The Age of Worms

Session Forty-Five
In Which it is Demonstrated That We Are, After All, Still Children

Waterday, 26 Sunsebb, CY 595 (continued)

The party orders some lead carrying apparatus for the Rod and any future Parts that might fall into their possession and intends to stick around Diamond Lake until they are ready, and to make sure that Allustan is firmly established before they take off again.

Earthday, 27 Sunsebb CY 595

The party separates for the day. Long Fist sets up aid stations in the temple of Heironeous. Jane visits the Bronzewood Lodge and the Old Observatory. Tyrrell keeps his eyes and ears on the streets to find out what might be going on in the underbelly of Diamond Lake’s reconstruction. Archie and Scar-Eater help out at the Garrison.

Towards nightfall, when all are headed back to the garrison courtyard for the evening, Archie and Scar-Eater are both suddenly struck with a foreboding sense of something in the air that isn’t right. Looking through the drizzle it seems as if there are fast—moving little pockets of raindrops being deflected off of things that aren’t there. Both of them shout out warnings as two dozen three-foot-tall red-skinned devils with long, spiky tails bampf into existence in the courtyard, along with one of the barbed devils who escaped from the fight in Icosiol’s tomb. The barbed devil addresses Allustan, “The townsfolk need not die. A contract can be made, if you agree to hand over the Rod.”

From all directions, the missing party members hear the commotion and start running as Archie, Scar-Eater and Allustan try to save as many townsfolk as possible. Riddle is the first to arrive and promptly unleashes a gust of wind strong enough to blast all of the tiny imps into the center of the courtyard and give the townsfolk a chance to disperse. Some are injured, but the damage is insignificant to what it could have been without Riddle’s spell.

With the imps mostly neutralized, the barbed devil becomes the focus of the party’s attentions. He grapples Riddle and attempts to crush him as Long Fist arrives in the courtyard and unleashes Hyaeliotrope from his celestial playground. Riddle escapes the devil’s grasp by using his new ring to turn into a sixty-foot shaft of lightning. Jane arrives in time to stalagmite the thing again but doesn’t manage to pin him to the ground this time. Long Fist turns his focus to a poisoned townsperson. The barbed devil continues to pursue Riddle relentlessly, making sure Riddle knows the servants of Visciannix will never stop and that it is mere days before the pitfiend attends to the matter himself. Tyrrell delivers a strong blow with the Lightning Sword just before Scar-Eater trips and knocks out the barbed devil. Riddle is quick to dimensionally anchor and stabilize it for questioning, but all soon agree it would be safer to question it from beyond the grave. Long Fist sees to the poisoned townsfolk and Riddle sends an urgent message to the blacksmith to make the lead-lined rod cases a priority.

Then onto the devil-questioning. The party learns that Visciannix has been tracking them using a crystal ball (not, as they guessed, by using the second-to-last piece of the Rod); the pitfiend’s plans for the Rod include wresting it from Riddle’s dead, lifeless hands; the pitfiend is vulnerable to holy weapons and spells and that another pitfiend named Cyrilax, also in service to Asmodeus, holds some sway over Visciannix; Visciannix is in Hell; Visciannix’s patience with his hounds is wearing thin and he will soon come to recover the Rod himself; and that if the party chose to give the Rod to Cyrilax, their petty squabbles would be set aside in service to Asmodeus.

Allustan suggests that Tenser’s fortress would be a safe place for the piece of the Rod that the party already possesses, and that solidifies the party’s plan to leave for Magepoint first thing in the morning, with one of the lead-lined cases that can be ready by then.

In the meantime, there is still an entire evening to muck about with the normal course of events.

The party heads to the town proper to deal with the ghost of Jierian Weirus. He’s still spouting off about the sky opening and such, continuing his ghostly, stately march around the ruins of the church of St. Cuthbert. Riddle uses locate object to find his non-ghostly scourge, but the party decides to just try talking him into going away before attempting to destroy him.

Upon seeing Tyrrell he pronounces, “You will unlock the past. You will spread knowledge to every corner of the world.” What’s wrong with knowledge? People should be educated. “You will destroy the world.” That’s not so comforting. “You will feast with the vampire,” he tells Tyrrell, but does not elaborate on the menu. And right there is the trouble with prophecy: too many variables.

Riddle continues to question him about how we can help him rest. He claims a new Age is dawning but that he will not be there to see it. Riddle offers to carry Weirus’ scourge to the dawning of the new Age. “Take me to the library,” he says. “Take me to the spire. Take me to the Rift. Take me.”

He lays down his ghostly scourge and it disappears, and then he sinks into the stone of the church. The party recovers the actual scourge from the ruins of the church, and then does something that seems like a really, really good idea. At the time.

With a couple of hours to spare before bed, Jane scrys Lordren, Dourstone’s former mine manager who sold the party out ot Loris Raknian. The spell is overwhelmingly successful and the image reflected back in the clear water is of a man roughly in his forties with a sour face and dull black greasy hair. He is dressed in plate mail and wears a holy symbol of Hextor. He is sitting in a well-appointed room of some kind of mansion, looking down on a city clustered on cliffs over a natural harbor. The city itself is a montage of architectural styles, predominantly black towers and buildings dotted with golden-domed temples and pagodas. There is a vast network of docks below with hundreds of ships lashed in against a coming storm. It is everyone’s best guess that the body of water is the Nyr Dyv, and the city is Alhaster.

Riddle suggests that the party teleport to Lordren’s location and take care of him. There is a great deal of discussion, but in the end, everyone agrees. Jane loans Riddle her prayer beads so he can take the whole group in one go, and the entire party prepares for the assault.

When they appear in the well-appointed room, both Jane and Archie hold their actions for Long Fist to take the lead. The half-ogre blasts out his aura of justice, swiftly activates it on the enemy, and hits the unsuspecting bastard hard enough to knock him to another world. After a moment of stunned silence in which everyone privately contemplates What Just Happened, Long Fist picks up the body and Riddle takes everyone back to Diamond Lake.

Despite the various personal reactions to this action and all the possible consequences of it, Riddle questions the corpse. He apparently served someone named Mistress Lashanna, who dwells in Old Alhaster, overlooking the Harbor. He doesn’t know much about her plans and associates except that the Faceless One is an acolyte of Vecna (the “Whispering Tyrant”). The party gathers Lordren’s things and Long Fist goes off by himself for awhile, and all told, the 27th of Sunsebb ends on a rather ambiguous note.

Session Forty-Four
In which the Party Hasn’t Claimed Possession of an Artifact for Five Freaking Minutes Before They’re Being Attacked Again, a Warrior Falls and Rises, Knowledge is Gained, and the Kids Really Do Seem to Do All Right for a Change

Godsday, 25 Sunsebb, CY 595 (continued)

As Riddle accepts possession of the powerfully aligned artifact and Jane dispels the sensor, a heavy silence befalls the party. It is almost immediately broken by the appearance of four bone devils materializing in the room. Taking advantage of their ambush tactics, the devils anchor Riddle, Jane, Scar-Eater and Tyrrell to this dimension in green cocoons of ooginess. Then two barbed devils appear in the midst of the group, one of them hissing orders to Riddle to hand over the Rod in the name of Visciannix and maybe the devils will let some of them live.

Never ones to let the terrorists win, the party springs into full combat mode. The bone devils all vanish, foiling Jane’s attempt to flame strike them. Archie soon learns of their complete immunity to fire and very good damage resistance as his arrows pelt off barbs and bone alike. Tyrrell majestically draws the Lightning Sword, scoring a critical sneak attack on his very first attempt! And not even inflicted upon himself! Long Fist gets all smitey, and Riddle moves as far away as he can under the restraints of the dimensional anchor in order to protect the Rod. The party quickly realizes they are particularly ill-equipped to damage these guys, especially since moving in to attack face to face will get you stung, grappled, impaled or some scintillating combination thereof. Scar-Eater unleashes doom scarabs and shocking grasps and Jane, laying on the ground and casting defensively as her life force ebbs away, suddenly stalagmites one of them, but as usual, the real difference of the day is Riddle’s dismissal spell. Oh, and the breath of life scroll he uses to revive Long Fist when the half-ogre is, valiantly, grappled to death by a barbed devil. Jane refocuses her efforts to healing folks and keeping them in the fight until they can whittle away enough enemies that the remaining devils decide to teleport away.

As they recover, Long Fist informs the others that Visciannix is a pit fiend who is believed to be a high-ranking duke in service to Asmodeus, Lord of Hell. Nice. Maybe Asmodeus already has the other six pieces of the Rod and maybe he wouldn’t mind letting the party borrow them in order to destroy the hordes of Chaos.

Jane uses a lay of the land spell to try to understand the tomb’s location in relation to the rest of the world (particularly Diamond Lake and the Great Rift Canyon). She determines that they are about 60 miles south of the central part of the Rift, but about 120 miles from Illthain’s treasure (according to their map) at the western end of the Rift. They are also about 70 miles north of her other two preciouses on the north shore of the Nyr Dyv. Those two spots seems to be in or around Alhaster, an independent city-state rumored to be protected by devils or demons and such, under the rule of Prince Zeech.

Riddle teleports the group a few at a time, back to their mining shack hideaway in the Cairn Hills, where they pass a blissfully uneventful night.

Waterday, 26 Sunsebb CY 595

The party heads to Diamond Lake, and are humbled by the devastation wrought upon the town by Illthain. They go to the garrison and find two green boys on guard duty, who are quick to inform them that they have absolutely no idea what’s happening. No one that has been sent out since the attack has returned unless they were being dropped into the Keep from above by the dragon. They confirm that Allustan is still alive, though the tide of town sentiment seems to be against him. The Mayor was eaten in front of the town, and Smenk is still running his mines. Neither Dourstone’s mine nor the silver mine is currently operational. They don’t know what to do, or if Greyhawk even knows what’s happened.

Riddle and Archie reassure the boys that the party will do everything they can to restore some order to the devastation, while Tyrrell intimidates them into making sure that no one attempts to exact revenge on Allustan for what happened here. Before heading into the town, Archie tells the boys to make sure the garrison is ready to accept any homeless refugees that can make their way there.

The party finds Allustan organizing what he can of his remaining possessions out of the rubble that used to be his house. He is in his usual self-abusing state of mind, and though he is relieved to learn that Illthain has been defeated, he worries for the immediate future of Diamond Lake. They are disorganized and leaderless.

Riddle uses a magically-enhanced whisper to call the survivors of Diamond Lake to the garrison at sunset, and the party spends the afternoon doing everything they can to make sure those who show up are receptive to Riddle’s plan for putting Allustan in charge of the reconstruction of the town. Riddle talks to people individually while Tyrrell scopes the lay of the land; Scar-Eater and Archie bully folks into a change in attitude; Jane and Long Fist focus their efforts on gathering food and restoring some semblance of normalcy to the refugees.

As Riddle prepares to speak to the crowd, his friends continue doing all they can to aid him. Jane tends the wounds of those who show up. Archie entertains the crowd with his heretofore unrevealed penchant for gymnastics. Long Fist touches the spiritual side of the community. Tyrrell reminds people that Allustan was essential in helping the party defeat Illthain.

Riddle’s address is truly a speech to be remembered through the Ages. By the end of it, the entire town accepts Allustan as their leader and once again…a brief parting of the clouds above lets the party know they have managed to make a difference for the better in the churning of the Ages.

Riddle sends an appraisal and update of the Diamond Lake situation to Ermaldon Webb in Greyhawk, who replies, ”Garrison should remain. Reinforcements on their way along with support units. Neff will suffice until elections are appropriate.”

And thus endeth the day.

