Lost Souls

The Avorel Estate, part I

With Ash’s help, we were able to sneak into the Avorel Estate unnoticed by the guards and begin searching for Balthus from the wine cellar.

The kitchen servants, in the process of preparing Balthus’ meal, were the first to notice us, but weren’t able to raise the alarm. Intimidated by Carkal, they were shepherded into the basement and locked in. The servants told us that Balthus takes his meals in a dining room on the second floor.

Proceeding through servant’s passages, we were able to explore the service wing and lounge area, including a little-used sitting room and music room, before finding the stairs to the second story guest wing. Balthus wasn’t found in the described dining room, and evading guards forced us into a room filled with trinkets both mundane and magical, including an elaborate stained glass clock.

Stumbling about the guest ward, we barged unknowingly into the room of an important-looking couple dressed in evening clothes. After a scuffle in which Carkal knocked out the lady, the man said that he was a retainer of the Carryl Family, working part time as a researcher in The Cabal. The lady’s scream had alerted the estate guards, however, and with our stealth blown, our search turned into a full scale battle.

Fighting our way through the guest ward, we emerged into the great hall and battled our way up the grand stairs to the top floor. Balthus’ private battle mages were waiting for us at the top, and only after we fought through those did we find the man we were searching for.

In a short preamble, Balthus called us the aggressors for killing his brother during our escape from The Cabal. Couldn’t even remember the guy, really, but it’s of little consequence. Balthus was a tough fighter, with the ability to teleport at will, which made him infuriatingly difficult to pin down. After we had finished off his minions, he fled, keeping ahead of us down the stairs back the way we had come.

Pursuing Balthus into the great hall, we found a new contingent of guards ready to intercept, but we weren’t about to let Balthus get away. It was a good thing we had thought to bar the main door, or we’d be swimming in guards by now. Rather than take the stairs, Perra and Gragas leaped from the balcony, swung halfway across the hall on a chandelier, and landed among the guards as the precious crystal shattered behind them. After a short fight, Balthus escaped into the basement, and we killed enough of the guards to scare the remainder off.

Battered and beaten, but not about to give up, we gave chase, following our quarry into the basement and hoping there was still time to track him down.

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The Avorel Estate, part II

Pursuit of Balthus took us into the Avorel Estate‘s undercroft, a large, dimly lit hall with many doors. Picking one of the open ones led us yet further into the earth, into a shrine that marked the beginnings of a catacomb, and we weren’t alone. Undead creatures blocked our path, including a pair of Boneclaws, which must have been created by a skilled necromancer. We made short work of them, but in our beleaguered state, each battle we faced would make it harder to continue. A wizened creature, bent and shrunk, had led the group, and despite Perra’s eagerness to stick a blade in him, he passed on a few words, something about “the father” that Balthus had returned to. Our trusty old anvil shut him up for good.

The room itself had once been used to consecrate the dead before they were interred, and symbols of the Raven Queen and Pelor lined the walls. Covered in dust, of course, but all the same, odd. A few more surprises still awaited us as we continued deeper into the catacombs. A reinforced and sealed door caught our attention, and upon examination, we found it not only heavily warded, but rigged to open very soon. Gragas favored flight, but the rest of us set up an ambush, pulling out every trap in the bag. We were right to prepare—it was fiends that burst forth, hungry for blood, but we got the upper hand of them and slew them all. Inside was a summoning room of some sort, with a circle scribed in the stone and sacrifice pits for animals and who knows what else in the back. We even saved a pig!

By this point we were quite close to Balthus, and though the catacombs were labyrinthine, we found no further trouble on our way. The man’s voice betrayed him long before we set eyes on him. Balthus was preparing to fight, and had gathered some of his men and who knows what else—one of them was even looking forward to eating us. Still, when we barged in, he was cornered, and there was nothing left for it but a bloody fight. Turns out it was another fiend that had wanted to eat us.

Balthus chose to make his final stand in a cramped, dead-end room finished more recently than the rest of the catacombs. A single sarcophagus on a pedestal distinguished the room, lit by a magical light. After we slew Balthus, we still had to deal with the remaining resident of the room, an imp-like creature that had watched the battle hidden in a corner perch. It wasn’t hard to intimidate, and made it clear it had no like for Balthus, but it certainly wasn’t an imp. One of us recognized the creature as a berbalang, and we set to question it.

The berbalang had been captured and brought to these tombs many years ago by Balthus to examine his father’s memories. It revealed that the sarcophagus held Balthus’ father, the man who had brought the Avorel family to power. In exchange for a few simple favors, the berbalang offered to reveal some of the memories it had uncovered. Despite our offers, however, it refused to accompany us, despite the potential value in questioning prisoners.

