The fish swims at midnight?

Session 25 February 2024

“Don’t worry, Gwenneth… You’ll be able to get more riches, maybe even more than before,” reassures the dark mage, noticing my distressed expression.

I explain to the group why I’m so disheartened by the loss of my money. Farryn, understanding my plight, offers two options: returning to the Zhentarim or pursuing the dark mage’s plan. He glances at the mage expectantly.

“Well,” the dark mage responds, “I was mistaken. I thought the puzzle pieces were the gold we were looking for…”

Farryn turns to me, seeking my opinion. I weigh our choices, suggesting either venturing to another location marked on the map by the dark mage—a place with a skull symbol—or returning to the Zhentarim, despite its risks. Alternatively, we could revisit Ezzat’s tower to search for more shards.

Morph checks the puzzle for additional information. “It’s strange that the wizard is joy riding the blue dragon. It’s a good reason to confront them,” he remarks.

“Well, Morph,” Farryn interjects, “This wizard has done more than just joy riding a dragon.”

“Yeah, this dragon is incredibly powerful,” I add.

The dark mage and I contemplate the dragon’s power and its connection to Halaster. We conclude that the dragon is of god-like strength, almost on par with deities like Bahamut.

“This dragon is unknown to me, and I don’t know what he has to do with Halaster,” admits the dark mage.

“I hope it’s just a fantasy,” Farryn muses, voicing a sentiment shared by us all.

Farryn suggests two options: either visiting the Zhentarim later or exploring the gemstone ruins to search for valuables. Morph raises concerns about the strange events within the vault, likening them to the Shadowfell. He proposes investigating the possibility of stealing items from the boat, speculating that they might have altered their route.

The dark mage proposes assessing the situation at the Zhentarim base before making a decision. Farryn then seeks clarification on whether they are focusing on finding valuables in the current location or conducting reconnaissance at the Zhentarim base.

Morph offers to scry the base using his sword. After preparing his sword, Morph begins the scrying process to observe the arbiter, who appears heavily injured and visibly punished, likely by Mortoc the relentless, the barbarian.

The party discusses the absence of news regarding the dragon’s demise among the Zhentarim. Morph explains that such information is likely withheld due to its mythological nature and the need-to-know basis of information dissemination within the organization. He also speculates that the leadership might keep a break-in secret to avoid appearing weak.

I express my desire to find a dragon egg and suggest returning to the Zhentarim base for that purpose. However, since we must wait until tomorrow, we decide to explore this level in the meantime. Morph proceeds to scry the base, focusing on the vault.

As Morph completes the scrying, his complexion grows even paler. He grimly reports, “Oh no. Okay, I see no dragon bodies, but Zhentarim bodies. They look rotten… It looks like there were shadows going over them, giving them the kiss of death, and sucking their life power.”

In unison, the dark mage and Farryn exclaim, “Shadows.” Their grave tone indicates familiarity with the danger posed by these entities. I recall Farryn’s reports on shadows and the Disruptors’ book about the Shadowfell, recognizing it as a place of horror.

The dark mage offers advice, saying, “When you fly, they cannot reach you.” Farryn adds, “Only, the treasure is on the ground.” I nervously activate a feature of my boots, causing a tiny wing to emerge briefly before retracting.

After ten tense minutes, Morph completes his scrying session.

We proceed eastward on this level, moving cautiously to avoid detection. As we venture into a cavern, we encounter a peculiar sight: a stone cloak attempting to swat away floating lights within the cavern. Urm expresses his disdain for the lights, urging us to eliminate them.

With a shared understanding of the task at hand, we coordinate our efforts to ensure the stone cloak’s departure. I position myself strategically, staying clear of the lights, and take aim. My arrows fly true, striking the stone cloak four times, with the fourth shot landing as a critical hit—a moment of exhilaration amidst the tension.

Simultaneously, Morph unleashes his own attacks, while Farryn hurls his dwarven thrower with precision, landing several solid hits. Meanwhile, the dark mage takes to the air, conjuring a light bulb from his hand and directing it towards the stone cloak.

Patience, in his enigmatic manner, joins the fray, engaging the enemy with swift movements of his hands. Farryn follows up with another attack, and then, with combined efforts, the stone cloak shatters, releasing a burst of purple energy from within.

There are three paths ahead: north, east, and west. Choosing to explore the eastward path, we encounter an altar. While Farryn begins examining the stone cloak, the rest of us venture towards the altar.

Upon inspection, we find no traps, and my attention is drawn to mushrooms growing upon the altar—a curious sight indeed. I approach the mushrooms, noting their spongy texture and recognizing them as hallucinogenic. Quickly, I relay this information to the dark mage as he passes by, who adds that they can even induce blindness if consumed.

The altar itself bears a statue of a cloaked figure, though its religious significance eludes us. Farryn expresses interest in looting the altar, but first, we must deal with the mushrooms. Using a mage hand, we attempt to harvest them, only to find that they emit smoke upon being disturbed.