Session Forty-Three
In Which the Storm Comes (and Takes It), Enemies of Lovecraftian Proportions are Summarily Dismissed, a Tomb is Opened, and the Party Passes Seven Days in Less Than a Year for the First Time Evar

Godsday, 18 Sunsebb CY 595

Where were we? Oh, right. As usual, all hell was breaking loose. Go figure! This time, hell decides to appear as two enormous storm clouds rising from the mists below and bolts of lightning blasting from the walls themselves. Riddle and Athena are immediately hit with bolts and they brush off a good deal of damage while their riders, Tyrrell and Long Fist respectively, manage to hang on despite the shocking blows.

Since these storm clouds take up large chunks of room beneath the party and have the reach of dire giraffes, they get a lot of free swings as the party attempts to reach places of safety from which to fight them. Archie discovers the particularly stylish means of hanging upside down from the ceiling while Riddle and Athena absorb the free attacks in order to drop their friends on platforms. Scar-Eater’s knowledge of the Planes allows him to inform the others all they need to know about fighting the lightning elementals, and to be honest it’s a bit of a buzzkill.

Luckily, Riddle is in possession of what will henceforth be known as The Best Resource in the Party, a.k.a., the dismissal spell. He knocks one of the lightning elementals home just a few seconds into the battle so the party may focus on just one until he can get the other one. Jane, now squeezed onto a narrow ledge on the far side of the room, sends a fire snake after the remaining elemental as Long Fist lunges at it, Archie fires at it, and Scar-Eater blasts it with a scorching ray or two. When his turn comes round again at last, Riddle dismisses the other elemental and the party gathers on the tallest column as they had originally intended. Riddle places the seal in the indentation and the column rises through the ceiling into an immense chamber lined with magnificent reliefs depicting an epic funeral procession. A white sarcophagus floats ten feet above the floor, carved with the image of a sleeping Wind Duke, swords crossed over his chest.

There are, however, still more guardians left to overcome. The first predictably squelches into existence between the party and the sarcophagus. It is merely a mass of oozing, toothy tentacles and an enormous gaping mouth.

Riddle manages to avoid vomiting all over the nice white room and attempts his old standby, but the thing refuses to be dismissed. The effrontery! Riddle taps into his own knowledge to inform the others that this is a qlippoth, some sort of creature of the Abyss that even pre-dates demons. What is it doing here?! Basically it is one large intestinal sac and if the party manages to pierce its flesh it will spew digestive acid all over them.

This particular qlippoth, known as a nyogoth, surrounds the party with a cloud of acid and closes with Scar-Eater in the front. No one can see or move very efficiently, and ranged attacks have become impossible. Everyone feels a horrific wash of mental disturbance, but all escape whatever its full and probably disastrous effects are.

Archie maneuvers out of the cloud and sees a second creature in the room. The entire party is being hit by effects from all directions and as Archie fires a mostly useless arrow at the new creature, everyone feels the screaming inside their minds, accompanied by a strange sloshing sound.

Tyrrell tumbles to his right but reaches the corner before he reaches the edge of the fog. Jane dispels the cloud so everyone can see the thirteen-foot-long, half-ton sack of flesh boasting a single five-foot eyeball, an impressive ten-foot mouth, and yes, of course, even more tentacles.

Long Fist steps up to initiate an aura of justice that catches Jane, Riddle, and Scar-Eater and lets them make use of his smite ability. He also, quite wisely, protects himself from evil with his wand. Scar-Eater wastes no time making use of the delicious smite and smacks the nyogoth with his flail.

Riddle, now staggered from having to use his alter fortune spell to fend off the many effects from these foes, attempts to dismiss the nyogoth defensively, but loses the spell in the effort. Scar-Eater takes the nyogoth’s return attack, which only makes him angry, but before he understands what is happening both he and Tyrrell are confused by a spell-like ability from the second creature.

Archie continues attacking the eyeball monster even though his arrows have little effect other than distraction. Tyrrell, confused, stabs himself. Jane sighs and gives Long Fist, Riddle and Scar-Eater free attacks on the nyogoth. After pinging the nyogoth for a good chunk of damage, Scar-Eater whomps himself with his flail.

Perhaps amused by the displays of confusion, the nyogoth misses Scar-Eater completely as the eyeball waves its tentacles comically and fills the room with a chaotic cascade of dizzying, sickening lights. Scar-Eater, Archie, Long Fist and Riddle all take some damage.

Finding himself not confused for the moment, Tyrrell drinks a potion to heal himself and Jane produces flame but the creature’s resistance to magic makes it fizzle harmlessly. Long Fist smites the eyeball.

Riddle dismisses the nyogoth as the eyeball slams Scar-Eater into unconsciousness with its myriad spiny tentacles. Archie steps up his game with deadly aim and pelts the eyeball with more distracting arrows. Tyrrell stabs himself again, and Long Fist finishes off the eyeball with an impressive concussive smite.

At last, the party is alone with the sarcophagus. Riddle flies to the top of the sarcophagus, says, “ Aaqa, Icosiol, Pesh,” and places the seal into the indentation there. The sarcophagus floats gently to the ground. The air around it shivers momentarily and the top half fades away. The winds rise, and Jane and Long Fist are pushed back against the walls as the others hold their ground.

Suddenly a brilliant blue light explodes from the coffin, blinding everyone momentarily. When their vision clears, Riddle is on the ground, writhing and gibbering in that strange sibilant tongue they have come to associate with the Vaati, the same series of phrases over and over again. Jane approaches him. His eyes are open, but they do not see. Blue light pours from them. Suddenly his voice shifts to a chorus of seven and he speaks different words, which Scar-Eater strains to remember phonetically for later translation. Riddle collapses again, reverting to the previous repetition in his own voice.

Inside the sarcophagus are the dusty remains of what the party assumes was the great Wind Duke Icosiol. Two brilliant swords are crossed within, a longsword and a shortsword. The mithril longsword has a long hilt set with six pale grape-sized sapphires and its edges are so perfect they hurt the eyes to look upon them. The mithril shortsword crackles with electricity and its pommel is capped with a brialliant star sapphire. There is also a heavy platinum ring set with four sapphires, and at the feet of the sarcophagus: a fifteen-inch segment of a cracked rod that appears to be made of mithril and, like a geode, is lined with perfectly formed crystals.

In the meantime, Riddle’s condition is unchanged. The others have a choice to make.

Jane can tell he is improving, albeit very slowly. They decide to remain in the tomb until he returns to consciousness.

Waterday, 19 Sunsebb – Godsday, 25 Sunsebb, CY 595

They wait seven days. Jane (thanks to her ring of sustenance) has no need to eat, but the others go quite hungry subsisting on the scant remnants of trail rations left in the party’s possession. Fortunately, Long Fist is able to create water every day.

Riddle wakes up, having no memory of the time he was unconscious. He sees only his hungry and fatigued companions, who explain what happened and repeat his phrases to him for translation. Most of the time, he was chanting that old standby, “My soul for Order. My service for the Empire. My shell but an instrument. My life for the war,” but the other was new:

“Death was only a beginning.
The way was closed,
Yet a champion of the blood was Chosen.
The War continues;
Warrior, Herald:
The path to the future
Lies in the past.
Seek that which has gone before,
And with these weapons
Smite the agents of Chaos,
Wheresoever you may find them.”

With a deep sense of awe but only a fragment of understanding, the party urges Riddle to take the Sword of Aaqa and the Ring of Icosiol for his own. Tyrrell takes the Lightning Sword.

With no other member of the party willing to carry it, and with the weight of destiny on his shoulders, Riddle also takes the seventh piece of the Rod of Law (now the Rod of Seven Parts), a mighty and terrible artifact, as his own. He is just suggesting hiding it somehow when he notices that they are, once again, being scyred upon. Jane dispels the sensor, but likely too late.

Session Forty-Two
In Which Many Undead Creatures are Destroyed, and the Mysterious Forces of “Alignment” Threaten the Party in New and Exciting Ways…

Earthday, 17 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

The Marquis continues, “You appear to have had quite a journey getting down here.” The party pretends not to notice or care that they are filthy and covered with blood, but the Marquis prestidigitates the mess from them anyway with an elegant, “If I may?”

Tyrrell nods to the chess game in progress. “Who’s winning?”

“I have yet to lose to my friend here,” the Marquis answers. “This is merely an exercise in new maneuvers.” Archie asks after the stakes but the Marquis replies that they are merely killing time. “’Til we move on,” he notes.

Archie asks, “To…?”

“Places above,” the Marquis says. He speaks a few words in the Infernal tongue (he finds it ‘more precise’), which only Riddle and Tyrrell understand. He notes the hue of Riddle’s skin, pale despite the fact that he lives on the surface.

Tyrrell tells him the sun is their friend, but the Marquis has no qualms with the sun. In fact, he seeks the surface.

Riddle cuts through the conversation by bluntly informing the Marquis that he believes the Marquis has something of the party’s. “We have never met, have we? How is this possible?” Riddle looks for a response, knowing through his spell that the object in question is still on the Marquis’ person. “You are here seeking something from me?” the Marquis asks.

Tyrrell further clarifies, “We’re seeking something, and you happen to be the person who has it.”

The Marquis seeks news of the surface and a way out. Riddle asks if he is willing to trade, information and an exit strategy for the crystal key. “I may be,” the Marquis says, but only if the party has anything of interest to him. He knows very little of the surface world and especially desires news of cataclysmic events such as the resurgence of horrible monstrosities. “They presage and portend a time to come that interests me and my friends. Do you know that we live in a time of prophecy?” he asks. “Come now, we should not treat each other like enemies.” He instructs the horde of drow zombies to move back.

Riddle continues to push the negotiations to trade the seal for information, including revealing that an ulgurstasa has recently been raised and released in Greyhawk, but soon enough the Marquis is able to surmise that the party has cleared the tombs above and opened a means of egress for himself and his friends. Riddle casts a spell to bind the Marquis to the Material Plane and a battle ensues. The mohrgs immediately cross the river towards their closest target, Tyrrell, who arms himself with his undead bane crossbow bolts. Scar-Eater heads for the Marquis while zombies flood towards the party. Jane flies to Tyrrell’s position and unleashes a snake of fire through a mass of zombies and the mohrgs. Archie peppers the mohrgs with arrows as Riddle sweeps in to enhance Scar-Eater’s flail with disruption.

Tyrrell takes advantage of the ranger’s distracting attack to deliver a deathblow on one of the mohrgs, but the other one responds with a harsh tongue attack, leaving the rogue vulnerable and paralyzed at the skeleton’s feet. Long Fist, under a spell protecting him from evil, floats to the ground and gets into the action with a burst of positive energy, cutting through zombies left and right. The Marquis dispels Riddle’s flying enchantment, but Scar-Eater soars over the Marquis’ head and thunks him, only to face the disappointment that this particular creature is too powerful to be disrupted by Riddle’s spell. The remaining zombies swarm Scar-Eater and Riddle but are more of a nuisance than an actual threat.

Jane finishes calling lightning but delves into her reserves to also stone shape the paralyzed Tyrrell into a safe shell so she can shift back into her eagle form and fly across the river to a more strategic position. Archie makes an attempt to take out the ghoul light lantern but his arrows fail to damage it, so he returns to pelting the remaining mohrg with fiery death. Riddle, surrounded by foes, tries to shuffle them off with lightning, and while several are badly scorched, none of them drop. Long Fist continues flooding the battlefield with positive energy and sending zombies back to the grave. With a vile grin, the Marquis curses Scar-Eater, who spends the remainder of the fight unable to act. Jane blasts the remaining mohrg with lightning as Archie takes over the attack on the Marquis, and the zombies continue their harmless attacks on Scar-Eater and Riddle (who manages to turn off the ghoul lantern and carry it away).

