Saving Princess Shamio

The Story of the God With Two Boxes

As Casper struggles with the decision of whether to offer up his own claim on found treasure to seek greater potential through reasoning with the dragon, Elwenar shares a story his mother told him on their long travels between Elven towns.

’There once was a village that was visited by a god. At least, the creature claimed to be a god, and its powers certainly convinced many people. It claimed to be the God of Bounty, and it gave out many gifts indeed. But the god decreed that none with greed in their hearts would ever receive the fullest extent of its blessing. To that end, the god put one simple test to every person it offered its blessing. If you were chosen, the god would come to you with two boxes, red and green, and say the following:

“These boxes contain the bounty that I have deemed you worthy to receive. Of these two boxes, you may choose to take only the green box, or you may choose to take both the red box and the green box. The red box surely contains a hundred gold pieces. The green box contains my judgement. I have seen everything about your life up to this point. I have noted the influences, and seen your choices. I have followed the chain of cause and effect as each action you take follows the pressures that have made you who you are. With this knowledge, I have predicted your choice in this very test. If my prediction was that you would choose only the green box, then that box will contain a gem of exceptional value, worth easily a million gold. If I deduced that would would choose to take both boxes, then the green box will contain nothing.”

The first to receive the Bounty was the local priest. Although this priest was not a disciple of this unknown god, and did not even know if its claim to divinity was true, the priest believed in this power of prediction. “I am hardly concerned with money to begin with,” he said, “surely a hundred gold could be used to help keep the church’s coffers healthy, but I care more for the souls of my flock. Take the red box away, and give me only what the green one contains.” When the supposed god had vanished, the priest opened his remaining box to find that, despite is lack of care for material things, he had become a very, very rich man.

Later, the god came to a powerful wizard, and once again offered both boxes. “I can see that there is nothing special about these boxes,” said the wizard “and I know that no decision that I make now could possibly change their contents. Whatever is in them, is in them, so I see no reason to take one instead of two. Give me both boxes, if you please.” The god acquiesced, and the wizard found the green box empty.

The god came finally to the most cunning merchant in all the land. if ever there was an opportunity for gain, the merchant would find it, and you could be sure that she would pounce on it immediately. So tell me little one, did she choose one box, or two?’

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An Immovable Object and An Unstoppable Force:
A Conversation Between Casper and Fitz

As the group settles in for the night before entering the next room, Casper moves to the furthest end of the platform. He sits by himself, smoking his pipe and looking sullen, his hood pulled over his head.

Fitz walks up from behind and slams his axe handle near Casper’s right arm. Cas jumps.

Cas: The hell Fitz? What do you want?

Fitz: Oh hi there Cas. You’ve been a ghost since you saved my life. Why disappear with that strange pipe? What’s so entertaining about that thing anyways… you and Mogen seem to always be sharing it…

Cas: shrugs It makes the world rosier…why? Would you like to try some?

Fitz: Perhaps. I could do with some roses. But I don’t see roses come out of it. Do they like make magical invisible roses or something? Does it let you see invisibility??

Cas: sigh no Fitz…it’s…it’s an expression. It means…it makes the world feel…better, sometimes. I don’t know, it’s fun! Or at the very least, a distraction

Fitz: Oh ok, I trust you. Give me a shot.

Cas: looks away Why?

Fitz: Why? Well you saved my life, and you may not be strong like dwarf, but you at least can carry a boulder and throw a rope. But that’s irrelevant… I want to know more about this magic pipe.

Cas: sigh FINE hands him the pipe
You know…you really shouldn’t have trusted me in a feat of strength…I don’t know why you would trust me at all. It was pure luck that we managed to save you at all! Aren’t you…upset? I mean…I dropped you!

Fitz: stares at pipe confused, looking at both ends before turning around and puts it in his mouth the correct end settles on putting it in side of mouth correct way in without breathing

Cas: sighs again Here. You…you need to light it, then inhale lights match You’ve seriously never seen a pipe before?

Fitz: Luck? Luck didn’t save me. I am strong like bear. No chance that I fall in the pit below. Plus you threw that second rope right? I had trouble finding a way up.

Cas: No, I…I caught the second rope when you threw it up…But I had to give the rope to Celan to pull you up.

Fitz: Eh fair, all the same. You help me save myself.

Cas: He’s much stronger than I am. Of all the people in our group who are stronger, why choose me?

Fitz: Yes but you use that tiny stick and somehow hit as hard as me. I don’t understand. You must be very strong.

