Chains Unbound

Enclave of Demons (Hanzo's Story) pt. 2
Tormented Shades; the party lands in a tight spot

As Hanzo and Ella caught their breath from the battle with the slumber demon, their allies awoke from their slumber and tumbled out of the Bodybag of Holding. Hazarak, Thargor, and Tempest joined the group and were quickly brought up to date. They took a brief look around and learned about the kidnapped citizens of Myth Dranor that were stuck in the Shadowfell somewhere in the mansion. The group then delved deeper into the mansion.

The group passed through a door one by one, and thus fell into an obvious trap. They found themselves in a 40′ × 50′ × 30′ room, with vicious-looking spikes lining the walls. Impaled at irregular intervals along the walls were the corpses of humanoids, obviously former adventurers, with coins and gems falling out of their tattered purses. Unfortunately for most of the group, the entire room was shrouded in darkness, and only Hazarak could see unaided. Hanzo quickly thought back to his last fight, and realized that some of the shades could see in the dark. Reasoning that their darkvision worked like an inverted version of regular vision, he took out a sunrod and tinkered with it briefly, then lit it. He told the group that he modified it so that it would blind any shades that they would encounter that had darkvision. Thus armed, he and his allies ventured to the door set into the wall opposite of the one they entered.

Everyone nervously examined the door, and after confirming that the hinges, knob, and lock were not trapped, Ella proceeded to pick the lock. As soon as she unlocked and Hazarak opened the door, the group found what triggered the trap: a short bar, bolted to the door, that pulled out a brick in the wall immediately behind the door. This brick was the only thing holding the triggering mechanism open,and when removed, it caused the spiked walls to slide closer together. As if attracted to the scent of imminent death, four tormented shades wailed and moved through the walls to attack the group. They were immediately blinded by the magically enhanced sunrod in Hanzo’s hand, which he immediately dropped in favor of his bastard sword.

Hazarak and Hanzo both noticed a note scrawled on the wall behind where the door was, but neither of them could read it. They then took swings at the shades, and Hanzo managed to kill one. It let loose a blood-curdling scream as it faded away, which scared Ella and caused her to stumble into the wall, impaling herself on the spikes. She then extricated herself from the spikes and moved up so that she could see the writing. She read the Elven script, which said, “The blunt spike…” then trailed off in a splatter of gore. She yelled out for everyone to find a blunt spike on the wall, which was no easy task on two long walls full of spikes, then made her way over towards the opposite wall to search it.

Hanzo somehow set fire to the shades and turned to help search for the spikes. As he turned his back, all three shades screamed and vaporized, which caused both him and Hazarak to flee from them. Safe for the moment, a few party members continued the search for the spike, while others attempted (with varying degrees of success) to hold the wall back. Just then, a new complication arrived, in the form of another slumber demon, who immediately phased through the wall and hit Ella with a somnolent wind, which caused her to stagger and fall asleep.

Around this time, Tempest awoke and fell out of the Bodybag, and, seeing Ella unconscious, picked her up and moved towards the south end of the room. Fortuitously, Hazarak found a blunt spike, and tweaked it a bit, which made a section of the spike wall swing out, revealing a sturdy iron door with three locks in it. Thargor, Hanzo, and Tempest took turns slapping Ella, until she finally awoke. She was set to the task of picking the locks, while the rest of the party alternated between killing the slumber demon and holding back the walls.

The party, in a fit of desperation, unleashed their most powerful attacks, and threw themselves against the demon in an attempt to destroy it. Kerrick, who had awoken while Tempest was carrying Ella, unleashed a blast of radiant energy that should have obliterated the demon. Unfortunately, a combination of resistance to radiant energy, a sloppily-made attack, and the demon’s own insubstantiallity caused the demon to barely pause in its lazy assault (42 damage, halved by the miss, reduced by 10 for resistance, then halved again by insubstantial = 6 damage). Fortunately, the demon was brought low by the combined attacks of most of the party, with Hanzo landing the killing blow. With that threat out of the way, the entire party focused on staying alive long enough for Ella to pick the locks and hopefully let them escape.

Ella picked one lock easily, but thanks to Tempest’s clumsy attempt to “aid” her in picking it (with his sword), the lock was jammed badly, making it harder to pick. He then proceeded to panic, and go through the four stages of accepting death. Hanzo ran over behind him, and, while still hidden, punched him in the back of the head, knocking him out. Meanwhile, Ella frantically picked at the locks, with everyone else helping to hold back the walls and shouting (and threats) of encouragement, but it seemed that her tools kept slipping under the pressure of being responsible for saving the entire party’s skin. After what seemed like forever while stuck in that quickly narrowing room, Ella managed to pop the last lock and open the door, letting her companions through to safety just as the walls clanged together with a loud, low ringing sound.

The group managed to barely escape a holey death into the service tunnel behind one of the walls. At the other end of the tunnel, a dark portal glowed and crackled with baleful energy. The group decided to catch their breath here and steel themselves against whatever horrors might await them through this portal…

We will continue this adventure in November. Next week will begin October’s themed story, “Sins of a Father”, DM’d by Kimchee. Looking forward to it!

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Kiss of the Moon (La'Quel's Story), finale
Entering the Demonweb Pits, Lolth's Chosen

We last left La’Quel, Blaze, Conan, Virgil, and Urgar just outside of a huge portal that lead to gods know where, inside the ruined and desecrated temple of Selune. The group took a moment to catch their breath and decide whether they should call it a night. After some discussion, it was determined that more rest was not needed, so the group dumped Urgar, who had fallen unconscious, into the bodybag of holding, and charged headlong into the portal.

