Much has passed since last we spoke. Our brave and virtuous heroes have successfully cleared their Floating Fortress™ of any and all undead presence. In addition, they successully perused their owners manual to determine the required fuel to successully make it bouyant again. All it takes is an Elder Air Elemental, permanently bound to the Fortress to keep it aloft.
So into the city to find an Air Elemental. Not many of those lying around, but fortunately a young boy with the name of “Obvious Plot Hook” came by to help them. (I like that boy. I suspect we will see him again from time to time.) He directed them to an old man living out in the middle of the desert who might be able to help them.
It turns out that the old man was truly a Djinni Noble in disguise. He was framed for a murder and banished here, his true love imprisoned and captured – by his brother, no less. If they would agree to expose his brother, rescue his love, and end his banishment, he would in turn take care of that whole Air Elemental thing. Sounds a bit one-sided, but adventurers are little known for their brilliance. They accepted.
Along the way, Mother Dearest sent her regards once again to Nanak, this time in the form of Flying Vulture Demons. The standard demon was just not cutting it, so she upped the ante. They still proved no match for the might of our heroes, especially when Incendia returned from her long hiatus to lend a helping hand.
Arriving in the Elemental Plane of Air, they quickly zeroed in on the palace belonging to the Djinni’s brother. Disguised as Djinni themselves, they snuck in and bluffed their way past the guards until they arrived at the penthouse suite. Things got rough there for a while, although it is a good thing that these Djinni only flew in 2 dimensions. dm failure
The slew the brother, rescued the princess, and teleported back to earth just in time for supper. And, wonder of wonders, the Djinni actually kept his word and fueled the fortress for them. I guess even in the twisted world this dm creates, some people are exactly who they tell you they are, once they take off their disguise ….
As you arrive in the town of Auroch, the town seems preoccupied. Perhaps it is the recent phenomenon happening to the north of them in Pelnor, where you just recently left? No. Or maybe it is the recent slave raids from the Sand Giants out on the Blasted Sea? No. All they talk about is a head. Or one head, in particular – the immense dwarven headed fortress flying at them through the air.
For the past few days, this oddly shapen fortress has been bearing down on the city with all the speed of a lumbering tortoise. Expeditions sent by the Shayk have failed to turn up any clues (possibly due to the fact that said expeditions never returned). And naturally, seeing as you have nothing else of any import to do, you decided to investigate. OK, so really the reason was the thought that there might loot to be had. Papa Paladin needs a Brand New Bag.
And so it is that, after a hasty day of shopping and preparations, you all head out on a rented wagon to get a closer look at the thing, and use some shrewdly purchased scrolls of ‘fly’ to get you up there. From whatever view you care to look at it from, the fortress seems to stare directly at you. Even from directly beneath it, it seems to stare straight down from the firmament. Flying closer, you see that the mouth of the contruct, opened wide in a silent scream, is actually an entrance to the interior, which immediately teleports you to the center of the structure.
That is in fact where the welcoming party found you, as you were catching your bearings. Having little time to position yourselves, and disoriented from the teleport phenomenon, a trio of gargoyles swooped down from atop the tall walls, where a sliver of blue sky still showed. While surprisingly difficult to kill, they proved no match for your might. Further inspection showed a total of four doors on your level, with more stacked above you.
First was some sort of reading room, complete with overstuffed chair, ottomans, reading materials, and a set of mummies. Alisandra helpfully ignited most of the room with a fireball, seriously damaging the mummies and also wiping out most of the reading material (great – spellbooks get destroyed, but we get this TOTALLY helpful picture of a bunch of metal cubes).
Next was a formal game room, which definitely captured Retep’s interest, but proved to hold little of interest to the rest of the party.
The control room was where it got interesting. Guarded by four mummies, this room controls the altitude and direction of the entire fortress. As you soon discovered, it also holds the means for remotely locking and / or unlocking all of the doors. You also found out that mummies are really tough. There were four this time, and they hit hard. In fact, one was lucky enough to score a direct hit on Tobias while he was distracted. Tobias fell. His brave sacrifice bought the rest of you the time you needed to coordinate and destroy the rest of the mummies, but it was too late for him. With Corean’s blessing, Will plans on raising him from the dead in the morning.
Of passing note only, there was also this other little room. One filled with treasure. Lots of it.
What fun! A cruise ship, the open sea, the sun, the wind, the sails – how could life get any better? OK, so all of you are crammed into a single room with 10 other crew members while you work security on the ship (the illustriously named Hannover). And so the sea isn’t REALLY an ocean in the normal sense, more a sheet of semi-molten sand hot enough to kill anyone caught out on it for too long. And so working security consists mostly of staring out into the blindingly white horizon, searching for any dark smudge that might indicate a party of sand giants are coming along to kidnap you. At times like these, you just have to look on the bright side. Namely, you are not at this moment imprisoned, tortured, and slated to be executed in a city that you single-handedly turned from a relatively stable autocracy into a roiling mass of chaos and instability. (Anyone hear of a place called Iraq?)
