Our story begins in the city of Asgoth. A very handsome man, named Valistar, in rather shiny plate armor is riding a white warhorse down the street. He is talking to his old friend, Ishmael, as they walk. Ishmael is dressed in supple leather and moves like a cat, smooth and silent. They are in the middle of a discussion about comparative religion when a little old lady suddenly rushes out of the crowd, carrying a basket. “Oh, please help me sir,” she said to Valistar urgently, “I need your help desperately!”
The paladin looks down on the old lady, smiles kindly, and says in a loud, clear voice, “Of course, madame, what do you need?” The woman holds up the basket she is carrying for him to take. The smell of freshly baked bread wafts from the basket invitingly. “Please take this to the orphanage down the way. I would never make it before the bread turns cold, and I’m afraid someone would take it from me on the way. I’m sure no one would dare try to take it from you.”
Valistar takes the basket and says, “Certainly, madam. It would be my pleasure!” The pair set off again down the street toward the orphanage.
A little way down the street, a pixie named [to be determined] is playing with a dog when he smells the warm bread. Leaving the dog behind, he follows his nose to the pair. He perches on the paladin’s shield and says, “Hello! You’ve got nicelies! Give me nicelies!”
Ishmael mutters something about there being a bug on his shield and pulls out a flyswatter as Valistar addresses the pixie, “I’m sorry, sir and/or madam, but these are for the orphans. I can’t let you have any.” This does not seem to dissuade the pixie at all and he starts to try to get at the basket, “Nicelies! Let me see the nicelies!” In his efforts to keep the basket away from the flitting pixie, Valistar passes it off to Ishmael who takes off running through the crowds. [To be determined] takes off after him immediately, not gaining, but not falling behind, either, dodging swings from the flyswatter as they go.
After being chased through several back alleys and side streets, Ishmael finally manages to lose his pursuer and makes his way back to his friend, who had continued on toward the orphanage at a sedate pace. It isn’t long, though, before [to be determined] follows his nose back to the basket of goodies and starts to bug the paladin again, “Let me see nicelies! I just want to count nicelies!” [to be determined] then sprays pixie dust in the paladin’s face out of annoyance. In desperation, Valistar takes a small bun out of the basket and tosses it away to distract the pixie and brings his horse up to a gallop, taking out his water skin and using it to wash off the pixie dust as he goes.
At first the pixie gives chase, but as the horse begins to outdistance him, he instead turns back and gets the discarded bun, brushes it off, and begins to meander off, heading in the general direction of the orphanage.
Valistar doesn’t slow down his horse until he arrives at the Luck of the Gods Chance House and Orphanage. Once there, he dismounts and knocks on the door. A voice is heard from behind the door, “Who closed this door! It’s keeping customers out!” A human man in clerical robes, Noah Valentine, opens the door and, smiling, beckons the paladin in, “Welcome, sir!” Valistar hands the basket to the priest, “Greetings, this is for the orphans,” and walks inside. Ishmael catches up shortly and follows him inside.
Noah hands the basket to an ogre, Kronk, who was standing nearby. Kronk passes the basket into the kitchen, where the sound of children’s voices can be heard, an elderly-looking elvish man walks in and approaches the priest, “Excuse me, do you run this place?” he asks timidly. “I’m currently in charge, yes,” Noah replies guardedly. “Ah, good! My name is ”/campaigns/balatros-expedition/characters/elrohir-oron" class=“wiki-content-link”>Elrohir Oron. I am a sage who lives in this city. I’m looking for an Ogre named Kronk. I understand that he sometimes hires himself out. I am in need of an escort. Several escorts, in fact, if he happens to have any associates looking for work." Kronk looks dully at the elf, then at Noah, looking to his human friend for guidance.
The priest looks doubtful, “Well….” “I am paying, of course,” the elf explains, correctly interpreting the priest’s hesitation, “10 silver a day per person, and an extra 10 silver on any day where you must protect me from any attackers.”
“What, exactly do you need an escort for. Where are you going?” Noah asks suspiciously, but his interest is piqued. “I’m looking for an artifact. I’ve been looking for the whereabouts of this item for a very long time, and I think I’ve finally found where it lies. We’d be going into the Great Forest of Senpol, probably about a week’s travel or more,” Elrohir explains.
The paladin perks up, “A quest!? We would be honored to accompany you, aged sir.” His gestures includes Ishmael who doesn’t seem too happy about being volunteered, but isn’t about to argue with a gold a day. Unnoticed by most of them, the pixie from earlier had slipped in quietly, having heard the children from outside.
