod, HHH felt a warm glow envelope him. A deep, booming voice addressed him. "Ask your questions and be quick about it." After asking various questions, it was determined that the black crown was the lich's phylactery. It was also determined that the last piece of the rod was warded by an unknown guardian, it was within half a kilometer from the party's current position, and that the most direct route to the piece was the blocked stairs they had encountered in the other section of the dungeon.

Coming out of his trance, HHH passed on the information he had gained. "Let's deal with our most immediate problem," he grunted as he hefted Miranda over his shoulder. Summoning holy energy into his hammer, he smote the crown. A wail of rage was felt rather than heard as the crown sparked and turned into dust. Just to make sure, Agrona pulled out a vial of holy water and poured it over the dust.

"Well, I'm glad that's over with," PW sighed as he plucked the black diamonds from Ebreck's pocket. Looking at them with a discerning eye, he gauged their value (two 1000 gp diamonds, and three 500 gp diamonds).

"Let's keep looking around," Xana said impatiently. "I hate being underground, and I especially hate being cooped up in dank and smelly rooms." The rest of the party conceded that they should continue their exploration.

Checking the northern door for traps, PW detected nothing out of the ordinary. Listening intently for any signs of trouble, he heard nothing. Opening up the door, the party peered into the next room. It appeared to be a small, stark bedchamber, with few possessions. A bed was found against one wall, while a reading podium with a black tome on it was found nearby. A musty throw rug was found on the floor and a tapestry with five kings seated on thrones rounded out the room.

Beginning their search of the room, it was determined that the rug was magical, but not evil. While searching the bed, PW found a chest underneath it. Looking around, he noticed that no one had seen him locate the chest. "Maybe I'll be able to get some loot for myself," he thought to himself. As he searched the chest for traps, PW started to feel weak (received 3 points of CON damage). "Why is there always contact poison?" he muttered rhetorically. Quickly gulping down a potion to neutralize poison, he stumbled over to Agrona. Seeing the pallor in PW's skin, Agrona immediately cast a spell to restore PW's health. Feeling better, PW continued his search of the room while the others dealt with the chest.

Meanwhile, HHH checked the chest for poison and found it was still present. Xana moved in and cast a spell to neutralize the poison. Though he didn't doubt Xana's abilities, HHH checked the chest anyway to confirm that no trace of poison was left; Xana's spell had been effective. Seeing that the chest was safe, PW finished his scan of the room and walked over to the chest. Picking its lock with ease, he flung the chest wide open, finding many coins. His eyes began to shine as much as the coins. Wiping away his drool, he did a quick count of the booty. A sack with 10000 sp and 500 pp was placed on Henrietta's back in short order.

"What shall we do with the rug?" Ebreck mused. "Let's see what it does," PW replied.

Touching the rug gently, Ebreck leaned in for a closer look. The musty rug was covered in faded embroidery of winged creatures, such as pegasi and dragons. Sitting back, he thought it odd that a wizard would leave a useful magic item lying around like a common item. It didn't even look like it had been maintained properly.

Oblivious to Ebreck's suspicions, PW stepped to the center of the rug and commanded it to fly. Quick as a striking snake, the carpet wrapped itself around PW and started to squeeze. Feeling the air rush out of his lungs from the pressure, PW started to suffocate.

Reacting at once, Henrietta tried shredding the rug with her claws. Tearing deep gauges into the rug, she could smell halfling blood on her claws as well. Ebreck drew his axe and swung with effect against the rug; his axe was soon covered in halfling blood as well. "This is being rescued?!?!?" PW thought frantically. "They're ripping me to shreds, not the rug! I'll need to get myself out of this." Closing his eyes, PW focused on the shadows and the mystic link found between each of them. Hoping to use that link to shift positions via a shadow walk, he couldn't focus to maintain the link.

Seeing that their efforts were causing more harm than good, the party switched tactics. Ebreck and HHH grabbed the rug and tried to open it. Encouraged by the sight of the rug opening slightly, the rest of the party rushed in to help. Meanwhile, PW tried shadow walking again, but failed a second time. With lungs burning and his sight swimming, he hoped his friends would get him out before he was smothered.

"On three!" Xana shouted. "One, two, three!" With a heave, the rug opened, and a limp and bloody PW rolled out. The moment the halfling was out, the rug went limp again. Agrona rushed over to PW and healed him of his injuries. Ebreck rolled up the rug for future use and slung it over his shoulder. Xana collected the black tome and placed it in her bag.

