Episode 8: Divination and the Dwarf

Morning arrives, but the room remains as still and quiet as it was when the adventurers went to sleep the night before. Yaseino twitches his huge ears to listen. He still can’t detect anything from the double doors to the east. However, the sobbing can still be heard from behind the door to the south.

“Still?” whispers Loli, raising her eyebrows at the Jackrabbit. “’As that been goin’ all night?”

Yaseino shrugs, and the gnome tiptoes over to the door while casting her Ghostly Gaze. This lets her look through the door and into the room, which appears to be a library, but she can’t see anyone in there, sobbing or otherwise. Moving east, she can also see that there is a sarcophagus behind each of the six tapestries that decorate the walls. Finally, beyond the double doors, her sense shows her a fairly small room with a throne at its centre, resting atop a dais carved to resemble a cloud. Seated on this throne is a twelve-foot tall humanoid with a metallic pile of something she can’t quite make out at its feet.

“Anything?” says Raddak eagerly, trying to see if there are any cracks in the doors that he might be able to peek through.

“Possibly a library over there,” Loli replies thoughtfully, nodding towards the first door. “And a huge person wearing a toga on a throne in here.”

Raddak cocks his head, quizzically.

“A statue?”

“No, I don’t think so,” answers Loli. “Although I can’t really tell through the wall.”

The Kobold strides over to the first door.

“This one it is, then!” he says, reaching for the handle just as Moon leaps over to stop him.

“Remember what the voice said,” she warns. “’Humility proffered in the manner of Mystril shelters those opening the way to seek knowledge’. Better safe than sorry, yes?”

Standing in front of the door, the Tabaxi bows her head and raises her arm as if holding a lamp, then opens it. Nothing happens. Beyond it, Raddak can see a hallway leading to another door and he walks down to open this too, making the same gesture before he does so.

The others follow him, and the sobbing becomes louder.

Still unable to see anything inside the room, Raddak peruses the dusty bookshelves while he decides what to do but, as he gets close to them, he hears a loud, slightly menacing voice beside him.

“Why are you here?”

“Just wanted to look at the books,” he replies, but the voice cuts him off.

“DON’T LOOK AT THE BOOKS!” it shrieks.

A faint, female apparition appears across the room, its face covered by its hands.

“This is the Library of Diderius,” the figure says quietly. “He died.”

She suddenly vanishes, then immediately reappears next to Yaseino, who turns white in terror and physically ages ten years.

“WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

“We’re looking for a dwarf,” says Raddak, timidly.

“An’ a way out!” adds Loli. The apparition merely screams loudly and disappears.

Moon surreptitiously looks around for any items but finds every single bookshelf curiously empty. She gives Loli a quizzical look, and the warlock raises her voice to address the ghost again.

“We can ‘elp you, if you’ll let us. What is it you need?”

The figure appears beside her, still faint but not as threatening.

“You would do that?” she whispers. “Little holy person, I am Ilda. I was an apprentice here, but I was banished mistakenly as a thief because one of the master’s prized books went missing. I did not take it, but I was blamed for it and punished.” She floats over to the nearest shelf and raises her hand to it.

Raddak thinks for a moment.

“It may be that if the book is returned to the library, she could be freed,” he says.

The apparition turns towards him with a hopeful expression on her pale face.

“Do you think the book can be found and returned?”

Moon roll her eyes.

“Unless it is valuable,” she says under her breath, knowing that Raddak has already taken two dragon hoards, a chest full of treasure and various magical items all for himself, and the likelihood of an expensive book escaping his clutches is negligible to say the least.

The apparition suddenly appears beside her, then forcefully takes control of her body.

“YOU WILL NOT TAKE THE BOOKS!” she cries angrily. “YOU WILL PROMISE!”

Moon is unable to do so as she has no possession of her faculties, so Ilda walks her over to the wall and begins to bang the Tabaxi’s head against it over and over again. Finally, she surrenders control and Moon drops to her knees, her hands to her forehead.

Loli steps towards the ghost.