Noah still has questions, “What artifact is it, exactly, that you’re looking for?” “Oh, I doubt you’ve ever heard of it. It’s been lost for many millennia. It’s called the Staff of Balatro,” the elven sage answers dismissively.
The pixie, who had been making his way toward the kitchen, perks up and flies up to the elf, “Balatro? What to you know about Balatro!?” The sage looks surprised, “Quite a good deal, little one. What do you know?”
[to be determined] launches into a rapid-fire and pixieishly disjointed story about Rittophoran Chanjefir Diddlyophemeylicles, who he claims is his great grandmother, and the rest of the party who, one thousand years ago, went on a quest to find four artifacts of Balatro. He finishes with, “So if you find anything to do with Balatro, it belongs to my family!”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see how having a member of your family who once looked for something gives your family a claim to anything of the sort. The artifact belongs to everyone, and I will see to it that it goes to a museum once I am finished studying it,” Elrohir explains, looking slightly affronted.
“Exactly!” the pixie replies, “It belongs to everyone, so it belongs to my family!”
“What? No! Besides, that sounds nothing like the legends I know, and none the artifacts you mentioned were a staff.”
The pixie seems ready to argue further, but at this point, Ishmael and the others decide that they want to play some poker, and Elrohir joins in, leaving the pixie to wander off. Kronk just sits at his post by the door, watching for trouble. After a few rounds of poker, which Ishmael wins in the end, Elrohir looks thoughtful and says, “Well, it looks like we have enough, though I would have preferred to have a mage or psionicist along. I don’t suppose you,” he indicated the pixie, “happen to be a mage. Pixies do seem to have a special affinity for the arcane arts.”
[To be determined] who had happened to have flitted back over to them for the moment says, “A mage? No… I mean I have a few special abilities, but I wouldn’t say I’m a mage.”
Elrohir looks disappointed, “Oh. Oh well. It would have been nice….”
The pixie looks around, using his natural ability to see arcane auras, and sees a human in robes at one of the gaming tables. It appears that he has been pretty lucky and has gathered quite a few coins. [To be determined] calls the others’ attention to him and flies over. When the man notices the pixie is looking at him intently, he begins to sweat a little and starts collecting his winnings.
As he heads for the door, [to be determined] starts poking around in the man’s robes, particularly in the pockets. Swatting ineffectually at the pixie, the ‘mage’ tries to leave, but he’s blocked by Noah, “What? What kind of shakedown is this?”, the mage says, “Can’t a man have a run of luck in here, of all places. This IS a holy place of Alinys, isn’t it? AND WILL SOMEONE GET THIS DAMNED PIXIE OFF OF ME?!” He looks affronted and more than a little annoyed.
Noah smiles, “Why yes, of course, but the little fellow seems to think you’re a mage.”
“So? (Get way!) That’s not a crime! (Hey, watch it!) Now let me go before I get angry,” the mage grows red in the face and tries again to push past Noah. At a gesture from the priest, Kronk leans over and closes the door, holding it shut, trapping the mage inside.
Noah maintains the smile, “Well, yes, being a mage isn’t a crime,” the smile disappears, “but using magic to cheat is rather frowned upon here.”
The mage looks even more angry. He does a good job of acting like an outraged innocent, but there’s just a little too much sweat, and the pixie doesn’t help with keeping his composure, “Cheat! CHEAT!? How dare you! I’ll call the city guard!”
The others in the room just look at him, and there seems to be a slight re-thinking of strategy going on behind the mage’s eyes. He huffs and puffs, still holding to the pretext of being an affronted innocent being shaken down, “Fine! Fine! How about this,” He drops a handful of coins into the donation box by the door, “will that be enough to assuage your ‘suspicions’? Can I go now?”
Noah nods to Kronk, who lets go of the door. The mage leaves at speed, setting records for the 100 meter nonchalant walk. At about this point, the pixie who dashes off to the kitchen and comes back leading a bunch of orphans who want to look at the mage and they go chasing after him. The mage sees them and takes fright. He casts a spell, turning the street behind him into a grease slick and runs on. The children instantly lose interest in the running mage in favor of the new ‘slip and slide’ in the street, and are quickly squealing and sliding around happily.
[To be determined], however, is distracted on the way to chase the mage, for he’d noticed that there is now an arcane glow in one of the paladin’s packs, which were strapped to his horse, that had not been there before, and his curiosity overcomes the desire to ‘play’ with the children and the fleeing mage.