Wiping blood from his mouth, PW got up. "The room seems clear," Ebreck said. "Let's move on." Nudging PW, he chuckled, "That wasn't too bad, eh? Now we know what the rug does."

"Not too bad?" PW shrieked. Thoughts of putting the rug under Ebreck's bedroll flitted through his mind. Do it. Do it. It'll teach him a lesson. There'll be plenty of time to get him out. He won't be too hurt. Do it. "Huh? Where did that thought come from? It sounds really familiar…"

Scanning the next door, the party moved into the next room. Filled with boulders, the room was incredibly run down. The only item that seemed to have survived was an all black tapestry found on the eastern wall. Another door could be seen on the northern wall. Xana scanned the room for magic and was not really startled to find that the tapestry radiated strong magic. HHH approached it carefully and reached out his senses, but found no traces of evil.

"Well, we know it's magical, but we don't know what it is," Xana reflected.

"I am not being the guinea pig this time!" PW declared fiercely.

Deciding to tread more carefully, the party gently lobbed a pebble at the tapestry. Seeing it fall, unchanged, to the floor only reassured them slightly. Clutching the rod, HHH tried to see the truth of the tapestry, but lacking the necessary material components, his attempt failed.

"This is getting us nowhere," Agrona fumed. "Time for a more drastic experiment." Having said that, Agrona walked up to the tapestry and touched it. The blackness of the tapestry was actually a dark slime that flowed over his arm. Feeling no harm, it looked like Agrona's arms had been covered in shadow. Testing to see if he had gained new abilities similar to PW, he tried to pass his hand through a shadowed portion of the wall, but found he couldn't. After playing with the slime, it turned out that it could actually be removed easily. Having freed his arms of the blackness, Agrona touched the tapestry, enshrouding his arms again. Feeling no negative effects, he rolled the tapestry up and slung it over his shoulder. Now covered with the slime, Agrona and the rest of the party prepared to move on.

Cautiously opening the next door, they entered a room filled with bright light. Squinting, they found the source of the light was a statue found at the far end of the room. The room was in as much disrepair as the last room, except for the statue. It represented a man with arms out and hands cupped in front of it. Its eyes shone, seemingly carved from star sapphires.

"Ooh. Shiny," PW drooled. Suddenly, he felt restrained by a powerful set of arms. "Where do you think you're going?" Ebreck asked. Without noticing, PW had started moving towards the statue. "Let's check it first, just to be sure," Ebreck decided.

Checking for evil, HHH found no traces in the statue. They placed 1 pp into the hands of the statue, but nothing occurred. Agrona felt a strange impulse to touch the statue. As his hand came into contact with the statue, the dark slime flowed off of his body and engulfed the statue, smothering its light. The darkness throbbed, and a scroll appeared in the statues hand. Scanning it for evil, HHH found nothing. Ebreck unrolled the scroll, but couldn't read a word of it; it was magical, but it was arcane magic, not divine, so it was beyond his ken. Searching the room for other treasure, they found nothing. As a final test, Agrona draped the tapestry over the statue's arms, but nothing seemed to occur.

Returning to the room where they had encountered the two stone golems, the party prepared to explore the rest of that section. Though much had happened up to that point, very little time had passed. It was only 2 hours past the zenith of the sun, Xana supposed. Moving to the eastern door found in the room, PW checked it for traps and to see if it was locked. Finding neither, he listened intently. Opening the door, they entered a large room with what initially seemed to be a large pool of water. Looking more closely, the "water" turned out to be a black, shiny liquid. Surrounding the pool were black gems, about 16, encrusted into the ground.

Attaching a stone to a rope, Ebreck threw the stone into the pool to gauge its depth. Finding that the stone didn't hit bottom, he started to pull it back, but as he tugged, the rope found in the pool disintegrated. "Whoa." HHH then tossed a lit torch into the pool, though he felt some trepidation doing so as the memory of the last instance that this happened flashed through his mind. Tense, preparing for the worst, the torch landed on the pool and went out. As it sank into it, they all could see it begin to melt.

"Okay then," Xana said, "Let's check the rest of the room." Finding nothing else, the party sat down to discuss their next move.

"Well, we're still short a party member," HHH began. "We've been lucky thus far, in the sense that we haven't encountered any real threats. I propose we rest and revive our comrade before we continue."