La’Quel went through first and scouted around. The area that she found herself in resembled a cave, with a very dim, purple glow eminating from the spiderweb-covered walls. She looked around and found that the portal she used to enter this area was nowhere to be seen, so she crept further up the tunnel, until she heard three women talking to another woman. Peering around the corner, she beheld a most unwelcome sight: two of the drow she had been pursuing (Aliah and Jasil), as well as another drow woman, were kneeling in front of a beautiful drow woman wearing ornate leather armor and wielding a scourge. This could only be Lolth, queen of the Demonweb Pits herself.

While she scouted ahead, Blaze stepped through the portal and found himself behind La’Quel. She quickly attempted to relay a message through the bluetooth to the rest of the party, but Blaze told her that he didn’t think that the bluetooths worked across dimentional boundaries. This soon became a moot point, however, as the rest of the party came through the portal. La’Quel quickly updated the party with their current situation, and Blaze decided to approach the goddess to parley.

Parley did not go well, to say the least. Lolth was wholly unimpressed with Blaze, especially as he made a clumsy attempt to move along the wall while talking to her. The three drow women eyed him hungrily and fingered their weapons while he and Lolth talked, but made no move to attack. She then cocked her head to the side and exclaimed, “I sense your presence, Virgil, show yourself!” Virgil then ran out and started hurling insults at the goddess, which provoked her wrath. She ordered the three drow women to attack, but just then La’Quel charged in and took a mighty swing at Aliah, wounding her greatly.

The rest of the party charged in and went to work on killing the drow. They found their efforts thwarted by the cleric, Jasil, as she managed to put up a wall of whirling blades near the entrance of the battlefield, and her ally, Araellri the Arachnomancer, put out a web that slowly rotted away the non-drow caught within it. The group, excluding Conan, suffered within this area as Jasil and Aliah attacked them, and Aliah continually threw Blaze into the blade barrier. Both Blaze and Virgil fell in battle a few times, with the other just barely able to pull them back from the brink of death.

Meanwhile, Conan threw himself at Araellri while hurling insults at Lolth. She did not take kindly to this, and decended from her vantage point on the ceiling of the cavern to hurl a tough, sticky web at Conan. He quickly suffused himself with the power of his rage and burned the webs to ash around him, then gave chase to the arachnomancer, who had begun running around Lolth. Conan repeatedly lay his blade into her, while she tried and failed to bite him with her fangs, to get a taste of his blood. Eventually he managed to chase her out from behind her goddess and off of the dias that they were perched on.

By this point, the entire party had exhausted most of their resources and were in various states of decay. La’Quel had been unable to shake off the webs that Araellri casted earlier, and remained restrained for what seemed like forever. Virgil and Blaze took turns taking a dirt nap, and even Conan was barely able to maintain his anger. Conan, seeing the need to do something decisive quickly, lunged at Araellri, and with guidance from Blaze, managed to land four grievious blows on her in the space of six seconds, felling the vampiric arachnomancer and leaving her allies injured and terrified. Jasil, seeing little chance for survival here, attempted to flee, but was chased down by Conan and brutally slaughtered. Aliah attempted to hide in a cloud of darkness and managed to dodge almost all of the party’s blades, but once she emerged from the cloud, La’Quel charged her and buried her broadsword to the hilt in her chest, finishing her off.

Lolth, thouroughly entertained now and somewhat content, offered Conan a place among the ranks of her followers, a rare honor for a male. He refused this, saying that he had regard only for Crom, and she let it pass with a brief flicker of irritation. La’Quel she addressed briefly, but released (probably) unharmed. She saved most of her rage for Virgil, whom she regarded as a traitor but was unable to kill directly due to her pact with Corellion. She instead cursed him with terrible misfortune and told the entire group to leave within a minute, or she would consume their souls as well. They quickly departed through the portal, which had just reopened.

Over the course of the next few days, Selene rewarded the party, both directly and indirectly. She gave La’Quel one of her tears, which she used to seal the portal permanently, then granted her a boon (see below). She also sent one of her priestesses a dream and a small reward for the Avengers that aided her champion. All told, this outting netted the following for the group:

  • 800 xp (final encounter [Lolth’s Chosen] only)
  • A Stalwart Belt (level 16 waist item)
  • A boon for La’Quel, consisting of either a divine boon related to Selene from any printed source, or a free feat
  • 21 pp, 318 gp, 15 sp, 50 cp + 2 sapphire gems (1000 gp each), delivered by the above priestess

This concludes Kiss of the Moon. Next week, we will likely pick up with Hanzo’s story, Enclave of Demons.

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Kiss of the Moon (La'Quel's Story), pt. 2
La'Quel meets her patron and recieves a mission; Spider Guardians

After perishing on the field of battle somewhere southeast of the Southwood, La’Quel met her patron, the goddess Selune, in a dream. In this dream, she was charged with purging a nearby temple of Selune of the drow and spiders that had infested it, and turned it to a place of worship for their dread goddess Lolth. If she succeeded in this mission, she would be rewarded with the blessings of the goddess, but if she failed, she would be forever stripped of her powers. Selune then sent La’Quel back to her body in a silvery wagon, short in stature, which departed the surface of the moon and sped back towards Toril.

Once revived, La’Quel scouted around and tracked the group of drow and their spiders to a campsite, which looked to have been abandoned for a couple of days. She then returned to the scene of the battle and collected the body of the young bard that had been one of her wards, then returned back to Loudwater to explain her actions to Balasar.

Upon returning, Urgar gave her a sharp look and shook his head mournfully at her. Ender piped up, asking where the rest of her charges were, and by way of a reply, La’Quel dumped the slightly decayed body of the bard at his feet. He cursed and jumped back, then told her that she should go tell Balasar about this, and yelled at her to get rid of that body. She grabbed the corpse by the scruff of its neck and dragged it into Balasar’s study.

