Jahnas’ Journal Day 12 – Kythorn 23 1497 DR/139 PR

Today was relatively calm by my new standards.  There is a lot to do before the caravan comes, and people are scrambling to get crops and goods together for trade and sale.  And yet it seems quite minor compared to the excitement of Belak’s visit.  That story will be told for a long time around here.  I began today where I left off last night, by making an additional copy of the map in order to provide one for the town’s own records.  With the castle so close, it is only right.  I also finished reading the Tome of Dragon Lore, which is just an old treatise on various specific dragons.  Unfortunately, the part labeled “Ashardalon” which would have been the most relevant for learning more about this particular ruin was ripped out.  I will perhaps see if the caravan would like to purchase it, as the information seems somewhat outdated.

I have cast Comprehend Languages on three items we brought back with us.  The first is a strange whistle which appears to be glass, but seems harder than glass somehow.  It is of dwarven make, and has a dwarven inscription on it.  The second is a bone scroll case, also of dwarven make.  The case itself says “Glitterhame” on the exterior and contains a very old scroll with these words:

“The Glitterhame, our grandest hall.

Home to Dwarf, one and all.

Hidden from the likes of elves

Our history kept to ourselves

The Orcs and Goblins came and sacked

Overwhelmed, yet we fought back.

Alas their numbers were too great

The Hall deserves a better fate.

So, reclaim our hall and birthright too!

And on our throne shall sit you.

Answer the riddle to show where

Our hidden hall lies in despair


What’s round, but not always around?

What gives light but has none of its own?

Where do the gods leave their footprints?”


The first portion of the scroll refers to a lost dwarven hall, and the last three lines are obviously the riddle. It was not very hard for me to figure out the answer to the riddle was the moon, but it did not seem to help.  Barring the dwarves actually finding a way to reach the moon herself, there are many places in Faerun which bear the name moon.  Moonshae Isles, Silverymoon and the Moonwood near there, the Moonsea, just to name a few.  I’ll have to remember to show it to the others and see what they think of it.  I also attempted to read some of the other tome I found in Belak’s study, which is written in some Druidic language, but did not get very far.

After that the day was very similar to a normal day.  I researched some more spells to push the limits of my arcane knowledge.  I am currently working on Knock, which I was able to successfully cast once before, regretfully, but have not been able to make work again.  Something about the way in which Tarn betrayed me with that scroll is blocking my efforts.  I have also endeavored to learn Invisibility.  Becoming unseen would have been very useful at multiple points in our exploration of the castle.  A few people came by for herbs and tinctures, but it was nothing major.

Jahnas’ Journal Day 11 – Kythorn 22 1497 DR/139 PR

So much has happened in the past few days, I can hardly believe it.  All four of us were able to get some much needed rest last night; I slept in the house proper just for the chance at a real bed.  The cot in my lab certainly would not have been very comfortable last night.  Even so I am still quite sore from our adventure.  In the morning the four of us were summoned before the council to relate the entirety of our tale for them, and explain more about the fate of Belak and the Gulthias tree.  Magda and I both spoke about our continued desire for the village to grow its own tree from the seeds of the red apple, but the council is leery about continuing anything to do with Belak’s experiments, despite the possible good.  Thankfully, they also repaid my fifty gold from purchasing the apple in the first place.  In the afternoon I undertook to sort through much of the plant samples I found in the castle.  The glowing fungus died as soon as it was hit by sunlight, and most everything else is simply a more sickly version of an above-ground plant.  I have discarded the vast majority of them as useless.  One thing of note was a small bag of potent fertilizer that I believe will greatly increase the growing speed of a single plant.  I have given it to Magda to give to a farming family she knows of who has maybe had a rough year so far.  Additionally, Magda detected evil on a bark sample I managed to save from the Gulthias tree, and I now think it may be a bad idea to attempt to grow our own.  If the tree itself radiates that much evil, even in the bark, perhaps the red apples are not worth the whole cost.  I have told the council of this development, and it seemed to simply reinforce what they already believed.

