[Written in Druidic]
I am being tested indeed. Having taken a fork in the path in the High Moors en route to the Tomb of Diderius, Pug, Soveliss and I were separated from Dorn and Varis. We chanced upon an enormous golden head and hand that were jutting up out of the ground. I noticed that there were the remains of a campfire – at least a couple days old, and not more than a week – nearby, along with the scorched tracks of what appeared to be a very large snake. Odd. Attuning to the local environment (I still so wish to know how he does this!), Pug was able to sense the presence of numerous elementals. Even more odd. We approached cautiously. “We” being Soveliss and myself, that is.
We entered (via the door, set into the neck of this statue), and my senses were overwhelmed with the jungle-like moist heat, steam everywhere restricting our vision, and this loud clanging from metal pipes. I was out of my element, to say the least. Pug, in his usual stealthy style, bellowed out a greeting. In no time, a hole opened up in one of the large pipes and out poked a stark white head (which Sovellis, in his wizardly knowledge, identified as a steam mephit) and demanded to know who we were and why we were here. I informed this little being that we chanced upon this area and were simply exploring. He didn’t like that very much.
The peephole closed, and we were immediately beset by more than a hands-worth of these steam mephitis, flying around, masked by the steam, and bombarding us with steam breath. Oh, it burned! Steeling myself against my desire to shift to a more bestial, combat-driven form, I remained as a human. While this scaly shell they call “armour” did indeed help to protect me, my magicked club was far, far less effectual against these elemental steam-breathed mosquitoes than claws or teeth! It was frustrating. However, Pug’s deftness with his two weapons and Sovellis’s multiple beams of magic force—that is, before the wizard seemed to run for cover/protection, disappearing for some time—helped to win out against them. I did what I could, downing a few, but with far less proficiency and efficiency in this human form than as another animal.
In time, Soveliss rejoined us, also quite hurt, upset that we didn’t come to his aid; he had left the area (I remain unsure why – cowardice and fear come to mind, though; he strikes me as one who is like an owl, priding itself on its wisdom and knowledge, but whose sharpened talons are used only to strike under the protective cover of the veil of midnight darkness rather than the more bold eagle who strikes in the bright daylight) and come across a salamander! I had heard tall tales of these creatures, not realizing their existence. But exist they apparently do. Having the body and head of a large python, the torso of a man, and sheathed in (perhaps even made from) flames as hot as the magma from a volcano. They are formidable foes indeed – I now know this, for we encountered one when we entered the laboratory of a mad alchemist, wearing the tall cylindrical hat of a Calashite, whose concern with balance (albeit in a misguided way) such that the beneficial property of his potions (healing, growth, etc.) were offset with detrimental ones – poison! From what I could tell, more than half of his inventory was poisons of various natures. After Pug had knocked back his fair share of poisoned potion, a salamander burst its way into the laboratory – I can only assume it had been made aware of our trespassing and uninvited presence, and sought to weed out the unwelcome guests. There was mention of a Lord Blackstone, who seemed to command this…thing and all of its elemental minions.
A mighty battle ensued; the salamander put up a mighty fight, razing much in its path, but it ultimately fell to a rain of blows from all fronts: polar bear claws and teeth, an ice storm (perfect for me as a bear!), this strange icy blue liquid thrown by the Calashite, eldritch bolts from the wizard, and a flurry of blows from the half-orc pirate.
We continued to investigate, and it quickly became apparent that this structure was much more than just a head and hand; it seemed to be a gigantic construct of some sort, made of metals of various natures with various fluids running throughout – almost like an animal made of metal. Able to look back on it now, it seemed to have various components kind of like our own organs – trapped air elementals (which I had first mistaken, oddly, for mermaids) for its “lungs,” a blue, powerfully rigidly cold (as though it were straight from the Plane of Ice itself) fluid, a red fluid (I imagine hot/fire), a black, oily one, and others. As we battled more mephitis (steam and smoke), we push onwards and then came upon what I can guess at was its stomach: an enormous chamber in which could be found a group of Magmin chained with adamantine, three deep rifts of flowing lava, what turned out to be a summoning circle of six onyx slates carved with runes, and “Lord” Blackstone himself – a fire genasi who had been cast out from the city of Baldur’s Gate by Marshall Ulder Ravengard for being too great a threat to the wooden structures of that area. Burning with hatred and outrage for his exile, Blackstone’s heart was aflame with vengeance, wishing to bring this colossus back to “life”, so he could use the war machine to rain death on Baldur’s Gate and all else who would oppose him.
Blackstone sent forth two more salamanders at us, from this summoning circle of his – what formidable foes these salamanders are! If only they were natural creatures; oh, the might I would have… Knowing I could not rely on my human form to beat them, I reversed course and clambered back up the 20’ drop into this area. Drawing upon my newfound power, I assumed the form of a giant ape. Its size, strength and might was beyond reckoning. I leapt down, onto one of the salamanders, making quick work of them by pummeling them with my gigantic fists. Leaping across some of the lava chasms, I misstepped and fell in, but the sheer size and toughness of this animal shrugged off the burning, scorching pool of lava, climbing out and, teamed with some of the Magmin that Pug has helped to unshackle, ran him through in short time. In the interim, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Soveliss destroy a black gem that was in the summoning circle, apparently the source of the power for it – fortunately dismissing all the salamanders Blackstone had summoned. Perhaps he named himself after this very gem? Despite the giant ape form, I still shiver (heh, heh) at the thought of those fiery menaces. There were times when, I swear, their radiant heat did more harm to me than my claws and fangs did to them…
At any rate, Blackstone has been defeated, and word has been sent to the Council of our now being in possession of this colossus. Soveliss is trying to convince some clam-like tripedal earth creatures (Xorns) to dig away the earth surrounding it, making it easier to remove itself – when/if the Council is able to get it running again. I am conflicted; while on one hand, I feel it would be a might war machine to help overthrow the Cult, I also worry that our continued reliance on such…unnatural devices/technology will ultimately prove our downfall. For, is using one unnatural thing to conquer another – is that really helping to restore the balance? Time will tell. And I fear I already know the answer.