First Memory

After devouring Balthus, The berbalang told us of a memory both father and son had shared. Balthus had stood in a long, dark hall filled with the musty scent of old nobility, between two rows of figures robed in black. But a young adult, Balthus knew barely a few spells, yet here he stood among men of power. A swell of pride, accomplishment, and nervousness filled his throat as an imposing, black-robed figure exuding power descended toward him from the far end of the hall. The figure had Balthus swear an oath to serve and obey, to fight for him and be bound to his service. Eagerly Balthus swore the oath, and a few of the other robed figures gathered around to begin a ritual. Blackness. When Balthus awoke, drained and covered in a cold sweat, the others extended hands to help him to his feet and welcomed him into their ranks.

Second Memory

Balthus’ father sat in a warm, lushly furnished old masonry room, a great fire blazing in the hearth as he gathered around a table with two well-dressed gentlemen. All dressed in the garb of nobility, they discussed in cold, practical terms the troubles posed by a local entertainer’s guild that spoke too freely of their master’s recent clandestine actions. The guild was to be killed, sold off to slavery, made an example of, and then business could continue as usual. They sipped tea as the spoke, and Balthus’ father glanced out the tower window to a vista of Madaban beyond. Returning to their deliberations, his attention lingered for a moment on the hand of the most impeccably dressed noble, bearing an signet ring.

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In Which We Escape the Avorel Estate, Officially Meet Our Fifth Member, and Add Kidnapping to Our Long and Illustrious List of Crimes Against Humanity

As a result of our failed attempt at subterfuge, we were attacked by mages in the main hall of the Avorel estate. However, being the Heroes of Amarak and thus STONE COLD AWESOME, we managed to escape no more scathed than we had been before, fleeing back into the basements to try and find some alternate way out of the manor. We found our way to a storeroom and began discussing our options for escape, including drawing a teleportation circle to take us to Amarak, where we might rest and recoup before sneaking back into Madaban. During the discussion, Perra and Roswyn wisely took the opportunity to recharge with some jerky, because why not. Balthus should know better than to leave food lying around in storerooms within his own home where anyone could walk in and eat it.

Carkal was disappointed by the teleportation plan as it lacked gratuitous arson. As such, we decided to venture back out of our hidey-hole to leave the rest of the Avorel family (or at least its lackeys) a calling card they would never forget. Perra, in his infinite genius, created the WORLD’S FIRST MOLOTOV COCKTAIL (though one presumes that he called them something else) and tossed it into the main hall. Alas, all he managed to set on fire was some draperies. The token guards who had been left there to keep an eye out were not very impressed. However, their lack of impression was our boon as we high-tailed it back to the storeroom, which we believed led to the wine cellar where we had previously locked the kitchen servants (rather than shanking them all where they stood, so good job us).

Roswyn used her magical powers to disguise everyone as servants (again), and Perra busted through the door, whereupon we threw the servants into a panic by telling them that the house was on fire. Obviously there was some low grade panicking due to the locked cellar door (because NPCs cannot bust through doors, you see), but Perra saved all our skins by pretending to use a huge object to bludgeon through the locked cellar doors that led out of the house. I say pretend because he was trying not to draw attention to his MONSTROUS HERO STRENGTH in an attempt to stay as in cognito as possible.

We stampeded out into the garden with the servants, cleverly hidden in their midst. Gragas set the cellar on fire behind as we left because it’s not a proper dungeon run if we don’t leave blazing mayhem in our wake. The guards ignored the panicking servants, and while the legitimate servants gathered worriedly around the garden door, the rest of us high-tailed it into the dark streets of Madaban. We made our battered way to the Black Horse Alehouse, where we met our Thieves’ Guild contact, Ash. He bought us a meal while we relayed our adventures to him (carefully editing the stupid parts because they make us look, well, stupid). Having eaten our fill, we headed off to find some inn rooms in which to chillax and sell stuff.

The next day we were approached by Ash with our second task for the Thieves’ Guild, which was to kidnap Terik, the second son of a prominent militaristic family in Madaban. As he was surrounded by many bodyguards—including a psion—and had a ring that allowed him to teleport away at the first sign of danger, preparations were obviously required. Ash provided gauntlets to take care of the ring, but we were forced to approach the psionic guilds in order to find a psion of our own. At the guild (called the Eye of Terun), we spoke with one of the officials but were later approached by a younger psion who suggested we should look into hiring a friend of his who had recently left the guild. As he seemed like a good fit for our party’s needs (i.e. money-grubbing sociopath—I kid, I kid. Not all of us are in it for the cash.) we left the official type hanging and went off to find where this recommended psion, Edward, where he had last been seen—-at the Stormcrows mercenary guild.

After bribing the guard to get a look at the guild’s inner sanctum, we found out that Edward had in fact been sent off to deal with a band of smugglers all by himself. In exchange for information about him, we agreed to see what had happened to him and help finish the job. Hiring horses, we rode out into the foothills where we followed signs of battle until found him holed up in a cave opposite the cave where the smugglers were hidden. After a meet-n-greet, we scoped out the smugglers’ caves and engaged in fisticuffs. We stole their lives by the cunning use of MOTHERFUCKING CARNIVOROUS FROGS.

