Field Journal Entry:
Brother Aught: Chult: Omu: Temple of the Nine Gods
I continue to write these journal entries in celestial, since entering the Tomb for, while I have faith that my Shieldbrothers and I will successfully complete our mission, the likelihood of us all surviving to see sunlight again is greatly lacking in certainty. Therefore, given the dangerous and heretical abominations that I have witnessed and transcribed in these humble pages, I have taken this simple measure to limit the dissemination of such horror inducing information should my journal fall into evil hands. The effectiveness of such a measure is something I will never know the veracity of…
I am possessed.
I cannot say why fore I grasped the mandolin. I knew it housed Shagambi, the neutral good trickster god. Perhaps I was frustrated with the divisive actions my Shieldbrothers had been committing, or my own ineffective attempts at perfidy. Nevertheless, I did. Shagambi entered my consciousness and he declared into my soul, "Show no mercy to the Servants of Evil." Simple enough. Torm already decrees that we fight all forms of Evil, including it's servants. Therefore, withholding mercy from those I am already sworn to oppose seemed a reasonable and achievable dictum.
Then things became truly complicated, for two of my shieldbrothers are possessed by evil Trickster Gods, Razz by the chaotic evil Wongo, and Shageyume by the neutral evil Nyang Nyang. Which triggered a debate, a philosophical treatise on the nature of Evil, and intention, and definition of mercy that would have made Elder Boem proud. Shagambi and I discussed the nature of victimization and free will, mercy – in all of it's myriad forms. A debate that seemed to take days, orated at the speed of thought – all in my mind. In the end we came to the conclusion that, while my shieldbrothers are the victims of possession, they are still the servants of Evil. And, that healing is the ultimate expression of mercy. Therefore, I will continue to fight by my shieldbrothers sides, my shield there shield, however no longer will I bestow upon them the healing grace of Torm, lest I become complicit in their Evil and depraved actions.
Now I have to inform them.
I must admit, grand philosophical debates on the very nature of Evil taking place in ones mind at the speed of thought is quite distracting. To my shame, I was not paying attention to my shieldbrothers. I looked up and Shageyume was naked and… charred. Stump looked quite displeased, and Hakkan quite bloodied. Apparently, in his compulsion induced greed, Shageyume triggered another near fatal trap – but he lived. I must admit, the events are all a blur. But my focus is now on the task at hand.
We journeyed into a room filled with an opaque crystal sarcophagus, oscillating in color. On the roof, was the diagram of an ever shifting labyrinth, as well as some iconography depicting minotaurs. In the middle of a sarcophagus, was a key hole, but to my knowledge, we had no key. We inspected the room for a time, then Shageyume approached the design of the labyrinth, traced it with his finger, and disappeared. I had a moment of worry for my shieldbrother, fearing he might face a minotaur in it's natural habitat – but only time for a moment before 12 skeletal minotaurs burst through the walls of the room and advanced on us. I was able to position myself in the center of the room and call upon the Glory of Torm to drive the undead away. Of the 12, nine fled and only three remained to attack us. I drew my warhammer and waited.
In this time, Hakkan ran down the hallway, I have no idea why. But it greatly irritated Stump – which was perplexing – but I myself, have been supremely vexed by Shageyume's constant retreats, leaving us in danger- perhaps something transpired while I was distracted to push Stump over the edge of frustration. I must admit, it will be nice to have the company.
Between Stump and myself, we made short work of the remaining skeletal minotaurs. Though, Stump completed the lion's share of the task, not unusual. I must admit, my sword-arm, or warhammer arm in this case, faired rather poorly after the first skeleton. It was almost as if Torm was trying to tell me something. Something I haven’t wanted to hear…
We defeated all 12 skeletons, although at one point Razz managed to shoot me. I held out his arrow to him and said, "We need to talk". To which he shrugged and retrieved the arrow. I must elaborate, thus far, Razz is a masterful shot. To miss a 10 foot tall skeletal minotaur, bypass my magical shield and ring of protection, and pierce my heavy plate armor – on accident – overwhelms the mind with incredulity. There was a time when I would never have doubted my shield brother’s intentions. To my great sadness, no longer do I possess that luxury.
With a sort of popping sound, Shageyume returned to our room, holding an amethyst crystal key. He went to insert in the lock, when we cautioned for him to wait until the color of the lock and sarcophagus are identical. Fortunately, he listened, and the sarcophagus opened, revealing the tomb of Unkh, the neutral trickster god, and snail flail. In now characteristic tempestuousness, the little gnome grabbed the cloak within and wrapped himself within it, immediately triggering a struggle between Nyang Nyang and Unkh on the battleground of his soul. Praise Torm, Unkh was victorious, driving Nyang Nyang back to into his magical vessel. I do not know what compulsion Unkh will place upon my little shieldbrother. And truly, at this moment I do not care. For even if it places us in more mortal peril then his previous toxic greed, a feat I can barely begin to ponder, he is freed from the clutches of an evil god. I can share the healing graces of Torm with him once more.
