Session 75: All A Buzz

The giant elk
While Yanliz and Jess engaged the archer on the upper rim of the valley, the rest of the group stood by the cave entrance.

"Philip won!" Valeria called to her companions in the cave. "The Black Knight is down! Come on!" She ran out of the cave, looking around for any signs of archers.

"That's great! I told you he could do it!", Vernim proclaimed, flipping a coin. "But you all should go ahead. I'm going to still watch our flank just in case. I don't trust that the Black Knight doesn't have a final trick up his sleeve. I'll let you know if I hear or see anything."

Meanwhile, Yanliz looked toward where the arrow came from, farther in the woods. Noting that Jess was busy examining the still archer's body, he grabbed the arrow, noting the words on the black ribbon: 'Wouldn't want you running off with some other archer.' As he dropped the arrow into his quiver, he noticed the ribbon had a small stain of blood on it. As he then ran to meet Jess, he looked around for any more archers but spotted none.

Jess noticed that the petrified archer wore a very nice suit of studded leather armor, a platinum neck-chain with a star ruby, and an armband of wrought gold incised with frolicking dryads, pans, sylphs, and nymphs. She carried a nice longbow, a longsword, a handaxe, a quiver of arrows, and a pouch. Noting that Yanliz was approaching, but still surprisingly far behind, Jess slipped the neck-chain and armband into her pouch.

"Yanliz," Jess called back, "help me take this body down to the valley."

Reaching Jess, Yanliz realized that the archer not only appeared dead, but petrified. "Should we search her?" he asked.

"I already searched her," Jess explained. "I suggest we take the body to where everyone is so that they can investigate further."

Checking out the archer's studded leather armor and bow, Yanliz grabbed the archer's quiver and bow and helped Jess drag the archer down to the valley.

Once they reached the lower ridge, passing the mouth of the highest cave, an overpoweringly foul odor assaulted them. They recognized the unmistakable smell of some great predatory unwashed beast—fur, offal, and rotting meat from discarded meals. A low, deep growl resonated in their bones indicating that the creature, whatever it was, had noticed their approach. They heard the slight clanking of a chain.

“Let’s drag the body to the entrance of the Nergal cave so we aren’t out in the open in the center of the valley,” Yanliz suggested.

As Valeria exited the cave, she spotted Jess and Yanliz dragging a strangely contorted body down to the valley from the upper ridge.

“Did you kill him?” Lawrence asked, as he reached the valley with Valeria and Brother Martin.

“Yeah,” Philip replied, kicking the solid black helmet. “I can’t believe it! We beat them!”

The Bee Man
As Philip reached up on his tip-toes, trying to pet the giant elk, it seemed as if his arm extended farther than it should. Then, he realized that the elk was getting lower…and then began to transform until it took the shape of a small man. The small man suddenly before them was shorter than a dwarf and taller than a gnome, with big ears, a bulbous nose, and leathery skin that looked like it could have been carved from wood.

From the cave, Valeria recognized him as the man who stalked them to the treeline by the Keep the day they returned from the kobold cave. Sabine had referred to him as the Bee Man.

Philip noticed some bees buzzing around the man’s legs.

“I think they were bad news,” the man said, looking down at The Black Knight and scratching his head. “What do you think?”

“Thank you so much for your help,” Philip replied, “and for saving us.” The halfling realized his arm was outstretched and extended his hand toward the man, who gladly shook it.

“My friends told me you were in need,” the man replied.

“Your friends?” Brother Martin asked.

The man gestured toward the ever increasing number of bees buzzing around him.

“Oh!” Brother Martin paused. “Cool friends.”

“Is there anything we could do for you in return?” Philip asked. “We’re really in your debt.”

“I think we’re even,” the man replied, gesturing toward the kobold cave. “You chased the honey thieves away.”

“Were you the same elk who fought the zombies that night?” Lawrence asked.

“Yes, that was me,” the man replied. “Those zombies were bad for the land.”

Philip invited the man to join them for as long as he wanted.

“I don’t know,” the man replied, looking up at the sky. “It looks like it’s going to rain. What do you think?”

“I’m not sure,” Philip replied, noting that there were a few clouds in the sky. “But I’ll take your word for it and keep that in mind.”

“I hope this valley doesn’t flood,” the man added. “I hope it doesn’t rain too hard.”

“How far away is your home?” Brother Martin asked. “Are you going to be alright making it there?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” the man replied. “I don’t mind walking. I rather enjoy it.”

“Me too,” Philip agreed. “It’s a great part of the experience.”

“Yeah, because when you’re walking, eventually you make it to your destination,” the man added. “And even if it starts to rain, the sun always comes out again.”

