Session 41: Smoke Filled Skies And Clouded Minds

As the group turned off the road and onto the ramp to the Keep, still discussing what to do with the copper and the dragon egg, Yanliz spotted their stalker step out from the trees.

By the light of the setting sun, they saw in the distance what appeared to be a short, stooped old man standing just outside the treeline with his hands on his hips. He seemed to be staring at them, but was not advancing.

Not perceiving any threat, the group continued up the ramp.

"Speaking of the chapel," Opal mentioned, "tomorrow night I would like to get back to the keep a little earlier for my biweekly nighttime services."

"That's very noble of you, Opal." Vernim replied. "I think we should try to do that."

Prynhawn brought everyone's attention back to their stalker. "Do you think we should do anything about him?"

Vernim thought he was part of a trap, similar to the bandits.

Valeria disagreed, considering how long he had been following them.

"He looks like he's alone to me," Dubricus observed. "He looks like some kind of hermit."

Philip suggested they could hail him.

"Normally I would like that idea," Brother Martin added, "but considering what we're carrying, I don't think we should risk it."

Ultimately, they all agreed to continue on to the Keep, and the conversation returned to what they should do with their treasure.

"You can store the treasure in my apartment," Dubricus offered. "But I can understand why you might not want to."

Philip wanted to ask Jess for advice, but the others considered that too risky.

"This treasure is a symbol of Tymora's fortune," Vernim insisted. "And I think it would be risky to advertise it."

"I'm concerned about us carrying it with us back to the caves," Valeria expressed, "since I would not want it to fall back into the kobold's hands, but I don't know who in the Keep we can trust."

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Why don't we bury it?"

Valeria wondered aloud whether the egg needed to be kept with the copper coins.

"You could leave it with Abercrombie," Brother Martin considered. "If a red dragon hatches, he will surely have it destroyed."

Vernim suggested that the dragon's parents might somehow come after the egg, and they would not want to endanger the Keep by leaving it there. "I wonder if there's a dragon in the cave?"

"You mean further in the cave?" Aseneth asked. "Well, we're going further into the cave tomorrow and we can find out."

"This is what I was thinking," Vernim began to explain, "and I apologize if I sound scatterbrained as if I've had a total change in personality—"

"That happens to me too," Opal revealed.

"Does it really?" Vernim asked.

"It does!" Opal confirmed.

"That's weird, the way it works," Vernim agreed.

"Wait!" Prynhawn halted. "What happens?"

"Sometimes I feel like a brand new person," Opal explained.

"The way I see it," Vernim continued, "I think it's possible that maybe somehow during the night the kobolds stole the egg, and then we just took it from the kobolds, and the dragons didn't figure out that the kobolds took it yet."

"I think it's highly unlikely that the kobolds stole it from a dragon." Valeria objected. "I think kobolds are subservient to dragons."

"I have an idea!" Dubricus declared. "Why don't we kidnap a kobold and interrogate it, and make it tell us about the dragon!"

As they approached the lowering drawbridge, everyone agreed that this seemed like a promising course of action.

Sabine met them in the gatehouse towers. "Where's Cob," she asked. "I mean, it's good to see you all, but where's Cob?"

"Cob didn't come with us." Valeria explained.

"He didn't find you?" Sabine asked to their shaking heads. "He left not too long after you to try and find you."

"Oh no!" Vernim gasped.

"Did you make it to the caves? Were you successful?" Sabine asked, and they nodded their heads. "Well, I'm glad to hear that, but Cob hasn't returned since he left after you this morning. That's too bad. But I guess you all must be tired and want to wash off."

"Do you know who that is?" Valeria asked, pointing to the man standing by the treeline.

"That's the bee-man." Sabine answered. "He comes here periodically to trade honey for supplies. They says he's a mad hermit, but he's harmless."

"I'm going to go look for Cob." Vernim decided. "This is my responsibility and I'm going to go look for Cob."

"I don't think we should split up," Valeria argued, "and I don't think you should risk your life going out now to look for Cob."

"This is my fault." Vernim insisted. "We should have waited, and I didn't wait. I shouldn't have told him to come."

