The Age of Worms

Session Thirty-Four

Freeday, 14 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

The crowd is going crazy as The Infidels await Raknian and Okoral on the arena floor. Filge, in particular, seems to be loving every second of this. Wardens fan out around the party as the two gentlemen approach. Okoral says, “What would you have with him?” Long Fist says they would prefer to meet in private. “And not on your field of glory? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…The Infidels!”

The party bows to the pounding and screaming in the arena.

“This is your moment, son,” Okoral continues. “What do you want, exactly.”

Riddle steps in begins ranting about people trying to control the Games and not wanting them to have any further access to the teams. They ask for evidence of any meddling, and Riddle says that one of them was contacted by a member of an organization they cannot name. “And you stood up for yourselves?” Okoral nods. He turns to the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, in addition to the martial victory you just witnessed, these people were approached by outside sources just yesterday, but they were strong of heart, and preserved the integrity of these Games! I give you, THE INFIDELS!” There’s lots of buzzing and people scurrying out of the Arena. Filge blows kisses to the party. Scar-Eater does a spontaneous handstand. The party returns to the ceonoby.

Half an hour later, Smallcask arrives with their money. He asks after any information about Lahaka, and when the party says they have not investigated yet, he reminds them that their time is running out. But perhaps still riding the adrenaline wave of their victory, the group can’t seem to focus on anything but the Games. Between divinations and chatting up the guards, they guess that it is actually they that will fight the exhibition match the next day, and not Auric’s Warband, as everyone expects.

They send Smallcask off with 5,070 gold pieces to bet on themselves in the next fight. After he’s gone, Riddle, Archie, and Tyrrell head off to stealthily explore under the ceonoby and see what they can find out about Lahaka.

At their first stop, Archie can hear the distant sound of felines and boars in one direction, and men sitting down at a meal in the other direction. Riddle, with intense focus, hears even further away, an upsetting sound…distant screaming. As he moves closer to a particular staircase it resolves into a very unpleasant, wordless, male moaning, like someone in pain. He attempts to place a visual sensor near it but fails. They move off and he attempts it again. He sees three crude prison cells in a hallway that looks over the top of a dome structure. Huddled in the corner of one cell is a ruined man. He looks like he hasn’t slept or eaten in days. His clothes are ragged, he’s been clawing at his face, sitting in filth, staring. He is bleeding and covered in sores. He is insane beyond all reason. It is not n extreme leap to ascribe what Riddle sees in this man as similar to the way people respond to the Spawn of Kyuss.

Riddle moves his sensor to the mess hall. It doesn’t seem possible that they could be unaware of the man in the cells. The three of them move around, avoiding the mess halls by going up and down stairs, to the prison hall. Riddle goes first around the corner, detecting thoughts on the prisoner — abject horror, writhing worms, huge fat creatures with horns and hooves and eyes and worms and worms and worms…

When Riddle pokes his head around the corner, the prisoner freaks out, crying “No, no, no…” Riddle tries to speak with him, but he only says, “With him…with the eyes…” and proceeds to bite off the tip of his finger and draw a figure on the wall with the blood. He draws a very fat man, giving a worm to another man backing away. The squiggles.

The threesome moves on to find another ten by ten foot storeroom filled with scores upon scores of stoppered gray flasks. The room, they discover, is full of alchemists fire…and the ceiling above it is not particularly thick. They are unsure of what that means for now.

Moving on, Tyrrell discovers a secret door, surviving the slay living glyph on the floor with a heroic effort. There is a horrible aroma coming up from below. They move down the stairs and Riddle uses his censor to scout out the area. One room has four Spawn of Kyuss and three coffins. In an enormous room off that one that might have once been a chapel, there are six more Spawn of Kyuss and another creature identified as a morg.

The scouts return to the ceonoby to report everything they found, and learn that the Sisters of Eiseth beat Draconic Brood. Shortly thereafter, Auric’s Warband eliminates the Snow Leopards. Only three teams remain in the competition.

Archie knocks on Auric’s door. “You? What now?”

Archie: “I thought we’d be able to have the conversation that we weren’t able to have up in the arena. Personal things about you, and larger things to the people of Greyhawk. You know who our manager is. He hasn’t heard from her either. We believe you had nothing to do with her disappearance. We’re looking into it.”

Auric: “While fighting a gladiatorial competition.”

Archie: “This is where she disappeared from. What better place to start? Did she say anything?”