Instead, the noble captain of the guard decided to smuggle you out of the city, onto a merchant ship headed to the city of Auroch. He even got you a gig as guards for the ship. The merchant was in need of guards, since most of his had been lately kidnapped by Sand Giants acting oddly out in the wastes of the Blasted Sea. Who ever heard of giants kidnapping people when there could be loot to plunder?
And so it is that, a day into your lovely cruise, you spy the first raiding party headed your way. Powerless to overwhelm the mounted giants (who ever knew that pack lizards could grow so big?), you were quickly carried off and enslaved by the giants, forced to help in their nefarious plot to – what was that?! Ah. I see. Never mind then. With ease, you fought off the approaching giants. Not once, but twice. Chastened by their failures, no further raiding parties attacked, and you were able to reach the city of Auroch, on the southern shore of the Blasted Sea.
It takes only a day for Karzai, the chief of guard to release you all from the prison. In that time, he has verified that the basics of your story are true. Yes, Faldarra does have the (sadly brain dead) Shayk in her custody, only recently rescued from the volcano. Remaining survivors can attest to truth in your story, of being kidnapped, tortured, and (without your timely intervention) sacrificed in the name of the cultist’s dark god. The corpse of the Doppelganger who had been running their city certainly didn’t hurt either.
Without the Shayk in power, the local lords are in fierce competition to see who can step into the power vacuum. In fact, Karzai warns you as he returns your possessions that it may be a good idea to get out of the city. The odds are high that one of the lords would turn his security forces on you, either killing you in a supposed show of support for the city, or attempting to use you to curry power with someone else. Clashes on the street are now common between the different factions.
Despite the violence, or perhaps because of it, Faldarra is able to assist you in selling the buried bloodiron cage. It seems the blood-colored ore is in high demand for making weapons at the moment. After divvying up the proceeds from the sale, each of you gets a full 12000 gold to spend (In game terms, spend it on whatever you want. However, Pelnor will not have anything available that costs more than 8k).
The strange gateway that stood behind the curtains in the throne room has been dismantled. Official city Wizards examined it, and pronounced it a danger to the city. The flesh golems holding the mirrors have been destroyed, and the mirrors have been shattered, with the pieces scattered throughout the desert. Whatever secrets it may have revealed are now lost forever.
The day got off to a rocky start, as mommy dearest decided to send the cops out looking for her missing son. The cops turned out to be nasty demon assassins, and the missing son none other than our own Nanak. We eventually beat them off, but only after the last remaining demon gives Nanak a strict warning that Mother is on her way, and then poofed out of existence. More on that later.
Running back through the sewers, we make the perilous descent into the heart of the volcano. There we encounter Ettin guards and a vengeful invisible prisoner from another plane before finally stumbling upon the cermony to revive Ixis. It is already in progress as we show up, with several unwilling participants having met their end, being lowered into the lava slowly via a huge mechanical contraption. A crowd of much more eager participants was chanting loudly, with front row seats to the event. Basing in his glory at the front of the altar, a volcanic backdrop backlighting him nicely was the elf you all know and love, Mendacity.
Our heroes lead off the attack with a fireball volley that (literally) clears the stands of spectators. This leaves Mendacity and his henchman, Terebus the really ugly dwarf. Terebus disappears from site, while Mendacity backpedals and starts casting. Our heroes run forward to engage, with Boffer being quickly frozen in place by Mendacity’s spell. Retep steps forward to help, but is intercepted by the now visible Terebus. Wil proves that we can give as well as we get by then freezing Terebus in place, leaving him open to a coup de grace from Retep. This leaves us as caster on caster, for the moment at least, with Alisandra and Nanak battling against Mendacity.
The magical tag team prevails, and our foe is slain. There was fierce rejoicing, and much loot was had by all. The remaining surviving prisoners were released, and we headed back off to town. Along the way, one of you notices something odd. One of the prisoners looks JUST like Shayk Ismail Hariri. You know, the guy who’s supposed to be running the town. And it looks like he has been here a while. Wonder who’s been in charge while he was gone? (By the way – there isn’t much left of the poor Shayk at this point – Something appears to have eaten away at his mind, leaving him little more than a dribbling idiot).
Aha! A clear success for our heroes, as they go on the offensive for perhaps the first time against their enemy. Wading their way through a disgusting sewer system, they arrive at the secret complex where their one-time ally Incendia is being held. Despite the importance of the location, it seems there were relatively few guards, possibly a result of all of the previous battles our heroes have fought. Or maybe it is a sign that the main forces of the cult have been moved elsewhere.
