Although the party was nervous about missing their prospective rendezvous with Nightstalker, they decided that it was important to respond to Soelma Nilaenish’s request. Teleporting to the border between The Darklands and Kul, the party defeated a trio of Dark Naga before meeting Soelma once again. Stating that she had located the lair of her foe Janwulf the Soulbiter, she Teleported the group to a cave deep inside Kul, and joined them as they entered the stronghold of their foe.
The party quickly met their first unexpected challenge – a large cave which contained a permanent Antimagic Field. Upon entering the field, Jeryk suddenly changed form, his skin becoming pitch-black and his hair becoming white. However, the mysterious adventurer seemed unconcerned, brushing it off as “just a magical effect” and moving on with hardly a backward glance. Although the party was slightly surprised, they quickly recovered and moved through the cave. Glorim Redrock quizzed Jeryk about whether his village had been above-ground, and seemed satisfied with his answer. Shortly after the cave, the group encountered a huge wooden gate guarded by two ogres, which they quickly dispatched – Jeryk swiftly opened the gates from the other side and the group pressed on.
After defeating a trio of whitespawn berserkers, the party came to another door, behind which they could hear many creatures clamoring. Cautioning the party to let her do the talking, Soelma cast a Voice of the Dragon spell and opened the door to reveal a huge cavern, full of many types of savage humanoids. Approaching a huge dais where a large frost giant, two gnoll sorcerers, two orc adepts, and a goblin conjurer sat on thrones, Soelma began speaking to the assembly in the Giant tongue, which none of the party spoke. Darius quickly cast a stilled and silent Comprehend Languages, but missed the first few sentences of Soelma’s speech – however, the rest of her speech was straightforward enough, talking about “a new time of enlightenment” and “the end of the reign of false leaders”. Eventually, the elven archmage advised the party that they should get up on the dais and destroy the frost giant and his companions, stating that the giant was Janwulf the Soulbiter, the foe she had come here to destroy. While Soelma kept the assembled horde enthralled with her words and spells, the party engaged in a vicious arena-style battle with their enemies, with many explosions and deadly spells being exchanged. Throughout the combat, Janwulf kept yelling insults and imprecations at Soelma, seeming furious at her behavior. After a long and harrowing battle, the group managed to slay the giant and all of his lieutenants – Soelma cautioned the party to leave most of the items where they lay, but allowed them to take Janwulf’s possessions.
Making their way back through the caves to the exit, Soelma called Darius and Droverson to her side, engaging them in conversation. When they reached the antimagic cave, Soelma stepped out first, and quickly cast a Quickened Wall of Force behind her before either of the other two mages could stop her, sealing them inside the cave. As Darius narrowed his eyes in anger, Soelma explained that she had used the party as her hired dupes, taking Janwulf’s followers as her own to enact a ritual with The Zoretha Scrolls to destroy the world. Laughing, she informed the two mages that she was going to seal them inside the antimagic cave, leaving them to die, as well as revealing that the rest of the party was already dead!
Looking behind them, Droverson and Darius saw the sprawled corpses of their companions behind them, baffled – until Shadow Killerson McDeath became visible next to Soelma with a grim expression. Droverson quickly deduced that the assassin had silently taken out their companions under the cover of a formidable array of spells while Soelma distracted them in the tunnel. Bidding the two mages farewell, Soelma collapsed the entrances and exits of the cave – but not before informing them that full payment for their services was hidden behind a rock in the cave. As they were sealed inside, the two mages blindly stared into the dark in disbelief…however, a soft glow slowly became visible, revealing a large satchel in a corner of the cave.
Inspecting the satchel, Droverson identified the source of the glow as an alchemical paste. Inside was the 100,000 gold pieces as Soelma had promised (to which Darius replied, ‘Hey, lots of people tried to kill us – she’s the only one that didn’t also try to stiff us!’) Along with the money was a piece of paper which initially appeared blank, but after a few moments invisible ink began to appear on the paper. Darius, reading the message, announced to Droverson that Shadow Killerson McDeath had actually merely drugged their companions unconscious instead of killing them – a fact Soelma probably did not know. Darius further revealed that during their last night in Nighthold, Shadow had appeared in his hotel room and demanded all his money – although Darius had initially been taken aback, he eventually agreed to trust the mysterious assassin, giving him 20,000 gold. In return, Shadow had apparently tricked Soelma into thinking that all of the others were dead, as well as leaving behind a set of shovels for the two mages to dig their way out of the cave (shovels he labeled “Most Expensive Shovels Ever”).
After rousing their unconscious companions, the group began to use the shovels to dig their way out, hoping they would make it before they ran out of air. Thanks to Glorim’s experience with mining and tunnels, they were able to find a natural lava tube and dig their way to it – however, upon escaping from the anti-magic cave, they discovered that the tunnel was full of faerzress magical radiation that infected the party. Concerned about its potential effects, the group decided to try to rest and wait for the radiation to dissipate – however, they were constantly beset by monsters, including gray oozes, swarm-shifter mummies, and wandering ghosts that prevented them from recuperating. Finally deciding to risk the dangers of teleporting while irradiated, the group used Droverson’s Teleport spell to escape back to Nighthold, but they were uncertain what their next move would be. How far did Soelma’s plan go? They would have to find out the hard way…