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The Manticore Keep Campaign

The Machine in the Cave

Martin Melhus

Greetings, friends. I am your humble chronicler, Teeba Ver'lta te Wiffle. I was raised in the wilder end of Snarl swamp, where my family raised leeks and bitterroot. My last name in Elven means guardian of the leek groves. But my friends and companions call me Teeba.

I am accompanied on these adventures by by dear friend Qanth, another elf, who is tall, fair and very striking, and a dwarf named Dwayne the Ruddy Cheeked. I don't really know how dwarves decide their last names, and I suppose I never will. It must have something to do with the delving mentality.

My friends gave me the brief tour of the keep they had taken possession of. To say that it was in need of work is something of an understatement. However, there was an exemplary laboratory and observatory on the upper floors. We all agreed that it would be best to find an expert to evaluate the equipment in the lab. There was also a very helpful book. I'm sure that there was some enchantment on it. We'd be strolling along, doing something, and suddenly we would all recall a pertinent passage from the book, just in time to avert disaster or explain something that we needed to know or do. But the first order of business was to clean things up.

We placed the manticore carcass in the opening where the front door should have been, and put a zombie arm trailing out of it's mouth. Qanth decided to name the tower Manticore Keep, and we all agreed that that was a fine name for our little building. We decided to put all the other zombie bits into the cesspit out back, with the intention of burning them later. And we swept and cleaned, and rid the keep of the dead rodents, rotting grain, and other detritus. Tired after a long day's work, we settled in for our well deserved rest.

But alas, peaceful slumber was not in store for us that night. I awoke suddenly, with a terrible pain in my abdomen, had a fleeting vision of a distorted and grotesque face, and passed out. I awoke some time later, wrapped in bandages, and was told by Qanth that a zombie had attacked me

while I was asleep. My companions were worried that I wouldn't survive the wound, but they bandaged it, and poured healing potions down my throat until the color returned to my cheeks, or rather until they ran out of healing potions. Qanth and Dwayne had dismembered the zombie, and burned all the zombie parts that remained, including the arm in the manticore's mouth. We agreed to not let hacked up zombies lie, but to insure that they would wreak no further harm on the living.

We had planned to explore the surroundings the next day, but my condition made that impossible, at least for me, so Qanth left for Bervyn, riding my fine horse, and bringing his along to carry our supplies. While he was away, I recuperated, and Dwayne cleaned the keep, patched up the cracking mortar, and tried to construct a crude door. Without proper carpentry tools, it was difficult, but he produced a passable door. He also was very attentive, cooking my meals, and giving me lots of foot rubs. I'm used to foot rubs from elves, but his short powerful fingers were a nice change. I didn't tell Qanth about the foot rubs, as I was worried that it might upset him, and he would want to throw Dwayne out a window or something.

After about a week, Qanth returned, laden with provisions, tools, and equipment, except that he forgot the curtains I asked him to get. I'm sure that it was because he couldn't find a pattern that matched the decor. I was nearly healed up at that point, so we waited a few more days, and then prepared to venture forth.

The wonderful book that I mentioned before had said that the source of political power in the area was located about a half hour's walk away from the tower. The three of us set out to find it. On the way we were accosted by a giant snowy owl, but a warning shot from my bow let it know that we were not easy prey, and it left us alone.

We found that the source of power was in a cave, and that some bears had decided to winter in the cave. They were deep in slumber, so we were able to sneak by them without disturbing them, despite the clatter I made when my scabbard started a small rockfall. Deeper in, the cave gave way to smooth stone walls, and then opened up into a room with a strange fountain filled with colorful bubbling liquid. We recognized this as the "Pool of Wonders". The book instructed us to drink once, and not twice, from the pool. We all took a deep swig, and felt changes happening. I felt more agile and nimble, while Dwayne and Qanth felt that they had somehow become better fighters. It is a shame that the all knowing book advised us to not take a second swig of the potent liquid, as the benefits of this elixir were wonderful.

We proceeded a short distance onward, and encountered the source of power. It was a laboratory, with all sorts of complicated equipment, several cages hanging from the ceiling by thick chains, and a large vat in the center. The book had spoken of this room, and had the instructions for how to use the devices to produce monsters. These monsters would not attack anyone wearing the sigil, a particular jewel, of which there were several examples set into rings, pendants, amulets, and so on. Qanth already had such an amulet from Manticore Keep. But this equipment was not the boon that it might seem. To make a monster, it was necessary to have twice the mass of the monster in living matter, and to create the more potent monsters, intelligent living matter was needed. While I felt that putting orcs in was morally acceptable, Dwayne wanted them killed first, which would make them useless for this process.

So I leave off this chapter of our adventures with our hearty band poised on the horns of an ethical dilemma. Do we try to use the equipment, and perhaps trod down the path to evil and ruination, try to dismantle and sell the equipment, and risk that someone else will acquire it all, and reassemble it, destroy the equipment so that no one can ever misuse it again, or preserve it and guard it without using it, so that if it is ever needed, it will be available. And is there any way that we can profit off of the pool of wonders, or is that also too risky.

Your humble chronicler,
Teeba V'l tW.