Unfortunately, Magda and Dask have now both fallen ill themselves.  Magda thinks it has something to do with the close contact they both had with the rats in the castle, though it is hard to know where her cleric professionalism ends and her bias against the rats begins.  It is not life threatening, but they are both miserable, and Magda does not yet have the ability to simply cleanse away the disease.  Though I am sure she has probably converted her family’s outhouse to a shrine to Chauntea by now, for all the praying that goes on out there.

It was quite a busy day otherwise as well.  I read both the knock and spider climb scrolls we found, and read part of the draconic Tome of Dragon Lore as well.  I created two everburning torches to sell when the caravan arrives here in a few days, and spent a good portion of the gold we found in the castle in order to identify the wand we found with Belak, the greataxe from the bugbear, and the longsword from Sir Braeford, which were all detected as being magical.  I tried to get Dask to drink the goblin alcohol from the silver flask we found, but I am not sure he is going to go for it yet.  I will have to give him a few days to work up his courage.  For some reason he does not believe me when I say it will likely increase his strength.  Finished up the night by drawing up a simple map of the castle’s interior halls and underground.  We may want to return, and I would like to be prepared.

Jahnas’ Journal Day 10 – Kythorn 21 1497 DR/139 PR

Thankfully, I write this portion of my journal from the relative comfort of my lab’s desk.  Let me start by saying that old, underground, decaying castles are not ideal places to take one’s rest.  I awoke this morning more stiff than I have felt, well, ever.  I was wishing I had not left my staff with Gloam.  We have somewhat successfully healed the children, though I am not quite sure how.  I imagine it was the destruction of the Gulthias tree that did it, but the magic involved is beyond my ken.  But again I jump ahead.

Waking underground was an experience I would prefer to forget.  Fortunately, the only thing that snuck up on us during the night was the damp.  We were all of us chilled, with the only choice of getting up and hoping walking with a purpose would warm us.  We were warmed more thoroughly by more skirmishes with goblins as we moved through the halls of the castle.  They are filthy creatures, detritus was everywhere foul and rotting, and I cannot say I am regretful of the slaughter we visited upon them whether they were aware of us or not.  We did eventually find the kobold’s lost dragon Kalkrix, which turned out to be a small white dragon.  Evidently the goblins could not handle that which they had coveted, and the dragon had a fine, if slightly disheveled, chamber all to itself.  While we debated at how to get the thing back to the kobolds, Dask simply ran in, grappled with it, and heroically ran it back.  Yet another creature better off dead, in my book, but the children again trump everything.  Yusdrayl of the kobolds was thankful, as was Meepo who regained some of his status, and she rewarded us with a heavy dragon key which fits the lock we found earlier.  However, we were still not perceptively closer to finding Belak.

A return to the goblin area led us to a room with many female and young goblins in it.  We threatened them, and they revealed the direction of Belak.  I think we simply should have eliminated the despicable creatures and considered it a favor to the area, but we had more pressing concerns.  Following their directions led us to something like a throne room.  A chest contained a great deal of gold and some gems.  However, no sign of Belak.  The only place left to go was a shaft down through the floor of this throne room.  The shaft was lined with vines, and again lit by a violet-colored glowing fungus.  With no alternatives, we began to climb down.

After a minor skirmish at the bottom, we were attacked by a large bugbear carrying a greataxe and wearing a crown of antlers.  We defeated it, and its pet rats, but that was again, only the beginning of our fights on this level.  We found a crude passage to the underdark which we hastily backed away from, hoping that Belak would not retreat to such a place.  More evidence that this castle was somehow dedicated to dragons or maybe simply a dragon, in the form of statues, carvings, and inscriptions.  Also much to suggest that Belak has been doing some kind of experiments on plant life underground.  I collected samples of some various plants to take back with me and see if anything can be learned from them.  We did come across, and kill, a creature called a thoqqua.  Fiery and hot in appearance, it was tunneling through some rock.  When it was killed, it was split open to reveal some gems.  The air at this level was very humid, heavy and even misty with fog in some places.  It made seeing clearly quite difficult.  Magda’s elven-heritage helped a good deal with finding our way.  All the adventuring has paid off for us all I think.  At some point we all realized we were much more confident in our abilities.  The spells I have working on suddenly made sense to me.  Evidently need helps as well.  Eventually we came to a point which could have been very dangerous, and once again was my fault.