Long Fist shifts his position again to vaporize all of the remaining zombies and the troublesome mohrg. Though the Marquis escapes the worst of the blast, the positive energy reveals the first glimpse of his true bestial nature, leaving him growling and snarling at the party. He dispels Archie’s flying spell and sends the ranger into the water below, though he manages to avoid being swept away. Archie crawls to the bank as Jane dispels the shimmering field of energy surrounding the Marquis and Riddle blasts the ghoul with a column of fire and radiance.

Long Fist, now able to confront the ghoul directly, steps up and smites the beast with his powerful fists. The Marquis responds with a bolt of lightning directly to the half-ogre’s face. Jane casts snake’s swiftness on Long Fist so he may deliver another smiting blow, destroying the ghoul and unleashing its nasty inner spirit. With a soul-rending scream, the body collapses, its chest rips open, and sickly green ghost form of the Marquis rises…only to be immediately shredded by five arrows from the bow of the undead-hating Archie.

The party collects the Marquis’ loot, including an enchanted cloak, a magical greatsword, a ring of protection, the lantern, and, most importantly, the key to Icosiol’s tomb. He divines the secret to using the key: ”Speak the password to transport the seal. Present the seal before the door. Place the seal in the pillar. And return the seal to Icosiol.”

Out of curiosity, Jane tears the skin from the flesh of the Marquis to create another treasure map.

Godsday, 18 Sunsebb CY 595

With Archie’s new cloak, he and Athena can fly up to the secret door while Riddle dimension doors the rest of the party to the same spot. There is a great deal of searching and climbing, but the party grows increasingly concerned that the area they are traversing does not seem scaled to Wind Dukes. Eventually all the climbing leads to a smooth stone wall and most of the party is really starting to hate this place. However, Tyrrell manages to find a secret door and a trip lever.

Through the door is a 15-foot-deep, 30-foot-wide room of finished stonework. 50-foot-tall doors stand impressively at the opposite end, carved with innumerable runes, with no visible handles or hinges. Riddle is able to interpret most of the runes as a complicated series of curses against Chaos, with this warning most prominent: ”Dare not enter the tomb of Icosiol, Lord of Aaqa, Wandering Duke, and Bearer of the Rod of Law. His righteous peace and glorious memory are best left to the ages, and his enemies are best left forever sleeping.”

Tyrrell attempts to search the doors for traps, but as he crosses the threshold of the room, he feels an intense antipathy invade his mind and a heavy weight slow his physical movement. Riddle notes that generals of the forces of Law were often buried with their enemies, or relics of their enemies, in order to harness their power for the protection of burial sites.

None of the others who enter the room (Scar-Eater stays behind with Tyrrell) feel the same antipathy or force. Riddle removes the seal from his pouch and four blue scimitar-wielding elementals tear a whole through the fabric of space to enter the room. The party fights, but it’s only seconds before one of the elementals summons a stone wall to separate Riddle and three of the djinn from the rest of the party. Archie and Long Fist dispatch the remaining djinn on their side as Riddle teleports himself back to the group. The wall doesn’t seem to have the slightest hindering effect on the djinn, so they group suspects it is an illusion. Riddle dismisses another enemy just after Scar-Eater walks through the wall, which Jane then dispels with haste. The party quickly eliminates the remaining djinni.

Riddle approaches the doors and utters the passwords, “ Pesh, Aaqa, Icosiol.” He presents the seal to the doors. Despite a jolt of energy he is able to raise the seal above his head, and there is a long pause before they hear the distant sound of hundreds of gears falling into place and the doors open in front of Riddle.

The room beyond is a vast open space, with seven stone columns, each slightly taller than the next, rising slowly from the entrance to a small platform at the far end of the room before a second set of enormous doors. No floor is visible – in its place is a pit filled at a depth of eighty feet with glowing blue fog. Swirling patterns of wind and lightning dance and howl along the walls and ceiling of the chamber, filling the room with a tumultuous roar. Each of the seven columns appears slightly different. The closest column’s top is level with the ground in the entrance room. The next column is two feet higher. The third rises all the way up to the ceiling fifty feet above. The fourth is three feet higher than the second one, but rotates slowly in place. The fifth column’s upper surface seems to be covered with a thick layer of what looks like tar, and is about one foot higher than the last. The sixth column is two feet higher than the previous one but is made of a lighter colored stone. A larger column, nearly twice the diameter of the others, stands to the left of the main row. Jane spots some sort of indentation in the center of its top.

Riddle flies and dimension hops his way to just above the largest pillar and places the seal in the indentation. The entire pillar starts rising towards the ceiling. Riddle leaves the seal in place and dimension hops back to the party. The column rises to the ceiling and then goes back down. Riddle returns, removes and replaces the seal, and when the pillar starts rising again, he teleports away with the seal in hand. The instant he disapparates from the top of the rising column, it stops in place.

Through a combination of spells and effects, the entire party flies into the chamber, planning to crowd onto the top of the platform with the seal in place to see if that will allow them all to gain entrance to Icosiol’s tomb, but as soon as they enter the room, all hell breaks loose. As usual. Until next time…

Session Forty-One
In Which We Go Into the River of Blood

Moonday, 17 Sunsebb CY 595

Standing at the edge of the room with the River of Blood running through it, Jane casts water breathing on the entire party. They lower a rope into the River to keep Jane from being swept away by the current and she enters the room, naked, prepared to perform another ritual in her effort to understand her power. However, as soon as she steps off the path onto the earthen floor, there is a shuddering rumble and several enormous squat creatures that appear to be made of stone emerge from the earth as if it were water. A brief battle ensues, and the party is victorious over most of the guardians, with Riddle dismissing many, and Scar-Eater sending another into the River where it is swept away.

The room clear, Jane dives into the River of Blood and casts her spell.

She submerges herself into the heavy red liquid and sinks to the riverbed, ten feet below. She opens her mouth and drinks in the substance as she opens her pores to take it in through her skin. She learns at once that the liquid is not blood, but rather water, rich with heavy minerals from a large deposit of deep earth ore far upstream. These minerals draw many unusual creatures to the river, including the six elemental lifeforms that had been feasting in the earth nearby until very recently. These minerals and their corrosive nature allowed the river to carve a deep, deep cavern, over a thousand feet into the earth only about one hundred and fifty feet downstream. Down, down the water falls, and where the waterfall ends and the river levels off once again, two dozen walking corpses desecrate the river with their unnatural presence. Bathing in the River of Blood that is not blood, as it flows over her and through her, Jane awakens to the staggering amount of water that is within herself. She’d always considered blood to be the body’s essence, the liquid giving it power, the vessel of life. And yes, it does have certain properties and certain powers and certain providence, but these powers are not all that maintain the flesh. Her spirit is tied as surely to the vast volume of water contained within her cells as it is to the blood within her veins. And she now realizes that her magic, her particular power to knit wounds and nurture the flesh, is drawn from her mastery over the healing element of water, not from the arcane magics of the blood. Jane realizes that she has always felt herself limited in her healing abilities because she has ignored where her own powers have sway, sublimating herself within a childish ignorance of the living body. But the body is water. And she is water. And water is a natural element. And the elements are hers to control. The Daughter of the Storm is far from the sky, over a thousand feet below the surface of the earth, and hundreds and hundreds of miles from her so-distant source, yet she still has power and still the elements acknowledge her rule.

Jane returns to the others and describes the interior landscape down the river, and the walking corpses waiting far below. Riddle and Tyrrell fly down to scout the waterfall and the drop ahead. Riddle uses locate object in an effort to detect the key to Icosiol’s tomb, and Tyrrell makes himself invisible in case of trouble. They are soon set upon by six wind warriors with crossbows and longswords, and must escape before they are overpowered. Riddle returns both of them by means of dimension door.

The party heals up and all find means of flying down to confront the wind warriors and in full force make short work of the enemy. Riddle soon knows the object he seeks is below the party, and they soar down four hundred feet to a massive lake of blood. They spot albino crabs scuttling about. They go through another set of narrows and zoom down to another lake, hundreds of feet down, moving diagonally. They pass a section where the water splits briefly, and then a misty area, and then through a very narrow area where they have to actually go through the water. Jane notes that the rock here is volcanic – nothing like anything found near Diamond Lake, the Cairn Hills, or Greyhawk.

As they clear the misty areas, Archie catches sight of a ten-foot by ten-foot outline of a door in the middle of a bare cliff wall. Wary of how much flying time everyone has left available to them, the party takes a moment to investigate the door. Tyrrell finds no traps, but a cunningly hidden trip lever, and goes inside. He finds a winding stairway heading up into the earth. Riddle notes that the object they seek is still down. Unable to hear anything, they decide to leave the secret passage for the time being, and continue. Tyrrell makes sure no signs of their investigation remain behind.

The red waterfall finally crashes to a pool of jagged rocks into a large cave. There is relatively slow-moving reddish water, and lit with pale greenish-yellow light felecting off the walls and catching crystals on the ceiling, making it appear as if the cavern were open to the night sky. Far at the end of the cavern is a man with black hair and a black goatee. He is dressed in finery and sits staring at a dragonchess board across from a morg. Another morg stands behind the first, and the cavern is otherwise littered with drow zombies, twenty-two of them, to be exact. “Well, hello,” says the man. “May we help you?”

The man’s front teeth are filed into sharp points. His tongue is long, black, and slitted. He is clearly not a living creature, however civilized and fully-fleshed. He is what is known as a “true ghoul”: highly intelligent beings with a realm far beneath the earth known as the White Kingdom. Though they share the paralyzing claws and teeth, and rotting bite as normal ghouls, true ghouls have separated their bodies from their spirits and stay on as spectres after they die to either advise the White Kingdom or seek revenge on the thing that killed it. Long Fist notices that these are no shuffling zombies in his entourage, but deadly fast ones. The lantern in the cavern sheds ghoul light, which has a disabling affect on the will and personality of living creatures while making invisibility, displacement, or plain old hiding impossible.

Should be an interesting conversation…

Session Forty
In Which an Old Friend is Rescued, and a Hero Takes a Plunge

Sunday, 16 Sunsebb CY 595, continued

Still in the shadow-stuff covered room, the party chooses the only path they haven’t tried yet, the blue metal doors at the top of a set of stairs. Tyrrell finds them neither trapped nor locked. This is where the extra set of footprints came from.

Inside the room there is a statue of an armored Wind Duke with his left hand on a sword and his right hand shielding his eyes. The statue looks like it is made entirely of gold and has sparkling blue topazes for eyes. Tyrrell eyes the eyes.

This is another shrine, with a beam of light from the ceiling bathing everything in a blue glow. The walls are covered in bas relief of Wind Dukes bowing and soldiers saluting. The carpet is rotting. There is one door in the south wall.

Tyrrell checks the floor out as Archie follows behind, tracking. He picks Allustan’s tracks easily, from the double doors to the southern door, and he also picks up the Other tracks leading in the opposite direction.

Still interested in those gems, Tyrrell searches the statue while Scar-Eater detects magic. The blue light from above is revealed by the spell, as well as the outlines of two of the figures in bas relief on the walls. The party works out that if the topazes are removed, these two golems will break from their meld with stone spell and attack. Riddle reminds everyone, “That is not why we are here.”

Tyrrell moves on to searching the door, detecting a faint smell of ozone. When he opens the door, the party sees the room from Jane’s scrying, with Allustan still frozen in the middle. Riddle proposes that whatever tracked out of this room may have been in the trap when Allustan walked in, and they traded places.

Scar-Eater’s magic detection supports this theory: he tells the others that the traps in the room first detect presence of movement, then fire lightning bolts at anyone in the room, and finally, teleport anyone damaged by the lightning into the temporal stasis sphere in the middle.

