The Age of Worms

Session Twenty-Nine

Starday, 1 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

Riddle moves the sensor into the area behind the doors bearing the sigil of a big pulsing brain and sees four stone benches and prisoners with wrist shackles on them, guarded by zombies. Riddle dimension doors himself, Long Fist, and Tyrrell into the hall beyond the drow cavern where Long Fist uses his blinding shield and Tyrrell charges the drow. Meanwhile, Scar-Eater dimension hops into the cavern and Athena flies Archie to the ledge. Soon into the fight, the drow leader does something that causes tentacles to burst out of the faces of all the other drow and the party is suddenly facing six mind flayers, but the party quickly realizes that they turn back into drow when they die. Tyrrell destroys the leader with an attack after Archie distracts her. The battle is over barely before it begins.

The party moves into the prisoners’ area where Long Fist turns the zombies to dust. A young teenage girl named Jesalyn tells them the mind flayer has been feeding off of them for weeks. The party sends the prisoners back a ways to wait for them and be escorted out of the sewers.

The party moves down the hall and engages in a brief fight with three nasty octopins.

Jane stone shapes a door off its hinges revealing a big brain stature that deals damage to their Wisdom whether they save or not. Moving through that room they find a lab and Riddle shatters an enormous tank, releasing a bigger octopin than the other three. They dispatch it quickly despite its attempts to slow and stagger and generally beat them to death.

Eventually they make their way to a small round chamber with a pool at the center. The pool allows them to visualize other areas of the complex. The hall continues past the pool and opens into something unseen so Tyrrell uses the pool to visualize that area. It is a massive white stone chamber 80 feet tall. The hallway they are in is about 45 feet up in one wall of the chamber. Within the chamber there is a huge jet black column of stone from floor to ceiling, with sludgy green liquid schlorking down it into an enormous placid green pool below. There is something written all over the black column with references to sheltering the infants, caring for the young, and nurturing new generations of spawn. Scar-Eater can determine that the writing, interspersed with alien sigils, are keyed to generate an unhallow effect, with a resist fire spell tied to it. Two more octopins are stuck to the wall above the entryway to the hallway the party is in. Beyond an entryway across the chamber, another room shaped like the brain room with large glass cases filled with dark artifacts. There is another door behind the pillar, and visualizing beyond that door reveals a private chamber with a desk, two shelves of books, and a chest.

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Session Twenty-Eight

Starday, 1 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

The party sees Sergeant Jessup Gandling and collects their money. They go shopping.

At 3:00 pm the party returns to Tarquin at the Crooked House. He is staring at a glass of whiskey, but not drinking, and waiting for the Watch to deliver his reparations. Pikoh has been hired and seems happy there, though his cooking is, perhaps predictably, terrible. Tarquin asks us to encourage the Watch to partonize the Crooked House – unless they expect free drinks. He knows a bit about Crusty Patton and the Cold Forge, but nothing that helps the party’s investigation into Zyrxog. Riddle leaves three bags of diamond dust for Tarquin, and catches Tyrrell as he tries to steal one back.

The party proceeds to the Low District where they find the Cold Forge. During their relatively brief conversation, the foul-mouthed Patton fires one of his apprentices (whom Scar-Eater sends to the Crooked House for a job cooking), Riddle reveals a new talent for learning things about people by shaking their hand, and Tyrrell buys a cold iron dagger. Patton insists that Tyrrell name the dagger before leaving, but rechristens it “Brrrrrraggit” when he doesn’t like the name Tyrrell chooses (“The Snicker”).

The party moves around the back into the alley. Archie finds a grate about halfway down the block from directly behind the Cold Forge with a small patch of garbage that has recently been shifted around. He also finds a set of split-toed boot prints with faint traces of what they think is beggar’s gold around them, and footprints belonging to drow. Archie follows the trail of beggar’s gold into the sewers and down a couple of levels, past an offshoot with a pool and opening into a natural cavern where the footprints lead. Tyrrell finds no traps, and Riddle spies into the cavern with clairvoyance. The chamber has a 20 foot ceiling and glows faintly with purple light from patches of fungus on the walls. The floor is completely coated in swathes of bright yellow fungus. Four enormous 5-foot-tall mushrooms for a circle. When he describes these mushrooms, others recognized them as shriekers. The whole room is naturally rigged to alert the entire complex that they have entered the cavern. Riddle casts silence into the far corner of the room, and he and Archie kill all four shriekers with ranged attacks within a mere twelve seconds.

Archie and Tyrrell move ahead to scout and encounter three drow lying in wait to ambush them. A quick battle ensues. Again, Riddle and Archie take out all three of them with ranged attacks before they have time to do anything more than throw a single vial of alchemist’s fire that misses Archie completely.

The bodies are looted and the two scouts move forward again. This time, three minutes go by and they have not returned. Long Fist uses protection from evil on Riddle, who moves forward to see into the rooms ahead. He finds Archie and Tyrrell curled up on the ground taking to a large, black, inky serpent creature. Riddle switches so that he can listen into the room but not see and hears Tyrrell explaining, “No…no, we’re here to kill it.” Riddle dimension doors Long Fist, Scar-Eater, and himself into the room while Jane shifts into Fury and bounds through the corridors on foot. They attack the naga in force, with Archie sadly attempting to grapple one of his own away from the naga, though Long Fist manages to get to Tyrrell with the wand in time so that Tyrrell can move into a flanking position with Bast and decapitate the naga in the second round.