A large marble dragon statue was fronted with a circle of red-stone tiles on the floor, which bore an inscription.  In my haste to learn something, anything about this place, I rushed forward to read the tiles.  A shadow, the malevolent kind, came at us from behind the statue and immediately attacked Fox.  It did not seem to wound him, precisely, but it sapped his strength severely.  I sent a scorching ray at it as it fled, and I believe I may have wounded it.  The tiles said, “Let the sorcerous power illuminate my mind.”  Taking the cue from earlier in the castle, I read it aloud while standing in the circle, and a heatless fiery aura bathed over me.  It seems to have temporarily boosted my confidence and looks.  No one else was willing to try it, but I wonder now if it may have been useful more than that single time.  Of course, that slight positive obscured the negative in that room, and I did not learn my lesson.

Not too long after that, we came to what must have been Belak’s personal study.  Among the many documents, we did not find too much of use, but of course I erred in judgment.  One of the tomes we did find was called “Treasures of the Fire Lords” in Draconic, and I failed to exercise caution when dealing with unknown materials, something that was drilled into me by Varick!  None of his trapped scrolls or items did anything close to as much damage as the exploding book did when I opened it to read.  I hurt myself a good deal, but not only that, Magda was also hurt, and Fox barely escaped with just a singed shirt.  Thankfully Dask and Urky were not in the room when I opened the book.  I endangered my friends, and endangered our efforts to help the children, all for an empty book!  Finally we came to a large cavern, stretching high above us, and filled with brambles and thorny plants.

Some goblins and bush-creatures lurked amongst the plants, but we dealt with them and moved farther on, feeling that this must be where we would finally find Belak and the solution to the children’s illness.  We found Belak, but we were not prepared for the enormous, sickly looking apple tree that emerged in a clearing.  Unnaturally growing underground, the tree had the white apples hanging from it, and black, twisted branches.  Belak stood under it, as if waiting for us, with two other figures, a man and a woman, both dead in the eye and with skin like bark.  We confronted Belak and asked him to come back with us peacefully, to help the children.  If we were not sure of his motives before, he made them clear with what he told us.  The two figures with him were formerly Sharwin and Sir Braeford, of the Oakhurst party.  Belak gave them to the tree, he called it the Gulthias tree, and it transformed them in death somehow.  He urged us to surrender to him and offer ourselves to the tree as they were!  I tried to bargain with him in order to find some way to save the children, but Magda showed us a side of herself that I doubt any have seen before.  In exchange for helping the children, Magda offered Belak his life.  She was deadly serious. I was proud of her for her stand for the children and surprised in the same moment.  Surely that could not be our happy Magda?  It was just as well she did, because the walking remains of Sharwin and Sir Braeford advanced upon us, and it was clear Belak had no intention of helping us.

He cast an Entangle spell at us, which trapped both Magda and Dask.  I immediately cast my last spell, Magic Missile, at the tree itself, thinking that to damage it might break some hold Belak had on Sharwin and Sir Braeford, but I was counterspelled by Sharwin.  I had worked on that with Varick, but it was a shock to have my spell suddenly dissolve before me.  Fox was free and rushed towards Belak with his rapier out.  Magda managed to turn and destroy both Sharwin and Sir Braeford, which shook Belak a good deal I think.  Out of spells, I took our torch and circled around, still trying to get near the tree itself.  Urky and Fox both went after Belak, but he eventually charmed both of them.  Magda summoned a celestial badger to attack Belak, even as Dask struggled to break free of Belak’s entanglement.  I stumbled in close enough to the tree to light it afire.  Urky, confused, attacked me, and I fled before him.  Soon the tree was completely ablaze, the cavern was filling with smoke, and some magic seemed to be weakening.  Bush-creatures appeared out of nowhere and Belak fled for the door.  Magda turned the tables by casting entangle on him.  He was slowed enough that the tree-creatures caught him, and they seemed none too pleased.  Belak’s death broke the hold he had on both Fox and Urky, thankfully, since Urky was bearing down on me.  With this evil tree destroyed, we searched for the tree that might bear the red apples, but without success.  We returned to Yusdrayl, the kobold leader, and asked her about a tree with red apples that heal.  She told us that the black tree we destroyed was, in fact, the source of both the white apples and the red apples.