Auric: “Whatever happened between her and ”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/loris-raknian" class=“wiki-page-link”> Raknian went terribly wrong. She left him extremely upset, fell into my arms, and would not discuss whatever went down with the two of them in my presence. Then everything was great. We got it on, we were getting hitched up, and then she left me. She said she wanted nothing more to do with me. Me. Right after the Games last year. Drove me into dark places. She was a woman. I don’t know if she was in her right mind."

Archie: “How much do you know about Raknian?”

Auric: “What everyone knows. What do you mean?”

Archie: “We believe Raknian is up to some nefarious deeds that might possibly endanger the lives of everyone here assembled for the Games.”

Auric: “He’s a public figure. He’s a philanthropist. He does great things for this City.”

Archie: “Ever heard the name ”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/kyuss" class=“wiki-page-link”> Kyuss?"

Auric: “Maybe. Who is he?” Archie explains about Kyuss. “That sounds horrible.”

Archie: “Funny you mention that because there are currently at least ten infected undead in this structure as we speak.”

Auric: “Are they nearby?”

Archie: "They are. The theory I’m operating on is that your fiancee may have learned something about this – "

Archie is interrupted when Khelleck opens the door wider and tells Auric to go to bed. “Are you disturbing my teammate?”

Archie: “Not at all.”

Khelleck: “Well, he needs his beauty rest.”

Archie: “Don’t we all? I was just asking him some questions, perhaps you might have some insights?” Archie asks about the flesh golems, but Khelleck will not be drawn in. Archie persists. “I was just wondering what, if anything, you did to find out what happened to his fiancee.”

Khelleck: “The dancing girl? She left him.”

Archie: “She left him and vanished into thin air.”

Khelleck: "And I should give a shit why?’

Archie: “We think something horrible happened to her, and we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Khelleck: “Excellent for you.” He tries to shut the door on Archie, but Archie keeps at it, telling him all of their lives are in danger, and throwing words out like Kyuss, and the Age of Worms, both of which Khelleck has heard of. Archie tells him about the Spawn of Kyuss, to which Khelleck drily replies, “Sounds like a job for a superhero.” From within, Archie knows he’s at least managed to convince Auric when he cries out, "Innocent lives are at risk! Kehlleck, we cannot stand by – " Khelleck shushes him and turns back to Archie. “What do you want?”

Archie: “This is going to go badly very soon, unless we, the Sisters, and the Ashborn take care of this problem. And then we can go back to killing each other in the Arena.”

Khelleck: “Show me these creatures.”

Riddle dimension doors himself, Khelleck, and Long Fist into the hallway between the rooms. Khelleck sees all the undead as Long Fist blasts a bulk of them with positive energy. Khelleck takes the three of them back and says, “Well, I will admit that looks awfully suspicious.”

View
Session Thirty-Two

Godsday, 4 Sunsebb CY 595

The party sends to Allustan the news of Illthain roaming the skies over Diamond Lake, to which the wizard replies, “Terrible news. I shall investigate. Remain vigilant.”

The party spends the rest of the day shopping and makes an appointment to meet with Ekaym Smallcask at The Palace on the morning of the following day.

Waterday, 5 Sunsebb CY 595

The party goes into the meeting with Smallcask intending to be bold and make a display a power, per the divination from the day before. They are shown to a private dining room where they strike impressive poses, Jane in her large tiger form. A few minutes later a handsome fellow in his early forties enters with a lute strung over his shoulder. He seems a bit spacey, and upon seeing the party says “Wow.” He then informs them they are the ninth or tenth group he has seen for consideration for the Games. When he asks who they are, Tyrrell replies, “We are…the Infitics.” The interview sort of goes downhill from there, with no one in the party prepared to speak.

Soon, Smallcask’s partner enters. She is the same woman who accosted Tyrrell on the scene of Eligos’ murder investigation. She doesn’t seem to want Smallcask to introduce her, and asks if the party is willing to submit to a truth spell, which they are. She asks as string questions, mostly about Eligos’ murder, and answers a few herself, revealing that she knows Allustan and that she is dear friends with Tenser. Archie tells her of what happened to Marzena.

When the woman asks if they have any intention of hurting Smallcask, Jane reverts to her human form and explains what she saw in her scrying of Loris Raknian and that they believe Raknian had Captain Okoral murder Eligos, but that they don’t know why. Smallcask is not surprised, and at the conclusion of the interview, the woman tells him he is safe with us and vanishes. Smallcask offers the party the position, and asks their names. Tyrrell will only give his name if he gives us the woman’s name. “”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/celeste" class=“wiki-page-link”> Celeste," he says.