La’Quel told the story about the ambush and how she had run into some drow that she knew from her days in the underdark. Balasar grunted, puffing out a small gout of flame, and ordered the resurrection of the bard, to be paid for by guild funds. Virgil immediately went off in search of the components necessary, then finished the ritual and brought him back. Meanwhile, Balasar told La’Quel to take a group with her and kill off those drow, so that they may know the wrath of the Avengers. She agreed and assembled Virgil, Urgar, Conan, and Blaze, and a couple of others, and together they headed south, through the Southwood and past the battlefield where La’Quel fell.

Their search took them to a village called Astin Springs, which looked to have just ended its farmers’ market for the day. La’Quel asked one of the farmers that passed by if he knew of a place of worship nearby for Selune. He replied that he did not, but the hill on the east side of the village had some odd stone structures that might fit that description, and that they could check those out. So, still dusty from the road, they trudged towards the hill.

The group examined the hill and found that it could be used as a stellar observatory, and could predict when the seasons would change, when certain stars and constellations would align, and when eclipses would occur. Virgil noticed some symbols on the slab of rock in the middle of the structure that appeared to be acid-faded and scratched out. La’Quel took a look at them and recognized them as symbols depicting the phases of the moon, so she whispered a quick prayer to Selune, and the symbols glowed briefly, causing the rock slab to come out and slide away, revealing a staircase.

A quick search of the area at the bottom of the staircase revealed a skeleton, badly damaged by bites and acid, in front of a pictogram on the wall. The pictogram showed the cycle of the moon, and was a plot of the next few lunar eclipses. Near the corpse lay a ritual book with a few rituals in it, which the party took (ask later to find out which rituals were in the book). The party ventured further inside, where La’Quel’s sharp eyes picked up a poorly disguised greased pit trap. At the bottom of the trap was a swarm of spiderlings and some nasty-looking spiked sticks. The party easily jumped over the pit, and headed into the next room, which had a hallway at the end of it. At the other end of the hallway, outlined in the blackish-green glow of a portal, was a heavily armored drow flanked by two phaseweb spiders.

The drow, whom La’Quel remembered as Aelaon, a paladin of Lolth, yawned as the group approached and told them that they should leave, blah blah blah (yes, he actually said that). He then lazily challenged them to approach. Blaze was the first to take this bait, and as he entered the portal chamber, two swarms of spiders descended upon him from above.

Thus, the Avengers began a desperate battle for their lives. The spider swarms webbed anyone that came near them, then swarmed throughout their armor, biting and poisoning their victims. The larger phaseweb spiders moved to flank first Virgil, then La’Quel, who had become mired within a swarm. Aelaon proved to be the least of their worries, as a few quick attacks by La’Quel and Blaze (and area attacks courtesy of Urgar) were enough to dispatch him. This just left the (much larger) threat posed by the spider swarms and phase spiders.

The poison quickly took its toll, and even with the Avengers hacking away at both the swarms and their larger cousins, the battle was not going in their favor. Many times, either Blaze or Virgil succumbed to the poison, sometimes within each others’ arms, but they were always able to revive each other. Virgil, through sheer endurance and tenacity, managed to shake off the poison (as well as death’s grasp) no less than two times, proving himself a credit to the name of Balasar’s Avengers.

Eventually, with the party wearying, Urgar casted a few desperate spells: One, a wall of fire, forced the spiders to disengage from the group and killed one of the swarms outright. The other granted the entire party a heavy resistance to poison, which quite possibly saved all of their lives. Eventually, La’Quel and Conan chased down the last living phase spider, and the last living swarm fled from the temple, leaving the Avengers victorious.

The group decided that they needed a rest, and retreated temporarily from the defiled temple of Selune, back out into the village. They made camp nearby, as there were no inns or taverns to be found within the village, then rested and meditated on their heroic deeds for the night. (For this encounter, everyone involved received 800 xp and a bonus action point, to be awarded after waking from the extended rest.)

We will continue with this storyline in two weeks, as I will not be available next week Monday. Kimchee has volunteered to DM in my absence, watch for a forum post from either him or Kamunari on this. Oh, and I <3 swarms, especially ones with auras.

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Enclave of Demons (Hanzo's Story), pt. 1
Helping a little old lady; Shades in the Hall

One day, late in the month of Uktal, Balasar summoned Hanzo to his study. Hanzo appeared, descending from the ceiling to answer the mighty warlord’s call. Balasar handed Hanzo a sealed letter, and told him that this was a mission request from one Drodareth Gor, an elderly elven woman living in Myth Dranor. In order to get the avengers to their destination in a timely manner, Balasar has called in a favor from the new masters of Highrock Hold: an airship ride from Loudwater to Myth Dranor. The airship captain, a dwarf by the name Doggle Rockbottom, is looking to establish trade relations between the hold and some of the wealthy cities in the Western Stars alliance, and needed to go to Myth Dranor anyway. So, Balasar told Hanzo to pick some comrades to travel with him and leave as soon as their preparations were made. Before leaving, Hanzo requested a loan from the guild’s coffers, which Balasar granted him, at a 10% interest rate (see here). The party, for now consisting of Hanzo and Ella, left aboard the airship.

After five days of travel, covering over 800 miles, the airship Skymountain arrived outside the elven city of Myth Dranor. They were greeted by a throng of elves and eladrin, eager to see the new flying machine. Ella and Hanzo greeted the elves, and began searching the city for some lodgings and supplies. Hanzo used the guild loan to purchase a Moran’s Eye +3, and he and Ella performed some rituals to transfer the enchantment to a smaller glass eye and preserve Hanzo’s removed eye, which Balasar required as collateral for the loan. Ella then sought out a room at the Black Unicorn Inn, and paid the innkeeper the fee. Hanzo, who had not a coin to his name after purchasing the eye, tried to bum lodgings off of Ella, who refused. He then stated that he would just sleep on the roof of the inn later that night. With things settled, the two went to see Drodareth.