Edward was of course delighted by our utter sociopathy and agreed to aid us in kidnapping Terik. Ash gave us information on Terik’s future movements, and we attempted to plan our attack as a three-pronged maneuver-—three to distract, one to disable the ring, one to teleport Terik into the air, and one to catch him and (hopefully) stuff the bastard into a sack for ease of transport. Leeroy Jenkins jokes were made. Out of character death threats were made. These things are not mutually exclusive. In any case, despite our careful planning things did not go as we had hoped and we were eventually forced to hit Terik repeatedly with a wide variety of blunt objects and/or spells until he went down for the count. Meanwhile, Perra, Edward, and Gragas occupied themselves with cheerfully shuffling Terik’s guard off this mortal coil.

Eventually we prevailed and, with Terik’s unconscious body slung between us, got the fuck out of Dodge to where Ash was presumably waiting for the results of our mission. On the way out, Perra got in the last word by dousing what remained of our pursuers in blue paint, courtesy of a bucket we had foresightedly set up before the altercation began.

GM-added notes and details
These additions describe minor details mentioned during the session that may or may not be of some significance later on.

  • The smugglers Edward was hunting were smuggling tunics and emblems bearing the insignia of the Ehrand Family. The Stormcrows had mentioned that some noble family had hired them to catch the smugglers.
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In Which We Acquire Some Sexy Bob-ombs, Are Ambushed By a Wolf and His Wolf, and Begin our Midnight Assault on the Beyton Estate (and Its Tax-Packed Vaults)

Having absconded with our valuable cargo—i.e. Terik Beyton’s unconscious ass—we met up with Ash in an abandoned warehouse, where Thieves’ Guild mages kindly refreshed the anti-scrying spell that kept the Cabal from relentlessly pursuing us to the ends of the world. Once Terik had been hustled away for interrogation by methods involving we know-not-what, we found a nice low-profile inn in which to snooze and rest up for the next phase our big adventure.

Ash was waiting for us in the morning, which we found out when Roswyn was so rudely awakened by Ash’s relentless morning-person-ness. Sadly for the rest of us, he found a friend in Perra, who leapt out of bed at Ash’s suspiciously cheerful mention of “fun” and joined the obnoxiously joyful festivities. Ash informed the rest of the party that the interrogation of Terik was going well, and the Thieves’ Guild had two leads for us:

Option A was to use the ring we had taken from Terik, use the command that had been interrogated out of Terik to activate it, and to teleport ourselves into the heart of the Beyton family’s fortress in order to Teach Them a Lesson in order to make up for some bad blood between the Beytons and the Thieves’ Guild, though you’d think the Thieves’ Guild would have bad blood with everyone on account of, you know, stealing the shit out of them all. But I digress.

Option B was to get our subterfuge on by infiltrating a fancy-schmancy party being held by the Valerno family, who had been previously spotted in one of the memories we have gleaned from our Avorel estate adventure. The Thieves’ Guild wanted us to investigate the relationship between the Valernos and the Avorels, because a bunch of rough-and-tumble adventurers are always the agents of choice when it comes to blending into high society and discretely teasing out pertinent information without resorting to excessive violence. Clandestine was the key word here, sneaky and shadowy.

The Heroes of Amarak being the Heroes of Amarak—even though the vagaries of time had stripped the party of all but one of its original members—-we chose the option that involved shanking and loot. Also midnight raids and massive explosions.

Yes, we decided that this time—this time we would not be thwarted! We were going to take the Beyton estate, introduce it to some explosives, and let them enjoy some quality time over the skies of Madaban while we high-fived on the ground below! Upon learning of our intentions, nay, aspirations, Ash took us to meet a halfling explosives expert because clearly he is a filthy enabler of our pyromaniac tendencies. It is a sad day when one cannot even depend upon one’s employer to save oneself from oneself’s nascent addictions.

In any case, we were led through some skeevy passageway that led to some underground chambers. In one of them, we found the halfling explosives expert in question, Gamlin, as he was in the middle of some strange and mysterious experiment involve metal thingies on his head and a big damn magnifying class. Alas, his experiment failed, whereupon we politely made our presence known. Perra informed the old man of our intentions; with Ash’s go-ahead, we informed him that we intended to take down the Beyton estate or rather, to be more specific, the giant tower that graced its premises. The prospect of rampant property damage excited the old fellow, leaving him pacing back and forth and muttering to himself while we looked on in bemusement.

While Gamlin did his thing, Ash filled us in on further details of the Beyton job: the Thieves’ Guild wanted the Beyton bigshots (which is to say, Terik’s brothers) dead, as well as any other lieutenants or officers we could find. We were also supposed to gather any information we could find. Just, you know, pick up those hugely important papers off the ground where they had oh-so-casually fallen, maybe flip through some top-secret ledgers if it so took our fancy, squirrel away from top secret correspondence if we were so inclined, that sort of thing.