The party negotiates a 55/45 split of any winnings in the party’s favor, and Smallcask tells them to meet him in a lovely coffee shop on the corner at 5:00 pm on the 11th so they can enter the contestants dinner together.

Jane makes several scrying attempts that day with little luck. Auric and Allustan resist the spell and the attempt on Marzena results in a dark, foggy mass that might indicate she is within a private sanctum spell, which might further indicate that she is with Tenser in Magepoint.

Waterday, 5 Sunsebb – Moonday, 10 Sunsebb CY 595

The party hangs out in Greyhawk, waiting for the Games to begin and doing nothing of significance.

Godsday, 11 Sunsebb CY 595

The party signs the paperwork provided by Smallcask, calling themselves “”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/the-infidels" class=“wiki-page-link”> The Infidels“, and they proceed up the hill to the arena. It is surrounded by several outlying buildings and one private estate, belonging to Loris Raknian. The arena itself seats up to 18,000 spectators in 12 banks. Only one gate is open, and there are lots of people parading up the hill. The Infidels are met at the gate by ”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/talibur-wheelick" class=“wiki-page-link”> Talibur Wheelick, the Games’ referee, who makes it clear that his word there is law. Jane notes that Smallcask seems to be very good at making people underestimate him, but that he is actually a good deal sharper than he comes across.

All of the teams are seated around a big banquet table while they are announced. The crowd reactions are interesting and telling (only Smallcask applauds for the Infidels). Auric and Khelleck, of course, receive a tremendous welcome as Auric lays last year’s Champion’s Belt over the throne link chair.

As dinner begins, Auric’s Warband makes their way around, working the room. Jane watches Smallcask and notices that for all his chatting and appearance of light-heartedness, never really takes his focus off of Raknian. Much like Riddle, who pegged Raknian right away, and who noted that when Raknian noticed the party, a brief flicker of panic danced across his features before he clamped it down. He avoids giving them any attention or notice for the rest of the night.

Lots of people at the table are bookies, and they soon learn that pretty much everyone in Greyhawk, including the teams, gets in on the action. Tyrrell, pretending to be drunker than he actually is, approaches one of the bookies to find out the odds on the Infidels. Right now, the payout would be 5 to 1. Tyrrell places a bet with Deg Shannit, the bookie for 10 gold, and Scar-Eater places a party bet with Deg for 150 gold. Other than that, the party lays low for the first night. After the end-of-evening fireworks, the teams are taken one by one to a wooden platform at the end of the arena, and lowered down into the barracks.

Waterday, 12 Sunsebb CY 595

In the morning, the first round groupings are announced. The Infidels are scheduled to go up against Arcane Auriga (four female elves, outcasts from Celene for scandalous behavior, and lethal longbow experts), Badlands Revenge (three gnoll halberdiers led by a human barbarian and his dire badger companion), and Sapphire Squad (a swashbuckling janni named Korush and two human mercenaries, all mounted combat experts) at 10;00 am, the day’s second match. Arcane Auriga has been given the slight advantage because of how cool they look.

The fight begins with Arcane Auriga firing a bolt of acid at Badlands revenge, and Archie taking out Korush’s horse. The Infidels concentrate mostly on Sapphire Squad while Arcane Auriga works on Badlands. Korush attempts to disappear from the battlefield but Jane nails him with faerie fire. All told the fight doesn’t last particularly long, and it ends after a flame strike wipes out all of Arcane Auriga except its leader, Renita, who surrenders. Korush, who had been accidentally healed by one of Long Fist’s burst of positive energy, was in the middle of ethereal jaunt and the Infidels are declared the winner. Tyrrell wins 50 gold and the party wins 750 gold on their bet, as well as 1,100 gold from the day’s winnings (after the split with Smallcask).

The day’s other victorious teams include Auric’s Warband, Draconic Brood, Pitch Blade, the Sisters of Eiseth, and the Snow Leopards.

