Tales from the Yawning Portal

I Need a Hero

And now, dear friend, we will move the clock forwards, one hundred and fifty years, to a time where the names of our stout heroes have faded into myth and legend, and their legacies have passed on to their ancestors….

But we return again to the city of Waterdeep, where five relative strangers sat in in a bar. The bar, of course is one that we know well! The Yawning Portal, of course! There was an awkward silence at the table even as the tumult around them soared: sounds of clinking plates and glasses of frothy ale, drunken laughter, raucous tales of adventure and off-key song.

Conrad Silverclaw, a shifter ranger, sat, his hands folded neatly in his lap, his green eyes moving from person to person as he keenly observed their behaviors. To his left, a tiefling with long copper horns and a dark robe grimaced at the uncouth scene around him.

The warlock Damakos had no intention of being party to this rabble-rousing show of misspent youth, and drummed his fingers on the table.

To his left sat a grinning half-elf bard, Galunir Gwaeren, whose eyes trailed around the room, looking for inspiration for his next song.

A dark grimace filled the countenance of the odd-colored dragonborn who sat to the half-elf’s immediate left. The mystic known as Kallos’s scales were a deep purple, and he carried no blade. He sniffed the air and winced at what he smelled.

Finally, although diminutive and darker skinned than other elves, Aouna was of average build. Her face was sunk deeply in thought into the pages of a large book, which she rested half in her lap, half on the table.

A woman of middle age, though pleasant in complexion, approached the table. This was Kelsie the wife of Durnan. Durnan, who for all intents and purposes, looked eerily as he did 150 years prior.

With a broad grin, she spoke loudly over the din. “Hello dearies, can I take your order?”

“I’ll have water,” Aouna said, not lifting her eyes from her book.
“Water,” Conrad spoke tersely.
“I’ll take an ale,” the bard said with a smirk.
“Water for me,” said the tiefling.
The dragonborn growled, “I want a potato. Raw. And make it snappy.”

“A… potato? Raw?” The barmaid looked shocked.

“Did I stutter? Yes. A POH-TAY-TO!” The other four, a little taken aback by the dragonborn’s lack of manners, edged uneasily in their seats.

“Y-y-yes, certainly. Half a moment!” The barmaid wandered away from the table, presumably with their orders.

As if to lighten the mood, Galunir produced his lute, and began to play a song. A voluptuous young maiden with dark hair approached and smiled seductively at the young half-elf as he sung. The woman, pulling a lute of her own, joined Galunir in playing, and the tables erupted in applause at their conclusion.

“Well, that was lovely,” She purred. “My name’s Pencheska; please – join me for a drink.” At that, she took Galunir by the hand and brought him to the bar. “See you all later,” he said laughingly.

As it was over a hundred years prior, the deep well stood at the center of the Yawning Portal’s tap room. A raucous cheer went up as two humanoids were slowly lowered into the well via a rope. As the two went down, a grim old man nearby dressed in gray began to take note in a large book. Aouna noted that a white haired elven woman was speaking, almost to herself. Aouna, finding little in common with her new found comrades who for all intents and purposes had convened within the taproom to determine their common goal of adventuring together, went to speak with her.

Kelsie finished her round and sauntered near to the table. With a snarl, Kallos reached out grabbed Kelsie’s apron with a clawed hand.

“Potato! Where is it?”

With a somewhat worried look on her face, the woman replied, “Oh yes, of course, sir, won’t be too long!” She then trotted into the kitchen, half-drunk mugs of frothing ale still on her tray. Several minutes after, she exited with a slightly charred root vegetable resembling a potato and planted it on a plate in front of the incensed dragonborn.

With a growl, Kallos grabbed the steaming vegetable and threw the starchy edible in her face. With a shriek, the taproom grew silent.

SIghing, Conrad said gently, “You could have just asked nicely.”
Kallos leaned across the table and retorted, “I can’t tolerate stupidity!”

At that, Durnan dropped his dish towel and stalked over to the table. WIthout a word, he grabbed Kallos from behind and with almost inhuman strength, lifted the massive dragonborn out of his chair by his collar. The room gasped.

“Apologize,” Durnan murmured, not even showing a single sign of strain. The dragonborn said nothing. “Apologize,” Durnan repeated. Again, the dragonborn refused.

Conrad spoke out at last. “Just apologize!”

Instead, Durnan began to slowly walk over to the huge 40-foot wide pit. The dark hole loomed as the crowd began to mutter to themselves over what would happen if the purple dragonborn were to be dropped down…

BOOM! Explosions, screams, and shouts of panic erupted from outside! Immediately, Waterdhavian soldiers entered and approached a grizzled man sitting, his face deep in contemplation to lead their forces, that Waterdeep was being invaded! Bar patrons ran in all directions. Momentarily distracted, Durnan loosed his grip on Kallos, and ran to gather his wife and valuables. Kallos bounded off the wall of the pit and landed solidly on his clawed feet. Conrad and Galunir ran to look out the front window.

As they watched, scarlet-ringed portals appeared at various points in the nearby street, and from their depths stepped figures with pale, tattooed flesh and deep red robes: Red Wizards of Thay! With arcane words, they launched vicious magical attacks at the nearby buildings, causing some to shatter with intense explosive force.

Seeing that the city was under an intense attack, the five stepped outside to a scene out of a war. Buildings were aflame and citizens were running in all directions, screaming for their lives. In a nearby alleyway, they saw a Waterdhavian soldier cornered by what looked like small plant-like creatures herded by a figure with dark skin – only the figure’s skin seemed harder, more like… wood. Galunir then cast_ Vicious Mockery_ on the barkskinned warrior, taunting it. As the party approached to assist the soldier, the bark-skinned figure turned and pulled out two wicked-looking knives and stared at them with a vicious gaze. In quick succession, Galnunir cast sleep and three of the five plant creatures fell to the ground. Aouna, not used to being in a combat situation, got flustered and cast fog cloud. A vast bank of fog encircled the group. “Great,” Kallos muttered. “Now, no one can see! Way to go.” Aouna’s face flushed red in embarrassment. Knowledgeable as she was, she did not know how to handle herself in a fight, yet. Conrad, however, did. Drawing an arrow, he shot at one of the plant creatures and split it in half. Kallos unsheathed his soul knives and approached where the soldier was. As he approached, he heard a gasp and a gurgling choking sound. Then the sound of a body hitting the ground. Kallos searched through the fog, ready for an attack. A shrill cry pierced the fog and the plant creature lunged at Kallos. He swiftly side-stepped and sliced the blight in twain. He searched through the alleyway — the soldier was dead and the barkskinned thing was gone!

Suddenly a foul-smelling wind rose from the east, blowing over the alleyway and dispersing the fog cloud – and the unmistakable sound of huge wings could be heard. A voice rang out nearby: “Dragon! Run for your lives!” The dragon landed with a great thud on the streets of Waterdeep as soldiers ran from all sides to attempt to put it down. The massive beast was jet black and had gnarled horns and vile yellowed eyes. It lifted its massive snout and opened its jaws, letting forth a gout of greenish fluid which sizzled through the air as it flew. As it landed, with a great hiss, it belched forth acid and dissolved an entire side of a nearby building, causing it to cave in. With a growl, it stalked through the streets, screaming citizen running for their lives. Screams could be heard from inside the house. Damakos ran over, and lifted a worn and acid-eaten beam. Underneath, protected by the will of some lucky deity, were a father and daughter, and although the man was barely scratched, the girl had a long acid burn along her forearm. Damakos helped them to escape as Galunir uttered a word in truespeech and healing energy flowed into the girl, healing her.

Kallos looked up spied very odd sight — an undead centaur atop the roof of the Yawning Portal. Kallos, seeing an opportunity to deploy his rage on a worthy target, leaped up, but unfortunately found that the shingles on the roof were loose. He scrambled and then lost his footing as he clambered for a foot hold. The mummified centaur looked down at him with a mixture of interest and disdain and then reached a single withered arm towards Kallos’s face. He could see pus-laded sores and fungus all over the creature’s arm and knew that this thing would attempt to communicate that disease to him….

“Hey ugly, down here!” Galunir called down in a vicious mocking tone. The centaur-thing, briefly distracted, allowed Kallos to slide gently down to the street. Galunir muttered, “You’re welcome.” Seeing his quarry had escaped, the centaur bounded away to the nearest rooftop. Sneering, the dragonborn followed the dragon, and the others followed him. As they walked, Galunir pulled out his lute, and in a lovely gentle voice, sang:

Kallos the callous was a fool of a mortal.
With a tale worth nary a chortle.
His powerful mind was never too kind,
And so he got thrown down the portal.