The two adventurers were ushered in by a young elf and were greeted by Drodareth in her sitting room, where she was taking her afternoon tea. She invited the pair to partake of the refreshments, and they did, enjoying some tea and pastries. Drodareth then explained their mission: They were to find her niece, Alexia, who had been kidnapped by unknown agents, along with several other elves throughout the city. Drodareth hired a human detective named Alwin to investigate the disappearances, and he concluded that the kidnapped elves had been taken to Demon Manor, a mansion located at the end of a half-mile of twisting trails northwest of the city. Alwin refused to enter the manor, because although he thinks that the elves are just being superstitious when it comes to the manor being inhabited by demons, he has heard the wailing of something unnatural coming from the manor. Better safe than sorry, he figures.

Hanzo and Althea decided to scout around the town for information regarding the manor, as well as the manor itself, and found the following (with associated skill checks):

  • (Arcana): The entire manor is riddled with portal energy. Where these portals are located, as well as their destinations, is unknown. The house itself is also partially within the Shadowfell.
  • (Dungeoneering): The manor is 3 stories high, and at least 2, possibly 3 stories deep.
  • (Streetwise): The manor is avoided by most of the cityfolk because of its haunted reputation. It is also known as a place so dreadful that sunlight refuses to go near it.

During the course of their investigation, Hanzo and Ella managed to climb into a broken third-story window. Here, in the dark corridors of the house, they made a discovery: Any light left unattended within the manor will be promptly extinguished. Attended light sources will remain lit, however. This made both adventurers extremely cautious, and Ella suggested waiting for the rest of the party to wake up and climb out of the Bodybag of Holding, but Hanzo insisted that they press on. And so they did.

A short distance from the window the pair climbed through, down a dark corridor, Hanzo encountered the shade of an elf. The elf did not seem to be able to see or interact with him, yet it was burned by the touch of Hanzo’s shadow-ninja’s fire sword. Though fearful at first, the elf eventually revealed that he was kidnapped from the city a few days ago and brought here, and that he had been trying to escape through the portals throughout the house, to no avail. He said that it looked like the portals only worked for living creatures or demons, and since he was unable to pass through them, he figured that he was dead. Hanzo’s arcane senses told him that the elf was not dead yet, just stuck in the Shadowfell, but he did not reveal this. Just then, everyone in the corridor and on the windowsill heard a scream from around the corner. This sent the elf into a fright, and he fled, past the shadow-ninja and into the darkness.

From around the corner, four mournful-looking shades and a demon of whispering winds approached. Hanzo parleyed with the demon, who simply told him that he would soon be seeing his master, who had been present at the betrayal of the Iga clan, many years ago. The shades and the demon then attacked Ella and Hanzo.

The pair made quick work of the shades, but the demon proved to be much more powerful. Its attacks consisted of cold breezes that relaxed the muscles and ravaged the mind, leaving their victims weak or slow, or both. Once afflicted, the demon had another trick up its sleeve: a wind that would severely weaken its victim, and eventually put that victim to sleep. The demon was also insubstantial, which made the adventurer’s attacks much less effective. Still, between Ella’s biting attacks and Hanzo’s summons, the demon was eventually dispatched, leaving the pair free to continue exploring the manor.

We will continue this storyline after we wrap up Kiss of the Moon, La’Quel’s story.

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Kiss of the Moon (La'Quel's Story), pt 1
La'Quel's wards make the grade or die trying; an old enemy resurfaces

Always mindful of the need to train new recruits, Balasar sent La’Quel out with a handful of raw recruits on an important mission: recover the villagers that had been kidnapped by the Fangjaw gnoll tribe from the hamlet of Applebottom, and find out what the gnolls have been doing with the people they kidnap. During this mission, La’Quel was to observe the party dynamics and take care of any nasty surprises that the gnolls had in store for them. This surprise came in the form of Grakkus, a gnoll high priest of Orcus, whom La’Quel single-handedly dispatched. La’Quel and her wards rescued the villagers, and began the trip back to Applebottom Hamlet, but eventually stopped for the night amidst a rocky outcropping.

Throughout the night, the group took turns on watch. One of them spotted something in the bushes, and told her relief about it. Unfortunately, the net-wizard that took over for her fell asleep while on duty, and the group was ambushed. La’Quel saw them coming, but said nothing, as they should have been able to handle a few thugs themselves. Little did she know how wrong she was.

The battle began with a roar, as nearly two dozen humans and their wolf pets descended upon the camp. This mob was led by a drow whom La’Quel recognized as Aliah Draesn, a minor noble in the house that La’Quel’s family was enslaved to. Aliah, who had trained as an avenger of Lolth since her teen years, rushed into the fray, hurling insults and divine power at La’Quel. She ordered the archers to take out La’Quel, a task which she made impossible by surrounding herself with a cloud of darkness. The thugs and wolves began bludgeoning and biting the rest of the party, but they proved to be no weaklings, and eventually had cut the human brigands down to just a handful of archers. Aliah, too, was weakened, and started to display signs of her injuries.

Just then, a voice from behind La’Quel admonished Aliah for being unable to dispose of a simple runaway slave girl, then gave her a blessing of Lolth, which restored Aliah’s fighting form. Two more members of House Draesn, Jasil and Aelaon, with two phase spiders in tow, showed up. La’Quel demanded to know why they had come after her here, after all this time, to which Aliah viciously replied that they were just here to reclaim their property, and gestured to the villagers. La’Quel’s presence had just been icing on the cake, as now they would get to both recover their new slaves and kill their traitorous old one.

