The Age of Worms

Session Forty-Seven
In Which Our Brave Heroes Alisulisjhaksjd…. dshlasdhhh…. buuuuuuuhhhhhh…. ggguuuuuuuuuu….. Look! A Bunny! Oh, I’m Sorry, That Was the Intelligence Drain, Not Me

Starday, 27 Fireseek, CY 596

The party looks down into the ruins of Kuluth-Mar, nestled in an immense bowl-shaped valley. Some of the buildings are only overgrown foundations. Some structures are more in tact, but everything is dwarfed by a giant ring of obsidian circling the heart of the city, thirty feet high. Within the ring, an ancient stone ziggurat climbs to a tall armed spire, broken at the apex.

Most disturbing is the air itself, which feels thin, and seems to waver between this and another reality. It is very disorienting, like looking through a veil into some other time, with traces of people moving through the streets. “It’s strongest at the peak,” Riddle notes, nodding towards the broken apex of the spire. He can almost see what was once there…a huge black, trapezoidal shape.

Jane transforms into the eagle Athena and soars over the city. The obsidian ring in the heart of the city is complete, and blazes with fiery runes on top that she cannot decipher. The interior is a large unbroken field to the ziggurat. Off in the distance to the east, yuan-ti have made themselves a home, and trolls to the west. The northern chunk of the city has sunk into water and various swamp creatures inhabit it. Everything living in the ruin, however, steers well clear of the heart of the them.

Riddle casts his scroll of wind wall on the party and they move closer to the obsidian ring. Scar-Eater reads the runes atop the wall:

KYUSS FOREVER BOUND

He detects an aura of overwhelming abjuration magic on the ring the party conjectures that the artifact was once used to imprison Kyuss in whatever was atop the spire at the time of his apotheosis. Scar-Eater assures them that it’s containment function won’t prevent them from passing over the ring, so that is what they do. There is a jarring moment as if they are passing from one perception of reality to another, a twisted vision of two times occupying the same time, past and present co-existing. The past is suffused with an oily taint and in it, a dark man in black sits upon a green stone throne, marked with the symbol of a skull and scythe for Nerull. Crowds chant his name over and over in a strange accent, “Kyuss! Kyuss! Kyuss!” The chants surge through and threaten to tear the very jungle apart, and the party glimpses they top of the spire, a fifty-foot trapezoidal monolith that seems to suck all light from the air around it.

As the double vision ends there is a ripple across the parade ground surrounding the ziggurat followed by a rumble and an otherworldly scream as a skeletal zombie with toothy worm maws in its hollow eye sockets emerges from an open doorway at the top of the ziggurat. Everyone lands on the ground except Jane, who prefers the strategic advantage on top of the obsidian ring. The skeletal zombie shouts a few more buffs and starts running down the stairs of the ziggurat as three godawful huge bloated beetle carcasses erupt from the ground beneath the party’s feet, a ground that they now see writhes with the familiar sluggish greens worms of Kyuss.

Jane blasts the closest beetles with an arc of lightning as Archie dashes out of the fray and focuses his bow on the running knight of Kyuss. Scar-Eater bashes a beetle with flail charged with shocking grasp, and the entire party is overcome by their chittering, hypnotic drone for a moment. Scar-Eater and Tyrrell succumb to the horrific sound and begin clawing their faces in agony. One of the beetles step up to Long Fist and ravages him with one nasty blow, and another chases after the archer to do the same. The others watch in shock as the two warriors survive attacks that seem more likely to have killed them outright. The third beetle misses the clawing Scar-Eater altogether. Long Fist summons his Celestial companion as Riddle channels a heal spell into his hand and moves towards one of the beetles, who manages to avoid him.

Jane sends a column of divine flame at the same two beetles she attacked before, hoping to finish at least one of them off and perhaps lessen their maddening cacophony. They are too hardy for her, however. Archie tries different kinds of arrows hoping to find one that manages to really hurt them, and his diligence pays off when he nails his attacker with a silver arrow. He is still cornered, however, and hurt, and a third of the party is reeling from the beetles’ drone. Scar-Eater manages to shrug off the effect but then Jane succumbs to it, and poor Tyrrell remains a clawing mess. After the beetles nearly kill Hyaeliotrope in one blow, Long Fist dismisses him and lays hands on himself, as well as casting another spell that allows him to move through battlefield towards the descending skeleton without drawing the attacks of the beetles. Riddle gets his healing hand on one of the beetles and it explodes.

