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The Manticore Keep Campaign

The Taking of Manticore Keep

Martin Melhus

Grimly, I form these words, in the faint hope that some other sentient being will hear them and spread my dismal tale of woe.

I was once the one known as "The Beetlebrow". A wandering mercenary, stout of heart and sinew, but lacking in opportunity, I threw in my lot with an odd pair, the elf Qanth, and the dwarf Dwayne the Ruddy cheeked. Qanth had obtained a map, most likely stolen during his time working at the Great Library of the Phoenix Sages. At our first meeting at the Weasel and Basilisk, he told of the possibility of great treasure and fame to be won by subduing the vicious creature simply called "the EX" that was drawn on the map. Based on the scale of the map, this EX was large indeed, and I feared that a mere three humanoids would just fill its belly for part of an afternoon. But Dwayne was enthused about the possibility, so I decided to throw caution to the winds and accompany these enigmatic nonhumans.

I was the only member of our pathetic band without a mount, and without appropriate clothing for the winter weather that we were sure to experience, it being winter and all that. Qanth graciously loaned me the money to purchase some furs and rent a riding horse. We also bought food, and these silly standard bags with enigmatic items like short wooden sticks with holes in the end, and this remarkable cloth like substance that is round like one's thumb, but strong enough to support the weight of two full grown men. Coiled up, it takes up very little space, yet can be stretched out to cover over 30 paces of a man.

After squandering most of our free cash, we set out to find this ominous EX. On the way, an Ice Fiend rose up out of the snow drifts, and eviscerated Dwayne's pony. I found this rather funny, as did Qanth (although I suspect that was because he put down the deposit on my horse, and owned his own.) But Dwayne was forced to ride behind Qanth, which I found even funnier. Little did I know that this would be a subtle omen that I should have paid attention to. The next day, we were beset by 5 famished wolves, but they were no match for our weapons, and we feasted on their meager bodies, saving the skins, teeth (Qanth,) and bones, which Dwayne tried to blow on. While elves can be enigmatic, I feel that dwarves are downright insane, and it should be illegal for them to leave their caves.

Finally, we arrived at where the EX was supposed to be. There was no monster at all, but rather a tall tower. I began to wonder why I would risk my life with these idiotic nonhumans. The door of the tower was ajar, so we entered, and discovered a half of a dead cow, and 8 dessicated horses. Dwayne debated taking a cow leg, but even that stunted nose of his could smell the rot and decay in the beast, so he decided to stick to his axe.

\Leaving the deceased animals, we climbed up the stairs to find sacks and piles of rotting grain, and 3 rats that attacked us, which was, for them, a rather quick and messy form of suicide. Finding nothing else of use, we ascended to the next level, where we found 3 dead adventurers. There were signs of a fight, blood everywhere, and the adventurers were all killed by great rending gashes, with a few severed limbs.

But, foolhardy band we, proceeded upwards, to find another chamber filled with bloodstains, and the creature that dispensed with the group below us, a manticore. It was wounded, but desperate, and fought hard, but was killed by virtue of our numbers and skill. We proceeded upwards again, and encountered those horrific shells of nonlife, the cleaning zombies. They attacked us, and without too much difficulty we rendered them into very small pieces of zombies. In that chamber we found a lot of fine silverware, and there were grotesquely bright and happy murals on the walls.

Ascending the final level brought us to the top of the tower. Despite by all rights being open to the sky, the roof had a transparent barrier that I could not comprehend. There were also several items of uncertain use, probably the tools of foul sorcerers, corrupt magicians, or worse. There was a strange tubelike device that Dwayne put to his eye, and claimed that he could see things beyond human ken. I tried it, and all the so called images were blurry blobs of light.

And then, there was the helmet. It was a thing of exquisite beauty and of singular workmanship. Sitting under a clear case, it was obviously the most interesting thing in the room. Drawn towards it by what must have, in hindsight, been some eldritch power, I lifted the case, took the helmet, and placed it on my head. Instantly, the world went black. I heard a small, distant voice say, "greetings, elf and dwarf. I am Xilu, the hero of the battle of Fodor, and I must complete my sacred task."

So here I sit, a prisoner in my own brain, without power to act, subject to the whims of an insane long dead hero. A pox upon you all, and most particularly on Xilu, that insufferable lout.