In any case, after relatively few battles, including one with a frog-like demon human hybrid, they rescue Incendia, and two other captive who had all been prepared for sacrifice. Along the way, they learn that more captives had been taken through an underground passage to the volcano at the heart of the mountain beneath the city. Also, it seems that Achilles has friends in high places – according to Incendia, after she was kidnapped, she was taken to the Shayk’s Royal Palace, where Achilles took custody of her and sent her to the catacombs for sacrifice.
Still licking wounds from the battle, our heroes choose to retire to their hideout (Madriel’s Temple) and heal while they plot out their next attack.
At last our heroes begin to find answers to some of the questions plaguing them! At the heart of it is a dastardly plot to awaken a sleeping god of old, a fierce deity from a time when the planes were a much more dangerous place (though they can hardly be called safe even now). Mendacity, Achilles, and perhaps even others have been involved, and our party, however unknowingly and unwillingly, has been a part of it as well.
But now the question surfaces: with our heroes so well known, and so maligned, would they have any possible hope of success, any remote chance of finding allies in this struggle against evil? Or would the wiser course, and the safer, be too to turn tail and run – flee the city whilst they gain in strength, and hope to come back at a later date and confront their past? After casting the stones, and reading entrails, it is decided that they will stay, for now at least, and try to oppose this dark cabal. To flee now would leave the world hostage to these mad disciples of darkness.
With this decision behind them, and fortified by the moral strength of their position, they sleep. Unknown to them, however, the dark disciples have discerned their location in the bowels of Madriel’s Cathedral, and in this instant they choose to show their prowess. After the slaying of Onashiel, no doubt they are no longer content to leave you drifting about the city to interfere with their plans. And so a squad is sent to assassinate you, teleported to just outside your room, tasked to kill you or die trying. Fortunately for you, it was their deaths in the end. While Retep and Boffer fell to the ground, the superior spellpower of Wil, Nanak, and Alisandra saved the day.
While constrained in her influence within the city, Faldara was still able to provide aid in the form of spells – resurrecting your fallen companions, and locating the poor kidnapped paladin Incendia. Following the path to her location will surely lead to more of the disciples, and perhaps to more answers.
Ah, but just as the answers seem within their grasp, more questions appear. Who is that robed woman, the one with the ruined face who seems to be eying Nanak so closely?
Answers and questions from the divinations:
Is Traveling to the Plane the best course of action for the group?
Power might be had, but your foes will not be slain
Does the portal still exist?
Is the portal still located in the manor house?
Is the wisest cause of action to stay and oppose Mendacity?
To stay may cause your deaths, but to flee may mean death for all
Can we stop Ixis from entering the world?
Can we stop Mendacity from bringing Ixis into our world?
Do they need the cage to wake Ixis?
In the continuing hunt to leave the mansion, our intrepid heroes sneak through a secret door, into a large foyer area where they successfully terrify a young maid and old butler who are cleaning up. In the chaos that ensues, the butler begins madly screaming for help, calling for guards to come help them. They eventually manage to get him bound and gagged, but by then the damage is done.
The far door whips open of it sown volition, revealing a pack of guards, with a robed wizard leading from behind. Luckily, Nanak and Alisandra are ready, levelling not one but two mighty fireballs directly on the pack, nearly killing many of them outright, and leaving the others with little stomach for a fight. This may have been the end of the fight, were it not for the fact that, just moments later, Onashiel himself ran into the room, with a dwarven bodyguard who looked more like he was carved from stone than from flesh.
Immediately Boffer and the other dwarf set themselves toe to toe and began a titanic struggle, only barely won by our dwarven hero. Meanwhile, Onashiel began harrying the rest of our heroes with spells, attacking with all that he had. Slowly, irresistably, they start to gain the advantage, when another door springs open. In walks Hanep, the lovelorn teen who they helped when her fiancee was murdered just a few short weeks ago.
Hanep shrieks at the violence, and rushes to defend her father. Nanak bravely tries to restrain her, but fear has given her new strength as she rushes to help her father. Onashiel, for his part, does what he can to save the young girl, screaming “Hanep, run!” as he brings down a fireball on top of himself, and his opponents. Just like that, it was over. For just a moment, silence reigned in the room, before it is broken by Hanep’s wails of grief.
Boffer attempts to subdue her, so they can try to prove to her what was happening, but his attempts go awry. Instead of knocking her out (which is in itself a novel way of trying to convince someone you mean her no harm) his blow drops her to the ground, lifeless. After some quick discussion, they gathered her body into a large sack, and decided to take her back to the Temple of Madriel for a resurrection. After all, killing her the first time was too easy – lets wait until she comes after us so she can kill us again. Some people never learn. Sigh
Before that could happen, however, there were more important things to do. Like looting. They drove through Onashiel’s room like bandits, ripping works of art off of the walls, stripping the bed, slicing the matress, and tearing apart anything they could find.