"Agreed." Having said that, Xana started setting up camp. Resting until early evening, Agrona was able to raise Nuria's spirit from beyond and return it to its vessel. With a gasp, Nuria sat up. Looking around in a panic, understanding quickly came to her eyes. "Thanks," she said. Giving a synopsis of the past day to Nuria, the group again discussed their next move.

"I need to rest more to get my spells back," Nuria stated. "Plus, it will give me a chance to look at the scroll and the tome you have collected." Handing over both items to her, Nuria began her inspection. Unrolling the scroll, she seemed to grow very excited. Carefully placing it back into its case, she secured the scroll to her belt. She then turned to the tome. Opening it, she found it was written in abyssal. "I'm glad I'm fluent," she thought to herself. Reading through it quickly, she found that the tome was an encyclopedia on demons and creatures from the abyss. Gaining new insight on the tanar'ri and their ilk, Nuria delved into their history (+2 bonus to knowledge on demons). After just a bit of research, she found that they are immune to electricity and poison, and resistant to acid, cold and fire. She also confirmed that the ram's head was a symbol of Orcus. Putting aside the tome, she meditated on her spells.

Day 229 - 6 AM

Summoning a hand of force energy, Nuria tried to remove the gems from around the pool, but they were embedded too tightly into the ground. Giving up on retrieving the gems, the party proceeded to prepare to find the last piece of the rod. Xana transformed herself into a hawk while HHH scanned the rubble on the stairs to see if it was an illusion. Finding the rocks very real, the party planned to explore the doorway to the south.

Detecting no traps, PW found the door to be locked. Being doubly cautious, HHH checked the door for poison and found nothing. Hearing no sound from the other side of the door, PW began picking the lock. Suddenly, a ball of flame engulfed the party as a magical glyph exploded. Agrona and Xana were flung violently back, slammed into a wall and fell to the floor unconscious. Rushing over, Nuria used the rod to stabilize Agrona and Xana. As the healing radiance washed over them, their eyes fluttered open. "What was that?" Agrona mumbled. Seeing that everyone was out of immediate danger, the party began treating their wounds.

Agrona = Maximized Cure Critical Wounds for 45 HPs on Agrona and Xana
Xana = used Wand of Curing to heal Nuria and Xana; wand used up
HHH = used Lay on Hands on Agrona (for 20 HP), on HHH (for 20 HP), and Henrietta (for 10 HP); also used Lay on Hands on Nuria and Xana to their maximum HPs

After healing themselves, Nuria detected magic on the door to check for additional traps, but found nothing. Opening the door, they entered a large 30' by 70' room. They spied a door on the south side of the room, but what caught the party's attention was the sole occupant of the area. Near the middle of the room, a 15' by 15' pentagram had been drawn, and a large, frog-like demon could be found pacing within its confines. With a roar, the hezrou leaped out of the pentagram and moved to engage the heroes.

Acting quickly, PW downed a potion of Protection from Evil. HHH, focusing his divine energy, cast Master Cavalier on himself and Henrietta. Waiting for HHH's spell, Henrietta prepared herself to pounce. Seeing they needed an edge, Nuria cast Haste on the party, speeding up their reaction rate. Ebreck, weighing Waymaker in his hand, patiently waited for the enemy to make a misstep before hurling the axe at it. Agrona summoned an ooze mephit to dissolve the hezrou with its acid attack and to act as a distraction.

Nonplussed, the hezrou charged to attack Ebreck. Launching Waymaker at the hezrou, the axe connected solidly with the demon's skull, but it shrugged off the blow and bit deeply into Ebreck's shoulder. Xana, seeing Ebreck's blood spurt, summoned a large earth elemental to bolster their ranks.

Seeing Ebreck staggered from the hezrou's attack, PW stepped in front of him and blocked the doorway, preventing the demon's escape. Slipping into a lower, defensive stance, he prepared himself for the onslaught to come. Moving in, Henrietta and HHH attacked as one. Glowing brightly, Miranda smote the demon as Henrietta's claw dug a deep furrow into its side. Apart from the battle, Nuria cast Vampiric Touch onto Smokey and silently instructed his companion to touch the demon. Swinging his axe wildly, Ebreck struck the demon with another telling blow. The ooze mephit fluttered up to the demon and spat acid on its face. The mephit's giggle changed into a confused frown; it had expected the demon's face to begin to melt, but the acid seemed to do nothing. Agrona called on his deity and summoned a Spiritual Weapon to do combat. Though the blade swung swiftly, the demon managed to dodge the blow.