Cas: I’m quick and clever, there’s a difference.

Fitz: attempts to puff lighter in pipe cough cough cough

Cas: Hobbits are…well we’re better at being sneaky, getting the moment of surprise

Fitz: Ack what is this? And where are the roses?

Cas: We’re not strong like you…Just give it a minute Fitz.

Fitz: looks at the pipe with consternation, even though he doesn’t understand that word

Cas: smirks and chuckles, despite himself

Fitz: Quick, clever? Are you telling me you snuck into that chest and opened it without mystical force? I slammed it and it wouldn’t open!

Cas: I’m a thief Fitz, breaking into things kinda goes with the job description.

Fitz: And that locked cage with the tiny ball. I couldn’t even beat that locked gate. Damn things…I swear barred doors are too strong. And yet you’ve beaten them. Somehow you are stronger than me, and yet you don’t act like it…

Cas: Well…you’re better at hitting things. I’m better at thievery. You’ve certainly got no skills with THAT.

Fitz: And you only use a tiny stick! If you could learn to use a weapon like this one…Thievery like pick pocketing? THAT is wrong! Why would I want skills in that?

Casper: chuckles I can’t imagine why. Fitz, that weapon is 4 times my size, I don’t think I could even CARRY it, let alone swing it.

Fitz: Meh it’s not that heavy. But it gives me power. That is important…wait is it just me or is the ground a little watery…

Cas: …watery?

Fitz: Yes… like a lake….quick Cas we must move to the far wall, and hold ourselves steady.

Cas: Okay Fitz, let’s just go sit down next to the wall.

Fitz: gets up No the wall is moving too…… what is going on?

Cas: Relax Fitz, it’s just the pipeweed. It should make you relax, make things feel better.

Fitz: Pipeweed? This pipeweed your talking about makes the world wavey? Is this what is in the pipe?

Cas: groans Yes Fitz. You know how alcohol makes you feel? It’s a bit like that, but…different!

Fitz: This reminds me of a squirrels running after a forest fire. Long long ago….

Cas: shakes head

Fitz: Nothing like alcohol…. alcohol makes me feel strong. You can fight and stab scorpion with wavey world all the time?

Cas: Listen…Fitz….you shouldn’t be trusting me with your life. None of you should. I…all I do is let people down…I’m better off on my own. I think I should just get the rest of this dungeon over with, take my share of the bounty, and move on.

Fitz: Why would you do that? I don’t understand. Sure you make mistake and let me down, but you also make up mistake and bring me up. And you save us from chest without help.

Cas: Because…because when I spend too much time with people, they might put their faith in me like you did, and then I can only let them down.

Fitz: And you open bars without help. You make us stronger.

Cas: Maybe…but you have to understand Fitz, I’m no hero. And I’m not a good friend.

Fitz: No, but you want to be. And I want to be. And there is no way I will be a hero and beat this dragon if you hadn’t helped me

Cas: Life has made me selfish, I know that, but I…I have to take care of myself first.

Fitz: Why would you go through all the work of being a hero, just to walk away without the honor?

Cas: I was never in it to save the princess, I was in it for the money.

Fitz: I have tried the alone road…. it is not very fun.

Cas: It’s all I’ve ever really known.

Fitz: What good is money? You can only buy so much ale. And alone is pretty much all I know too. But I still settle in towns because I want company. And I want recognition.

Cas: When you grow up with nothing, money is everything.

Fits: Silly halfling, teaching me about growing up. chuckles i’ve been here twice as long as you have :)

Cas: Oh I like company too, just only for a night or two, if you catch my drift.

Fitz: I must have missed this drift you mention, because I couldn’t catch it. Also, why only a night or two? Not enough time to trust someone. Usually you need at least 3 or 4 months to know someone isn’t going to stab you. Elwenar, now I like him, but I think he still wants to stab me.

Cas: I’m not looking for trust, I’m looking for sex. You /have/ heard of that at least haven’t you? is getting impatient

Fitz: Sex. But I see sex all the time. I am sex. I am boy, you are boy. Easy. Why you look so hard for sex?

Cas: Not…not that kind of sex Fitz. cough moving on…

Fitz: Ok. I guess this is another odd habit. But anyways, good company is hard to find. And I’m lucky that I have found another strong fighter so quickly. You should stick around a little longer. I always stick around until people start to hate me. No sense leaving before that point… it’s less fun.

Cas: You really…you really don’t care that I almost killed you?