Once Gamlin was done, we hatched ourselves a Plan with his sage input: we would use acid to eat through the tower’s inner walls at the foundations, allowing us to stick our precious little explosives INSIDE THE WALL ITSELF. The explosives would be attached to some crystalline thingy that, when shaken, would act as a fuse and allow us one or two minutes to escape. Dissatisfied with this, Carkal challenged the old halfling to make us a fuse that’d set off the charges without need for the unstable crystal…timer thingy…and he bit the bait. We didn’t even need a Diplomacy check. Those mad genius types, always so predictable. I bet if you challenged one to invent the cure for cancer we’d never have to worry about tumors again. But what do they invent instead? Death rays! What use is a death ray to your average person off the street, I ask you. Cancer cure are where it’s at.

In any case, Carkal also decided that what the group really needed was four charges, because who knows when you’ll have to explode your way through a nigh-impregnable fortress? Meanwhile, Roswyn applied her keen intellect to the idea of how the fuck are we supposed to get out of the castle before the charges went off, and asked Ash to arrange a portal for them to use when it was time for the Heroes of Amarak to wave bye-bye to the impending carnage. Edward offered to set off the charges remotely through his telekinesis though, which helped alleviate fears of joining our victims in the unglamorous afterlife.

While the charges were brewing, we decided to head out into town. Ash went his own way, promising to look up people who could tell us where to put the charges for MAXIMUM BLOWING-UP-NESS. We enchanted our pet bear traps to bite of their own accord and reset themselves once a day, and Roswyn decided to earn a little coin back (what, you thought Carkal paid for those enchantments out of his own pocket?) by busking on the street. Some creeper stared at her through the crowd before vanishing into a dark alleyway; none of the rest of the party recognized him.

Eventually we met back up and began taking a leisurely stroll through the streets of Madaban at dusk, when we were AMBUSHED! …Actually no, Edward spotted him first. Suck on that, mysterious attackers! The main dude seemed to be a man with a black cape, graying hair, two swords, and little obsidian wolf statue that could transform into a magical wolf. We fought our mysterious attacker and his hired thugs off, naturally emerging victorious despite the fact that Perra nearly went down on not one, not two, but three separate occasions. We headed back to Gamlin to pick up our precious bombs, and rested up before beginning our assault on the Beyton estate. Being an amoral hero-for-hire is hard work, you know!

Along the way, Ash gave us some information about the Beyton estate’s layout, including some rough sketches of its inner sanctums. He also told us that our failed ambusher was a famous assassin rather imaginatively named Wolf, presumably after his magical canine buddy (which was now our magical canine buddy. Dog may be man’s best friend, but clearly the vice versa is far from true). He tried to warn us about the Beyton estate’s security, but mentioned that the Beytons also collected taxes and kept them in vaults inside their main estate, which, well. You can guess where our minds went after that. The gutter. No, not that gutter, the other gutter. The one flowing with tax money extorted from of the hard-probably-working citizens of fair Madaban. Yeah, that one.

Once rested, we wasted no time in heading off on our grand adventure. As Terik’s ring could only transport one person at a time, and Carkal had called dibs, the rest of us were forced to suffer the indignity of being carried into the estate in the Handy Haversack (Perra) and Bag of Holding (Roswyn and Edward). Carkal ended up in a darkened, windowless, but lushly appointed room and spent some time poking around while the rest of the party understandably tried to tell him to let them out so they could stretch their legs and maybe, like, breathe or something. Unhappy about his refusal to do so, Roswyn retaliated by telepathically starting a rousing rendition of that tavern classic, “99 Mugs of Mead on the Wall” (alas, Lady Gaga does not exist in the world of Lost Souls, or else Carkal might have been treated instead to a rousing rendition of “Poker Face” and then perhaps some “Bad Romance” as an encore) while the other two joined in. Carkal shoved his imp into the Bag of Holding because that is clearly the reasonable response in this case.

Despite being invisible during his explorations, Carkal still made noise—enough to attract the attention of a refined-looking woman in a nightgown who peered timorously into the room, looking for Terik. As soon as she was in the room, Carkal knocked her out and let Roswyn out. Roswyn tied the lady up with and used her familiar to fly her to a nearby couch. Carkal did the classy thing and stole the lady’s wedding ring. In a nearby bedroom, presumably the lady and Terik’s nuptial chamber, we found a maid who was also knocked out and tied up. However, this time she got rolled under the bed. Carkal finally let Perra and Edward out of the sacks and started searching for some secret passageways while Perra and Edward assisted Roswyn in interrogating our captives.

With her two bad cops in tow, Roswyn used the amulet to communicate with Terik’s wife without having to remove her gag. Using Terik’s teleportation ring as proof of Terik’s capture, she cajoled and coaxed the lady into telling us everything she knew about the Beyton estate and its layout, in the process learning an interesting tidbit about the gargoyles who guarded the Beyton vaults and their gold. We also learned about Terik’s two brothers, Jeral and Edris, and learned that Edris was the eldest and the one with the key to the vaults. Once Terik’s wife had been squeezed dry of relevant info, she was knocked back out so Roswyn could steal back her wedding ring and use that in order to convince the maid to cooperate, lest her mistress be subjected to whatever vague threats Roswyn came up with. We knock the maid back out afterwards and steal her keys, as well as all the papers we found on Terik’s desk. Then we headed out into the dark, terrible wilds of the Beyton estate’s top floor.