Closing its eyes briefly, a nimbus of energy surrounded the demon and released in a wave of power. Bracing themselves, the energy passed over the party without any noticeable effect. Smokey finally made it to the demon and reached out to nip its ankle. Though Smokey managed to touch the demon, the underlying spell was deflected by the tanar'ri's innate resistance to magic. The demon turned its attention to Smokey and looked to end the existence of this nuisance when it was slammed by the two brutal fists of the earth elemental. Xana, smiling to herself, cast Resistance to Fire Energy on herself.

PW attempted to catch the demon off-balance. "Hey, your shoe laces are untied!" Unfortunately, the demon didn't fall for it and remained vigilant. PW danced in and stabbed the hezrou deeply into its abdomen. Miranda swung again and struck a telling blow on the demon. Henrietta's claws dug into the demon's guts as she ripped it apart. Suddenly, 30 dretches appeared around the party and moved to attack.

Thinking quickly, Nuria cast Shout at a group of dretches and injured them all severely. Ebreck, now separated from the hezrou by a group of dretches, launched his axe against the larger demon. Though the axe struck another heavy blow, the attack left Ebreck wide open for counterattacks. Seeing he was in an awkward position, 2 dretches and the hezrou cut Ebreck deeply with their claws.

Surrounded by enemies, the ooze mephit released a stinking cloud into the room that swallowed up a large group of dretches. Agrona's spiritual weapon struck the hezrou a glancing blow. Seeing such a large group of enemies, Agrona cast Turning Anathema to deal with the dretches.

The dretches then attacked the party. Each was struck; though each blow from the dretches was minor, when a small battalion hits as one, it can prove to be fatal. The hezrou, striking at its closest threat, focused its attacks on HHH. Nuria, knowing Smokey could do nothing more, got her animal companion to retreat out of danger. Xana, seeing she couldn't help in close combat, also withdrew from direct combat.

Hoping it would work the second time around, PW tried bluffing the hezrou again. Unfortunately, the demon's blood-lust had surfaced and it would not be distracted. Shrugging his shoulders, PW danced in again and struck the demon's vitals. HHH struck the demon with 3 blows as Henrietta again managed to bite and tear into the demon's guts. To get rid of the dretches, Nuria cast a fireball which blasted a large group of dretches. Ebreck swung his axe against the dretches that surrounded him and managed to kill 3. The mephit, hoping to distract the hezrou, clawed at the demon's neck, but failed to penetrate its thick hide. Agrona, summoning holy energy, drew forth his holy symbol and blasted 12 dretch.

Another barrage of attacks assaulted the party. Bleeding profusely, but refusing to give in, the heroes hung on. The earth elemental struck the hezrou again with punishing blows. Meanwhile, Xana, moving swiftly and unnoticed above the battle, summoned forth holy fire to strike the demonic spawn. Unfortunately, while damaging the hezrou and killing several dretches, she also caught the mephit and her earth elemental within her flame strike. In a squeal of agony, the mephit burnt to a crisp.

PW, in another attempt to bluff the hezrou, stumbled over his own feet and missed his attack. HHH, crying out his deity's name, struck the hezrou repeatedly. On the third strike, the hezrou collapsed and faded away. A small heart-like object remained where the hezrou disappeared. The party then quickly dispatched the remaining dretch.

Scanning the remains, the party carefully examined the heart-shaped object left behind by the hezrou. Searching the tome for clues to its purpose, Nuria found no additional information. HHH scanned it for evil, and surprisingly found no traces. It did radiate strong magic. Bracing himself, Agrona picked up the heart, and found it not to be a real heart. It seemed to be made of stone.

Drawing forth her arcane focus, Nuria concentrated on the items the party had collected up to that point to identify them. The heart turned out to be a Nanorian Stone. It was a powerful item that could wake a living creature from the deepest of sleeps, even death. Though it would only function once, it was a great boon to have. The tapestry covered in the black slime turned out to be another pleasant surprise. The shadow slime it produced could combine with the idol to produce a scroll once a week. The rug of smothering that Ebreck had been carrying around had lost its magical charge and no longer functioned.

Agrona healed the party's wounds. As the rest of the party recuperated, HHH walked over to the pentagram and, without a word, poured holy water on it. Turning back to the group, he said, "No more surprises like this one. Let's be better prepared." Everyone nodded in agreement. Before entering the next area, the party bolstered themselves with magic. Nuria cast Shield on herself, HHH cast War Mount on Henrietta, Ebreck cast Bark Skin on himself, and Xana cast Stone Skin on HHH.