As the rest of the party was not composed of morons and fools, when La’Quel ordered a retreat, they all complied to the best of their abilities, while also attempting to see the villagers to safety. The party’s cleric, who had been camped on top of a 20’ high rock, fell off while attempting to blast one of the wolves, and wrenched his neck. His battlemind ally ran to aid him, and was dropped and torn apart by the wolves, but managed to stay alive thanks to the party’s entertainer, who had words of encouragement for him. The entertainer, along with the net-wizard ushered the villagers away from the battlefield, but the entertainer was quickly run down by a phase spider, who had just webbed his allies. With no more healing magic and no allies nearby, the entertainer succumbed to the spider’s poisonous bite and died.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, the net-wizard managed to teleport himself behind Jasil, after she attempted to blast him with a bolt of unholy fire. Disoriented, he still managed to run off, while avoiding the bite of a wolf that had made its way to Jasil, as well as a crushing blow from her mace. On the southern end of the battlefield, the party’s swordmage, whom Aelaon had saved by stopping the phase spider from biting her, only to kill her himself, managed to get almost out of sight of the combatants, when the same phase spider ran up and chomped on her. She soon fell to the poison, but made a miraculous recovery after the spider had left her for dead.

The party’s battlemind, who had just barely survived the attack by one of the phase spiders, managed to grab the cleric and run off. Unfortunately, he was unable to get to the entertainer in time, and he was devoured by the spider after it failed to find the villagers that had run off.

With all of her wards either safely off of the battlefield or dead, La’Quel threw herself into one final assault on Aliah, which ultimately failed as she was dragged into Jasil’s blade barrier by the other avenger and brutalized by the three drow. Just as she lost consciousness and Aliah was about to deliver the coup de grace, a single moonbeam broke through the clouds and shone brightly on La’Quel, blinding the other drow. When their vision cleared, she was gone, and they were alone on the battlefield.

We will continue this storyline in two weeks.

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Shadow's Path (Althea's Story) Finale
Althea banishes the shadows, and learns of Shinlea's mission

Joined by Larry, the Hobo Wizard of Shade, Balasar’s Avengers chased the shadowmage Nocturnus through the halls of his house, harrying him even as he passed through the walls to evade their attacks. The Avengers eventually finished off his spirit devourer minion and chased him to his bedroom, where his tricks finally ran out, and he fell on Althea’s recently recovered rapier.

As Nocturnus slowly began to fade away from his injuries, Althea demanded answers from him. She wanted to know why Shinlea was sent to her death in Loudwater, to which he replied that Shinlea’s death was only incidental. She was sent there to assassinate people who would one day pose a threat to his organization (which he never named), and Balasar was at the top of that list. Nocturnus had also seen the future, and saw that Shinlea would fail at killing Balasar, but would lure out his guardian, a more experienced adventurer who could also see into the future. This person had been a thorn in Nocturnus’s side for many years now, and had proven to be all but unkillable by him, so he devised a plan to be rid of him, possibly forever.

Nocturnus casted several rituals on Shinlea’s armor. A few of them, specifically, the Delayed Spell Trigger and Memory Dissolution rituals the party was able to find copies of in the shadowmage’s library. When the person wearing the armor was killed, it triggered the Memory Dissolution ritual, which wiped both her killer’s memory and Balasar’s. With the adventurer out of the way, Nocturnus felt that he was able to kill the Avengers at his leisure. This complacency eventually led to his downfall.

After Nocturnus faded away, the party gave their newfound ally, Larry, the house that they’d just cleared out. They looted many books from the library, books with monetary, historical, and magical value. Unfortunately for the Avengers, most of the books in the library were written in Netherese, the ancient language of the Netheril Empire. Larry revealed that he could speak and read Netherese, however, and began reading one of the books. He quickly found that some of the books were trapped when one of them blew up in his face. He just sighed and told Althea and Urgarr that at least he would have a place to stay while he conducted his research on ancient songscrolls, said to hold unimaginable power, which the bards of Netheril were famous for creating.

Before they left, the party counted its spoils: 1000 xp for Urgarr, Althea, Peony, Virgil, Blaze, and J’tal; coins and gems worth 4500 gp total (900 per person, except for Urgarr, who got the next item); a sharpshooter’s wand; and a ritual book with the speak with dead, Delayed Spell Trigger, and memory dissolution rituals, plus the books in Urgarr’s bag and the focus for a ritual that allows sight into the past and future, which none of the Avengers have come across yet.

The group then left Shade and made the return trek across the Anauroch desert to Llorkh, then a river trip to Loudwater.

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Shadow's Path (Althea's Story) pt. 3
Shadowmage

It all began when the group decided to enter the odd black marble mansion with the weird shadows emanating from its windows. Then the entryway was swallowed by shadows and disappeared, and it all went downhill from there…

The group ventured into the library and was greeted by a mysterious voice coming from everywhere at once. They bantered for a bit, then the voice mentioned that it knew Shinlea had failed because the Avengers existed, and were here in his mansion. As the voice trailed off, a lone shadow coalesced into a humanoid shape armed with wickedly sharp kukiri. It stabbed at Althea, then took off through the wall and out of the room. The group dithered within the library for a while, with everyone watching the shadows with weapons bared. Urgar took one look at the candles and books on the bookshelves and decided to raise some havoc, then began extinguishing the candles and clearing the books off of the shelves and into his bag of holding.

Althea and Blaze headed into the hallway, past the door that the shadow ran through. They found that it led into another pitch-black hallway, one that was likewise lined with the candles that ate light. Althea opened the door at the other end of the hallway, then heard a voice from the library that yelled, “Touch not my books, Dwarf!” She and Blaze immediately headed back to the library to see what was going on.