The Kyuss Knight finally reaches the ground as Jane claws at her face and Archie finishes off the last two beetles with his silver arrows. Scar-Eater blasts the skeleton with an enfeebling ray and Tyrrell draws the lightning sword. Long Fist charges up to the skeleton with everything he can muster but his swing falls short and he misses. Riddle throws a ring of blades around the lone enemy, who steps through it anyway. It swings its black blade at Long Fist and cuts him down in a flash of pure evil, continuing to hack at the body even after it’s down. Riddle closes Long Fist’s wounds, but the skeleton sends one of the worms out of its eye sockets to plunge into the half-ogre’s skull and eat part of his brain.

Jane calls upon an enormous column of water towards the skeleton in an effort to push it back from her allies but it is too strong. Archie pelts it with arrow after arrow and Scar-Eater, forgetting that it had cast a protection from fire spell upon itself earlier, strikes it with three scorching rays that have zero effect. Riddle barrels towards Long Fist and the skeleton takes the opportunity to attack him with another eye-worm for some damage and brain-devouring, but Riddle does manage to cast breath of life on Long Fist before the Knight attacks him again. Jane summons a sudden stalagmite to hold the Knight to the ground where Archie can finish him off with a few more shots.

Tyrrell’s wand of restoration heals Long Fist and Riddle of the intelligence-draining wounds of the eye-worms, and between Riddle and Jane the party gets back up to full strength. Long Fist reports that these Eviscerator Beetles are the least of the rumored Hounds of Kyuss, a group that also include 35-foot-long “Earth Cancer” centipedes that exude an aura that makes the earth erupt around them, proving that indeed, stone shape can be used as a weapon in certain circumstances.

The party debates over how to enter the monastery so Riddle casts divination and asks, “What is the best way to enter the ziggurat to gain information (and live) about what Balakarde discovered?”

The Vaati chorus replies, “Visit the spire, but enter from below.”

When they follow the advice and climb the ziggurat stairs they see the doorway there is packed with rubble, making an entrance this way impossible. However, as they approach the base of the spire, reality twists again and they are subject to the vision of an enormous red dragon swooping down and snatching the obsidian trapezoid from the top of the spire and flying off with it to the northeast…in the direction of the Great Rift Canyon. Before flying however, however, they catch a glimpse of the writhing figure inside, a face, made of five-foot-thich worms, a terrible, terrible face. “ Dragotha,” Scar-Eater says, referring to the dragon, not the face. It is clear to all who belongs to that face.

Before heading into the ziggurat from below the party indentifies the Kyuss Knight’s +1 unholy bastard sword, +2 heavy steel shield, and +2 full plate armor. Scar-Eater claims the shield and Long Fist puts everything else into the Handy Haversack.

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Session Forty-Six
In Which the Intrepid Band of Infitics Moves On, and Meets a Legend

Freeday, 28 Sunsebb, CY 595.

The party spends the day in Diamond Lake, preparing for the Needfest Festival.

Needfest, CY 595

Starday, 1 Needfest, CY 595

The party spends the day celebrating in Diamond Lake.

Sunday, 2 Needfest – Moonday, 3 Needfest, CY 595

The party journeys, uneventfully, to Magepoint.

Godsday, 4 Needfest, CY 595

Coming on to sunset, amidst a gentle rain, the party arrives in Magepoint, a village cradled by gentle hills and full green trees. There is a sense of peace and ease with a buzzing undercurrent of activity and prosperity. The party notes a rocky island about half a mile to the north in the Nyr Dyv, on which sits a pale blue castle surrounding a tower. There is a causeway from the shore to the castle. Tyrrell expresses interest in a beverage, and the entire group heads to the Inn of the All-Seeing Eye, an extremely well-appointed establishment of solid stone construction.

Inside, an elven woman dressed in black appears to be the sole occupant of the place. She welcomes the party, and when Tyrrell asks for an ale, she says that she believes their beverages are waiting for them. She excuses herself to a private room for a moment, and then returns to usher us inside. Celeste is there, along with two other familiar faces, one the restored Marzena Brevyns, and the other, Eligos Manzorian, back from the dead. Marzena embraces the party, spilling her thanks all over them. “Consider them a gift,” she tells them when they attempt to return the items to her that she gave them long ago. “I owe you more than my life,” she says. “I owe you all that I have yet to do in this world, and that is a debt I do not feel lightly. But tell me, how is Allustan?” She has been in Magepoint since Eligos sent her there.

