In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Alena's Diary (Entry 2)

Precious Gilbert,

Willikins has just returned with his latest report, and I have some delightful news for you. That team of misfits you’re so interested in has survived Karzak’s laboratory. I certainly didn’t expect it, though from what I hear their experience there was most amusing. Allow me to elaborate.

Do you recall the Zuvembie incident I wrote you about last time? They arrived at the Southern entrance to the laboratory not a day after almost losing their lives to that creature. A note in the report here mentions how they spent quite a while examining the doorway, but I hardly see how that is relevant. Regardless, they soon entered the lab, the fairy leading the way with her lighted tail. Is this right? Does she have such a thing? How… unique.

Following the flickering of a lit torch further down the halls, my new pets encountered, most surprisingly, another group of adventurers, this one hailing from Shizamu to the North. Both teams doused their lights at the same time, whispering and arguing in the darkness. Willikins describes it as “quite the fracas”, and indeed, it sounds like a most hilarious mess.

After a short time, the two groups managed to rekindle their lights and have something approaching a civil conversation, one that was quickly cut short by the appearance of, as it says here, “large humanoid badgers”. Karzak certainly had some strange interests.

The outside threat quickly fostered friendship between the two groups, and they joined together to fight these “oddly resilient” badger people. The Shizamu adventuring team was made up of a “knight in shining armor” and a " mysterious monk who created spectacular effects using only his hands". Willikins never was able to properly grasp the idea of magic, poor fool. It seems there was a third member, some sort of demonic woman with a knife, but she was quickly killed by a mysterious wolf among the badgers. The report says something else on the matter, but for now I think I shall keep that to myself.

Our small unit, along with Shizamu’s, were having quite a bit of trouble fighting off the badger men, but were saved by the appearance of yet another adventuring party, this one from the distant Saran. The odds required for all three of our representing groups to be there at the same time are quite astronomical, but that is a question for another time. That is to say, I already have Willikins investigating.

More to the point, this new team was made up of a violent half-orc with a terribly crude weapon, and a manner to match, a half-elf skilled at summoning magic, and, surprisingly, former Private Masozi from Captain El-Mofty’s original squad. It seems that the dear fairy Captain forgot the bounty that I placed on the deserter’s head. We shall have to have words about that, once she returns.

Working together, the three groups were able to slay all of the badger men, along with the single wolf, with only a single casualty. Though the report is unclear on the details, it seems they decided to join forces in order to explore the rest of the dungeon. A wise choice in the circumstances, but I must admit I am surprised Private Masozi agreed to the arrangement.

Returning the way they came, these new comrades discovered a most peculiar monster blocking the way forward. After some exhaustive research, Willikins has determined it must have been a creature called a “Gelatinous Cube”, or at least something approaching it. The thing’s ability to use spells suggests a more delightfully sinister heritage – perhaps it was even the remains of one of the lab’s researchers, mutated by long, excruciating experiments. Oh, forgive me, I grow a bit too excited.

The “heroes” of the other nations were quite cowardly, save for that half-elf, and avoided contact with the abomination. I am pleased to say that my pets were much more valiant. Lieutenant Gilbert Barkwin in particular lived up to your namesake, and pelted the thing with arrows from close range until it finally died. If only I had been there to hear its death cry, I’m sure it was marvelous.

Of course, while our unit was dealing with the blob, the idiot half-orc from Saran tripped a trap and released a menagerie of strange creatures into the halls. Willikins spares me a tedious description of each one, but assures me that they were most horrid. The half-elf summoned him aid, and with the help of such earth elementals as his ally could conjure, the brute managed to kill them all. It is disappointing that he failed to meet a bloody end, but I suppose such crude strength has its uses. More interesting is this “Luthion”, the half-elf. He seems most capable. Perhaps I shall have to investigate him further.

After they dealt with these threats, another mess occurred with the teams splitting up, reforming, and going in seemingly random directions, but suffice it to say that they eventually came together again in a hall with several solid, metal doors. The ugly brute proved his usefulness here, using a crowbar to open one of the portals, finding an emancipated elf inside. The fool was another would-be explorer, and ended up trapped in the room for weeks, surviving on rats and bugs, and going slowly insane. Oh, how wonderful.

The next door they opened contained a swarm of flying heads. I would have been much less excited about this, but their target was the half-orc, and they flew around him, biting and jabbering nonsense. It must have been hilarious. In the end, however, they were only heads, and the explorers killed them and explored the room. The hideous brute found a potion inside, and recklessly took a drink from it, causing his head to detach from his body and fly around jabbering. Willikins was quite descriptive on this point, and I fear that I shall be having nightmares about this for several weeks to come.

At last they found the mastermind behind all the crazed creatures and traps in the laboratory. Inside the third room was the soul of a deceased magician, inhabiting a writhing body of maggots, worms, and all manner of vermin. To their credit, none of the party ran at this sight, but instead promptly tried to kill the abomination. This is no surprise for Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen, of course. I’m sure that the present I gave to her was most displeased that such a creature existed.

The evil sorceror proved to be more than a match for even the combined forces of all three groups, and they could not so much as harm it, or its pet, a filthy construct made from rotting body parts. Of course, they may have done better had the revolting brute, undoubtedly their most physically powerful member, not been stuck as a flapping, jabbering head for the duration of the fight. As it is, Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen landed a solid hit on the mastermind and somehow made it just… vanish. She is either more skilled than I had originally thought, or incredibly lucky. Regardless, it seems I made a fine decision in choosing her to use that blade.

Once the crawling chaos had been dispersed, it was merely a matter of cleaning up the rest of the lab. They were able to defeat the rotting golem without much trouble, and a horrid, glowing lizard creature gave them a challenge in another part of the lab, but they eventually killed that as well, then scoured the rest of the lab for anything of interest.

Gaybreighal disappointed me with his lack of action throughout his stint with the party. I realize that that is, as one might say, his modus operandi, but he failed to disrupt his would-be allies at all. It seems that Lieutenant Barkwin traded him to Luthion for a whetstone. A whetstone. The half-elf even offered her a sum of gold, but she wanted the whetstone. Alas, but it isn’t too much of a loss. In fact, for the unit, it’s most certainly a net gain. What an amusing thought.

Overall, I must say that I am quite impressed with their skill, or at least their luck. I am still not entirely certain which of those is responsible for their success. Of course, according to Willikins, the rumored relic I sent them there for originally vanished along with the maggots, so calling it a “success” may be something of a stretch. They have at least proved their usefulness, and, looking back over this letter, I notice that I have even unconsciously learned several of their names. Perhaps they will continue to surprise me.

Is that information enough to quench your curiosity, Gilbert? If so, perhaps you could come visit me when you return. I long to see your face again, and I suspect you’d be eager to meet these recruits you’re so interested in. There is the matter of that horrible thing in the basement as well. I’d feel much safer if you were to look into it.

Eagerly awaiting your loving reply,
Alena

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