Jane attempts to suppress the magic in the room long enough to release Allustan so Riddle can fly in and rescue him, but her spell fails. Exhausted from all of their activity, the party decides to rest.

Moonday, 17 Sunsebb CY 595

Refreshed, the party’s first order of business is creating a treasure map before the time limit to do so expires. Using the wing she cut from Illthain’s corpse, Jane sits with her expensive inks and powdered metals, and begins. The map she draws while in the meditative state of the spells reveals the location of three things Illthain deemed most valuable, and one of them is her lair.

The party then returns to the room Allustan is trapped in for another shot at suppressing the magic long enough for a rescue. With some boosting, Jane succeeds, and Allustan is brought out. He is singed and weak, but can talk. “The last thing I remember is lightning…and now…this next room is trapped!” He claims there was no one within the sphere when he entered the room, but Riddle suggests the old inhabitant may have been invisible. Allustan claims he has been there since the 11th of Sunsebb, and immediately begins asking about the town. “Is it still standing?”

The party tells Allustan that they killed Illthain but haven’t been to Diamond Lake yet. He is glad they killed the dragon and confesses it was what he was hoping to do himself. He came to Icosiol’s tomb in an effort to find a weapon or weapons – perhaps even the Rod of Law itself – to use against Illthain. The more he talks, the more upset he becomes.

He tells the party that the dragon decimated Diamond Lake. Most homes were destroyed, Allustan’s brother Mayor Neff was killed in the public square, and Lieutenant Dobrun Trent lost his life as well. Allustan chastises himself for being hidden in the Whispering Cairn, messing around with the portal, while Illthain destroyed the town.

Allustan explains that all of the wandering dukes carried signet rings that allowed them to ignore the effects of wind and lightning and to transform themselves into lightning. Icosiol also carried two swords: the Sword of Aaqa was a longsword that blew enemies away with winds, and the Lightning Blade was a mithril shortsword that was sheathed in lightning. Icosiol would clash the two swords against each other for additional effects. He adds that the souls of Vaati Wind Lords were said to be tied to the places of their death, though he admits that could just be so much mysticism.

Allustan asks about Eligos, and the party explains that he was murdered. After hearing the circumstances, and Okoral’s odd comment that Manzorian’s estate was not very well guarded for such a powerful wizard, Allustan remarks that Eligos was perhaps too overconfident, and that believing himself safe from harm would be in character. Jane and Riddle share a look, but ask no further questions.

Riddle tells Allustan what happened to him a few days earlier when the Vaati voices chastised him. Allustan claims there are no Vaati gods anymore, that the pantheon was lost with the civilization.

He also explains that while he moved through this complex (apparently avoiding all traps except this last and most vicious one), he simply always seemed to know the right way to go. Though he was unaware of anything acting upon him.

Before leaving to help with the rebuilding of Diamond lake, Allustan gives the party a letter of introduction to Tenser, in case it is ever necessary. He also tells the party that he was being drawn down.

After Allustan departs, Tyrrell uses his wand of unseen servant to move through the lightning room and open the opposite door. Then Riddle dimension doors everyone to the other side, where there are stairs that immediately lead down. Which is, after all, the direction they want to go.

However, once there, they see the stairs only go down five feet before plunging into a gaping pit. Archie and Tyrrell are in an unfortunate position in the teleport, and end up utilizing their strong reflexes to keep from falling in. They are hanging over a straight eighty-foot metallic shaft, with handholds on the wall. The bottom of the floor below sparkles with an intricate pattern of scarlet tiles. They see two passageways. Tyrrell says, “There’s a pit.”

Jane shifts into Athena and flies down the shaft as Riddle floats down with his ring of feather fall. Athena hears a faint but powerful buffeting and crashing sound from the northeast passageway…not unlike a river. When Riddle lands, he tosses a lit coin down the other passage and they see it goes about sixty-five feet before ending in a smooth metal wall.

Suddenly a metal door slams into place over the shaft, leaving only Long Fist and Scar Eater on the stairs above. Below the door, a gushing torrent of blood crashes down on the others. Athena is nearly swept away, but she manages to shift into the larger Bast form while Riddle dimension hops with Archie and Tyrrell to her, then takes them all out to the room on the opposite side of the lightning room.

Unfortunately, this is all happening at the same time Scar-Eater is dimension hopping himself and Long Fist to where they believe the rest of the party still is.

At least Archie notices that Long Fist and Scar-Eater were joining them. Riddle takes them back to the stair so Tyrrell can attempt to disable to trap, but below, Long Fist plunges into the River of Blood, determined to rescue lost friends, and is swept away.

Tyrrell manages to get the door open and allow Scar-Eater to come out, but the River is rising, and they must close it again as Scar-Eater informs them that Long Fist jumped in. “He’s riding the snake,” he says, though clearly shaken.

Acting without hesitation, Riddle casts fly on himself and dimension doors himself to the other side of the door. After riding the river for a time he finds himself in a gargantuan underground chasm. He casts detect object on the handy haversack Long Fist carries, and follows the spell over a huge two-hundred foot waterfall down to a bed of jagged rock. He goes down past that and down another sixty feet where he spots a tiny crevice where the battered and bruised half-ogre crouches, clutching the rocks. Riddle grabs him and flies him back to safety.

All that’s left now is the room with the clockwork gatehouse and the stone bridge over the River of Blood. Tyrrell flies over, avoiding the suspicious bridge. The giant clockwork doors turn out to be an exercise in futility and frustration, with new sets of gears covering others, and as soon as one set is disabled, an identical set of doors appears behind it. And it all leads to a blank wall.

Wondering if they have missed anything, the party returns to Spitgob’s corpse and Riddle casts speak with dead upon it, intent on learning more about the Marquis.

“What is everything you know about the marquis who stole your pretty?” he asks.

Spitgob replies, “He came fleeing from the treasure room, chased by the wraith. Fled to the River of Blood. I was not quick enough to catch it.”

“How did he flee to the River of Blood?” Riddle asks.

“He was flying over the surface, into darkness.”

Riddle asks exactly what he looked like, and Spitgob replies, “He looked human or elven. Very pale. His teeth were filed to long points, his eyes burned orange, he dressed in black finery. Swirling black cloak. A sword nearly as long as him strapped to his back, wands tucked into his belt.”

There are only two questions left. “Had he been trapped in the stasis room?” But Spitgob answers, “Not to my knowledge.”

“How could we track him?” Riddle asks, adding slyly, “To get your pretty back?”

The corpse becomes flustered. “Follow his scent on through the air along the River of Blood?” I do not know! If I knew how to track it, I would!”

Riddle begins to form a plan to cast wind walk on the entire party, to follow the Marquis through the River of Blood.

Session Thirty-Nine
Q. “What’s got two thumbs, no armor, and no shield?” A. Scar-Eater.

Sunday, 16 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

Tyrrell asks the red-scaled guardian down the hall, “What would it take to go past you?”, to which the guardian replies, “Well…you did just slaughter my friend.”

The party explains that dismissing is not the same as “slaughtering”, but he’s understandably angry that he no longer has anyone to talk to. He has been here an awfully long time and it could get quite lonely without company. Riddle offers to dismiss him home as well, and while he seems hesitant, in the end he sticks his head around the corner and Riddle casts the spell on him. The party sincerely hopes both he and Smoughed made it to their home planes and not some random one. Riddle is staggered by his efforts to make the spell work, however, so the party decides to take some rest before moving on.

During the hour, Riddle gets a good look at the Vaati script in the longsword room for the first time. He tells the others the words offer extremely high praise for the Glorious Icosiol, and the Incomparable Army of the Wind Lords. The runes are epic poetry about the Battle of Pesh. Jane suggests they look at the doors that opened onto blank walls earlier, to see if Riddle’s presence among them makes any difference to the tomb’s architecture, but it does not.

After an hour, Riddle is ready to continue exploring the tomb, so Tyrrell returns to the hallway with the large Wind Lord statue, where he soon sets off another deafening trap. To the left, the doors at the end of the corridor are open to a 30-foot-long room filled with super-heated air (which makes sense, since the floors are covered in glowing coals). Riddle casts fly on Tyrrell so he can search the room without touching the floor. He drags a large stone chest back into the hallway and picks the lock. Inside he finds 2,300 gold pieces, a knitted copper drawpurse containing 350 platinum pieces and two large honey-colored topazes worth about 600 gold each, a narrow brass scroll case containing a wand of invisibility, and four thick crystal decanters containing a special efreeti brandy worth about 200 gold pieces per bottle.

Tyrrell goes down the opposite hallway and examines the door. While it is neither trapped nor locked, he does notice that sound does not travel much past the edge of the door. Archie confirms that Allustan’s tracks lead to this door. The rest of the party scooches out of the hallway while Tyrrell opens the doors. The moment he does, the room goes from pitch black to being bathed in purple light. It is a large room with a balcony. Hanging between four chandeliers there is a huge black sphere. Each tier of lights in the chandeliers are tiny carved silvery humanoid wind warriors battling against warriors of Chaos. The wagon wheel spokes of the chandeliers are identical to the talisman of the sphere the party found in the Whispering Cairn a couple of months ago. There are frescoes on the walls of the lower level depicting the same black plate-mailed clockwork creature from before. Tyrrell returns to the party.

When Scar-Eater approaches the threshold of the room, a blazing purple rune appears in the center of the sphere. Scar-Eater recognizes it as the personal symbol of a creature called Bwimb, a general from the para-elemental plane of Ooze, who had been allied with the Queen of Chaos all those years ago. Studying the magic of sphere itself, the best Scar-Eater can come up with is that its purpose is to call sustenance to this chamber.

The clockwork creature itself is a Marut Inevitable, created to confront and destroy those who attempt to defy death. The words coming out of its mouth as it reaches for a large crystal seal (like the one Spitgob wanted) are “Pesh”, “ Aaqa”, and “Icosiol”, in that order.

Tyrrell enters the room to search the floor for traps and the next thing anyone knows, he is being grappled by a gargantuan black pudding. He manages to keep it from eating through his items but its acid is biting into him terribly.

Scar-Eater responds quickly, dimension hopping Tyrrell away and turning invisible. Archie tears into it with an arrow…only to create another black pudding by splitting the first one in half. Gulp. Archie wisely stops firing and delves into his knowledge of oozes and puddings. “Get out of there!” Riddle yells to Scar-Eater while preparing to close the doors of the room. Jane and Long Fist hurry to heal Tyrrell while the first pudding lashes out at Scar-Eater, despite the fact that he can’t be seen. When he reappears to the party a moment later, it is without his armor or shield.

Scar-Eater tries to extract himself from the room with a dimension hop but he can’t concentrate on both the grapple and the spell and it fails. Tyrrell draws the wand of produce flame and deals some damage to it. Archie starts yelling out facts about oozes: “Piercing and slashing don’t do anything to it except split it in two, and it’s got blindsight to sixty feet!” Jane begins to call lightning.

Riddle teleports himself, Scar-Eater, and Long Fist safely out of the way and Tyrrell tumbles forward to shut the doors. They come up with a plan to pull the doors open with rope from a location out of the range of its blindsight so Jane can pelt the oozes with lightning bolts until they are dead. And that’s exactly what happens.

Riddle graciously hands his armor over to Scar-Eater, and Long Fist similarly hands over the blinding shield, so the party can move on and investigates the doors on the upper balconies. The first leads to a small well-appointed room that apparently is the tomb of Icosiol’s favorite courtesan, Marisella. There are ashes in a nastily-trapped urn (likely hers), and several small checks. Inside them Tyrrell finds a wand of eagle’s splendor that Long Fist takes, three dusty tablets bearing a love poem to Marisella, some dissolving silk gowns covered in hundreds of small pearls and turquoises (which Tyrrell harvests), and a spectacular platinum necklace worth about 5,000 gold pieces. Jane asks Riddle if he thinks it’s all right to take these things, and he responds to the effect that if the coin will help the cause, he doesn’t think anyone can afford to be sentimental.