“Well, speaking of walking,” Brother Martin injected, gesturing for Lawrence to help him with The Black Knight, “I think I’m going to start walking this body back toward the cave.”

“I didn’t get your name,” Philip hinted.

“Everyone calls me the Bee Man,” the man replied. “You can call me the Bee Man also.”

Philip excused himself and ran to Valeria, who had helped Jess and Yanliz bring the petrified body into the cave.

“You’ve got scales,” the Bee Man observed, noticing Lawrence.

“You’ve got bees,” Lawrence replied.

“But they’re not growing on me,” the Bee Man pointed out. “Are you related to those...honey thieves?”

“Not exactly,” Lawrence assured him, grabbing The Black Knight’s legs.

“Philip, I told you,” Vernim exclaimed as the halfling entered the cave, “Tymora shines upon you. You did it!”

“Thank you,” Philip replied. “It was all of us together, really. We really saw today how through our friendship and teamwork that got us here, we are even more powerful than The Black Knight.”

Philp asked Valeria if they should tell the Bee Man about the dragon and she agreed.

As Brother Martin and Lawrence dragged The Black Knight into the cave, Philip returned to the valley with Valeria and Vernim.

They found the Bee Man had wandered off toward the stream, and was staring at it intently. He knelt down and dipped his hand into the stream and studied the water on his fingers. “Do you think it’s going to rain?” he asked as Philip approached with Valeria and Vernim.

“It might,” Valeria stated.

“Yeah, I think there’s a good chance that it might rain,” Vernim concurred after flipping a coin. “I think you’re right. It does look quite cloudy.”

“It never rains forever,” the Bee Man explained.

“That’s a good point,” Philip acknowledged. “I never… I never thought to put it in those words, and that’s a real...that’s just how it is.”

“And sometimes it just drizzles,” the Bee Man continued, “and sometimes it rains really hard. Sometimes after it rains, you can see a rainbow.”

“That’s really good,” Philip smiled. “It’s just you and the sky and your friends. And it doesn’t matter how hard it rains.”

“Not unless you’re in the valley when it floods,” the Bee Man corrected.

“Do you think the valley is going to flood?” Philip asked. “That would be concerning.”

“I don’t think it’s going to flood,” the Bee Man clarified. “I’ve never seen it flood before. But it could happen. If it rains hard enough, it could flood. You know that’s how the grass and the trees eat. They need the rain to live.”

“Interesting,” Philip pondered. “Yeah, my dad was a farmer. It’s nature.”

“You know everything around is nature,” the Bee Man explained. After a pause, he continued, “I think I’m going to go, before it starts raining.”

“Before you go,” Valeria interjected, “There’s something I want to tell, since Philip mentioned the kobolds.”

“Ah, the honey thieves,” the Bee Man realized.

“I just want you to know that the kobolds have a dragon egg,” Valeria warned.

“Oh, really?” the Bee Man asked. “Where are they now?”

“We don’t know,” Valeria admitted. “They left.”

“Do you know what they’re going to do with it?” the Bee Man asked.

“Hatch it, I assume,” Valeria replied.

“I’ve never seen a dragon egg before,” the Bee Man confided. “Have you?”

Valeria nodded.

“How big was it?” the Bee Man asked.

Valeria extended her hands to display its size.

“What color is it?” the man asked.

“We couldn’t tell if it was red or bronze,” Valeria replied.

The Bee Man repeated his desire to get him before it rains, and they said goodbye. The Bee Man briefly stuck his hand in his pocket and began sucking in his fingers as he walked off.

Inside the cave, Yanliz was listening at the doors by where the acolyte had called out to Mendel, but he did not hear anything and returned.

Lawrence removed The Black Knight’s helmet, revealing an older man with streaks of grey throughout his otherwise salt and pepper hair and beard.

When Valeria, Philip, and Vernim returned, they all examined The Black Knight. Not recognizing him, they searched through his belongings, as well as the petrified archer’s.

The Black Knight’s black armor was surprisingly intact, as was his shield.

Vernim noted that he wore an emblem of Talos, the god of destruction.

Jess noted that he wore two rings, which she added to his platinum and gem filled pouch.

Brother Martin took some time to cast detect magic, and noted that both rings, the armor, shield, and sword all radiated magic, as did the archer’s armor, sword, handaxe, cloak, ring, and some arrows.

The archer also carried a pouch, which was filled with even more coins, but of a greater variety. She also wore a barrette of silver set with lapis lazuli, and carried on her a huge lump of uncut lapis lazuli, a large piece of polished petrified wood, a hunting trap, and more mundane supplies.

Jess placed the valuables in her pack.