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Session Thirty-One

Starday, 1 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

There remains one more room in the complex to investigate, which they have seen but not entered.
In this room there is a big spidery statue and three trophy cases. The party looks at everything, but forebears opening any of the cases for the time being. In the first case there is a preserved head of a black scaled dragon, a pair of faintly glowing green eyes slightly larger than a humans (enchanted with a persistent light spell), an odd black metal cage covered in thorns but with nothing inside (sitting on a large velvet pillow), a shiny +2 unholy adamantine dagger, and twitching chains covered in barbs (according to Riddle, likely chains removed from a chain devil, or a ‘kyton’). In the second case there are four books labeled “Unspeakable Tome”, a weathered and tarnished griffin figurine of wondrous power, six jars of which four contain eyeballs on long stalks (the others are empty), and another book behind the Unspeakable Tomes. In the third case they find a mini-pseudodragon statue, a stuffed doll of a pale-skinned and hairless humanoid that bears a striking resembles to the Vaati statues from the Whispering Cairn and to Riddle (it has been pierced with twenty long bone shard spokes), a thick black tome wrapped in chains, a magnificent magical red greatsword with a periapt of health draped over it. When Tyrrell opens one of the cases, the statue in the center of the room comes to life and attacks. When struck, it makes no noise in the actual world, but a hideaous screaming fills their heads. It attempts to confuse them, but the party is able to kill it quickly. Tyrrell takes the doll. It feels very good in his hands. He removes all the shards from it.

Riddle casts speak with dead on Zyrxog. Staring at Riddle with pure malevolence, the mind flayer reports that the Apostolic Scrolls are “a scholarly tome”, that Loris Raknian hired him to kill the party “presumably because he wants you dead”, that the doll Tyrrell picked up “pleases him”, and that there is “no danger whatsoever” of handling any of the items in his trophy room – but it’s obvious on that question that he is trying to lie to Riddle. Riddle, with the intent of destroying it in green slime, takes the unholy dagger from the trophy case. Of course it is cursed, and Riddle finds he cannot stow the weapon once it is in his hand. Then Tyrrell uses his wand of unseen servant to open the case and retrieve the unidentified book, which Riddle immediately opens and reads. It says, “This book contains no information,” and furthermore, attacks his memory and sense of self. Luckily, he saves against all drain and damage. Scar-Eater reports that this is all beyond him, extremely strong auras of enchantment, and the party decides to leave everything alone (except the doll which Tyrrell already has, the dagger which Riddle cannot let go of, and the book which they wrap in a up with the intent to send to Raknian with a note claiming it is an addendum to the Apostolic Scrolls).

The immediate order of business is to remove the cursed dagger from Riddle, hiring a priest of the temple of Pelor in the Golden District to do the deed. Though he offers to dispose of it for them, Riddle doesn’t trust him and takes the dagger back to the green slime to destroy it himself.

The party then turns their focus to the Champions Games. They learn that to enter the competition they need a manager, and there is only one licensed manager without a team of the twenty-four licenses that have been issued, and that is Ekaym Smallcask. He is staying at a very exclusive Inn called The Palace, in the temple district, with a young woman, a companion of some sort. During their information-gathering they also learn that the Ashborn have changed their line-up for the upcoming games — replacing Tirra Elundriel with three flesh golems.

The party spends the night at the Curtained Palace by the wharves.

Sunday, 2 Sunsebb CY 595

The party spends the day scrying on people in a public park, wearing masks over their heads, while Tyrrell and Archie scout.

Jane scrys on Raknian successfully. He is sitting in a well-appointed study with a window looking over the city. From the direction of the view, the party guesses this building is located adjacent to the Champions Arena, one of the few elevated places in town. Raknian is in conversation with a slightly younger man. “Report, how did it go?”

“The mission was a success,” his guest replies. “I do not believe we were observed by anyone. Got off clean, but I was concerned about the lack of protection on his estate. Someone of his power, I was concerned about the lack of difficulties.”

“Were we set up?” Raknian asks.

“I can’t say. I can say, we were successful, this seemed too easy.”

“Couldn’t possibly be that cocky, could he?” Raknian wonders, and then asks about security for the Games and other projects. He tells the companion that it’s time to lay low. The party’s local knowledge tells them this companion is likely Captain Okoral, Raknian’s chief of security, but they can only guess who or what they might have been discussing.

Jane fails to scry the Faceless One, but does succeed in checking up on Illthain. They see the magnificent black dragon soaring gracefully and lazily through the murky night over Diamond Lake. They notice that she does not share some of the tell-tale characteristics of other black dragons, namely two forward-facing horns and two rear-facing horns, long aquiline bodies, and webbed patches between their toes. Rather, Illthain has a sort of crown of rear-facing horns, a stockier build covered in bone-shard spikes, and huge earth-raking talons. Everything about her associates her with a copper dragon, according to Scar-Eater, except the black scales (copper and black dragons even share the same kind of breath weapon). Knowing Illthain is a master alchemist, the guess that she might have changed her own appearance. If she is, in truth, a copper dragon, her size makes her an adult, and it would mean she can breathe a slowing gas, climb stone surfaces as with spider climb, and burrowing capability.

