Lost Souls

In Which Some Important Information is Withheld, Ozymandias Knocks Up(wards) a Beholder, and We Meet the Unwelcome Wagon

We set up our tent, inviting the Mysterious Drow Lady to join us in pursuing that elusive mistress shuteye. Carkal, in his distress over the teleportation ban in the Underdark, volunteered to stay up late in order to mourn his broken heart while also keeping an eye on her maybe. Halfway through the night the Darklight ritual wore of and Carkal pulled out our handy-dandy sunglobe, half-blinding the Mysterious Drow Lady in the process. Naturally, she moved off and obscured herself with smoke. Good job on the watch-keeping there, Carkal.

After some hours we woke up, feeling dandy and refreshed. Roswyn was mysteriously cured of her eight-hour flu (and there was must rejoicing). Edward, impatient to be off, asked Roswyn to ask the Mysterious Drow Lady whether we need to do anything before heading off. Instead, Roswyn asked for the Mysterious Drow Lady’s name—Riia. Riia informed us that we needed to find a shadow-walker if we didn’t want a three-month trek through the wilds of the Underdark. Apparently being able to shadow-walk would allow us to shift into the Shadowfell, a shadowy nightmarescape of a world that was absolutely bursting with dangerous beasties and lay over the corporeal plane. As the Shadowfell distorted time and space, we could potentially cover our journey at eight-fold speed. After some further inquiries via Roswyn, we discovered that Riia did not in fact know where we could find someone able to shadow-walk, but knew of a nearby city where we might be able to.

With this information in hand, we decided to head to the city, following Riia’s lead. Once back at the outpost, we began asking lizard folk for the way to the city. While Perra made inquiries in Draconic, Riia cut to chase using some not entirely legal means and a judicious application of Undercommon, quickly getting the information we needed: a two days’ journey to Onsalar. Unbeknownst to the rest of the party, Onsalar apparently sat upon a very valuable resource and was extremely protective of it, sending our frequent raiding parties to fend off everyone else’s raiding parties. Oblivious, we bought supplies and headed out into the caves.

We soon came across a river chasm. Fortunately we easily found a bridge over the rushing waters below, and headed down a tunnel that quickly guided us towards a waterfall. With no other path forward, we slogged through the surrounding puddle, a slimy affair that was a few feet deep and filled with algae and moss living it up in the moist dark. Roswyn, being short, chose to ride Perra through the transportation while Riia teleported. Carkal, who had been forced to ride along in the Haversack due to contracting the mysterious eight-hour flu, was able to take some solace in the knowledge that short-range teleportation still worked.

But then! No sooner had we passed the waterfall and began slogging across the pond beyond to where the tunnel continued high and dry we were attacked by the blind cave piranhas of death!!! As we (as in, those of us not fortunate enough to have the power of water-walking) fought off the biters, Edward noticed a dark shape leaping across the water at Perra. As we were fighting in the dark against nocturnal cave-dwelling beasties you can imagine we were at something of a disadvantage, but despite the slippery, difficult-to-hit nature of our enemies we soon identified our attackers as dragonspawn: bestial monstrosities created by the ancient cults of Tiamat to serve as mindless soldiers. These in particular were enormous scaly arachnids with snapping dragon’s heads as opposed to eight-eyed be-mandibled affairs.

Of course, facing these mockeries of true spiders that no sooner were we distracted when a giant true spider decided to join the festivities, much to Riia (and the Lolth symbol hanging from her belt)’s dismay. And while Roswyn was conveying information about the dragonspawn to the rest of the party via telepathic limericks, a spider descended upon her, provoking a scream of epic proportions. Fortunately, Roswyn narrowly avoided its grab at a light snack and the rest of the party proceeded to smack it to death.

With our foes downed, we pressed on down the next bit of tunnel, finding it to be lined with fungus and filled with numerous and very sticky spider webs, which were happily sans spiders. After proceeding in this annoying fashion for some we soon found ourselves a nice straight tunnel that led us straight through several caverns, occasionally lined with fungus (including at one point some nice warm glowing fungus). A few groups of enemies decided to try and make a snack of us, but we soon put them right.

At one point we encountered a nice warm room that made all of us feel vague and sleepy. We quickly headed on, into tunnels which were colder, but also not full of fungal Rohypnol. This next stretch of tunnel were lined with earthy ground and small animal tunnels, as well as being considerably narrower—at times it was a struggle to push through, and no doubt those of us with skins lost a few inches to the scraping rock. And the local insect population, perhaps thrilled at the idea of an exotic feast, went to town with their stingers.

After a very itchy hours the tunnel narrowed even further and roughened up; we were forced to ascend a steep cavern which fortunately had lots of handholds. We then found ourselves in a cavern full of branching tunnels. Fortunately Riia picked the right direction and moved on upwards through some uneventful tunnels until we found ourselves at the base of an enormous chasm, its surface laced with tunnels and caves. Near the distance ceiling we could make out the shapes of creatures darting around between the stalactites. We quickly tracked down a traveler’s path up the chasm face and began making our way along the chasm’s wall to the other side. However, during our trek not one of us was spared a splitting headache. A quick check by Edward confirmed that some magic hoodoo was at work—something reality-warping, from the Far Realm…

Still, we pressed on. The chasm sloped upwards as we followed the cave and tunnel path. We eventually emerged onto a ledge from which we could see the flying creatures. Ozymandias, in his infinite wisdom, threw a rock at one of the nearer creatures. Intrigued, or possibly angered and looking for lunch, they flew closer…Ozymandias did the smart and—no, wait, he threw more rocks at them. Perra grabbed him by the ear and dragged him onwards before Ozymandias could bring swooping doom upon us. We headed into another tunnel and, after some time, emerged lower down at a cave entrance that spilled us out onto the chasm floor. In the fungus about the cave mouth, we made out the nests of several unknown creatures. Perhaps still feeling the strain of the rock-throwing incident, Edward sternly admonished Ozymandias: Don’t poke them.

The next cave along our chain turned out to be up a steep climb; fortunately, we noticed some handholds and footholds some kind traveler that knocked out some time earlier. With Roswyn hanging off Perra’s back, and Riia’s staves safely stowed in the Bag, we started climbing. However, halfway up the chasm face a deep, horrendous laugh echoed down from the cave entrance above…however, not being ones to flinch at potential doom, we still climbed. We weren’t left in suspense of about the laughter’s source for long as a bulbous form covered in lazily waving eyestalks floated down to greet us. Ozymandias naturally threw a rock at it.

The beholder didn’t seem to be too perturbed by that as it drifted past, smiling without attacking. Ozymandias, ignoring protests from wiser souls such as Riia and Roswyn, kept throwing rocks at it until he finally managed to clip it in the side. Now enraged, the beholder shot a ray of dark energy at Ozymandias. Cue fight music.

A fight of this magnitude could not be allowed to go unrecorded, so some highlights:
- Ozymandias knocking the beholder up…wards.
- Roswyn being forced to flail ineffectually at Perra with her rapier while furiously singing her daily all the while.
- Edward, face down on the ground, was compelled to charge Ozymandias, who was standing right next to it.
- Riia dragging the beholder about with lightning bolts and dooommmm
- Perra riding it like a donkey with eyestalks for reins.

Eventually the beholder’s attempts to attack Perra resulted in it destroying itself: the final blow came when it feared itself into being terrified of its own bulbous self, and in its efforts to flee its own body it crumbled to dust. Various celebratory gestures were made and Ozymandias threw yet another rock. Fortunately, we were able to hightail it the rest of the way up and through the upper cave mouth before the gargoyles could attack in rage at the indignities being inflicted upon them by mere landwalkers.

The cave entrance brought us to a chute, which we kept climbing forward and upwards…it’s a difficult route, but we make it none the worse for wear. Along the way we came across a nest hollowed out of sheer rock—the beholder’s, evidently. We scooped up some scattered gems, a magical object, and a nice chunk of adamantium, oh-ho. Leaving the beholder’s nest behind, we foundd ourselves in another tunnel. Though we pressed on, the adrenaline quickly faded and began searching for a place to camp out once we’d assured ourselves that we were truly tired, rather than being magicked into it. Once we’d set up our campsite, Perra decided to celebrate our defeat of the beholder by cooking the salted fish he’d been carrying around for the past couple days. Fearing for their gastrointenstinal tracts, Roswyn and Riia and Edward choose to eat bread and jerky instead…

After a bit of a sleep we woke up feeling refreshed and pressed onwards! The journey was mostly uneventful for the first part, though we did encounter an impressively huge vein of quartz along the way. At some point we noticed the tunnel smoothing out a little and beginning to look a little more road-like, including a few points along the way were we saw mushroom patches that looked to have been harvested some time ago. After that our next milestone was a crossroads where we find the remnants of a cooking fire not more than a couple hours old, which we were happily able to ascertain was not, in fact, our own. Following Riia’s instructions, we took the left fork of the crossroads. The route led us over a few more interesting chasms (including a cavern that had a sort of reverse cavern in the ceiling). We note some creatures called darkmantles along the way which fail at ambushing us—Ozymandias reprises his rock-throwing while the rest of us use the much more efficacious magic to get rid of the things.

The tunnel eventually widened, leading us through ha series of connected caverns, to the point that some caverns even peeked back into each other. And then, apropos of nothing, the area around us was doused in a pitch black, a darkness not even the sunglobe could penetrate. Only Riia could see, and her search for the source of this magical darkness was interrupted by a series of quiet clicks in the darkness. She informed Roswyn that we’d run afoul of a drow raiding party and just as Roswyn was conveying this information to the rest of the party, a crossbow bolt flew into our midst…

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In Which We Descend to Darkness, Deal With Lizards, and Explore Portal Physics (a guest article)