Meanwhile, in the library, a tall shadar-kai man(?) dressed in a flowing wizard’s robe passed through the eastern wall and attacked Peony, her wolf, and Virgil. He bound Peony with shadows that restrained her and caused her to slowly rot, then unleashed a probability storm around him that caused odd things to happen. It changed the color of Virgil and Blaze’s clothes to a bruise-like purple, then caused them to slowly rot away. The wizard then stood there and waited for someone to swing at him, which Peony gladly did. He smiled an evil smile and faded back through the wall he arrived through.

The smaller shadowy humanoid that initially attacked the group reappeared and took a stab at Peony’s wolf, then got more than he bargained for as he was promptly ambushed by several other Avengers when he came out of his hiding spot. Their attacks killed the creature, which exploded in a shadowy burst. Althea immediately scanned the area for her rapier, which she had dropped earlier and had stolen by the creature. Alas, it was not there, and the group decided to head out and look for the room that the shades were hiding in. Before they left, Urgar casted a spell on the group that granted protection against the rotting necrotic powers that the shades seemed to be using. The Avengers would soon find this protection to be worth its weight in platinum.

Virgil and Althea lead the charge into the northern hallway, and soon found another door, which led into the wizard’s bedchamber. As soon as Virgil entered the room, he found himself beset upon by a pair of spirit devourers, hideous creatures that seemed to be a walking nightmare of shadows and teeth. The most horrifying aspect of these creatures was revealed when the devourers bent over Virgil and Urgar and inhaled them, which caused them to vanish. To them, it seemed that they had been imprisoned in a demiplane of shadow, one from which escape was difficult and uncertain. The devourers then passed through the bedroom’s southern wall and into another chamber.

In this chamber, they disgorged Virgil and Urgar into specially prepared magic circles, which immediately configured themselves to trap the adventurers inside of them. Frustrated, Virgil and Urgar paced around their circles while the devourers casually clawed at them through the circle, then left to get more victims. Then the wizard appeared through the western wall of the chamber, and Virgil decided that he had enough. Figuring that he couldn’t affect the circle directly, he took a gamble and decided to use a blessing of Correlion to switch places with Urgar. Due to a design flaw within the circles (one which I will be fixing, see the houserules fixed, according to ritual writeup in character builder; see comments), this gambit payed off, and both Virgil and Urgar switched places, freeing them from their magical prisons.

Urgar unleashed the full wrath of his magic, sending a blizzard against the wizard that froze him in place, then smashing him in the face with a few magic missiles. Althea had just been dropped into the third magic circle in the room, and Urgar immediately ran over to it and obscured the runes drawn into the black marble tiles, freeing her. Althea then spotted her stolen rapier inside a locked cage, so she moved next to it, shot at the wizard (who immediately turned into an insubstantial shadow and melted through the wall), and began working on the cage’s lock.

Blaze and Peony, the only two Avengers that hadn’t been captured by the devourers, ran the long way along the eastern wall until they came to a large hallway with some gargoyle statues in it. Peony feared that they were traps, but inspected them and found them to be just statues. She and Blaze then ran into the southern hall and banged on the wizard’s chamber door. Althea quickly picked the lock on the door and let them in, then told them that the wizard wasn’t here, and that they should look for him. They continued down the hall to do just that.

Earlier in the fight, a probability storm that the wizard unleashed resulted in Peony’s wolf being teleported outside of the building. That wolf went and found the wizard hobo that tipped the Avengers off to this house and led him inside the house, which made the front door visible again. He then said that he’d like some gold for helping the doggy find its master, and for helping the Avengers out. Blaze quickly yelled that they could discuss payment after they all made it out in one piece, and he and Peony ran back into the library to pursue the wizard and devourer.

They got there just as the devourer disgorged Virgil, and the three of them redoubled their efforts to finish off their shadowy foes. This is where we will continue next week.

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Shadow's Path (Althea's Story) pt. 2
Blaze helps a couple of thieves out; the party arrives in Shade Enclave

When we last left Althea’s group, they had just engaged a pair of bandits who were attempting to rob them. They had the medusa surrounded, and had spotted the kobold taking cover inside the debris of some nearby houses. The kobold spent his time poking his head out and sniping at the party, while the medusa hacked away with his blade.

The medusa, seeing that he was surrounded, gazed upon the Avengers that were surrounding him, and managed to daze and confuse them long enough to make his escape. Althea hadn’t succumbed to the medusa’s gaze, however, and gave chase when he took off. She chased him to the other side of a pit, and began ripping into him with her rapier, spilling his blood everywhere.

Meanwhile, Peony and her wolf headed off to try to catch the kobold. The wolf sniffed her out in some ruins, and revealed her to Peony, who moved to flank with the wolf. They both took their shots at the kobold, but it proved too crafty for them, and dropped a small, pulsating ball on the ground before running off. When the wolf attempted to give chase, the ball exploded, sending spores into the air. Peony quickly succumbed to the spores, at first becoming slow and weak, then falling into a deep sleep.

The rest of the Avengers beat on the medusa, who finally had enough and surrendered. Althea ordered him to call off his accomplices, to which he replied that he’d try, but it probably wouldn’t do any good. He then called out to his partner, Nix, to stop. The kobold, safely hidden in the rubble of another building, said nothing.

One by one, the party chased the kobold down and managed to corner it inside the ruined building. J’tal yelled out that if it surrendered it would not be killed, and Blaze repeated a similar message. Eventually, the kobold surrendered and came out of the building, dejected.

Through the course of conversation, the party came to find that the medusa’s name was Meltak, and he, along with his partner Nix, had been attempting to rob the thieves here in Llorkh to gain enough money to book passage south. Meltak told the group that he was looking for a half-medusa girl, although he did not give a reason. J’tal and Blaze offered to take them back with the group if they led the Avengers through the rest of the city. Meltak shrugged and told them that he’d been there only a few days himself, but he’d do what he could.