Fitz: Almost killed me? ME? Pshaw… A little fall in a bottomless pit won’t kill me. And anyways, you saw I caught myself. And you also saved me when I couldn’t get up. I don’t care at all. You saved me when I needed it. That’s all that matters.

Cas: I don’t care too much about being liked, it’s more that…well every time someone has liked me enough to trust me, I’ve let them down. Which is why I try not to get involved. And take care of myself first…I just don’t understand how you can still believe in me after that.

Fitz: Well every time I’ve liked someone enough to trust them, they’ve kicked me out of town. I still don’t know why. But good friends are hard to find and keep. So a little let down is nothing, especially when they fight as good as you. I mean, you beat a barred cage! Those are, like, really strong enemies!

Cas: Heh

Fitz: I almost threw out my… never mind. Don’t mention I said that. Oh good… the ground stopped moving

Cas: So I guess you can understand what it’s like to not be trusted. There you go, I told you you’d get used to it…are you hungry?

Fitz: Ummm maybe a little… stomach roars like bear

Cas: takes out some bread, tears it in half …here.

Fitz: Thanks :)

Cas: I don’t usually share my food with others, but, well…you deserve it.

Fitz: I appreciate it. Thank you. Here, have some of my deer meat. It may be a little soggy, but it should do.
Cas: Thank you Fitz…I appreciate your generosity. I haven’t met many generous people in my life.

Fitz: Me neither. You stay that way though, ok? I’ve been chased out of town by enough sticks, and yours seems like it’s a bit stronger than others.

Cas: I don’t make a habit of being generous Fitz. This is…a special circumstance.

Fitz: Ok I trust you.

Cas: You may have forgiven me, but I’ll still feel badly for a while. I owe you. But I won’t chase you out of town Fitz.

Fitz: rolls 15 on self control check (THANK GOD!)

Cas: Besides, we’re not in a town! smirks

Fitz: Good point. Ok I think I’ll have some rest now.

Cas: Of course…we do have a big day tomorrow…

Fitz: I feel oddly …sleepy…
Cas: But um…I just want you to know…I…I may not /condone/ you putting your trust in me, but since I can’t seem to stop you…I…appreciate it. looks shifty and awkward

Fitz: cuddles up on ground with back to Casper

Cas: And I…I’ll do my best to not let you down again.

Fitz: Er herm… sure…
Cas: Goodnight Fitz.

Fitz: Ni…. zzzzZZZZzzzzzzzzzZZZ…. really loud snoring

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Arias' Journal - 10th Session, 7/19/2015
Things gone slightly awry

Day 20?

Note for later – Reaching for my journal, discovered a sheaf of papers in my bag that I do not recognize. Mishmash of symbols?

This has been a very troubling day. I do not feel well about the actions we have just taken. On top of that, Fitz has just nearly died. Capser in particular seems quite upset about it.

We awoke in the morning and prepared to go fight whatever monster Drud and Elwenar had discovered hiding behind a treasure chest. Thinking we may face a situation similar to the dark mantles from before I prepared an illusory double of Fitz to lure the monster out. I was quite taken aback when the monster began speaking to us, commanding us to go away and leave it alone. It sounded frustrated and almost fearful.

It was a sort of lesser Beholder. I believe they are known as Spectators. It was placed there by its “shining master” to guard that particular treasure chest. As we came closer it lashed out with paralyzing eye rays and a fight broke out. I called for peace and attempted to negotiate and managed to calm everyone down. My companions convinced it to leave its hiding place behind the chest, but then seized the opportunity to attack again. I created a curtain of illusion to obscure its eye rays, allowing Casper to pick the lock on the chest and make away with the contents. The Spectator, furious and upset, but it was soon felled by a flurry of arrows.

And… it just feels wrong. The Spectator was there to do a job, and we barged in and attacked it for doing that job. I feel as if we’ve been invited into someone’s manor for a game, and upon discovering a guarded door, we simply beat the doorman and raided the room.

This whole place is set up like a series of tests. Tests of attention. Tests of battle prowess. Tests of intelligence and ingenuity. I assumed this was all part of the dragon’s trial, that we needed the contents of that treasure chest to proceed, that that’s what we were supposed to do. I think we all assumed that. But I can’t shake the feeling that we may have failed a different sort of test. I suppose we will see if the key we found was necessary.

As a conjured being, he won’t have been killed, right? I wonder if the injured eye will remain. Do the lesser ones always grow to be the vain, greedy villains you hear of in the tales? Was he newly summoned? Did not previous adventurers encounter him before? How upset will his master be that we killed him and took the treasure (treasure that almost seems selected for our use)?