The party returns to following Allustan’s footsteps through the opposite door. The hall goes twenty feet and then slopes steeply down, into darkness below. They move down the hall until they begin to see a room bathed in pale light ahead. It is rectangular with many columns, lit by two wheel-shaped chandeliers. The entire room is covered with thick, greasy, ropy cords and strands of shadowstuff, as though something from that Plane has used it as a lair. There are blue doors atop a short flight of stairs across the way, and single doorways to the north and south. The southern door is the only one not guarded by longsword-wielding statues. Tyrrell searches the entire room.

Behind the north door, Tyrrell hears a low rushing sound like a river. When he opens the door, his suspicion is confirmed. He sees a stone bridge poised over a rushing river of blood…just like the one mentioned by the Vaati when they chastised Riddle a few days ago. The pilings of the bridge are eroded, and the arches are visibly barely holding. On the other side there is a fortified gatehouse with two huge 15-foot doors covered in clockwork gears. Tyrrell closes the door.

The southern door is not trapped, and it looks like the locking mechanism has been cleverly disabled using tools of a manufacture and style he is not familiar with. Curious, Archie checks the tracks around the room, and sure enough, picks up a set of non-Allustan tracks heading to the door. They seem to be from the same time frame as Allustan’s tracks. Archie wonders aloud if they don’t belong to the Marquis that Spitgob mentioned before.

Tyrrell opens the southern door. It is a long-abandoned shrine, covered in dust. He sees a glimpse of some banded mail and a sword rack filled with rotted hilts and blade detritus. In the wall above the shrine there are two small niches. In one sits a statue of a regal Wind Duke, and the other is empty. Something stolen, perhaps. There is no time to ponder it, however, as a dread wraith squelches out of the wall and attacks Tyrrell. It announces, in Vaati, that “no more shrine treasures shall be stolen by the foot soldiers,” in the middle of the brief and brutal battle with the party.

After the fight, Scar-Eater takes the +3 electricity resistance banded mail so he can at least give riddle back his mithril armor. Archie picks up the other tracks in this room, but they lead nowhere.

Session Thirty-Eight
In Which the Party Ends Up Back in the Same Room They Started In

Sunday, 16 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

The party heals itself up a bit before moving into the longsword sculpture room. Tyrrell peeks into the room. It is a 40-foot-high temple-like chamber with carved stone pillars and those strange longsword clusters. Flanking the doors to the north, south, and east are ten-foot-tall carved stone images of Wind Duke figures carrying longswords, and running along the walls are little openings just a few inches deep. Within each are small silver basins. The walls have an undulating effect like flowing wind. Twisting runes wind all along the room where the walls meet the ceiling. Tyrrell spies, clinging to the ceiling above one of the doors, a spider as big as a house with a strangely humanoid head, dripping with shadows. “Shadows shouldn’t drip,” Tyrrell thinks, but doesn’t say. It is just staring at him, and he thinks further about ducking out of sight.

Scar-Eater moves his dancing lights into the chamber, causing the spider to shriek, “This is the lair of the Walker Across the Threshold!” before it squelches into the shadows and disappears. Archie, still under the effect of Riddle’s true seeing spell, peers into the room but sees nothing on either the Ethereal or Material Planes.

The spider reappears and Tyrrell blasts it with his wand of ray of enfeeblement, and though he hits it, it does not penetrate the creature’s resistance to magic.

Archie fires at it with great difficulty due to the winds in the tunnel he is still standing in. One shot hits it with particular force and it shrieks again. Still angry about the wand, however, the spider attacks Tyrrell and pulls him closer, setting off some trap that causes hurricane force winds to push Tyrrell into one of the longsword clusters. Tyrrell manages to hold his ground, however. As Long Fist moves into the room the spider cries, “My lair, my lair! I am the Walker Across the Threshold. Mine, MINE!” Long Fist lunges at it with his spear but only manages to damage it a little bit. Tyrrell tries to escape the spider’s grip but can’t, so Scar-Eater dimension hops him away and blasts it with a couple scorching rays. Jane and Riddle both attempt to cast spells in the windy hallway and fail, so Riddle teleports the both of them into the chamber.

Archie tumbles in on his own and nails the spider again with a single shot, but the spider keeps clawing at Tyrrell and escapes with him into the Plane of Shadow.

The others are left enemy-less and wondering what to do. Perhaps feeling frustratingly helpless, Archie smashes one of the silver basins in the wall and suddenly the whole room fills with a living tapestry depicting a titanic battle in which a towering Wind Duke steps over a hill with a clockwork humanoid in black armor at his side. The Duke holds up a crystal square in one hand, and the Rod of Law in the other. A blast shoots across the battlefield, knocking all of the creatures of Chaos to the ground. Archie fights off the poison gas that is released with the vision.

Long Fist announces to the empty air, “We have not come here in conquest of your lair, but to rescue a friend.”

The spider returns, claiming Tyrrell has promised him four horses. “Upon their arrival I will feast. And then the Corner Walker will release your hostage.”

Jane summons five horses, but then the spider also wants the party to find him the “crystal pretty” which had been ‘stolen by the Marquis of the River’ (when pressed to confirm whether it had been stolen from him or from this tomb the spider gets cagey…) and to give it something else of value in exchange. Archie offers his masterwork longsword but the spider is not interested in it. He eyes Long Fist’s magical shield and says, “Make it glow, make it glow!” So Long Fist makes it glow. It is not blinded by the effect, but it does seem to want it very badly.

Concerned about the spider’s growing greed and questionable trustworthiness, Riddle casts mark of doom upon it before it can take the shield from Long Fist. The spider is enraged that it cannot eat the horses with this curse upon it. Riddle points out that it likewise can’t harm Tyrrell without hurting itself, and that all the spider has to do is return their friend and the curse will be removed. The spider is no longer interested in bargaining, however, and disappears.

When the spider returns he is furthermore angry that the horses seem to have disappeared, and very angry about everything having to do with the party in general. He reveals his name to be Spitgob, and he wants Riddle. Riddle agrees to go with him. Tyrrell is returned, and before the spider flees back to the Plane of Shadow again, he informs the party, “I will await the return of my pretty.”

After explaining that horses were the best he could come up with in the terrifying situation he was in, and after getting healed by Jane, Tyrrell methodically searches and removes all the traps in the room, setting a couple off in the process.

Dipping into his knowledge of history, Scar-Eater tells the others that the crystal thing is very likely the personal glyph and sigil of Icosiol. It was supposedly placed in his final resting place and is said to be the key to his true tomb.

Archie notes Allustan’s tracks in the longsword chamber, but the party decides to exhaust all of the other options first. Several of the doors open into blank walls. Jane wonders if they require a certain moral proclivity to pass through, but if that’s the case, no one present has it so they must move on. After watching Tyrrell duck and weave through a room with collapsing columns, Jane is more certain that her guess is correct.

Eventually all options besides Allustan’s path are exhausted, so they try that door. It opens into a corridor that leads to a four-way intersection lit by six flickering orange and reddish lanterns around an eight-foot-tall statue on a four-foot pedestal. The statue seems to depict either justice or war, no one in the party is sure which. There is a slightly brighter, more reddish glow from around the east corner up ahead. Tyrrell sets off an alarm trap and is deafened and staggered for a time. Once the deafness passes he hears a door opening from around that corner and a voice calls, “Hello there? Who’s here? Come come. All right then. Well?” Tyrrell feels waves of heat coming from that direction. He takes a marble and rolls it down the hallway.

The voice seems amused, in a pretentious, upper-crusty, likable yet untrustworthy way. “Now don’t tell me a child found its way in here. My good man, do show yourself, won’t you? We all know you’re there. Don’t make me come around the corner. Last thing you want to see is me coming around the corner. No, no, Smoughed, I’ve got this one.”

After some more brief discourse the party gathers that the voice and “Smoughed” are guarding this corner under some kind of contractual obligation.

Meanwhile, Riddle dismisses himself from the Plane of Shadow. Materializing in the longsword chamber in Riddle’s wake is one seriously pissed off spider.

The party attacks it as it grabs Riddle again and tries to return with him, but Riddle manages to stay behind. All the while, the guardian is calling from the hallway, “I say, what’s going on out there?” Archie asks what he knows about spiders, and there is some discussion with the guardian about what would happen if they came around the corner, all of it very vague and not reassuring. The spider reappears and the party continues pelting it with what they’ve got. Scar-Eater, very cleverly, attempts to dimension hop it into the room with the collapsing columns, but the columns don’t appear particularly bothered by the spider’s ethical tendencies. The guardian, in the meantime, has had enough and announces it’s time to see what’s going on out here. “Smoughed, you go first,” he says, and a few seconds later, Jane is clipped and singed by the approaching fire elemental. Behind the fire elemental, they witness the guardian, a creature with a humanoid torso covered in red scales and a giant snake’s tail.

Riddle dismisses the fire elemental before it can burn them all to death even as the spider tries to tear him to shreds. Archie shoots several arrows into the spider, finally killing it before it can cause them anymore trouble.

Session Thirty-Seven
“Bring me the head of Illthain…”

Starday, 15 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

Having wrapped everything up with the Greyhawk Watch, the party gets their desperately-needed rest. In the morning, while Jane prepares her spells, Long Fist visits the temple of Heironeous and Riddle and Tyrrell go shopping for equipment and a scroll of greater teleportation. Tyrrell attempts to find out anything he can about Lordren, but comes up with nothing to show for it.

While at the Temple, Long Fist has the unholy club destroyed and, for a fee, communes with Heironeous. Most of his questions are personal in nature, but he does uncover some important information about Allustan and Illthain that will impact the party’s next steps.

In the meantime, Scar-Eater digs through his own knowledge about copper dragons, assuming that is what Illthain actually is. Jane also scrys Allustan and in the water, a circular room appears. The floor slopes downward to the center from all directions like a funnel. Around the walls are horizontal bands of geometric patterns very much like the patterns that lined the opening corridors of the Whispering Cairn, but here it is more pristine, newer. At the bottom of the funnel there is a sparkling globe of crackling lightning enclosing a motionless figure – Allustan. A metallic spike protruding from the ceiling touches the globe.

When the party convenes again, Long Fist relates what he learned in the commune. He says Allustan is still alive, but that he is not in Diamond Lake, and that Illthain is “very nearby” Diamond Lake. When he asked if the party’s next step in the path towards stopping the Age of Worms was Diamond Lake, he was told, “Very nearby.”

Jane proceeds to tell the others about her scrying and Riddle immediately wants to use the scrolls of greater teleport to take the party directly to the room she described. However, the others are worried that this may not be a good idea. Riddle decides to risk another divination to come to a decision. After what happened last time, Jane asks, “Are you sure?” but Riddle sees no other way to decide.

After casting the spell, Riddle says, “I’m trying to follow your guidance. Should I use this greater teleport scroll to go to Allustan, or should I use it to go to Diamond Lake?”

The Vaati respond, “By visiting your mentor, you leave the rear door unguarded. Begin near Diamond Lake and remove the current threat.”

Riddle uses the scroll to teleport the party to their old abandoned shack near Diamond Lake. They are pleased to find that the things they hid there remain undisturbed. Since Riddle will not recharge his spellpower until after midnight, it seems they have some time to kill. Jane does a circle dance on Illthain, and learns that the dragon is uninjured, and in the direction of the Whispering Cairn. Afterwards, Jane announces she must leave them for a bit, but if she has not returned in three hours they should send to her.

