Seemed we were too bloody late. Halaster’s goons, or whatever they called themselves, had collected the ritual materials – well, the cheese – and everything was protected with some sort of spell in this gloomy little cavern in Undermountain. I figured I could maybe fill the room up with dirt, using the sweet belt I got. Got, uh, got a few cheers from Poppy, heheh, but another enchantment on the room must have stopped it from filling up, because the dirt just started piling up against an invisible wall or something before long. Thought I could still block off the entrance, but I had only half covered the entrance when we were all suddenly paralysed with magic. Wasn’t facing the room, but I heard a harsh and plenty angry voice from inside – later I was told it was Muriel, the scorpion-woman hybrid thing – yelling that we’d made a nuisance of ourselves and they’d have to get on with the ritual in spite of our presence. Boy, she knew how to run her mouth. Bloody miscreant was raving about us for an age. Something in there about not getting quite enough cheese to fully complete the ritual, hohoh am I glad I ate some before we burned it in the open lord’s basement the other day. Totally worth copping a bolt of magic from Zavra’s staff.
Uh, anyway, yes, the ritual cavern. Heard some struggling in there, too. Sounded like some poor lass was being used for the ritual – against her will. Poppy tried – of all things – reasoning with Muriel. Wouldn’t have guessed she’d try it, but it went about as well as you’d expect with an insane scorpion woman hell-bent on the resurrection of a lunatic wizard of incomprehensible power. Muriel blabbed on some more about how they were going to bring back Halaster’s spirit, then began the ritual. Heard something gory, asked Kaedri about it later, apparently she saw the shadow of Muriel’s stinger right before that stinger was plunged into the human sacrifice. I think someone said her name was Stephie1, or something? Eh, dead now, not important. Halaster’s spirit, sure enough, rose from her corpse – so I’m told. Muriel told the old bastard to take her power and do what he always wanted. Not one to refuse power, this guy. He drained the life and energy from everything in that room, all his heirs included – got us a bit on his way out, too, just after the magic paralysis wore off and our limbs unstiffened. And by “got us a bit” I mean wow did he take the wind out of us or what – I felt my body, mind and soul wither as he passed over us.
Poppy yelled, “We have a halfling!” Look, who knows what she was on about.
We checked out the ritual room again, found Halaster’s heirs – dead – and Muriel – also dead – lying near Tracy or whatever her name was. All very dead. This was when I started worrying that Poppy wasn’t feeling hersel– Ahem, wasn’t feeling her usual self. She covered Sassy – was it Sassy? I’ll get this right at least once, surely – with a cloak, like you might cover up a friend. Ah, but I immediately knew she was fine when she suddenly sliced off Tashy’s hand – chopping on corpses is classic Poppy. So then we figured, you know, enough messing around, there’s a city above us presumably in the middle of a total catastrophe, and we were off.
The denizens of Undermountain – the ones who were still alive, at least – were scattered and panicked, running all over, screeching. We were pretty close to the shaft beneath the Yawning Portal when we came across this fellow pottering about like nothing was wrong – seemed really suspicious to me, at first. Turned out he was just deaf. No idea how he survived down there for more than 2 seconds, didn’t see any magic eyes in the back of his head. Poppy started writing to communicate with him, he introduced himself as Mallow, then practically pissed himself when she mentioned Halaster. Clung to her like a scared little kid. We took him with us up the shaft to the Yawning Portal – magic lift courtesy of Kaedri, in the absence of the usual one. Metal cover on top wasn’t too heavy, but the din of panic in the streets sure was.
Found Durnan in the basement, a cowering wreck. The sight of Poppy certainly didn’t cheer him up. She told him things had gone bad – in case that wasn’t obvious – asked for information, and slapped him with Sasha’s amputated hand when he started to panic about dying. What a charmer. Well, it worked. Somehow. He suggested talking to Muriel – dead – or maybe Horton, who apparently betrayed Halaster. They had some sort of beef going on. Well, there was no time to waste, so we left Mallow with Durnan and made our way to the streets.
We headed for the open lord’s place – pretty nerve-wracking with the number of spirits in the sky above, swooping on people now and again. Luckily, we made it there without getting any attention from them. Heard Ulbrenter whimpering under his desk like a cur. Poppy, ever the tactful one, leapt over it and scared the living daylights out of him, with Tessa’s limp hand still in her grasp. She inquired about his daughter briefly, but then got directions to Horton’s quarters. We found him there, oddly calm. We gave him the details of the situation with Halaster and the spirits and the ritual, and he reckoned we ought to smash the altar. For that, though, we’d need to bring Muriel back and have her lift the enchantment protecting the whole room. No easy task. He gave us a jar of what looked like colourful, sparkling sand, told us one pinch of it would bring someone back for maybe 10 minutes, maybe an hour. We led Ulbrenter to his daughter’s room, then dashed back to the Yawning Portal.