Among the discovered items was a document (shown below) which showed Onashiel (and Achilles and Mendacity) all belonged to a cult seeking to raise a god from the dead. It also discusses bloodiron, and the ‘caging’ of thirteen souls, leading one to wonder if the party had been pawns in this groups employ all along. More intriguing, and frightening, is the fact that they apparently were dealing with Alisandra’s sister, and evil sorceress of some power. Negotiations went poorly, however, and they were forced to kill her, much to the dismay of Alisandra.
In the next room was another surprise. A pair of flesh golems, standing upright holding a pair of mirrors angled towards each other. It appeared that the area where the foci of the mirrors intersected was a gate to another plane. From within this plane, they could see the gravestone of Alisandra’s sister, Arkham.
Fearing being lost in the parallel plane, however, led them to seek escape through another route. Running through the front door, carrying the sack with Hanep’s body, they run full into Mendacity and an entire troop of city guardsmen. With only a split second to decide, they cast as many spells as they can to distract the opposition, and run off into the city to try to make it to the Temple of Madriel, possibly the only nearby place where they can be safe.
It only takes a few hours for the first wanted posters to appear, with remarkably good likenesses of the party member on it. The charges are multiple counts of murder, theft, arson (of Onashiel’s house, which mysteriously erupted into flames aftr they left), and conspiracy to overthrow the throne. The reward for capture, dead or alive, is 10,000 gold.
(document from Onashiel’s house)
The great comet has passed. It is time – soon our lord Ixis shall wake from his slumber.
Achilles has provided nearly all of the bloodiron we need – he paid a small band of adventurers to recover it from an old cache dating back to the old Shelzari empire. He seeks now to find suitable candidates for caging. I know he has his mind on several, and it should be no problem to find thirteen for the ritual.
An alternative exists should we be unable to enact the ritual to wake Ixis. One of our men was had a conversation with a most interesting woman, one Arkham who styles herself ‘Of the Planes’. She claims to have created a demi plane which will identify with and do the bidding of a single master. I doubt very much she has the power to create such a thing, but if she has found such a place, where the laws of nature follow the whims of a single master …. Should we be able to transport Ixis to this plane, anyone who rules the plane should be able to break his slumber.
Arkham has decided that cooperation with us is against her best interests. It is a pity, as she showed much potential.
Our attempt to discredit and destroy Faldarra failed. Still it was not a complete loss. Her second in command is dead, and the reputation of the church has been sullied. Madriel’s temple will not be in a position to move against us any time soon. Also, Achilles has taken an interest in the paladin, Incendia, who helped prove Faldarra’s innocence. She will be one of the thirteen, as soon as we are ready.
The Fugue has resisted our attempts thus far at bonding. All of our candidates have failed, and met … untimely ends. It seems that the Fugue itself is at least semi intelligent, and can be controlled through communicating with it. However, it has set a strict series of tests to determine whether it will bond with another master. Arkham left no information on how she solved these tests, if indeed she was forced to solve them at all. Perhaps they were a means of her own devising to ensure that none could duplicate her feat?
The city is in chaos. Chardun’s temple has fallen, thanks to Mendacity’s efforts. He truly excels at devious pans. While the riots should burn themselves out soon, we should have free reign to do as we wish without hindrance from the guard or any other organized group. Achilles shall begin collecting the thirteen.
sometime in May
The door to Achilles’ blacksmith shop flew open with a loud thud as Boffer’s foot crashed into it. A startled apprentice, alone temding the cash box, was the only one present. “Where’s Achilles?!” snarled the dwarf in rage-spattered Common.
The apprentice replied with a less than intelligible “Huh?”. The dwarf strode into the shop, followed by Alisandra and Wil.
“I said, where is Achilles and what has he done with our friends. They came here two days ago, and we haven’t seen them since.”
This time the response was a little more thought out. “Who?” Plainly it was going to be a long day. After interrogating the apprentice and searching the shop (amazingly not shoplifting a single item) for clues, they left with little but a discarded envelope, addressed to Onashiel. Clearly they needed more help.
Priestess Faldara was happy, as ever, to see them. With a quick rundown, they explained the issue. Using some of the divination spells available to her, she quickly determined that the missing party members were being held in Councilor Onashiel’s home. More to the point, the home had an old escape route, so rarely used it was all but forgotten. She gave them directions and off they went.
Meanwhile, after only a few days in captivity, Onashiel had grown bored of simply holding hostages. He wanted to have fun. So up they went, out of the prison and into the torture chamber. Rack. Thumbscrews. Hot Coals and steel pincers. Barry Manilow tunes. The real nasty stuff. He asked them a few questions (“Does that feel about right to you? Where would you like me to stick this first?”) but mostly he just did it to relax and blow off some steam. Hey, being a high powered politician is a lot of work, and you need to relax sometime, right?