He flits over and asks, “Hey, what’s in here?” and pokes the pack. A quiet voice from the pack says, “Go away!”
[To be determined] exclaims, “Hey!” and pokes the pack again, then opens it to see another pixie inside, this one appears female, though of course, pixies are actually neither and/or both male and/or female, so this one’s “female” appearance is simply due to her having eggs developing or developed at the moment. The new pixie scowls at [to be determined], says, “Go away!” again and closes the pack again. [To be determined] pokes the pack again, “But why are you hiding?” The voice replies, “The guards are after me. They want to arrest me.”
“Why?” [to be determined] asks, perplexed. The new pixie pokes her head out of the pack and looks exasperated, “I don’t know! They just completely overreacted when I accidentally set fire to some old building over there.” She gestures toward a column of smoke in the distance.
[To be determined] looks around, “Well I don’t see any guards around now. It should be safe to come out. By the way, I’m [to be determined]! What’s your name?”
“Ingnacia Ea Milintcia Ildri Wanyecha,” she says as she emerges cautiously from the pack.
Elrohir, who had been watching with interest from a little distance away, comes over at this point, “Excuse me ma’am. Would you happen to be a mage?” Ingnacia says, “Yyyyes, why?” Elrohir brightens visibly, “Excellent! How would you like a little job going with us out to an ancient temple. I’m paying well; 10 Silver a day, plus another 10 Silver on any day where you and the others have to protect me from anything that threatens me, such as monsters or temple guardians.”
“Ok, I think I need to get out of town for a while anyway,” Ingacia answers after thinking briefly. She suddenly sees a city guard walking down the street and ducks back into the pack she’d been in.
Elrohir looks pleased as he looks at the newly formed party, “Well, I think we should be just fine with what we’ve got. You lot seem to know how to take care of yourselves and no mistake. We’ll leave tomorrow morning. Gather whatever supplies you’ll need, and meet me back here at about dawn if you’re coming. Even though I expect the journey to only take about a week and a half or so, I’d take two weeks worth of supplies, or rather 4, since I assume you’d all like to make it back as well. I shall go complete the rest of my preparations. Good evening, and I look forward to traveling with you all.” Elrohir waves merrily and walks away.
The party goes their separate ways for the evening, gathering supplies and making whatever individual preparations they need to make. Noah buys a chicken for Kronk as a ‘pet’. In the morning they all meet back at the orphanage and set off out of town, heading generally northwest, following Elrohir’s directions. Several of the orphans try to follow them out of town (at the urging of [to be determined]), all carrying sticks with little bags on the end, but they are shooed back to the orphanage.
On the first night out, Kronk is cuddling his chicken, but misjudges his strength and the fragility of the chicken’s neck. The party then has a chicken dinner.
On the second night out, after the party has reached the outskirts of the Great Forest and they have set up camp, [to be determined] and Valistar, who are on watch, hear something out in the darkness. It sounds like voices semi-whispering, “Shh, stop it.” “Move over.” “Quiet they’ll hear us.” “Shh.” “She started it.” After everyone is quietly woken up, Ishmael sneaks out into the forest and finds… four of the orphans from Noah’s orphanage; two boys and two girls, all about 11 to 13 years old. With an evil grin, Ishmael creeps up on them and intones in a scary voice, “We’re off the map, kiddies, here there be dragons.” This, naturally, causes the children to scream with fright and charge the camp, where they all hide behind Kronk. Ishmael comes back into camp, laughing.
Noah looks angrily at the four children, “George, Raff, Audrey, Wynna, what are you doing out here? Don’t know how dangerous it is?” The kids had quickly gotten over their fright, but now have the look of all children when caught doing something they shouldn’t, “But we wanted to have an adventure with you and Kronk,” one of the boys mumbles. “Let ’em come,” Ishmael grins evilly at them, “we can wrap them in bacon and…” “No, we’re not using the kids as bait for monsters!” Noah snaps, then sighs, “Ok, we can’t just take them back now, we’re too far out, and we certainly can’t just leave them behind, either. You can come, but you four stay out of the way and if there’s any trouble, you immediately get to safety, understand?” “Yes, sir…,” the four answer in unison, looking contrite.