Kallos turned slowly back to the half-elf and growled. Galunir winked. Ahead, there were sounds of a battle. Swords clanged together in rapid succession. As they turned the corner, they saw many dead soldiers, all with single stab or slash wounds to their body. And then they saw the single assailant: a wight with a black sword. Slowly the undead creature turned to face the group. It had black, fire pitted armor with jagged spikes and wild matted white hair. It lifted its weapon and charged. Galunir screamed a taunt and quickly cast Vicious Mockery, which momentarily distracted the wight. Damakos hurled a fire bolt, but missed. Conrad shot his longbow, and the arrow streaked through the alleyway lancing the undead creature through the arm. It continued to charge, and with a single blow, sliced Conrad across his chest and knocked him to the ground, bleeding heavily. “NO!” Aouna screamed and began to apply pressure to the wound. Damakos noticed that there were several barrels of elemental fire in a nearby storefront. Kallos slam kicked the wight towards the barrel but he quickly righted himself. Damakos then hurled his firebolt at the barrel and…. BOOM! A cloud of orange flame erupted from the shop, blasting everything in sight and knocking everyone to the ground. As they sat up, they saw that there was nothing left to the entire store front – only flames. Kallos immediately began to search for the sword – but couldn’t see anything left, alive or dead, in the fire. Aouna pleaded with the group to help Conrad – but no one had any more healing spells. Damakos did his best to apply his magical knowledge to more banal matters and attempted to bandage him up. Kallos, meanwhile, had enough, and decided to simply walk away.

Suddenly, there was silence. No more screams, or sounds of war or siege. It was as if the sounds of the outside world had been muffled by an unknown force. At that, a red wizard with withering flesh and black eye sockets floated into the courtyard alongside two other wizards and noticed the group. He was clearly one of the people in charge of this assault, calmly issuing orders to his sub-ordinates. Nearby, an old woman was holding the symbol of her god, praying for aid. The mage looked down at her, gave a skeletal grin, and then spoke to the other red wizards in a commanding tone, with a voice like grinding stone. “Tell the giants to attack.” At that, a FIre giant erupted from underground near Kallos. Kallos stood in awe, yet nimbly dodged as the giant’s flaming hand attempted to grab him. He then ran and hid in a nearby building.

Damakos threw his fire bolt but the mage easily counterspelled then paralyzed him, using a detect thoughts spell to see inside his mind… Damakos screamed in pain….

Suddenly, a shaft of light appeared, and from it stepped a deva, seemingly answering the woman’s prayer. Unsheathing her glowing golden sword, the deva started kicking ass and urged the group to help take some shots at the red wizards. Gladly, Damakos thought, as he was released from the magic of the undead wizard. Damakos cast ray of frost and Galunir threw several daggers. But the giant allies were already in the city. A massive boulder the size of a cart sailed in from above and hit a building that collapsed, kicking up dust everywhere and striking down the deva – BOOM! Lumalia was immediately knocked unconscious. The other two red wizards picked her up and started to float away with her. Seeing a potential ally, the group tried to intervene, shooting at the wizards in their escape.

Before the group could do anything else, a heroic figure appeared out of the ether – a magnificent figure dressed in maroon wizard robes and with a large floppy hat and sturdy staff. Speaking with a majesty rarely seen, he told the red wizards to unhand the deva. A look of horror and fear crossed the visage of the undead mage. Whoever this was, if he was enough to make this evil wizard crap his pants, he must be powerful indeed! The group stood with the good aligned wizard, prepping for the fight ahead….

And then, a flash of light appeared behind the group. They turned. A floating skull with gems for eyes hovered before them…. and a feeling of dread came over them like nothing they had ever experienced before….

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I'm Lich, Biatch!

The odor of the grave permeated the room as the four heroes waited tensely. Amelio, realizing that this may seem like the end of their quest (or potentially, their lives) cast death ward on himself and Iallawen, preventing them from dying until something brought them to that treacherous precipice.

Ohma, having elemental powers as a genasi, summoned two gargoyles in case that there were more devious traps in store. They scouted ahead, and found through the opening a small corridor with a conspicuous door at the end. Ohma stepped through, his torch raised, and found that there was a wall with a small indentation… as if for a key! The others funneled through the tunnel and stood before this imposing doorframe. The discovery of a secret door revealed, indeed, a small keyhole. “A keyhole,” Amelio muttered, then produced the key half that he found inside the bubbling couldron. Gently mage handing it inside, the key clicked and the wall slid up. showing a stone-sheathed adamantine cube. Inside was a room with a small indentation in the floor, and again, a small hole. Midnight, her eyes aglow in the darkness, muttered to herself. “Can anyone doubt that the end of the adventure—one way or another—is near?” Amelio nodded. The air was electric – some form of powerful magics were at work here, and they were walking right into them. Revealed by the sinking cube was a 10-foot wide, 20-foot deep cavity with an arched, 25-foot tall ceiling, apparently empty save for a small, square depression a few inches deep in the center of the floor.

“This is a trap. No doubt,” Midnight whispered.

Iallawen intoned, “Well, then let’s not set it off.”

Ohma ushered his gargoyle towards the hole, and attempted to use the key again. Nothing. The key simply popped out.

“Perhaps the key needs a living being to do it,” Midnight said. There was a distinct silence as the group looked at each other.

“This is getting us nowhere.” Ohma sighed, walked swiftly over to the gargoyle, grabbed the key off the floor and pressed it into the hole.

KABOOM! A torrent of flames erupted from the keyhole, shooting Ohma into the air and depositing him, painfully, on his back, landing with a thud. A smoking, bruised Ohma weakly squeaked, “Ooooow.” Amelio rushed over to him and applied healing magics. Dusting himself off, Ohma said weakly, “Well, that didn’t go as planned.”

Midnight rushed to his side. “Are you alright?” Ohma gave a charming smile through cracked and bloodied lips. “Let’s try a different key. What else we got?” Amelio grimaced. “This one. When I picked it up, it made me think bad thoughts, like I should abandon you guys and just run away.” Iallawen scoffed. “Not the worst idea ever.” Ohma touched the rod, and for a second found that he too wanted to throw away the metal piece and run away. Clearly enchanted, he thought. Bad news bears. Well, let’s get rid of that spell, shall we? Casting dispel magic he caused the key to become handleable once more.

“There. All yours.” Ohma swelled with pride.

Amelio grimaced. “Are you kidding? Use your gargoyle.”

The gargoyle glanced over at the two as if in fear, then reached over and plucked the key from Ohma’s hand. It gently placed the key in the hole…. and it popped out again. “I don’t get it.”

Ohma muttered, “Living being.”

Amelio winced, took the key off the floor, and placed it in the hole. Nothing. No boom, just a click. But nothing happened.

Ohma angrily stared. “Wow. For a rogue, you’re not very good at this.” He spun it back and forth, Nothing happened. “Ugh,” Iallawen said. “Just turn it in one direction til something happens.” Amelio sighed, then spun the key cylinder three times clockwise. With an audible click, the room began to rise, and everyone ran for the northern corridor. Everyone, except one of the gargoyles, who was too slow and was crushed as the floor rose to the ceiling. As it did, however, the true vault, a mithral vault, rose from the southern 15-foot section of the chamber, with a pull ring set into a circular door.

Ohma, not knowing, told his remaining gargoyle to knock. It knocked. Nothing. Midnight face palmed. Storming, she yelled, “ITS A PULL RINGYOU PULL IT.”

Ohma yanked on the ring, and the door opened into a room inside the mithral vault. A wondrous sight met their eyes. A pile of gems, coins, vials, scrolls, and other items (many of which belonged to previous adventurers, including Ohma) lay immediately inside the door of this mithral vault, but against the rune-scribed far wall was a stone bier. On the bier was a thick layer of dust mixed with bone shards and a gem-encrusted skull. Midnight’s eyes widened and her cat-like pupils dilated. “Here lingers the demilich Acererak,” she said in a trance-like voice.

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Acererak had indeed left behind his presence — as the treasure in the crypt was touched, the dust swirled into the air and formed a manlike shape. However the form, while seeming to threaten, couldn’t harm any intruders. Clearly, the demilich had housed his evil essence in the skull. If the realm was to be free of this evil, the skull had be destroyed. As one, the group launched themselves at the skull, hoping to destroy it as one. As their power washed over it, the skull rose into the air and the ruby gems in its eyes glowed with power.

Iallawen animated her knives and launched them at the skull, but they bounced harmlessly off. The skull opened its jaw, and a horrific screech issued forth. While Iallawen, Amelio and Midnight were able to clamp their hands to their ears, Ohma was too slow and the sound burst his eardrums. He dropped to the floor, blood pouring from his head. “Ohma!” Amelio rushed to him and hoped his divine healing magic was strong enough to save him.

Midnight blasted the skull with eldritch blasts and Iallawen cast her most powerful spells at it. The foe danced out of the way, only taking a modicum of damage. Then the eyes glowed, and Iallawen froze as if a statue. A greenish mist flowed out of Iallawen’s mouth and into the red gem. Then Iallawen dropped to the ground, bereft of her soul. From inside the gem, Iallawen’s soul found itself disembodied and trapped, looking on a the plight of her allies.