Speaking of Eligos…it seems he was raised by Tenser’s ally, a mage named Agath, after Celeste brought his body to Magepoint, and he has relocated here for the time being. “Tenser has been expecting you and arranged for you to stay here at the Inn. He is in Sigil at the moment but expected back soon. Do not try to enter his castle,” he warns. “It is heavily protected.”

“Who killed you?” Archie asks the mage.

“An assassin from Raknian,” he replies. “I was…overconfident.”

The mages inform the party of the excellent shopping opportunities available in Magepoint. Also the fault line in Magepoint enhances arcane magic. The Library Temple next door, dedicated to a pantheon of Lawful Deities, is available for research and open all night. Celeste suggests they will likely lower the fee to a reasonable level for their weeklong passes.

Before the party disperses for the evening, Celeste reveals that she is not an elven woman but an Eladrin, with millennia behind her and a great deal of power and experience. Scar-Eater casts ray of frost on his beer and is overcome with a tingling sensation. He feels he could empower, enlarge, or extend any spell just by taking slightly longer to cast it.

As they leave the room, Riddle requests a private meeting with Celeste. “I will call on you,” she says. The party retires to their rooms.

Waterday, 5 Needfest and Earthday, 6 Needfest, CY 595

The party occupies themselves with shopping and research. Research revolves around Lashanna, Kyuss, the Vaati, Spellweavers, the Talisman of the Sphere, the Chaos War, the name “Daughter of the Storm”, Visciannix, and the Rift and the Spire.

Freeday, 7 Needfest, CY 595

The shopping and research continues into the end of the festival week, and that evening, Long Fist hosts a small celebration around midnight. The party gathers in a private room around a fire. Long Fist lights six candles and pours mulled wine. He speaks to the others about this time of year in his youth, and of his shame over the ambush and assassination of Lordren several days earlier. He asks, as a gift on his birthday, for the others to explain to him why it is that they fight.

Scar-Eater replies by referring to Lordren as a “sack of ‘tatoes.”

Jane says that she fights for the natural world, but that she fights with them because they are her friends. Tyrrell says that he trusts us and that we share common enemies. Riddle professes that he doesn’t want the world to end, but what keeps him with them is love. They are his family and he would sacrifice himself for any of them. He has many doubts about his power, where it comes from, what the Vaati want (if it even comes from them), but he is comforted by them turning from him when he chooses something they do not like. “Your heart is so big,” he tells Long Fist, “but we are at war. I will not mourn Lordren. If it disrupts our enemies for any time, I will not mourn his loss an instant.”

Lastly, Long Fist turns to Archie for the final explanation. The young ranger says softly, “I was raised by soldiers, and my life is duty. I go where the fight is. But I’m also trained as a ranger. You hunt from cover,” he says, his voice cold and clear. “I respect your religious beliefs, however, I won’t let your honor threaten the lives of the people in this party or the lives of the people of the realm.”

Fireseek CY 596

Starday, 1 Fireseek

A new year dawns with an invitation from Tenser to the Fortress of Unknown Depths. The party is anxious for a closer inspection of Tenser’s home. The Fortress is far from ostentatious, but clearly an establishment of awesome power. There is a tingle in the air. Guards in white enameled plate mail lead the party through a beautiful open tower into a small study, generously adorned with hyper-realistic paintings and furnished with several overstuffed chairs and a massive antique wooden desk at the far end, cluttered with many things including an expensive dragonchess set.

The wizard himself is quite a normal-looking man of about sixty, slight of frame but in good health. His hair is gray and his nose aquiline, and he wears blue robes inscribed with his personal sigil, the scimitar. A middle-aged human man with a long, severe face and black hair stands behind him wearing a black robe of twinkling stars.

“Welcome to my palace, I am Tenser,” the older wizard says. “This is my associate, Agath. I understand you are here to seek my aid, or question me on some matters? How can I assist you?”

Tenser is already aware of the party’s activities in Diamond Lake and at the arena in Greyhawk, and he is also aware that they are carrying something that draws the eyes of creatures far more powerful than they are. “Is it your wish to safeguard this item?” he asks.

Tyrrell and Jane are quick to reply in the affirmative, and Riddle hands the case containing the Rod of Law to Tenser. “The pitfiend and his minions will not rest. The Rod is a beacon,” he notes, opening the case, “and the last thing you need is more eyes upon you.” He tells them that Visciannix already has four pieces of the Rod and that Tenser is engaged with certain others in an effort to disrupt the Visciannix’s activities. Tenser claims that he can protect our piece; in exchange for the opportunity to study it, he will safeguard it in his vault. “I understand the risks,” he says. “In fact I welcome them.”