It is hard to describe how I felt at that moment, knowing that I was responsible for destroying the very thing we had been looking for.  That the red apples would not be growing until winter, and the children were worsening by the hour, was unimportant.  I had destroyed a source of great healing and hope for our village.  No more would there be miraculous cures through the apples’ power.  Because of me.  We despaired of finding anything else that might help the children, and with Belak dead it was impossible to find out the specific magical properties of what had been the Gulthias tree.  We decided that investigating the keyed dragon door was our last hope for stumbling into something that would help.

Immediately inside the dragon door was a chamber with globes, one of which glowed and gave off horrific debilitating noises when we approached it.  Dask crushed it with the greataxe we claimed from the bugbear, and we moved on.  Another chamber held a riddle in the form of a coiled dragon statue that spoke these words to us.  “We come at night without being fetched, we disappear by day without being stolen.”  The answer is clearly stars, and with that word uttered, a secret door opened to us.  Through the door was a chamber containing statues in the form of elven warriors, and a green light trickled into the room through an arch at the far end.  The arch was blocked by a large spiked pit.  I do not think I could have jumped it, but Dask was able to, only to be immediately pushed back into the pit by a Quasit.  We attacked the Quasit at range, and Dask climbed out of the pit to dispatch it finally.  The other side of the room was some sort of burial chamber, with an enormous dragon-shaped sarcophagus in the middle.  We decided to leave it alone.  Nothing indicated it would contain anything to help us, and disturbing it might be more harmful than helpful.  We left the way we came, and sealed the dragon door behind.

Urky left us to continue on his way, and on his journey promised to stop by Oakhurst for us in order to carry the news of what befell their party.  We climbed out of the gorge; I retrieved Gloam and we plodded back to Armbard’s Pass in heavy silence.  I cannot speak for the others, but I do think our thoughts all centered on our failure to find some way to help the children.  The proven evil of Belak was dead, yes, but this was only a small victory compared to saving children of the village, and particularly Daisy Telox.  Imagine how surprised we were at returning to a hearty and joyous welcome!

It seems that just a pair of hours before our arrival, the children unexpectedly recovered!  I suspect that the simple destruction of the Gulthias tree was enough to reverse the magic hold the apples had on them.  In that case, I was lucky in my actions, but not much more justified.

Fox again proved invaluable today, finding hidden traps, treasure and any manner of odd things, not to mention that he actually seems to have some ability with that rapier.  Dask showed his bravery with the dragon, and countless other times standing toe-to-toe with goblins and their ilk.  Magda was essential with her healing, and ability to turn many of the creatures infesting that place.  Even Urky’s healing spells and combat abilities have helped greatly.  I fear it was only I who did not contribute to this mission, even hurt the task by stumbling into danger multiple times, and I am thankful we ended up returning to well children.  It could easily have been otherwise, and my fault at that.  All I can do is hope to learn from the experience and do better in the future.

Jahnas’ Journal Day 9 – Kythorn 20 1497 DR/139 PR – Summer Solstice

Today was more eventful than I ever thought it could be.  Imagine, I was nervous simply about dealing with Belak!  Today was the Summer Solstice.  A good thing too, as we needed every drop of that daylight, and even then it was not enough.  If this keeps on like it is going, I will soon run out of pages.  As I write this passage in my journal, we, Dask, Magda, Fox and I, along with a gnome cleric named Urky Timbers, are resting in an underground castle that sits in a ravine in the Kryptgarden forest, and we are surrounded by goblins.  But I get ahead of myself.  The morning was very tense, with everyone waiting for Belak to come.  We did hear a lot of grumbling from the elders that leads me to believe that there is something more going on with Belak than is commonly told to us younger ones.