The following night, during the second watch, noise is once again heard out in the darkness, but this time, it’s not naughty children, but several ghouls coming for dinner. Most of the party position themselves between the ghouls and the children, but Ishmael actually tries to position himself so that the children are between him and the ghouls while once again making his suggestion to wrap them in bacon, and Noah once again retorts in a definite negative. This maneuver turns out not to work terribly well, since the ghouls close in from all directions anyway, and one does make it to Ishmael. However, the ghouls turn out to be not as much of a threat as they first appear. Before they are even able to draw first blood, Valistar stands up, holds up his sword in one hand, which gleams impressively in the firelight, thrusts out his holy symbol of Koloka, and shouts, “Begone foul fiends! In the name of Koloka, return to the grave from whence you came!!” A glow explodes from the holy symbol and the ghouls scream briefly as they burn to dust in an instant. A few more flashes and strangled screams are noted further out in the darkness where more ghouls had been on the way.
After a total of ten days, with a few more encounters with various monsters, but nothing that could truly threaten the party, they finally reach a crumbling temple. It appears to be a little on the small side from the outside, being about 10 feet wide and about 20 feet deep. The bulk of the roof is long gone, but the walls appear to be mostly intact. The door is gone, but there are two huge stone statues on either side of the opening, each of which appear to be holding giant great swords in front of them in a guarding position.
[To be determined] flies up to the statues, and pokes one. Nothing happens. He tries to fly past, but the statues, or rather golems, suddenly move and block his path. Noah also walks up to a golem, examining it. [to be determined] suddenly slips past them, at which point, a golem takes a swing at him, and the other one swings at Noah. Both miss, but then the party joins in the fray, except for Ishmael, who hangs back, watching with his arms crossed. [to be determined] disappears into the temple. After only a few, mostly ineffective, swings, one of the golems starts grinding its stone teeth together. This causes a noise similar to a set of fingernails being drawn across a very long chalkboard, and it just goes on and on. The noise effectively deafens and disorients everyone so that for a while, it is very difficult for anyone to hit the golems, while they have very little trouble hitting them. Both Kronk, who had stepped up immediately and started swinging with his tree-sized great club, and Valistar take quite a beating, though neither golem manages to do any real damage to either of them. By the time the golem had stopped making its horrible noise, Kronk had been nearly knocked out a few times, and Ishmael, seeing that his help may be needed after all, leaps onto the back of one of the golems, who immediately starts trying to dislodge him.
At one point, Noah makes a break for the interior of the temple, thinking that since the golems had not pursued [to be determined] inside, that he would be safe as well, but he then found out that the reason [to be determined] had not been chased is because the golems had not been able to see where, exactly, the pixie had gone. One of the golems broke off from the others and tackled the fleeing priest, flattening him and knocking him out momentarily. With that taken care of, the golem immediately returned to helping to block the rest of the party. After several more blows on either side, however, both golems lay broken, and the party took a few moments to catch their breath and entered the temple.
There is very little to see inside of the temple doors. The collapsed roof has left the main floor of the temple open to the elements for several millennia. There is, however, a stairwell leading down into some sort of basement that appears to still be intact. The party finds [to be determined] waiting impatiently at the bottom of the stairs, eager to continue inside, but not wanting to venture alone into the darkness. The party lights torches and moves down the corridor that leads away from the stairs.
A little way down this corridor, just beyond where any natural light reaches, they find a pit that spans the pathway. Nasty-looking spikes cover the floor, but the pit is only about 2 meters across, easily jumpable by anyone in the party. They are, of course, immediately suspicious of this, and they have Kronk prod the floor on the other side with his giant club. As suspected, the floor on the other side of the pit dips down when prodded, as if on a spring hinge. [to be determined] flits across to search for any way to secure the floor. He doesn’t find anything there, but when he looks back at the others, he notices something protruding from the wall next to their side of the pit. He calls their attention to it, and they hear a ‘thunk’ and a further prod shows that the floor has been stabilized. The party then easily crosses and continues down the corridor, finding another set of stairs leading further down, which they climb.