Amelio sliced at the skull with his green-flame blade, and a newly renewed Ohma lanced out with blasts of lightning. The skull attempted to siphon the life energy of the party but their force of will allowed them to resist his attacks. As one, Midnight, Amelio and Ohma attacked the skull with their remaining spells, hoping that the undead construct would fall.

The skull opened its mouth to blast with a final necrotic burst of energy, and then as if by divine intervention, turned to ashes. The combined force of the three had bested the evil sorcerer’s final test. Amelio stepped forwards and, resisting the urge to take the magnificent gems, worth thousands of gold, crushed the glowing red gem that served as the housing for Iallawen’s soul. Immediately, the greenish mist flowed back into Iallawen, and she sat up with a gasp.

“That… sucked.” She said and gave a wry smile. The others, exhausted, began to laugh as Amelio tossed her one of her ineffectual daggers.

With the riches plundered from the tomb, the four adventurers returned to Waterdeep, much to the surprise of Durnan, who was more than happy to receive his cut of the spoils and put them towards building a new expansion for the Yawning Portal.

Midnight returned to Waterdeep, where she fostered her love of knowledge with a privately held library of arcane lore that would eventually rival even that at Candlekeep…

Amelio purchased a large tract of land and with his wealth, and built a castle on which he could hope his descendants would always have a place to call home….

Ohmaruru purchased a grand sailing vessel, and crew. Bidding farewell to his rescuers, he sailed west to pursue a life of adventure…

Iallawen returned to her ancestral elven home, with enough wealth not only to prove her worth to her family, but to ensure the prominence of her family in the elven houses for centuries to come….


Inside the Tomb of Horrors, the dust and fragments of Acererak’s skull left behind by the four heroes lay scattered among the remaining cobwebs. The silence in the tomb, now plundered for all time, was deafening. Acererak’s physical housing had been shattered, and his phylactery, understood to be the skull that they heroes had smashed, was no more.

A rat skittered out of the darkness and sat atop the smashed gem fragments that had housed Iallawen’s soul. It sat, entranced, its head tilted to the side as if staring at something it could not comprehend. It opened its mouth. And then, a greenish mist began to float out of the rat’s toothy maw….

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When You Wish Upon A Jar

The undead creature shambled out of his tomb, grunting and moaning horribly. The team had experiences with mummies. This was going to be easy. Especially with their innate vulnerabilities to fire. Amelio charges in, his Green-Flame Blade, slashing three times across the mummy’s chest. Only, the mummy didn’t burn. At all. “Shit,” Amelio said. The mummy reached for the halfling, his desiccated arms covered with a horrible smelling fungus, and the diminutive rogue leaped out of the way. He cast mirror image on himself, then hid behind a nearby wall. Midnight grimaced – she hated the undead. She lanced out with three eldritch blasts then ran for the far side of the room. The mummy, clearly more than just a simple shambling corpse, made a symbol in the air with its bony fingers, and cast harm on Midnight, sending her to the floor with the force of the necrotic spell. “Hey, ugly,” Iallawen yelled. “Have a taste of this!” Iallawen crossed her arms and cast sunbeam at the creature, blinding it and sending it into a frenzy. Amelio rushed in, and slashed at it with his Green-Flame Blade while Midnight recovered from the undead’s attack and blasted it with her eldritch powers. In response, the mummy, clearly a powerful mummy lord, turned himself into a massive sand tornado, bounding off the columns towards Iallawen. He materialized in front of her, and even blinded, swatted at her with his fungus covered arms. Iallawen looked down at her arms where the mummy had hit her. The flesh had already started to turn black – the thing had given her mummy rot! It shook its head as the blinding effect of sunbeam wore off.

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Iallawen gritted her teeth and cast sunbeam again, but failed to once more blind the creature. The mummy attempted to cast hold person on Midnight, then, unsuccessful in this attack, used his dreadful glare to terrify both Midnight and paralyze Iallawen. Amelio leaped to the fore and slashed across the thing’s chest, narrowly escaping its grasp. Midnight ran to hide behind one of the columns and blasted the mummy lord from a distance, and Iallawen cast once more a spell of sunbeam. With that, the mummy lord exploded into ash, sand, and rotten body parts. Amelio ran over to his comrades and cast heal on the wounded Midnight. In return, Midnight cast remove curse on Iallawen to get rid of her mummy rot. Iallawen’s flesh slowly returned to a normal hue.

From behind the glowing purple door to the north, a faint cry could be heard: “HELP…. MEE….” The group looked at each other, then carefully walked to open it with Amelio’s mage hand. The door opened to show an emaciated blue skinned humanoid with lightning sparking from his hair. The humanoid, some sort of genasi, looked haggard, clearly from being trapped inside the alcove who who knows how long. He began to speak, then fell over with exhaustion. Amelio tossed a potion of healing to him, which he grabbed and chugged as fast as possible. “Waterrr,” he croaked. Amelio tossed him a waterskin, still unsure as to if this person was friend or foe. The genasi looked up, but was quickly hit in the face with the waterskin, then scrounged in the dirt to pick it up and drink from it.

Over by the remains of the mummy lord, Iallawen saw among the bones and desiccated organs, a ring of fire resistance, which she promptly placed on her finger. “That’s why fire didn’t hurt it. Devious.”

Amelio stepped across the purple door’s threshold to cast a healing word on the genasi, and as he did so, set off some sort of ward, as a pair of swords and a shield levitated off the wall and engaged in an attack. Amelio’s eyes went wide. “Shit, guys! Help!” Iallawen saw the impending danger, so she cast a fire bolt, but it bounced off the shield that interposed itself in between herself and the sword. The genasi, Ohmarururu, sensing that his rescuer was in imminent danger, reached up and touched Amelio. Suddenly, Amelio had become invisible.

Midnight knew these constructs to be of a magical nature, and the best way to deal with them was to cast dispel magic on them. She made a gesture, then cast the spell…. and nothing happened. Frowning, she looked on as the swords and shield hovered in the air. I cast the damned spell; what’s going on? Amelio knew he’d have to take advantage of his invisibility but was hemmed in but the swinging, slashing blades of the magical swords. Perhaps, a little fire might help here, he thought, and cast flame strike. A column of brilliant orange flame erupted where the blades flew, and when the smoke dissipated… they were still there! Completely unscathed! WHAT. THE. FUCK! I hate this place. Amelio grimaced as the spell caused to be seen once more and the swords bore down upon him.

Midnight saw the spell had no effect, and said to herself, “Ooooooooooooooh! I get it! Illusions! Wait, are they illusions? They hurt Amelio! This doesn’t make sense!” The longswords flicked and slashed at Amelio, his blood puddling and pooling on the stone floor. But Iallawen had enough. She yelled over the din, “Amelio, hold on to your hat! Incoming!” and cast a fireball. Amelio and Ohmarururu hit the deck as a giant orange ball of flame erupted over their heads. When the cinders cleared, the swords…. were completely untouched, not even scratched! Iallawen, very unlike her regal demeanor, stamped her foot. “This is ridiculous! What are these things made of? Adamantite? The same as the doors?”

Midnight’s heart was racing now. Although the swords posed little threat to her, she feared for the safety of her friend, who was likely trapped in the small chamber and fending for his life. Amelio grabbed his newfound companion’s hand, said quickly, “Hold tight,” and cast dimension door back to the columned room. As he did so, ALL ten sets of the magical swords and shields detached and flew at him. Amelio glanced over his shoulder and screamed, “MOTHER….FFFFUUUU!” then ran for his life. But the swords and shields surrounded him and Iallawen in one group, and Ohmarururu and Midnight in another.

Ohma was not ready to give up his life, and in desperation, cast animate objects on a group of the swords. For a second, the swords and shields quivered in midair… and Ohma grinned. “YES,” he shouted. Then, his smile disappeared as the swords resumed their attacks. “DAMN! Even that didn’t work.” Amelio jumped up and tried to grab the hilt of one of the swords, but it slipped out his grasp. A nearby shield battered him down to the floor. Well, it was worth a try, he thought.

Midnight cast a shielding aurora around her, attempting to see if the weapons were vulnerable to radiant magic. The magic passed through them, completely unaffected. “We’re going to die here,” Midnight murmured. “No, we’re not,” Amelio responded, and cast sanctuary on the party. Amelio gasped, “If magic wont work on them, let’s see them get past that!” He prayed to his god, hoping that somehow, an answer would come on how to get out of this mess…. but nothing came.

Iallawen grabbed Amelio and readied her plane shift spell. Yelling to Midnight and Ohma, she said, “We’re getting out of here! We’ll come back for you! Remember, if you die, you’ll be back at the Yawning Portal! I hope!”