The danger averted, Shageyume cleansed of Nyang Nyang, I felt now was the time to inform the group of the clarity Shagambi brought me and my decision thereto. I did not wish to trick Razz, fore I had attempted subterfuge on Shageyume during a moment of great vexation, and I still feel shame at my currish attempt at chicanery. Instead, I explained my position to the group and offered Razz a choice. Take my hand, let the Lawful Obo'laka in my ring attempt to drive out Wongo. If Obo'laka were to fail, I would bring all the power of Torm that I could bare to free him from Wong right then in that moment. I implored him, entreated him. In the end, Razz denied me. "I am not a servant of Wongo", he said to me, "Wongo serves me".
I hope it did not show on my face, though I am not adept at deception, but my heart broke. Truly, I had read the accounts of the seductive nature of Evil's power, but I had never seen them with my own eyes until this moment.
My shieldbrother has chosen, with his own free will, to remain a servant of Evil. If he falls in battle, fallen he will remain. I will not sully my own soul, nor the grace of Torm to restore one who chooses evil.
Oddly during this moment, Hakkan asked me if it was evil to utilize deceit in an attempt to do good. At first, I thought he was wondering if I was judging his actions as our shadowbrother. I attempted to put his mind at ease, because the road he must walk is a perilous one, and the moral tightrope of the shadowbrother as dangerous as any trapped corridor. As such- just at Torm did with his shadowbrother, Urult Gloomknife, – I do not hold him to the standard I hold myself.
Apparently, I was mistaken – he was referring to my poorly executed attempts to trick Shageyume into cleansing himself of Nyang Nyang.
Oddly, no matter how many times I admitted it was wrong of me to attempt deception and had learned from my mistakes, as evidenced by giving Razz his choice now, he kept reiterating himself. Strange, maybe he is worried I would utilize Torm's powers to deceive him in some way. Now that I ponder it, Stump expressed worry for me as well. Hmmm… perhaps we are all as wary of each other and the dead trickster gods we carry as I have been for Shageyume and Razz. This thought saddens me. All brothers and sisters of Torm at temple dream of the bonds they will form with their Shieldbrothers, the adventures they will share, and the loyalty they possess for one another, a loyalty that will act as the world's Shield agains the coming darkness. Never do we imagine caution at the real possibility of our shieldbrothers leaving us to die, or even being the instrument of our demise. Truly this Tomb is the most terrible of places, perhaps the death of the Nine trickster gods that resides here is having more of an affect on us than we know, to make shieldbrothers doubt one another…
I do not have time for despair. The fate of all the planes rest in our hands, no matter how heavy my heart.
With that, we rested for a short period. Hakkan disappeared for period of time, as he often does.
When we were sufficiently rested, we descended deeper into the heart of the Tomb. We found a dock, with a… lake in it? This tomb is as ridiculous as it is treacherous. Sometimes I wish we had not already dispatched Withers the undead architect, solely so I could kill him once more.
We explored another stone corridor that seemed to go around the lake, covered with some viscous goo. Razz cautioned us not ingest the goo or allow it upon our skin. We found a grassy area, and Hakkan explored ahead. A short time later, he came running back, injured and covered in dirt and trash. He claimed to be attacked by some sort of "muck monster" that sprang from the ground. Hakkan determined his best course of action would be to use his superior athletics to climb the wall around the lake in order to gain a tactical advantage on them. It seemed he wished all of us do follow him in this gravity defying athletic endeavor. Sometimes, I think he forgets that Stump and I are wearing almost 70 lbs of heavy metal plates, intricately crafted together. And, even were we not, we do not have his experience climbing sheer surfaces. Stump and I shared a look, and Stump simply stated, "No."
Hakkan was not deterred and ventured to gain his tactical advantage, regardless of lack of accompaniment. I admit, that I did not gain first hand experience of what transpired next. My understanding is that Hakkan fell not once, not twice, but three times into the lake! Which, would be funny if the consequences were not so dire. On his third plummet into the brackish waters, he awakened some sort of creature. With tentacles.
I will admit that I heard none of this. I was unaware of my shieldbrothers's peril until Stump went dashing off. I attempted to follow but – well, let me say that if I make it back to Temple, I will endeavor to acquire more heavy plate for the Curates to train in, so that they have more experience moving swiftly in heavy armor. A feat I have not yet mastered.
By the time I arrived, the abomination had been dispatched, apparently it was a violent, dangerous, and noxious battle. My companions were covered in viscous goo and Hakkan looked like a drowned dire rat. We decided we would simply go and fight the Muck Monsters. But when we arrived, there was no sign of them. The look on Hakkan's soaking wet face was the most comedic thing I had seen in days. And my heart was lighter for it, for a time…