“Do you know anything about this complex?” she asks carefully.

“No,” Ilda replies. “I have not left the library. But I do know that there is a divination pool. The master would use it to see that which cannot normally be seen.”

Raddak’s eyes light up.

“The dwarf came here to use it!”

“To find the location of the white dragon mask,” murmurs Moon, dizzily trying to stand.

“Yes!” shouts the Kobold, turning to the ghost. “Ilda, do you know where we can find this pool?”

The ghost looks mournful.

“No,” she says. “But I do know that the pool’s revelations can cause the user to go insane. Gazing into it demands a sacrifice and, I think, the price by now must be a very high one to pay indeed.”

After reassuring Ilda that they would find the book for her, the adventurers again make the gesture of Mystril in front of another set of double doors leading out of the library, before opening them and stepping through. To their surprise, they find themselves standing in front of the throne that Loli had seen before, along with its twelve-foot tall, toga-wearing occupant. At the foot of the throne is a pile of treasure, and Raddak takes a step towards it. The figure opens its eyes.

“Ye who seek Diderius’s insight must first furnish tribute, that Diderius might work his mighty magic,” it booms. “Lay such tribute at my feet or depart.”

Each of the adventurers steps forward and leaves an offering; Loli, a gemstone; Raddak, ten gold pieces; Mirik, a gold piece; and Moon, a silver piece, along with another for Yaseino who eschews fortune and carries no currency of his own. The huge figure does not move as the group heads towards another door on the left, and Yaseino leans in to listen for any danger beyond. He can hear a muted conversation involving several voices, but he can’t understand the language in which they’re speaking. Luckily, when Raddak listens he can hear them referring to the treasure at the foot of the statue, so the friends set up an ambush to see if they can draw the occupants out.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, no matter how loudly Raddak enthuses about the pile of riches. Out of ideas, the adventurers reckon that their best bet now is to just march straight up the stairs and into the room to confront whoever is in there.

This room is dominated by a large stone table, possibly indicative of a dining area of some kind. Seated around the table are five Bearded Devils, who are currently relaxing around it and don’t seem at all bothered by the strange group of critters who have just shown up.

“Erm, hello?” says Raddak, taking the lead and stepping forward.

“Yeah,” replies one of the Devils, then goes back to talking about the treasure with his mates.

Raddak isn’t giving up.

“Have you seen a dwarf come through here, by any chance?”

“Yeah,” sniffs the Devil again. “Varram. He told us to guard against anyone entering from that door over there, so that’s what we’re doing.” He points to a door at the bottom of some stairs to the left of the adventurers, and the Kobold follows his finger.

“How long ago did he tell you to do that, and where did he go?” he questions.

The Devil shrugs.

“Dunno. He went off through the door opposite a while ago, but he hasn’t come back yet.”

“So we can go down the stairs to this door, but you’ll attack us when we come back in here afterwards, is that right?” Raddak says, wondering if the Devils are all dumb enough that they’re taking the dwarf’s instructions word for word.

“Yep,” answers the Devil. “We’re only attacking anything that comes through that door and into this room.”

Gotham, Moon’s Death Weasel familiar, uncurls from the top of her head and she sends him down the stairs to investigate the door, but it’s locked. He makes his way back up to her and a blast of magic comes from the Devil’s table, incinerating the poor creature. Moon gapes in disbelief and Mirik turns to them, angrily.

“Why did you do that?” she demands. “He didn’t come through the door, he just came back up the stairs!”

“Same thing,” says the Devil with a shrug, before turning back to his companions.

Deciding that they may as well go down the stairs and open the door now, the friends line up behind Raddak as he checks it for traps but, the minute he opens it, the party is accosted by three wraiths and six spectres, both in the room in front of them and behind them on the stairs. They battle these undead creatures for quite a while; although it is not an easy fight as they can slip through the walls and emerge to surprise the adventurers, they’re eventually dispatched back to oblivion and the friends are left standing alone in an old bedchamber.