Sensing there may be more to discover, Farryn suggests using his wand of secrets to search for hidden doors instead of focusing on the mushrooms. However, our attention is diverted as Morph calls out from the west, discovering a small passage adorned with a large red question mark on the wall.

Encouraging Farryn to investigate, Morph suggests that this may be his moment. Intrigued by the enigmatic symbol, Farryn approaches and questions its presence, prompting a mysterious voice to respond with philosophical musings on the nature of questions and existence.

Inquisitive as ever, Morph engages in a dialogue with the voice, speculating on its identity as Hallaster, though receiving no clear answer. As the interaction unfolds, Morph is assuming the likeness of Hallaster himself—a very odd sight indeed.

Meanwhile, the dark mage, accompanied by Patience, chooses to depart from the peculiar encounter, leaving Morph to engage with the enigmatic voice, whose words remain unintelligible to me.

I go back to the light cavern.

I only see Farryn, the dark mage is gone.

Patience also leaves, and Farryn and I remain behind to investigate the wall. Despite our efforts, we don’t uncover any hidden rooms, so we decide to follow the dark mage and Patience.

We find them near the carcass of a behir, only its bones remaining. Morph excitedly exclaims about finding gold, drawing my immediate attention. It appears to be a lair, possibly the behir’s. While I’ve read about behirs in Farryn’s reports for the Golden Cauldron, my knowledge about them is limited.

Farryn begins inspecting the gold and other items, focusing on the metals and a circlet. As I observe, I notice a peculiar metal flute, silver in appearance. Curious, I attempt to blow into it, but it produces no sound. Farryn then tries, followed by Morph (as Hallaster). However, Morph recognizes it as a chime rather than a flute and demonstrates how to activate it by striking it with his goblin sword.

To our surprise, something within Grond, the weapon wielded by Farryn, opens, revealing a diadem inside. Farryn quickly closes the small door in Grond, visibly shocked. Morph repeats the action, and this time, Farryn suggests trying it near the wall. In a whimsical display, Morph (as Hallaster) begins skipping along the wall, chiming the instrument repeatedly.

Morph explains that the chime unlocks the closest item to it, demonstrating as his belt buckle unlocks. He continues his antics for a while, but nothing else opens along the wall. Farryn then reminds us of the question mark, prompting Morph to investigate. While Farryn and I gather the gold for the party, Morph proceeds towards the mysterious symbol.

As we continue moving the copper and gold into our bags, Morph returns, his presence announced by the chime of the instrument. Farryn’s belt comes loose, indicating that Morph has been successful in his latest attempt with the chime.

Morph explains that he had to rephrase his question, asking about something he didn’t yet know. The response he received was cryptic: “the fish swims in the middle of the night.” Subsequent questions yielded no useful answers, leaving us puzzled by the strange response.

Meanwhile, I summon four pelicans to assist us in scooping up the gold. With their help, we efficiently collect the remaining coins and gems, including 912 gold pieces, 2725 silver pieces, 6000 copper pieces, and two garnets, half of which are added to my bag, designated for the party’s use.

As the rest of the party returns, they find Farryn and me finishing up collecting the gold and items, ready to continue our journey.

Farryn’s determination to unravel the mystery of the question mark leads us back along the path we just traversed. As we walk, the ambient music fades, replaced by the enigmatic voice’s philosophical musings. Morph graciously steps aside, allowing Farryn to pose his questions to the unseen presence.

“How did the Shadowfell family guard their level?” Farryn inquires, hoping for some insight. The response is frustratingly cryptic: “you know the answer,” the voice retorts.

Undeterred, Farryn presses on, seeking guidance about our upcoming adversaries on the Shadowdusk level. “Look at the cheese for guidance,” the voice advises, leaving us baffled. Farryn questions the odd instruction, only to receive the same elusive reply: “you know the answer.”

Farryn’s curiosity then turns to Valentine’s fate, but the voice’s response offers little clarity: “the end of the beginning starts at the end.”

The Dark Mage, perhaps growing impatient with the cryptic responses, offers to identify the question mark himself. However, his assessment is dismissive, prompting me to silently acknowledge the deception while still feeling uncertain.

As the others walk away, Farryn silently wonders about Morph’s loyalty, his question met with a cryptic reply from the voice. Seeking a genuine answer, Farryn asks what kind of question he should pose, only to receive another cryptic response: “a journey of 1000 miles starts with a step that is wrongly placed.”

Feeling disheartened and bewildered by the exchange, I voice my own question in a hushed tone: “will I ever gain a dragon egg?” The response, “the fish swims at midnight,” only deepens the sense of confusion and frustration. With a resigned sigh, I emit a blub sound and begin the journey back to base.

As we regroup near the Tower of Ezzat, Farryn resumes his task of collecting shards, a tangible pursuit amidst the abstract enigmas that surround us.

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