"We should not have waited," Valeria insisted, "and none of this is your fault. He went out on his own. He knew what he was doing. He's a huntsman, and he's been out in the woods before."

"That's definitely true," Sabine agreed, "we don't know where he went. He said he was going to see if he could catch up with you, but he does go out hunting frequently."

"I have an idea," Aseneth said, with a touch of sarcasm, "Why don't we get some sleep and leave early in the morning and see if we can find him in the caves?"

"I think that's a good idea," Valeria stated. "Now if we're all in agreement..."

They entered the courtyard and headed to the chapel, a simple stone shell sixty feet long with a peaked slate roof soaring sixty feet above the ground.

Brother Martin banged the large knockers and had the answering acolyte summon the chaplain, saying "We have a donation to make."

"Come inside," the acolyte invited them, and went off, presumably to fetch the chaplain.

Inside, they saw many rows of pews facing an altar at the far side of the long room. On the southern wall were five large stained glass windows.

"Do you see that sunburst design?" Brother Martin asked, pointing at one of the windows. "This used to be a temple of Lathander. That was a long time ago, before Abercrombie of Helm came here and the temple changed leadership."

"Greetings, Brother Martin!" came a booming voice of an older man, who approached them. "These must be the adventurers I've heard so much about. I hear you are doing the Lord Helm's work. That is good! Evil must be put down! How can I assist you today?"

"We have a donation, Chaplain Abercrombie," Brother Martin explained. "We defeated some bandits on the road and my friends and I have agreed that their spoils should be given to charity in order to benefit the civilization."

"That's very wise, and very generous," Abercrombie responded. He was tall and lean, and despite his apparent advanced years, carried himself quite erect and confidently. "I will see that it goes to good use! You can leave it with me. Are any of you in need of healing?"

"Perhaps we can take a rain check on that?" Brother Martin suggested. "We only have some minor cuts and bruises. We will be better after a night's sleep."

"Thank you for your offer," Philip added.

"No, thank you," Abercrombie returned. "I wish we had more people like you out there. People like you, venturing out into the wild and crushing the evil that attempts to encroach upon our good society, and bringing back your fortunes to help those in greater need. I do hope you will come and attend sermons one of these days. It would be my honor to have you."

They all agreed to return.

"Helm's protection be upon you," Abercrombie pledged.

Back at The One-Eyed Cat, they briefly told Jess of their adventurers, omitting mention of the treasure and the dragon egg.

When Jess left to fetch their food, Valeria shared her suspicion that the bee-man following them after they had been doused in honey seemed like more than a coincidence. She wondered if the kobolds got the honey from the bee-man.

"They probably stole the honey from the bee man!" Dubricus suggested.

"They could have," Valeria acknowledged, "or they could have traded for it. He could have been threatened. We really don't know."

"Do you think we should pay him a visit tomorrow?" Brother Martin asked.

"If he's still here," Valeria replied, "then we might as well."

"Why would we?" Aseneth objected. "They're not going to steal his honey if we kill the rest of the kobolds. And then we have nothing to worry about."

"Well we won't have time tomorrow morning," Valeria surmised, "because we want to leave early. If there's time, then perhaps we can pay him a visit tomorrow night."

"Oh!" Opal signed. "I was hoping you would come listen to my sermon tomorrow night." She eyed Vernim intently.

"Oh, of course, we would love to go to your sermon," Vernim insisted. "I would love to go to your sermon."

Philip agreed for the rest of the party.

After they finished eating, they agreed to meet there at dawn, and they all retired to sleep.

In their room, Vernim waited until the rest of his companions were sound asleep. Once he was sure they were, he grabbed his gear and quietly left the room, where he donned his armor and headed to the main gates.

"Vernim," Sabine asked at the gate, "Where are you going?"

"I'm going out to look for Cob." Vernim explained.

"By yourself?" Sabine warned. "That sounds pretty dangerous."

"I feel responsible for the fact that he's not with us," Vernim explained, "because I told him to meet us and we didn't wait for him."

"Are you sure this is something you want to do?" Sabine inquired.

"What am I going to do," Vernim suggested, "let him die out there?"