Riddle checks the next chamber with clairvoyance. It is vast, 40-feet-high with a shelf 20 feet above the hole. There is a cage of livestock and a doored-off area. Three pairs of drow silently spar with each others, lorded over by a female drow in resplendent breastplate bearing the image of a spider.

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Session Twenty-Seven

Freeday, 28 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

Faced with a stone slab blocking them off from the rest of the basement after the incredibly long fight, Archie plumbs previously unknown depths of strength and raises the slab himself. They move on to a dusty storage chamber, where Tyrrell discovers a lever that opens a secret door. When they enter the room, they find the real Gauthfellow, and his Shield Guardian.

A full-on blowout ensues, with both sides throwing everything they’ve got at each other, including Gauthfellow’s anti-magic field and acid fog. The Shield Guardian is incredibly tough but is eventually rendered useless due to excessive battering, and soon after Gauthfellow goes down as well after a massive blow from Long Fist. The party strips him of everything and ties him up for questioning, as Riddle heals the party up to half their strength.

Long Fist casts protection from evil before the party revives Gauthfellow for questioning. Gauthfellow reveals that he was ordered to kill the party by his master, the mind flayer Zryxog, who has been dominating him for over a month. He also reveals that they can find an homage to Tharivol in his studio upstairs. He claims he has not been acting of his own free will (though it is obvious by the choice of targets that he was at least partially doing so), and that the domination effect renews every week. Since they cannot permanently suppress and because Gauthfellow has used his power against his own enemies, the party kills him.

After a great deal of discussion, the party decides to leave the house but to rest in the yard before searching the rest of the house.

Sunsebb CY 595

Starday, 1 Sunsebb CY 595

In the front hall, they find a ledger cursed with a sepia snake sigil. The massive great hall is filled with masterwork weapons and armor. In the dining room they find a crystal figurine that obeys commands. In the servants’ quarters, they find a note in Archerus’ handwriting that says, “Your last sketch was lacking.” Upstairs, one painted servant remains, which is easily dispatched. They also find a note in Imron’s bedroom, written in a bizarre, coiled alien hand, reading, “I have a task for you, thrall. Meet me at the sewer junction beneath the Cold Forge. I will give you the details. There are some troublesome small minds that need to be removed.”

They also find a tiny, life-like replica of a four-poster bed that expands with a command word. The replica fits nicely in their handy haversack. In the studio, they see the painting of Tharivol’s fate – the poor servant is covered in wasps. In a secret panel in the floor that find magical pigments and an animator brush.

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Session Twenty-Six

Freeday, 28 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

Scar-Eater takes a terrible blow from the fake- Gauthfellow and nearly dies but is rescued by Jane’s helping hand to get back in the fight. A series of attacks on the wolf drop it, and Tyrrell is able to perform a coup de grace on it soon after, while Jane pelts the painted servants with fire spells, but the rogue Gauthfellow escapes into the house before they can finish him.

They move down the trap door below the pantry and quickly re-engage the rogue Gauthfellow when Tyrrell stabs him through a curtain, followed up with a wand of clumsinessm but the creature spells his own doom when he fails to attack Jane and then tumbles clumsily away, with both Jane and Long Fist attacking when he attempts it. Long Fist’s powerful blow ends him, but by then they are engaged in a fight with a shadowy elf that drains their very personalities. A couple of magic arrows later, however, Archie kills the shadow creature.

After destroying all of the paintings in Imron’s gallery, they move on, only to set off the very trap they had been warned about, animating ten suits of armor, cutting Archie and Riddle off from the rest of the group for several rounds, as well as cutting off the escape route past the armory. After a very long, resource-draining fight, including a second faux-Gauthfellow (this one a brute), that sees both Jane and Long Fist falling unconscious, the party has to take a few minutes to re-group.

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Session Twenty-Five

Godsday, 25 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

The party spends the rest of the day trying to work out a plan. They also discover that Tyrrell is being scryed upon, so they lay down a false plan for the scryer’s benefit. Riddle’s divination about Gauthfellow’s home reveals, “All entrances are sealed or trapped. Your target is below. He hides now within his art. Be not distracted by his duplicates. Prepare for constructs and summoned minions.” The party also manages to dredge up some lost memories about elven artists who gave up their souls in exchange for hidden knowledge from their art. When they finally returned to this world they were shadowy undead remnants of themselves, able to teleport from painting to painting and step in and out of artwork. They are forever hungry to reclaim their morta life and take over the bodies of those who approach them. This sounds right up Gauthfellow’s alley.

Waterday, 26 Ready’reat CY 595

Jane’s attempt to scry Gauthfellow works. In a pool of water in a Greyhawk park, she sees a painting of Gauthfellow in a 20’ x 20’ stone room. Immediately in front of the painting is a 12’ tall metal, stone, and wood Shield Guardian (a construct). Another of Riddle’s divinations reveals, “Below the pantry lies a ladder. Avoid the pressure plate in the armory and go below again,” so the party decides they will approach from the back door, after midnight on the 28th.

Earthday, 27 Ready’reat CY 595

(The following session occurred within the time frame of Session 25, but actually occurred via email after the session)

At 9:00 am, Archie is ushered into the office of Ermaldon Webb. “Welcome, soldier. I understand you have information for me from our eastern protectorates. Something more than Trask’s reports have covered. My ear is yours. For the next five minutes, at least.”