Soon enough, their priorities in order, the heroes marched off to save their friends from certain doom. Stumbling through the corridor, they arrived in the basement prison with a surprising thud. Alisandra led off an attack on the forst set of guards with a blaxzing fireball that hit almost nothing. Their wizard followed up with a flaming fireball that ignited the timbers holding up the roof. Looks like time to find a new route out of the house.
After freeing the captives, they climb the stairs to the rest of the house. Strangely, for being the home of an important politician, they hit the end of the road without encountering anything so normal as a dining room, bedroom, entranceway, or anything else.
With little more than a minor hesitation, our heroes departed down the spiralling hall to the depths of the mountain. Knowing that there was a blue dragon in front of them was, perhaps, telling on their nerves. Most of them slipped their way down the passage in a barely controlled fall. But enough of these embarassing moments – there are dragons to be slain!
Charging headlong in to the dragons lair, they exit the passageway to a small peninsula of rocky terrain surrounded by volcanic lava. Ahead of them, seated on a cliff is the dragon – about the size of a horse, it is smaller than they had hoped for, but still impressive as it flies through the air at them, screaming in rage about never being taken prisoner again. The first blast of lightning breathe scorches the party, sending Nanak falling to the floor. The remaining heroes, battered and bruised now, line up to send the beast to it’s doom. Throughout the battle, the dragon kept saying strange things about being enslaved, taken prisoner and sacrificed by ‘the jihad’, but no one seemed to pay much attention. The rogue tried for a few moments to discuss things, but then thought better of it and shot another arrow at it in mid sentence. Although things were touch and go, the outcome is (nearly) never in doubt, and is capped by Boffer lining up with an impossibly large swing of his dwarven waraxe, which sends the beast’s head flailing off of it’s body.
Recovered from the ordeal, they pressed on to find the loot. Stepping foot in the dragon’s lair, they immediately remember why they brought a rogue to the party. An explosion bursts around them, dropping Nanak once again to the floor. Slowly and more carefully, they proceed only to have another passageway collapse on top of them. Perhaps the dragon would have been better served by waiting at the top of the cliff before facing us.
Ahh, but once they saw the loot it was all worth it. Thousands upon thousands of pretty, sparkling coins, along with more than a few lovely gems. And one other item, conspicuous in its differences. A cage, constructed entirely of bloodiron and large enough to hold a horse. Or maybe a small dragon. The cage had the appearance of being damaged, perhaps recently, and this damage could have allowed whoever, or wahtever, was inside to escape. Could this have been the kidnapping and enslavement the beast was talking about? Enough thought, however – time to head home, victorious, and sell the loot and make our money.
The smoke rising over the horizon was the first clue they had that the new day would not be nearly as easy as they hoped. As they walked closer, straining with the weight of the mighty haul of loot they had acquired, wishing they had paid the lousy 50 gold it would have cost to get horses, they soon realized the city of Pelnor was burning. As they approached the gates, they could see that the guards were absent, and the yelling and shouting from within the city was plainly audible.
The quandary this presented was obvious. With the huge haul of loot, not to mention the skin, blood, and teeth of a blue dragon AND the massive cage made entirely of individually welded bars of bloodiron, they really needed a safe place to stash it and try to get into contact with Achilles to sell him the bloodiron. Alisandra was still drooling at the thought of getting her hands on all of that cash. Clearly, the best solution was to send someone into the town for reconnaisance. And clearly the best way to do that was to tell the Rogue he needed to volunteer. With much trepidation, Retep headed into the city to see what he could find.
Turns out, the city was in rebellion against the temple of Chardun. Whispers of slavery and demonic possession swirled through the mob, and the entire city guard had been deployed to protect the core of the city from the looters. Seems awfully coincidental, considering that not too long ago there were very similar charges against the church of Madriel, charges which our party themselves helped to disprove.
Returning to their hideout, Retep relayed the information. By now, the rioting and looting was starting to burn itself out. Smoke still rose from the city, but not to the extent it was yesterday. It was time to plan. And really, if the dwarf is doing the planning, it is only obvious that the elf is going to get the short end of the stick, right? Since they clearly could not stay out here the entire time until the city calmed down, they would need to send someone in to find Achilles, bring him out here to see the cage, and to discuss a price. Then, while he went back to the city to get the money, they party would change location, so he couldn’t try to come back and strongarm them with a mob of henchmen. Foolproof! And who was best to go in and talk with him? I know, send the elf! And the new guy!