Approaching the door on the southern part of the room, Nuria checked for magical traps while PW checked for mundane ones. Both found nothing, so the door was gently pushed open. The next room seemed to be more of a study or an area of research than anything else. It was not a small room (40' x 30'), but it felt very cramped. Tables were placed along the eastern wall, covered in books and papers. An iron bound chest was found in a corner. An altar with a multi-armed statuette was placed along the southern wall. A small brazier hung from the ceiling, and there was only one other door leading out of the room.

Entering the room, HHH first checked for poison in the room and detected nothing. Nuria checked for magic, and determined that the statue on the altar was magical. While searching the room, the party initially stayed close to the door they had entered. Xana, flitting about, noticed a swirl of darkness in the middle of the room. Squawking out a warning, she flew higher to get a better vantage point.

PW, uncertain what danger was posed by the swirling shadows, paused. Agrona pulled out his holy symbol and tried to turn the swirl; nothing happened. PW, impatient, glided forward and slammed his blade into the swirl. As his blade slid into the shadow, a wave of fire roared out and engulfed him. Nuria, witnessing the attack, realized that the effect was due to a Fire Shield. As she shouted out a warning, a Fireball erupted from the swirl to engulf the entire party. Ebreck and PW danced between the flames and avoided harm altogether, while the rest of the party started to smell of burnt toast.

As they pulled themselves together, it appeared that the swirling shadows were solidifying. Ebreck, fired to superhuman strength, threw his axe and scored a telling blow on the vortex of shadows. As Waymaker cut through the shadows, they seemed to shudder. Nuria, hoping to expose their opponent, cast Dispel Magic on the swirling shadows, but nothing seemed to occur.

HHH, seeing how badly Henrietta was hurt by the blast of fire, sent her back to her home plane. Hefting Miranda, he swung with an unparalleled fury. As his hammer struck, it began to glow with an almost blinding white light. HHH felt his righteous fury infuse Miranda; the hammer's power seemed to become unlocked (Miranda became a +5 Holy Avenger with the following abilities - Greater Dispel Magic 1/week; Heal 1/week; wielder and mount gain SR 5 + level).

Xana summoned a huge Earth Elemental to combat their enemy. PW, again trying to catch the enemy off-balance, taunted it to enrage it. "You empty-headed animal food-trough wiper! Ah fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!" The swirl of darkness flared up in rage, but would not be taken in. Side stepping his attack, the swirl seemed to flip PW the bird. Agrona, attempting to get rid of the enemy, cast a Dismissal spell, but the shadowy swirl seemed unaffected.

Suddenly, the shadowy swirl simply disappeared! "It cast Dimension Door!" Nuria shouted. "It can't have gone far. Stay on your toes!" Looking around, Ebreck cast Protection from Fire Energy on PW to protect him from the effects of the fire shield. Meanwhile, Nuria charged Smokey with the spell Touch of Idiocy. Turning toward the door they came from, HHH spotted the shadowy swirl. His shout of triumph changed into a shout of surprise as he was unexpectedly struck blind.

Xana spotted the shadowy swirl, and began to maneuver to a better position. PW, spotting the enemy, moved towards it while shouting a warning to the rest of the party. Agrona struck the shadowy swirl with a spell of Searing Light. The swirl started undulating in a bizarre pattern and stopped suddenly. "I wonder what that was all about," Agrona thought to himself. "I guess we'll find out soon enough."

Ebreck rushed towards the enemy and ran into an invisible barrier which knocked him back briefly. "What is this s#!t?" Nuria, seeing what occurred, pondered her next action. HHH, drawing forth the power of Miranda, tried to destroy the invisible barrier using a Greater Dispel Magic spell. The Earth Elemental, under the command of Xana, tried to pass through the wall, was stopped by an invisible force as well. Xana, perturbed, flew around in a holding pattern.

"I've had enough of this!" Nuria cried. Summoning her mystic energies, she cast one of her most powerful spells to disintegrate the barrier. PW, the only one directly engaging the enemy, shouted, "A little backup would be nice right about now!" Trying to feint and strike, he managed to hit the shadowy swirl squarely. Agrona, hearing PW's cry for help rushed through the doorway while drawing his crossbow. "Hey, your spell worked, Nuria!" Agrona shouted back. That statement proved to be a bad idea. Running through the doorway, trying to aim a crossbow, and turning his head proved that Agrona couldn't multi-task. With his head turned, he tripped on a stone and slammed his head into the floor, stunning himself.