Archie: “Yes, sir. Thank you for your time. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. My name is Lieutenant Archibald Forrest, until recently stationed at Blackwall Keep. In fact, I was raised there by Geoffron Forrest, a tracker in service to Greyhawk. I was fifteen when Geoffron passed, and I assumed his position and swore service to the city of Greyhawk. I spent my life guarding the northern borders of the Mistmarsh Swamp, learning military disciplines as well as the ways of the wild.

“You may have heard about the recent lizardfolk uprising in the area, as well as the specific attack on Blackwall itself. In short, I am here to ask for a written treaty for the cessation of all hostilities against the lizardfolk. We have spoken with a representative of the lizardfolk who is gathering support for agreeing to such a treaty. I also have an introduction letter here from the Mayor of Diamond Lake, whom I understand you are familiar with?”

Webb: “Ah, Neff. Yes. Still surrounding himself with underaged female assistants, I assume. Well, it’s good to learn that the Mayor of Diamond Lake finds value in this notion of a treaty.

“So, let me get this straight, Lieutenant Forrest: you were taken prisoner by the lizardfolk, and in exchange for your life you promised a cessation of hostilities against your captors? A promise you had no authority to make? These creatures started the hostilities, without provocation. These creatures eat our people, Lieutenant Forrest. These creaturesd honor nothing but their own base instincts. There is no such thing as a ‘treaty’ with creatures such as these. I’m sure you did and said whatever you could to survive your captivity, young man, but you would have been wise to keep the words you said when begging for your life to yourself. You would have been wise not to trouble the Foreign Minister with them.”

Archie: “Begging your pardon, Minister, I was indeed taken prisoner by the lizardfolk, but I did not barter for my release. I was assisted in escape by a party who were searching for survivors of the Blackwall Keep attack. Together, we defeated the tribe’s chief, an altered lizardfolk. Upon his defeat, we learned that the lizardfolk were misled to believe that wizards from Greyhawk were responsible for introducing a plague that eliminated an entire generation of lizardfolk young. Through this deceit, their leader Shukak incited them to attack human settlements. Upon his defeat we were able to ascertain this and convince them that humans were not responsible for the decimation of their young. Believe me, Minister, I have no love for the lizardfolk whatsoever. But nor would I revel in their destruction, if it was undeserved.” Archie then astounds the Minister with a key piece of information about the lizardfolk, namely that the written word is somehow mystical to them, and the only acceptable form of a treaty.

Webb: “You say you bear the lizardfolk no love, yet here you are making an appeal on their behalf. There must be more to this story than has yet to cross your lips. You have my ear, young man. You carry yourself well and I believe you think you’re doing the right thing. But I need more information. Why should we not see to the slaughter of these creatures now to prevent future atrocity? If they were so easily duped into believing lies about about us before, what’s to prevent that from happening in the future? You’ve convinced me they’d honor a written treaty. Fine, and well. But what happens when the next smooth-speaking ‘altered’ Lizardman convinces them that we’ve broken the treaty? Has the death of this Shukak changed so much in their tribal structure? Should not wait for their atrocities to cease fully before bending over for them?”

Archie: “Sir, the plague that annihilated the lizardfolk spawn was instigated by a black dragon named Illthain. It was Illthain who altered Shukak as well as a party of kobolds. It seems the purpose of this was to cause a war between the lizardfolk and the human settlements as a distaction, so that Illthain may act on her plan without interference from Greyhawk.

“The plague is also deadly to humans, sir. In fact, there is evidence that no race (excepting of course Illthain’s herself) has any immunity to it.

“We have convinced the lizardfolk to withdraw into their own territory for the time being. Until we can get the treaty to them for their signature.” Webb asks for more specific information about the plague, the dragon, and her plans. Archie replies, “We know the dragon is the one who infected the lizardfolk young and we know that she told the lizardfolk that it was the work of Greyhawk wizards. As to the nature of the plague itself, it kills humans rapidly, entering in through the skin. It has a very rapid gestation period. And humans who are infected can become excessively violent and mobile. It’s as if the plague wants to spread itself and uses the human host to do so.

“Also, there is a psychological matter as well. The infected radiate an aura of ‘oppressive fear,’ for lack of a better phrase. Just being in the vicinity of an infected person causes the mind to shut down, particularly if you are caught unexpected. My friends and I are still investigating the nature of this plague, though we are confident it has been contained in the area around Diamond Lake.”

Webb: “This entire situation sounds far more complicated than a simple treaty could resolve. If there are cultural issues, plague, and draconic interference at play here, a committee may have to be established to investigate this matter over the coming months. We should take some time to find the right priests and diplomats to research this situation.”

Archie: “Sir, I agree that more investigation is called for. My friends and I are willing to continue researching the problem ourselves. I believe the danger from the plague is far more pressing than anyone realizes. However, I do believe that the treaty is an important first step. If we can secure peace with the lizardfolk then that is one less thing to worry about. We don’t want to be in the middle of a plague crisis and then get flanked.”

Webb: “Unless I misunderstand you, it seems impossible to secure a reliable peace with the lizardfolk while the threat of the dragon still looms. Do the lizardfolk have the strength of will to stand up to it when it returns to continue its lies? Or do they have the strength to fight it? Unless the dragon were somehow removed from the equation, I don’t see what lasting good a treaty would offer. It sounds as though the dragon is their true leader, not whichever low-level functionary you dealt with.”