Of course, this is his master’s treasure, isn’t it? We have been raiding the dragon’s hoard, haven’t we. They don’t all sleep on a pile of treasure. They don’t all keep it in one place. But if the dragon set up this pit of trials specifically to test adventurers, then why just leave his own things strewn about where any curious and capable group could find them? Is that part of his test? Does he want to see if people will leave them alone? Does he want to see if we’ll return the stolen items? I can’t imagine that he’s really leaving them there for us.

I wonder… can it scry on us as long as we’re holding its belongings?

Is our dragon a fan of beholders? A collector of beholder memorabilia? Those gems from earlier seem to match the arrangement of a Beholder’s eyes. I will be very upset if our dragon turns out to be a beholder… Though discovering a Beholder willing to sit and chat may be an even rarer opportunity that talking with a dragon.

Well, anyway, once all that was done and we found nothing to help us with the golems, we set about our original plan. First we dismantled the minecart rail system and turned the rails around so that they could carry the person-sized magic orb to a better location. Then we activated a trap meant to drop stone pillars onto those tracks, managing to retrieve the pillars as they fell. The most ingenious part of this solution, I feel, was using the stone golems themselves to do the heavy lifting for us. We used the small-orb golem to haul the inactive large-orb golem off of its platform and onto the stone pillars. Then we used the pillars to roll it into place.

Fitz stood below with the statue while the others rolled the ball into place. Apparently he trusted Casper with the rope to catch him if he fell. Why he thought a hobbit could bear his weight I do not know. Casper has never displayed any feats of strength that I am aware of.

We successfully rolled the large orb into place and, of course, when the golem tried to get up the pillars rolled every which way and Fitz fell off the ledge towards the abyss. In the ensuing chaos I believe nearly everyone rushed over and grabbed any rope they could get their hands on. I am fairly certain that I saw Drud polymorph into a mountain goat. I suppose his druid powers are progressing.

We did manage to pull Fitz back up and no one was hurt. We got our bearings and set about finishing our task, though I note Capser seems particularly upset and has become notably sulkier.

Hauling the large-orb golem up the final ladder proved interesting, but the other two golems make fine beasts of burden. The way is unlocked to the next room and we have decided to take a break and rest up a bit before entering. It seemed a good time to sit and work out my thoughts from this morning.
_____________

Addendum

I’ve taken a bit of time to study the unfamiliar sheaf of papers I discovered in my bag.

They look as if someone had cut various books into pieces and then haphazardly glued bits together. There are fragments of literary passages in multiple languages organized almost like diagrams. They are interspersed with wizard’s spell symbols. And they are not consistent wizard’s symbols. None of them belong to the same wizard as far as I can tell. They are different symbols from different systems with different handwriting and they make very little sense together. I could almost imagine that it is some elaborate code, but it would require knowledge of many wizard’s personal writing systems to decipher, and who on Earth would have that kind of knowledge?

But the strangest thing of all about these papers is that I understand them. The first few pages, at least. I feel a sort of vertigo when I examine them for too long, but… I can see it. The first page is very clearly the spell for Mending, along with a command, “use it”. The second is the spell for Light, with the message, “your eyes”. The third is Guidance, with the message, “my eyes”. The following pages I do not yet understand. Well, I do not really understand any of it. I cannot make any sense of the writing at all, and yet the spells resolve themselves in my head. It seems clear as day when the page is taken as a whole.

Is this how Wizards feel when they look at their spellbooks? But I did not write this. I am certain I have never seen these pages before.

Is it the library’s? Did it somehow sneak this into my bag? Is it capable of that sort of physical action?

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Arias' Journal - 6th, 7th, 8th, & 9th sessions. June and July 2015
Three sessions of dungeoneering!

Day 14, I think? – lose track of time in the caves

The psychic communion with the Myconids has indeed awakened new abilities, not only in myself but in all of my companions. I finally understand one of the spells I have been studying, and I have gained the power to create simple visual illusions at will. This ability shall prove extremely useful, (and it’s great fun to use).. I have also gained another ability that may prove very useful for research, but I’m not certain as to the best way to put it to use here.

I feel as though I have some insight into the fears and motivations of my companions now, but the experience is all muddled. I will have to see what I can recall. It seems we have a number of orphans on this team. I suppose that makes sense for the kind of person who would find themselves on such adventures. Well, here’s to hoping that this increased understanding of one another means we can work together better in the coming days.

