While setting up and talking about what the group had done, Bacon’s player mentioned reading summaries and the fear of finding something like “and this is where Bacon made a fatal mistake.” When I wrote up this summary I had this in mind and completely rewrote the section where the mephits appear. At least two of the players read through and noticed the change – Bacon’s being one. I sent out the real summary a few days later. The alternate ending is right at the bottom of this summary.
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23rd Patchwall: Return to the room with the water grill. Seldrel casts water breathing on both Lanliss and Bacon and they allow the grill to drop into the water and search the bottom of the chamber. They find a gold statuette of a lion. They head back up to the crafting halls to rest.
24th The group goes to activate the last statue – Moquol. (Baklunish lesser god of trade.) Then back at the halls, Seldrel begins crafting some Golem bane scarabs. Lanliss and Bacon head back into town and locate Boris. They also get some crafting materials that Seldrel wants and then return to the Hold with Boris.
25th – 28th Seldrel crafts more scarabs, and the group goes up to the Hall of Gods each day to check if the statues have changed.
1st Ready’reat: Seldrel begins work on Boots of Striding for Merxif. The group has considered some of the places in the mountain that they haven’t been able to get into. They discuss these and which they may be able to investigate further. To keep from boredom, Bacon, Hardaz and Lanliss spend some of their time crafting things they can sell in town. While none of their efforts are particularly remarkable, they appraise their efforts as enough to fund a few days accommodation and meals in town. Seldrel and Merxif have been studying the sphere they reformed. They determine that Merxif can use it to breath a cone of acid three times a day and breath water if in contact with it. Seldrel can be concerned about the arcane and draconic runes on its surface, and fears that the reformed sphere may actually be an Orb of Dragonkind.
4th The party have been becoming restless. Seldrel and Merxif feel that even though they are under the mountain and intend to keep searching, the Geas may be pushing them to be more active. Regardless of that, most of the group have little to do while Seldrel crafts. At the Hall of the Gods, the statues have changed. They are attracted to the statue of Zuoken (Baklunish demigod of physical and mental mastery). Bacon receives a blessing – he will be able to strike more easily with one of his unarmed attacks.
They head up down through the fungi caves and find the chamber with the stone elevator and metal rings. They now have two brass plugs that they believe must be inserted into two rings corresponding with the phases of the two moons. Since it is now the new moon of Luna, they feel this is a good time to try out their theory. It takes the weight of Lanliss, Bacon and Hardaz to drop the platform down to be able to place the plugs into the right holes. Iron rings, that Lanliss suspects conduct electricity do nothing and with the second plug inserted the platform drops a total of twenty feet into a circular chamber that shows a star map across the ceiling and the path of both moons. Many ledges line the walls, and four have magical items that the group claims. All have a spell ability that relates to the moon light. After a thorough search to be sure the chamber has no other secrets they climb or levitate out and remove the plugs. The platform rises while they discuss where to head next. To the north on this level are the four elemental rooms they previously explored. They have been reading a fragment of a page that mentions these and head to the air room to try to discover the rooms secrets and see if anything helps them find the right pattern of tiles to push in the nearby hall. Seldrel casts a acid splash spell onto the earth stone in the room and notes that his casting was more powerful than usual, and that the stone seems to have absorbed and be holding the magical energy. He and Merxif then cast a related elemental spell onto the other three stones. They too hold energy but nothing else happens. Bacon suggests touching the stones at the same time, and so he, Lanliss, Hardaz and Merxif each choose a stone. At the moment they touch the stone two things happen. A voice speaks in Suel about order standing against chaos and elemental forces resisting the void. Each of those who touched a stone also gain resistance to that element. Seldrel is put under pressure to both translate the words, and remember enough of what was said to write it down in common. Luckily, they learn that all of them touching the stones makes the voice speak again, so they have the time to be sure of what was said.
They head into the hall with an alcove for each element and panels representing all four. With someone at each panel, Seldrel calls out the sequence they found on the stones in each chamber and each person presses the panel in sequence for the element found in the room their alcove matches. Nothing happens. They then decide to try all putting in the sequence simultaneously and this opens the secret door. Once this is done, Seldrel realises that part of the spoken message was “the first and the last” and realises that they only needed to push the panels in order in the air and water alcoves at the same time. Beyond the secret door is a short hall with short pillars and a door at the end. As Lanliss steps in checking for traps, a voice asks him “What is the key word of the creed?’