Archie: “Sir, the dragon’s deception and its attempt at genocide of the lizardfolk has been revealed. There is no alliance there anymore. My party has demonstrated good faith with them and have gained, if not their alliance, then at least their respoect and willingness to be open to the cessation of hostilities.

“In this situation, it benefits both parties to end the fighting. Neither us nor the lizardfolk should be waging a campaign against each other while trying to deal with an evil dragon and a plague.

“They may not be able to fight but they can certainly hide from it. The lizardfolk have the benefit of being able to withdraw and isolate themselves. Which they are willing to do. They are willing to stick to their territories if we stick to ours.

“We need to be able to control this situation to prevent the spread of this plague. It is a danger to every living creature. And if we are able to broker a treaty we can let the lizardfolk go back to worrying about themselves, and we can take care of our people.”

Webb: “I see. But if the dragon and this disease are now a greater threat, and the lizardfolk are going into hiding, as you say, is the treaty even necessary? Shouldn’t we be focusing our energies on bringing this dragon to justice? And what qualifications foes your party have to investigate contagious disease?”

Archie: “The treaty is as much for their protection as for ours. If the lizardfolk are attacked by humans, all bets are off. Also there is the fact that the lizardfolk are going to be around long after we get this dragon and plague under control. All we are offering is an end to hostilities. We are not conceding anything. In the long run, we are securing peace farther down the line.

“We are currently pursuing leads as to the nature and cause of the disease. If we are able to ascertain where the dragon was able to create and unleash this plague, we hope to be able to find a cure or some way to combat it and heal the infected.”

Webb: “I see the wisdom in making a gesture, especially if the lizardfolk have had their opinion of us poisoned by an outside entity. And if it may save some lives in the region, I can see little harm here.

“I cannot allow a full-fledged treaty to be prepared without meeting these creatures face-to-face. Nor would I do so while the threat of this dragon still looms – it is too much of a wild card in these calculations.

“I may be willing to prepare an official cease fire document, something in writing, which seems to bear power over these creatures’ minds. But to secure a lasting treaty, steps must be taken. Definitive steps. Lasting steps. Securing the head of the dragon so I know for sure it’s influence is gone over the region…this may be enough to allow for an official state meeting with these creatures.

“Is this something you would be willing to undertake to see this through?”

Archie: “I think the cease fire is an important first step. I am willing to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of Greyhawk and its allie.” Archie clarifies that he will bring Webb the head of Illthain if Webb prepares the cease fire documents.

Webb: “Very good, lieutenant. Return here is a week and my assistant will have the paperwork prepared for you. Then, I hope to see you very soon. With scaly head in tow, and some new acid scars to grizzle up that boyish countenance. You are dismissed.” (We now return to your regularly scheduled Session 25, already in progress)

Freeday, 28 of Ready’reat CY 595

After midnight, the party approaches Gauthfellow’s house from the rear. Scar-Eater detects a riot of magical auras protecting the place, but Jane manages to dispel the two effects on the back door itself. However, they are spotted by a large mastiff and a battle ensues. Scar-Eater soon discovers that what they are fighting is not a dog at all, but some kind of illusioned hellish wolf hound. In addition to fighting the wolf, there are four painted servants waiting for them through the back door, as well as a roguish version of Gauthfellow himself. It’s a long fight, and a rough one.

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Session Twenty-Four-Point-Five

Godsday, 25 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

Long Fist asks Jane, “Well we got him. Now what do you want to do with him?”

Jane: “We need you to tell us everything you know about Imron Gauthfellow, and now.” Riddle heals Archerus.

Archerus: “Gauthfellow? He’s the madman who sent the painting that trapped us all? I recognized his style the moment I unwrapped the thing. How, I pray, did you get inside the thing so quickly? And where in Pelor’s name are we?”

Jane: “I’m sure we got in the same way you did, by touching it. Do you remember anything of your time inside the painting?”

Archerus, growing more agitated: “But…were you in my studio with me the whole time? Did you come with the painting? How did you get in my house? You didn’t hurt Suzanna, did you? And where the hells are we now? Who ARE you people?”

Jane: “It’s all right, try to relax, Suzanna is just fine…we came to your studio as soon as we realized you had received a painting as well. There were four paintings delivered today, and of the ones that remain, we found them all and brought them here. You’re in a vault at Belfor Vittanis’ house, and you are safe. We went into the painting that was delivered to your studio specifically to find you and bring you back. We have no idea why we were targeted by Gauthfellow, so we need as much information about him as we can get.”

Archerus: “But…but…I was in there for a matter of seconds! How could you have learned I was in there unless you watched it happen? And if this is Vittanis’ house, why isn’t he here? I’ve never seen this room in his manor before! Are you working for Gauthfellow? Is this some sort of kidnapping?”

Long Fist: “Easy, Archerus. Time seemed to pass differently in the painting – we don’t know how long you’ve been trapped in there. Our party was attacked by a painting from Gauthfellow, delivered to our lodgings in town. We knew nothing of the man until we found our lives in danger and began investigating. Our search brought us here, to you, to Gertwright. Many innocent lives have been lost and if it weren’t for our diligence, and my friend Jane’s persistence, you would not be here. We saved you, my friend. Be easy. And help us find out what we need to know. If we can get a handle on what’s happening here, we can escort you home so you can rest.”