So together, Retep and Nanak (you know – the fragile one) crept back through the city to Achille’s blacksmith shop. Finding it barred, they knocked politely and were let in by a stern looking ruffian named Leo who was guarding the door. Carefully omitting every reference to the dragon, they told their tale, and mentioned to him that they had an entire cage made of bloodiron out in the desert that they would like to sell to him. They were thus highly surprised when Achilles turned to Leo and said, “Send for Mendacity. Tell him that I have found where the dragon was, but that it escaped. And tell him I might have some volunteers to take the dragon’s place.”
At last, things start to become clearer for our mighty heroes. On approaching the mineshaft, which had previously been relatively lightly defended, they were stunned to find well thought out, dangerous traps and ambushes waiting for them. Where could the troglodytes have come from, and what was causing them to defend the mine so tenaciously.
After a near fatal frontal assault in which the dwarf did his best to engulf the entire party in flames (“Wait! It’s a trap! …. Charge! Boom”), they began to tread a little more carefully. Most of the rooms which they had explored previously were still empty, but the trogs set more ambushes for them.
Things began to make more sense after the discovery of a small, wooded room, filled with the bright sounds of birds singing and a the dripping of water into a small pond. A little old lady there offered them tea, and asked them to please kill the the dragon which now inhabited the lower reaches of the mine. It’s been there for over a hundred years, but has only just now awoken from a deep slumber. The fact that it has gone on a bit of a killing spree, enslaving most of the creatures and killing those that would not submit. All of the noise was really interfering with her beauty sleep.
Our fearless adventurers, sightly more knowledgable about the state of things, left the little old lady’s room to prepare for a mighty battle. Then, they returned to her room and slaughtered her.
OK, so this really wasn’t as bad as it sounded. She WAS an evil hag, after all. But it was still poor manners to kill the little old lady who just offered you tea.
Along the way, they did find some new riddles, solving all but the last to uncover new treasures. The final riddle went like this:
Voiceless it cries,
At long last the tormented spirit of Olaf Crosscut, tormented by grief and betrayed by the greed of his family, has been laid to rest. Our heroic team found the dwarf a twisted and vile wight, his grief and rage turned to a burning hunger stronger than the barrier betwixt life and death. Along with a good deal of treasure (can anyone say ‘1000 gp gem’!?) he left behind an interesting map and a cryptic rhyme -
Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking
Our heroes also managed to find where the traps were – just about everywhere they looked, at this point. They did battle with everything from a mighty inferno to lowly orcs, before deciding that just perhaps it might behoove them to retreat back to town for resting and healing. Our new Dwarven Fighting-master proved his worth, both stone sober and thoroughly drunk, and our new resident Wizard played an intriguing game of ‘hide the pumpkin’ that left all of the men wondering.
Another day, another gangland style assassination attempt. This one begins with a note from a rival gang headed by the larger-than-life half orc gangster, the Notorious P.I.G. It seems your popularity has begun to get you noticed around town, and what he noticed about you is that you were talking with his rival Topak. Being a kind and generous businessman, he obviously did not want you to make that sort of foolish mistake, so he offered to rectify the situation with a brief meeting. Or did he?
It turns out the whole thing was a set up – an assassination attempt from a name you have yet to be able to put a face to – Mendacity. On the way to the meeting place, you were ambushed by a fighter and a pair of rogues. Fortunately for you, the squad sent to make the hit were not up to the task, and you dispatched them easily. Even more fortunately, they carried a letter detailing who they were sent by, and what the price on your head was (a paltry 500 gold pieces. What an insult!)
With this knowledge in hand, and knowing that you planned an excursion to investigate some trouble in the mines beneath the city anyway, it seems high time to get out of the city for a little while. You head to crosscut vein, a long abandoned mine originally built by some dwarf who went crazy, and was then locked up inside by his brother, after he killed his brothers son with a trap. So far, the going has been relatively easy – nothing but a few spiders, some elemantals, and a pair of really ugly ogres (wait, was that redundant?). And where are all these traps we kept hearing about? I don’t see all that many traps going off here. Does anybody even read this thing anyway?
Tragedy has struck the Temple of Madriel. Mother Faldara, high priestess of Madriel, has been imprisoned and stripped of her post. She’s been accused by her chief lieutenant, Father Aramis, of consorting with demons. While other churches may not frown so much on this, Madriel is certainly against it. Additionally, in a city like Pelnor, being CAUGHT doing something is often a worse sin than actually performing the act.
The intrigue took a further turn the following day, when Aramis was found slain, with Faldara’s spear through his heart. Add in the discovery of some doctored books, indicating that Faldara was embezzling from the poor and homeless, and the case began to look cut and dried.
Enter Incendia, and the rest of our heroes. Not content to simply let the head of the church be convicted on these obviously trumped up charges, you begain to investigate. The rogue quickly located ajournal from Aramis, and the true temple books which showed that the priestess was not embezzling after all. Aramis’ journal also reflected the strong possibility that he was being manipulated by (and eventually may have been killed by) a strange elf known as ‘Mendacity’.