We have stayed with the Myconids for some time, helping them rebuild from the attack. I am not sure how long it has been exactly. A couple days perhaps. I am glad for the time to continue studying with the scribe. The history of the Underdark is fascinating, and as I obtain the memories implanted in the spores, I also get bits of the physical reality of the one who scribed it. There is a peculiar stillness about their bodies. They do not have blood to flow through veins, nor hearts or veins for that blood. The way their eyes see the world is certainly different, but more similar than I’d expected to humanoid sight.

[There are several pages of information on Myconids and the Underdark]

Our stay has been most rewarding, but tomorrow we will head back up to the surface. The Myconids have offered to help us by moving the boulder that had blocked our path earlier.
_______________________________________

Day 18 or 19?

It has been a full day of dungeoneering!

On the ride to the surface, Mogen revealed that he had found a key earlier. My companions went off to explore a locked room that we had missed earlier while I helped the Myconids with their task. They determined that the boulder sat over a cavern they used for storage, so a few of them traveled down below to clear the area for its landing. I stayed and spoke with the scribe and our flumph friend for a time, but it became clear that the task would take a while, so I decided to rejoin my companions.

I arrived just in time to hear the sound of doors unlocking. It seems there was some sort of puzzle involving underwater switches. The room itself looks like it was originally used for ore processing. It is now flooded. I wonder if it was intended that way, or if it has simply become flooded over time.

The next room feels as though it were designed as a deadly practical joke on explorers such as ourselves. When we first entered we saw what looked to be a Beholder floating just to the right of the door. That gave us a start. It turns out it was a type of puffball fungus that grows to mimic beholders, and we counted at least five of them in that room. When shot they explode violently into a poison dust cloud. We discovered this, of course, when one of them was shot next to the exit door. Luckily, that exit merely connects to a part of the large central room that we’d already visited.

The room was also full of Dark Mantles, of all things. Malon was the first to fall victim to one, though Fitz and Elwenar also suffered that misfortune. Luckily, no one was hurt too badly before we slew the beasts. Fitz had the good sense to carry his halberd up high so the mosnters would drop on it. My illusion spell proved very useful for luring the monsters down.

We discovered a bit of treasure. There was a box of gold, apparently tolls collected for the old trade route, and several gems, six smaller and one larger, found in a corner. They may prove very useful for magical research.

As there was nowhere to go from there, we went back around to the central room just in time to see the Myconids drop the boulder. They said their goodbyes rather quickly, eager to get away from the little bit of sunlight filtering into this room. Perhaps if we are able, we can return to visit them for a bit on our way out.

The next trial we encountered… I must say it was somewhat absurd. There was a mine cart on a rail (suspended over the yawning abyss) that led off to another platform a ways away. Half the party rode over there and hit a button on the floor, and a large wall dropped down onto the tracks! On one side of the wall, several hollow logs were lowered from the ceiling on chains, and on the other side, several mirrors did the same. Sunlight from the ceiling struck a large gem in the wall.

A panel of buttons on each side raised the mirrors and logs to different heights. There was nothing for it but to simply go button by button and compose a table of data. Once we had that, it was simple enough to hit the right buttons and align each log and mirror at the highest height. The mirrors focused light through the logs and activated a spell. There was an impressive illusion of a dragon (either gold, brass, or bronze, I think) and several doors opened in the back of the room.

We managed to reunite the party with some more precarious mine cart rides and entered another door to the right side of the room.

This new room looked to have been originally for ore processing, but it has clearly been altered recently. There are a number of statues here meant to look like the Old Elven style, but clearly carved within the last few years. There are a few traps in the room that I cannot determine the purpose of. Two statues on the far wall spit flame when buttons are depressed, but I see no reason to ever depress those buttons aside from mere curiosity. Another trap coats a wall of vines in grease (this nearly killed Malon and Harpreet. Thank the Mother they are safe).

There are three magical orbs in this room; one the size of a pebble, one the size of a ball, and one the size of a person. And there are three elven statues posed to hold each one. When holding the appropriate orb, the statue comes to life (a simple stone golem) and follows the one who placed the orb. It is of particular note to me that the golems seem to respond to Old Elven and to Draconic. The response is merely a small facial expression, but it certainly says something about the person who created them.

Elwenar and Drud went off to explore another room that the earlier puzzle had unlocked and said they found a monster in there. I don’t know what sort of monster it is, but we’ve decided to take our rest for the night in the larger room. It’s been a long day and we must rest up if we’re to face any more battles.