Not so easy this time, though. One of the spirits swooped at us, cackling. Poppy leapt out of the way, I took cover in a well, and Kaedri… For some bloody reason… Kaedri stood there and tried to use the amulet to command our abomination to attack it. She managed to control it about as well as most of us had done in the past – it didn’t respond. The spirit drained a lot of energy them both, and the abomination wasn’t happy about that at all. It got hungry. It stopped obeying the amulet that Kaedri held. She had to blast it away with – eeeeghh – thunder. Then it went into a nearby house for a moment and came out moments later, seeming satisfied, back to its usual complacent self. We all still try not to think about what happened in there.
When we got back to the Yawning Portal, Mallow and Durnan were still in the basement. Poppy pressed Durnan for information again, and he mentioned that Muriel had been brainwashed by Halaster to destroy peaceful societies everywhere. Something was up with Durnan – he was hiding a lot of power. Poppy could see, with those fancy goggles, he was tougher than the rest of us. When she insisted he was the strongest person in the room, though, he disagreed. What was his deal? Well, she convinced him to come with us to help persuade Muriel, but he wasn’t pleased at all. I tried to get him more on our side, said he’d be remembered for centuries. He said he already had been. Maybe one day I’ll get the full scoop on this mysterious bastard.
Back at the altar again. Sissy’s body was gone, and Durnan said that might make more sense if she was a phylactery herself? I don’t get that arcane stuff. Anyway, Kaedri asked Durnan if he thought Muriel would try to kill him on sight. He seemed very sure she would. Kaedri handed him the amulet to control the abomination, more to free up her own hands than make him feel safe. Poppy got Muriel’s shrivelled corpse all tied down, then chucked a pinch of that powder from Horton’s jar on her. I found a safe spot in the mound of dirt I’d dug up earlier as she came to. She yelled at us a bit, about what we wanted and what was going on. Poppy dragged Durnan into view, for all the good it did. Muriel tried to reach out and clobber him. Here, again, I started wondering if Poppy was still really Poppy – she started talking with the insane scorpion woman, trying to convince her to help us. Muriel didn’t stop struggling to get free and murder us all, mind you. And she might have done, if not for the powder wearing off. Yeah, she died again. Good timing. Durnan gave us a rundown of her past with Halaster – he brainwashed her to kill her family because they successfully defied him – and Kaedri sent an arcane message to ol’ McNugget, asking him to come to our aid. Kaedri also figured she could cure Muriel’s insanity and brainwashing, so she got to work on a ritual for that while Poppy secured Muriel again. Poppy – ah, look, I was gonna say she must have been going nuts, but maybe this was just her softer side showing – she tried to comfort Durnan while he spilled his guts about bonding with Muriel over destruction and other terrible things. Poppy finally threw a little more powder on Muriel, bringing her back for the last few vital minutes of Kaedri’s ritual, and tried to keep her busy with words, but mostly just pissed her off. I was starting to feel a bit insecure, even in my little pile of dirt, as Muriel thrashed around, but the ritual killed her off again. It worked, though. Another dash of Horton’s powder and she was back. Poppy barely had to prompt her to get up and smash the altar and the cheese – I even gave a little cheer from my burrow. Muriel wasn’t so bad with her head set right. She told us we had to destroy the rest, and that the book on the altar could track the last sources empowering Halaster and the other spirits wreaking havoc on Waterdeep above us. Just as I felt we were starting to make a new friend, she collapsed again, dead as before. Poppy checked the book – mostly blank, save for a written date, and a page with some dots on it that moved about, seemingly in sync with the movements of ourselves and the sources of the spirits’ power. We could track our targets with the book! I took one of Muriel’s fingers before we left. Might be worth having Kaedri raise her from the dead later on, even if it comes at my expense.
We left the abomination with Durnan at the Yawning Portal inn and navigated towards the nearest target with the book. As we came toward a house that seemed to be the spot the book indicated, the house fell apart as a massive goliath barbarian grew to immense size from within, right before our eyes. He seemed a little dazed, at first, but then started taking swings at the spirits, yelling in pain each time he hit one. The spirits must have been the ones feeding him power. His name was Frank. Poppy gave him a talking-to, and even got him to stomp on one of the other sources of the ritual’s power – a goliath paladin apparently called Boggywog. I told Poppy to get Frank to keep swinging at the spirits – he’d made himself useful, now we just needed to weaken and kill him, and he seemed foolish enough to do as she said. My, ah, my memory fails me after that. Hold on while I grab another drink.