We decide not to explore the second tower, and to proceed to the Underdark. Roswyn comes down with a dire illness and decides to rest in the bag of holding until she feels better. We descend down back to the bottom of the tower, where we encounter the portcullis we passed on our way in. We pass it and descend into the tunnel, passing over a pool of sludge. Eventually we encounter another pool of the sludge that we cross. After that, we don’t see any more sludge. The passageway splits and rejoins, at on point becoming a cavern that has some evidence of previous occupation. Eventually there is no foreseeable end and no light save what we bring with us. Eventually, we encounter some roots from a plant, and we hack our way through. After that, we come across a fissure in the rock along the side of the tunnel that descends into deep blackness. Our lights reveal that the base of the fissure, about twenty feet down, broadens out into a slightly longer cavern and we can make out the remnants of an old rope at the bottom of the fissure. Carkel teleports down, finding himself in a stalactite-filled cavern with a passageway leading off from it. There is fungus growing in the corners and a bit of water dripping from the ceiling. The rope is old, worn, and tied into a knot. He walks down the passageway until it turns into two tunnels. One continues fairly straight, and the other plunges steeply down. We descend to join him and all proceed down the steep tunnel. We enter a cavern complex made out of stone less hard than the stone around us. The hallway begins to twist and turn until it turns into a treacherous switchback which descends farther down. The walls seem unstable, causing faint discomfort among the group. A pebble strikes Edward on the forehead. He looks up, and sees more pebbles falling. A large piece of stone suddenly breaks free and falls directly toward his head. He quickly summons an umbrella of force, shattering the rock above him into pebbles that patter harmlessly around the group. Perra catches a glimpse of motion out of the corner of his eye in time to yell out a warning as a creature descends upon Edward, slashing with its claws. He manages to throw himself out of the way, but tumbles down a nearby cliff and the battle is on. The creature that has fallen in our midst bears some resemblance to a gorilla. It is hulking, with insectoid features: an umber hulk. As the battle progresses, a second umber hulk emerges from farther down the tunnel. This one appears bigger and meaner than the other one. We manage to finish off the first one fairly quickly, but when the second one becomes significantly wounded, it turns and begins to burrow away. We don’t allow that. Edward pulls it back to us, and Carkel finishes it off by leaping up onto its back and stabbing his knife between its eyes. It takes what seems like an eternity to topple over but finally comes to rest on the ground. We plunge deeper into the depths. Eventually, the course levels out in a larger cavern with a very steep and rugged floor including a 30-foot deep chasm that we have to scramble down. There is a narrow passageway at the bottom that we enter. The tunnel continues downward for an immeasurable amount of time. We take random branches as we continue, but our decisions don’t seem to matter at all. Eventually, we encounter a stream. There is a moss around this stream that, when we step near it, retreats into the water only to crawl out on a rock farther downstream. There are other fungi around that possesses a surprising lack of color, being only greyscale. Carkel tries to determine which are poisonous by eating them. The third makes him sick to his stomach so he comes to his senses and quits. We then encounter some fish. Carkel invents “curse-fishing” and uses it to harvest all of the fish from the river. Pressing onward, we find rather large spider webs in the corners. Not big enough to trap a person, but big enough to be an annoyance when run into. We then encounter some mushrooms that shoot spores out that seem to try to eat us. Obviously, we harvest many of these spores. Carkel figures out how to line the inside of a bag with the spores, resulting in an excellent torture device. We proceed and find a large cavern filled with stalagmites and stalactites. We are about halfway through the cavern before Edward catches motion out of the corner of his eye. Just in time, he sees what we previously thought was a limp vine come to life and lash out. We, unsurprisingly, decide to fight the thing rather than run. As we are fighting the vines, three destrachans appear and buffet us with a vicious sonic onslaught. During the fight, the vine creature tries to drag Ozymandius into its maw to consume him, but Perra manages to intervene in time, impaling the creature upon his sword and slaying the beast. We make quick work of the other creatures and continue on our way. The passageway continues treacherously steeply downward for a while, making for an uncomfortable descent. We eventually come to a series of caverns with smoother floors than before, the last one ending in a staircase that winds downward. At the bottom of the staircase is a pile of rubble. After a little bit of digging, we make a hole just large enough to teleport through. After doing so, we find ourselves on a terrace overlooking a cavern with the remains of campfires in it. We descend, and then proceed into a passageway through which we make good time. The corridor splits into two paths, one that descends steeply downward and one slightly inclined; we choose the steep downward path. After not too long, the air is disrupted with the odor of smoke. We proceed, discovering a new cavern with a terrace filled with lizardfolk. As we approach, they move forward and surround us, ignoring or not understanding our attempts to communicate, but Carkel (with a little help) intimidates our way past the group and into the small town made of building carved from the stone. Finally, we find a Deep Gnome merchant who speaks poor draconic. We buy a little something from him to be polite and ask him how to get to the nearest big city. He says we need to talk to the lizard chief, Solaris. So, we head over to the lizard tents and back to the largest one in the back. When we enter, we see two heavily armed bodyguards and an imposing lizardfolk in the back with many battle scars and a large axe strapped across his back. He thinks us soft, but a quick retort from Perra puts that straight. He asks us what brings us down here, and we say that we have business with House Alendar of the Drow. He says that the Drow don’t take kindly to visitors. We respond that we don’t care and that we’ve dealt with this family before. After a moment, he says that he’s got something for us to do in payment for a guide and that he hopes we’ll get killed doing it, as he doesn’t appreciate surface dwellers. He explains that his tribe of lizardfolk is made up of traders that travel between this and other trading posts and that one of their previous trade relations soured. His tribe was wrong and he wants a redress of grievances. They were wronged by a clan of dwarves, the Duermar, a few days’ travel from there. He wants us to kill them all, and sack their temple, bringing him the gem that they keep there. After he gives us basic directions on how to get to the dwarves, we depart. Unbeknownst to us, we have picked up a follower… Before long we decide to rest for the night. As we pull over to the side of the road to set up a teleportation circle to return to Amorak, a Drow steps out of the shadows and warns us that if we teleport away, we won’t be able to get back. Apparently and long-range teleportation into the Underdark is very unreliable. We pull the ill Roswyn out of the bag to translate because Carkel is being difficult. He refuses to translate and instead spends the rest of the night trying to figure out the physics of portals, a futile attempt. We thank the Drow for telling us about the teleportation. After a bit of conversation and consideration, we decide to take this mysterious stranger up on her offer to guide us to our destination. We have now gained a new party member! Hooray!

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In Which We Head into the Valley of the Beast, Fight a Long-Sought Foe, and Fight a Less-Sought-But-Still-Welcome Foe as Well

When last this tale left off, we were standing at the lip of a valley. Laid out before us, we could see a distant tower jutting high over the valley floor, which was covered in deep mist. From our vantage point, we were also able to see a second tower, though this one had long since collapsed. As we descended into the valley, the mist rose to cover us, and our journey was one of discovery as the jagged shapes of pine trees and underbrush ghosted in and out of the mist with our passing. The faint calls of birds far above accompanied our passage, though all other sounds were muffled. As we rode, we began noticing signs of ill health in the trees—lower branches blackened, and trunks pockmarked and withered. Still, we rode on.

Soon we began to hear the faint sound of dripping, and the trees up ahead quickly revealed themselves as the source of the sound. Or rather, the source was a thick, black, tarlike liquid that was oozing along the tree branches, dripping to the forest floor. We couldn’t discern any source, though we did linger to run some experiments on what this mysterious liquid was. Perra caught a few drops in a bucket in order to check its flammability (or lack thereof) and though sparks flared briefly within it, they quickly settled down to a slow, ember-like burn. As we moved deeper into the valley we saw more and more oozy trees, with more and more branches dripping the strange liquid. Carkal, in his infinite wisdom, decided to put some in his mouth—it tasted metallic and tangy but, more importantly, left behind the faint sense of necrotic energies…

Unnerved by all this, Roswyn cast an Arcana check, which revealed that the entire forest was cloaked in magic (something we’d have never guessed ourselves, clearly), though not around the trees specifically. As we kept heading in a vaguely keep-ish direction, the concentration of magic grew stronger and strong. Along the way, we heard flies buzzing and found the half-devoured corpse of a bear…the half-devoured corpse of a bear that had been torn in half. The ends of the bones looked dissolved rather than snapped, which had the wonder effect of heightening our apprehension without narrowing down the field of potential monsters one bit. Still, we were not a group to flinch at the possibility of untold horrors, and pressed forward. Upon closer examination, we realized that the pockmarks in the trees were not the result of rot—but acid splatter…

It wasn’t long before we realized that in addition to wandering around the territory of some unnamed acidic horror, we’d also gotten lost and no longer had any idea where the keep was except “near-ish”. Carkal cast another Hand of Fate ritual and a ghostly hand materialized from the fog to point the way towards the keep. When asked where the monster was, it pointed in the same direction, before receding back into the precipitation from whence it had come. Suddenly, the silence of the forest was disturbed by a sharp cracking sound and then a loud thump! before all went quite once more. As we looked around apprehensively, peering into the mist for shapes beyond the spikes of dying trees, Ozymandias decided to help us along in his own genre-savvy way that commenting that “It’s probably nothing.” The rest of us, being similarly genre-savvy, backed away from him just in case.

When our opponent refused to show itself, we kept going in the direction of the keep. We heard rustling in the trees—Perra declaimed that it was “Just the wind, just the wind.” Our horses descended into a clearing where many of the trees had been so pockmarked by acid that they’d simply fallen over, or even collapsed. Some of them had fallen into a lake of the black necrotic liquid we’d examined and tasted not so long before. And around the lake, studded in the muck like inverse jewels, were the enormous, clawed footprints of some fell creature. Another crash, followed by yet another in quick succession, sounded within the fog all about, but as quickly as we could draw our weapons we spotted a huge half-runing half-walking form with giant black wings darting past us. There was no doubt left in our minds about the nature of our foe: DRAGON, MOTHERFUCKERS! Fucking finally!

It was a long and arduous battle we fought against the beast, but still we pounded our way through over 1k of health, thanks to a rather judicious application of carnivorous glowing frogs. Once we’d defeated the dragon, we immediately skinned it so we could all have a nice pair of matching dragonhide boots once we’d returned to civilization (or we could upgrade armor but that’s routes for squares!). We also trapped the dragon’s soul in a gem and forced it to tell us the location of its hoard in the tower. Several of us expressed an interest in some dragon steaks as well as various other bits and bobs of his body for weapons, so we headed back to Amarak through a combination of teleporting and portalling with the corpse and had it butchered. After feasting on our conquest, a few of us carved up some bones for weapons and, in Roswyn’s case, a nice little bone flute. Once rested, we headed back to the mysterious tar lake and went on our way. Fortunately, we’d had the foresight to leave an arrow pointing the way to the tower so we wouldn’t get turned around again, and were able to get going with a minimum of fuss.

Edging our way around the lake, we soon found ourselves before a large rise in the ground, and at the base of the rise was the yawning mouth of a cave, into which flowed a thin rivulet of black ooze. We queried the dragon’s soul, and it grudgingly assured us that we needed to head into the cave if we wished to get to the keep. The cave turned out to be a tunnel that quickly dipped downwards, and the sludge formed pools and slow waterfalls where the rock dropped unevenly. We were soon forced to lead our horses on foot, through a half-mile of twists and turns. In a few places we noted the tunnel branching out, though we stayed in the main branch; it was a fairly uncomplicated layout, and the main path soon took us past some massive, with rotting, timbers which had been installed to hold up the tunnel where it widened into a large hall. The sludge had followed us here as well.

At the other end of the hall from us was a large doorway carved with elven characters. From the looks of things, it had once held a massive portcullis that was now smashed to pieces, no doubt by our scaly friend. Beyond the open doorway we saw a raised wall, and beyond its crenellations we saw the murky shapes of several ballistae. Off to the side was an extremely steep staircase, steep enough to be more like scaling a cliff face than taking a leisurely upward stroll. As for the hall itself, its floor was covered in scuff marks and holes that indicated where poles had once been installed—stakes, no doubt, to keep out drow raids of centuries past. We saw that the floor beneath the portcullis was sunken and full of the black sludge, so we chose to take the staircase to the upper hall.

There, we encountered the remains of once-formidable fortifications, most of it now rotted by years of abandonment and disuse. We also encountered some magical torches that, to our surprise, were still burning after all this time. Taking a few, we continued our explorations past a barred door, stealing some old board games and the other detritus that indicated the keep had once been home to many defenders of the overlands. Along the way to the dragon’s hoard, we encountered a dining table that had someone contrived to remain intact, as well as the crumbled remnants of tapestries that had once decorated the walls with hunting scenes. Finding some stairs, we decided to head up to yet another wide hall. Once there, we were stopped in our tracks by the sound of ethereal voices and line of ghosts, their elflike forms twisted and distorted as they marched through the doors to the hall where we’d found ourselves. Perhaps once they’d been as beautiful as all their kind, but in death their hands were gnarled and deformed, their lank hair white and stringy over wild eyes. Their voices rose over each other in some crazed chant as they took up position before us and attacked.

Once we’d put those poor souls to rest, we started climbing the broken tower once more. We passed rooms that had once been barracks—though they were ransacked looted now. There were some rooms which seemed to have been meant for recreational use by the keep’s inhabitants, one of which opened onto a terrace. Past that the stairs began to crumble, but through the cunning use of flying and teleportation we made it without further incident to the dragon’s hoard, which we promptly stole.

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In Which We Refuse to Split the Party, Are Fired by Our Erstwhile Employers, and There is a Nice, Good Old-Fashioned Travel Montage

When we last left our heroes (“heroes”), one noble had run off by himself while the rest of the nobles had run off another way. Edward suggested that we split the party, a suggestion which naturally met with a resounding NO. It was Lord Damere that had run off by himself, but after some argument we decided to go after the group instead, leaving Lord Damere for later. As we headed out onto the terrace in pursuit of our plan, however, we noticed a rather substantial number of guards running about and Cabal wizards flying that home in on us.