Ohmarururu winced. What in the hells was this elf talking about? Iallawen and Amelio winked out of existence, and the swords attacking them disengged, as if programmed to attack what they could sense. And that’s when Ohma figured it out. They only attack what they can see! He glanced over at Midnight, who was was bleeding from several small wounds. He grabbed her paw, gave her a smile and said, “Trust me. We’re not dying this day.” Then, he cast invisibility on himself AND Midnight. When he did so, the weapons, not sensing the presence of any interlopers, froze in place. Then slowly, they floated back to their alcoves and reattached themselves.

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Almost to himself, Ohma said, “Holy hells… That worked!” He sneaked over to the purple door and shut it slowly, hoping against hope that the swords wouldn’t reengage. He waited… and nothing else happened. Midnight’s voice came from the darkness. “Nice one….”

Iallawen and Amelio blinked back into existence in the Yawning Portal’s tap room, which was silent and dark. Clearly, they had teleported back in the middle of the night. “Well, at least we didn’t ruin someone’s table this time,” Amelio said. Gripping his arm, he began to cast healing spells to renew his vigor. Waiting an hour or two, and communicating telepathically, it was clear to them that Midnight and their newfound friend had found a way to defeat the swords. Now it was just a matter of time to get back there… “If they’re alive, I’m sure they’ll wait for us,” Iallawen said. “Hmmm. Don’t have our horses. I can always renew my spells, then cast phantom steed – it’s a fast horse – should get us there in day and a half. It’s either that, or walk.” Amelio nodded. They communicated telepathically to Midnight that they were on their way.

In the day and a half waiting for Amelio and Iallawen to rejoin them, Midnight and Ohma made their acquaintances and learned about each other’s history. Ohma was part of a small group of adventurers that had one by one falledn prey to the insidious traps of the Tomb until there was just Ohma left. He had gone through one of the misty portals, and landed on the other side, naked, with no way out. A message from Acererak himself, scrawled on the chamber wall, warned him that he was doomed:

You who dared to violate my tomb now pay the price. Stay here and die slowly of starvation, or open and enter the door to the south, where certain but quick death awaits. Whichever you choose, know that I, Acererak the Eternal, watch and scoff at your puny efforts and enjoy your death throes.

Midnight said that her friends would be there soon, and that they could help by giving him some provisions and weapons purchased from vendors in Waterdeep. Ohma thanked her, requesting a flute specifically, and then closed his eyes to sleep….

Midnight tranced to commune with her patron, and ask its guidance. In a vision, she saw blackness in every direction, and then two brilliant gems the size of small eggs approaching her at immense speed and with evil intent. This, according to her patron, was the evil they sought. She woke with a jolt to see the sleeping form of her newfound companion, and sighed.

After a day, Iallawen and Amelio rejoined them in the pillared Throne Room, bringing fresh provisionsand arming Ohma with his requested supplies. Now, onto the task of finding this treasure," Amelio said. “Let’s have a look at that throne.” On the base of the throne was a small replica of the crown inlaid in silver on the lower front panel of the seat. Iallawen scratched her chin. “Well, there’s that. Let’s try the scepter. Maybe that’s the key to this puzzle. Remember the riddle? Into the columned hall you’ll come, and there the throne that’s key and keyed.” Amelio mage handed the scpeter over to the throne, and touched the silver end of it to the crown insignia. With a rush of stale air and grinding stone, the throne sunk down, revealing a 5-foot-wide passageway that led south. Amelio grinned. “There you go!”

Midnight looked down the passageway. The walls of the area ahead were untarnished and gleaming copper panels were set between rare woods inlaid with ivory. The ceiling was silver, formed so as to reflect and amplify light brought into the place. The chamber widened to the south, where a set of gently sloping steps led upward. The six steps, from nearest to farthest, were made of onyx, pink marble, lapis, black marble, yellow serpentine, and malachite. Iallawen stated blankly, “Don’t lick the malachite. The stone is not poisonous to touch but is when submerged in water. That includes saliva.” The others slowly looked at her. “What?” She shrugged. “It’s true.”

The group edged carefully inward, Ohma summoning two minor crackling lightning elementals (named Volt and Surge) to aid with the investigation. Upon the black marble step was a large, cylindrical key of bronze which Amelio promptly pocketed via mage hand. As it fell into his bag, he felt the strong urge to throw it away, but his internal resistance held it in check. His eyes scanned upwards to see pipes extruding from the copper panels and veering harply down to the door in front of them. Pipes that ended in massive metal valves. Where these valves met, at about waist height, was a cup-like depression, a hemispherical concavity with a central hole. “Aha,” Amelio said, and levitated the key he had found to the hole using his mage hand. A burst of lightning speared out and lanced Amelio in the chest, causing the halfling to fall in pain. “Clearly not it,” Midnight said aloud. “Perhaps… the scepter is the key? Again?” Ohmarururu said, “Hmm… knock on the door with the scepter?” Midnight sighed and said, well, I doubt it’s the silver end as we used that. Maybe the… gold end? My reading did say it was both weal and woe." Amelio took the scepter with his mage hand, and, bracing himself, levitated it to the hole. There was a click, and an audible hiss, and the doors swung open. “Yes! We got it!” Ohma said with a smirk. They peered inside the chamber, to see it, too, had a silvered ceiling, just as the foyer, so it was brightly illuminated by reflected light. The walls were of ivory with gold inlaid. The floor was polished agate. In each corner stood a statue of black iron, easily nine feet tall. One to the northeast stood with a saw-toothed two-handed sword raised to strike; another to the northwest held a huge, spike-ended mace; the southeast sculpture held a wickedly spiked morning star, and the one in the southwest had a voulge. Near the center of the room was a large bronze urn filigreed in gold. A thin stream of smoke issued from a tiny vent in its brass stopper. On the southern wall stood a granite sarcophagus that appeared to be damaged. Flanking the sarcophagus were two large iron chests. As they stepped into the room, a strange low humming noise could be felt through the floors, and immediately, all magics ceased to function. Volt and surge dissipated in a burst of static. “Well, that’s not going to stop this cart,” Amelio said, and withdrew his thieves tools and moved towards the huge chests. “With our luck, it’s probably a set of mimics,” Ohma said dryly. Iallawen smirked and whispered, “Stick a sword in it, just in case.” Amelio waved them away and surveyed the locks on the chests. “Triple locked, and probably trapped,” he said. “Let’s give this a go.” Cracking his knuckles, the halfling stuck his lockpick into the first lock, twisted, and immediately recoiled, his hand bleeding. As he watched, the flesh turned a shade of purple and he grew pale. “Shit, that hurt. Hope it’s not permanent.” He looked at his hand, bandaged it, and said weakly, “Eh, I’ll live. One down, two to go. Now I know what I’m looking for, it should be easier.” And it was true – with speed and dexterity, Amelio disarmed the trapped poisoned needles on both sets of chests, revealing mounds and mounds of gems and gold coins! They were rich! Amelio smiled a broad grin and stuffed his bag of holding with the treasure.

Iallawen looked at the broken sarcophagus and noted that inside the broken remains, among discarded and worthless bone fragments, was a broken staff. Midnight recognized it immediately – a Staff of the Magi – an immensely powerful magical artifact! It was only their luck that it was broken, powerless. If only they could somehow repair it…

Ohmarururu walked over to the urn, and gave it a gentle touch. “Wonder what this is,” he said. “Should we uncork it?” Amelio said, “Probably trapped too. If you’re going to do it, do it from a distance.” “Good idea,” Ohma said.

The group retreated from the room with their haul and shot his crossbow at the stopper. It flew off the top of the urn, and a massive gout of smoke began to erupt from the vessel. They watched in amazement as an efreeti issued forth. The magical restraint on the room seemed now to be weakened with the djinn freed. Thanking them for releasing it from its imprisonment, the djinn said he would grant three wishes for the party, and then depart.

Amelio turned to Ohma and inquired if he wanted a wish granted. Ohma declined. Amelio grinned and said, “I wish for a cloak that will render me invisible as I please.” The djinn snapped his fingers. At once, a Cloak of Elvenkind appeared before him. “Not bad,” he intoned, and put it on.

Iallawen considered, and then said, “I wish to fully repair this staff so that it was just like new; its full power to return to it.” The djinn considered, snapped his fingers, and said, “I grant this — If you defeat the evil owner of this staff, its power will be returned.” “Fair enough,” Iallawen said.

Midnight stepped forwards and said, “I wish for something that will aid me in obtaining the ruby eyes that I saw in my vision.” The djinn again snapped his clawed fingers, and a clear gem appeared on the floor in front of her. Midnight recognized it at once as a Gem of Seeing. She smiled and began to examine it.

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After thanking the djinn (named Robin, for some odd reason), the elemental vanished in a puff of sulfurous vapors. Midnight put the gem to her eye and with the weakened magical ward placed on the room, was able to see a hidden passageway under one of the statues. With their combined strength, the four pushed and pulled the iron figure off the floor on which it was attached, revealing a deep dark hole, from within issued the horrid stench of decay and death….