At the bottom of this set of stairs is a small landing, and then the corridor opens into a large, circular room with a solid-looking stone door blocking the exit on the opposite side. Just to one side of the closed door is a set of three levers with four signs, one overhead, and one just beneath each lever. First, [to be determined] flies in and examines the levers and signs while everyone else stays outside of the room, but the signs are in a language he does not understand. He tries to pull each of the levers, but is unable to move any of them. He calls Kronk in to do it, but the top part of the lever he tries just snaps off in Kronk’s hand. At this point, everyone except Ishmael comes into the room to see if anyone can recognize the language on the signs. Ishmael refuses to come in until the trap is made safe. He also realizes, upon examining the area he’s in, that him being there is the only think keeping the near door from closing, trapping everyone inside. Valistar and Noah both recognize the language as Celestial, but they are only semi-literate in the language, only knowing enough to read Divine spells written down. they are able to make out the following, though: The overhead sign reads “One….lie”, the sign on the left lever reads “…safe”, the sign on the center lever reads “…trap”, the sign on the right lever reads “Center….trap”. They determine from this that it must be a logic puzzle, and that they must pull the correct lever to make it safely past the trap. After much discussion, it is determined that the lever to the right is the safe one, but they are unable to move it. They figure out that until Ishmael moves so that the rearward door is able to close, then the levers won’t move either. They tell him he needs to come inside, but instead he backs up back to the stairs, whereupon, the door to the rear does indeed slam closed. While he waits for them to pull the lever and either succeed or die horribly, Ishmael returns to the landing in front of the door. When Valistar does pull the lever, the rearward door opens, but the forward door stays closed. They determine that as long as Ishmael is on the landing, then the forward door will not open. After much cajoling and assurances that they have it figured out, they finally convince Ishmael to come into the room with them. The rearward door closes, they pull the lever again, and both doors open, allowing the party to continue down the next set of stairs.
Upon reaching the bottom, [to be determined] finds and disarms a pressure plate near the entrance to the new corridor that appears to be set to trigger some sort of arcane trap, but they never find out what kind, since that would mean experiencing it first hand. They continue down the next set of stairs.
In the next corridor, they find a long pit, about 6 meters deep and 12 meters across and spanning the corridor. There are no spikes in this pit that they can see, but also no obvious way across. [to be determined] immediately starts to fly across it, he is suddenly slammed to the bottom of the pit hard by a magical gust of wind. The fall, aided by the downward push of the wind, nearly kills the slight pixie. Only the quick action of Ishmael saves his life, who pulls out a rope, climbs down, and carries the stricken and unconscious pixie back up to receive a healing spell from Noah. While healed fully, the pixie decides that he doesn’t need any more pain for a little while and curls up in Kronk’s pocket to rest while the rest of the party uses the ropes to make their way across along the bottom of the pit, which upon closer inspection is actually littered with old pixie bones. Not every pixie who had ventured so easily past the other traps had been lucky enough to have help and healing so close at hand when they came across this one, which had obviously been designed with them in mind. In order to get back out of the pit, Ishmael pulls out a grappling hook to attach to the end of the rope, but not before suggesting that they toss up one of the orphans (wrapped in bacon, of course), which is, of course, naysaid by Noah.
Once down the next set of stairs, this time with Ishmael in the reluctant lead, they walk down the corridor, unable to find any new trap triggers when suddenly the floor becomes magically sticky (if anyone had been able to detect such things, they would have known that it was actually psionic in nature), slowing everyone down to a crawl. At the same time, spikes spring up from one wall, and the whole wall starts to make its way across the corridor, destined to meet its opposite wall in short order, whether anything soft and squishy, like the party members, happened to be in the way or not. A lever can be seen on the opposite side of the spiked and sticky area. Ishmael, correctly surmising that this will stop the spikes, and seeing that he was not likely to make it in time, tells Kronk, “Ok, throw me as hard as you can.” Kronk obediently picks Ishmael up and easily tosses him out of the trapped area, though not without banging the human up a little in the process. Ishmael gets up quickly and pulls the lever, causing the floor and the wall to return to normal. They continue down the next set of stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs is another circular room, this one much larger than the one with the three levers. On the far side of the room is a circular stairway leading further down. Upon examining the area, Ishmael determines that there are trapped pressure plates all along the walls, and a large covered pit in the center of the room. There is only a narrow path to either side of the pit that is safe. With Ishmael’s help, the party safely navigates the room and heads down the stairwell.
This stairwell goes down considerably further than the previous sets of stairs, as well as being the only circular stairs they have yet come across. Eventually, it opens into a brightly lit, very ornate room. On the far side of the room is a dais with a shaft of light shining down on it. On a stand, on the dais is an extremely ornate staff with 12 shining white symbols along the shaft. Ishmael takes one glance at the room, and says, “This is a trap.” Elrohir doesn’t appear to hear him and becomes extremely excited, “THAT’S IT! THAT’S THE STAFF!! AT LONG LAST!” Before anyone can stop him, he runs forward into the shaft of light. There is a bright flash, and everyone falls instantly asleep.