Jane shifts into Athena and flies to the area of the old Bronzewood Lodge, which was once her home. She notes a strangeness in the air as she travels – a distinct lack of birdlife, especially. Attributing this to Illthain’s presence in the region, she focuses on her task at hand.

Landing, she shifts into her Bast form and digs a shallow trench in the earth with her paws. Shifting back to the human girl, she sheds all of her equipment and clothing, lays down in the trench, and pulls the dirt in around her until she is almost buried. She whispers a spell she has never performed before. After ten minutes, the spell is complete, and she is one with nature.

Jane sinks into the earth and feels her veins become one with the roots around her, her flesh melds with the dirt, her bones become stone and her blood become life-giving water. Closing her eyes, but opening her awareness, Jane senses a natural world sinking beneath the corruptive weight of a future that must not come to pass, a future already becoming the present, darkening the sun, drowning the land, and birthing abominations. She senses, in the water flowing through the soil and now through her body, power: lingering power from her distant source. She also senses the nearby presence of six powerful creatures beholden to prophecy yet empowered to foil it, touched by the gods in the past, present, and future. Among them, there is a powerful, unnatural alien with ancient bonds to forgotten worlds and distant planes; and there is the Daughter of the Storm, she who, in the past, demanded power for herself, and must do so again or the sacrifice will have been meaningless; she is more than the land, the skies, and the sea; she is the natural world and the righteousness of its sentient protectors. She is her own legacy.

Gasping, the ritual complete, Jane opens her eyes to the usually gloomy afternoon. After a moment, she climbs from her trench, puts her clothes and equipment back on, shifts into her eagle form, and flies back to the others.

Sunday, 16 Sunsebb CY 595

The party rises and prepares to pursue their quarry. Jane uses the incense of meditation to prepare all of her spells to maximum effect.

Archie scouts ahead as they move toward the Whispering Cairn. They make their way up the slight rise in the grounds before the opening to the Cairn. In the clearing there are abundant signs of the dragon’s presence. Trees have been raked to shreads. Huge ruts scar the earth. The cairn’s entrance appears to have been dissolved by acid. It is a scene of pure animalistic rampage. Archie notes six wolf corpses across the grounds, picked clean. Jane gives everyone in the party more than two hours of acid resistance.

Archie leads the party to the entrance. As they pick their way through the devastation, the see a live wolf, covered in burn scars and gouges, watching them warily from off to the right. The party briefly discusses using wild empathy on the wolf, but to what end, they can’t determine. Jane recommends Archie simply put the injured animal out of its misery. His first shot goes wide, but the second seems as though it should kill the wolf. It bounces off however, and the party barely has time for curiosity at this effect when the wolf transforms into the huge and terrifying form of the dragon, Illthain.

Scar-Eater dashes forward to confront the wyrm directly, but she flies up, screaming “ Dragotha take you!” in her native tongue. She swoops down upon the rest of the party, eminating a frightful presence that shakes the whole group to its core. They manage to maintain control of themselves, but Tyrrell and Jane are not so lucky when it comes to the foul chemical gas she breathes upon all of them as well. Jane, who is immune to venom, is still slowed, along with the rogue.

But not for long, as Long Fist has handily prepared remove paralysis and immediately casts it upon his slowed allies. Jane quickly casts owl’s wisdom on herself, and also activates her strand of prayer beads, all in an effort to make her maximized spells more difficult for the dragon to resist. Riddle gives the party blessings of fervor that they can use to choose a benefit each round of the fight. Tyrrell shrugs off Illthain’s poisonous breath and fires a dragonsbane bolt at her, but misses.

With aid from Riddle’s blessings, Archie looses five dragonsbane arrows at the dragon, dealing a ridiculous amount of damage to her, and definitely attracting her attention. Scar-Eater slams her with a ray of enfeeblement just before she moves in on Archie and takes a big bite out of his face. It seems Webb’s request that Archie return with not-quite-so-innocent-and-acid-free a complexion will be fulfilled.

Long Fist moves in to absorb some of Illthain’s attention from Archie, and is bitten and tripped for his efforts. He tries to stab her with a smitey spear, but misses. Jane attempts to faerie fire Illthain, but fails, and follows up with a mighty flame strike. Even though Illthain saves for half the damage, she still takes a heck of a wallop of the fiery and divine variety – especially when Riddle follows up with a flame strike of his own. Tyrrell reloads and tries another bolt, but misses again.

Archie, denying Illthain any free shots as he fires from directly beside her, looses another five arrows at her. She howls with misery and frustration. A bite and two claws later, Archie drops to the ground. Riddle immediately closes his wounds, saving the archer from instant death. Meanwhile, Illthain turns her attention to the next closest target, the prone half-ogre with the spear. With her remaining attacks she renders Long Fist unconscious and bleeding.

Jane spends an orison to stabilize Archie and then summons a ten-foot stalagmite from the earth to skewer Illthain and end the dragon’s reign of terror.

The party hurries to bring Archie and Long Fist back to consciousness, and Riddle attempts to speak with Illthain’s corpse. Her powerful soul resists the first attempt, but not the second. “Who are you working with?” he asks.

The corpse hisses, “I serve Dragotha.”

“What did you hope to accomplish?” Riddle continues.

“Your destruction,” she replies (of course).

“Where else did you deposit your Kyuss eggs?” he asks.

“Across the region,” she says.

“What specific dangers await us in the Cairn behind you?” he asks, and she replies, “I have no idea,” but she does confirm, in the final response, that Allustan awaits within.

Jane tells the others that she can use the dragon’s corpse to create a map to places that Illthain deemed most valuable, but she needs some materials like inks and powdered metals. She removes one of Illthain’s wings to use as a surface for the map, and the party also cuts off her head for delivery to Ermaldon Webb. Riddle and Archie teleport to Greyhawk to deliver it immediately.

Lt. Archie Forrest and the Whoreson stride into the offices of Foreign Minister Ermaldon Webb with a black dragon’s head the size of a small horse. After collecting his wit from a near fainting spell, Webb’s assistant Keithan Irvine ushers the young men into the Minister’s office. Severe and stoic as usual, Webb actually manages to let some begrudging admiration shine through as he sees that Forrest has indeed returned, as promised, “with scaly head in tow” and a bevy of new scars to “grizzle up that boyish countenance.”

Keeping his end of the bargain, Webb agrees to meet with the Lizardfolk on neutral ground, at a time and place of their choosing, to discuss the possibility of a permanent peace treaty. Archie offers to broker the meeting, and says he would like to bring Illthain’s head with him when he approaches the lizardfolk, but tells Webb it will have to wait while they are still pursuing the source of the contagion.

At that, Webb touches back on the concerns about this dangerous contagion threatening to spread through the region. “You continue to investigate, I assume. Though, without an official commission to do so. Consider yourself temporarily reassigned, Captain, to this situation surrounding this contagion. And let me know whether I should be calling the other Ministries in on this situation.”

“And tell me about your involvement in the mess over at the Arena. What the holy hells, Captain?”

Archie says, “Raknian was attempting to spread the contagion throughout Grey Hawk. We went undercover in order to expose his complicity. But with him out of the picture, I would say that with some repairs or better yet, razing and rebuilding a new better arena would be an unbelievable opportunity for someone.”

Upon their return, the party heads into the Whispering Cairn. They find that one of the previously blocked passages has been opened, probably by Allustan himself. Behind it is a portal. The party decides to check out the rest of the Cairn first before using the portal, but find that nothing has changed since they were last there a couple of months earlier.

Riddle is the first through the portal, and he is greeted by a cacophanous screaming sound, thunderously loud and high-pitched. He can tell it will make spellcasting difficult. Long Fist follows. The hall they stand in slopes sharply down towards an opening at the opposite end. Riddle is suddenly belted in the chest by something he cannot see. Riddle can feel a second swing come at him, but miss, and then Long Fist is hit twice. He swings out but misses. Riddle fires off a storm bolt and senses something in the hall taking damage. Scar-Eater and Jane step through, as Riddle and Long Fist continue getting pummeled, and Long Fist steps back to warn the two party members still in the Cairn. Eventually everyone gets back in the hallway and Riddle is able to give Archie true seeing, but while the party defeats the invisible stalker squad, they begin their adventure through the party considerably worse for wear, with resources dwindling.

Tyrrell sees what appeares to be a hall much larger than the spread of light from Scar-Eater’s dancing lights and a couple of large sculpture-type things that look like massive piles of artistically arranged longswords.

Pointy ends out, of course.

Session Thirty-Six-Point-Five
Converted by the administrator from the over-italicized and over-paragraphed

Starday, 15 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)

Long Fist unchains Auric and stabilizes his injuries. “Where’s Khelleck?”

Auric replies, “He’s gone… he left, just vanished again after we returned to the ceonoby. Then, the next thing I knew, like twenty minutes later, these goons showed up and beat the sin out of me and hauled me up here.”

“Listen to me,” Long Fist says, “and listen hard: Lahaka Smallcask was killed by Raknian. We have proof.”

Auric unleashes a horrible cry of agony. “I knew it! The bastard! I’ll kill him!”

Long Fist restrains the enraged gladiator. “Auric, you are a hero to the people of Greyhawk, a beacon of hope in dark times. You can make a choice now: justice or vengeance. Raknian killed your lover and sought to use the Games to destroy the world with a reign of undead terror. He deserves to die. He may even deserve to die at your hands. You will feel satisfaction from this vengeance, yes; but it will be fleeting. It will die shortly after Raknian does. And all that will replace it is the emptiness in your soul. But if you choose the path of Justice, you can make an example of Raknian that will stand for decades to come. Stand against him before the magistrates! Speak the truth of his foul deeds! Make him answer to the law for the evil he has done! Make this dark day the beginning of a shining legacy of justice that will bring solace to a beleaguered city! Will you do this?”

As Auric considers his choice, Riddle and Jane overpower Raknian, strip him of his bastard sword and shield, and use Auric’s chains to bind him. Then, as Bast stands at the ready, teeth uncomfortably close to Raknian’s neck, Riddle sends to Ekaym Smallcask: “Proof found. Racknian in custody. Bring those you trust to the arena now. Raknian tried to infect city with undead. Should we contact Greyhawk guard?” A reply is received at once: “I come. There are none here I trust, save you. Contact the Watch. BRING HIM DOWN.”

After a soul-searching pause, Auric finally, and simply, nods to Long Fist. He removes the Champion’s Belt from his waist and tosses it aside onto the arena floor, which is quickly turning to mud with the sudden onset of rain. Head in his hands, he weeps.

Meanwhile, Archie, Tyrrell and Scar-Eater knock Captain Okoral unconscious, collect loot from below, and make their way up to the Arena floor.

Riddle sends to Gandling: “Come to Arena with those you trust. Loris Raknian tried and failed to destroy Greyhawk and infect the people with Undead. He is in custody unharmed.” The response received is: “This better be legit, kid, or you’re through here.”

Riddle then cries out to the fleeing mob of bouncers, “Stop! We have Raknian and Okoral has been defeated below. The Watch is on their way even now. If you run they will hunt you down; they cannot let a danger such as this go unanswered, nor can they let those involved disappear. The people of this city will want answers. If you are not here to provide them with your side of the story they will assume the worst and cast you as the villains. What will it be? Will you run now forever running looking over your shoulder or will you stand as men and speak your side? It is not the best choice but it is better than what was offered to Auric, the beloved Champion of these Games. Will his voice be the only one the authorities hear?”

Soaking wet, terrified, dejected and shamed, the fleeing mob comes to a halt and cowers near the front gate, waiting for the worst.

Riddle casts detect thoughts and waits patiently. As the spell finally takes effect his gaze settles on Raknian. Riddle kneels next to the prostrate, chained form. Devoid of weaponry and armor with only his serpent ring left him, Raknian appears almost broken.