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Fight or Flight

Iallawen knew something was wrong. It was too easy. When her Dagger of Warning screamed at her “WARNING! WARNING! DANGER, Iallawen Luthiel!” in its usual robotic tone, her fears were confirmed. But it was too late. As soon as Amelio used his mage hand to open the chest, a massive skeletal form appeared, taking up much of the small room in which the three stood, and it looked quite displeased. It brandished a wicked scimitar the size of the small humanoid, and was face to upside down face with him. Amelio gulped. “Um, guys….?” He held his breath, closed his eyes, and then suddenly vanished. The skeleton turned and quickly searched the area, growling in a gravelly voice. Then its glowing red eyes fastened on Amelio. Amelio screamed, “Oh shit! It can see me!” then braced for an attack. Iallawen would have no such evil presence obscure their way to their goals. She blasted the thing with a fire bolt, and Midnight, still obscured in the tunnel, lanced out with several eldritch blasts. Bone chips flew as the skeleton swung its huge sword at Amelio, who cast shield to protect himself from being hewn in half. In response, Amelio quickly cast green-flame blade on his silvered rapier and slashed at the undead monstrosity, then winced when he saw that besides the charring effect of the magicked sword, the blade had little effect. Iallawen, knowing full well that a few more seconds would spell doom for her companion, leaped into the room. Midnight, unsure of what Iallawen had planned, gasped, “What… what are you doing!?” Iallawen turned for a brief second, and gave the briefest glimmer of a smile. Then, her form shifted and grew. Now, instead of Iallawen, there stood a gigantic lizard with knife-like teeth set into a titanic maw. Amelio and Midnight had never seen a creature like this, but had only heard tale of these creatures that made their abode in the jungles of Chult: a dinosaur! The immense creature snapped at the skeleton, tearing and gnawing its ragged bones.

Midnight cast shielding aurora, invoking her power as a Seeker to protect her from harm. The spell created a whirling vortex of brilliant energy that swirled around her. The whirlpool of energy encapsulated the skeleton with radiant power, and the skeletal giant shrunk away in fear. At the same time, Amelio used his divine strike to further the damage against the undead creature. Midnight continued to wither the giant undead with continuous_ eldritch blasts_, but the evil skeleton slashed at Iallawen in her polymorphed form. Dark red blood splashed the floor as long gashes appeared along the dinosaur’s side. In response, Iallawen pivoted and whipped her massive tail at the skeleton’s skull, smashing it to flinders. As the broken skull fell to the floor, the remaining bones toppled and crashed down in fragments. Iallawen roared in triumph, then reverted back to her natural form, panting heavily.

“That…. was annoying,” grumbled Iallawen.

“That was cool!” Amelio said with a broad grin.

Midnight gently held her face in her paw.

Seeing that the room was nothing more than another nefarious trap, the trio backtracked through to the hall of orbs. This time, they stepped through the illusory black orb, and found a small passageway that looped down and underneath the hall itself. At the end of the passageway, Amelio found a secret door, which he pushed open to present a large room that had a distinct scent of incense. Amelio looked upon some form of temple area. There were scenes of normal life painted on the walls, but the people had rotting flesh, skeletal hands, worms eating them, and so forth. Yet there were also depicted various religious symbols of good alignment. There was a mosaic path leading between four rows of wooden pews that faced the worship area. In front of the pews, a wooden railing divided the room. South of it was an altar in front of a tiered dais, on which sat a wooden chair. Sensing no overt traps, the trio dropped down and began to test the floor for pitfalls. Looking at the pews, Amelio found that the seats on the pews were movable. He raised them and found loads and loads of silver pieces! He began to scoop them into his bag of holding. Continuing through, he found thousands of coins stashed in each row closer to the front: electrum and gold! Riches were theirs! Amelio whistled as he worked.

Sprawled on the floor near the west wall was a human skeleton in black chain mail that was badly rusted and damaged. The skeleton’s outstretched arm pointed to a stone archway set in the wall. The opening was filled with opaque, bright orange vapors. Midnight shook her head. Yet another place where I am not going. She traced her way along the eastern wall, and found a small hole below a small “O” symbol. Perhaps another trap, she thought. As Amelio continued to loot the pews, she walked over to the corpse and used speak with dead to find out more about the Tomb’s deadly traps. The horribly burned corpse croaked responses to each of their five questions, most notably letting them know that the cause of his death was an explosion…

Amelio opened the front row… and a burst of gas began to leak out! Amelio ducked for cover and held a hand to his mouth. Iallawen reacted immediately, putting up a wall of stone over the two pews. Although noxious gas continued to leak out, the flow of gas was very slow, which would give them time to find an exit to the room, if one existed.

“Over here,” Midnight said. “I think I found something.”

Iallawen looked at the slot in the wall, and made the connection. Sighing, she put her ring of protection in the slot. A moment later, they heard the sound of moving stone and crunching metal and crystal. “Let’s hope that this sacrifice wasn’t in vain,” Iallawen murmured. Finally, the sound subsided, and the wall slid aside to reveal a small corridor and stairs going down. The trio hurried forwards as the stone door slid closed behind them.

Iallawen looked disapprovingly at Amelio. In a condescending tone, she said, “Fun little fact: when someone tells you to be careful, they aren’t doubting your abilities.”

Amelio grimaced and said, “No need to be snooty.”

Iallawen retorted, “I’m a high elf. It’s part of the job description.”

As they wandered through a long hallway, they found a set of doors, each with a nefarious trap at the end of it. But Amelio was too crafty to fall for simple pit traps – he disarmed each one as they encountered it. “Guys I think there’s another hidden door in one of these pits,” Iallawen said. “Remember the puzzle at the front? Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall. We’ve found one. There should be another somewhere here!” Amelio lowered himself down the last pit, and did indeed, find another hidden door. As the three found themselves in yet another hallway, they found a noxious-looking gas drifting along the floor to the west. Choosing to avoid that, they found another secret door that was magically hidden and sealed along the nearby corridor wall. Midnight used Dispel Magic and unlocked the door, and Amelio stepped through….

A door opened into a large room filled with an acrid smell. All of the walls here were lined with shelves, and upon these were old jars filled with dust and impotent ingredients of all sorts. There was a large desk and stool, two workbenches, and two tables. Clay pots and urns on these tables and the floor obviously once contained ointments, oils, perfumes, and the like. Linen wrappings were in rolls or strewn about. Dried herbs of unidentifiable nature, bones, skulls and the like littered the workbenches. In the south part of the room were three vats about 7 feet in diameter and 4 feet in depth that contained murky liquids. The vats were affixed to the floor and too heavy to move. Testing them one by one, the party found the western one held only dirty water. The middle vat, however, seemed to contain a magical item at its bottom. Using his mage hand to retrieve it, Amelio pulled out one-half of a golden key. Satisfied, they left the room and ignored the right cauldron. They worked their way around a large pit of spikes to another secret room which had a moving floor, green slime and brown mold dripping from the walls, as well as poisonous snakes hidden in various coffers on the floor. “Who made this place?” Amelio scoffed. “It doesn’t even make sense!” Making their way through a hidden hole in the wall, they moved through the tunnels.

The tunnel ended in a room in which golden and silver mists swirled. Determining the mists to be magical in nature, Amelio attempted to use Dispel Magic but found he could not dispel them. Midnight sniffed the air. “Something is not right here,” she purred. “Stay here, I have an idea.” Immediately, she became insubstantial. But her use of ethereal magic attracted a much worse problem. In her place, a huge demonic vulture appeared – a vrock – and attacked! Trapped between the mists and a giant demon, Amelio and Iallawen had no choice – they had to fight! Jumping into action, Amelio cast Insect Plague to distract the demon, but found that the creature was resistant to its magical nature. The vrock slashed out with its beak and razor-sharp talons. Iallawen cast a spell, and a mighty arcane hand materialized behind the creature. It grabbed the vrock from behind and Iallawen closed her palm, commanding the hand to crush the demon. It squealed in pain and snapped at the two remaining heroes.

Midnight, either unaware (or uncaring)of her companions’ plight, ventured further into the cavern, and found that there was a fey creature hiding within a smaller cave. Amelio withdrew his silvered rapier, lit aloft by his Green-Flame Blade, and slashed wildly at the demon. The vrock began to bleed black ichor-like blood which hissed as it hit the floor. The vrock opened its mouth, and out flew a cloud of reddish brown specks. Amelio, standing directly in front, took the brunt of this, inhaling the spores and coughing violently. Iallawen hid her face behind her cloak as the cloud of spores wafted over her. The insects bit into the creature’s flesh as Iallawen cast several scorching rays, burning its hide. Amelio continued to use his rapier to slash at the restrained demon, as Iallawen’s hand crushed it with arcane force. Finally, with a gurgle, the creature slumped to the ground and breathed no more. Grabbing a quick remedy from his pouch, Amelio uncorked the bottle and drank it in one gulp, relieving himself of the effect of the poisonous spores. Holding their breath, Amelio and Iallawen walked into the mists to retrieve their friend….