Belak waited until late in the afternoon to even show up, which definitely put the council on edge.  Magda and I went out to meet him; apparently he will not come closer than the edge of the village.  Fox came as well, I think he was mostly curious.  Immediately Magda and I both inquired after the apple, and thankfully Belak had one for sale.  Unfortunately, he put the price at one hundred fifty gold pieces when we only had one hundred from the council!  We tried talking him down, explaining to him that people in the village were sick, and we had been given all that the village could afford, but Belak would not budge from his price.  Finally, I simply gave in and contributed fifty of my own gold to help with the purchase of the apple.  The village needs it, and I am sure I will be paid back eventually by the council.  Magda took the apple, and I continued to look over what Belak had in his cart.  I spent another couple gold just on some various herbs that would be harder for me to get on my own.  Interestingly, Belak also had a white apple in his cart.  We asked about it, but he said we did not want that one.  It was sickly looking, and we did not press him about the matter.  Belak told us he needed to leave; that he would be heading to Oakhurst, and wanted to leave to get there before too long.  I tried casting detect magic on the apple, and also while Belak was in range, but did not find anything.  I am curious about the properties of this apple, and the strange white one he had.  Fox sensed Magda’s and my suspiciousness, and ended up trailing Belak a ways down the road to Oakhurst.

While he was away, we took the red apple back to the council, where First Council Homer spoke about how to divide the apple.  The consensus was reached that despite not knowing how the apple works, we will try splitting it six ways to give a piece to each of those who are ill.  We will also attempt to save seed to plant our own tree.  With Belak’s prices going so much higher, we must attempt to break this hold he has on us.  The six diseased were brought in, given the piece of apple, and almost immediately they looked better.  Not completely well, but certainly much better than they had.  It was just at this moment when I heard shrieking coming from outside.  We rushed out to find four children, among them Fox’s sister Daisy, all collapsed with strange boils on their hands and mouths.  Finding Belak’s strange white apple with them, half-eaten, meant we needed to chase down Belak and see if he could do anything for them.  The decision was made to send myself, Magda, Fox and Dask.  Magda and I had just finished dealing with Belak, and Fox and Dask could hopefully protect us if the worst happened while we were out.  The council also told us to be wary, as Belak was exiled from Armbard’s Pass long ago, and so had particular reason to wish us ill.  We all scrambled to fetch our gear and meet back as soon as possible.  I rode Gloam, my horse, of course, since I would not be able to keep up otherwise, but the rest simply walked.  Fox lead us, trying to make sure Belak did go to Oakhurst after all.

We arrived in Oakhurst after dark, and Fox had not seen any sign of Belak for some time.  When we inquired with Oakhurst’s council, we found out that Belak actually had not been to Oakhurst in some time.  They sent a group of four into Kryptgarden Forest to try to find him.  Sharwin, a wizard like me, Sir Braeford, an outside Paladin, Caracus, a Ranger, and Talgen, a fighter.  The mayor of Oakhurst described to us where the path into Kryptgarden Forest left the road we had arrived on, so we immediately backtracked, found the trail, and plunged into the wood.

We lit some torches with the dark of the forest pressing in on us, and followed the trail to a sudden drop.  No sooner had we peered into the ravine than these odd bush-like ambulatory creatures approached us and attacked.  Thankfully, I did not need to take much action, as everyone else took care of the situation handily.  Magda was impressive with her ability to command the plant creatures.  With the bush creatures gone, we saw that after a short drop into the ravine, a switch-back stair led further down.  I had to dismount and leave Gloam at the top of the ravine; I left her a feed-bag, and she should be fine.  As long as we are not overlong in our finding of Belak.  Fox lowered a rope, and Magda went down to the small platform first.  Unfortunately, she disturbed some large rats.  I could only watch as she fought them off, somewhat unsuccessfully, but Dask half-climbed, half-lept down, crushing rats in the process.  And down the stair we went.