Peeping out of the bedroom, we noted the locations of the bedrooms of Terik’s brothers—the nearest being that of Edris, his wife, and the two suckers stuck with standing duty outside it. Ignoring that room, we tried to head down another passage in search of the library and some juicy ledgers, but decided to shelve that plan in favor of distracting the guards to Edris’ room. Roswyn and Edward discussed some awesome possibilities like scaring the crap out of them with combined use of their powers, only to have Carkal be all wet-blanket-y and point out that if they needed a distraction, they could just, like, knock a painting off a wall. Uncultured plebe! Where is the drama!? Where is the ROMANCE!? WHERE IS THE GRATUITOUS OVERUSE OF PRESTIDIGITATION!?

…In any case, we explored a bit and swiped some important-looking papers from a upper-story meeting room before turning back to the problem of getting into Edris’ rooms. Bowing to the force of Carkal’s common sense (PSHAW!), we knocked a painting off a wall, luring one of the guards over to get unceremoniously knocked out. The second guard, displaying his B. S. in How to Get Killed While on Guard Duty, came to check things out rather than oh, say, running for reinforcements. He too was given a swift kick to the land of artificial slumber. Perra and Roswyn stayed behind to make the bodies look like they killed each other while Carkal and Edward go after Edris.

More guards were summoned, and when Edris opened the door to his bedroom he found himself blasted back in courtesy of Carkal, Edward and a surprise round. Perra and Roswyn, meanwhile, hid themselves and wait for the guards coming from their direction to arrive. They were taken care of in short order, as was Edris and his wife. Perra and Roswyn barricaded the main staircase leading to their location while Carkal and Edward busied themselves with something that I’m sure was very useful and relevant to the plot. That done, we settled down to wait for the first wave of guards to arrive.

GM-added notes and details

  • The guards that imprisoned the Heroes of Amarak when they tried to sneak into the city were under the command of the Beyton family. The prison they were taken to was not the dungeons of the family’s estate, however.
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In Which We Set a House on Fire, Prepare to Blow This Joint, and Go All Indiana Jones on the Beyton Vaults' Ass

As he awaited the guards, Perra took a moment to appreciate the fine, non-magical workmanship of the sword in the gallery. Carkal tied up Edris and his wife up before stuffing them in the Bag of Holding, while Edward took a look around their bedroom. Time thus killed, we proceeded to open our attack on the newly-arrived guards by shoving a table at them as they climbed the stairs. Once the guards were taken care of, we decided it was time to move on. After consulting our handy-dandy map, we decided to head towards the tower, making a pitstop at the library along the way in order to collect some ledgers that would (hopefully) prove important in the future.

Right before we left, though, Roswyn examined the first group of guards who had burst in on us, the group that had found Edris’ two guards in compromisingly murderous positions. Upon closer inspection, she found that their leader was in fact a man in a nightgown! A man in a nightgown bearing the Beyton family crest about his now-deceased person. Just as she grabbed the ring (and his fancy magical sword), more guards appeared! Choosing slightly-less wealthy life over slightly-wealthier death, she dropped the sword and sprinted like the very blazes, like the very blazes I say, for the rest of the party and warned them of the impending pursuit.

We headed off with all due speed, eventually finding ourselves in a book-filled room that seemed of a library-like persuasion. We killed the mage we found there, took his booby-trapped spellbook, and set off before the guards with the hounds could find us and rend us limb from limb. Perra, being the enterprising sort, spared a moment to leave some doggy treats about the book room in hopes of distracting the pursuing hounds.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves within the famous Beyton estate tower. Heading upwards (and away from the clanking armor noises, ohoh), we selected a spot that was just over the roof of the rest of the building, a portion of the tower’s circumference that abutted the roof. With some judicious application of strong acid, we melted away the mortar, removed some wall stones, stood aside for the rubble that promptly slid out, and planted our lovely charges. With the sounds of pursuit hot on our tails, we brushed off as much rubble as we could and reinserted the stones, hoping this would be enough to disguise our work in the darkness of the tower.

With our explosive plans set in motion, we agreed that we simply couldn’t leave the Beyton estate until we’d helped ourselves to the contents of their infamous vaults. Since we couldn’t walk down the tower, we headed out over the roof in search of an alternate route. We quickly dispatched the guards we found there, but not fast enough—Perra attempted to get rid of an archer who was trying to attract attention from the guards far below, and succeeded in this endeavor…by being shoved off the roof. With time against us, we hopped down a floor to the terrace we had spotted from Terik’s room, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor in the case of tax-filled vaults. Instead of fighting our way back through the manor, we rappelled down to the ground and bravely allowed Edward to attack and teleport us all into the building.