“Over here! I’ve made a new friend,” came the voice of Midnight. As they met her in the misty glade at the center of the caver, they saw the strange fey creature looking frightened and gesturing for assistance. Wary of treachery, Iallawen offered to assist her and allow her to leave the cave. Immediately the creature became relieved and said that her curse was broken. All that was needed was someone to ask for her to leave. The three looked at each other – that was easy! Iallawen set up a teleportation circle, and then transported the fey back to the Yawning Portal.

Feeling accomplished, they walked back to an unexplored corridor, and found to their dismay an undiscovered trap! A cloud of gas puffed out of an opened door and immediately put Midnight to sleep. A second later, a thunderous sound was heard coming down the dark passageway – something very big was rolling towards them. As protection, Iallawen cast wall of force, but the might of this rolling juggernaut was too much even for the supposedly impenetrable barrier of magic. The machine smashed through the wall, sending arcane shards flying in every direction. Iallawen gasped, grabbed Amelio’s hand and Midnight’s limp body, and cast plane shift. The edges of reality blurred and shifted and in an instant, the three were back in the Yawning Portal. Only, they didn’t land exactly where they wanted to…

WHAT IN THE HELLS!” A burly half-orc stood staring at the three, who had appeared quite suddenly above his table, crashing down and tipping all his and his group’s drinks onto the floor. Amelio smiled sheepishly. “Beg your pardon, sir…. EVERYONE! Drinks on the house!” The tavern cheered and roared in laughter as Amelio wiped the suds of beer off his tunic. Iallawen was quite miffed at the situation and brushed the dirt and beverages from her outfit. Midnight gave a wry smile and licked her fur. It didn’t taste half bad.

After making up the damages with the patrons and talking to Durnan, they decided to sleep that night at the Inn, and go back to the Tomb in the morning. It would be a decidedly longer trip without their horses, but it would be well worth their time, assuming that the traps were still triggered and no one had gotten to the treasure before they did….

After a week’s travel, they arrived back at the secret entrance to the Tomb and stealthily proceeded inside. Tracing their way back to their last place, they found an interesting turn of events. The adamantine mechanism had smashed into a nearby wall, revealing a secret passageway. Bracing themselves for what lay ahead, the trio followed the passageway to an adamantine door, with three slits at waist height etched into the door. After a moment’s investigation, the answer to this puzzle seemed simple. Iallawen attempted to put her long knives into the slits, which unlocked the door, and it withdrew with a hiss into the ceiling. Amelio gasped as his lantern illuminated an enormous chamber colored in pastels. A forest of massive, many-hued columns supported the ceiling. As he stepped inside, Amelio began to float, but using his slippers, he was able to affix himself to the walls. Breathing a sigh of relief, he looked around. And that’s when he felt himself become slowly detached from the wall, and pulled towards the northwest corner of the room, where a green devil face lay, its open mouth beckoning…

Iallawen gasped and cast fly on herself, making sure not to touch any of the walls or floors. She then stopped in midair, and cast wall of force on the alcove in front of the green devil face as well as another one found in the northeast corner of the chamber. WIth that, the gravitational pull stopped and Amelio hovered in midair. “I hate this place,” Amelio murmered, and cast dimension door to port himself to the front door of the room.

Midnight sensed a way around this trap, and cast freedom of movement on herself. Stepping gingerly out, she climbed catlike on the walls and was able to maneuver around quite well. Using her considerable sight, she was able to spy several odd things: three doors to the north glowing in distinct pastel colors, a massive black dais to the south on which sat a throne covered with an ancient and valuable looking scepter and crown, and a pile of bones and ash in the south west corner. Not touching any of that. Not on my nine lives, she thought.

Midnight was able to discern that the crown and scepter were clearly magical, and then cast augury to consult with the higher powers as to any potential weal or woe that might befall those who handled them. Sharing her results with her companions, they decided that they would not touch any of the items, even though they were clearly very valuable. Instead, they moved to the pile of ash and bones. In the center of the pile was a glowing red gem. “Whoa. That thing is huge! Must be worth a fortune!” Amelio shouted. “Shush,” Midnight hissed. She then cast speak with dead on one of the intact skulls in the pile, and determined from the mortiferous conversation that the gem was clearly cursed, but that it seemed to grant wishes. “This evil thing’s power clearly returned to plague its masters,” Iallawen said. “Don’t touch, Amelio.” Amelio grumbled under his breath.

Turning to the glowing doors, they decided to mage hand them open one at a time. Starting with the northwest door, they opened it to find nothing. They then moved aroud to the other glowing blue door, to find a stone sarcophagus. Iallawen cast detect magic and found that although the sarcophagus was not magic, there was something very powerful of magic inside it. With a shove, they opened the stone coffin to reveal a humanoid wrapped in linen bandages. Amelio was able to determine that it was neither alive, dead, nor undead – a very strange condition. However, there was a huge amber gem under the loosely wrapped on its mummified head. “We take no chances,” Amelio said, and struck out with his silvered rapier attempting to chop off the mummified person’s head. But the blow simply rebounded and caused the gem to fall onto the floor. At this, the creature sat straight up, its eyes glowing with a evil greenish light.

“Whyyyyyyyyyyy….” it croaked as it shuffled towards them.
“Whyyyyyyyyyyy….”

View
The Tomb Beckons

The trio arrived in the place that Durnan indicated on the map, a long low hill with years of scrubby brush covering the entire northern face. After hours of investigation, Amelio noticed the large black rocks jutting out from various places atop the hill. Climbing the hill, he awaited Iallawen to join him, and pointed out the rocks seemed to form a pattern, if seen from above. Iallawen raised an eyebrow, then cast fly on herself. She flew to a height, then looked down toward the massive hill. The shape of the stones below her was that of a grinning skull. Lovely, Iallawen thought. Just the place I always wanted for a summer home. Floating down, she related the presence of the picture to her companions. Midnight scowled. This was not a good omen. After much ado, they found an entrance hidden behind a matted wall of vegetation, which Iallawen burned away to show a long tunnel with an odd tiled floor showcasing a red tile pathway.

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Odd murals and frescoes adorned the walls, including an odd painting of a doorway with demonic clawed hands grasping the bars. Adjacent to that, a bronze chest jutted from the wall, its lid closed. Amelio used his mage hand and used it to grasp a 10 foot pole sounding for traps along the floor. Of course there were traps! Five pits, lined with spikes at the bottom, were placed throughout the corridor, all of which Amelio discovered using his pole. Midnight and Iallawen followed closely behind. Amelio’s sense of curiosity about the chest overwhelmed him, but not to the point of brash stupidity. He used his mage hand to open a catch at the top of the chest, and the bottom of the chest fell out, revealing…. nothing. But that was not the only surprise. A thin needle, coated with some kind of greenish ointment, poked up sharply through a hidden hole. Clearly this place was going to be filled with insidious traps of all kinds. As the three reached the end of the corridor, they saw before them a massive greenish devil face, its open mouth showing a vast blackness.

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Something about this thing screamed, “DON’T TOUCH ME.” But Amelio had to be sure. He thrust the pole into the mouth, and it vanished. “Yup. Don’t touch it.” Adjacent to the grinning devil face was an archway filled with undulating mists. As they approached it cautiously, several stones around the arch lit up in different colors. Midnight thought to herself. Clearly some kind of deadly trap. That’s not a place I’m willing to go into. Iallawen looked at the floor, then traced it back to the beginning of the corridor along the reddish path. There were runes, carefully concealed in the reddish brick. After going along the patch back to the devil face, Iallawen was able to decipher the message:

Acererak congratulates you on your powers of observation, so make of this whatever you wish, for you will be mine in the end no matter what!
Go back to the tormentor or through the arch, and the second great hall you’ll discover.
Shun green if you can, but night’s good color is for those of great valor.
If shades of red stand for blood, the wise will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of magical metal—you’re well along your march.
Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.
These keys and those are most important of all, and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.
If you find the false you find the true, and into the columned hall you’ll come,and there the throne that’s key and keyed.
The iron men of visage grim do more than meets the viewer’s eye.
You’ve left and left and found my tomb, and now your souls will die.

Amelio sighed. “Well, that’s just soooo informative!”

Iallawen clucked her tongue. “Be quiet. We have lots of information here, we just have to make heads or tails of it. Let’s think about this. The arch – we don’t have any idea about the colors needed to activate it safely, so we should stay away from it for now. Same thing for ‘stay away from green.’ Clearly that’s this thing.” She looked with disdain at the gaping maw of the green devil face.

“This riddle speaks of two pits that will help along the way, and to ‘check the wall.’ Well, assuming this isn’t a trick, we should do just that. Check the walls near the pits. Or… in them.” Iallawen flew to and fro, checking the walls near the pits for hidden doors, as well as carefully checking inside, staying clear of the spikes. And finally, she found one. The only problem was that the door was openable only from the other side. Scowling in frustration, she flew back and suggested another passage from the riddle.