“Loris. Look at me. You are not a stupid or foolish man. You know it is over. You have failed. Failed to silence us. Failed to bring the ulgurstasa to fruition. Failed to sacrifice the once Champion, Auric. We have triumphed at every stroke. We turned the Thieves Guild ploy back on themselves and made the city love us. We easily beat Pitch Blade in record time. We slew the fat worm lover below before he knew we were there. And now Okaral has been taken alive. There’s a viper in the grass, eh? He succeeded in killing Eligos at your orders, but to what point? It didn’t stop us. We found Lahaka…or what was once Lahaka. Your masters will not be happy with this failure.

“The Guard is on it’s way here. Smallcask is on his way here. They will arrive soon. You have only these last few minutes of freedom. Use them freely. Unburden yourself. Why have you thrown away your power and reputation, your love of the people of this city? What drove you? Why would you try to destroy the very city that embraced you so strongly?

“What did your Masters hope that you would accomplish? Right now you seem to me only another failed tool in the hands of someone who would discard you at the first hint of trouble. Just as Darius Finch was discarded by Imron Gauthfellow, just as Imron was discarded by Zyrxog, just as Zyrxog was discarded by you. Just as Khelleck discarded Auric to save himself. Now we follow the chain and you too have been tossed away.

“Was that why you murdered Lahaka? Was that all she was to you? A broken tool. Useless. What did they promise you? A seat at the table? Did you really think they would ever have entrusted such power to you? You? A child in their eyes, a child at the grown-ups table. Please.

“We both know you are not a stupid man. You are not a foolish man. You knew when you set foot on this path that it could only end badly for you. But you can still choose. You still have the freedom to decide to do for yourself. You can choose. You can still be the man you once were: the hero of the Games.”

“Tells us what you know and I promise I will make sure they cannot bring you back as a mindless undead thrall. Tell us what their weaknesses are and let us strike your blow of vengeance against your masters. Why else would they have let this happen to you? Did they warn you of our power? Or did they make us seem weak and ineffectual? Why would they lie to you? Except to have you fail for one of their greater purposes? Tell us where they are and nothing will bar us from their path. You are not a stupid man. You know you will not live. The authorities cannot let you live – not and appease the rabble. And for a failure of this magnitude, even if the authorities were merciful, your masters will not let you live, will they? They will have their pound of flesh for your failure even as they worked against you. Even as they discarded you. Broken and useless.

“But perhaps you can die a hero? The choice is yours. Hero or discarded tool? You can still redeem yourself. The farther the fall the harder it is to take that first step. But you are not a stupid man and you are not a foolish man. You are a man. You are a man who has done hard things to achieve what you thought was greatness. You are a man who has forgotten his own true greatness. Take the harder step and be that great man one last time.”

Defeated, broken, alone, Raknian’s mighty fighting spirit seems to crumble under the weight of Riddle’s words.

“All I wanted was her love,” he says, in the faintest whisper, barely heard above the roar of the elements. “I lived for her love; I thrived on her love; I was young because of her love.

“Despite my great success, despite my fame, I’ve lived every day since my retirement in fear. Fear of death. I could not tolerate the inevitable decline of my mortal body. The once-indomitable gladiator of a thousand fights, I watched my hair turn gray, felt my bones begin to ache. There was an opponent I could not beat, I realized: Time. And as Time passed, I grew more jealous of the impudent, ambitious young gladiators that came to dominate my ring. This jealousy festered, consumed me from within.

“So I sought a means of restoring my vigor and youth. Yet one solution after another proved false, and my fear began to grow. I turned to questionable allies and sinister sources as less distasteful methods of preserving my youth failed. During these dark times, I was introduced to a man named Theldrick, a priest of Hextor, by my old friend Lordren. Both were deep in a cult called the Ebon Triad. Their insane theories and blasphemous beliefs did not appeal to me, but Theldrick’s promise of secrets to be learned and gifts to be granted in a coming Age tempted me for a time. For many months, I became the hidden financial support for Theldrick’s cult in Greyhawk.

“But promises weren’t being kept and my patience wore thin. I demanded action, repayment of my support. Theldrick put me in touch with a mysterious cleric the cult had gone to for advice before: a sinister tiefling called Bozal Zahol. The foul creature spoke of potent rituals and prayers that, if offered to his secret god, could halt the aging process. His god held the keys to decay, he said, and could exempt a human from old age.

“I was tempted, but something about this man was wrong. I feared to ally myself with him. Yet now that I was within his sights, I feared to tell him I no longer sought his help.

“Time passed. Theldrick and Lordren moved on, leaving me alone in the clutches of Zahol. Finally, my will drained, my life nothing but a promise of death and decay, I almost faltered…

“And then she came. Lahaka.

“I’ve had many consorts over the years. As a man of wealth and power, I never lacked for companionship. But never before had I found love. Lahaka was an intriguing, exotic jewel. She captivated me. She stole my heart. She revived my sense of self, of purpose. For a long time, we were happy. I dismissed Zahol, severed all my ties with the dark elements I had gone to in my desperation. I was whole again.

“Until the day she came to me and told me of her love for Auric. I was too old for her. I couldn’t keep up with her. My mind was slow, my body was faltering, my hopes to keep her at my side and in my heart were the foolish hopes of a fading has-been. It was more than I could bear to hear. I strangled the poor girl before she knew what was happening.

“Consumed with madness, rage, and morbid depression, I called upon Zahol and told him I would do anything in return for an escape from the horrors of old age. Zahol comforted me. He took Lahaka’s body and disposed of it so that the authorities would never find it. And then he told me the truth about Kyuss. He told me of the ritual of the Apostle and the sacrifice of a Champion. In one moment, I could have my revenge upon Auric and obtain the eternal youth I sought! How could I resist?

“I have no ‘masters,’ like you seem to think. There was only one master spurring me on: my own vanity and weakness. I was aided by a foul priest, but his body now rots below.

“You were nothing to me, merely kids I was asked to dispose of by my friend Lordren when he returned to Greyhawk last month. He said you were a threat to the Ebon Triad, and Zahol said that meant you were a threat to Kyuss, so I hired out your assassination. An easy enough task, for someone in my position. And it should have been an easy enough for the mastermind who found the Scrolls for Zahol. And what was the death of a few irrelevant teenagers compared to the blasphemy I was about to commit?

“So, I cannot help you in regards to my ‘masters,’ for there are none. All there is is the might of Kyuss. In my heart, up until a few moments ago when I saw the Apostle rise from the arena floor in its full glory, even I doubted the truth of Zahol’s preachings. Part of me didn’t want to… couldn’t believe. But when I saw that creature rise from the earth, I knew it was all true. Kyuss is coming. And his creations are mighty. And though you may have stood against one of his minions, what will you do when the sky opens and the earth shatters and millions of those creatures writhe upon the land? What can anyone do?

“There is nothing now but death and the Writhing Darkness to look forward to. I have failed, and the Wormgod and will leave me to die the pathetic, weak old man that I am.

“But you will die, too. Young, healthy, alive…you, too, will die when the Wormgod returns.

“Say your prayers now. Save your souls now. For when the Waiting Time comes, your gods will be powerless to stand against the destined darkness.

“All that you love will rot.

“All that you hold dear will crumble.

“Your power will be turned to the Wormgod’s use, for that is his greatest weapon. We are all sinners, we mortals. And sin is His domain.

“You will perish. All memory of you will die. You will be food for worms. You will feast upon flesh. You will consume each other in the prophecied orgy of undeath.

“As will we all.

“When the world is worms and ashes.

“In the Time to Come.”

Jane lets Raknian’s warnings linger a moment, but then asks quietly, “And Eligos Manzorian? How did he get in your way?”

“He was helping you. He was associated with the wizard, Allustan. He was on the list.”

Riddle: “And Lorden? Is he still in Greyhawk?”

“Lordren? I know not where he is. I have not seen him for over a week.”

Riddle presses, “You must have some way of contacting him. Where was he staying?”

“He came to me. I never sought him out. I know where he used to live years ago, but can’t imagine he’s there now.”

At that moment, Sergeant Gandling arrives with a platoon of Watch enforcers and locks down the arena, taking everyone into custody. After surveying the carnage on his own for a few minutes, nosing about the area, consulting with his Watch arcanist, and generally grumbling about the place, he approaches the collected gathering and blusters, “So, anyone want to tell me what the holy hells happened here?”

Riddle nods in greeting to the halfing. “Sergeant Gandling, thank you for coming so swiftly. As you can see, Raknian is unharmed, as we said. His second, Captain Okoral, is still alive, though somewhat the worse for wear. As I sent to you, Loris Raknian tried and failed to destroy the City of Greyhawk and infect the entire populace with undead. Where to begin?

“You know we were targeted along with the painters and critics, Endrik Archerus, Katarina Gertwright, and Belfor Vittanis. We followed the trail back as you asked us to and found Imron Gauthfellow responsible for their attempted murders. But he, in turn, was under the control of a hideous mind flayer named Zyrxog. We managed to defeat Zyrxog in his underground lair in the sewers, only to discover that Loris Raknian had paid him to have us killed. Long Fist, I believe you have the record book of his transactions.” Long Fist hands over the mind flayer’s logs to one of the Watch agents, who promptly begins poring through the material.

Riddle continues, “But we were assailed again when Raknian attacked and murdered one of the few people we knew in this city, the wizard Eligos Manzorian, who was slain by Captain Okoral under Raknian’s orders. I still do not know why. Perhaps just to deprive us of an ally…”

At that, Tyrrell steps forward, grabbing the defeated Okoral by the hair, and tosses the chief of security into the mud at Gandling’s feet. “Well, Sergeant, perhaps I can help on this point. The captain told me down below, you see, that he knows he’s guilty and should probably hang for his involvement in all this…but that he would confess to the authorities all he knows about the slaying of Eligos, and help in any way he can with our efforts, if only you would give an honorable funeral to the fine soldiers he led to the slaughter in the name of a madman.” With a wicked snarl, his face pressed directly into Okoral’s Tyrell finishes, “Isn’t that right, Captain?”

“Er, yes. Right. It was Godsday, the second. Loris asked me to get rid of a troublesome mage that had threatened to bring down the Games. Loris promised I would find the estate unguarded and the wards down. I did as he asked, and found things as he said. I slew the evil wizard to protect my master and protect the Games and protect the city…”

“Shut up,” snaps Gandling. “You killed Manzorian, eh? Anyone else you saw fit to ‘protect’ your master from, lately?”


“Mmmm hmmm?”

“I may have been asked to kill another wizard this very night. And I might have complied," Okoral said.

“_Might_ have?”

“Khelleck fell at my hands. Loris named him a threat, and my job was to dispose of threats.”

Riddle nods to Tyrell, who gleefully drags the captain back to his place in line by the ear. “After Manzorian’s assassination,” Riddle continues, “we decided to play a desperate gambit and bait Raknian in his own den. To enter the Champion’s Games, we crossed paths with Ekaym Smallcask, who took us on as our manager. Little did we suspect, however, that Smallcask himself already suspected Raknian of grave wrongdoing. Surely you remember when Auric was engaged to marry last year? His betrothed was Lahaka Smallcask, Ekaym’s sister. But before Lahaka had fallen in love with Auric, she had been Raknian’s lover. As Raknian just confessed to us, when she broke it off with him and told him that she would marry Auric instead, he succumbed to his baser nature and in a fit of rage and jealously, strangled her.

“Not knowing what to do next, Raknian reached out to the foul priest Bozal Zahol, a demon-touched worshiper of a fell god, to help him. Zahol told him that he would help and that he would deal with Lahaka’s corpse. He did, but not how Raknian expected: he re-animated her corpse and kept her chained to the wall of his evil temple down below.”