The shadowy swirl seemed to dance and a flash of energy flared out of it. Suddenly, PW, Ebreck, and the Earth Elemental were all held in place. HHH, using Miranda as his holy focus, tried to turn undead with no success. Xana flew into the room and rained holy fire on their opponent. Nuria moved into the room as well and cast Magic Missiles. As the mystic bolts flew towards their foe, they seemed to bounce harmlessly off of a barrier. "A Shield spell!?!?! What else does this thing have?" Nuria cried out in frustration.

Again, the shadowy swirl seemed to dance. Suddenly, Nuria felt her intelligence regressing. "No. This can not happen!" she exclaimed. "I won't let it!" With sheer will power, she forced the enemy's Feeblemind spell out of her being. Ebreck, struggling against the bonds that held him, managed to break free. As the invisible chains fell away, HHH rushed past him to engage the enemy.

"We need to take down its protective spells!" Nuria called out to Xana. Concentrating her powers on destroying the creature's defensives, Xana cast Greater Dispel directly on the shadowy swirl. As her spell progressed, she could feel as some of its magical defensives fell before her assault. Hoping that Xana had broken through the enemy's spells, Nuria blasted it with 3 Scorching Rays. The shadowy swirl managed to dodge 2 of them, but the third pierced through its center. Seeing his allies struggling and knowing they needed his help, PW snapped the bonds that held him. "Time's up."

A dark tendril extended from the shadowy mass, pointing at HHH as he reached striking distance. With that, HHH simply disappeared. The party was shaken. Their comrade was gone! "Don't worry," Nuria shouted. "He's trapped in a magical maze, but he may escape if his mind is sharp enough. We need to take this thing down as quickly as possible!"

Ebreck commenced a fresh barrage on their foe. His axe flew fast and true and ripped through the shadowy substance of their enemy. Xana summoned another huge Earth Elemental to battle the shadowy swirl and Nuria moved closer to launch another salvo of Magic Missiles. Again, they were stopped by the being's Shield spell.

"Oh my goodness! It's the Queen of England!" PW shrieked, pointing behind the shadowy swirl. The enemy turned to gawk at the queen, and realized he had been fooled! As it started to turn back, it felt PW's rapier dig into its side. As his blade hit home, PW was once again engulfed in flames. "Thank goodness for Ebreck's spell!"

With a wail of rage, lightning leaped from their foe. While casting this spell, the enemy left itself open for a counterattack. Not one to let an opportunity pass, PW slashed the enemy deeply, hoping to disrupt its spell. The spell continued its course, forming a chain of electricity that jumped from Nuria to the newly-summoned Earth Elemental. PW and Ebreck managed to dodge the bolt as it whizzed past them. Ebreck launched his axe and struck their foe with another telling blow.

The second Earth Elemental struck their opponent with two crushing blows. Bits of shadow flew wide as the elemental's fists tore into it. Xana tried a previously successful gambit. Trying to disrupt the enemy's defenses, she cast Dispel Magic. Her spell was cast successfully, but failed to pierce its barriers. Nuria moved forward and cast Protection from Fire Energy on herself. PW struck the shadow and was blasted with fire again.

A dark tendril again emerged from the shadows and pointed at PW. In a blink of an eye, he turned to stone! "NOOOO!" Ebreck, in a fury, let his axe fly. The shadowy swirl staggered. The second Earth Elemental stepped forward and smashed into the enemy. A screech of rage and defiance erupted from the swirl as it dissipated. A black crown fell to the earth as the shadows disappeared. HHH reappeared abruptly beside the crown.

Agrona, finally reviving from stunning himself, walked up to PW's rocky form. Trying to break the enchantment that cursed him, the spell proved too powerful to sever at this time. "I promise to get you free of this," Agrona swore.

The rest of the party began examining the room where they had met the second lich. Nuria, hoping to gain further insight, tried to retrieve the papers and texts, but they all crumbled beneath her touch. HHH scanned the area for evil, but found the only evil object was the crown. To verify that the crown was this lich's phylactery, Nuria used the rod to commune with her deity. Confirming that the crown was the phylactery, Nuria continued her questioning. She also managed to confirm that the next piece of the rod was within 2 levels of their current location, and that there was another lich to defeat. Dispatching the crown as they had done with the previous one, the party continued examining the room. The altar proved to have no hidden compartments after Ebreck examined it. Nuria used her Knock spell to unlock the chest, and was rewarded for her efforts with a nice hoard of coins and items (5000 cp, 3000 sp, 1000 pp, a longsword, and a staff). None of the items radiated evil, but the staff (evocation), longsword, and the six-armed statuette (transmutation) all radiated strong magic.