Incendia, through interviews with Faldara (and Aramis, before his end), discovered that Faldara was afflicted by some strange spell which prevented her from speaking about the events of the night in question. On talking to her, the priestess would lapse into gibberish whenever certain subjects were mentioned.
Through a series of events that happened far too long ago (and too many holidays ago) for me to recount properly, you all saved the priestess, earned the emnity of Mendacity, and exposed yourselves to a turf war between rival gangs. You have her her undying gratitude, his undying hatred, and their undying … OK, so I tried to drag the metapor a little too far. Just know that you may be contacted by members of either one or the other gang to see what your stand on the issues is. If you answer wrong (what is your favorite color? Red. No – Blue!!!! Aaaaaah) they may not like it.
You explored the remaining ruins of the old trading post, managing to both find the bloodiron (which you agonized over before finally deciding to give to Achilles) and to destroy an infestation of troglodytes which had taken up residence.
Some days, luck just seems to find people. In this case, at least, luck came in the form of a young messenger boy, gasping slightly for breath as he scanned the bar room looking for you. He quickly made his way to our heroes’ table, and explained that he brough a message from one Achilles Zardad (yes, that’s AY-SHEEL, you heathen’s!), a local blacksmith of some repute in the city. After some light flirting with the boy, the lovely Incendia decided he was not her type and sent him on his way.
As the meeting would not take place until the next day, the heroes indulged in some rapid, albeit dubiously useful, investigative journalism. Quizzing everyone from bartenders to drunks to priests and asking questions of all sorts, they quickly established a list of the following facts:
The comet they saw a few days past was either an angry warning from Corean or a blessing from Madriel signalling either the destruction of the city or a return to its glory days as a major production center. Maybe both, with an evil demon thrown in as well.
The people of the city were either leaving in droves, terrified of the comet’s portents, or they were disappearing in droves, kidnapped by some unknown malevolant force.
Achilles is a giant of a man (literally, a Fire Giant), with a reputation for fencing stolen goods and a quick temper against people who cross him. Just look at the poor one-handed thief.
Thus fortified with facts upon which to base their discussions, they set off to find the blacksmith, who quickly ushers them into a back room. He’s looking for people who aren’t afraid to deal with a little haunting, and who also know how to keep quiet when it is necessary. His plan is to send them off in search of an old House Asura trading post, from when Pelnor was one of the main trading ports in the Shelzari Empire. He believes it to have a hidden cache of bloodiron, and needs someone to verify that it is there. The place is also haunted, and he wants it cleaned out.
Achilles offers a decent sum for their work, but the presence of the bard Kavahl means that no negotiation will go unchallenged. He manages to raise the already fair sum with some quick negotiations. lets just hope they do not plan to skim any of the bloodiron they find – anybody thinking of doing so had better reconsider bullet point number three, above.
Finding the Trading Post was not too difficult, although their stubborn insistence on walking the entire way was surprising to some. It meant that they were forced to spend a night outdoors, attracting some nasty scorpions in the process. They also had some fun with a trio of troglodytes on the road, being taken utterly by surprise in the process. OK, so Retep was not surprised, but he’s a rogue – they expect everything to go badly.
Soon after finding the post, they also discovered the first evidence of the haunting – small groups of zombies, still dressed in ancient Shelzari empire regalia, walking the grounds and attacking any person they see.
Cruel fate left our heroes without entertainment this evening – the bard who was to join them was pulled away by a prior engagement.
Therefore, our fiery paladin was bored, casting her glance around the room and looking for excitement. Two tables to the left, she saw a matron who seemed well in her cups, deep in thought and with tears on her cheeks. Intrigued, and perhaps a little concerned, she stepped in to see if there was aught she could do to help.
Sensing a kind ear, Ms. Patricia Nesbitt shared her tale of woe. Her only child, a son named Rafal, was lost while on the way to present his betrothed with a birthday gift. He never arrived. The city guard, who would normally investigate such an issue, have thus far failed to act.
Now, with the trail three days cold, our brave adventurers, motivated by the thought good deeds and kind words – not that the promised reward money hurt their enthusiasm – decided to help. With thorough questioning, they discovered that her son had been in the company of three friends, the morning of his disappearance. After taking his leave of them in the early afternoon hours, he was never seen again.
Their first course of action was to check Lord Onashiel’s manor. Since the Councilor was one of the most powerful men in the city, in close contact with the Shayk himself, much discretion would be required. Much discretion. And at their first glimpse of the large, well guarded complex, the rogue Re’tep displayed his incredible capacity for discretion. At the first gentle brush-off from the guards, he decided to sneak around back and climb the walls. Fortunately for everyone, he was so excited by the prospect of sneaking in that he fell flat on his ass. Where is the charming bard when we need him?
