67. If the cap fits, wear… shit

Taken from Tunwéya’s notebooks:

Apologies for the scrawl. Shortly after my last hastily scribbled recollections, we concluded our brief rest inside one mausoleum, and advanced around the Temple to locate the small shack in which the necromancer and fallen Acolyte Gideon had concealed himself. Having rested for so brief a period I was conscious that my own spellcasting reserves remained drained and it was not much consolation to reflect that the same would probably be true of the necromancer.

However, rather than wait to find out whether this was true (and after failing to persuade Gideon to open the shed door), Hinnerk adopted a refreshingly forthright approach, kicking the door open with such force the roof tiles jumped, and casting (that is to say, literally casting) a (physical) net over the necromancer before he (the necromancer) fully understood what was happening.

Hinnerk impressed on him (verbally) that we simply wanted the Helm of Torm and made it clear (extremely physically) that he was going to accompany us into the Temple he had so kindly filled with aberrations. In fact, Gideon proved moderately willing to fall in with this plan, providing that we kept up a string of suitably positive noises regarding his desire to close the portal to the Demonic realms which had opened beneath the temple.

He was less keen, I believe, when Leofric began to ponder whether these Demons might be connected with whatever spirit was contained within the shield we’d been lugging around in the Bag of Holding for some time, but the Shield was delighted to be in Avernus, roaring out “I ruled this land once!”, without actually giving much of a clear answer as to whether or not it would restore Elturel to the Material Plane if we engaged in a little light regime change on its behalf.

We put it back in the bag, for now.

Venturing into the Temple itself, and prodding Gideon before us, we found the ruins of a beautiful stained glass window depicting a man kneeling before Torm. Leofric – perhaps inspired by the beauty the ruined window once represented – knelt among the shards, and prayed at the altar, whereupon two things happened:

One, an impressively magical longsword clanged into existence on the altartop, which Leofric gratefully took, and,

Two, Gideon Lightward looked exceptionally mardy.

Leofric, in gratitude for this, reverentially placed onto the altar the letter to the dead cultist Anselm, from his mother, onto the altar and prayed that they would both find peace. He also bestowed the sword Heavens Fall on Reya who currently has only a silvered longsword. In keeping with the tradition Leofric established when he discovered the sword, she stowed it carefully, resolving to study it later. (Memo: must stop letting everyone else commandeer all the research projects).

Having thus shown Gideon How To Be A Good Priest (and observing, for his benefit, that no souls had been forcibly stuffed back into rotting bodies in order to achieve this sign of divine favour) we drove him downstairs at swordpoint, and into the Temple undercroft. The man assured us that the demon-spawning portal was working less well since he attacked it, and promised he could destroy it for good if only we helped him get there. Instead, we directed him to show us where the Helm of Torm could be found.

The Helm was, as predicted, guarded by a demonic creature, an exceptionally ugly, blind, monster with a vast, trailing, barbed tongue. It did not attack, however, and appeared at least outwardly reasonable: a Canoloth, set here on the orders of Lishandra to see that the Helm of Torm was not removed from its place in the undercroft. Through Reya, who is able to speak Infernal, we were able to explain our presence to the Canoloth, however despite our explaining both that we had already spoken with Lishandra and that we had been sent to recover the Helm (memo: note the cleverness of this), the Canoloth stuck stubbornly to its insistence that the Helm could not be removed.

Which, we noted with extreme cunning, did not preclude the Helm being worn inside the room. The eyeless creature’s brow seemed to furrow as it considered that point, but it conceded that its orders probably did not prevent anyone wearing the Helm inside the room.

Exactly how we got from that moment of rhetorical triumph to my trying to force myself to record why I’m scribbling this in a corner of the crypt’s below High Hall with Leofric’s blood all over me and the sound of Gideon’s bones crunching ringing in my ears is… rather challenging. Even trying to think of it makes it feel like I’ve been running for hours, although in this condition I can scarcely run. Presumably there is a very simple explanation. Really need coffee.

The Canoloth agreed to our request. Reya put on the Helm of Torm. Immediately collapsed. I checked: unconscious. Tried making her comfortable. Couldn’t remove Helm. Couldn’t abandon Reya, but couldn’t take her without offending Canoloth. Couldn’t communicate with Canoloth without Reya. Lulu, capable of telepathy, but refused speaking to Canoloth; said it creature of pure evil. Wanted to destroy it. Thought that harsh at time. Should apologise.

Reya refused to wake. Sat and waited for her recovery. Hinnerk insists wait was 15 minutes; extent to which my shoulders knotted simply from sitting uselessly suggest it must be nearer three hours. Smoked cigar.

Chittering in corridor. Shout from Hinnerk. Reya still helpless. Two monsters. Insectoid, mandibles, tridents. Mezzaloths. Rose to fight: ice knife. Gideon broke bonds, attacked Canaloth. Creature roared in pain. Good. Lulu used last trumpet, hid. Took trident through my thigh, staggered. Saw Canaloth bind Leofric in barbed tongue, drag him prone. Xanthe wouldn’t stop screaming. Moonbeam on Canaloth. Detailed Lulu to protect Reya. Hinnerk stabbed mezzoloth. Canaloth dragged Leofric in. Clamped mouth. Bit hard. Guts. Derek’s laughter as Leofric’s ribs burst. Gideon tried fleeing. I dodged mezzoloth, Hold Person on Gideon. His fault. Wanted to know he heard Leofric die. Last mezzoloth thrust trident in my side. Suspect clipped lung. Hinnerk killed the mezzoloth. Caught breath, looked around.

Reya helpless, Lulu cowering. Leofric dying. Gideon Held. Cigar. Shillelagh into back of Gideon’s skull. Hinnerk fed Leofric healing potion. Turned on Gideon. Broke his hand with pommel of his sword. Got no apology. Smashed other hand. Leofric, swaying, struggled over, cut Gideon’s throat. Stood to do it. Bad shape, vomiting blood but likely to live. Spewing blood and insisting helpless prisoners not suffer unduly. Still himself, at least. Even thinking about it makes me queasy.

We abandoned the portal. Bigger concerns than demons to worry about. We carried Reya. A long, slow, limp back to High Hall, but we made it. Pherria has formed prayer circle around Reya, all joining hands. Going to join in as soon as I have a minute. Currently reluctant; Canoloth gore and barbs stuck between fingers (query: source? Don’t remember physically touching it. Must have sought to rip out tongue at root.). Good excuse to conceal persistent trembling in my hands.

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