Archerus: “All I know about Gauthfellow is that he’s a dangerous, jealous maniac. He couldn’t stomach my success and kept trying to best me, time after time, month after month, with his ridiculous ‘apocalypse art’. And to my shame, I got sucked into his game. I was forced to make paintings in his style just to stay on top of the popular trends he was playing up to. All because of this new sponsor of his.” Pause. “His note mentioned my servant Tharivol. Is he all right? That was clearly a threat.”

Jane: “Unfortunately we don’t know anything about your servant, but we’re not through investigating this yet. When was the last time you saw him?”

Archie: “Sorry to interrupt, but…what ‘new sponsor’?”

Archerus: “The sponsor? Pelor only knows who the man is for real, but Gauthfellow called him ‘Sir Zogg’ or some such nonsense in a sly bit of private gloating to me at an opening last month. Must be an assumed name, I’m sure, for I know no ‘Zogg’ family in the area, much less a knighted gentleman of that name. But I did catch sight of a new tattoo on Gauthfellow’s neck during that conversation – looked like a crest or sigil of some sort. Awful thing. Green and spirally. Like three headless serpents, or tentacles or some such. Like something out of one of Gauthfellow’s paintings. I asked him about it, joked that he’d let himself become ‘branded property’ of whoever his sponsor is, but Gauthfellow simply covered the tattoo with his collar and walked away. The thing that baffles my mind if why this man would NEED a sponsor. I thought his ‘adventuring ‘ had set him up for life. Unless that is just another one of his lies.” Later study determines this mark to be the personal sigil of a mind flayer, though not specifically which one. Three or four tentacles in the sigil, however, indicates an Illithid school in the arcane arts (as opposed to one and two tentacles, reserved for Illithidkin trained in martial pursuits, five or six for those steeped in psychic power, and seven for those infused with the divine power of their foul god).

Jane: You said that you were ‘sucked into Gauthfellow’s game, Archerus. What did you mean by that, exactly?”

Archerus: “You know…outdoing each other…with the graphic nature of the content… and other style considerations that I’m sure would be beyond your experience or interest. We just kept pushing the boundaries…delving into things…You know what I mean, I’m sure. Schoolyard one-ups-manship.”

Jane: “And this was…shameful? What you describe sounds like healthy competition, yet you claimed to be ashamed of yourself.”

Archerus’s face darkens. “There is competition…and there is competition. Sometimes under pressure we find ourselves spurred to better ourselves, improve upon ourselves. Sometimes we are weak…sometimes…we make choices we can never take back.

“Tharivol. I sent him to work for Gauthfellow. As a servant…well, as an assistant. And Tharivol, he has an artistic background. Not in oils or color, mind you, but he has no small skill with charcoal. And he has an eye…

“He was stealing Gauthfellow’s paintings for me. Imron would make them, Tharivol would sketch them and bring the sketches to me. I would turn out my own versions of Imron’s work before he could get them to his showings. Working tirelessly day and night.

“And then Imron caught on, as of course he would. And the pace escalated. But he seemed not to suspect Tharivol of the theft. Seemed. And Tharivol continued his double-dealings at my request…

“And then the paintings Gauthfellow made began to transform. This was around the time of the ‘Sir Zogg’ conversation. Works Tharivol sketched as demons cavorting in hellish torture mines were unveiled as vast salt fields aswarm with giant worms. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t maintain the theft in face of his magic. And my mind, my true artistic heart, is not foul enough to concoct the hyper-fantastic images of corruption that Imron could…and this is what the public was craving. I was becoming obsolete…

“Then, Tharivol expressed his concern to me. He was sure that Gauthfellow suspected our arrangement…but I would not listen…I would not hear…And now, because of my greed, my weakness, and because of his loyalty to me, Tharivol must be dead. It’s over. It’s all over. My career, my livelihood, the life of my servant, all of it…”

Archerus informs the party that Gauthfellow lives on Sandalwood Lane, but grows more agitated with more questions about connections between Gauthfellow and the party, or Gauthfellow and others. He claims to know absolutely nothing more about Gauthfellow or any of his potential associates, except that he keeps some sort of construct guardian close by when he is at home. When Riddle insists on pursuing the line of questioning further, he grows clearly frustrated. “I know nothing of constructs. This is far outside my sphere of knowledge. Ask a mage. All I know from Tharivol is that the thing is big. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to rest and see to Suzanna."

Riddle snaps his fingers with a crackle of lightning, lets it die off, and then taps the painter in the chest. “Let’s recap. You got stuffed into a demonic extra-dimensional painting due to your art war with Gauthfellow, and after putting your servant at rish to steal his painting ideas. We got targeted by Gauthfellow for reasons unknown. We not only survived our attack, but stopped the attack on the two main critics, and saved your sorry ass from certain death. You wanna go back into the painting? The Greyhawk Watch already gave you up for dead. They don’t care about you. Now us? We’re actually interested in stopping the guy who stuffed you into that painting and saving your servant if he’s still alive. But the only way that is gonna happen is you help us by giving us every ounce of information you can. If you leave out anything, anything at all, that might possibly make the difference between my friends and I living and dying, I’ll stuff you back in that painting myself. And no one will be coming to get you this time. Now. What else can you tell us about Gauthfellow? Details are good.”