Agrona girded the longsword to his belt, while Nuria hefted the staff. Ebreck placed the statuette into his backpack. "That is one ugly statue!" he breathed. "I think it represents a type of demon, the marylith," Nuria judged. "Very powerful and very evil. Be careful with it, will you?"

Detecting magic on the only unopened door in the room, the party opened the door. It led into a 30' square room with a stairwell going down. "Let's rest here," Agrona stated. "I need some time to prepare some spells to hopefully free PW from his cursed state." Setting up camp, the party had a quiet night of contemplation.

DAY 230 - 6 AM

"Here we go," Agrona proclaimed. "This will either be done quickly or it will drag on for what seems like an eternity. I'm hoping that PW will be up and stealing our valuables in a short period of time." An eternity later (and 9 attempts at reviving PW from his rocky state), and the halfling was returned to normal.

"Thank you so much!" he gushed. Hugging Agrona in gratitude, he quietly pocketed some of his gold coins. Meanwhile, Nuria was using her arcane focus to identify their newly acquired items. Scanning each, she determined that the longsword held by Agrona had an enhancement bonus of +4, the staff was a Staff of Frost (with 11 charges remaining), and the statuette…It defied identification…"What the…?" Nuria thought. "Why can't I identify this thing? There is something strange about this. Here's another mystery to ponder. Maybe the tome would have some insight into this item…"

As the party prepared to depart, a robed skeleton appeared before them. "You have killed my brothers. Let us see how you fare against me!"

PW, the closest to the lich, swung his rapier which seemed to pass harmlessly through the lich's body. "Hah! Is that the best you can do?" the lich mocked. Agrona casting defensively, summoned a Huge Earth Elemental to grapple with the lich. HHH vaulted into Henrietta's saddle and the pair charged the undead lord. Their attacks passed harmlessly through its body once again.

"What is going on here?" Nuria thought. Using her inner sight, she peered at the lich to determine its magical defenses. Waves of energy flowed around the lich's body, protecting it like a shield; as well, a sheet of blue flames danced along the lich's entire body, acting like a cold fire shield. "Okay, now I know what we're up against." Relaying the information to the others, she attempted to disintegrate their opponent. The lich shrugged off the effects of the spell, though it did harm it a little.

Xana, swooping up, summoned another huge Earth Elemental to defend the party. Chanting and swaying its arms, the lich vanished leaving behind a small red sphere. "Get back!" HHH shouted as the sphere exploded in a blast of fire.

Quickly regrouping, the party prepared for the next blitz. Ebreck bolstered HHH's defense against cold with Protection from Cold Energy, as well as PW's with Energy Resistance against Cold. Nothing happened. Agrona, Xana, and Ebreck cured the party of their injuries, while Nuria and HHH prepared their defensive spells. Casting False Life and Mage Armor on herself, Nuria felt ready to pummel the lich. HHH cast Master Cavalier, bolstering his riding abilities, and Protection from Evil on himself and Henrietta. Xana, after turning invisible using her ring, turned into an eagle. Nothing happened. Nuria cast a magical Shield around herself, while HHH cast War Mount to further enhance his and Henrietta's abilities. Xana, preparing for another fireball, cast Protection from Fire Energy on herself. Nothing happened.

"Where in the Nine Hells is he?" Ebreck grated. "The party is all ready to go!"

"Maybe we scared him off," PW joked.

"Unlikely," Agrona responded. "I don't think he's coming back, so we'll have to go hunting." With that, Ebreck led the party down the stairs. HHH scanned their path for evil but found nothing. At the base of the stairs, they entered a 50' by 35', well-preserved room. The room was decorated with 6 columns, three on each side and an iron door on the opposite side of where the heroes had entered. Checking for magic, evil, and traps, the heroes cautiously entered the room. Finding nothing of note, the party continued to the iron door. Finding it locked, Nuria used her magic to knock the door open.

The party stepped into a massive room. Approximately 100' by 100', it, too, was very well preserved except for the other side of the room where a pair of staircases were filled with rocks and rubble. Using his innate sense of direction and depth, Ebreck knew that they were the pair of rubble-filled stairs they had previously found above. The room had a massive courtyard flanked with buildings on either side. A life-size statue of a lich with a black crown could be seen in the middle of the courtyard atop of a pedestal. Directly in front of the statue was an altar covered with arcane symbols.