Nevertheless, we keep going! Eventually we emerge into a large hall with a high window—a ballroom, to be specific. Edward’s keen human senses told us that the group of nobles had split up once again… However, we ended up flipping a coin in order to decide which group to follow, because we couldn’t tell which one was larger. Decision made, Perra helpfully smashed the halberd used to bar the doors between us and our quarry. Another little jaunt through the mansion, and we found ourselves in a window-lined hall that looked to be of a library-ish persuasion. I say looked to be, for when we opened the door a volley of crossbow bolts flew past our heads. Clearly, we could not let that stand, and over the course of the battle managed to crush at least one person beneath one of the heavy, freestanding bookcases. Thanks, Ozymandias!

By the time we’d dispatched our foes we knew our quarry were long gone, and Roswyn set to work getting a teleportation circle back to Amarak ready. Meanwhile, everyone else got busy setting the place on fire.

Once back in Amarak we decided to take a nice, long rest—some of us learned a few rituals, while Roswyn enjoyed living in the lap of luxury for a few days. That done, we decided to head back into the belly of the beast and teleported back to the nondescript shop portal owned by the Thieves’ Guild. Fortunately there were no magical alarms or traps to detain us, and we headed back out into the Madaban wearing our handy dandy acolyte of Kord disguises in order to report to our thiefly masters and also get that anti-scrying ritual renewed before it ran out and we had the entire Cabal on our asses.

We’d only gone a few steps before Edward noticed someone making their way off in the opposite direction, glancing at us suspiciously all the while. We tossed the poor fellow a few suspicious glance of our own, before teleporting him into an alleyway for, ah, questioning. Passersby notice but decline to investigate; given our Kordly robes of Kordliness (seriously, would you want to fuck with followers of the god of motherfucking battle?). Being the least imposing at 3’ 5", Roswyn kept watch and kept down the sounds of our interrogation with the judicious application of Ghost Sound. Once we’d gleaned enough information from the spy—namely that he was on the Cabal’s payroll—we began discussing what to do with him. Use him to sneak us into the Cabal? Feed him false information to distract the Cabal so we could sneak in? Kill him and stuff his soul in a crystal to torment until the end of all that is to come? In the end we opted to go with option two, false information, and fed him goodies about how we were going after one Evelyn Dross.

Once we’d left him to scurry off to the Cabal (in spite of our spirited attempts to convince him not to. Oh well, all according to plan~), we finally headed back to the Warehouse District to get that anti-scrying ritual on us renewed. On our way over, we noticed that the city seemed to be getting increasingly uneasy and chaotic; people were traveling in groups with hired bodyguards, there were fewer casual shoppers, and guards in strange uniforms were posted all around. As we skirted the edge of the marketplace, we noticed that some mercenary group had taken over security, and that they were rather more heavily armed than the standard guards of the noble houses. Just as we entered the warehouse district, a nondescript person fell in line beside us and chatted about nonsense before mentioning, all casual-like, that Ash was waiting for us in the Black Horse Alehouse before vanishing into the crowds. Still in disguise, we headed there for our apparent rendezvous. Ash beckoned us to his table in the back and promptly began quizzing us about the Valernos.

After relating our adventures, we learned that our targets hadn’t been spotted since they’d bravely run away, and that our fire hadn’t even done any significant damage. The Thieve had some new info on the Felsworn and how they were transporting souls hither and yon—apparently it had something to do with Jalrayna Alendar, the drow lady, who was apparently carting souls to the Underdark in order for her house to distribute to…who? Despite this exciting new lead, the thieves had no idea where House Alendar’s power was centered, nor any way of finding out, and as a finishing touch they also didn’t know crap about the Cabal headquarter’s layout.

We began excitedly conversing about how to sneak our way into the Underdark, and were on the cusp of buying ourselves a caravan so we could slip in under the guise of legitimate traders, when Ash sighed, bought us a round of drinks, and said that he had some bad news for us. Apparently his thiefly masters had decided we were no longer necessary, thanks all the same, and were asking us to leave Madaban and not let the gates hit us on the way out. Apparently they were quite pleased with the amount of havoc we’d managed to wreak thus far, thanks ever so, but were not eager for us to hang around in case their, ah, hand in the wreaking ever became obvious. At least they were willing to pay us? I mean, I for one feel marginally less used. They could have just left our 20k on the table!

In any case, we told Ash that as part of our price to leave we wanted information on a legitimate trading route to the Underdark. He told us that it would be hard to find the info, the best he could do was keep searching and tell us by sending if he found anything…After some haggling, we managed to strike a deal: we wanted to have a concrete offer of gold and would not budge until we got one. We also said that we were most certainly willing to negotiate and would meet the Thieves’ Guild’s agents at such and such a time at the cave just outside of town. We also said that we wanted the anti-scrying ritual as part of our price, and that this bit in particular was non-negotiable. Ash told us that his superiors really, really wanted us gone and that their offer was 10k a piece and two magical items total, all in addition to the ritual. We decided not to argue for more and headed off to get a good night’s sleep before collecting our payment. On the way out, we asked Ash who his employers were, and he told us to come back in a couple years and see who was in power, oh ho~

Bright and early next morning, we purchased a few sturdy steeds and rode out for the meeting cave. Though Edward spotted no one on the way there, and we’d purposefully headed out too early in order to forestall the possibility of ambush, we were nevertheless met by a dozen men on horseback within twenty minute… One of them stopped by the cave and dismounted. After some pleasantries, he handed over some heavy bags and a pair of scrolls—Roswyn hid behind the tall folk in order to make sure that we were being scammed with some plain old decorated parchment. Fortunately for the men on horseback, they were on the up-and-up—in fact, in addition to a copy of the anti-scrying ritual itself, the Thieves’ Guild had tossed into a one-use version so we could quickly renew the ritual before heading away from Madaban. Alas, when Edward made a casual inquiry we found out that they still hadn’t learned anything new about finding entrance to the Underdark…le sigh.

So we decided to take the information gathering into our own hands! We had plenty of victuals and of course some nice new horses, so without further ado we decided to head back to the city of the Raven Queen—Benir. It took us two days to get there but they were, at the very least, eventless days. We eventually arrived at the city outskirts and found ourselves having a chance to see Benir from the outside for the first time. It was a city built of dark stone with the thin spires of turrets all along its skyline. The only building visible from the outside were the tall towers that graced the most important buildings in the city; the temple and the keep.

After finding an inn and taking a quick rest for the night, we left Edward in the inn to learn the anti-scrying ritual, as well as Ozymandias in case his resurrected nature pinged the priests of the Raven Queen in any ways. Entering the temple, we managed to wrangle an audience with some higher-ups who recognized from our previous visits to the temple with Calon. Though not overly friendly, they did give us access to library. A librarian made short work of our requests and left us with a ginormous pile of books, within which might have been the information we sought as to an entrance to the Underdark…thanks to the ban on talking in the library, we were forced to bitch at each other telepathically as we slowly, painfully, narrowed the pile down to a single stack.

Of course, we eventually got tired of doing things the old-fashioned way and had Carkal cast a quick Hand of Fate of ritual, which pointed us to the book we wanted—one that mentioned a keep in the forested highlands to the west, beyond the outskirts of the old empire. It had once been maintained by a coalition of human druids and shamans and elven wizards as a watch point due to the frequency of raids from the Underdark in the area. Looking through the book, we found some pertinent names as well as a rough map. Unfortunately, the book was also several hundred years old so we had no way of knowing whether the keep was still standing…

Before leaving, we asked the priests where Calon was as we knew we would be heading towards his homelands. They reluctantly told us that they’d take the question to the High Priestess, and eventually brought back the answer that Calon was on an important mission and that we would not be able to make direct contact except through his seeress mentor. Since we didn’t care that much about Calon, we decided to head for the keep toot sweet. We set about making preparations—obtaining winter clothes, other supplies for traveling in winter regions, making a surreptitious copy of the map using the Amanuensis ritual, and buying new horses that were adapted to the cold climate. All that done, we headed out!

The area we were headed had been slightly beyond the reach of the empire, and thus while there had once been a few imperial settlements in the area the region had largely been belonged to the “barbarians” and remained out of imperial hands. We began our journey following what old trade roads we could find. Over the course of a two week travel montage set to some appropriately poignant music, we passed rural settlements, abandoned settlements, and bandits camped out in a ghost town who mistook us for easy pickings. The imperial trade road we were on quickly began breaking down. At one point we passed an old, abandoned keep (not the one we wanted) that had become the base of operations for an orcish warlord. In an unusual show of restraint we chose to let it be and continue on our way. To our surprise, the little lakeside hunting community marked on our map had survived, and was mostly populated by humans and half-elves (as well as one half-orc). Apparently the communities around the lake had survived quite well without the empire, thank you very much.

We restocked and pushed on. The new few days took us from village to village, who had been protected by a circle of druids who maintained the hospitability of the land and kept the ecosystem sustainable and flourishing. We kept following the imperial road, eventually reaching its limits. Though there were signs of giants and wolves, we adjusted our Perceptive caps and kept going. Eventually we reach the wall described on the map, an enormous stone edifice punctuated by toppling battlements. Following the last gasp of the imperial road, we found our way to a large gate that had once housed a pair of no doubt imposing doors. We picked one of the abandoned buildings to camp out for the night.

Beyond the wall, the imperial road vanished, as did the trade roads—we were in giant country proper, now. We fought our way through the forests, taking the game trails when we could find them and at one point stumbling over a giants’ path that let us make good time for a bit before we had to quite it. The snowline wasn’t far away at all by this point, and though we weren’t ever snowed on we did encounter snowflakes once or twice—those of us who hadn’t been near snowy regions in our lives enjoyed the novelty despite our hard going. The fourth day we were out in the woods, the howling of wolves became more pronounced and over the next few hours we couldn’t shake the feeling that they were getting closer… We decided to stop and set up camp early in late afternoon and wait for the wolves to come to us rather than put up with their bullshit one moment longer.

It took a nerve-wracking hour before the wolves finally showed themselves, though they howled all the while as they prowled the woods that surrounded our meager little campsite. Eventually one of the white wolves appeared on a rise in view of our campground, watching us for some time before howling as dusk began to fall. It vanished from our sight as the other howls abruptly stopped. The woods were still and quiet for fifteen minutes that seemed to stretch out into eternity, before Edward began to spot forms stalking through the trees, getting closer…and closer…Roswyn made a halo of fire around Ozymandias, hoping to ward or scare them off. Alas, no such luck—the wolves leapt into our midst and proceeded to demonstrate that we had not only been marked as prey by wolves, we’d been marked for prey by magical breath-weapon-spewing wolves. A small but important distinction, I assure you.

Once the fight was over, we realized that we had faced winter wolves, which were known to inhabit the northern wastelands and whose pelts were known to fetch a magnificent price. To that end, we skinned our foes and spent the night on the battlefield before continuing on. Strangely enough, after that battle the wolf howls around us began to fade as they gave our party a wide berth, and we met no further trouble. In fact, we soon spotted a human hunting party who we managed to ask for directions to the keep, though they spoke an unfamiliar dialect—and Roswyn had to charm them with a song or two, first. They told us their tribal elders would know more about the keep and invited us back to their village for more information.

The elders were also suspicious about us, but Roswyn quickly improvised a song about our battle against the winter wolves and they soon softened, feeding us and generously giving us a nice place to stay overnight. They told us that the keep was falling apart and a place to be avoided—however, perhaps in light of Roswyn’s song, they encouraged us to go forth, bold heroes, and do heroic deeds and bring back songs of glory. Never one to turn down heroic deeds or songs of glory, we saluted the elders and went on our way. The elders’ instructions quickly brought us within sight of the keep within two days, though all we saw was a jagged spire rising high above the forest, clearly of elven make. Though it seemed to be in a state of disrepair, we made ready to ride into the thick, biting cold mist that clung to the forest floor, in hopes of finally finding our entrance to the Underdark.