After what I’m sure would have been a very amusing exploration montage,we found ourselves on the cusp of entering a giant antechamber that was full of guards, milling about and awaiting orders. The servants passageway we needed to get to was on the other side of the hall. As a guard approached our hiding space, Roswyn solved the problem of sneakiness the way we solve all problems of sneakiness: prestidigitation. Though her powers of illusion were strained by making herself look like a short human rather than a tall gnome, with the judicious application of purposeful walking we made it across the antechamber and down to the basement with no incident.

After walking the hallways for a bit we soon came across a guarded door. Carkal, disguised as a servant, ran into the room and tripped, sending his imp out to explore. While he endured the taunts of the guards and no doubt plotted their gruesome, rated M for Mature deaths, his imp discovered that beyond the door lay a torture chamber and tortured prisoners. The rest of us distracted the guards so Carkal could teleport in and investigate his newfound friends. While he gathered information on the vaults, the rest of us ducked into an archival room of some sort, and found an old plan of the Beyton manor that pointed us in a possible direction for the vault.

We took care of the guards, armed the prisoners, and set off for the vault with the prisoners recruited to our cause. One of them was an heir to a noble family, and promised us rich rewards for his return. Booyah!

It didn’t take long before we found ourselves at a steel bar door that we felt the vault was behind. Taking the subtle approach for once, we set Perra to picking the lock while Edward disabled some arcane traps. We investigated the room beyond the steel bar door and found a stout wooden metal-bound door that seemed to require a key to get through, as well as being arcane-locked to ensure only the right person with the right key could get through.

Through a combination of Knock (helpfully cast by Carkal after he realized asking Roswyn to learn it right there for the sole purpose of unlocking the door was a plan that might be delicately referred to as unviable due to the eight hours’ learning time) and Edward’s arcane lockpicking, we made it through the door. Beyond, we found the long-sought vault, filled with treasures of all sorts and statues perched all around the ceiling—the rumored gargoyles, no doubt. One of the prisoners who had followed us into the room was persuaded to enter the room first, and—as is the way of these dramatically appropriate things—had only a moment to sneer at our skittishness before dark tendrils drained his life force entire.

Vindicated, Carkal let his carnivorous glowing frogs loose to wreak havoc. As they leapt from chests and bags and cubby holds, Roswyn attempted to discern the nature of the shadowy tendrils and found it to be an innervations spell that steals life force to power…something. Eventually, Perra grew impatient and decided to indulge in a spot of gargoyle-tipping, which officially woke them up and summoned the tentacles. The battle that ensued was one of attrition, as we slowly wore the gargoyles down through a combination of magical frogs and sheer stubborn-headedness. Moving to the non-warded room just outside the vault, Roswyn began sketching out the runes for the portal out while Edward prepared the blow-up-the-tower ritual. Carkal and Perra helpfully started moving bullion, jewels, and other such fiscal delights into the teleportation circle. However, Edward noticed something towards the back of the room…some intriguing flaw in the wall…

Naturally, we sent the tank to investigate. Or rather, the closest thing we had to a tank. Which is to say: Perra. Who vanished as soon as the door was opened. Through some quick telepathic communication, we found out that he was in a holding cell full of confused looking guards! The rest of us, being naturally startled by this turn of events, began investigating the door and found it to be some sort of dimension trap thingamajigger that had been triggered by the arcane lock not being triggered. Attempting to reach Perra via rope in order to pull him free met with failure as the rope bounced off the wall. The other prisoners were unable to see the source of our distress until we managed to disable the door. Once removed, we stored the door in a magical bag (clearly the most natural course of action when confronted with a dimension trap) and inspected the real secret passageway beyond.

Carkal was sent through the life-sapping passage, only to find a small room that contained a nondescript wooden box that looked completely mundane, yet was sitting in a room full of minor wards against scrying and teleportation, to say nothing of necrotic energies. Edward was sent in next once Carkal had returned, armed with the infamous skull mask. Edward finds nothing else of interest, which is just when we hear footsteps approaching…

Meanwhile, Perra confronted the knight and guards whose company he had so abruptly joined. He managed to fight his way free and found himself in the military compound below the Beyton estate. The fire we had begun with the table and the shoving had finally been put out, though not before it had done a significant amount of structural damage to the second floor, which isn’t bad for accidental arson if I do say so myself. After a quick assessment of the situation, Perra decided that high-tailing it out of there was preferable to dying on the way back to us and suited action to word. Pursued by arrows and hounds, powered by sheer barbarian rage, he climbed the estate wall! Leapt onto the roofs of adjoining townhouses! And, despite the trials and tribulations of his solo adventure, managed to keep running away into the night.

Meanwhile, Roswyn hurriedly resumed drawing the teleportation circle while Carkal and Edward began loading up more treasure…all while the footsteps came ever closer…

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In Which We Escape the Beyton Estate, Come Down With a Rare Case of Common Sense, and Add Bank-Robbing to Our Long and Illustrious List of Crimes of Humanity

When last we left (most) of our heroes, Roswyn, Carkal, and Edward were trapped in an underground near the Beyton family’s home vault. The approaching footsteps soon revealed themselves to be a mass of guards and war hounds. Our allies, the freed prisoners, attempted to bar the way but alas, it was to no avail. Trapped as we were, Roswyn began scratching away at the teleportation circle while Carkal stepped up to stall for time by using Edris’ wife as a hostage. In the midst of negotiations, Edward finished the ritual that set off our previously planted charges, and blew the Beyton estate tower to smithereens. Ah, how I love the smell of property damage in the morning.