"Feels like a trap," Ebreck muttered. While he spoke, Ebreck quickly shrouded his skin with bark.

"It is a trap, but let's see what happens," Nuria replied. Checking for evil and magic, the party determined that the altar and statue radiated very strong transmutation magic. As the party moved deeper into the courtyard, the two summoned Earth Elementals, their service complete, disappeared. As they vanished, the party noticed an opaque globe of shimmering, multicoloured light in the middle of the courtyard behind the lich statue. Preparing themselves for an attack far in front of them, the statue of the lich transformed into the third lich lord.

"Let's play," it growled.

Reacting quickly, Nuria cast Protection from Fire Energy in anticipation of another fireball. Scanning the lich with her inner sight, she found that the lich had the same defensive spells still up and functioning. Ebreck, moving forward to get a better angle of attack, threw his axe. The axe would have hit solidly, except it passed clear through the lich.

Xana, staying back from the battle, cast Greater Dispel Magic in an attempt to eliminate the lich's defenses. Though she learned it had 3 spells acting on it, she was unable to cancel any of them out. The lich, feeling threatened by Xana's spells, spoke a single word which stunned her and left her helpless as she floated gently to the ground. Turning, the lich launched a volley of magic missiles at Agrona.

Deeply injured, Agrona cured himself using his armband to bolster his spell. PW, hoping to quickly eliminate the lich, took careful aim and managed to hit its crown with a bolt. HHH and Henrietta charged in and attacked the lich. Swinging Miranda at its crown, HHH's hammer passed clearly through it. Henrietta fared a little better and managed to strike the lich with her claw.

Nuria rushed forward and cast Haste on her allies. Ebreck, changing tactics, fired his own barrage of arrows at the lich. Of the five arrows that he shot, only one managed to find its mark. The rest passed harmlessly through the lich's body.

"Enough of these nuisances." The lich summoned forth a billowing cloud that engulfed Nuria, Agrona, PW, HHH, and Henrietta. A grim smile crossed the lich's face as the cloud ignited, blocking everyone's vision. Moving out of the incendiary cloud, the party was ready to thrash the lich.

Agrona fired a beam of Searing Light, but the lich dodged the attack. PW rushed forward and stabbed the lich with his rapier; as expected, a flare of cold fire engulfed him, but Ebreck's spell greatly reduced the damage. HHH swung the hammer with great effect, though he too was engulfed by cold fire. Once again, Ebreck's spell countered the damage. Henrietta managed to swipe the lich once with her claw.

Nuria moved at an angle to the lich and encompassed herself in a Lesser Globe of Invulnerability. Ebreck, his sight blocked by the burning cloud, moved into position to get a line of sight. Unfortunately, the lich noted his motion. Summoning forth a blast of cold, the lich caught Ebreck, PW, and Agrona in a Cone of Cold. Seeing the blast of frost approaching, Ebreck and PW managed to evade the damage by diving behind what little cover there was. Agrona felt the brunt of the arctic fury.

"So, you think your pitiful magic will stop mine!" the lich gloated. Suddenly, a Wall of Fire surrounded Nuria. Though the flames never directly burned her, the heat was searing Nuria's lungs. Plus, she could no longer see her opponent. Shivering from the cold, Agrona tried to heal himself but his uncontrollable quivering caused him to miscast his healing spell. "Oh crap."

PW, seeing Agrona's spell fizzle, redoubled his efforts to strike down the lich. Unfortunately, his rapier passed harmlessly through its body again and again. HHH, summoning his deity's holy energy, smote the lich as the lich's cold fire shield sought to burst his blood vessels. Henrietta clawed furiously at the lich as the cold fire washed over her.

Walking through the wall of fire, Nuria attempted to hold the lich in place. The lich tore free from the magical field meant to paralyze it as its baneful stare focused on her. Ebreck, not one to give up, threw his axe again, which momentarily staggered the lich, but only for a moment.

"It ends now," the lich pronounced. A swarm of meteors appeared and smashed into the heroes. As they hit, they exploded, swallowing up the heroes in a fiery tempest. Agrona was flung back, burnt beyond recognition, while the rest of the party barely hung on.

"It has been entertaining, but you will now pay for the deaths of my brothers." With that, the lich's chanting reached a crescendo.

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