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In Which There is an Amusing Interlude Twixt Hound and Kobold, We Are Very Sneaky (for Once), and are Expected, if Very Bad, Guests

Victorious in our battle for the Azzurius vault and its shiny, shiny treasures, we looted it sharpish and started looking for a way out. We eventually settled upon the subtle tactic of just walking our way out, along with the dog we’d saved earlier, which we’d named Mr. Fluffles (okay, no. We named him Gier. But in our hearts his name is Mr. Fluffles.). We happened upon a group of talking, panicking soldiers, but took care of them with ease. Next we found the kitchen, which sent Perra into paroxysms of joy as he looted their fancy rich-person spice cabinet. Meanwhile, Roswyn opened up a window so we could enact our cunning escape.

Following the burglars, we made our way back out of the estate walls and back to the Thieves’ Guild, where we made our report before teleporting back to Amarak for a little R&R with our new animal companion. Perra found a nice place for his bearskin rug, and there was an amusing interlude where Dalyn got to know Mr. Fluffles Gier. After that smashing bit of entertainment, we made fun of Carkal’s new facial tattoo (“Carkal, is there something you need to tell us?”) and teleported back to Madaban, dressed in our fancy Kord robes. Our first stop for info was, naturally, Ash. He congratulated us on taking out the Azzurius state and told us that based on sneaky thief intelligence, he’d learned that various other Felsworn nobles had all taken refuge on the Valerno estate.

Quite aside from our Thieves’ Guild quest, we were very interested to hear that the Valernos were one of the wealthiest families in the city—in fact, they were wealthier than any other family we’d taken on before…and their estate was both much more luxurious and much less defensible than your average castle. It occupied an entire city block, and the main house was surrounded by town houses that they rented out. Tucked inside that protective ring of tenants was also an impressive garden. Before heading off, we exhibit just a smidge of foresight and asked where the guest quarters were likely to be, as well as descriptions of the dastardly men and women we were looking for.

Thus armed (THE MORRRRE YOU KNOWWWW) we headed out to perform our dark work. Teleporting across the rooftops of Madaban using the dark of night for cover, we made our way to the tenements that ringed the Valerno manor. Peering down into the garden, we saw that it was full of guards, and that more guards lined the manor’s back patio. Stuffing everyone into the Haversack, Roswyn began sneaking her way across the roof to where we knew the guest quarters to be. She was just moving onto the manor’s roof when one of the soldiers on the patio spotted her. A mage sent a blast of light to where she was, though through with some quick thinking Roswyn managed to disguise herself with some handy camouflage, courtesy of Prestidigitation. The mage decided to fly up for a closer look…just as Perra reached out of the bag to whack Roswyn with a mop, making her go invisible for a brief period—just long enough for her to fly over to the nearest non-smoking chimney. She just managed to squirm her way down, swearing profusely at everyone in both Common and Elven as she did. However, despite the horrors of SOOT EVERYWHERE IN MY HAIR ON MY CLOTHES AHHHHH Roswyn made it to the fireplace safely. After cleaning herself off, she dumped everyone out of the Haversack (I have my priorities.).

We find ourselves in a long hall with chandeliers and paintings on the walls, doors, and opening that leads out into a hallway. Roswyn quietly opened the first door, but found it locked. Carkal looked through the keyhole and teleported into a well-appointed bedroom. A couple slept soundly on the bed while a maid made do with the rug; all the light there was came from the soft, ethereal glow of the garden’s magical lights. Carkal let the rest of us in and we promptly began a silent, yet furious argument over the necessity of stabbing the people in the room even though they did not appear to be on our list of nobles to off. In the end we decided to just knock them out. Roswyn and Edward took care of that, and Carkal helped even though we had to pry his shiny new silent sledgehammer out of his hands first. Le sigh.

We moved on to the second room Perra had investigated during our argument and found that its occupants were also not on our hitlist. A quick rifling through desk drawers revealed that, while they were not nobles, they were definitely affiliated with the nobles we sought and part of their entourage. We knocked them out too, and moved on. The next room held a single man unconscious and lying facedown on his bed. This presented a bit of a dilemma re: identification, so Edward prepared to knock the dude out while Roswyn gingerly turned him over to get a good look at his face. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to troll, we dragged the poor guy over to the room with the couple and arranged him in a compromising position on their bed because…because…I’m not even going to justify that one.

Anyhow, continuing the saga of room exploration, we next found one occupied by a lady and a maidservant. Roswyn finds a magical music box, and Carkal put it into the Haversack so he could give it a listen. It played a nice cheerful song, and we decided to keep for fight music (what am I, chopped liver? I’m a bard! Fight music is what I do!!). We knocked the lady and her maid out and moved on. The next room was a music room filled with comfy chairs and a plethora of instruments. We kept looking for bedrooms, and found yet another locked room that…also didn’t include the people we needed to kill.

Fortunately, we finally came up on a huge pair of unlocked double doors, beyond which lay a flight of stairs. We decided to head up in search of bigger fish. Instead, we found six guards loitering on a terrace. We snuck past them, and Carkal teleported through the keyhole of a room across the stairs. Instead of sleeping nobility, we found six soldiers bunking in what looked like a hastily repurposed fancy bedroom, including a table covered in half-finished traps. We all manage to sneak in and position ourselves around people without waking anyone. Then we scythed out their lives as one—though one of these unlucky souls managed to cry out before we snuffed his vital forces, which could have been a problem. And indeed, as we collected the traps, we heard a faraway door opening…

The door had been locked from the inside ahead of time, fortunately enough, and as we argued about what to do about this possible rumbler of our plot, there came a knock on the door and a voice asking, “Everything all right in there?” Carkal managed to pull off a bluff about night terrors, and the guard left. After letting out a collective sigh of relief, the rest of us hurriedly ransacked the room for any information on the number and location of guards. Instead we found a journal that told us the nobles were holed up somewhere, and the plan in case we showed up, which was to use the traps to control the perimeter of the estate (lol). This not being specific enough for our tastes, we used the Speak With Dead ritual to ask an unlucky guard where Valerno and his friends were (in the estate’s private sector), what the guard numbers were like (blah blah numbers blah), and how many traps had been deployed already and where (around the basement and the mid-level gallery around the main fall).

We decided that the roof was the best way to get to the private sector. Up a chimney we went, as Roswyn snuck the Haversack full of everyone further across the roof while cloaked in a blanket as a bit of half-assed camouflage. Eventually she came to a point in the roof where it shot up a story. Flying up and over as far as she could, Roswyn landed without attracting attention only to start falling as she lost her grip on the slippery tiles! Fortunately she managed to cling to the roof long enough to cling up to the roof’s peak. On the other side she spotted some soldiers loitering on a section of roof ahead. Dropping down, she spotted an even larger group of guards milling about in front of the manor’s main entrance. Still, none of these fine gents had spotted her yet, so Roswyn just kept sneaking along~ And eventually found her way to another nice, smokeless chimney. The rest of the party was, once again, treated to an amazingly creative stream of profanity as she wriggled her way down the sooty shaft.

Once she’s tumbled out of the fireplace, she shook everyone out of the Haversack. Be found our way to a bedroom where a middle-aged man snored lightly in the bed. Once again, he didn’t seem to be one of our targets, though a quick rifling through his desk found papers that suggested he was some kind of chamberlain for the Valernos. We knocked him out and moved on through the nearest door. After slipping through the hallways of the manor for a bit, we were intrigued to notice a room with light spilling out from under the door. Some careful and perceptive examination told us that beyond the door were a bunch of people talking politics. We couldn’t know whether they were our targets, of course, but then again how many people spend their late nights loitering around manors talking politics anyway?

Carkal kicked Roswyn so she could make him invisible (ABUSE!!), then teleported into the room with his imp to see what was what. And what do you know, the room was full of nobles who needed killing. Apparently they’d been expecting us, as someone mentioned that “they” (i.e. us) were supposed to show up at any minute. He also told us that the room the nobles were had a terrace, upon which were the soldiers Roswyn had seen earlier while sneaking across the rooftop. We decided to temporarily retreat into a side room in order to pull some of the soldiers of the terrace so they could plunge to their ignoble deaths. Once we’d taken care of most of them, we courteously knocked on the door before kicking it down to kick some noble butt.

The nobles, not eager to have their butts kicked, eventually cut and run halfway through the fight. We took care of the mages and other lackeys they’d left behind before noticing Cabal wizards circling the skies above the manor. The nobles, too, had split up into two groups. What now?

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In Which We Are Very Good Little Arsonists, Are Accidentally Heroic, and Add Animal Cruelty to Our Long and Illustrious List of Crimes Against Humanity

After discussing our next move, we decided to ask our friend the captured soul for directions to Lord Azzurius’ office. Following the soul’s reluctant instructions, we ended up in a long fancy hallway that was lined with statues and with an ornate door at the opposite end. As neither door nor statues were magical, we got Perra to kick the shit out of that door! Doorknobs are for wusses! Especially the unlocked ones!!

At any rate, we found ourselves in front of a staircase that led up to a large, well-appointed antechamber, and then a richly decorated suite of rooms. Perra stole a game off the sitting room as we passed it by, and we began exploring the other rooms in a suite. We happened upon a nursery, and then the luxurious master bedroom. Still nothing of us to us, though the master bedroom had two doors that led deeper into the suite. The first one we picked fortuitously led into a study lined with bookshelves and featuring a neatly-organized desk. The sole window in the room opened onto a gorgeous view of the city. We started going through the shelves and desk in search of Felsworn-related documents for Ash (we give him paperwork because we care!), and owing to Azzurius’ diligent organization new soon found some juicy correspondence and incriminating ledgers. We also found a few other fancy trinkets, which we of course promptly stole.

After that we were at loose ends because didn’t know what else to do, our target being in another castle. We decided that while we were here we might as well destroy the Azzurius holdings before destroying their owner, and promptly made the souldier tell us where the Azzurius treasure vaults were. We were directed to the basement.

But before heading down to the depths of the Azzurius estate, we decided to leave a bit of good old-fashioned mayhem in our wake. Carkal set the ceiling beams ablaze a well-tossed torch, while Roswyn got sparks going in all the expensive tapestries hanging all over the place. As the final touch, we tossed a bit of oil here and there to facilitate the burning. Once the fire was well underway, we ran back to the tower with the intent of making for the basement. Alas, scarcely had we entered the statue-lined hallway when we encountered soldiers with hounds. Perra made the first move by chucking a handful of poisoned dog treats at them.

Fisticuffs ensued, during which the one dog that ate the treats ended up in a corner throwing up and whimpering in abject misery. By the end of the fight, we were left with our sole miserable hound, which was not only poisoned but had been punted across the room. We leashed it, healed it, and headed further down the stairs for the vault. We encountered a few more soldiers and hounds, all of whom we handily took care of before moving on.

Once in the basement, the first room we encountered was a storeroom that looked to be an armory. We grabbed whatever weapons we didn’t already have in our haversack—and a 200-year-old wine, oho—and made short work of a patrol we encountered on our way out of the room. Wandering the basement, we eventually found ourselves before a stout oak door with a small barred window set in it, and a few small cells beyond. As it was warded against magical tamering, we had Perra kick it in. It took a few tries, so Roswyn played a rowing song upon her lute to help keep the rhythm going. Perra quick tore apart the first two cells, and the third as well, but the last prisoner seemed to have sunken into defeated misery and made nary a squeak as the dragonborn barbarian bodily tore his cell door bar from bar. Ever the good-aligned one, Perra fed him one of our old, crappy healing potions and let the other two prisoners help him out of the prison and (hopefully) to safety.