Getting the largest orb to the statue in the far corner will prove very challenging, as there is no clear method in place to do so. We have been drafting up a plan to utilize the mine cart rails in the room to move it. It’s a risky plan, but I think it will work.

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I didn't know I ever could
A dainty, ballet-dancing, goat!?

By Moradin’s beard!

I had heard elder druids speak of communing with the animals, in such a way that I could have sworn they meant becoming an animal for a time. I’ve even seen a few animals that looked a little too much like a few of the elders. After the spore meld, I had an inkling that maybe I was right, and maybe, just maybe I might too someday.

I always assume I’d first commune with a mole, if I ever did. Digby’s my mate, and his burrowing reminds me of the tunnels where I’ve so long been forsaken. But no, a dainty, ballet-dancing, mountain goat!?

It was instinctive, and oh so right. I was trapped on the ledge where the largest orb was. I was certain I wouldn’t be able to balance across the rails to return to safe ground. And then, as I filled with dread, I shifted. I felt my armor absorb into my skin. I lost my thumbs and fingers, and my body stretched out behind me. I felt a tail swish at … something. I lost binocular vision but suddenly could nearly see behind me. I could see horns looping over my forehead. And furry – well, I guess that wasn’t so different, though my beard left something to be desired. I suppose it could have been worse; I could have become a beardless, pointy-eared cur.

I knew, just knew, I’d not have to make that walk o’er the chasm.

I leapt! I felt so free, and so happy, just to jump! Soon I was safe, over on the ledge with my companions. It felt strange being of two minds: dwarven and caprine. I puzzled over this while my companions planned in the background. I started looking for anything vegetal – though I also knew it was a foolhardy endeavor so far underground. I don’t think my goat mind understood that the concept of “cave" includes “no sunlight” which means “no plants.”

Suddenly I heard a cry from Fitz! Instinctively I leapt, down to the ledge he had been knocked off of. My sure footing let me balance on the precarious columns my friends had knocked over earlier. But what could a goat do to save him? And as suddenly as I had transformed, so I returned to my dwarven self, rope in hand and thrown and caught by Fitz! I held fast until Celan arrived, for it took all my strength to keep Fitz from falling.

Surely Mother smiled on us this day.

This is a strange new power. I must meditate and learn to control my shape. Maybe I should focus on becoming a different one of my animal companions. Perhaps a mole, for I know Digby best, or a wolf or bear or deer of the forests and the hills. I fear that those of the river or sea or air are far too different from my experience as yet. Maybe after mastery of the mammalian forms I can attempt to joint my freer brethren?

Still, a sissy, surface-dwelling, lump of anthracite, goat!?

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Other Faces - Part 1
Vorn has forged a friendship

Vorn towed his sledge back from the nearby flint mine, pleased with his day’s haul. Though at first he had chafed at his apprentice’s criticism of how he extracted the stones, once he implemented the dwarf’s suggested methods, he came away with bigger and more useful nodules almost every time. He chuckled to himself as his load bounced across the rocky ground. If he had gone all the way to his mother’s tribe to learn flint knapping from the people who were best at it, then of course he ought to learn mining techniques from a dwarf! As the stones clattered against each other, he wondered briefly if that’s racist.

The halfling circus – the hobbit circus – had packed up and left town the night before, and for this the flint-knapper was actually kind of glad. Traveling shows are always great for business; they motivate people passing through to stay a bit longer, and put the locals in a spending mood. But after a solid week and then some of ferrying fairweather pilgrims to Noria’s Spring by day and knapping quick, generic tools and blades to sell in the impromptu street markets by evening, Vorn looked forward to an evening to himself, experimenting with crafting techniques and savoring the pit-roasted hare that he had set cooking while his new forge warmed.

It was a technique that he had heard about briefly from a traveler who had come from far to the northeast. Decent-quality flint was abundant to the tribes near the Great Ice, he had said, but it could be made even more smooth and workable by heating the stone in a very hot fire – his people did it by burning mammoth bones, which created a hotter, longer-lasting flame than wood, which was scarce in the grassy steppes from which he hailed. Negotiations with the blacksmiths down in the Crossing had long-since fallen through, but when Vorn mentioned the idea to his dwarven apprentice, he seemed wistfully excited to help him build a forge of his own. But the dwarf had left with a band of dragon-seekers – an odd lot, he mused, but they seemed good-natured – just as they had finished assembling the thing and gathering bones to burn, and the sudden burst of activity brought on by the circus meant he hadn’t had time to get the thing up and running.

