Jack Entry 40
14 Nightal (Continued)
Tegalad’s magical map also showed the lair of a dracolich, and it was decided that we could detour long enough to put an end to so obvious a threat to reality. However, somewhere along the way, it got decided that we should also stop over in a couple of other places of interest. I believe it was Set who claimed that lairs of other creatures might contain items of power that would bolster us when it came time to deal with the yuan-ti guarding the crown of horns. In retrospect, that sounds absurd to me, but somehow I found myself going along with it. Is the damnable doppelganger getting inside my head? I shall have to guard my mind more carefully, lest I find myself a puppet dancing to his tug.
We came to a clearing in the vast bone forest that appeared to be a festering wound in the bowels of Toril. A bloody pool swirled in the center, with thick red mud staining the circumference. Larger bones came out of the ground at odd angles forming macabre statuary, and while Chipper scouted the small, dark glade, I found myself swapping death tales with the dwarf shaman. We laughed grimly about our “competition” and jibed the elf arcanists about “getting into the game.” Tegalad scowled and shushed us while Set tossed out a handful of magical dust and examined the results.
The elf then grew impatient for Chipper to complete his circuit, I guess, because he stepped forward, getting nearer the blood whirlpool. I paced him, keeping an eye out for danger, though experience has taught me that I will be the last one to spot an ambush. Slick, ropey tendrils suddenly exploded from the pool at Tegalad, but the circle dancer easily evaded the assault. A second blood ooze slimed its way out of the pool, while a pair of oversized ghostly creatures floated out from two of the nearby bone structures flanking it. I grew concerned about the drow’s fate in the darkness until his magical dagger flew from the back of the glade to strike one of the wraiths dead center. Knowing we were at full strength, I joined the fray in earnest.
Standing near any of the monstrous creatures was an exercise in endurance. The wraiths exuded life-draining darkness, while the slimes poisoned the very air around them. Considering the short reach of my sword arm, there was no way I could avoid suffering these combined effects, but fortunately I was not alone. We discovered that so long as one did not linger near the beasts, their deadly auras were almost manageable, and so we did our best to shove the damned things around the glade, jockeying to position them in any way that would garner us the slightest advantage.
I was in the most pain I’d ever been conscious for, and for a few moments, I wondered that my mind could hang on with my body suffering so much. But it was a temporary agony, as I have come to expect from adventuring with Ixtab. The dwarf’s primal magic proved as potent as ever, knitting my wounds and restoring vitality that I needed to continue standing tall before the threat we had unwittingly walked into. I heard Set muttering about fleeing, and found myself agreeing with his estimation, but pure stubbornness must have kept us fighting. I witnessed some of my companions most powerful abilities as we struggled desperately against the faceless threats. In the end, we stood victorious, though there was no sign of the treasure promised by the magical map.
Ixtab determined that it must be at the bottom of the bloody whirlpool, and Tegalad was volunteered to retrieve it. The blood proved necrotic, the merest touch siphoning life energy, but the elf was equipped with magical protections against such hazards. A rope was tied around his waist before he dived into the pool and began to struggle toward the bottom. When we felt him tug twice – the signal to drag him back to the surface – I breathed a sigh of relief. We hauled him back swiftly and he gasped when he cleared the muck. In his arms he cradled a large locked box. I could only hope it holds magic accoutrement that will make the struggle against its guardians worth it. Else, I will feel quite the fool. And I could see from the look in his eyes that Tegalad already felt like we had wasted time. And also that he intended to have first claim on whatever lay inside.
He’d earned it.
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