Party deaths: 9
When the moons waxed back into the night sky, we rode around to the back of Lord Bundt-Cake's castle where the entrance to Hythloth Dungeon would be. Keeping a low profile, and posing as cable service repairmen to any guard that asked, we found the forbidden entrance, but not the "lighter-than-air" device that someone promised would be near it. What's going on, I thought. Has the CEO of LB Snacks™ staged another deception? Has he gotten enough out of my Avatar quest, trying to entice me to take the one-way entrance into Hythloth and never return? Only one way to find out.
We slid down the entrance chute, screaming all the way, and were dumped into the seventh level of the dungeon. Tubbs tried crawling back up the chute, but it had been cleverly lubricated with slime to thwart such outside-the-box thinking. Our only escape would be the ladders that went back up to the surface, so we began looking for them.
Hythloth was full of scum and villainy. In fact, it was a hive for those two things. Right after we climbed the ladder to the sixth level, we found that some of the slime that had coated the slide was following us. Shamino attempted some sort of mind trick to throw off the slime.
Dungeon ooze cannot easily be fooled, however, so we had to hack it into lime Jell-O. We were ambushed many times by other nasties as we sought the ladders. Along the way, we found two more of those blue orbs that, once touched, permanently boosted attributes while inflicting a mortal blow. In our firm's fine hazing tradition, we dared both Dupre and Geoffrey, our least experienced attorneys, to touch the orbs, which they willingly did. Although they died immediately, their lawyering skills increased, bringing them a bit closer to the rest of us in ability.
Our party strength had now dropped from seven to five, and Mondain's heckling didn't make the ordeal any easier. "Interesting group of adventurers you have here," he said as I carried him. "A magical savant who can't tie her own shoes, a hulking brute who liked talking to the potatoes he used to peel, a ranger with a well-deserved inferiority complex because he can't even string a bow, a paper-crowned paladin who carries a plastic sword and says 'Loo loo loo!' a lot, a bard who doesn't know the difference between a harmonic flute and a champagne flute (though admittedly I've only seen him with the latter), and a druid who has deeper relationships with tree moss than with men. And you're all following a shepherd so weird-looking that his own sheep secretly laugh at him. Maybe the next member of your party should be a licensed therapist! Mwa ha ha!"
I was about to drop-kick him down the hall, but thought the better of it and merely dropped him. "Ow, not on where my nose used to be!" he whined. "Oh, to have a nose again! I miss the smell of my own evil!"
At last, we found the ladder that led back to the surface, though not to the same place where we'd entered the dungeon. In fact, we were on the island of the Abyss! That chute ride must have been even longer than it felt. As we wandered the desolate island, wondering how to return to civilization, Shamino pointed at something and yelped excitedly. The "lighter-than-air" device!
We climbed into the basket, lit the gas, and floated high above the ocean, using my sheep as ballast. Since the balloon's direction depended on where the wind blew, it took a while to get the hang of flying it. The sucker went fast, and I had to keep my fingers on the "K" and "D" keys to take off and land at a moment's notice. With a little help from Mariah's wind magic, we landed on the tip of Serpent's Spine, a gulch surrounded by impassable mountains.
The ankh had little to say to us, but a little dowsing on Jaana's part revealed the white stone. Four down, four to go. It might be a week or two before I can post more adventures. In the meantime, if you spy a hot air balloon passing over you in the sky, watch out for falling sheep!