Archerus: “I’ve told you what I know! I’ve explained what I can possibly explain. The man is not my friend. My only interest in him has been in his career. If you haven’t heard what you want to hear, then we are at an impasse here because I’ve explained all I know. Now, are you finished threatening me? I didn’t send Gauthfellow after you. Your predicament is NOT MY FAULT. I’m grateful for your aid, but growing less and less interested in being beholden to mercenary monsters such as yourself. What do you want? Is this about money? Is that what it will take to satisfy you? If it will get you out of my life, I’ll give you what I can spare. Come by my tower tomorrow. Now, kill me if you must, but I’m leaving now. Pelor have mercy on your souls. Especially YOU,” he says to Long Fist, “because Heironeous surely won’t forgive you for serving the likes of HIM.” He glares at Riddle.

Jane and Archie do their best to smooth over this rough exchange, and in return Archerus offers up the location of Tharivol’s family, to whom the servant might have fled if he escaped whatever danger Gauthfellow had in store for him, and perhaps a personal possession of Tharivol’s for scrying. He also offers to negotiate the party’s lodgings with Belfor and prepares to leave, but Jane suggests they might not want to let Gauthfellow know his plan has not succeeded yet. The Riddle chimes in again, “That’s pretty rich coming from a two-bit thief. You stole paintings from Gauthfellow. You put your servant in harm’s way to further your own ends. You really think Heironeous is going to look down on my friend for sticking with a friend who has risked his life more than once to save him? Who actually brought him back from the dead? You’re a hopped up artist that saw his career going down the toilet and couldn’t live with failure. You had to steal ideas from someone else because your weren’t good enough. I wonder what Heironeous would have us do with a common criminal like yourself? I mean, that is what you are, right? A criminal? I mean, if we’re gonna bring law and good into this shouldn’t we turn you into the Watch? Or at least make sure that your critic friends know that your latest works have been stolen. My friends want to kiss your ass, fine, let them. You want my help saving your servant, I want some simple courtesy. Now do you think that is beyond your artistic sensibilities or outside your scope of humanity?”

Jane explodes, “Riddle, that’s enough! If simple courtesy is what you desire then try it yourself for once. We are all over-tired and we have ALL been through more today than anyone could stand. Be we do not ALL have to go shouting off at the mouth. You do NOT speak for me, and I would appreciate the simple courtesy of managing to remember that!”

Archerus replies to Riddle, “I’ve shown you nothing but courtesy and you’ve shown me nothing but contempt. But you do make a reasonable argument, despite the arrogance and insanity of your tone. The least I can do at this point is to admit my artistic crimes to Vittanis and let him report the news as he sees fit. I will do so now. It’s the least I owe to Tharivol, regardless of what happens now, Unless, of course, you’d rather just string me up right here?”

Long Fist: “He is clearly unABLE to assist us further, Riddle. And he’s right. Heironeous would not appreciate me backing up a bully, even a friend such as yourself. Archerus, let’s not be hasty. I believe our best course of action is to try and get Suzanna here as discussed and get along peacably as we rest. Who knows what Gauthfellow is capable of – we don’t want to tip him off to your rescue.”

Riddle turns to Jane, surprised, and says, “Jane, I never said I spoke for you. When did I say, ‘and Jane agrees with me’? I spoke for myself and out of a growing frustration with this jerk. He doesn’t care if we live or die, he doesn’t care if we save his friend, fine. His choice. My choice is to call him on his bull. He’s got stones, I’ll give him that, but it’s evident to me that he’s lacking in humanity. You wanna say that I’m lacking in courtesy, fine. I really don’t care too much about courtesy right now.” He turns to walk out of the panic room and throws these words back over his shoulder as he exits, “And just so we’re clear, I don’t take orders from you. The only woman I took orders from was murdered as a message to me while a crappy town full of spineless people just walked away from it. Now we’re in a bigger town full of the same old tiny people…” And he leaves. Long Fist runs after him but soon returns alone, reporting that Riddle needs time alone to work through whatever he’s going through. Archie raises the question of whether or not Riddle can be trusted, and Long Fist assures everyone that he can, and that he is merely overwhelmed at the moment.

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Session Twenty-Four

Moonday, 24 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

After much discussion of how to proceed, Athena flies off to purchase to lesser restoration scrolls and Scar-Eater studies the killer paintings some more. When Jane returns, both she and Archie notice that three more worms have disappeared from Archerus’ picture…perhaps one per hour since the last time they looked at it. If so, it will only be eight hours before the painting’s magic fails.

Godsday, 25 Ready’reat CY 595

At midnight, Jane meditates to regain her spells while the others visit Katarina Gertwright. She is suffering from a degenerative disease but is willing to answer their questions about Gauthfellow. “He’s not open to critique or other ideas.” She claims he has grown increasingly unstable over time, even throwing a tantrum at a recent opening, but also notes that she does not deal with him on a meaningful personal level. Of his work, she says his content is always fantastical; great landscapes, extraplanar, dark, vivid, oppressive – everything that is currently in vogue, like horrible monsters. His work is provocative and well-executed but without soul. He did not take kindly to her criticism. She claims he can afford to be his own patron as he is very wealthy. She doesn’t know anything about how an invisible stalker came to kill the messenger who delivered her painting.

The party uses some divination spells to determine whether or not they should attempt to enter the painting from Archerus’ studio. Meanwhile, Tyrrell strolls around the neighborhood and spots a sparkling silver coin marked with the Moonmeadow symbol and pockets it.

At 1:00 am, the party decides to uncover and enter the painting, where two more worms have gone missing. Upon grasping each other’s hands and stepping inside, they find themselves in a battle with a painted hag and two chain devils. The remaining worms are all screaming and banging their heads against the walls of the cavern. Finding the enemies resistant to his attacks, Archie tries to save one of the head-beating worms. He chooses wisely, and when the battle ends and the party is schlorked back to the vault, Archie finds himself clutching Endrik Archerus himself. It is 11 in the morning.