Together, the group headed north, out of the town and into the territory of the Black Road Bandits, a group of slavers that operated on the old Black Road, a trade route from Zentil keep to Llorkh. Once Peony and J’tal saw the slaves up for auction, they were compelled to help them. Blaze quickly talked them out of doing anything rash, telling them that they would free the slaves after their mission was completed. Both of them skulked off from the group, Peony to hide in a ruined building, and J’tal to follow a slave that had just been bought.

Althea, Blaze, and the drow paladin Virgil found the man they were looking for, the Black Road Bandits leader, Kossas Tirith. They briefly questioned him and bought a scroll with a map on the back of it and a ritual (Open Shadowgate) on the front. The map lead to Shade Enclave, a perpetually dark city squatting atop a huge earthmote near the Sea of Shadows. The party gave Meltak and Nix 20 gold to book passage south onboard the Lyla Desari, as well as a copy of Balasar’s book, and sent them on their way. They then made the long journey across the desert to Shade Enclave.

The trip lasted nine grueling days across the unforgiving desert. Luckily, the group’s provisions held out, and they made it to the base of a cliff with a cave in it, as indicated on the map. After some discussion on how to ascend the cliff, everyone made it into the cave. Althea cast the ritual on the scroll and opened a gate made of coalesced shadows into a chamber in Shade Enclave.

The guards there, a pair of shadar-kai swordmages, drew their weapons and demanded to know who the strangers were. Althea and Blaze explained their situation, and the guards gruffly let them through the gate and directed them to an inn for foreigners, called the Twilight Inn. There, Althea asked around and found that Shinlea had been noticed walking towards the Eclipse district, an area known for its fortune tellers and soothsayers, as well as the poorer wizards in the city. The group rested up and headed out there the next day.

In what passed for “the next day” (as it was still pitch black out), the group headed out and looked for more information. They found an old beggar wizard who offered to magically clean their clothes for a gold coin. Althea refused, and instead offered a gold coin for information about Shinlea. The beggar pointed down the street and said she went that way, but never left the street. The street ended in a T-intersection, and Blaze paid the beggar 5 more coins, and was told that the elf went into the last house on the left, a house with beams of shadow pouring out of its windows instead of beams of light. The party went to investigate.

Althea knocked on the door of the house, and it swung open. The group wandered into the house and announced their presence. When Peony, the last group member to pass through the door entered, shadows flitted over the door, and it disappeared. Undaunted, the party continued exploring the house.

As they walked, a disembodied voice began talking. It said that it seemed that the elf had failed her mission, and when questioned as to what that mission was, showed a vision of a large shadow, in the shape of a dragonborn, getting its belly slashed. A shadow of a sword also floated nearby. Then the shadows melted away.

The group questioned the voice as to how it knew Shinlea had failed, and it said that it knew that she had failed because Balasar’s Avengers now exists, and some of its members are in its house. The voice said that he saw a vision, and in it, the Avengers would grow to become a powerful threat to his organization. But now that half of the Avengers were here, he would turn them to his cause instead. The shadows rose up out of the ground and off of the walls, and coalesced into humanoid shapes, leering menacingly at the group.

We will continue at this point next week. Also, see the forum for the conclusion to Blade of Thy Father (Hazarak’s Story), under the Trouble at Castle Crag post.

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Shadow's Path (Althea's Story) pt. 1
Dara, Lady of Shadows; Uncommon Bandits

As this tale begins, we find a team of Balasar’s Avengers, led by Althea, infiltrating the Loudwater thieves’ guild and wiping the floor with their leader, the Lady of Shadows. The Lady, actually a dark creeper named Dara, fell easily to the powerful Avengers, and once she surrendered, Althea began questioning her.

During the interrogation, Althea and the group learned the following:

  • Shinlea, Althea’s mentor, was working with the thieves’ guild to make some money. One day, she showed up in Loudwater with a letter from Kossas Tirith, the leader of the Black Road Bandits. This letter was an order for fulfillment of an order that was diverted by the river serpent Lynnedslag. Kossas demanded that the order be filled.
  • The Loudwater thieves had been moving slaves from the outlying villages up the river to Llorkh. Shinlea told Dara that she had to head back to Llorkh anyway, and that she could escort the slaves back upriver for some gold.
  • The slaves were children that were being drugged and shipped in barrels marked “fish jerky”.

Later that night, the group went to the docks and found the labeled barrels, then the group told the captain of the transport ship, a man Blaze had met before named Mac Desari, that they were here to escort the merchandise up to Llorkh. Mac eyed them suspiciously, but bade them welcome onboard his ship, the Lyla Desari. J’tal decided against riding the ship, and instead swam with her magic carp in the freezing cold river behind the ship.

In Llorkh, the group met up with the men of the Gray Vale Pirates, who were working the docks. While Althea and Blaze were questioning the pirates and their captain, Kerrot, Urgarr and the new Drow paladin of Corellon in officer training headed to the town’s only functioning tavern, the Defiled Maiden. Althea and Blaze soon followed in a cart with the barrels that was prepared by the pirates. They stopped by the Maiden and picked up their companions, then headed north, towards the Black Road Bandits’ territory.

While traveling through the ruined streets of Llorkh, the group was waylaid by a hooded man, who demanded the group’s money and goods. J’tal quickly spoke up and said that she had no money, to which the hooded man demanded all of the barrels on the cart, and their equipment. Of course, they refused, and Urgarr eagerly prepared a spell in anticipation of battle. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt blossomed from his chest, causing him to stagger and quickly scan for his assailant, who turned out to be a kobold on the other side of a sinkhole.

The man pulled his hood down, revealing writhing snakes where his hair should have been, and a mottled, scaly face. He then charged Althea and the rest of the group, unleashing his gaze. Unfortunately for him, only Blaze’s mount, Fury, was affected by it. The rest of the group surrounded him and hacked at him with their blades, but he continued to stand undaunted.