Meanwhile, the two wiser members of the party went back to the matron mother, Patricia Nesbitt, for a few more questions. They asked pointed questions, seeking to find whether the girl ever went anywhere on her own, or where she and Rafal would meet. It seemed the two of them were never anywhere unescorted, even bringing Lord Onashiel’s private bodyguard with them when they went to church for prayers. It also seems, that despite how perfect her little angel Rafal may have been, Onashiel was no fan of the boy. There was certainly some friction between them that would bear investigating.
Our next step was to contact those who had last seen Rafal. After canvassing the town, they caught up with the lads in a restaurant known as the Split Fig – an excellent eating establishment, well known for the highly illegal gambling den down beneath. Even Shayk Kariri was known to sometimes slip in for a game, or to wager on the races.
Feeling the luck of Enkili shining upon him, Re’tep was able to skim a few gold coins from one of the gaming tables while checking out the scene and looking for the trio. They’ come here both to gamble and drink away their sorrow at the loss of their friend, and also out of a healthy fear of being seen. In this dangerous city, when a friend disappears you never know when you may be next on the list.
After gaining their trust, they helped to fill in the blanks around Nesbitt’s story. Rafal was not the perfect little angel his mother thought him. After all, who is? But angel or not, he had spent most of the night drinking and carousing with his friends in the arms of his favorite paramour, the halfling whore Seraphina. He’d racked up a respectable tab by morning, when the friends took their leave of him. He was explaining to Seraphina that he would return as soon as he finished up one errand, and mumbling something about needing to pickup a suit and get a shave before he finished.
With these new leads, the heroes set off to visit the tailor. His usual clothier was a rather brooding half orc by the name of Karshi. Despite the unlikely combination of breeding and profession, Karshi was well known throughout the city as a master with needle and thread (and with the blade, for those who felt willing to refuse payment to him for his ancestry. Karshi was quickly able to confirm that Rafal had indeed been scheduled to pick up a doublet from him a few days hence, but had never arrived.
With their leads this narrowed down, it was time to try the barber. Seraphina had mentioned that she told Rafal of her own personal stylist, an elf named Samdoor who had a shop nearby. Samdoor cracked like an egg, falling apart at the first mention of Rafal’s name. He sought to run, but was stopped in his tracks by a well placed blow from Incendia. Some timely healing from Will ensured that the blow was merely painful and not deadly.
Upon waking, shamefaced and sorrowful, Samdoor recounted his terrible tale. A few months agone, he had shared drinks and a meat pie with a friendly old man at a nearby watering hole. This was all it took for the addiction to set in. The pies became all he could think of. When the old man, Paunless Finn, showed up at his store, Samdoor virtually begged for another. But this time the man was far from friendly. With callous disdain, Finn told him the pie was baked with human flesh, and that to get more, he would have to swear eternal servitude. Thus was born the current arrangement, where the elf would provide Finn with the raw materials to bake his pies,in exchange for a place at the all you can can eat buffet.
While his regular clients would notice little difference in his behavior, save perhaps for a slight sallowness to the complexion, anyone who could not be traced to him was shown a different style of care. First was the one way trip down a chute from the barber shop to the abandoned mines below. By some miracle, should they survive this, they would find themselves dragged to a mining cart riding a set of recently repaired tracks. Some would be fed to Finn’s favorite pets, a gang of ghouls he kept chained up in a large underground cave. For the rest, it was a one way trip to The Factory, a room in which a team of zombies worked 24 hours a day making pies for his restaurant. Sadly, they could barely keep up with demand.
Now was the time to leap into action. Racing down the mineshaft, they first found and defeated the ghouls. A slight miscalculation in their strategy led to heavy work for both Will and Kiersa, trying to heal the wounded.
Following the tracks to the Northeast, they next came to The Factory, and found a trio of ghouls in comical attire grinding flesh and baking pies. A quick trip to the fire, and the zombies were toast. There also, in the bin filled with human meat, they found the remains of poor Rafal, still helplessly clutching the string of pearls he’d intended to present to his fiancee.
Last of all, was the diabolical cleric himself, Paunless Finn. Incendia bashed her way through the trapdoor into a huge storeroom piled with meat pies. Finn, hearing the ruckus, entered warily with a large mace. The battle was joined. For a time, it seemed as though the cleric would outlast them all on grit and determination alone, Finally, however, Keirsa (tired by this time of Incendia’s constant whines of “Heal Me!!!”) was able to position herself to summon a wolf into the fray. The distraction proved just enough for Incendia and Re’tep to finish him off.
But what is this? A flaming star, screaming through the heavens above our head! The likes of this have not been seen for centuries, since the last time Mount Thresh exploded. I pray that this does not bode ill for our heroes.