"Well I'm certainly not going after him," Sabine explained. "He's a grown man. I don't mean to tell you your business, but like I said, it seems very dangerous."

"I won't go far," Vernim promised. "If I spot any trouble, I'll come right back."

Sabine ordered the gate opened, and wished Vernim luck.

Vernim ventured down the ramp.

After half an hour he could see the woods up ahead in the moon light.

Suddenly he heard growling in the distance to the south.

Vernim quickly turned around and headed back to the Keep where Sabine was glad to see him return safely.

Vernim took off his armor outside his room, and entered quietly.

Prynhawn rose and approached him. "Vernim, where have you been?" the paladin asked quietly.

"I was just downstairs," Vernim answered. "I couldn't sleep."

"You took your armor with you?" Prynhawn challenged.

"Yeah, I did," Vernim insisted.

"Is everything okay?" Prynhawn asked.

"Can we talk about it tomorrow?" Vernim asked.

"Sure," Prynhawn replied, and returned to his bed.

Prynhawn didn't sleep much at all afterwards.

Meanwhile, Vernim's dreams were plagued with visions of growling fangs that sounded like the ones he heard on the road. He woke with a fright, finding himself soaked with sweat. Looking around, he could see it was dawn. He woke Valeria, and they woke the rest of the group.

Valeria had a hard time waking Prynhawn, but when she did, the half-orc immediately asked, "Is Vernim here?" He then turned to Lawrence, "Do you still have the dragon egg?"

Lawrence confirmed that he did.

Downstairs Aseneth, Dubricus, Opal, and Brother Martin all joined them.

"Vernim," Prynhawn started, "do you want to talk about last night?"

"Can we talk about it on the road?" Vernim replied, and they departed.

After saying their farewells, they made their way east again, towards the caves.

"Well?" Prynhawn interrogated Vernim.

"I don't know," the priest replied. "I was just worried about Cob. Worried if he was alright."

"So you took your armor out?" Prynhawn pressed.

"Yeah, I did," Vernim explained. "I thought about doing something, but I did not."

"Well," Prynhawn responded, "I hope that if you were going to do anything, you would not do it alone."

They made their way to the caves without incident, keeping an eye on the woods the entire time.

In the valley, they looked around for any sign of Cob, and quickly entered the narrow cave mouth of the kobold's lair.

Helping each other, they made it passed the pit. Opal almost fell, but Vernim caught her, and she was grateful.

In the western corridor they found the room blocked by thick webs, as expected. With Valeria's approval, Lawrence lobbed a sloppy fire bolt into the room.

The flames barely made it into the room, but as soon as one touched a web it quickly ignited and the room was immediately engulfed in flame. Thick black smoke engulfed them, billowing down the passage, further into the cave and out the entrance.

Valeria, Lawrence, and Opal held their breath while everyone else coughed uncontrollably and fled for the exit. Valeria hung back, trying to ensure everyone made it out safely.

While fleeing, Philip, Prynhawn, and Aseneth fell into the pit.

Valeria dropped to the floor, out of the smoke, and saw that while Philip and Prynhawn had risen, Aseneth was out cold.

Vernim lowered himself down into the pit, and cast cure wounds on Aseneth, restoring her to her senses.

Valeria crossed to the exit-side of the pit and helped Vernim get Aseneth out of the pit, followed by Vernim.

Prynhawn struggled with Philip's girth, but with Lawrence's help managed to get Philip and himself out of the pit.

Outside the cave they could see the thick black smoke billowing out of the cave mouth and into the sky.

Worried about drawing attention, they considered trying to somehow disperse the smoke somehow.

"You want to find Cob, right?" Dubricus asked. "Why don't we hide in the woods and see if the smoke draws his attention.

They retreated to the woods and watched, waiting for anyone to come out into the valley.

Philip commented that he had never seen so much thick black smoke before.

After the smoke cleared, Valeria said she didn't want to re-enter the kobold lair because it may still draw unwanted attention and some smoke might still be in the deeper parts of the cave.

Aseneth suggested they explore another cave as soon as possible.

Valeria wanted to explore the rest of the goblin lair.

Aseneth preferred a different cave, but did not object. Everyone else was indifferent.