We will pick up this battle next week. Also, I will post the results of the group’s exodus from Castle Crag in the forum post from last week, and wrap up Althea’s attempted rescue of Thargor there as well.

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Blade of Thy Father (Hazarak's Story) pt. 2
Too Hot to Handle; the group talks their way into trouble

As the session began, the group of Balasar’s Avengers consisting of Conan, Althea, Hazarak, Laquel, Tempest, and the new officer candidate Thargor were suiting up to make the journey from Tilverton Scar to Castle Crag, to find the blacksmith who’d been making replicas of Hazarak’s father’s sword, (name?). The group took off, and were quite a sight, with a slew of horses, an elephant, and a giant ant. They took off marching towards the castle.

As the group arrived at the castle, Laquel, Althea, and Hazarak split off from the party and hid in the treeline 50’ from the castle walls. Tempest dismounted from his elephant and approached the gate, where the guards hailed him and asked what his business was at Castle Crag. Tempest told the guards that they were looking for a blacksmith that had forged a particular sword, and pulled out the replica sword that Hazarak bought in Tilverton Scar. The guards looked at each other and mentioned that they weren’t blacksmiths, but that the group should come back in tomorrow when the gates are open. Tempest paid them a gold coin and negotiated his way in, then all other members of the party entered, leaving the mounts outside. The guards grumbled to themselves about getting ripped off in this deal, but were nonchalant about it, as the group did not look like a threat. Little did they know how wrong they were.

Once inside the walls, Tempest secured lodgings for the group for the night. Because Laquel was not disguised (and Drow are not welcome in any city within the Western Stars Alliance, due to the influence of Myth Dranor and Evereska), she had to wall jump her way up to the second story, where the group’s room was located. Once everyone was in the room, Tempest locked up and everyone rested.

The next day, Hazarak (disguised a blond-mulleted bounty hunter named Dog) and Thargor went to the castle village’s only blacksmith to inquire about the sword. The blacksmith, who gave his name as Lyle, asked what interest Hazarak had in the sword, to which he replied that he had heard that these blades were important to the gnolls in the area, and that they had been sown around to incite fights among the gnoll tribes. Lyle looked suspiciously at Hazarak and said that the only people that knew about the sword’s significance to the gnolls was himself and the duke’s advisor, Darren. He accused him of being a gnoll in disguise and picked up the real sword, and clanged it loudly against the forge behind him three times.

Immediately, creatures made of magma and fire crawled out of the forges. Hazarak and Thargor recognized them as fire archons of some type and magma brutes, both elemental creatures. Lyle and the creatures all began attacking Hazarak, who frantically called for help via his bluetooth. Lyle landed a grievous blow on Hazarak, nearly incapacitating him in a single blow and poisoning him to boot. The rest of the creatures worked on both Hazarak and Thargor, and weakened them severely.

After what seemed like an hour, but really couldn’t have been more than 12 seconds, reinforcements arrived. First Conan, fresh from sex with the blacksmith’s daughter next door, arrived on the scene. Tempest arrived next, as he heard the commotion from the mapmaker’s shop a few buildings down. Finally, Althea and Laquel arrived from the inn. By this time, the battle was on in earnest.

When Hazarak succumbed to his poison, he collapsed, which dropped the disguise afforded him by his Hat of Disguise. Lyle saw this and immediately called for the guards, screaming that gnolls and drow had breached the castle’s security. Outside, Conan heard the approaching steps of the guards, and positioned himself near the door to take them out if need be. The rest of the party worked on the enemies and patched up their allies, and Hazarak awoke and landed a killing blow on Lyle, then performed a coup de grace twice on him to be sure. Overcome by bloodlust, he then began devouring the corpse, amidst the frantic urgings of his peers to regain control over himself and put his disguise back on.

When the guards finally showed up, there were only two of them, but the group had managed to kill all the enemies but one magma brute, and Hazarak regained enough control over himself to attempt to hide Lyle’s body in a nearby barrel of salt water before being knocked out again by the magma brute. The guards came in and demanded to know what was going on, and Tempest convinced them to delay questioning until the brute was defeated, which it eventually was (800 xp for everyone involved in this encounter).

What followed next was a lesson on how NOT to convince the guards of your innocence. Tempest, aided by Althea and Thargor, attempted to convince the guards that the gnoll on the ground had come here with a drow witch ally, who had summoned all of the fire creatures in the smithy. She had somehow lost control of the creatures, and they began attacking everyone, and Conan, who happened to be in the shop for some repairs, rushed to the smith’s aid. His friends (the other avengers) came to help, but they were unable to stop the berserking gnoll and evil drow from killing the smith, devouring part of his body, and stuffing him into his own barrel of salt water.

The guards were clearly not having any of this, and when more arrived, they decided to claim the bounty on gnolls themselves. Althea and Tempest convinced them that they should get their fair share of the bounty, as they were the ones that killed the gnoll. The guard reluctantly agreed and said he’d just cut off the gnoll’s head for the group to turn in, and hang the rest of the body from the walls as a warning to the rest of the gnolls. Tempest then exclaimed loudly that no one was to cut off the gnoll’s head but him, to which the guard replied with a shrug and switched places with him, to allow Tempest to do just that. Conan looked around and realized that the guards weren’t buying their load of bullchips, and attacked the nearest guard in a rage, then dashed out the door yelling for them to catch him.

One guard took him up on this offer, and briefly told the patrol outside that had come to investigate to split up and follow him, with the other half remaining inside the smithy to interrogate the witnesses. So, as the session ended, Conan fled the scene with five guards in tow, with another 7 guards remaining inside the smithy for questioning.

We will continue this in the campaign forum.

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