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29 November 2002 - Friday

Amazon Quartet of Justice Vb: "Moradin's Morningstar"

Previously: Our Heroines have returned to the ruin city to rescue the dwarven scholar and possible key to the dead god's resurrection, Darrin. They haven't found him, but they found a cave below a temple, the entrance recently excavated, and explored it until they ran out of spells, at which point they returned to their hidden camp on the outskirts of the ruined city.

Just after dawn, when Alyra and Fresa are on watch, a glowing magical portal appears in the middle of the campsite, and two goons leap out, grab Stephen, and drag him into the portal! The guards and Amaryllis (who has just woken up) leap after him, into a ruined courtyard beneath an unearthly storm. The supernaturally fast kidnappers escape with Stephen through another portal at the far end, covering their escape with magical darkness. The closure of that portal sucks in two people from a completely different place, although the darkness makes that unclear at first. The situation does not come to fireballs, however, and the two newcomers introduce themselves as Lydia, a priestess of Kord (god of righteous strength), and Stefan, her partner in crushing temples of evil. They were engaging in their chosen profession when the explosion of the defunct evil altar precipitated them into what Amaryllis believes to be a pocket dimension.

There is no obvious way out, Alyra and Fresa only have the gear that was on their persons, and Amaryllis is still in her nightgown.

As if that weren't bad enough, a dozen and a half stirges stoop from the clouds, piercing everyone with horrible probosces and sucking out their vital juices. The soft-bodied stirges are quickly slain, but not before most of the party is a little shrivelled, and Alyra is badly drained.

While restoration spells are being argued over, a horde of ogre and human zombies emerges from the ruins at one corner of the courtyard, and the ghost of a dwarf from those at the opposite corner. Fresa, discerning that the ghost was a paladin of Moradin (her god, chief god of the dwarves), goes over to parley while Amaryllis roasts the zombies and Alyra and Stefan slice them up.

The ghost reveals that he died on a quest to recover the Sacred Morningstar of Moradin, which is hidden in this pocket dimension (which he has held together through force of will while waiting for someone non-evil to show up and complete the quest). If Our Heroines (and Hero) can retrieve the artifact, he can send them back to their places of origin when he lets the pocket dimension evaporate. Lacking any other means of escape, they agree.

The ghost shows them to his body, and wills his equipment to them, to assist in the completion of the quest. His armor is better-enchanted than any in the party, so Fresa takes in, and his equally-good warhammer is wielded by Alyra. His potions are just enough to restore all the damage done by the stirges, and Fresa takes the wand of Protection from Evil.

After quaffing and explanations (and an embarrassing incident where the ghost's horrible wailing sets Alyra to flight and Stefan has to wrestle her to the ground), the ghosts leads the party down, down, and still farther down, through corridors filled with traps which Alyra and Stefan mostly avoid. A misstep conjures some air mephits, but Stefan and his Whirlwind Attack make short work of them (though Amaryllis's nightgown is ruined and she has to borrow Stefan's cloak), and the room full of undead is equally little trouble.

Finally they reach the doors that the ghost cannot pass, which slam ominously shut behind them. Amaryllis tries to decipher the meaning of the animated carvings on the phosphorescent walls, but the only information she gets before the others drag her away is that the dwarven tomb the Amazons once explored might be related to the problem of the dead god.

Another missed trap summons a band of quasits to bedevil the party, but they aren't much more hindrance than the conjured mephits. The room filled with chains hanging from the ceiling and swaying from no visible cause gives the party pause, but they continue on and are not assaulted until they are well down the chain-hung corridor on the other side of the room. The chain-fetishist devils from the lower planes are the worst problem faced so far, but Amaryllis limits their reach by melting away chains with fireballs, and Alyra with the paladin's warhammer and Stefan with his greatsword blessed by Fresa get one down and hack it to bits while Amaryllis's acid arrow dissolves the other one.

Battered and low on magic, Our Hero(in)es decide to hole up and rest for a while, but after about four hours, the stone surrounding them begins to creak and shiver ominously, and Alyra and Amaryllis both receive dream sendings, apparently from Solara, telling them to get moving.

At the end of the passage is a flight of enchanted steps, leading up to a door. Alyra and Stefan determine that only every other step is worn, so any traps there are bypassed, but the door is trickier. Fresa finally convinces it to open by announcing herself as a priestess of Moradin and brandishing Stefan's blessed greatsword at it, but she is the only one it allows to enter.

As Fresa lifts the Morningstar from its altar, the whole place starts to disintegrate. She leaves an offering of gold, grabs up the book also on the altar, and runs for it.

Outside, crevices have opened up in the ceiling, dropping coins and gems onto the party. Amaryllis conjures up a bag and catches the loot as they run. Fresa does the Blessed Sword Trick again at the doors that slammed shut earlier, and they make it back to the surface before the pocket dimension vanishes. The ghost thanks them and opens portals, which the two groups hurry through, followed by a spill of debris as the ghost goes to his final rest and takes the pocket dimension with him.

Each group arrives moments after they left, with gold spilling around their feet from the vanished portal.

* * *

I thought about The Transmundane all the way home, but I haven't come to any firm conclusions about how to write myself out of the corner I've written myself into.

* * *

Words today: 0. Extra words tomorrow: 600.

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