A few more twists and turns, we found ourselves in a neat little antechamber, at the far end was a giant oak door securely bound with iron bands, studs, and other intimidating objects of a metallic nature. The Azzurius crest was displayed over head, and statues were set in alcoves leading to the door that resembled fiends. Intelligent adventurers that we are, we didn’t need Admiral Akbar to tell us what the statues were, and set about investigating. Edward and Ozymandias were convinced the statues were magical and would probably come to life in order to skewer us where we stood, while Roswyn was less sure. Meanwhile, Perra set the bear traps before two of the statues and made a pendulum-style battering ram to prepare for the statues’ inevitable awakening. Edward, meanwhile, spotted the fire traps.

With our dangers thus noted, Roswyn undid the wards on the door and Carkal got to work magically unlocking it. The doors majestically opened, revealing an impeccably organized vault dominated by a statue. Roswyn checked for magic, finding out that the floor was designed to trigger a psychic alarm if someone entering the room lacked a specially-keyed item. Carkal decided to try circumventing the security measures by flying across the floor…and the statues promptly sprang to life in an attempt to skewer us where we stood. Perra let go of the anvil, causing it swing straight into the nearest golem. The fight for the Azzurius vault had begun!

But barely had we reached its end when we were interrupted by a terrible ringing, yea, a ringing like unto a 2 am fire alarm. We were left in limbo, alone within an unguarded treasure vault…what treasures and/or further dangers await us?

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In Which We Make Calon Roll in His Grave (Metaphorically Speaking), Impersonate Members of the Clergy Once More, and Get Started On Our Noble Family Hitlist

We made our daring getaway into the streets of Madaban! …In mid-day! Where any old person could see us! What do we do now.

Clearly the solution was for us to secure the loot we had totally grabbed from the bodies before leaving, before bursting into the nondescript shop from whence we had initially emerged from the Undercity. The shopkeeper protested our disheveled condition: we bonked him on the head and headed on down to the entrance! Some dice-playing thugs further attempted to halt our progress, also dubious about our disheveled and quite bloody condition, but we blew off their concerns, narrowly prevented Carkal from stealing their dice, and ran past them to the entrance. The thugs wisely decided not to further impede our progress.

Unfortunately, sans guide we quickly took a wrong turn and wound up lost. Still, after not too much wandering we found a nice secluded nook full of tables in which to sit. Perra passed some brandy around so that we could solemnly celebrate our narrow escape, while Roswyn took care of our wounds and dishevelment. Thus rested, we started looking for a dark, secluded corner in which to raise Ozymandias from the dead, which we found with ease. Alas, we soon discovered that we lacked the necessary components to raise Ozymandias and headed out of our nice dark corner to find the nearest black market. It took some asking of unsavory types for directions and a fair bit of walking, but we eventually made our way to a long hall that was periodically lit by grates leading to the streets above. It was full of stacked boxes, which in turn were covered in people wheeling and dealing for goods, including a fair number of bodyguards.

We headed for the nearest black market seller with mages for bodyguards, reasoning that he’d probably be selling the magical components that we needed. Edward decided to take a shot at bargaining rather than leave it up to his more charismatic companions, and after asking about the components we needed he informed the merchant that “We’d be willing to pay for the residuum…of course we might not actually pay, but we’d be willing to…”

Eventually Roswyn stopped laughing enough to take over talks. He drove a hard bargain, but we managed to wear him down to the market price. Components in hand, we headed for the nearest dark, secluded corner (no relation to the previous dark, secluded corner) and had Carkal call Ozymandias’ soul back from beyonnnnnd the veeeeeeil and back into his carnivorous-frog-nibbled corpse. Perra welcomed Ozymandias back to the realm of the living with the rest of the brandy, and we found a dark, secluded inn in which to stay the night.

We woke up the next day without mishap (for once), ate breakfast, and decided to go looking for Ash so we could update him about our current state of affairs. Of course, with every guard in the city out for our blood, we decided that it was time to go back to the disguise well and break out our sacrilegious acolytes of Kord set. We emerged from the Undercity into the Market district, noting that the atmosphere was rowdier than it once was, and spent some time divvying up and selling off our loot. In the process, we decided to obtain a few more explosive charges before heading to the warehouse in order to find Ash, because obviously explosions trump handler any day.

Without too much further incident (including a commotion we wisely chose to avoid), we found our way back to Gamlin, the Halfling explosives expert, who was all the way in the slums but hey, it’s not like we have a map of the city with important landmarks and plot-significant locations clearly marked for our edification or anything. We knocked on the door just as we had the first time we visited, and the boy who answered the door looked at us blankly as we informed that we were here to obtain more explosives. He told us that we were mistaken and that he lived alone with his mother. Ozymandias sighed, picked up the kid, gently set him aside, and strode confidently in. The rest of us followed him, and together we made our way back down to Gamlin’s lab.

We knocked, being polite souls, and after a few rounds managed to attract Gamlin’s attention long enough to be told to wait. We waited…and knocked again…while the grinding noise cheerfully resumed within. There was the sound of mumbling…pouring…a faint smoky odor wafting out the door…Eventually we wised up and decided to just walk in. Inside we found Gamlin preoccupied with a strange apparatus like an upside down tree, an inverted cone of branch metal rods, each one holding a vial of…stuff. We told Gamlin that we wanted another three sets of explosives like the ones he’d made for us before, and he tells us he’ll want twelve thousand gold for it and that it’d take two days. We agree with that price and tell him we’ll be back.

Now we headed for Ash in truth! Still impersonating members of the clergy, we headed back through the slums and across the city to the warehouse district. On the way, we passed by a patrol of guards from a noble family that we hadn’t yet encountered, and they passed us by without a second glance. On the way to the warehouse district, we also sang a few hymns to add a touch of verisimilitude to our disguise. At the warehouse we are ushered in without preamble and, after what is clearly a struggle to comprehend the depths (or should I say heights) of our unmitigated awesomeness, told us “Good work.”

Ash had apparently come by looking for us but we’d missed him and were to be sent to his quarters. On our way to his lodgings in Old Town, Perra was nearly pickpocketed. Fortunately, he caught the young rapscallion and delivered unto him a mighty lecture…and while Edward was laughing, his pocket was picked. Given how greedy we are you’d think we’d keep better track of our stuff. Oh well!

In Old Town, we get pointed to a vaguely guild-ish sort of place. Once we mention Ash to someone inside the building, though, that someone says he recognizes us due to being told to keep an eye out for persons matching our illustrious descriptions. We follow him into a back room that leads to another smaller room with a table in it and stairs leading deeper into the dark depths of the city. Our guide leads us down, down, down, into a series of hallways that branches into a bunch of other hallways. It’s full of shady-looking people (not that we care) but no one bothers us. At the end of an anonymous hallway we finally meet: Ash!

Ash invited us into his rooms and asked to hear all about our adventures. We give him a brief summary of what we’ve done so far, and hand over all the miscellaneous papers we snagged from the Roberre estate. He looked them over in delight, and then told us that he couldn’t give us further orders until he’d spoken to our superiors. We arranged for him to contact us via magical sending, philosophically shrugged our shoulders, and headed back out into the sunlight to figure out what to do with our newly-earned down time. We veto recreational bank-robbing in favor of a big of R&R—Roswyn gets a snazzy new vest-jacket thing made out of the gown she stole, while Perra gets to work on his new beanbag chair. We take a break from all this resting to pick up our explosives.

After a few days, we are summoned to the warehouse by Ash, who greets us alongside several other people and a map of the city that’s been spread out on a table. It’s now time for a plot-significant infodump, courtesy of the various ledgers and things we’d stolen from the Roberres!

It seems the nobles of Madaban had been part of a secret society that governed the city from the shadows, with Roberre leading them and Roberre’s tower serving as their base of operations. The thieves had obtained a comprehensive list of all those involved, noble or otherwise, and managed to piece together a brief picture of what-all had been happening. It seems that the group ruling the city—the Felsworn—had been very selective in its recruiting, only approaching individuals with the prospect of membership in their little club after much observation. The terms of the deal they offered were simple: members of the Felsworn were to pledge their souls and loyalty to this mysterious Damokos, and upon their deaths their souls would be transferred to him. In the meantime, they were unable to betray him as long as he held their souls in thrall. In exchange, all members of the group were given connections to significant alliances, power, magic, political positions…It seemed that many upsets in the city for the past…as far as the logs go…could be attributed to the machinations of this group.

And the Felsworn completely ran the city. Oh, the noble families had their own private little rivalries, which made it hard to spot connections from the outside; interests didn’t always seem to align on the surface, and the secret society’s alliances were, of course, secret. The Felsworn had apparently been gathering souls in order to power their master’s ascendance—in addition to their own, they acquired souls through deals, torture, rituals, political prisoners, anyone they could get their hands on. Lebin had been raised to the position of shipping master in order to aid the society in shipping souls out of the city to some unnamed place, though given Jalrayna’s involvement the drow were obviously implicated. The Cabal had been allied with the Felsworn, but not sworn to Damokos themselves (except for a few individual, such as that Sylvia Beren person who’d tried to have us killed when we first arrived…ah, memories.).

Damokos was also known to have visited Madaban regularly in order to check up on his subordinates, and had in fact done so not too long ago. His last orders: to finish us off for all the trouble we’d caused, ohoho. He’d left a few of his personal bodyguard behind—presumably the fiends—before departing on business further south. A few of the noble families had also been known to visit places in the south, suggesting there was something of interest awaiting us down there…

In the meantime, Ash gave us a list of other noble families that had been involved in this own shebang, familes who needed to be knocked off in order to ensure the Thieves’ Guild’s ascendance in a city now thrown into chaos as we slowly knocked off the major political powers one by one. We recommended the Azzurius family, who had fallen on hard times when the empire fell, but regained their position by investing in various unscrupulous—for a noble value of unscrupulous-enterprises and, annoyingly, managing to outclass the old money elite in the process with their fa~abulous parties.

We’ve never been a group to say no to a bit of rampant murder and mayhem, so once we’d gotten the scrying ritual renewed we set off with a pair of Thieves’ Guild burglars for the Azzurius estate post-haste, some of Perra’s patented poisoned dog treats in hand. According to Ash, a guild thief had managed to break in some time ago but never made it back, so they have no intel on the Azzurius estate’s defenses. Not that walking in blind’s ever stopped us from a task before, of course.

The streets we take to the Azzurius estate are significantly less patrolled than they were before, and the guards we see don’t belong to any of the families on our hit-list. Nonetheless, ee reach the High Ward before long. The Azzurius estate is at the end of a long boulevard, consisting of a fancy, tasteful mansion done in full Gothic style. No folly and no gazebo but there are at least seven gables (I wonder if there’s a probably-haunted painting in there as well?). The lawn around the mansion is surrounded by a sturdy masonry wall, the top of which is decorated by arches and ornaments and oh yes row upon row of cast irons pikes. Avoiding the boulevard, we follow the burglars through the side streets, taking a route that hides us as much as possible from the line of sight of the watch towers. The plan: one thief hides in shadows to watch the guards, then opens window and signals the other, who will instruct us on how to follow.

Things are quiet for the next twenty minutes as the plan is put into motion…then, without us having noted anything, the thief next to us points up towards the building where we can see a hand sticking out from a ridge in the building, waving a handkerchief. We head in, making our way over the wall in our various little ways—Roswyn flies, Perra scrambles over old school, and everyone else does some good old-fashioned teleporting. We hide so a guard can pass us by, before being signaled by the thieves to get to the roof of the kennels. We duck low and move fast, Roswyn riding Perra up the ladders. Darting across the roof, we make it to a gap between the kennel and the mansion itself, with a dangling rope that leads to the window the first thief had opened for us. We all make it with ease—even the paladin in full plate armor…somehow…and we find ourselves in a small hallway adjoining a sitting room.