Inside this room they see an elegant bed, a set of bookshelves and a large chest, along with a side table on which stands a silver ewer and four goblets. Raddak and Loli go straight to the bookshelves where they find two unusual and expensive-looking tomes; one named Transubstantiality across Potentialities, and another that seems to be a magical treatise on the spellcasting practices of the ancient Netheril.

“Do you suppose these are the books that Ilda was talking about?” says Loli, as she thumbs gently through one of them.

“I think so,” nods Raddak, and the two of them carefully place the volumes into their packs for safekeeping.

Moon walks over to the ewer and picks it up. It appears to be empty, but when she tilts it to make sure, a strange gas flows from its spout and into one of the goblets. She contemplates this for a moment, but her curious nature pushes her to raise the goblet to her lips and breathe in the strange fumes. Luckily, it doesn’t harm her, and she puts the items into her pack so they can be identified later.

Meanwhile, Raddak moves over to the chest and opens it cautiously; the air inside seems to hiss out as he does so, as if it was vacuum sealed. He finds seven beautiful, pristine silk robes, a Ring of Resistance with an amethyst setting, and two spell scrolls of Protection from Energy. He puts all of them into his pack except for the scrolls, which he gives to Loli.

The adventurers take a short rest, mainly to decide how they might be able to get past the Bearded Devils, and it’s during this rest that they notice a dumb waiter in the hallway just outside the door. It looks as if it would take them back up the corridor where they were chased by the bone boulder, and they find this to be true when they all squeeze up it, making sure to get out of the corridor pretty sharpish just in case there are more boulders. From here, Loli goes back into the library and places the books back onto the shelf, whereupon Ilda smiles.

“Thank you,” she whispers, and disappears.

Moon, having not made a promise to the ghost and still feeling slighted at how she was treated by it, quietly removes the tome about the Netheril from the shelf and slips it into her bag, leaving only the Transubstantiality book behind. She figures such an ancient book should be in a museum where it can be studied, not lost in the depths of a tomb.

Heading back through the double doors that lead out of the library, leaving a few more pieces of gold and silver for the huge figure seated in the throne and then going back into the dining room, the adventurers barely even acknowledge the Bearded Devils because they know that they haven’t emerged from the doorway that they’re watching. Instead, they just tramp straight through the room and out of the door to their right. The Devils watch them go but take no action.

This time, the door leads to a corridor that turns north before opening into a long gallery. To their left, the group sees a set of double doors that bulges out into the room, and they suppose that they are on the other side of the room into which Loli gazed and found it to be full of fallen stones and masonry. Ahead of them is a pool, although it’s empty of any water. Around the pool, they can see bloodstains, arrows, and the corpse of a Cultist, and as Yaseino approaches and gently turns him over, he notices that the man didn’t die from arrowfire. Moon joins him.

“Was this man a sacrifice, as Ilda mentioned?” she whispers.

“It looks like it,” says Raddak. “But we could find out for sure. Could you disguise yourself as a Cultist?”

Moon nods. Taking out her Hat of Disguise and putting it on, her clothes immediately transform into those of a Dragonsoul, complete with mask, whereupon she crouches down beside the Kobold. Raddak makes a gesture with his hands and casts Speak with Dead, and the corpse open its eyes and lets out a dry gasp.

“You’re back,” says Raddak, making sure that the two of them appear as allies to the man. “What happened to you, can you tell us how you died?”

“I gave myself,” rasps the Cultist. “I gave myself for the greater good. Praise Tiamat!”

“Hmm,” replies Raddak. “And what did your master find out from the pool?”

The man’s expression falters.

“I do not know. I was already dead when the answer was given.”

“Who did you fight?” Raddak asks, indicating the arrows all around the chamber.

“The Yuan-Ti,” sighs the Cultist.

“And where did Varram the White go?”

“Varram the White killed me with his dragontooth dagger. I did not see where he went.”

Raddak asks his final question, in the hope that some useful information can be gained.

“And what knowledge was sought from the pool which you gave your life for?”

The man smiles faintly and breathes his last words.

“Varram, my master, wanted to know the location of the white dragon mask.”

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