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Session Twenty-Three

Moonday, 24 Ready’reat CY 595

Archie leads the party to a resplendent manor house on the curve of Peacock Court whose driveway is lined with carriages. A party is in progress. Archie notes the change in footprints – the heavier set trails off, and the lighter set becomes heavier as if it took the other’s burden before approaching the house with the party…

One of the servants at the party informs them that a dainty fellow delivered one painting and then left in Lady Tillanda’s carriage with two more paintings in tow. Scouting the layout of the house itself they see that one side of it is actually a 2-story ballroom, and that is where all the guests are stuffed like sardines. The house belongs to Belfor Vittanis. Riddle tells the servants he believes everyone at the party is in grave danger, and Tyrrell convinces them of the seriousness of the claim. The party is admitted and heads for the ball room doors where Roddick the house castellan hears out their tale of killer paintings. They notice just in time that Vitannis is about to unveil the small painting at the far end of the room. Jane screams “Stop!” but cannot be heard over the unholy din of the party, and transforms into an eagle. Tyrrell runs through the crowd towards the dais screaming “Fire, fire, fire!” Riddle envelops Vittanis in binding winds. Finesse is clearly not the party’s strong suit. Unable to get into the crowd, Scar-Eater and Archie run outside the building, and Archie breaks a window. Everyone at the party now believes the house is under attack. Only Long Fist even attempts to control the situation through diplomacy, herding drunken party guests to the exits.

Some rushed intimidation and diplomacy later, Athena simply grabs the painting and flies out the window with it before it can be opened. But with the bouncers still approaching those inside, Scar-Eater sees little choice but to grapple Vittanis and order him to call off the bouncers so everything can be straightened out. Riddle is able to sweep in and calm things down, noting that Lady Tillanda may also be in danger. But Tillanda is still in attendance at the party, and claims the “Darius” was taking her carriage to Katarina Gertwright’s manor. Vittanis offers the party carriage drivers to follow after the delivery immediately, arriving just in time to witness the delivery boy being knocked to the ground by an invisible being at the gate of Number 14, Burgundywine Terrace. The party jumps out of the carriage. Flying overhead above the carriages, Athena transforms back into Jane and floats to the ground, casting faerie fire as she drifts, illuminating the invisible stalker with eerie gree mist, but the party is not able to stop it from killing Darius. Riddle attempts to speak with it, but before it disappears it will only tell him it was summoned to kill this person. After a thorough search of Finch’s body, they find a map of the Midnight’s Muddle district, showing the locations of where all the paintings were delivered that very day, as well as the words “Sandalwood Lane” on the back. The Crooked House was apparently the second stop on his rounds, so the party immediately set off for the first address on the list.

On the way, the party digs up their knowledge of the local art scene and realize they are headed to the home of Endrik Archerus, a popular local artist, on Blue Sapphire Avenue, and that another artist of recent reknown, Imron Gauthfellow, has a home on Sandalwood. They also know that Gauthfellow was a wizard in his adventuring days.

Upon arriving at Archerus’ home, the party is admitted by his servant Suzanna, who takes them to the top of the tower. No one is in the studio, but there is a new painting there, a hideous image of a hag on a warhorse and masses of worms. They discover a note amongst the vellum on the floor that suggests foul play. Magic radiates from many things in the room, including the painting. Suzanna recalls that the second delivery person may have been a half-orc. She reports that her master is private and unassumin, and that his other servant, Tharivol, had been working outside the house somewhere for the last several weeks. Riddle uses an augury spell to determine whether casting dispel magic on the painting would bring weal or woe, and the forces answer with a decisive “Woe.” Riddle covers the painting with a sheet as Archie notices that one of the worms that was in the painting when they entered is not there anymore. The party checks the room but finds nothing other than the tracks of a bare-footed humanoid walking towards the painting. The party takes the covered painting back to Vittanis’ house.
As they get out of the carriage, Archie checks to see if the tracks of the delviery person who was not Finch are still visible, and finds he is just able to make them out under the snow. Leaving the paintings in the carriage, the party takes off after the tracks. Forty-five minutes later they have reached the Greyhawk docks and a tavern called The Grunting Bunty. There is a big half-orc behind the bar and another ragged one that the barman refers to as “Pissface” at a table. Pikoh tells the party he was paid a gold piece to carry the paintings, and shows them where the paintings were stashed in an alley. Jane casts remove disease on him and the party writes him a letter of recommendation for Tarquin of The Crooked House before returning to Vittanis’ house.

Sergeant Jessup Gandling of the Greyhawk Watch offers the party 2,500 gp to investigate the matter of the killer paintings. The party attempts to find a connection between themselves and the other targets with little success, or to figure out if any of their enemies have ties to Greyhawk ( Shukak, Filge, the Ashborn, Smenk, or even Allustan or Lanod Neff).

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Session Twenty-Two

Earthday, 20 Ready’reat CY 595

Traveling to Greyhawk

Freeday, 21 Ready’reat CY 595

Traveling to Greyhawk, landing in the deep river valley where the City resides. The party spends the night with at a grove of druids, the Dawn Watchers, who have taken a vow of silence. Riddle still feels the need to stay outside. Long Fist exercises with his celestial hyaena. Marzena stares towards the City. There is a mammoth lightning storm to the north over the Nyr Div.

