After last session’s debacle in the trapped room, we decided that a bit more prudence and patience were in order. Otherwise, we might never get through this place alive.

With that in mind, the party went on, slowly, down another corridor that ended at a pair of doors and a sign. The message said something about a knight and lights.

Beyond the door (they both led into the same room) was a large chessboard with lights on some of the squares, and traps all around the sides. I recognized at once what the sign meant: the knight’s tour, though here we just had to get across the board instead of all around it.

Kit also knew what it was, and thought she had worked out the path. Stony wasn’t entirely certain, but let her try it. Kira cast a protective spell on the rogue, which was a good thing.

Kit stepped on the first light, and began moving diagonally towards the next. Wrong move, but the spell kept her from taking damage. Then we figured out the moves were forwards and sideways. Even so, it was tricky negotiating the path, and everyone took some damage getting across.

Kira healed up the most injured. We considered briefly stopping for rest, but decided to push on. In the next room, which was pretty big, we found three chests along one side, and a doorway farther along blocked by fire.

While Kit investigated the chests, Grace spotted someone or something in a far corner. Stony advised just leaving it be, but suddenly the thing was in our midst. Must have teleported or something.

This “Jovoc” was nasty. Aside from a physical attack, it had some kind or aura or pulse that damaged anyone near it. I could see from the log that we were being hurt even when it wasn’t attacking directly. Ouch!!

An intense fight followed, with damage being done to everyone, and Grace dropped, and began dying. Fortunately, Stony managed to get in a mighty critical hit and killed the monster. Grace was revived, and more healing was done. Whew!

Then Kit went over and opened the chests. In one of them was a bonanza of gold: over 7800 gps! Woof! Now that’s good money ;) There was some miscellaneous stuff in the others, along with a key.

We figured the key fit a pillar on the other side of the room. However, we were not in great shape, so rested first. Besides, we also figured that it wasn’t going to get easier.

The key unlocked the pillar and caused the fires to dissipate. They also brought us two fire elementals, but fortunately they were weak and went down quickly.

In the next room along, the party came under attack by a pair of magically-animated halberds. Stony disposed of one and Nel took out the other. Poking around the room, Kit found a magical dagger, while Grace turned up a wand of summoning.

Kit’s dagger did extra damage against constructs, as did the halberds. So, we weren’t all that surprised when we came across a construct called “The GUardian” in the next room along.

This was another fierce fight. Good thing Kira had cast magical flame on Stony’s and Nel’s weapons for that little extra oomph; we really needed that against this thing.

Finally we wore it down and killed it. Then we noticed a stationary skull over by a wall. No one was eager to go running over and attack. Maybe we were suspicious because it didn’t move.

So the air force – Kit, Grace, and Kira – unleashed their arrows and bolts. Nel tried a few shots also, but as his weapon wasn’t magical, did no damage. So he and Stony just stood there and watched for a change.

The barrage disposed of the skull, with Kit getting in the final blow. The skull left behind a key, which unlocked the door out. Of course around the corner we ran into a Minogon, something like a minotaur, only meaner. A short, sharp fight, though, and it was down.

Wondering if this death trap would ever come to an end, we pressed on and came to what turned out to be the final room. This had a door with bars, and beyond Kit could see four big shadow mastiffs.

Unfortunately, the corridor was narrow, and Stony couldn’t get up front. So Kit and Nel were fighting them through the bars, with the mastiffs doing a fear howl every now and then.

Kira had a protection from evil 10-ft radius going, but it didn’t help much against the howls. Stony was affected for awhile, but being in back, that didn’t matter, except as an embarrassment. Then Kit was afraid, and ran off, and finally Stony had a chance to get up front to kill something.

He opened the door and took out the last mastiff, which restored some of his pride. At the back was an altar, and in it the stone we’d come for. Kit took it, and that opened a portal back to the Laughing Dragon.

By now, things were looking bad for Nel. He was starting to fade in and out, and we were hoping we’d been in time. Then came THE most annoying sequence.

First, we had a hard time getting Tarthas’ attention, even with Stony shouting in his ear (and Stony can shout). Then he took his time examining the stone.

Kit was on the verge of stabbing him, and Stony was about ready to cleave the mage’s skull. Even Kira was becoming impatient with the doddering addlepate.

Meanwhile, Nel, feeling that maybe it was his time, began dropping his gold and gear. Finally, Tarthas noticed Nel and asked him how long he’d been fading.

Then the mage began muttering to himself. He mentioned that it might be too late, and “time was of the essence”. Kit and Stony could barely control themselves, as the idiot was taking so long.

Then he got distracted by recalling the map we promised to draw for him. This did not improve tempers. Tarthas got snooty with Stony, and the dwarf screamed out “HEAL NEL OR DIE”.

Meanwhile Nel continued to fade in and out while dropping his possessions, and Kira knelt in prayer to Lathander. Finally, after a few more agonizing minutes, Tarthas got his act together.

But then he took to exception to Stony saying that if the spell failed, he’d be a dead man, and some more time was lost in argument. Stony was at the end of his tether, and Kit not far behind (we both wanted to slice this jerk up soooooo badly). During all this, Nel was saying his goodbyes.

Perhaps Tarthas sensed that he was really in danger from at least two of us, and, at long last, cast his spell.

It didn’t seem to help much, as Nel kept fading in and out. Then everyone had a near heart attack when Nel vanished completely. eeep! Turned out he’d lost his connection and had to relog.

Still, we had the feeling we were losing Nel. And, indeed, that was so. Tarthas was reuniting him with his soul, all right…on the shadow plane. Arrghhh!

So we watched as Nel faded in and out; we said our last words to him, and promised we’d find a way to get him back. Then he was finally gone.

While despair settled over the ladies (especially Kit and Kira, who were both rather sweet on Nel), Stony demanded the remainder of the promised payment.

It took a bit of prodding, but not much. No doubt Tarthas realized how close he was to death here. So he paid up, hurriedly bought a bottle of spirits, and left quickly. Just as well, since Stony was considering cleaving his skull anyway.

Kira asked what we should do next, and Stony replied, “get drunk”. To that end, he ordered a keg of ale for himself. Grace also drowned her sorrows, but being unused to alcohol, quickly ended up under the table.

So the somewhat disheartened party considers its next move. Is there a way to reach the shadow plane? Can Nel survive until we do? We have a long, hard road ahead of us (and we haven’t forgotten Matreus, either!).

I’m really gonna miss Nel (his player will be gone for some time, alas). And I especially want to pay tribute to his role-playing these last two sessions. It was really outstanding. Great job, felrisen!