Midnight nodded in agreement, then said, “The tormentor. What is the tormentor?” She looked up and down the hall. Her eyes rested on the picture of the demonic figure trapped in some kind of jail cell, or was it…. a torture chamber? “Could it be that?” Iallawen walked to the painting, attempting to check for invisible or magical doorways and found none. In frustration, Amelio began to tap along the walls, sounding for hidden doors. When he got to the painting, he found to his surprise that the wall was hollow!

“Stand back.” Iallawen blasted through the plaster with a simple force cantrip, revealing a hidden door beyond. Slowly, the trio moved into the room and scanned for traps. “Nothing…”

A massive stony figure leaped out from a corner for the room, staggering Amelio, sending him sprawling. Iallawen, recognizing this creature as a gargoyle (although nothing like they’d ever seen) unfurled her bandolier of daggers and sent them flying into the creature’s stony flesh. Amelio activated his shield as the creature slashed its claws at the halfling, causing a wall of force to interpose itself between himself and the evil thing before him. Midnight sent a flurry of eldritch blasts at the gargoyle, peppering it with holes, while Iallawen threw a bolt of fire at it, destroying it utterly. The room adjacent seemed to have a series of secret doos attached to it, one after another, and in these rooms were the dart traps which Durnan had warned them about. Amelio successfully dodged and weaved through many of these dart traps, but was struck by a few of them. Finally, he reached a door with seven buttons, which he pressed until the door, activated by this, fell towards him. Amelio jumped out of the way, as the door narrowly missed him. The others rushed through the dart lined hallways to join him.

Before them was another corridor, this one lines with murals of various half-human figures holding globes. With their truesight and magical implements, the group saw through these illusions, turning out to be entryways to passageways beyond. The trio crawled through one passageway to find themselves in front of a statue much like the gargoyle they faced and defeated – but this one was simply a statue albeit one with one of its arms lying on the floor. They doulbled back to find the end of the passageway had a similar archway of mists. Again, they determined not to try their luck with such an obvious trap. Instead, ehy moved to another waist-high passageway to a small room with three chests: one gold, one silver, and one oak with bronze bands. Iallawen cast a detect magic spell to determine if there were any magical traps (or any magic at all) and found two out of the three to have some magical influence – the silver and oaken chests. Starting with the gold chest, the moved to the far corners of the room (levitating through the use of various spells) and mage handed it open. A swarm of poisonous snakes streamed out of the chest, but were unable to attack the three heroes from their position on the ceiling. Iallawen cast a fireball in the corner of the room, incinerating many of the poisonous reptiles. Satisfied, they waited for the smoke to clear, then carefully opened the silver chest. Inside was a glass box. Carefully Iallawen lifted the box from the chest, but triggered a dart trap that sprayed darts at the trio, piercing Iallawen and Amelio’s flesh.

“Ow!” Amelio cried. “This place is getting annoying!”

“At least it’s not poisoned,” Midnight said with a wry grin, and yanked the dart from her companion’s arm.

“Look at this. Beautiful,” Iallawen murmured as she looked at the contents of the glass box. Inside was a large silver ring, glowing faintly with magic. It was a ring of protection, which Iallawen, knowing its protective properties, promptly put on her finger. “Now for the oaken chest,” she said, emboldened by her newfound prize. Moving back to the passageway, Iallawen and Midnight hunched and waited for Amelio to mage hand open the last chest. “Open it,” Midnight said.

“No problem,” Amelio said from the ceiling, hanging upside down using his slippers of spider climbing. The mage hand glided softly down, and opened the catch on the chest.

Instantly, an animated giant skeleton teleported into the room, its rotten eye sockets level with the upside-down and very wide eyes of the halfling. “Well, shit,” Amelio said with a sigh.

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(Prologue) - The Yawning Portal and the Tomb of Horrors

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Ah, a newcomer? Settle in, settle in, I’ve not yet begun to tell my story!

The rains have slowed to a crawl in this, the city of Waterdeep, prefacing a bright new day and a cool, breezy evening. Perfect weather for a grand tale! And, like many stories to be told, this one begins in a tavern. Let’s see, where to begin… ah, yes! Now let me take a good long puff of this pipe…. (breathes in)… and let’s begin…

Not too long ago, but long enough that it bears remembering, three figures sat at a well oiled and polished table in a tavern in the Castle Ward section of this, our grand city. And although it was not much to look at, this was no ordinary tavern. Amid the bustle of the Castle Ward where barristers, nobles, and emissaries battled with word and contract, stood this inn, not quite like any other. To be honest, before there was a Castle Ward, or even what could be recognized as an ancestor of the great Waterdeep, City of Splendors, there was a dungeon, and in that dungeon truly begins the tale of the Yawning Portal…

The City of Waterdeep

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Waterdeep, one of the major cities along the Sword Coast of Faerun, had a rich and vibrant history. Thousands of years ago, it was a mere trading port for northern tribesmen and southern merchants. But after hundreds of years of fertile mercantile growth, permanent farms had sprung up in the area. The name “Waterdeep” (not as a city, but as a town) was used by the ship captains docking to trade at the port, and it was slowly adopted into common use. The city eventually began to grow out of control, ushering in a period of unrest and bitter conflict known as the Guildwars. The Guildwars eventually ended, and in doing so, the modern system of government in Waterdeep was instituted, creating a group known as the “Secret Masked Lords of Waterdeep”. Since that time, the city continued to grow and prosper. Humankind and other races came from all over the Realms to earn hard coin in the City of Splendors. Over the years, these successful merchants set up guilds and themselves became nobility, supporting the secretive Lords of Waterdeep who policed the city fairly, yet with a light hand, by means of the superb City Guard (soldiers), City Watch (police) and over 20 black-robed magistrates. As a result, Waterdeep was a place tolerant of different races, religions, and lifestyles. This, in turn, encouraged commerce and Waterdeep grew into a huge, eclectic city.

And in the midst of this city sat the tavern at the center of our story, and it was known as the Yawning Portal. But why the odd name, you may ask? Well, a good question! The Yawning Portal sat on a rather auspicious and infamous location – the ruins of an ancient and powerful building – the tower of Halaster the Mad Mage.

Halaster and the Undermountain

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In his youth more than a thousand years ago, Halaster Blackcloak was known as Hilather, though where he spent his youth is the source of great speculation. Some sources place him in the ancient Imaskari Empire of old. Whatever his nation of origin, it is known that he was more gregarious as a young man, creating and hosting magefairs and spellmoots, and taking many apprentices. However, as his power grew, he became more interested in aberrations and the Outer Planes, which led to growing paranoia and viciousness.

Hilather, now calling himself Halaster Blackcloak, arrived at the foot of Mount Waterdeep with his apprentices, collectively called “The Seven”. The mighty wizard Halaster began to build a tower at the foot of the mountain, summoning demons and other outsiders to construct it, and claiming the nearby lands as his own. Halaster refused to release the monsters and demons after they constructed his tower, instead sending them into the caverns below it to explore in search of ever greater magical power. This began Halaster’s Hunts, a long series of journeys into the area now called the Underhalls, driving out the drow, duergar, and various monsters that lived there. Halaster and his apprentices expanded the tunnels they found, worming out new lairs under the surface for reasons of their own. Years later, Halaster obtained complete control over the near-endless tunnels and caverns and then began constructing the largest and most deadly dungeon imaginable, called Undermountain. By that time, Halaster had become completely mad and wanted nothing to do with the outside world. He left his hold to live in Undermountain itself, allowing the tower and surrounding area within the city to fall into ruin… but allowing the burgeoning city of Waterdeep to grow up around it.

For untold years, the secrets of Undermountain remained hidden from the surface world. Everyone who entered its halls failed to return. Its reputation as a death trap grew to the point that criminals in Waterdeep who were sentenced to die were forcibly escorted into the dungeon and left to fend for themselves.

But all of that changed with the arrival in Waterdeep of two men, a warrior named Durnan and a ne’er-do-well named Mirt….

Durnan and Mirt

Durnan and Mirt grew up hard, leading lives that made them tough and muscular, in a rural village in the north part of the Sword Coast. They were vastly different in temperament and disposition and intended to lead separate lives, but both lives took the same turn. At around the age of twelve or so, Mirt and Durnan ended up separately on their own, having fled from an orc raid on their township to seek their own fortunes. They were country boys, although Mirt had a swifter wit and a nastier nature than Durnan, the quieter and calmer Durnan having more patience, tolerance, and muscles. Together, they sought out cities, because cities were where money and excitement were to be found, and where opportunity dwelled. During their nascent adulthood, they became firm friends and adventuring companions. Mirt was a wily but no small-statured sneak thief, and although an accomplished warrior, Durnan was just as bright and as conversant in daily life and culture as the shopkeepers he walked among in the ports along the Sword Coast.