The thief gestures us into the sitting room as the a guard passes by. We briefly discuss our plan of action—basically find ALL THE PEOPLE and hope we kill our targets in the process, and ascertain that the burglars are there as extra eyes, not extra fighters. With that all sorted out, we head out! The nearest door seems to have magical thingamabobs on the other side, so we kick it in. Beyond the door is a gallery of sorts, full of open bookshelves that are lined with knick-knacks and a little fireplace at one end, as well as more doors. In the corners are the source of the magic—little bird-shaped constructs that are currently inactive.

Curious, Perra reached up for one to try and take it down—and he came to life, snapping at his fingers. Perra tried to slip it into a Bag of Holding, but it just kept thrashing and struggling inside. We transfer it to another bag—which is rips a hole in with his beak—and Perra finally knocks it against the wall and stomps on it repeatedly. By accident. As we were indulging in construct abuse, the rest of the bird constructs started fluttering to life, possibly planning our untimely demise in dark, baleful whispers, when we decide to go to another room. On the way out, Ozymandias snags the phoenix-construct to carry out as his pet. The phoenix is none-too-pleased about this and releases a gout of flame…but Ozymandias, tiefling that he is, refuses to let go (IT BURNS ME OUT OF LOVE!!).

The next room is an antechamber sort of thing, with a bearskin rug on the floor and statues in the corners, depicting a man and woman in the holy garb of Pelor. Perra snags the rug for the totally sweet bachelor pad he’s planning for a Handy Haversack, and we decide to head through the door out of this room that has people behind it. It starts to creak as we open it…so we grease the hinges with some oil we’d found in a closet, and Perra kicks the door in. Naturally, a soldier notices us and starts to draw his blade!

We’re at the bottom of a tower, and we begin making short work of the guards, hoping to kill them before they escape and warn the other guards. Ozymandias’ phoenix paramour is sadly lost during the battle, and we head up a floor to keep exploring, stumbling into a meeting room of sorts. One of the men in there is covered in jewelry and wearing a nice hat; the other is an older, grizzled-looking mage. The last Azzurius guard begs us for mercy, telling us where the lord of the house is (visiting the Valernos). We tell him we’ll only let him go when we’ve ascertained that his information is worthy and start forcing him into the (non-sweet-bachelor-pad) Haversack. He panics and offers to tell us more—the mage we’d just killed was one of the Lord Azzurius’ advisors, and when he’s entertained at the house he brings stuff which is then given to the old priest…?

We thank the guard for his help, and then betray his trust and stick him in a soul gem (if only Calon could see us now…). In the priest’s room, we do indeed find a fancy little box—a fancy little box full of soul gems. WHAT COULD IT MEAN? Stay tuned, true believers!

View
In Which the Lady is a Tramp, LEEEEROYYYYYY JENNNKINSSSS Assumes We Had a Plan in the First Place, and Carkal is (Nearly) the Last Man Standing. Again.

We found ourselves in a vast hall that was littered with bodies. Bodies we promptly stripped of all valuables, including—and this is Chekov’s Gun right here, people, so pay attention—Lord Roberre’s drow-made armor, which Carkal promptly donned. In the meantime, we took a breather and sallied forth up the stairs, higher into the tower. Initially we found little of interest, including the fiends’ living quarters which was trashed hella rock star style. We do, however, find a stash of empty soul gems in an alchemy lab, all of which we quickly appropriated in case we ever needed to store a soul or thirty-three.

Progressing higher, we found more and more living quarters, all very lavishly appointed and all disappointingly empty of Jakabal Lebin. Eventually we found our way to a decent-sized hall that as lined with suits of armor. There were some breath-taking view of the city, but even more interesting to us was the door on the other side, lightly warded and with the faint sound of voices beyond.

Naturally, we tell Perra to kick that sucker in! The latch is torn out and the door flutters open, while a scream from within provided musical accompaniment. Beyond the door was a richly-decorated living room, complete with tinkly magical chandeliers. A fire burned bright I the hearth and solid furniture in the form of a cough and tables filled out the rest of the room. Opposite us was a long hall that led deeper into the tower. The people in the living room consisted of a woman in a white gown, two children, and a large construct who was apparently meant to be guarding them. The construct had a glowing gem in the center of its chest, one that matched the jewel glowing the woman’s necklace.

Carkal strode confidently forth as Roswyn asked if the lady was Lady Roberre. She was, however, ignored, because in Lord Roberre’s armor and with his face concealed Carkal looked…sort of like Lord Roberre. Maybe if you tilted your head and squinted a bit. Got hammered first? Well, whatever; the resemblance was still just enough to fool Lady Roberre into believing that her husband had returned to her safe and sound. She wrapped him in her wifely embrace and greeted him with a loving kiss, all while Carkal attempted to steal the gem from her neck. At the same time, he felt a huge burst of energy not unlike a massive caffeine high, and only just managed to stumble away, necklace triumphantly in hand.

He then ordered the construct to punch the lady in the chest. She…rolled with the blow? And then bared her fangs at Carkal before vanishing in a puff of flame. Perra then tackles Carkal so he doesn’t order the construct to go after the children, who are by now cowering in a corner, the poor sprogs. Carkal teleports away and Perra switches target to the golem, telling the children to run, run for their lives! …They run into a side door. Carkal, meanwhile, steals another chandelier for his castle because why splurge on interior decorating when you can just steal that shit from your hapless victims.

Exploring the rest of the suite, we found a richly decorated bedroom. Perra stole the curtains as part of his cunning plan to make a beanbag chair for the Handy Haversack. The other rooms we found were a lavish sauna-cum bathing room, and a library-sitting-room combination. We grabbed the cards and board games that we found and check out location out one of the window—four stories above the roofs around us. We noticed guards in the courtyard and on the roof.

At the far end of the hallway, we hit the jackpot: Roberre’s personal study! We grabbed as many papers as possible for poor Ash to look through and stole anything that looked even remotely valuable, mostly souvenirs—including some foreign wines and a leopard-skin shawl with some shamanistic decorations. The mini-Roberres appeared as we searched the study, and Perra told them to run. They ducked back out of the living room, but after a few minutes managed to work up enough courage to make a dash for it.

Meanwhile, we headed higher into the tower. We eventually reached a level where the tower’s walls were stepped in, forming a kind of terrace around the room. We spotted someone standing outside, gazing down at the city, and promptly decided to accost him in case it was Lebin. Perra, ever fond of the direct approach, headed right out there and asked if the strange man was the one we sought. The stranger immediately pressed back against the balcony and told us we had the wrong person. Can you say, jackpot~?

Perra casts us all as bad cops while he tries to good cop the information we needed out of Lebin, querying him about what he used to ship for the Beyton family. When Lebin tried to make a deal, Carkal dangled him over the balcony railing, which apparently did little to rattle the man—as he rightly pointed out, if we let him die, we’d never get the information that we wanted. Carkal countered this by pulling out a soul crystal, which apparently didn’t phase Lebin either. In the end, we were forced to ask what he wanted, and he said that he wanted the Roberre estate.

What followed as a frustrating cat-and-mouse game as we tried to get the information we needed out of Lebin without committing to his demands. In the end we reached a compromise: We would own the castle for a year, and let Lebin run it for us and enjoy the prestige that would entail. After a year, if we were satisfied with his service, we would let him have the castle for real. Lebin agreed to this and said he needed to speak with some important people in order to work out the details of castle ownership, but refused to tell us who these important people were when we pressed for details. Eventually he capitulated to us and told us to seek out of Jalrayna, a drow in the Undercity. This caused a bit of a stir, as we pondered Lord Roberre’s—well, Carkal’s now—armor.

With Lebin and the information we needed in hand, it was time to quit the Roberre estate. Lebin suggests the Shipping Guild’s teleportation circle, but we veto that and eventually go for the safer, but far more complicated route. Lebin gets stuffed in a Haversack, and Carkal uses the ring to get us all back to Amarak (interrupting Dalyn mid-shenanigan and causing him to fall off a ladder. He tend returned to the tower and jumped off the side of the tower, flying and bluffing his way across the city to a place of safety. Once back in the slums and the Undercity, Carkal opened a linked portal to all of us in Amarak, allowing us to rejoin him and Lebin in the dark depths of Madaban.

Lebin didn’t know how to take us to Jalrayna, though he mentioned that he had a rendezvous planned with the drow. We made him take us to the safe house (which was made of boxes) where they were meant to meet, and Lebin dismisses the guards before leading us in. The furniture inside the safe house was also made of boxes, but eh, we’ve had worse. We settled down to wait until Jalrayna showed up, playing the games we’d stolen from the Roberres earlier. Lebin got antsy and began pacing, at least until we persuaded him to join in our games.

Eventually the time of the meeting drew night, and we positioned ourselves in preparation, with Edward alerting us to the presence of a secret passage towards the back despite being in absentia. The scene began with a female voice from beyond the door…

MYSTERIOUS FEMALE: What the? This room is supposed to be abandoned.
FIGURE BEHIND HER: [under his voice] That’s Jakabal in the corner.
MYSTERIOUS FEMALE: [squinting, into the room—we notice that she’s a drow. From now on MYSTERIOUS FEMALE shall be known as JALRAYNA] Lebin? I wasn’t expecting you yet. And you brought friends.
REST OF FIGURES BEHIND HER: [file in, four other drow in addition to her]
LEBIN: There’ve been some difficulties with the last shipment. We should confer elsewhere. My bodyguards don’t need to hear this.
CARKAL: Oh really? [puts hand on Lebin’s shoulder as he nears the drow] I think for your safety at least one of us should go with you.
JALRAYNA: Unhand him you fool, this is not your business.
CARKAL: No, it is very much our business.
JALRAYNA: [glares at Lebin] You’ve set us up.
CARKAL: No, more like the negotiations he came here for are being modified slightly. What he needs to talk to you about has been changed.
PERRA: We are altering the deal, pray we don’t alter it any further.
JALRAYNA: I’ve heard of you. You’re meddling in dangerous affairs here.
CARKAL: The assassins attacked us. We’re involved now.
JALRAYNA: Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have you gutted.
ROSWYN: Because it wouldn’t work.
PERRA: If the noble families had connections capable of killing us, they would have used them by now, and furthermore…
CARKAL: We’re not very keen on making enemies in this city, but we’re very good at getting rid of them.
JALRAYNA: [to Lebin] How much have you told them?
LEBIN: [draws line across his mouth]
CARKAL: His tight-lipped-ness is why we had to meet with you personally.
JALRAYNA: And you expect me to just tell you?
CARKAL: We have a little bargain going with him here, and we were hoping that you would help him fulfill his end of the bargain.
JALRAYNA: I don’t care one whit for what that man thinks. He is important no longer.
CARKAL: [looks at Lebin]
LEBIN: [shrinks back into a corner]
PERRA: Of course, you came to this meeting planning to stab him in the back.
JALRAYNA: [grins] An interesting hypothesis.
PERRA: So it’s probably in his best interest to beg us for protection and tell us what we want to know.
LEBIN: [to the drow] Just kill them already and we’ll sort this out later.
CARKAL: Friendly warning, if you try you probably won’t survive. Does the name Damokos mean anything to you?
JALRAYNA: Something Jakabal told you?
CARKAL: …Yes.
JALRAYNA: I’m familiar with the name.
PERRA: So presumably you know all about them trying to bring about a new empire and all that jazz…
JALRAYNA: Roberre has provided some assistance for our work in this city, but his work means little.
CARKAL: So you wouldn’t be averse to us taking care of more nobles?
JALRAYNA: I wouldn’t mind. What are you getting at?
CARKAL: We’d like to remove enemies from the list of ours.
JALRAYNA: I have no desire to work with you.
CARKAL: It makes our lives easier. We just want to figure out how to transfer ownership to Lebin. You don’t have to do anything.
JALRAYNA: …you might have a deal, half elf. Many of the noble families in this city were aligned with Roberre. One family in particular sought to earn his favor at the expense of, well, one such as me. And in the coming struggle that’s likely to ensue to replace the late Lord Roberre, the Canalis family is one that you might wish to investigate.
JALRAYNA: Deal with them and their pig of a leader, and then meet me back here and I’ll tell you some of what you wish to know.
PERRA: Sounds like a good deal.
JALRAYNA: We’ll be watching and waiting. [as she leaves] Lebin, you are of no more use to us.
HER ASSOCIATE: [shoots Lebin in the chest]
LEBIN: [dies of the poison bolt despite our attempts to save us]

With Lebin expired on the ground before us, Carkal decided to try capturing Lebin’s soul, but realized halfway through that something is wrong: Lebin didn’t have a soul. With a shrug, we stuffed Lebin’s literally soulless corpse into a box and wrote SURPRISE! On it before moving on. As we headed out into the city to find the Cannalis estate, we noticed fewer guards at their posts, which made it a good deal easier to move through the city. Our first stop was our old friend the Thieves’ Guild warehouse. We asked after Ash, only to find that he was still out gathering information, so we asked the nearest person we saw where the Cannalis family was holed up. After obtaining the location of their estate, we sent a message to Ash telling him not to worry about Lebin anymore and that Roberre was—well, had been—involved with the whole thing.