Nevertheless, at the behest of the mage leading them, the guards chose to press their attack. The mage demanded that Roswyn stop her ritual so that negotiations for Edris’ wife could continue. Carkal demanded that they call off the war hounds first. After a tense moment, the guards acquiesce, though one wayward mutt chose to stay behind and gnaw on one of the prisoners who had injured it. The mage came closer and demanded, once again, that we cease our ritual. Carkal kept stalling while another prisoner pulls Edris out of the sack. With a final burst of effort, Roswyn finished the ritual and opened up a portal, at which point the mage ordered the guards and knights arrayed about him to attack…which triggers Carkal’s Hunger of Hadar.

While the guards were distracted by the whole “being devoured by eldritch beings from among the stars” thing, Edward helpfully used his psionic powers to slide us all through the portal—prisoners and hostages included, in an unusually altruistic gesture for the Heroes of Amarak. Then again, Edris and his wife were only kept for questioning, so perhaps not so altruistic after all. The whole lot of us land in comical array atop a heap of treasure in a darkened room.

We were met by a man named Harold who attempted to extort money from us for having the hostages transferred to the keeping of the Thieves’ Guild! Hah! Once we had disabused the poor foolish man of that laughable notion, we loaded up our gold and headed across town for the warehouse where we were to meet Ash. Once we arrived, Ash demanded the story of what had happened while we—being naturally exhausted and with no time for such silly demands—were trying to whine our way out of it when there came a mysterious knock on the door! …Turned out it was Perra, who had made his own way across Madaban to the site of our rendezvous. After this joyous reunion, Perra and Roswyn eventually capitulated to Ash’s cruel, cruel demands and told him the story of what had occurred. The hostages, meanwhile, were escorted away for fates unknown

Upon the end of our tale, Ash inquire as to the contents of the vault, and his interest was particularly piqued by the wooden box we had found. After some reluctance, we let Ash take a look inside, hoping to find some connections between the Beytons and other noble families. Ash gave the innocent-looking box a quick once-over and opened it. Inside was a small sack bulging with objects, and upon seeing them Ash shuddered and turned pale. While he had a bit of sit-down (and possibly had smelling salts waved under his nose) we checked out the box ourselves and found it full of numerous little crystals that we recognized as soul crystals…already full of souls.

Revived, Ash was determined to find out what the crystals might portend (such, as for example, an impending night of the living dead). After handing over all the papers we had pilfered from the Beytons’ desks, we divided up our loot and headed out to enjoy a few days off. The next day, however, we were met by a blond boy who had been sent by Ash and told us the location of the Beyton family’s real vault—in a bank within the Cut, Madaban’s banking district. With nothing better to do with our time, we moseyed on over to check the place out, and found it surrounded by guards in Beyton colors. Clearly we would need a subtler approach than “kill it ’til its dead” if we were to get in and examine the bank’s security.

We obtained some fancy clothes—a suit for Carkal, and childrens’ clothes for Roswyn. With a touch of Prestidigitation to take care of some cosmetic changes, Carkal and Roswyn headed in to the bank under the pretext of wanting to safely deposit something of great value in the bank’s vaults. Perra accompanied them as a bodyguard, while Edward kept an eye outside. The ruse worked, and we were treated to a tour of the bank’s vaults and their varying levels of security including some tricks we’d already encountered—triggered scrying, Cabal mages, and anti-teleportation wards oh my! We get out of the bank without further incident, change out of our disguises, and after some discussion ultimately decide against robbing the bank. No doubt Carkal’s pocketbook shed a tear at the riches we had so crassly turned away.

The rest of the day we whiled away wandering about. Roswyn did some busking, just to keep in practice and bask in appreciation for a bit. We headed back to our inn at the close of the day and settled down for peaceful rest…that was interrupted in the dead of night by a flaming torch thrown through Perra’s window. Yes, it seemed the Beytons had finally caught up with us for some good old-fashioned revenge.

The rest of the inn was quickly set on fire, and soon discovered that we were surrounded by Beyton guards on all sides, including nearby rooftops and the air. In a rare show of common sense, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and teleported to a building across the street. Roswyn made her own way through a combination of invisibility and wings. Perra was stuck in a sack. We broke out the back door and headed for a sewer entrance. Unfortunately, a mage flying overhead spotted us and tried to slow us. Fortunately, he had worse aim then a blind man aiming at a gnat.

Roswyn, Carkal, and Edward soon made it down to the sewers, at which point Perra was dumped out. Not knowing where we were, we headed down the nearest passageway and traversed the stinky road for hours until we finally found a ladder up and out of the sewer. We found ourselves in a side street in a district of the city adjoining the one where we had so narrowly avoided being turned into so many party-shaped chunks of charcoal. Finding our way to the Black Horse Alehouse, our attempt to contact Ash was in vain as the innkeeper had no idea where he was.