They entered the familiar cave and turned west and then south.

The corridor turned east and ended after twenty feet. At the end they saw a closed coffin.

"I will open the coffin if you wish, Lady Valeria," Prynhawn indicated.

Valeria asked for help searching for traps, especially a portcullis trap in the ceiling. But the help was unnecessary as she quickly spotted what she was looking for.

Aseneth also offered to open the coffin, suggesting that they could possibly disarm the trap.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Why don't we use pitons to spike the portcullis?"

They agreed this was a good idea, but decided to leave the coffin for another time.

They made their way to where they encountered the large group of goblins previously.

The portcullis to the chamber was down, barring their way to the goblins, at least ten of which grabbed their spears and held them threateningly at the party.

Vernim heard them speaking to each other in Goblin. They were warning each other of the 'bandits' return and wondering what they should do, and suggesting they alert the king.

"We just came by to check on you," Vernim said in goblin.

"Leave us alone," they cried. "Get out of our cave, you bandits!"

"We're not the bandits," Vernim insisted.

The goblins yelled back at them: "We have nothing for you." "Our scouts never returned." "You killed them!" "Get out of our home!"

"We don't want anything from you," Vernim tried to assure them. "We're friends with the king."

"You're not friends with the king," the goblins cried. "You're not our friend. We're going to get the king and you'll be sorry. He's going to kill you."

Valeria wanted to attack them through the portcullis, but while Lawrence suggested he charm the king, he did not think they should attack the goblins after they did not attack first and only told them to leave.

"Philip, Yanliz," Brother Martin asked, "what do you two think? You've both been pretty quiet."

"I don't really know," Philip replied. "I don't see how we can attack them through the portcullis."

"You say the word," Yanliz replied grimly, "and I'll shoot goblins."

While they were debating, the goblins spread out and King Harkul appeared, approaching from the unseen area of the chamber. "What are you doing here?" the king growled, "didn't I tell you to get out of here?"

Then Lawrence's charm person spell took effect.

"My friends," the king growled, "what can we help you with?"

"We went to the cave like you asked," Vernim told the king, "but it was full of kobolds. It must have been the wrong cave."

"Oh," the king replied, "so why didn't you go to the other cave?"

"That's what we're going to do now," Vernim told the king.

"Well, good luck to you," the king bade them. "Do you want any spears?"

They declined the offer.

"Hopefully you can find our scouts," the king said. Then, pointing at Lawrence, he added, "Any friend of his is a friend of ours."

"Don't worry about them," Harkul said, "they'll fall in line."

"What are you doing?" Valeria asked Vernim. "We're not trying to make peace with these goblins."

"Why not?" Lawrence asked.

"Because they're evil goblins..." Valeria explained.

"Who are they hurting?" Lawrence asked. "They're not hurting anyone."

"Well they've attacked some 'bandits,'" Valeria continued, "and they attacked us when we were trapped."

"Who are good bandits?" Lawrence challenged.

"We don't even know if they were actually bandits," Valeria argued. "They could just be adventurers. They call us bandits."

"And who are good goblins?" Aseneth added. "We could just ask Harkul to raise the portcullis. And then Vernim could use his burning hands."

"Wouldn't they kill us," Dubricus asked, "if they had the chance?"

"Well," Lawrence objected, "they don't have the chance. I think that's the point."

"What happens when they do?" Valeria challenged.

"Could you raise the portcullis?" Vernim asked Harkul.

"You want us to raise the portcullis?" Harkul asked. "Raise the portcullis!" the king demanded.

Many of the goblins gasped at the command, but the portcullis began to rise as many goblins retreated further into the chamber.

"Perhaps you should be careful, my king," Vernim heard one of the king's bodyguards warn, "they could be dangerous."

"Never mind, you!" Harkul ordered. "These are my friends. Especially this one, with the red scales."

"We would never do anything to harm Harkul," Vernim promised. "We would never do anything to harm any of you, especially Harkul, whom we respect greatly."

"Are we going to attack them now?" Aseneth asked.