The party returns to their rooms to rest before their meeting with Eligos in the morning.

Moonday, 3 Sunsebb CY 595

There is a large crowd gathered around Eligos’ estate when they arrive, and there seems to be some kind of investigation taking place. Some quick questions of the crowd reveals that the owner of the estate appears to have been murdered the night before. A girl approaches Tyrrell and says, “Not finding what you expected to find here?”

“Excuse me?” Tyrrell replies. After a small bit of banter he feels a strong compulsion to be truthful, though it is not overpowering, and he definitely resists it. She pressures him to explain his business there, and threatens to go to the investigators if he does not tell her the truth, as he might be a person of interest.

“Did your plan here fail?” she presses. “Did you come to gloat?”

Tyrrell gives up and does his best intimidating. “I’m here to gloat, my plan failed, I’m looking for work. Now maybe I’ll tell the Watch about a person of interest who just appeared here in front of ME.”

She takes a step back. “Are you looking to make an enemy of me? You wish me to leave? Very well.” And with that mysterious bit of nonsense, she disappears. She bore no resemblance to Eligos, nor did she share his dialect.

Not sure if they can believe he’s dead, Jane attempts to scry Eligos, but the spell fails. Riddle casts a divination to figure out how to get the things we left from Eligos back without getting involved in the investigation. “One should move now, quickly and under stealth before it is all moved beyond your reach.” So the party loads Tyrrell up with every buff and utility spell that might help, and send him in.

Tyrrell gets into the second floor with finesse and disables every trap he comes across with ease. He returns to the party with all of our stuff and Eligos’ notes on it in under three minutes. Before leaving the area, Riddle casts audible whisper and says, in his best Eligos dialect, “Captain Okoral slew me, at the order of Loria Raknian, last night. Look to him for my killer.”

In his notes, Eligos indicates that the horns the party found in the real tomb might have belonged to a pit fiend named Kizarvidexus. Regarding the Cult of Kyuss, he notes that its numbers have traditionally been very small, with congregations often consisting of a single priest living a double life as an upstanding citizen. Recent evidence indicates that the Cult of the Ebon Triad may have been involved in the much older, smaller, Cult of Kyuss. There have been links between the deeds of both. There is a whole section listing thorough source material on the Age of Worms: Age of Eternal Ruin, prophecies recorded in the Book of Vile Darkness, the Necronomicon, Libris Mortis, and the Apostolic Scrolls. Oh, and Going Rogue.

Perhaps the most chilling notation regards the Spawn of Kyuss. Eligos suggests that though they are the most notorious, they may actually be the least dangerous of the undead associated with Kyuss. There are far more fecund creatures in the canon. In other words, Spawn of Kyuss appear to be the Red Shirts of the bunch.

One final divination before they retire for the evening tells them to look for Ekaym Smallcask “At ”/campaign/the-age-of-worms/wikis/the-palace" class=“wiki-page-link”> The Palace at a time of his choosing, brave face, bold front, power on display. Mend fences quickly with his ally, yet distaste for owner will serve you well."

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Session Thirty

Starday, 1 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

Looking into the pool of the grand chamber using the scrying pool in the hallway, the party sees thousands of little tadpole things with sucker mouths and four tentacles each. The party suspects they are looking at baby mind flayers. Suddenly a voice says in Long Fist’s head, “Observe the entrance to my lair, Protector of the Innocents. My only regret is that I did not make them suffer as I will make you suffer.” Visualizing the entrance, they see the two elven prisoners they tried to save, their heads ripped open. Archie’s knowledge of dungeons tells him that to talk to Long Fist, the mind flayer must be within 100 feet and have a line of effect on him. The party shifts position, preparing for the fight, and Archie moves to the entrance of the hallway, just as Zyrxog himself materializes right in front of him.