No one in the party objects, and Tyrrell rather embarrassingly asks what trinkets he might have for us. Tenser doles out his gifts to each member of the party. Tyrrell receives the starlight chain shirt of gleaming mithril that will not only enhance his stealth, but once per day protect its wearer from the jaws of death. Jane is granted the crown of the wilds, woven of thorny branches and brambles and ever-blossoming flowers, which opens her senses further to the interconnectedness of life, earth, wind and sea. Scar-Eater is bequeathed a flail of dull black cold iron with vampiric enhancements, named Soulcrusher. Tenser gives Long Fist the moonstone bracers of platinum and jagged, uncut gems, infusing the sentinel with lunar energies that enhance his constitution and make him more difficult to clearly perceive. Riddle is given a tome of understanding and the lightning belt to enhance both his wisdom and reflexes. Finally, Archie is gifted a remarkable bow called Greenfang, carved from a single 6-foot-long tooth from the maw of Chartriss, and fiendish great wyrm green dragon that terrorized the Rakers for centuries before he was recently slain.

Afterwards, Tenser changes the subject to that of the Fourteen Prophecies, which he has been studying and which are presently unknown to the party. They are a curiosity, special – no matter where they surface, they do not change, nor have they evolved or been changed by fanatics…but even more interesting, in the last twenty years, many of the predictions have actually proven true. Moreover, he believes one of them refers to the party – and this very moment in time – specifically:

- The Red Scourge shall sweep the lands, slaying both the Worthy and Unworthy. (The Red Plague; 20 years ago)

- The Black Blade shall Fall to Earth once more. (Aknarmatala; 11 years ago)
- The City in the Mountain of Fire shall suffer ruin from Beneath. (four years ago, through the actions of the Cult of the Ebon Triad, a major devastation)
- The Black Heart shall be Read. (The Tome of the Black Heart; three years ago)
- The Worm-Eaten Dead shall rise and stalk the Hills of the Fallen. (two years ago)
- The Black Eye shall Open. (“The Obsidian Eye”; one year ago)
- The Bindings shall be torn from Time as the Forge is Relit. (The Dread Forge/two artifacts resurfacing; six months ago)
- A Hero of the Pit shall use his fame to gift a City to the Dead. (Raknian, the Champions Games, the Ulgurstasa; last month)
- The Rod of the Duke shall reappear amidst the Seven Corners of Reality. (Last month)
- The Fourteen shall be revealed unto the Six. (The Fourteen Prophecies and the Six Party members; this very moment)
- The Whispered One’s Hand and the Faceless Mage shall seek that which has been Forgotten. (?)
- The Banished Storm shall be Reborn. (?)
- A Tripartite Spirit shall become one, and by it shall the Mighty be Undone. (?)
- On the Eve of the Age of Worms, the Fallen Hero shall summon the Wormlord to the Dark Temple. (?)

Tenser tells the party of his friend, Balakarde, who made the study of Kyuss his life’s work. Two years earlier, Balakarde teleported to Kuluth-Mar (the city ruled by Kyuss as a mortal), despite warnings from Tenser against it. He returned with a wild look in his eye, having discovered something that sent him on a mad trek to the Great Rift Canyon in the north. He has since vanished without a word. Balakarde is about fifty years of age with longish hair. He is always dressed very well and is famed for his skill as a duelist.

Riddle asks Tenser about the Vaati and also gives the arch wizard a piece of the Faceless One’s simulacrum to scry.

At this point, the party must choose their next destination: do they follow the path that presumably led Balakarde to the Rift where he disappeared, or head straight there? After much deliberation, the party decides to retrace the man’s steps, and head to Kuluth-Mar.

Tenser gives the party a couple of scrolls of greater teleport and tells them they can reach Kuluth-Mar through a painting in his study.

Sunday, 2 Fireseek – Freeday, 6 Fireseek, CY 596

Riddle studies his Tome of Understanding.

Starday, 7 Fireseek, CY 596

The party returns to Tenser’s study, where the painting of Kuluth-Mar affords Tyrrell proper study of their destination. Using one of the scrolls of greater teleport, the rogue brings the entire group to the jungle remains of the once–great city. Ahead lies an ancient black stone ziggurat and a towering spire of stone with an apex of blasted ruin.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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