The group entered what was a thirty-foot by forty-foot chamber, and evidently the home to this tribe of gray-skinned humanoids. It was a cluttered mess with heaps of bedding, tables, stools, and benches scattered all around. A natural recess in the southern wall served as a crude fireplace. Nearby they saw the mechanism to control the portcullis. They could see two other exits. At least a dozen females had been working on various domestic tasks—pulling what looked like grass seeds from a pile of cut stalks, grinding the coarse grains on a stone slab with a smooth stone, cooking up some kind of gruel or porridge from the resulting seed-meal, cracking nuts, peeling roots, and the like. Three more had been tending to the ten or so children in the chamber, who ranged from babes in arms to youngsters half an adult’s height. The last two had been working with a hand loom, weaving a rough cloth out of some sort of strands—fur? hair? plant fiber? The women seemed to range in age from wrinkled toothless ancients to young adults—the equivalent of human teenagers. At least three were obviously pregnant. They all chattered incessantly.

"Now that we know how to control the portcullis," Dubricus asked, "can we kill them all?"

"I think so." Valeria agreed.

"Even the babies?" Brother Martin asked.

"Look at them," Lawrence suggested. "Don't they look similar to our own society? What's the difference?"

"They're just going to grow up to be human killing goblins." Aseneth noted.

"And we're just goblin killing humans," Lawrence indicated.

"Are we better than them?" Vernim challenged. "How do we know? We do things for the good of our society. They do things for the good of their society."

"Is there another cave we could go to?" Philip suggested?

"I'm fine going to another cave," Aseneth offered, "if this is going to be a thing."

"I think this is a stupid argument," Valeria stated, "and I think if we can't get passed this, than this is going to happen in other caves as well. What's going to be the difference?"

"It does somehow feel wrong," Brother Martin considered, "to have charmed the king to open his gates and then slaughter their family."

"I agree with Brother Martin here," Vernim declared, "because let's think of it this way, when fighting against the kobolds we did it in a fair fight. We both knew what our objective was. One group was going to come out as the victor. Here, this is unfair. We have taken advantage of them and it wouldn't be able to say we won fairly."

"If we leave," Aseneth asked, "can you ask Harkul what's in the coffin?"

"Sure." Vernim replied, and to Harkul in Goblin, "Harkul, we're off. It was great to see you again. But I have one question, if I may."

"Of course," Harkul growled. "Anything for my red-scaled friend."

"What is in the coffin?" Vernim asked.

"Oh, the coffin out there?" Harkul confirmed. "That's one of our traps. Don't go in there."

"Okay," Vernim acknowledged. "Got it! That makes plenty of sense. You're so smart."

Harkul offered them some food, pointing at the gruel, but Vernim politely declined.

"Valeria, I understand you are annoyed," Vernim offered, "when we were first fighting them, it was a fair fight. But when we charmed them, we have beaten them in a different way, weakening them so that they can't discern between right and wrong."

"I don't see the difference between charming them and using a fireball." Dubricus argued. "We're just using our magic to our advantage. The only difference is that if we cast a fireball, we wouldn't be having this debate. This seems like a major impediment to an adventuring career."

"Is that your only goal in life?" Lawrence asked. "An adventuring career?"

"Yes, this is my goal," Dubricus replied. "I'm a wizard seeking to expand my powers. Why are you adventuring?"

"I don't know?" Lawrence replied. "I'm trying to do my best to help other people, and to prevent other people from dying, due to personal experiences I've had."

"I agree," Vernim added. "Yes sir. Yes sir. Amen. Amen."

"I'm an adventurer," Dubricus declared, "and these are 'The Caves of Chaos.' I thought I was joining an adventuring party to destroy the inhabitants of 'The Caves of Chaos.' Destroy the evil and take their treasure."

"But are they all evil?" Lawrence challenged. "What is evil."

"Can we put aside these philosophical debates?" Valeria questioned. "I get it that we're going to argue about whether or not to kill these goblins. But while we're in the caves, we shouldn't be arguing about what evil is."

"Yeah," Vernim agreed, "Opal has to get back to the Keep soon."

"Thank you, Vernim," Opal welcomed.

"I have no issues killing goblins," Aseneth stated, "but I don't mind going to another cave and killing whatever's there."