Yanliz exchanged longbows, deciding that the archer’s longbow was considerably better than his own. He also took the archer’s arrows, many of which were exceptionally made, and her finely balanced handaxe.

Yanliz was intent to continue searching the cave for Mendel, and Valeria agreed. They decided to take a short rest first. They returned to Sapphira's cave where Dervek was still waiting and rested there.

When they finished their rest, they returned to the priest’s cave and decided to explore the doors leading to the temple.

Yanliz opened the southern door first, and found the twenty-foot by forty-foot room uninhabited. Just inside the door was a short hallway with a skull on a throne carved into the nearby wall. The room appeared to be living quarters for two people, with two medium-sized beds, two chests, and two chairs drawn up to the table in the room's center. On the table were three clay tablets inscribed with some strange form of writing that looked like chicken scratchings. A small red-leather book, an inkwell, quill, and several pieces of scrap paper were neatly stacked. On the north side of the room was a short hallway leading back to the main corridor. A sevenfold gate that looked like the familiar linteled opening to a barrow or tomb was carved into the wall just inside that door.

Brother Martin examined the three clay tablets, which were each two feet long and a foot wide, and had the familiar pictorial writing that they could not understand.

Lawrence examined the small red book, which had a small bookmark and appeared to be a glossary or dictionary of the ancient language and script in which the tablets were written. Vernim was confident that he could use this book to learn the language used by the priests.

Valeria and Vernim searched the walls for secret doors, but found none.

Jess tried to open the chests, but even with Brother Martin casting guidance, was unable to pick the locks, so they agreed to come back for them.

Returning to the corridor, they went south to what appeared to be a shrine. The red stone walls of the place had been left dull and unpolished, but four great black pillars that rose twenty five feet to hold up the roof gleamed in the reflected light of the two braziers that flanked the altar. The floor was a checkerboard of black and red squares, the altar a rough block of black rock with red veins—the exact opposite of the walls. The altar was heavily stained with the dull brown of old dried blood. Atop the altar rested four bronze vessels that look very old: a shallow bowl, a pair of goblets, and an ewer—all bloodstained. The walls were carved with images that seemed to tell the story of a man, a warrior in red robes, who fought his way past monsters guarding seven gates, each shaped like the lintel-door to a tomb, to win the hand of a beautiful woman in black sitting on a stone throne. The final scene displayed the two sitting side-by-side on a double throne built of skulls.

Valeria and Brother Martin recognized the story of Erishkigal’s courtship by Nergal.

Brother Martin examined the vessels on the altar, which appeared old and fragile, though clearly valuable.

Before they left, Lawrence put one of the goblets in his pack.

They returned to the corridor and headed south, beyond the entrance. After curving right, the corridor split to the south and west, larger rooms appearing at the end of each. As Vernim searched his pocket for his holy coin, Valeria directed Yanliz to head west.

After thirty feet, the silence of the grave filled a twenty feet wide and sixty feet long mausoleum. The walls were lined with dark niches cut into the stone. Many of the niches were occupied, each by a single body wearing either a red or a black robe. It was hard to tell from the decay but the bodies in black seemed to all be those of women and those in red of men. The bodies began to stir as they entered, tossing restlessly as if these dead no longer slept in peace.

As Philip rolled into the room, hitting the nearest zombie with spinning kicks following his spinning staff, Vernim held his emblem aloft, declaring, “In the name of the holy Tymora whose luck guides us all, begone and never return, foul beasts of Erishkigal and Nergal!” Radiance of the dawn washed over the zombies, dropping six of them. Valeria dropped another with an eldritch blast. Jess hit one with an arrow. Maneuvering into a better position, Lawrence burned six of them with burning hands, dropping one of them. Brother Martin smashed one to the ground with his mace. Yanliz stepped back and dropped two with an arrow each.

Four zombies swarmed Vernim, battering him despite his warding flare. Lawrence evaded two that rushed him, and Brother Martin blocked three of them with his shield.

Rolling back into the room, Philip dropped one with his staff that was advancing on Lawrence, and kicked two that were attacking Vernim, dropping the first, in another flurry of blows. Heaving his warhammer, Vernim smashed a zombie attacker’s skull. Valeria dropped Vernim’s last assailant with an eldritch blast. Jess dropped one of Brother Martin’s attackers with an arrow. Lawrence cast green flame blade, but missed the zombie with his dagger. Brother Martin swung wide with his mace. Yanliz hit the wall with an arrow.

Vernim used his warding flare to avoid a new zombie assailant. Lawrence dodged another. A third zombie lunged at Brother Martin and stumbled. Brother Martin reached to catch it off balance, but missed and was slammed in turn by another.