Choosing the subtle approach, we headed back into the Undercity to find a way to get to the High Ward from under the city so we wouldn’t be seen. Unfortunately, the High Ward was situated on solid rock. Fortunately, there was an Undercity entrance that wasn’t too far from the Cannalis estate. We get directions to someone who can show us the way, but our potential guide insists that he needs permission from someone else before he can. He led us to the headquarters of what looked like a smalltime mob boss, who wisely heeded our reputation and lent us his guide’s services without too much trouble. For half and hour we walked winding paths, even going through a large room being lit up by a student mage paying her way through mage school while a few bands rocked out on the stage. Apparently Madaban has a rockin’ rave scene, who knew.

Eventually we emerge in the heart of Old Town, a scant two streets away from the High Ward. Our guide vanishes as we busy ourselves with suiting up the construct (which, yes, we had been carting around with us ever since quitting the Roberre estate) so it looked more like an ordinary dude in a bunch of armor. That done, we set about sneaking into the Cannalis estate. Not that it took too much trouble; they were on the poor side of nobility, and their ‘estate’ consisted more of a cluster of buildings that were all owned by them. They didn’t even have a wall and very few perimeter guards. We strode confidently forth into the heart of the estate…and find a courtyard full of some thirty guards massing. Errr.

We decide to take the long route to what we assumed to be the main building. Before long we found ourselves in a smaller courtyard, this one also full of guards that looked rather less fancy than the ones we were used to. Fisticuffs ensued, as they are wont to do. Halfway through the fight, the previous set of guards we’d run into decided to butt in. We took care of them all without too much trouble and burst into the main building.

The room we entered was decorated richly, but shabbily. Behind a long table ringed with elite-looking guards was a corpulent man holding a big ax. There were also several Cabal wizards, and tucked into a corner—so we didn’t see them until we were well in the room—were the drow who had sent us here. Across room stood our old friend Wolf, he of the failed assassination attempt and whose wolf-summon-statue-thing we’d stolen lo these many sessions ago. And as if that weren’t enough, shortly after a battle began a few more hitherto invisible Cabal wizards appeared to join the party. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE NEEDED YOU, EDWARD!!

And then it was on like Donkey Kong.

Alas, it seemed like the combined efforts of foes old and new would be too much for us, and we struggled mightily. Halfway through the fight Ozymandias went down for what looked to be the final time, as he was lying unconscious in Carkal’s carnivorous frogs and they could not be dismissed in time. Roswyn gave a last-ditch effort to protect him, but alas, too little, too late. Ozymandias was down for the count.

The three of us who were left threw ourselves into the battle even harder after Ozymandias shuffled off the mortal coil. However, the battle quickly exhausted Roswyn’s small store of heals and both she and Perra went down, unconscious upon the battlefield. It was all left to Carkal, and he was only inches from death’s door himself. Thinking fast, he shoved an explosive charge into the construct and set it running at the drow before teleporting out of the building, resolving to come back for Perra and Roswyn…if they survived.

As the vaulted ceiling collapsed around Perra and Roswyn, they managed to avoid the worst of the damage by crawling at double-time out of the way. Roswyn nearly died, but Perra tossed a benny her way just in time to avoid HPK (half-party kill). We two play dead, which wasn’t hard as you may well imagine, while our enemies milled about in confusion. Eventually, Carkal teleported back into the room and fed Roswyn a healing potion, allowing her to revive just enough to crawl over to Perra and feed him a healing potion as well.

What was left of Ozymandias’ frog-nommed body was stuffed into a Haversack for resurrection when we were less at near death. The construct, naturally, was now buried beneath the rubble. We remaining party members decided to make a run for it, dashing through the courtyard which was full of servants and soldiers scratching their head at the heap of debris that used to be the jewel of the Cannalis estate. One of the soldiers we passed foolishly attempted to take a stand against us; Roswyn distracted him with an illusionary swarm of bats, allowing Carkal to take him out with a well-timed spell. Carkal, Roswyn and Perra vaulted over the fallen soldier and dashed off into the streets of Madaban.

View
In Which We Run In the Hallways, Encounter an Old Face We've Never Met Before, and Break a Record

Being of sound mind and body, we chose to go in the opposite direction of the approaching footsteps, up a flight of stairs. We found ourselves in a small hall with two doors leading onwards. Choosing the left door, we found ourselves in another hallway, this one sporting a lovely vaulted ceiling and some sexy chandeliers, which was lined with still more doors. We were spotted by guards as we entered but took care of them with ease before they could call for back-up. Curious as to their presence, we decided to head through the door they had been guarding until our timely (or untimely, depending on whose perspective you choose) arrival.

Perra, ever fond of the direct approach, attempted to kick the door in, but failed on his first few tries. In the meantime Edward chose to listen at a nearby unlocked door. Temporarily giving up on our initial quarry, we decide to go through the unlocked door first…and found ourselves in yet another hallway, this one with only three doors: one opposite us, and one at each end. Carkal chose to go for the opposite door, which lead to a large room whose sole furniture was a large table ringed with chairs. Shelves full of ornaments lined the walls, while large windows looked over the city.

Bored with the view, we headed back to try the locked door again. Roswyn attempted to check for magic…but her efforts were rendered moot as Perra simply tore the poor portal off its hinges. We headed forward into a sitting room that led to stairs leading upwards. At the top of the stairs we found another door, this one magically locked and warded…and left ajar. Good job, Roberres. We burst through it and found ourselves in another large room, this one with walls decorated by a wide variety of devices with which to maim, chop, slash, or otherwise shuffle off beyond the veil our fellow mortals. Carkal naturally stole all the weapons and tossed them in a haversack, just as we heard the sound of people rushing down the hallway towards us. We locked the magic door to prevent attack from behind and sallied forth to meet the sound.

As we engaged in fisticuffs against these people with fancy looking blades (and a mage surrounded by rippling air as he approached) we spotted a nearby room that had statues in its corners and a large teleportation circle inscribed upon its floor. Once our attackers had been dealt with, we recorded the runes on the teleportation circle in case we needed a quick way to get out of the tower’s upper floors and rushed onwards as there came a pounding on the magic door behind us. Perra found another room not too far beyond that had another unlocked door. Entering, we found what appeared to be a simple storeroom, though a quick search by Roswyn found us a crate with something magical within. Being strapped for time, we dumped the entire crate into a Haversack and continued on.

Eventually we made our way to another large meeting hall, with Perra graciously busting through locks like they were going out of fashion in order to facilitate our progress. A small study adjoined the hall, its walls lined with books. Upon closer examination, these books turned out to be the minutes of the meetings that had presumably taken place in the meeting hall. Knowing that Roberre was up to shady business with the other nobles, we grabbed a bunch of the records for later examination and moved on to the other end of the meeting hall. There we found a large pair of fancy-looking double-doors, which were also unlocked. We kicked them off their hinges anyway. A quick rush through a small antechamber and we found ourselves in a slightly larger chamber, this one with stairs leading upwards. Alas, this chamber was guarded by three men—two tieflings with wickedly curved blades, and a human wielding an axe. Behind them were two black-robed figures with their hoods thrown back and staves in hand—not the usual Cabal colors, true, which was a bit worrying. Do we really need to have two organizations of powerful mages out for our blood? Isn’t that a bit excessive?

In any case, the group was obviously ready for us and we leapt into battle without preamble—except for Ozymandias, who decided to try appealing to his fellow tieflings to aid rather than fight us. He gave a grand speech about how they should throw off the yoke of the oppressing tyranny of the so-called “nobles” of Madaban, in order to END the unjust oppression of their people! And together they would rule the world as master and clansmen, reviving the long-dead tiefling empire!! The tieflings were quite moved by Ozymandias’ rhetorical skill and stepped away from the human soldier, telling us “Cease your attack, we fight for the same goal.”

What follows after this largely consists of transcripts of the session, as this stuff was too cool to leave to the vagaries of summarization.

Ozymandias: How can you claim to such when you fight alongside the nobles?
Tieflings: You are misinformed, the nobles are not the enemy.
Ozymandias: Then who are?
Tieflings: Those who would impede my master’s rise.
Ozymandias: Who would this master be?
Tieflings: I can speak no more of this but if you wish to learn, lower your weapons and follow us. There is one who can tell you.
Ozymandias: What about the others in your party, they seem intent on continuing this fight.
Tieflings: They have orders, as do we.
Ozymandias: How are we supposed to lay down our weapons when they continue to attack?
Tieflings: shrug They do not believe your companions to be honest. But you, I trust your words. I will not stop you. step to the side
Ozymandias: I will not actively fight, but I will not allow my companions to be harmed.

With that, we continue the fight against the mages and the lone human soldiers. The mages try to make the tieflings fight by telling them their lives are forfeit if they let us pass, but Edward finishes them off by teleporting all enemies save the tieflings out a nearby window. Ah, defenestration, the most ignoble of deaths. We tell the tieflings to lead us on, and they in turn ask if Ozymandias is the leader of our group, and tell him that he has impressive companions.

Ozymandias: I occasionally take it upon myself to lead, despite the group lacking an official leader.
Roswyn: You’re being too modest, sir.
Carkal: [ignores what is happening and tries to keep going, but gets stopped by tieflings]
Tieflings: We were led to believe goals have nothing in common with ours. What do you gain by killing these nobles?
Carkal: [teleports past the tieflings]
Tieflings: We’re not finished asking you questions.
Carkal: [keeps walking]
Tieflings: [run after Carkal]
Everyone else: [follows]

We get to the top of the stairs and find ourselves in a small room with a door. Going through the door, we found ourselves in a windowless room (ominous). Turning a corner, we entered a large hall and were waved forward by the tieflings. Ozymandias strodeconfidently forward, with the rest of us trailing behind. The hall we found ourselves in was long and dark, with just enough light for us to see its central portion. Rows of soaring columns and a ceiling shrouded in darkness combined to give the place a somber feel. At the far end of the hallway is the man who was in the vision the berbalang gave us, as well as another human.

The bigger of the humans was a hulking bodyguard-type wearing plate armor with a fancy blade on his back. The figure next to him was only a little more slightly built, but nevertheless had a far more imposing appearance: a cold, calculating look on his face, underscored by the arrogance natural to all nobility. A finely wrought saber hung at his side and he wore a long black cloak trimmed in red as well as a mantle stylishly draped over one arm. A breastplate and armor on his lower arms and legs completed the look. Two more black-robed figures lurked in the shadows nearby, and on either side of the humans were an array of fiends dressed in full battle armor. One of them nearly reaching the ceiling, short stubby wings fluttering on his hulking back and the rest of his clad in sturdy-looking armor.