The morning had been busy with pilgrims – travelers wanting the blessing of the spring one last time before heading on their way – but traffic had died down by early afternoon. After all, the next waypoint was nearly half a day’s travel, and no one wanted to be caught on the open highway after dark, especially with rumors of Wolf Women flying about. This left the orc with plenty of time to visit his flint mine for a few good nodules to play with.

The smell of roasting hare, stuffed with potatoes and a savory medley of herbs, wafted to Vorn’s nostrils as he approached the back yard of his cabin. It really hadn’t been so different a process, building a forge, from digging a pit oven – though with less digging and more stacking. As he dragged the sledge into the shade of the outbuilding where he did most of his crafting, he thought fondly of his dwarven friend. He had only been gone a little over a week, but Vorn found himself genuinely worried for him. While it wasn’t unusual for Kornari to disappear into the Karst for a time after he escorted a band of ambitious adventurers into the dragon’s lair – to pray for their safety, he said – and while not all of the travelers who went there returned by way of Noria’s Crossing, he never failed to at least bring news to the flint-knapper of who had returned to his hermitage at all. But it had been a few days longer than usual, and still he had heard nothing from his reclusive friend.

As he unlocked the door to his crafting hut, he hoped dearly that Drüd would not be among the hermit’s reported casualties. He had grown fond of the little guy, and he wanted to show off the fruits of knapping with the forged flint technique that he had helped him to realize, whether they were successful or not. He loved nothing more than having someone eager to learn with whom he could share his craft.

He checked the fire; it had been windy today, and the vent-pipe into the heart of his forge had breathed plenty of life into the flames. He added another bone – mammoths don’t range this far south and their bones therefore tend to be expensive, so the thick leg bones of cattle and giant deer would have to do – and sighed heavily. Perhaps he would make a trip to the Spring himself, to ask the Mother for Her blessing on his friend, to keep him and his companions safe.

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Fitz's Scrawl

After the mynd circle, I feeel strange need to rite. Like wryting will feel good. So heer is mi first jurnal entry.

Hy everyone. Or hi me. Is anyone else reeding this? Wait, journals are suppossed to just be for me, arnt they? But I dunt reed for fun.

Huh. It dosn’t feel as gud as I thout. These memorys are wyerd. Remeember to tell no one this happnd.

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Druud on drugs

This is familiar, and yet strange all at once. I’ve felt these things before. Especially as I learned about the wild, and sometimes ate plants that I didn’t identify correctly. Or later, once I had! But then only simple minds were available – the trees of the woods and the beasts that live inside. I remember great empathy, and the natural order of things. We became as one.

I think I now know how to become some of my animal companions, at least for a time.

As for these sentient beings with which I travel – I feel closer. I may be beginning to care about them as if they too were part of the natural order. Or perhaps I am finally finding a new clan?

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Casper's Cant: How much do they know?

It’s all well and good when you’re in the midst of a telepathic connection with your fellow travelers, your minds weaving in and out, gathering and separating like rain drops, but what of the after?

Now that we’re no longer in that hallucinogenic state and can think properly, what’s left behind?

What do they know?

I’ve worked hard, I’ve worked very hard to not be who I was anymore. To get myself as far away from that life as possible, to be free of my past. I don’t want to be anything I was anymore. I try my best to be strong, self-secure, independent. I don’t ever want to feel that scared and vulnerable again. But the thought of anyone knowing the truth about my childhood…it makes me feel just like that scared, vulnerable, dirty, starving child. All over again.

I want to know what they know, what they must think of me, but I can’t even begin to ask. I’m sure they don’t care…right?

Perhaps I should just let it go and move on. Hey, that’s what I’m best at, right?

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Arias' Journal - 4th and 5th sessions, 5 /23 & 30 / 2015

Nothing I know could have prepared me for the wonders my companions and I have stumbled into this day. The wonders I have just witnessed… I could almost forget that I originally came on this journey to meet a dragon. I have literally breathed the history of the Myconids and shared an intimacy with them and my companions that I can as yet barely comprehend.

For the sake of rigorous journal keeping, I should start from the beginning.

It seems days ago that we had breakfast at Kornari’s house, though it was only this morning. There was a mountain of biscuits. I can only wonder when he awoke to bake them all. We spoke a bit more about the previous adventurers who had come seeking the dragon, and I asked him about Sir Brulgar. The primary point that Kornari mentioned was that Bruglar was a selfish man.