The path from the steps led to the entrance door of a semi-submerged castle.  Strange that something like this could be so close to Armbard’s Pass this whole time, and yet I am certain none of the villagers know it is here.  I was able to read the name of a dragon, “Ashardalon,” inscribed in Draconic on the wall.  We entered cautiously, seeing no other place for Belak’s trail to lead.  Fox is proving invaluable, as we hardly go a step in this place without his searching for hidden dangers left behind, waiting for unwary explorers.  It feels as though we can hardly go a few steps without finding a fight as well.  Almost immediately we had to fight off three undead skeletons.  Likely this place is the source of the rumor of the dead walking in Kryptgarden.  We also fought a water creature, and only defeated it by cutting off the source of water from which it was drawing strength.  Plenty of rats, Magda is not very happy about that.  She keeps dropping that old scythe of River’s and nearly losing it as well.  I do not understand why she thought she needed it, but it is becoming a nuisance.  We passed by an impressive stone door with a keyhole in the shape of a dragon’s maw.  No telling what is behind that, but in any event we are unable to open it.

We thought we started to make progress after coming on the sleeping form of a kobold named Meepo.  He is terrified of us, and continuously talks about the dragon, “Kalkrix” that he and his community have lost.  It seems to be some sort of pet or mascot by the way he talks.  He was the dragon-keeper, but is now not getting on well with the rest of his clan after the dragon was stolen by some goblins.  Evidently the kobolds and goblins fight amongst themselves quite often.  He knows nothing of Belak, but he will guide us to the leader of his group, Yusdrayl, who may know more.

Yusdrayl is impressive, as far as a kobold can be impressive, which is not very far.  She does seem to command a goodly number of kobolds in the area, however, and may be of some help in getting us to Belak.  Belak is supposedly with the goblins, and we have agreed to aid the kobolds in getting their dragon back, in exchange for having Meepo guide us, and them not trying to harm Belak when we bring him out with us.  I do not like the idea of allying ourselves with a pack of kobolds, but right now the children are the most important thing, and finding Belak quickly could mean life over death for them.

Meepo leads us on a merry chase down to the goblin section of these buried ruins.  I found a few draconic references, and after reading the word for fire, “Narinya”, at a fountain, I was able to fill a spare waterskin with what I think is a potion of fire breath.  Unfortunately, it gave me quite the wrong idea, and in a different room, the next word I read was death.  That released a noxious cloud of vapors.  Fortunately none of us was hurt.  We did find the decomposing body of the ranger from Oakhurst, Caracus, in the den of a huge rat.  We took his signet ring, unable to easily move his whole body, and will return it to Oakhurst.  After many skirmishes with goblins, we freed an imprisoned gnome named Urky Timbers.  He says he just had the misfortune of being caught by some goblin bandits, and has only managed to keep himself alive through his healing spells.  He thinks Belak is somewhere below, with more goblins.  And so we have decided to fortify ourselves and rest here long enough for us all to regain some strength.  We will not be able to find Belak if we are too weak to make it past the goblins infesting this place.  I have already spent far too much time writing tonight, and not enough time resting.

Jahnas’ Journal Day 8 – Kythorn 19 1497 DR/139 PR

I spoke with Magda today.  She seemed to think it was a decent idea to send word to Varick.  I did warn her that we are not likely to have any more luck reaching Varick than we have had reaching Padir, but at least it is another option.  She is as nervous as I am about dealing with Belak tomorrow.  There is something not quite right about this situation.  I do not understand why they would give the two of us, young as we are, this important task.  I know that we both have positions of, if not authority, then responsibility within the village, but even so.  This seems far too important an issue to really be left to the two of us.  Even if it were a test of us in some fashion, I would hope the council would have better judgment than to ride the health of six individuals on a test for the new cleric and apothecary.  Unless there is something between Belak and the council itself, and they simply do not want to or can not deal with him themselves.