Carkal: [in Supernal, to the big fiend] WASSAAAAAAP??
Fiend: [no reply]

The lightly-armored man, who we identified as Lord Roberre, lifted an arm to greet us.

Roberre: So you’ve found me at last. I was thinking I’d have to search the whole city to find you and now you’ve come to me.
Roswyn: [bows] We’re delighted to be here! I like what you’ve done with the place, it has some very nice atmosphere.
Edward: [under his breath] Needs windows.
Ozymandias: [strides forward] My name is Melech of the Morthos Turathi bloodline. My brothers say we have the same goal. Is this true?
Roberre: If you plan to make true on those words, you must turn on your comrades, who have demonstrated time and again they vehemently oppose our cause.
Ozymandias: [striding forward even more] Which companions are these? I have seen nothing but steadfast dedication from those that I accompany.
Roberre: I’m sure their intentions are pure, but they’re not the same as we, and if you profess to join our cause then they cannot be the same as you, either. But I can see your companions growing antsy. Before you get ahead of things and begin this fight earlier than need be, there is a thing or two I can tell you that you may wish to hear: You have pursued me and my allies for some time without full awareness of what it is you fight.
Edward: It doesn’t help with you and your lot creeping about in the shadows.
Roberre: You have proven very resilient and for that you have been given this audience.
Ozymandias: Before we continue this conversation we should bring into light your cause, I’ve heard nothing but half-questions and indirect answers. No more.
Roberre: We have united in a certain cause. We call ourselves the Felsworn and serve one called Damokos.
We: [know nothing about Damokos]
Roberre: My master has entrusted me with the task of hunting you down and bringing you to death for your crimes. And now you’ve presented me with the opportunity. If only he could see this—but then the honor of killing you would not be mine. Fortunately, he had urgent business to attend to elsewhere.
Carkal: Where is he, so we can pay him a visit after we kill you.
Roberre: [ignores]
Ozymandias: At first you claim our causes are similar and then you threaten to kill us? Make up your mind.
Roberre: Oh, I have no illusions of swaying you to our cause with words. You’re already too set in your path, I can see that. We are the Felsworn and we are numerous. Damokos has been building his cause for centuries. Felsworn control every major settlement in the empire. We are his elite soldiers, but hardly the only group that serves his means. Damokos seeks ascendance and he has almost achieved it. When he has, the empire of Turathi that once reigned supreme will seem to be but a puny village compared to what he will create.

During the lightly-armored man’s speech, the door behind us opens, admitting several Cabal mages to the hall.

Ozymandias: So was the Primal Dawn only a front, a guise for your operations?
Roberre: The Primal Dawn are pawns, they know nothing of his true purpose but they serve his cause well.
Ozymandias: It is apparent that our goals are not compatible and thus you shall die by my hand today. [lunges forward with his hammer]

With that, the speechifying was over, and we began a long, fraught battle for our very lives! We emerged victorious at last, but not without cost to ourselves. Having found our true enemies, where would be go from here?

(Somewhat related to the above: We met at 7, began at 8, and finished at 5 in the morning. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a new record.)

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In Which We Impersonate Members of the Clergy, Do Some Sleuthing of Our Own (Without Blowing Anything Up), and Begin Our Assault on the Roberre Estate

While passing the time waiting for Ash, we do little other than hang out and get to know Ozymandias, our new fifth. Carkal decides to teleport back to Amarak to chill in lordly luxury for a while. Still, he returns when a bedraggled Ash comes looking for us with new about Lebin, which is: still looking! Lebin vanished from the Shipping Guild, and the Thieves’ Guild and their contacts are turning up zip, zilch, nada. In addition to this disappointing non-news, Ash mentions that we, uh, kinda need to get that scrying ritual redone lest the Cabal come after us like the fist of an angry god. So we head topside to make our way to the warehouse where the mages are waiting. Of course, this is slightly hampered by the fact that all of us—yes, including Ozymandias—are kind of wanted criminals in Madaban…

Thus, our plan: to disguise ourselves as a priest of Kord (Ozymandias) and a bunch of acolytes (the rest of us). In our black market clerical robes, we bluff our way across the city from district to district without too much incident, and get the anti-scrying ritual handily renewed. As we enjoyed our first breath of fresh air in who-knows-how-long, we discussed our options and decided to hell with waiting for Ash, we’d go looking for information about Lebin ourselves! Surely nothing could go wrong with this plan!

On our way to the Shipping Guild’s headquarters, we see guards questioning locals or on watch duty. One questions Carkal on whether or not he’s seen anyone who looks like Carkal. We bluff the poor schmuck into a nearby dark alleyway, and Carkal kills him with a well-placed spell. Alas, recognition enlightened the guard too little, too late… After stripping the guard’s corpse, we now become the owners of one set of armor from the Roberre family! Carkal ditches his acolyte’s robe and puts it on, subtly tailing the rest of us as we make our way to the guild headquarters. The corpse goes into the Haversack—you never know when you’ll need a spare corpse, after all.

The guild house is bustling with people who spare us nary a glance. Ozymandias suggest punching as a nice in-character way of attracting attention; Perra decides to go for the slightly more delicate heavy backslap. We are informed that if we have business with the guild we need to leave a message and wait until the next guild meeting. Obviously this wasn’t cricket—we were on a schedule, after all, where the deadline was “before we die”—and demand to speak to Roberre in person, as we’d been asked to, uh, pray on his behalf by his wife. You know how they publish Sun Tzu’s Art of War for business people? Like that, but medieval. In any case, the assistant we had accosted sent a page to find out if Lebin was in his office.

Meanwhile, Carkal stayed outside to keep an eye on things. He attracted the attention of another guard and lured them into another handy-dandy dark alleyway with promises of money for our capture. Naturally, Carkal gets rid of them both, stealing their clothes and hiding their bodies. A kid who witnessed the going-ons ran away before he could be appropriately bribed to keep his trap shut. Putting on one of the purloined suits, Carkal headed into the Shipping Guild to look for Jakabal Lebin’s office himself. Along the way, he met the page who, upon finding Lebin’s office empty as an unquiet grave, heading out a back door of the guild. Carkal followed him to a nice fancy house. He met another page emerging from the building, and after some subtle inquiry (which is to say, bumping into him and asking questions) discovered that the home of Jakabal Lebin and that the man in question was away, staying with a friend in a castle (for those following along at home, only noble families—i.e. those who want our heads on a series of sticks—have castles).

He alerted us to his location and, while waiting for us, Carkal breaks into the house and begins poking around, finding a load of magical trinkets which no doubt would fetch a high price on any market you cared to name. He found out that Lebin had an appointment with one Jel Reyna within the next few days. Hmm…

Meanwhile, the rest of us left the Shipping Guild and began making our way to Carkal’s location. Scarcely had we begun the processing of hopping districts when we ran into trouble, realizing too late that that one clump of guards over there was, in fact, talking to someone who was pointing at Roswyn. Still, we manage to act nonchalant and when the guard catches up to us for questioning we befuddle him with the Power of Words and send the poor fellow on his way. But our scrapes weren’t over yet! No sooner had we continued our journey when we were accosted by a shopkeeper who thought he’d recognized it. Ozymandias helpfully walked up to him and, with the Power of Kord, we manage to rattle him and get him to back off, apologizing for taking up our valuable time.

After that second encounter we decide to duck into another tailor shop and buy some peasant-y clothes as new disguises, and it must’ve worked because we made it to Carkal’s position without further incident. Well, except for that one dick of a merchant-type who bumped into is and got all up in our faces for being incompetent servants of whatever. UP YOURS, MISTER!! …Still, we play the servant role as best we can and successfully direct some guards asking if we’ve seen ourselves to the Temple District, so it wasn’t a total loss.

At Lebin’s house we decide to have Carkal open a window so Roswyn can fly us up to the second floor. Perra helpfully hits her with a cabbage to get her invisibility going, and everyone else climbs into a Handy Haversack to get flown in without further incident. We root about a bit through Lebin’s belongings a bit more, mostly scraping up some information about who’s who in Madaban: the Roberres have a castle, as do the Colmars. The Avorels didn’t. There are no hints as to which castle Lebin might be staying at. Along the way, anything remotely valuable that wasn’t nailed down gets dumped in the Bag of Holding. Roswyn, for her part, steals a nice gown—for the fabric, of course. One human-sized ballgown equals one fancy gnomish coat, dontcha know.

After a while we get tired of petty thievery and decide to go after the butler in order to get more information about Lebin’s whereabouts. We discover him downstairs, along with Lebin’s wife and their two kids. After some discussion—we decide to simply charge down the stairs and block all the exits, trapping them all on the ground floor. Once they were tied up we attempted some good old-fashioned interrogation, but Lebin’s wife was impressively stubborn. With time (and patience) running short, Roswyn ultimately decided to just mind control the information we wanted out of her: Lebin was with the Roberres, with whom he’d had a long-standing business relationship. We decide against kidnapping the family and setting the house on fire, choosing instead to leave a knife just outside of easy reach of the family before high-tailing it out the back door. Once out, we head straight for the Roberre estate: not too difficult, consider they’re the most powerful family in the city, with the architectural ego to back it up.

We decide to sneak into the central spire of the Roberre estate by hiding in the various magical bags on our collective person, while Carkal donned the Roberre armor we’d stolen earlier and snuck in. Once in the sacks, Carkal decided to get rid of the body in the bag by carving “na na na na CAN’T TOUCH THIS” onto the guard’s body and pinning it to a wall in the infamous MC Hammer shuffle dance position thing. One presumes the body was also naked, or close enough, since Carkal was in its former clothes. With that extra little FUCK YOU to the Cabal and nobles of Madaban arranged, we headed off for the Roberres.

Alas, the disguise didn’t work quite so well this time—someone spotted Carkal and identified him as, uh, himself. He tried to lure them into a dark alleyway (yes, again) but perhaps having gotten wise to his tricks they refused and where, alas, promptly killed as they ran away in search of back up. After that we avoided further incident until we were in the courtyards that ringed the Roberre estate’s spires. Carkal made it close to the tower before some guards barred his way. He attempted to convince them of a commotion nearby, and in desperation emptied Roswyn out of the Bag of Holding behind his back to Ghost Sound a distraction—the sounds of buildings crashing down maybe fifty feet away. The guards, being the loyal but thick type, choose to stick to their posts without direct orders.

Carkal gets ordered to sound the alarm but counters with the adventurers have sabotaged everything!! The guards, being rightfully scared shitless by the mention of us, decide that now is the time to abandon their posts in order to alert Roberre…the rest, including Carkal are sent to fight off the adventurer menace! Carkal throws the Haversack at the runner so that the people inside (Ozymandias, Perra, and Edward) can stop him before he alerts Roberre to what’s going on. Roswyn manages to crawl back into the Bag of Holding…somehow. With the runner taken care of, Carkal then throws all of us (still in the bags) into the Roberre Keep proper. Edward peeks his head out to see what’s happening—and finds out that we’re now in the main hall of the castle, which is full of better-armored guards and servants. Clearly at this point FISTICUFFS MUST ENSUE!

When the dust clears, the servants scatter and archers rush into the gallery above our heads just as we finish off the last of the guards. We ran through some nearby doors before they could start shooting, exploring a bit in hopes of finding a way deeper into the spire, when more soldiers arrive on either side of us! We fight them off with ease, but no sooner had we dealt with them when we heard more guards approaching…

THE LONG AND ILLUSTRIOUS LIST OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Murder (1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree)
Theft
Arson
Kidnapping
Bank robbery
Impersonating members of the clergy
Impersonating members of law enforcement
Just kind of impersonating in general
Breaking and entering
Assault and battery
Illegal use of explosives
Misuse of windows
Loitering
Stalking
Extortion
Vandalism
Trespassing
Destruction of private property
Destruction of public property
Grand theft wagon
Human trafficking (voluntary and self-inflicted)
Illegal immigration
Jaywalking
Existing

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