It was half a day’s walk from Kornari’s house (an old Elven inn, he says. Odd in that it’s built, not grown), to the old fortress. There wasn’t much left of the fortress exterior. We discovered an underground passageway that led to a room full of scorpions the size of cats, stirges, and a very aggressive ankheg.

It seems we are more than fit to battle such beasts. My companions were somewhat startled to see I have some measure of magical offense. I suppose I have given them no reason to believe I had any weapons at my disposal. I do not think any of them recognize the Eldritch Blast for what it is. Malon perhaps might, but if so he chose not to say anything.

While we were exploring I noticed Fitz attempting to pickpocket our Druid friend. I attempted psychic contact to make him more aware of the compulsion. I think it had some success. There was nearly an altercation between the two of them, but aggressions have dissolved for now.

There are enormous violet fungal growths here that I had not previously heard of. Harpreet ran afoul of one while fighting more scorpions, and they appear to have some sort of necrotic poison I’ve done some sketches of their innards. A pair of them were vertically and laterally bisected in the battle. Striking one will release spores into the air, but we have not noticed the spores having any adverse effects.

Also it appears Elwenar was attacked by a living treasure chest! How very fascinating. Perhaps I will have to take to using the mage’s hand on furniture before we attempt to touch it.

There are many deep dark pits throughout these ruins. Pits so deep, in fact, that they lead all the way to the Underdark! The most interesting part of our adventure began when I struck a switch across a flooded room, apparently releasing a great deal of water down into the underdark. I began to hear a psychic muttering and attempted to call out to it, and after a few moments a Flumph emerged from the once flooded pit.

She certainly resembled the illustrations. She communicates psychically. Though most of her communication was linguistic in nature, her name (as well as the names of the psychic mushroom men below) was a mental image with an emotional impression. This is strong evidence for some of my theories of how The Library communicates. Through my time with these psychic beings, I think I may devise some tests to determine how much of the images I see are images it is presenting to me and how much of them are my own mind interpreting the impressions it sends.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Flumph, who’s name is an impression of a warm cozy place, said that we had release water into a very important reservoir down in the Underdark. This reservoir appears to have been emptied to the surface fairly recently. Did the dragon somehow pump great volumes of water up into this room? Perhaps there was already old Elven machinery in place to do so.

The Flumph looks after a Circle of sentient mushroom men known as Myconids and was very insistent that we come to meet them. It took my companions some convincing, but we eventually decided to follow along, using a bit of old Elven machinery to descend far below the Karst. It would seem that the Empire once did trade with the Underdark from this fortress.

We were invited to a palace where we met their king who wished to thank and honor us for returning water to their reservoir. The Myconid city is wondrous. Their architecture is like a fungal version of Elven architecture. That is to say, they live in buildings grown and carved out of enormous mushrooms. The walls are dotted with luminous fungi. The Myconids do not speak. They have no vocal chords and, I suspect, may not even breathe. They rely purely on psychic communication. They cannot simply project into other minds such as I or the Flumph do, but rather, they eject spores that allow other races to tune into their psychic communications.

These spores are capable of so much more as well! They are used as a record keeping device! A skilled psychic scribe can record complex thoughts onto a pile of spores, which can then be “read” by smelling them. Their librarian has instructed me in the basics and given me a vial of spores to study and to practice on. They had vials and vials of these spores in their library, and I have learned much of their local history and of the races of the Underdark. I am tempted to stay and study here for some time. I wish I could carry more than a few vials with me.

While Elwenar and I studied at the library, the city was attacked by more of these giant scorpions, including a truly giant mother scorpion. My companions proved more than enough for such an adversary. They were all nearly vanquished by the time Elwenar and I got back to the throne room from the library.

The Myconids, doubly thankful for the rescue of their king, held a feast in our honor, then had us join them in their nightly psychic communion.

It was amazing. It was as if our minds, thoughts, and memories were all stirred together in a massive stew pot, and then our consciousnesses swam free amongst all these things that make us who we are. I have seen the hearts and minds of my companions and the Myconids. Bits and pieces of thoughts, memories, and desires. I’m not entirely certain which parts belong to whom. I do not know if words can do the experience justice. I want to say it is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but actually, it’s surprisingly similar to the dreams I have had of The Library.

In fact, I think The Library has partially joined in this communion. I can only hope this will help its ability to understand and empathize with its patrons. The experience has given me a great deal of clarity as to the dreams I was having in the Karst, and I think I understand the choices that were presented to me.

I am not sure what we will do from here on, but I suppose we shall return to the surface and continue on our way to the dragon. We shall see once everyone has had a bit more time to collect themselves.

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