Swirling around with his staff and kicks, Philip put down the two on Brother Martin and the one on Lawrence. The last was attacking Vernim, shambling around his warhammer and Valeria’s sword, when Jess dropped it with an arrow.

Many of the zombies began to stir, but the group pulverized them before any could rise again.

Besides for the robed corpses, the room was bare, and the robes were otherwise empty. Finding no secret doors, they explored the corridor to the south.

The forty feet wide and sixty feet long chamber seemed to be some kind of audience hall. A number of skeletons in robes—some black, some red—knelt in prayer, facing a stone throne on a raised dais.

Skeletons lunged at Yanliz as he stared at the throne, two stabbing him. In a spinning flurry, Philip dropped three skeletons, sending bones splattering around the chamber, but was stabbed hard by a fourth skeleton. Lawrence caught one with a firebolt. As Yanliz withdrew he was stabbed by a skeleton’s rusty sword. He pelted it with an arrow, and with a second, took its skull off its body. Surrounded, Philip was stabbed again. Jess dropped one of Philip’s attackers with an arrow. Vernim blocked a sword with his shield as he heaved his warhammer wide, and was stabbed in return. Brother Martin tried to catch it with his mace, but missed, as he blocked another with his shield. Philip evaded two others, but was stabbed by a third. Valeria circled a skeleton with her sword, neither of them landing.

Cut in many places, Philip dropped one with his staff and another with a kick. Lawrence scorched two with burning hands. Yanliz dropped one with an arrow. Vernim blinded a skeleton with his warding flare, and smashed it down with his warhammer and another with a backswing. Jess caught one with an arrow. Blocking a skeleton’s sword with his shield, Brother Martin channeled his divinity to preserve life, healing Philip, Yanliz, and Vernim. With her offhand, Valeria hit her attacker with an eldritch blast, evading its counter.

Feeling slightly better, Philip dropped one with his staff and another with a kick. Lawrence missed the last skeleton with a firebolt. Yanliz missed it with an arrow. Jess caught it, but it continued its attack, scrambling past Vernim, Valeria, and Brother Martin, until it fell to Philip’s staff.

Searching the room and the throne, they found nothing of interest.

They returned to Sapphira's cave and took another rest with Dervek.

While they rested, they tried to attune to some of the magic items they had found. Yanliz put on the cloak of protection. Lawrence wore a ring of spell turning. Brother Martin wore a ring of warmth. Jess wore a ring of protection. Valeria donned the huntress’s enchanted studded leather armor and enchanted sword, stowing The Black Knight’s sword.

With guidance from Brother Martin, Philip whipped up a scrumptious bready stew with raisins.

“Are you sure this doesn’t have honey in it?” Vernim asked. “It tastes so sweet, it must have honey in it.”

“It will be delicious if it rains,” Philip replied, shaking his head.

“Well I’m sure Tymora will shine down on you and it will rain,” Vernim assured him.

Brother Martin cast prayer of healing on Philip, Lawrence, Yanliz, Vernim, Valeria, and himself.

Noting it was already midafternoon, they gathered their things and prepared to return to the keep, along with Dervek. They took The Black Knight’s armor and shield.

They stepped out of the cave into the bright and sunny sky.

“What a beautiful day!” Vernim noted. “Tymora shines on us.”

“Lathander shines on us,” Brother Martin countered as he helped Jess remove the barding from what was left of The Black Knight’s horse, which they also took with them.

As they walked, Yanliz reminded the group of the stone kobold statue they had found in Sapphira’s cave. “I’m almost certain Sapphira did that, because it looked petrified like the archer.”

“And Sapphira wouldn’t let us see her face…” Valeria added.

“Yeah,” Yanliz continued, “and she shot two arrows right by my face. It was really close, but didn’t hit me. Anyway, she added a note to the arrows.” Pulling out two black ribbons, he continued, “The first said, ‘If ever you’re in debt, return to where we met.’ And she shot another arrow, just before we got the archer, that said...” He stuffed the ribbons back into his pocket. “Anyway, she killed that archer by petrifying her. She’s scary, but I think she’s on our side.

“What did the second note say?” Vernim pressed.

Yanliz’s eyes scanned the black ribbon again, “It says, ‘You’re welcome.’”

The long trip back to the keep was uneventful, and they reached the gates not long after sunset.

Sabine greeted them joyously and asked them how they fared.

Philip exuberantly explained how they defeated their enemies with the power of their friendship.

Valeria asked if she had seen Mendel, and Sabine recalled that Mendel had left that day in a rush with as many horses as he could purchase, and didn’t say where he was going, but only that he had a lot of cargo to pick up.

As they headed toward the One-Eyed Cat, a crowd gathered around them, all abuzz to hear their story.

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