At this point, we decided that the solution to our problems was clearly to knock over the Beytons’ bank in retaliation.

Under mass invisibility, we made our way past the token force of guards who had been left behind while the rest scoured Madaban for our presences. With Perra and Roswyn once more in the Haversack, Carkal and Edward (invisibly) teleported through a window into the bank. The four guards we encountered were quickly assassinated, and the doors were barred to prevent anyone from interrupting us mid-heist. After finding a record of each vault’s contents, we headed for the ones with the most loot, and eventually ended up in a small antechamber. A quick check of the wards in the place revealed that there was some sort of puzzle on the four doors leading out of the antechamber—when one of them is opened, the main door leading into the antechamber sealed. The stone platform in the center of room looked significant, but we didn’t know how. All four doors were warded so that they would explode when the Knock ritual was used on them.

While we were puzzling over this, Edward noticed some illusionary walls in the antechamber. Beyond each, we found some inert golems who—when attacked—attacked back. We swiftly reduced them to rubble and turned our attention back to the far more pressing problem of how were we supposed to get our mitts on all that phat loot? Eventually Edward began disabling the wards on each door, aided by Roswyn. Perra helpfully stopped the main doors from closing by the handy use of our trusty anvil. Meanwhile, Carkal discovered that the balance thing in the room was made of pure gold and tore it off to store in the sack.

While all went well at first, Edward botched the third door. “They” were alerted, and once Edward was freed from the block of ice the door had trapped him in, Roswyn began sketching out another teleportation circle in the antechamber to get us out. Ignoring the fourth door, we began frantically loaded up the circle and Haversack with treasure, but halfway through “they” appeared—Cabal mages! Naturally, fisticuffs ensued as Roswyn frantically finished of the teleportation circle.

We popped through the portal but were followed by a mage, who forced to the portal to stay open so his buddies could follow. Roswyn tried to force the portal to close. As this battle of wills ensued, we finished off the mage and his friends. Harold was naturally horrified to find us battle Cabal mages in his shop’s backroom. We gave him some gold and told him to get out of town, because the Cabal and nobles would soon be on his heels. Once Harold had scurried off, we found ourselves another inn and, deciding to fuck this shit, teleported back to Amarak for some well-deserved R&R.

Alas, the next morning we were rudely interrupted by a sending from Ash to Perra. He informed us that the Thieves’ Guild headquarters had been broke into—Edris was dead, Terik had escaped, and we were to meet him at a mysterious address. After obtaining some breakfast and handy-dandy disguises to wear over our armor, we all hopped into the Haversack and Bag of Holding. Carkal used Terik’s ring to teleport us back to Madaban. On the way to Ash’s meeting place, we saw guards in a noble family’s colors questioning a shopkeeper. Clearly the hunt was still on, and we were suddenly the world’s worst insurance risk ever.

The address led us deep into the slums of Madaban, located in the lowest part of the city near the baseof the walls that surround it. The slums, having been built up and over each other, formed a vertical district. We found a “street” that wound up the buildings to a nondescript, abandoned looking home. We found Ash inside, who reported that the situation was even more dire than he’d told us earlier: the nobles’ counterattack was larger and more organized than anticipated, and more families had gotten involved. Especially puzzling since we’d disabled the Beyton family’s leadership not more than a few nights ago.

From Terik we had learned that the families had made a series of secret alliances with each other and a secret society (!!!). Alas, before more could be gotten out of him, Edris arrived and he shut up. The attack on the Thieves’ Guild happened not long after. Ash also told us that, though he didn’t know where to send us next, close examination of the Beyton family’s ledgers showed that the family had been closely linked to trade regarding soul crystals, or something similar—they had employed a powerful local shipper to convey goods of some kind twice of year. Jakabal Lebin, Master of the Shipping Guild, was our target…though his exalted position meant we’d make a lot of enemies confronting him for information. Excellent, more to add to our collection!

Ash promised us information on when to strike within a day or two. In the meantime, we had to lay low, and were sent to the dens under the slum district as the guards lose all authority in the dens, and they know it well. Ash arranged a meeting with a scrawny Halfling and this thugs who questioned us before allowing us access to the dens under the condition that we keep trouble out—otherwise our affiliation with Ash would mean nothing. As we wandered the dens, we took in the ramshackle inns unsavory businesses, and various shops of a black market nature. While taking in a meal, we were approached by a tiefling who introduced himself as Ozymandias, a paladin of Kord, who was eager to join us and have a chance at striking out at the nobles of Madaban. After some conversation (during which he told us of his plans to resurrect the Turathi empire. …Uh.), we welcomed him to the party, reasoning that with Gragas gone it couldn’t hurt to have a replacement big armored person to take all the hits, and commenced awaiting further instructions from Ash.

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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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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 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.

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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!

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