"They attacked us when we were trapped," Yanliz reminded, "and they would have killed us all if they could, even though we were trapped."

"That's true," Valeria agreed.

"As long as we all remember that we're on the same side," Philip pleaded.

"So we should just be like them?" Lawrence challenged. "Perpetuate the violence? Keep it going? Is that the solution? Do you really think killing some band of goblins is going to end all the violence in the world?"

"I'm not trying to end all the violence in the world," Yanliz replied, "but I don't have any problems with killing goblins."

They had finally left the goblin cave, when Philip said, "If we can't solve this problem, then maybe we should sleep on it, and then we can come back and go to another cave..."

"Sleep on it?" Aseneth sneered, "why don't we just go to that cave right there?"

"That sounds like a great idea." Philip agreed.

"If we're going to have this problem," Valeria suggested, "where charming our enemies prevents us from killing them, then I'm morally opposed to us casting charm person, unless it's a matter of life or death."

"I realize you're a Dawngreeter, but I hope you don't think we should knock on our enemies' doors and ask them surrender," Dubricus derided, "because that would be really stupid and get us all killed."

Everyone agreed and they approached a nearby cave that was hidden from the center of the valley by a large tree. A strong, sour odor can be smelled as they approached. The entrance to this cave was noticeably larger than those they had already entered. Bones lay carelessly scattered on the ground around the cave-mouth.

They entered a room that was littered with bones of all kinds-human, humanoid, and animal—as well as bits and pieces of fur, discarded claws, antlers, and the like. The center had been scooped out to form an enormous muddy puddle, about fifteen-feet wide. It looked possible to walk around the edges by keeping near the walls, but the clay floor looked wet and slippery. Bizarre ornamentation had been stuck all around the walls, ten-feet up: a halberd, a crumpled and scorched suit of armor, a withered head with an open-mouthed, astonished expression that looked large enough to have belonged to a giant, a set of antlers, and a bear's paw. An opening to the left lead off into darkness.

"I don't think we should go in there," Valeria warned, referring to the adjacent chamber. "At least not today."

"What's wrong with this cave?" Aseneth scoffed. "It isn't perfect?"

"Look around," Valeria indicated. "This looks like it could be too dangerous considering we don't have that much time before we have to return."

"I thought you said you wanted to stick to the caves on the lower level," Aseneth argued. "This cave's on the lower level."

"But this cave feels different than the others," Valeria maintained.

"It does look a little scary to me," Philip agreed.

"How about we throw something into the mud?" Valeria suggested.

"That sounds like a good idea!" Dubricus praised. "How about we throw that giant head?"

Valeria thought that would be too risky, and suggested they throw rocks instead.

Valeria and Philip got some rocks from outside the cave and tossed them into the muddy pool. The plopped into the surface and disappeared. They waited and nothing else seemed to happen.

Prynhawn tried to determine how deep the pool was with his spear. He plunged it in and instead of hitting the bottom, he slipped forward and tipped head first into the muddy pool.

Philip tried to hold him, but could not. Prynhawn was gone! The ripples of mud quickly settled over where he fell.

Then, his spear broke through the surface of the pool.

Philip grabbed the spear and pulled. His feet slipped on the muddy surface and he fell, landing on his but on the edge of the pool. The halfling was sliding in when Lawrence grabbed him under the arms.

Together they managed to pull Prynhawn up.

From the darkness in the chamber beyond, they all heard a whiny growl that Prynhawn recognized as Giant. "Hmmm. I have guests, no? You come to steal from Tazara, no?"

"It's speaking in the Giant tongue," Prynhawn explained, translating what he heard.

"I think we should go," Valeria advised.

"This cave cannot be that big," Aseneth argued. "And it's not tall enough to hold a giant."

"Are you going to come in?" the voice asked. "We likes to eat, no?"

"We should definitely not go in." Valeria stated.

"Aren't we here to kill monsters?" Aseneth argued.

"Yes," Valeria agreed, "but that's the monsters we can kill. Some monsters might just kill us."

"Perhaps we can tell it to come out here," Lawrence proposed.

Valeria agreed.

"Yes, we like to eat," Prynhawn agreed. "Come on out and we'll meet you out here where we all have room."