Mirt and Durnan took their adventures to the major cities along the Sword Coast, learning all about the varied folk of the Realms, how they lived and what goods were to be bought and sold and how, about laws and who makes and keeps them and who they benefit and who they spurn (most of the time, Mirt and Durnan being among the spurned), and all about the guilds (including the well known thieves’ guilds). They would soon learn what sorts of ships sailed the Sword Coast, how cargoes were packaged for travel, and how ships were loaded and unloaded through what goods are needed where (and therefore imported) or surplus and needed elsewhere (and therefore exported) to local spoken expressions, guilds and their influence, the attitudes of this or that city, and hundreds of little details of daily life.

Finally deciding together that their skill was sufficient, Durnan and Mirt ventured into Undermountain, and disappeared. Sometime later, they resurfaced, becoming the first true adventurers to return from Undermountain alive, laden with riches and magic treasures. While Mirt used his wealth to buy a mansion, Durnan had different plans. Durnan retired from adventuring completely and purchased the land on which sat the deep, broad well that was the only known entrance to the massive dungeon. Around this well, he built a tavern and inn that caters to adventurers and those who seek their services, and he called it the Yawning Portal. The Yawning Portal’s main attraction was the fact that as it sat upon the entrance to Undermountain itself, it was a litmus test for any adventuring party (or drunk tavern goer) to prove his or her mettle by paying the fee and descending into the well, venturing into Undermountain and returning (alive, one would hope) with riches and spoils of conquest. The truth is that very few, if any, returned in one piece. Many who descended screamed to be hauled up the wall as soon as they reached the bottom (which Durnan was more than happy to oblige upon the payment of additional coin).

But now, we return to that fateful night, where for three well-heeled adventurers spending the evening in the Yawning Portal’s common room, things were about to get very interesting…

The Yawning Portal

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Amelio Softpaw sighed, his fingers drumming on the worn wooden table, waiting for something to happen. Amelio was a halfling, a rogue of no mickle might, and devout cleric of Brandobaris, the halfling god of Stealth, Thievery, Rogues, and Adventuring. His was a life fit for whatever he could make of it. He and his erstwhile companions had seen much and done much, in adventures that spanned much of the continent of Faerun. He had faced off against the undead, demons from beyond the plane, and horrors from the Underdark. Yet he yearned for something more. Something that would be the grand epitome of his life as an adventurer. And this place was far from it.

Near Amelio, a lithe catlike humanoid scanned the tables around her. The tabaxi warlock known as Desert Pale at Midnight kept her visage hooded, although she had no fear of Waterdavians – the tavern was a mix of many different nonhuman species, although hers was not one of them. She had experienced all manner of prejudice aimed at her through her life, and through her skill and practice as a seeker of eldritch knowledge, had overcome it and earned the respect of many. She was a follower of the god of knowledge himself, Thoth, and in her quest for arcane secrets and lore, gifted her deity with knowledge once forgotten in return for the power that her God had invested her with. Her slitted dark yellow eyes narrowed as she spied a middle aged elven woman staring at her from a nearby table. Her focus on the group made Midnight nervous.

Next to Midnight sat a small elven woman with fine clothes and fair skin, her attention focused solely on the large tome propped up on the table. Iallawen Luthiel‘s dark hair contrasted sharply with her bright blue eyes, and although she showed signs of nobility in her poise and posture, her reticence and calm demeanor belied a bookish nature. Iallawen was a powerful mage, who along with her companions (unfortunately many of them buried or lost along the way) had performed many heroic tasks in the service of the land. Her goals, however, similar to Midnight’s, were in the acquisition of knowledge, rather than the altruistic goals of others that might have ego issues, or in the acquisition of wealth, power, or other such nonsense. Her path had taken her from the ancestral seat of her family, Clan Luthiel, to the massive library at Candlekeep. There, studying lore amongst the thousands of tomes, she met another seeker of knowledge, Midnight. The two joined forces and sought arcane knowledge through their many adventures, finally joining with others, including the halfling Amelio. Over the years, the three heroes performed great deeds and vanquished mighty foes, and along the way, found themselves to be a new family.

And now, that family of three sat in a rowdy tavern in the midst of a vast city, waiting for fate to land the next big thing in their lap. Over by the bar, two humans and an elf stood speaking to the current owner of the Yawning Portal, Durnan the Sixth. Durnan, like his forefather namesakes’ before him, owned the Yawning Portal. Durnan was a gruff man, never one to brag or boast about his family’s wealth, nor one to speak lightly to those who dared balk at the challenge of Undermountain under their very feet. While Midnight walked over to speak to the elven woman about her propensity for staring, Amelio snuck up on the three to hear their conversation. The three were drilling Durnan for details on some kind of lost tomb known as the Tomb of Horrors, to which they very much needed directions. Durnan, complying (with a bit of gold as an incentive), drew a haphazard map to this hidden tomb, and let the three uncivilized adventurers go on their way. He smirked as they left, seemingly knowing that they’d find this lost tomb more of a challenge than they expected. Amelio returned to the group and relayed this information. Iallawen nodded, knowing of the tomb and its history.

The Tomb of Horrors

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The tales of the Tomb of Horrors had spread across the Sword Coast from the furthest reaches of Faerûn and beyond. The minor details changed with the telling. The tomb was the final resting place of the lich known as Acererak. The dread tomb of Acererak was never found, shifting its true location from a dismal swamp to a searing desert to some other forbidding clime in each supposed telling. But the key elements remained the same in each version of the tales, lending a thread of truth to the tale. Acererak was once a powerful mage who sought immortality to further his search for arcane power. In doing so, he voluntarily gave up his life to become the undead monstrosity known as a lich – a massively powerful undead spellcaster. According to the legend, however, this was not enough for Acererak. He experimented with a way to further his power as a lich, and attempted to doff the restraints of his physical body, to become an even more powerful being known as a demilich. Whether he was successful in this endeavor, no one ever found out. He ordered his followers to build a labyrinthine structure with which to house his hoard of riches and magical artifacts, and entombed them inside, along with fearsome creatures with which to guard against bothersome adventurers. The tomb was so laden with traps and fiendish monstrosities that no one who ever supposedly discovered this tomb ever returned…

Midnight returned from speaking with the elven woman, who had apologized for staring and disguised any interest that she had with the three of them under a glaze of kindness and shaded sympathy. Clearly, whatever the woman saw or noticed, she was not willing to discuss with them. Midnight kept a close eye on the woman as she padded back to the table.

The night wore on, and Durnan made intimations that he wanted to speak to them at the close of business. Something important, clearly, as Durnan was not usually known for taking on the confidence of patrons. As the customers filed home into the moon-laden streets of Waterdeep, the sounds of raucous merriment faded from the old tavern. Soon, the three were the only patrons left. Durnan finished cleaning his mugs and polished the old oaken bar to a spit shine. Then, gingerly placing his old rag on the counter behind him, he came out from the behind the bar and gestured for the three to follow him. He wound his way around the old well that was the supposed entrance to Undermountain. Amelio looked down in the dim lamplight. A long way down, he thought. I wouldn’t chance a ride in that old bucket. Durnan brought them to a sturdy oaken door with a large bronze fitted bar seated across its frame. Locking the bar down was a massive iron lock. Durnan produced a set of keys, opened the lock, and then, as if it were nothing, tossed the heavy wooden bar aside. As he opened the door, he lit a lantern fitted to the inside wall, allowing light to spill on the room’s contents. Even with their years of experience, all three gazed in shock. This study was filled with all manner of strange and seemingly enchanted objects. Durnan sat them down at a table and related that he and his partner Mirt went down into Undermountain and returned with riches beyond measure. While Mirt went on to be a wealthy merchant, Durnan chose to retire and found this inn above the entrance, almost as if he expected to be its guardian of a sort. The truth is, he had always wanted one last adventure to the place that he himself could not dare to go back: The Tomb of Acererak. Durnan said that he indeed knew the location of the tomb, but that the place was festooned with traps that would engulf even the stoutest warrior, the most wily wizard; in short, it was hell. In one case, Mirt and he had come into a series of rooms where darts kept flying at them. Wounded and succumbing to horrific traps and puzzles, they had no chance to flee.

Durnan made a proposition to the three heroes – he would supply the location of the hidden tomb so that the heroes could plunder its riches and forbidden knowledge. In return, the heroes would donate 25% of whatever they would find to Durnan. As an insurance measure, Durnan introduced them to his machine, a contraption powered by necromantic magic that would recreate a clone of them if they died within the tomb. The clone would be less powerful each time they were recreated, and would possess none of their worldly material goods (if they died in the tomb, it would of course still be in there) but be assuming that the machine worked as it did, they would have multiple chances to plunder the riches of the evil lich. The group agreed and signed a set of contracts that Durnan provided. In return, Durnan drew a detailed map of the location of the tomb.

In the morning, Amelio, Midnight, and Iallawen mounted their horses and traveled south to the location of the tomb in the high moors, just west of the Serpent Hills. Preparing themselves for the worst, they finally arrived at the tomb’s location….

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