Starday, 22 Ready’reat CY 595

Riddle understands that he is on the cusp of bonding with the diadem and must stay out of doors or he will break it, so the party waits to continue to Greyhawk.

Moonday, 23 Ready’reat CY 595

The party wakes to find Riddle in a trance. With Kullen’s greataxe Facecleaver in his hands, he walks a in a 20’ wide circle, chanting phrases over and over in a language the rest of them don’t understand, until he finally raises the axe and is struck by lightning. When he comes to, he has changed – taller, more muscular, paler, almost blue. And the diadem is awake.

The ritual complete, the party moves on to Greyhawk, in the guise of poor peasants, with Fury carrying all of their valuables. They wait on line for hours and finally make it through without having to bribe anyway, but are noted (particularly Tyrrell) by priests of St. Cuthbert patrolling the entrance area and fondling their holy symbols.

The party proceeds to Eligos Manzorian’s house and are nearly turned away by the butler, Pollard. Eventually the party makes it through only to find he has little interest in helping Marzena and hasn’t read any of the letters Allustan sent regarding their earlier exploits. He casts detect thoughts on Marzena so he can figure out what she wants him to do about her plight, and eventually agrees to send her to Magepoint. He then attempts to dismiss the party without any further aid and Tyrrell makes a big, intimidating speech about the end of the world and people not wanting to help as if Eligos isn’t even there. Eligos seems to prefer this tactic to begging for help, so after grilling the party for more details (specifically things they did not tell Allustan), Eligos says he will look over the letters and see the party again in one week (the 3rd of Sunsebb).

The party secures rooms for a week at the Crooked House, in the neighborhood known as Midnight’s Muddle, making the acquaintance of Tarquin Shortstone XXIV. They note posters for the Champions Games coming upon the 12th of Sunsebb. They learn a bit about Loris Raknian, manager of the Games, and sneak a peak at Mayor Neff’s Letter of Introduction before heading back out to try to get an appointment with Foreign Minister Webb.

Moonday, 24 Ready’reat CY 595

Shopping, errands, and information gathering regarding getting an appointment with Ermaldon Webb. Riddle’s divination (“The soldier battles alone; the guardian’s weakness is his weakness; lash the tongue; flail not the sword; the written word will seal the deal”) gives the party some cryptic advice, but the party at least determines that Archie should go in by himself. Webb’s appointment secretary is a total prick but Archie manages to get an appointment for 9 am on the 27th and is instructed not to miss it. He promises not to and the party returns to the inn.

That evening the party receives word from that a package has arrived for them and they go down to the common room to check it out. Shortstone XXIV is on the bar with a large flat square package wrapped in brown paper. He says, “Your commission has arrived,” and tears open the package. The party gets a only a slimpse of the painting before it erupts and the room fills with two 15’ squelchy creatures with 8 tentacles each. The tentacled horrors manage to kill all the patrons and nearly Tarquin and Archie before they basically annihilate themselves through Riddle’s mark of doom. After some quick healing and discussion with the owner, they go outside in search of the fop and the crudely dressed man who dropped off the package 15 to 20 minutes before they came downstairs, and Archie quickly picks up the trail.

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Session Twenty-One

Freeday, 14 Ready’reat CY 595 (continued)

The party spends the night in their old hideout.

Starday, 15 Ready’reat CY 595

Athena scouts around town while Archie returns to talk to Trask at the garrison. Trask wants Archie to report everything to the Foreign Minister, Ermaldon Webb, and to also gather better intelligence. Though he doesn’t believe, as the lizardfolk do, that there is a plot against them, he is concerned about the level of truth in Illthain’s lies. Also, Trask asks Archie if he sees an opportunity to nudge the garrison reinforcements along to please follow up on it. Meanwhile, the rest of the party is discussing history and such when Long Fist says something that sparks a memory from Riddle about the ancient city of Kuluth-Mar and a possible connection to Kyuss.

The party checks up on Allustan who is up in the Whispering Cairn and find that he has been exploring obsessively to the detriment of his own health and well-being. After speaking with him for awhile and performing some augury spells, the party convinces him to rest until morning.

Sunday, 16 Ready’reat CY 595

Allustan takes the party into town for a meeting with Mayor Neff. He warns the party not to waste Webb’s time if they are not able to properly handle the treaty negotiations. The Mayor also promises that the party would not be accused of any crimes in Diamond Lake. They receive letter of introduction to Webb from the Mayor and another to Eligos from Allustan. Allustan also provides advice for getting around Greyhawk, noting Tarquin Shortstone, XXIV and the Crooked House, Elexia Tinge, Painted Man, Ph’xeris, Eligos’ estate, the Great Library, and the Great Hall. Riddle also tells Allustan that he suspects he is related to the Lands, and Allustan notes that the timing does not preclude such. Allustan also guesses that Icosiel could have been the first of the Land geneaology.

The party meets with Balabar Smenk at 3:00 pm and Smenk claims that as far as he is concerned, our business is through. Kullen¸ however, refuses to turn himself in as agreed and the party ends up disposing of him right there in Smenk’s office, despite many bystanders (some innocent and others…not) and a suggestion or two that the fight move outside.

Moonday, 17 Ready’reat – Godsday, 18 Ready’reat CY 595

Traveling to Greyhawk.

Waterday, 19 Ready’reat CY 595

On the road to Greyhawk, the party battles with trolls.

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