"Tazara no walk good, see?" the voice pleaded. "Come in! Come into Tazara's hut."

Valeria had Lawrence cast light on a stone and toss it into the dark chamber revealing more of the cave, but they could not see any creature.

"Where are you?" Prynhawn asked it.

"I'm waiting," the voice replied. "You want to eat, no? Come in!"

"You come over to us," Prynhawn urged.

"I no walk good," it repeated.

"We're stuck in the mud," Prynhawn lied awkwardly, "and we can't get out."

"Don't play games," it replied, "come in! Come and there will be good food to eat. You like to eat, no?"

"Can you show yourself?" Prynhawn asked, "so we can see you."

"I no walk good," it replied. "You come in here! We're hungry, no?"

Valeria led them out of the cave.

"We're leaving now," Prynhawn called out to it.

Valeria led them to the next cave, about one hundred feet west. Unlike any others they had seen, this cave entrance had an actual door blocking the passage. The door was set a few feet within the cave mouth, and the walls leading to it were lined with skulls—mostly human, but also humanoid. Several were nailed to the door itself, and as they approached, the skulls began to chatter. A dry, hollow voice intoned “Come in—so glad you've decided to join us." The skulls seemed to laugh, then relapsed in motionless silence.

"Well this is obviously too scary," Aseneth taunted. "Are we going in?"

Prynhawn approached the door and examined the skulls. The paladin had a strong feeling that the skulls must be part of some trap.

Prynhawn picked up a skull on the floor and kicked it to the other side of the cave mouth.

When nothing happened he tried to knock one of the skulls off the door. The skull exploded and flames shot out from where it was on the door.

Philip, Yanliz, Vernim, Lawrence, and Brother Martin dove aside, avoiding the worst of the flame.

Prynhawn, Valeria, Opal, Aseneth, and Dubricus absorbed the full brunt of the blast. Opal, Aseneth, and Dubricus fell to the ground, singed and smoking.

Valeria, Vernim, and Brother Martin each cast cure wounds on Aseneth, Opal, and Dubricus, respectively, reviving all three of them.

"Are you okay?" Vernim asked Opal.

"I'm still hurt," Opal replied, "but you saved me!"

"Sorry," Prynhawn apologized to everyone.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Perhaps the next time we try something like that, the rest of us should hang back."

"Maybe we can all stand back," Prynhawn suggested, "and—"

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Maybe we can all stand back, and we can shoot them with fire bolts."

"Or arrows," Prynhawn suggested.

"Won't fire bolts be more effective?" Valeria hinted.

"I don't think so," stated Yanliz firmly, "but I'm indifferent."

Everyone stood back while Yanliz shot at a skull from twenty-five feet away.

The arrow pierced the skull in the center of the head, and Yanliz saw the eye sockets flash and then everything went dark.

"I can't see," Yanliz stated calmly.

Valeria cast lesser restoration on Yanliz and his sight was immediately restored.

They all agreed to head back to the Keep, and they walked briskly, trying to make it back in time for Opal to give her sermon.

They arrived at the Keep without incident.

They used the rest of their healing to fully restore everyone.

At the chapel, Opal gave her sermon, in which she told the story of the Dawn Cataclysm: "During the divine conflict known as the Dawn Cataclysm, the god Lathander attempted to reshape the pantheon of deities more in his own image. Tyche, the goddess of luck, was covertly corrupted by Moander, the god of decay, whilst on her travels. She returned to her realm and found Selûne, a dear friend, had come to speak with her, as well as the god of the dawn Lathander, Tyche's ex-lover and instigator of the Dawn Cataclysm, and the god of mages, Azuth, who'd come to mediate. However, seeing the rot within Tyche, Selûne began to weep great tears and swiftly struck her with a bolt of light intended to purify her. However, Tyche instead split down the middle, producing first Tymora, the goddess of good luck, and then Beshaba, goddess of bad luck. The twins immediately fell to fighting and were separated only by Selûne, Lathander, and Azuth. In Tymora, Selûne had saved all that was good and pure in Tyche. And thus was Selûne the birth of Tymora, and their affection lasted for eternity."

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