At that, Long Fist produces the destroyed zombie of Lahaka Smallcask and lay her on the Arena floor. With a cry to the heavens, Ekaym sinks to his knees beside the desecrated mass of flesh. “This is her, Sergeant. This is…this was my sister, may the gods forever damn the madman who ruined her!”

With a raptor’s cry, Athena swoops in to land beside Ekaym; then, in the blink of an eye, the hawk becomes a young woman and Jane is there. Quietly, she says to Gandling, “Sergeant, have you a medic on hand?” Gandling directs a middle-aged man amongst his platoon to step forward. The healer joins Jane at Lahaka’s side. “You will see here,” Jane says, “the clear sign of defensive wounds. And here, about the neck, the unmistakable evidence of death by strangulation at the hands of a man of Raknian’s size and strength. And here is the imprint of the ring Raknian wears to this day.” After consulting the corpse and examining Raknian’s ring, the medic concurs.

Riddle continues, “We discovered Bozal Zahol and his temple below the arena floor earlier this evening, along with many undead. We made an agreement with the Ashborn to fight together to destroy the undead threat; Auric here fought beside us until the undead’s aura of supernatural terror caused him and his companion, Khelleck, to flee in safety. By this time we had slain the evil priest with Auric’s aid, and were finally able to destroy the other undead. The remains of their unnatural forms lie below.

“There is also a poor wretch still alive in a cell below who has gone mad from the abuse the undead have heaped on him. There must have been others in the neighborhood taken recently to create all these undead monsters. You’ve heard of the Johansen brothers, who both went missing last month? And is not the entire district still talking about the butcher, Karl Starren, and his three young apprentices, who have not been seen in nearly as long?”

Gandling stares long and hard at Riddle before responding. “You should stick to what you know to be facts, boy, and leave the conjecture and guesswork to the lawyers. The Johansens retired to Fort Harbor. And what was the deal with the butcher?” he tosses over his shoulder.

A bearded veteran in Gandling’s troop spoke up first, “Insane, sir. Killed the boys, then killed himself. They just found the bodies wharfside. And there was a note left in the shop that we never told the press about.”

Riddle falters briefly, but holds on to his composure. “Well, regardless, that was not all we discovered beneath the arena. In the temple below, we found this great worm of undeath poised to burst forth when the stadium was packed with cheering crowds.”

Long Fist steps forward politely. “With respect, Riddle, if I may? Sergeant, sir, the monstrosity you see here is known as an ulgurstasa. This abomination was created by foul magics for one purpose, and one purpose only: to consume the living and vomit them forth as undead. You will note the exposed remnants of the creature’s gullet, filled with once-animated skeletons – men, giants, and even a dragon – poised to be unleashed upon the populace. Without our swift action, this creature could have lain waste to hundreds, if not thousands, of Greyhawk citizens, and transformed them into a growing army of undead minions that would have slaughtered countless thousands more.”

“We fought the creature below,” Riddle continues, “only to be ambushed by Captain Okoral and his crack troops. Long Fist, Jane, and I made our way to the surface to continue the fight against the giant worm, and that was when we found Auric chained right here and the creature bearing down on him. Raknian was above in his box crying for his god to accept this sacrifice of Auric, the Champion of these Games. Auric’s handlers ran in terror as the monster reared high above the stadium. But Long Fist, with the grace of Heironeous, was finally able to stop the ulgurstasa before it engulfed the helpless Champion.

“We quickly released Auric and disarmed Raknian. I called to these men here to stop and have the chance to give their say to the watch. You,” he says to one particularly shamefaced former arena bouncer, “come up here and speak for your companions – tell the Sergeant what happened here.”

The down-on-his-luck twenty-something with obviously poor grooming habits and a general sense of desperation about him shuffles forward. “It’s true, officer. All he says. The boss made us beat the tar out of Auric…”

“Made you?” Gandling queries with quiet intensity.

“Well, that is…” the Bouncer stammers, “he encouraged us to do it. Then he made us chain the poor guy to the floor. I just thought we were going to have some fun with him. You know, arena-style. But then when that gods-awful worm monster showed up, I knew we were into something terrible here. And the boss…”

After a pause, one of the other Bouncers pipes in. “He went loony.”

“Yeah, he went mad. Raving to the sky and some god about eating the Champion and ravaging the world, and…”

Gandling hushes the Bouncer with a gesture. “Enough. Thank you. You can tell the rest of your story at the station.”

“Finally, you should know,” Riddle says, “in front of Auric, ourselves, and all these men here, Raknian confessed to his crimes, out of his loss of his youth and his loss of Lahaka’s love.”

The assembled witnesses nod, in near unison. The sky trembles briefly, and then the torrential downpour seems almost to cease for a moment. Jane looks to the sky. The near-stoppage of the downpour does not seem coincidentalm though it likewise doesn’t seem like some nod from an active higher power or powers.

(The ongoing rain is not natural. This months’-long phenomenon is a straining at the edges of reality, a bending and twisting of the natural laws, a corruption of something deep at the core of the region. It Should Not Be. So, while the momentary relenting of the rain does not feel like someone or something actively “cutting through” the corruption in the air; it does, however, feel to Jane like a momentary slippage of the corruptive influence over the natural order of things. It is not so much something overpowering the Wrongness, but perhaps the Wrongness itself slipping in its own power for the briefest of moments.)

Riddle kneels before Gandling and his arcanist. “All this I swear on the memory of my mother. I will willingly submit to any magical probe that you or your thaumaturge can put me under to prove that these words are true.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be necessary. I’ve heard…and seen what I need to see here. Men!” he calls back to his platoon, “you know what to do. We’ve got testimony to capture, evidence to collect, and a long night ahead of us. Let’s get to work!” When the Watchmen swarm away across the arena and its environs, taking men into custody and hauling off the accused in chains, Gandling says, more privately, “How deep do you want to get into this? Are you sticking around for the circus that’s about to follow, or have we seen the last of you in these parts?”

Riddle exhales, not even realizing that he had been holding his breath and although he has physically changed over the past month he resembles again the youth from Diamond Lake. “I’m not certain Sergeant. We – I – have someplace that I must go. And quickly. I would confer with my companions but I think we will go. The only question is how quickly. But we will be back.”

Long Fist says to Riddle: “We ALL must go Riddle. I would not idly stand by for you to fight Illthain on your own. Not after all we’ve been through.”

Riddle nods and continues to question Gandling. “What will happen now? Will there be a trial? How will the lords of this city explain what happened here? Will we be put forth as heroes, or as the destroyers of the Games?”

Gandling pauses for a moment before speaking. “Well…I guess that’s what I’m driving at with my own questions. How involved do you want to be? I can smear your names all over this if you want the attention you – frankly – deserve. But something about you kids…” He eyes the towering half-ogre, the sharp-eyed hawk, and the scar-faced rogue in particular before settling back on the eerie physiognomy of Riddle. "Well, something tells me you prefer your privacy. You’ve laid out a convincing case here. I can call you for testimony if you wish, or I can leave you out of this entirely. But if you want out, now’s the time to get out. Because this will soon blow sky high.”

“Who will own this arena now?” Riddle asks.

“I’m sure that’ll get tied up in the courts for quite some time. Couldn’t tell you.”

Riddle moves over to Smallcask still kneeling over his sister’s corpse. “Smallcask, what will you do now?”

“I will return my sister’s body home. She will be properly honored. By the way…the winnings from the Games. They are yours. I only kept a share to legitimize myself in your eyes and the eyes of those watching us. But I do not need the money. And something tells me you might. Take it. It’s all yours.” Smallcask hands over his share of the winnings from the first two rounds, 3,150 gp.

Riddle squints and says, “Our thanks, Smallcask, for that. We will put it to good use. Safe travel home. I hope you are able to finally have some peace and move forward. I assume you will use whatever influence you possess to make certain that nothing untoward happens during the trial and that Raknian meets with swift justice? Have your friend ”/wikis/celeste" class=“wiki-page-link”> Celeste send to us if something goes wrong. I want to make certain that this, at least, is not left half-done."

Smallcask says, “I have no influence in this city. My family is from Cauldron and all of our influence is there. But, yes, if there is aught I can do, I will do it.” There is a small pause before he adds, “I do not expect to see Celeste again.”

Riddle turns to the party. “Well, do we stick to the shadows? Or do we step out into the light? Will either help us? Archie, you met with Webb – will our fame of saving the city buy us an extension on the week we were supposed to have to bring him Illthain’s head?”

“What about Racknian’s associate from Diamond Lake, Dourstone’s manager? And what of the Sisters of Eiseth? Are they still below?” The Sisters of Eiseth have been rounded up by the Watch for questioning and are being led away.

Riddle, with Long Fist’s recent statement about returning to Diamond Lake as a group still on his mind, asks the party, “What do the rest of you say? Do we return to Diamond Lake? Shall we leave now bereft of spells and tired – or do we wait til tomorrow morning and attempt to equip ourselves as best we can before we leave? I do not want to dally, but I do not think we will have another opportunity to arm ourselves and prepare spells.”

Jane says, “Though I am anxious to see for myself what is happening there, and to hurry to Allustan’s aid, I do not want to arrive in Diamond Lake unprepared. I think we should remain in Greyhawk just long enough to rest, prepare and equip ourselves properly. We need to be careful, though — our notoriety here grows stronger by the minute.”

Tyrrell says, “Diamond Lake is shite heap and mostly I don’t care if it sinks into the bowels of the earth or not…but I know it is where our path lies, and I know Allustan, or his memory if that’s the case, deserves our help. But I also don’t want to rush in unprepared. So yes, rest and equip.”

Riddle turns to the his remaining companions, the ex-soldier and the duty bound archer. “And you two? What say you?”

Riddle takes Archie and Scar-Eater’s silence for assent. The party immediately begins making plans for resting and preparing spells, and accounting their funds for a shopping trip. Everyone is in the midst of making requests and trading items when Riddle’s face grows troubled. He turns back to the group with the constant rain mixing and streaming with his blood tear streaked face.

“My friends, I want to go to Diamond Lake immediately. But I do not have the power to do so yet. Unlike Jane or Long Fist, I do not pray for my abilities; they are just granted to me as the day turns over.”

“I can feel that I almost have the ability to carve a hole through space and time so that we can instantly appear in Diamond Lake, but the Elder Powers will not grant this ability to me til the wheel has passed through all of this day. In other words, ‘til my powers reset, I will not be able to teleport us there…”

“We have funds to purchase teleports but I am doubtful that they would be able to put us into Diamond Lake. It may be so. I could be wrong. We may have all of the rest of this night and all of this day, how shall we best spend it?”

Jane asks, “Do you have any sendings left? Perhaps Celeste would do us a favor and find means of teleporting us to Diamond Lake. She might have a personal interest in Allustan’s safety? Of course that wouldn’t make a difference in the matter of your preparation for whatever we might be walking into down there, which is not insignificant. But it might be an option.”

“I believe I can send once or perhaps twice more,” Riddle says. “I will make the trip without spells if need be. But to do that I will need to arm myself. My abilities with an axe have left me, stolen from my body and mind. In their place I find myself with the feel of a blade. I need a sword. The voices of the Vaati have made this clear to me. Even if they have kept so much else shrouded in half truths and guesswork.” Riddle then kneels and concentrates on his sending.

“Allustan, grave danger, pain, Diamond Lake, dragon Illthain. Teleport us there before tomorrow midnight? Urgulstasa destroyed. At Arena. Smallcask’s sister’s body found. Raknian in custody."

A reply to the sending comes swiftly: “Our prayers are with you, but I cannot do what you ask of me. Surely the purchase of a scroll is within your means?”

So the party continues discussing their options.


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