We all came around the corner. Mongo was holding Hy, who seemed to be unconscious. Miara was standing nearby, looking awfully pale. Prestley said he couldn't see the tentacles anywhere. Miara said we needed to find the crystal and get it to dry ground as fast as we could. Then she keeled over. Ash picked her up and carried her out of the mud. Mongo searched the mud with his sword, flipped something out of the mud onto the dry floor, and then carried Hy up as well. The rest of us followed, before we were attacked again. It didn't look like most of us could stand another blow. We made our way back to the pit room safely.

They had actually retrieved the white crystal, and all the blue grey ones too. I looked at Hy, who seemed to be the worst off. I could heal him, but he remained unconscious, and his hands were magically wounded in a way I couldn't heal. I tried so hard, but I couldn't reach his mind, and I couldn't fix his hands. They'll scar very badly, I'm afraid. Most of the flesh was burned right off, down to the bone. Even the connecting ligaments were mostly gone. Apparently Carmella had done her heating trick to the crystal, and had built up a tremendous amount of heat in it. Which was released suddenly as soon as Hy rounded the corner carrying it, right out of her sight. I actually put his hands back together, for the most part. But his hands are crippled far beyond anything I can repair. He'll have some limited use with them, but certainly he'll have no fine control.

Having done all I could for Hy, I proceeded to heal everyone else. Miara was unhappy with Hy's condition. As usual, the hardest thing is always explaining bad situations to relatives, and Miara is particuarly hard to talk to. She has quite an attitude. It took me several hours to take care of the entire group. In the meantime, Mongo also nearly fainted. Much like Hy, it seemed to be a magical or spiritual hurt rather than physical, not something I can take care of.

They decided to destroy all the crystals, and Goldrim shattered them all with his maul. At the first blow, the tentacles reappeared, reaching out of the mud, but they couldn't reach any of us. And they disappeared when the cyrstals were destroyed, although Prestley said they seemed to just move away rather than be destroyed as well. As the last crystal shattered, Hy woke up. He was extrememly weak, and won't be able to do anything but walk, at best, for quite some time.

Mongo was carrying provisions, and after eating something, he said he felt better, although still weak. We all felt considerably better after eating. I had very little time to rest after healing everyone, but I did sit quietly while I ate, at least. The refreshments restored a great deal of my energy as well. I made some quick additions to my map.

Of course, no one would be happy without inspecting every last inch of the damned place, so we backtracked to explore everything we'd missed so far. On the bright side, we didn't see the tentacles again.

We returned to the stage room, and then Prestley looked through the north door. The tunnel didn't connect to the east as I had expected, but instead went straight ahead and ended in a door, and had another branch to the west, which was blocked by rubble. Before we opened the door, he also realized it was blocked by another portcullis. They started debating on how we could get around it, disable it, etc. But I took a quick glance at the map and said there might be another way to the room at the end. I was pretty sure the other passage we hadn't followed led there. That's the way we went, and I was right.

We found a room with a table that had a hidden compartment in it. Prestley said it was full of some kind of vegetable matter. I encouraged him to open it, as I'm always looking for useful herbs. However, as soon as he did so, a cloud of dust rose through the room, choking us all. Once the dust had settled, everyone stopped coughing, and seemed to have no ill effects. I inspected the dust that had settled on the table, and discovered it to be spores of some kind. I didn't recognize them, but they didn't seem particularly harmful, judging by the effects I felt, which seemed on par with what everyone else felt. I scooped some into a jar, just in case I needed to identify it later.

Nothing else interesting was in the room, and Prestley said there wasn't anything else to inspect around us. There was still one more passage we hadn't travelled, so that was our next destination. Miara said since it slopes up and wasn't apparently attached to anything else down here, it might give us an alternate route out. I hope so: it would be easier than rope-climbing, especially if we were on the run from something again.

We went the long way around to avoid the portcullises, and walked up the long shallow staircase, only to find a door at the end. Prestley looked into it, said the door wasn't locked, and that the other side was a room with shelves, a chair, and some kind of light.

Jason opened the door, and all we all trooped in. There were shelves all along two walls, and one sort of turned into a desk with a chair in front of it. The light came from some crystal that was set in the ceiling, about two hands big. There was lots of junk on the shelves, but nothing of interest. Prestley noticed another hidden compartment behind a shelf, and said there was something inside that looked like pieces of parchment. He opened it, and I carefully removed the pieces of parchment. It was obviously one piece that had fallen apart and was quite delicate. I pieced them together, although obviously some of it had turned into dust. The writing was in dwarvish, and Goldrim translated it and read it alound to us. I made him repeat it slowly a couple of times and wrote it down in Bretonian:

Take heed, O powers of stone and steel, and do not deny me passage. I am come to you a trueborn son of Grungi, who first opened the underground way. I am free from dishonour, cowardice and treachery. My soul is unburdened by guilt. I have done all that is required of me, therefore open the way unto me and delay me no longer.

Those who seek audience with out Lord must first make him an offering. A body must be cast so that its blood falls and wets our Lord's lips, turning red the centre of the plinth and its upper edges also. The eyes that closely guard the ground must be blinded by the red life-offering so that our Lord may not be distracted from his feast.

Then the singing guardians must be struck thrice to give notice of new entrance. If this is done then our Lord will be ready to receive guests and to answer what they will. But the lore of hospitality requires that admittance be gained only after the request has been made. So read the words that are given and the rocks will hear and respond. Here upon the offering will be received and the way will be clear.

Some words of advice that should be heeded: Do not ask more than has been given. And do not touch lest you be touched in return. For it is said that what our Lord receives he will return in time, tenfold and more.

For if you trespass and flee you will be damned. All faces will turn with hatred on those who try to leave thus, and they will be burned and banished hated from this place forever. And especially beware should a threat be made towards our Lord's special feature in the octagonal hall on...

Then he went into one of his trances for a moment. When he'd come back, he said he'd had a vision: ugly dwarven faces spewing molten metal, like volcanos. Jason said they sounded like the faces in the altar room downstairs.

Thinking about it, and referring to my map, which I updated again, I figured that where the ogres were, upstairs and behind the portcullis, was actually right above the altar room, and the portcullis itself was above the entrance.

Mongo asked Goldrim about what that whole thing on hospitality and sacrifices meant to the dwarves. He said not much. Hospitality is certainly a tradition, but not the way it's described there, and definitely not linked with blood sacrifices.

We stood around for quite a while trying to make the connections between the parchments and the altar room, and what exactly we'd have to do to get through those doors. I didn't think that was a good idea at all. I don't trust gods anyway, and this place was just downright scary. I wanted nothing to do with whatever god was in there. But Miara was insistent, and no one else objected.

Before leaving, Carmella had Jason boost her up so she could pry out the crystal from the ceiling. It continues to glow, so it will be useful. She definitely has a thing about crystals, though. At least she hasn't brought up the zoggin rock in a while. Too much to hope for, but maybe she'll forget about it.

Just in case we'd missed something important, we went back to the room that had all the crystals and looked around. Nothing there matched up with the writing we had, so we finally all returned into the altar room.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~