Failing to give an answer summons two small winged and horned humanoids. Both mephits are quickly defeated, though Seldrel expects more to be summoned. When none appear, they enter the next room and recover silver and gold coins, a few wands and a few minor magical items that all have elemental powers. Having tied up some loose ends here the party heads back down past the crafting halls to head west down the stairs. The first chamber to the side has a large stone standing amid a ring of white runed marble. Seldrel translates the runes as “The stone of Jartekkes – ask and you may know.” Lanliss skirting the room is attacked by something he cannot see. The others move up to support and Seldrel casts faerie fire near Lanliss illuminating a tall humanoid shape of swirling air, an Invisible Stalker. The fight is over fairly quickly once they all ‘see’ the creature. Seldrel and Merxif examine the stone, noting a divination aura. The group considers questions to ask and while they discuss this, they are attacked by bugbears. Seldrel uses grease to divide their attackers (though a few bugbears make running leaps over it), and the group fights effectively. Two of the bugbears flee when their leader is cut down.
Seldrel puts his hand on a depression in the stone and asks about the Vampire, but gets no response. Lanliss tries, asking about the “news” secret door. He gets a vision of four levers at the end of short passages. He exhorts them to head up to that area again while it is clear in his mind. Past the fungi caves the group splits – Bacon, Hardaz and Seldrel head towards the secret door to be ready if it opens. Lanliss, Winter and Merxif head north towards the levers – where Lanliss chooses the end of a passage pointing north for the first lever, then east, west and finally south. They then hurry around heading for the cave complex, but meet the others returning! Bacon spotted a change in one cave as they entered the caves. A recent collapse has opened a hole in a cave wall. Lanliss urges them to look at it later – he hopes the secret door is open. The move onward and the door has slide up. Beyond are three chambers and a wraith that focuses its attacks on Merxif. The first room has carved demonic faces, with handles in their mouths and magical gems underneath. Seldrel turns a handle with mage hand, but nothing happens. Lanliss picks out the gems and also gets a speed boost from a magical pedestal in the next chamber. They recover some treasure from the last room.
They return to the beginning of the caves and look at the hole high in the cave wall. A tunnel or narrow cave can be seen through it and they take some time moving fallen rock and making the hole larger. Eventually all can get through and they follow a tunnel west into a chamber carved with a white hand. Seldrel identifies this as a symbol of Yurtrus, Orcish god of the dead. They also find most of a crushed skeleton and a page showing the southern part of Fals’Krag and orchish runes that mention burial chambers being rediscovered. Following the winding passages they begin to find orchish carvings and burial niches. There are also a group of big ‘dead’ rats. While they look like animated dead, Merxif states they are alive. Seldrel casts a fireball across most of them, also destroying a flowered vine in one corner. He decided that the spores from the plant allowed it to control the dead rats. Further west, the group emerges into a wide cave, up to forty feet high and longer than they can see. Much of it is filled with fallen rock, and broken stalactites and stone columns. Movement is sighted within the cavern – three armoured skeletons move towards them.
This is where Bacon makes a dangerous mistake. He begins to remonstrate with the voice… “A creed is a statement of beliefs and principles, but saying the creed isn’t specifically defining whose creed you refer to, thus your question is potentially invalid or unanswerable. I live by a monastic creed defined by my vow of truth, so for me the key word is truth, and this by characterisation of your stated question is a correct answer. My friend Winter’s companion Summer, may also be influenced by what she would also consider being, to her, the creed. Even assuming that for her, there exists a single key word, its both presumptuous to expect her to understand the question, and unfair to expect that if she did, her answer of ‘hoot’, for example, may be accepted when the same word may have a completely different meaning when spoken by a raven.” Small winged humanoids appear on two of the pillars. One is thin, pale grey, with dust falling from his wings as he folds them; the second is bulky with stony skin. The first grins at Bacon: “The creed of the elements is the principles of truth. Do you know them?” The second leans back against the wall, “How many are the Hermetic Principles?”
“Seven’” responds Bacon. “You do realise that you are expounding alchemy now though, and while these are related to the elements, your going to contradict yourself if you continue. One of the principles states that gender manifests on all planes, and everything is masculine or feminine – so how do you explain the void. By definition it can’t have either.”
“Damn, I’m stumped!” says the first mephit. “But, but…” stutters the second. The mephits flounder in exposition for some time, then conclude that Bacon has outdone both of them and the questions that would normally be posed to test those entering the chamber need to be revised. Each grabs hold of Bacon to have him present his case to the head of the Hermetic Council of their Elemental Plane and plane shifts home. Unfortunately, a dust mephit originates on the plane of Air, and an earth mephit on the plane of Earth. Half a dwarf has little conversational value on either plane.
“Just as well I hadn’t starting crafting that monk’s robe,” says Seldrel.
“Hey guys, there’s wands in here,” calls Lanliss. “Can you work out what they do while I count these coins.”
“Any copper?” asks Merxif.
“No, just gold and silver!”