The party passed the rest of the tests without any real trouble -- the test of dexterity involved jumping from pillar to pillar, the test of wisdom was to turn around and leave instead of facing the test, and the test of intelligence was a puzzle straight out of Professor Leighton where you had to arrange a bunch of gears to open a door, where instead of losing Picarats for the wrong solution, you lost hit points to electrical shock.
After all the tests were passed, instead of the staircase opening for them, a cement pillar came down, and there was an elf. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked.
Ariel explained everything about their quest and the root of Silvanis, while Beware and Heyyou made snide remarks in the background about how they didn't know this elf from Adam and wow, he was telling EVERYTHING wasn't he? "Shut up or I'll blow you all away!" was Ariel's response.
The elf asked if they were going to leave the root in the 'Hall of the Condemned', and Ariel said, no, they just needed to get past the dragon. "Dragon?" "The one in the courtyard." "Why haven't the mages driven it away?" "They're all dead. Nothing up there but ogres and skeletons." "I need to ask Varitrix what's going on."
Varitrix (or whatever) was the pillar of flame that demanded to be paid for each question. Apparently, his prices weren't exorbitant, although the elf didn't have enough gold on him to get the answers he wanted. Beware had been hauling around a sackful of minor magical crap items from the gem bone-pile, and was willing to sacrifice them since any magic item would be satisfactory, and most of them were +1 shields and spears and stuff like that.
Ariel tried to argue him out of asking about the keep, thinking that they should stay on target and just ask about getting past the dragon, but Beware was curious.
Beware: "What happened to the mages?"
The pillar answered in detail -- some had died, most had fled and then died in the intervening 2000 years, a few were still alive in distant cities.
Beware: "How did Stonekeep fall into ruin?"
The pillar told the story of how after multiple tries, the forces of shadow had gotten inside with an army of orcs and sacked the place. Most of the orcs had died here; a few hundred were still alive but hadn't figured out how to leave and were now some of the denizens of this place.
Beware: "Is the library of the planes still a safe place to keep the root?"
The pillar didn't know, and let him ask another question instead. So he asked how to get past the dragon.
Pillar: "Have you tried the amulet of the planes?"
The elf knew where that should be, so they went to the 'enchantment lab' (that looked more like a summoning chamber) to get it. It wasn't there, of course. The pillar smugly explained that it had been removed ages ago by one of the wizards. Ha ha!
Ariel: "How can we get past the dragon using things that we have easy access to right now?"
Pillar: "Use the lamp."
Ariel had a genie lamp that she hadn't used, fearing that the genie would be, you know, a genie, but now she was frustrated enough to go ahead and try it. "Take us to the library of the planes!" was her wish.
So the genie did, or at least turned them into mist, swooshed them through the armies of orcs that were in the process of sacking the tower (eep!), and reformed them right in front of the portal, which was closed and locked. "That's as good as I can do," the genie said, and went back into his lamp.
The dragon was awake, but was busy eating the orcs who were falling out of the maze, and didn't react quickly enough to stop Heyyou from pulling out his root and touching it to the door, which opened and let them in. They closed it in the dragon's face, and voila! They'd made it!
After walking through the ludicrously huge library for a while, they found the reference desk, where a floating quill pen named Quill pointed them to the mound where they were supposed to plant the root.
Beware: "I'll want some documentation that this is actually the place it's supposed to go. The last thing we need is to go back to Silvanis and get chewed out because some trickster spirit fooled us."
Quill's documentation did, in fact, check out, so they planted the root which instantly grew into a giant world tree, dominating the library's central section. The pen offered them each a magical tatoo as a reward for finally putting the root where it was always meant to go since the creation of the universe, and also offered them the answers to three questions.
Question 1: "How do we get out of here without having to fight the dragon?"
Answer 1: "The world tree can take you to Sigil."
Question 2: "How can we rescue Celeste, who was taken by Merkul?"
Answer 2: "She's in Sigil, being hunted by her mother."
Well, that was convenient.
Question 3 (because no one else had anything to ask): "How do I break the demonic bargain that swore my soul to Hell before I was born?"
Answer 3: "Slay the demon Yorgathril who holds your contract."
last session | next session
Afterwards we played a four-player game of Sid Meier's Civilization: the board game. Ed won with an early rush against Shawn, who lost his entire army to barbarians which let Ed take out his expansion city, crippling his ability to rebuild an army and defend himself. Tom and I did everything we could to stop him from conquering the capital (including draining his standing forces by attacking him elsewhere, using monarchy to blow them up with resources, and using writing to cancel his actions to build more units) but it wasn't enough.