Scar-Eater blasts it with a scorching ray as the mind flayer begins casting a spell. Enormous tentacles lash out at everyone in the hallway. Hyaeliotrope, Jane, Tyrrell, and Riddle are all grappled. The octopins move into the hallway and join the fray. Archie risks and avoids their gaze attacks to fire at one of the octopins, but draws brutal blow himself. Long Fist makes a beautiful jump down the hallway but misses with his lunge attack. Jane shifts into Bast to muscle her way out of the grapple, but the mind flayer manages to catch her as she escapes, though he fails to re-engage his grapple attack. Tyrrell frees himself and draws his wand of cat’s grace. Riddle dimension hops himself out of the way and places a mark of doom on Zyrxog. Scar-Eater disappears from view to escape the hallway as the tentacles continue to crush Hyaeliotrope and grapple Archie. Zyrxog blasts Bast with a lightning bolt and she cannot dodge in time to spare any of the damage and she is staggered. Long Fist dismisses Hyaeliotrope and delivers a strong blow to the mind flyer, but its skin is hardened in some way to protect itself. Jane shifts back into her human form to draw her wand of cure moderate wounds. Tyrrell fails to make his wand work and moves closer to Archie. Riddle bursts into flames and moves into the range of the mind flayer. Scar-Eater hits Zyrxog with another massive blow but not a lot of damage seems to be getting through. Suddenly the mind flayer teleports into the chamber as the octopins go to town on Archie. Archie manages to get out of the way long enough for Long Fist to heal him up a bit.

The door behind Riddle opens with an otherworldly freakish screaming. Both Riddle and Scar-Eater save against whatever effect it brings with him, and Riddle’s partial resistance to sneak attacks helps with the crossbow bolt now sticking out of his side. They are staring at a scowling, paunch-bellied drow thrall with a spectacular chain shirt and a buckler. Jane is busy healing herself while Tyrrell finally manages to use his wand, and Riddle charges the drow and misses. Scar-Eater dimension hops into a flanking position and trips the drow. Meanwhile, Zyrxog grapples Archie and Tyrrell. The octopins squelch in and attack Tyrrell, Archie, and Long Fist. Archie gets away but draws another lightning bolt from the mind flayer clips him for serious damage. Long Fist breathes fire on one of the octopins. The drow thrall, still prone and surrounded, tries to disarm Riddle from the ground. Jane brings a flame strike down on both octopins and kills one of them. Riddle commands the drow to “Halt!”, effectively stunning it. Scar-Eater smashes it with shocking grasp but fails to overcome the drow’s spell resistance.

Zyrxog pelts Long Fist with several magic missiles as the remaining octopin hits Tyrrell. Archie peppers the mind flayer with arrows, plugging away at its resistance. Long Fist breathes another gout of flame on the octopin and destroys it. He quickly heals himself. Tyrrell draws a potion and drinks it, and Riddle and Scar-Eater continue beating at the effectively-stunned, prone drow on the floor. Zyrxog’s tentacles flail out without hitting anyone, but his mind blast stuns Tyrrell, who drops everything and stands, vulnerable, in the hall. Archie and Long Fist deal the mind flyer a bit more fire damage, and the drow disarms Riddle from the ground. Jane shifts to Athena and puts herself between Zyrxog and the stunned Tyrrell. Riddle grapples the drow as Scar-Eater swings wildly at it twice, missing both times. Zyrxog blasts Athena with five more magic missiles and tries to grapple Tyrrell, but fails. Archie slays the drow with his first arrow and nails the mind flayer with the other two, distracting it from Long Fist’s subsequent attack, giving Athena time to carry Tyrrell out of harm’s way. With their target dead, Riddle dimension hops himself and Scar-Eater to the middle of the hallway, hitting the mind flayer with electricity damage that simply crackles off of it. Scar-Eater risks a grappling attack to get underneath Zyrxog and hits it with a blow that finally breaks through its stoneskin. The mind flayer disappears.

The party takes a moment to heal and boost itself before Zyrxog’s next attack. Tyrrell asks Scar-Eater to collect the things he dropped before searching the dead drow. Athena flies Long Fist down into the chamber, where he promptly and inexplicably throws his gaseous form potion into the pool of mind flayer tadpoles. Riddle tells the others still in the hallway that the mind flayer is in his study, and dimension doors himself and Scar-Eater into that room. Scar-Eater gets one attack off before Zyrxog dimension doors himself into the chamber where Archie has his bow trained, and where Jane shifts into her Bast form and charges the aberration with everything she has, tearing it in half.

In the study, the party finds that Zyrxog has been doing all sorts of things for hire such as assassinations and procurement of items. There is a list of over a dozen thralls who have been working for him for months. There is also a list of recent business transactions, including two deals with Loris Raknian: 1) “the assassination of the younglings from Diamond Lake”, and 2) the purchase of an ancient relic called the Apostolic Scrolls. The party loots everything they can.

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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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