The Sinister Six

#26 - Public Disturbances, part 2
Death of a Half-Orc

While Tomokk went to ground to avoid attracting notice, Darius and Droverson were approached by an old acquaintance. The secretive merchant, named Monterey, said he was in need of the duo’s services to move an extremely expensive and secret shipment to Chain. In order for escorting and protecting his caravan, the merchant offered the party a 2% cut of the gross profits from selling his goods. Droverson bargained the group’s cut up to 3%, but Monterey could go no higher, claiming 4% was his total profit margin on the venture. Satisfied, the young sorcerer agreed to the merchant’s terms.

A few days later, as the caravan was starting to prepare for embarkment, the group arrived at Monterey’s shipping yard to inspect the goods. Most of the party had no clue what the sturdy brown packages in the wagons were, but Hazerath identified the caravan’s payload as a massive shipment of luhix, an incredibly expensive and addictive drug which eventually killed its users. Quickly calculating that even a 3% cut of the sale of the drugs would net thousands of gold pieces, the group began preparations to escort the goods to Chain. During the trip, several members of the party investigated one of the caravan guards who appeared to be a vampire, but could detect no other suspicious behavior on his part.

As the caravan crossed the desert, the first several days were uneventful, but the peace was soon broken by yet another remorhaz attack. The group watched in horror as one of the beasts attacked the lead wagon and bit it in half, ruining a sizable portion of their profits! Tomokk charged the beast, but was quickly bitten and picked up in its maw. Droverson and Kael brought the creature down before the half-orc could be swallowed, however, while Darius and Hazerath weakened the second great beast. A nondescript caravan guard named Jimbo struck the killing blow on the second worm, getting a lucky critical with a trusty greataxe. The group salvaged what they could of the destroyed wagon and managed to redistribute its remaining payload amongst the other wagons, and continued onwards toward Chain. They encountered several more complications, including two mysterious travelers in the distance and a basilisk sunning itself on a rock, but managed to keep from losing any more of their cargo.

Arriving in Chain, the group delivered the luhix and collected their huge reward. However, Tomokk had begun behaving strangely, constantly jittering and scratching. While Kael followed the vampire caravan guard to a luhix den, the others began investigating the source of Tomokk’s ailment. Hazerath performed some first aid on the half-orc and discovered that the vampire slayer had been exposed to luhix when bitten by the remorhaz, and was in the throes of a deadly and nigh-incurable addiction. Knowing his spells would be hard-pressed to aid the half-orc, Hazerath convinced the group to take the half-orc somewhere secluded and remove all of his equipment, to let him “sweat it out” without hurting himself. The group agreed, and Darius and Kael were left as guards while the rest of the group went about their business.

The next day, Kael and Darius returned to the group’s abode with an unbelievable story – that Tomokk had died of the addiction overnight. Suspicous, Droverson and Hazerath questioned the two, and Kael began to spin a story of the half-orc dying, followed by a mysterious robed man “they met on the street” attempting to resurrect him. When the resurrection failed, the pair claimed to have sold the half-orc’s corpse to the man for a few gold. Knowing that Kael would never have given up the 10,000 gold piece reward for Tomokk’s head promised by Taxx Murgen, Droverson quickly found several holes in Kael’s story, and became irritated that the ranger would lie to him. Promising a reckoning, the group was forced to shelve the matter, as they were late for a meeting with Soelma Nilaenish.

As the party made their way through the city towards The University of Thaumaturgy, Droverson took the party down a secret back-route through an illusory alleyway onto the University’s grounds. Upon arriving, the group immediately noticed a large, unruly mob assaulting the university, led by a rabble-rousing man dressed in exquisite finery. As the group debated their course of action, the man spotted the group and shouted out “There’s some of them right there! Let’s show them what we think of them!” and the mob surged towards the group, intent on violence.

Battered by fists, rocks, and broken bottles, the party quickly began to retaliate, breaking up the mob with force. Kael targeted the apparent leader with a flurry of arrows, but the man reacted more with surprise than injury, seeming to largely ignore the ranger’s attacks. Eventually, the mob’s resolve crumbled under the weight of the mages’ spells, and the rioters dispersed. Kael looked for the leader, but the strange man was nowhere to be found.

Entering the university, Droverson quickly guided the group to the library, explaining that it would not be wise for them to wander around the school. Soelma soon appeared and thanked the party for their assistance, nonchalantly handing over a huge bag of diamonds worth nearly as much as the party’s take from the luhix shipment. The archmage also mentioned casually to Droverson that she would be needing him again for another errand soon. Flush with spending money, the party adjourned to a nearby inn, to discuss their immediate plans….including further investigation into the death of Tomokk.

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#25 - Public Disturbances, part 1
The Bumslayer

While the party rested, the group tried to get more information out of “The Captain”, but the mysterious flesh golem remained standoffish and quiet. The next day, Hazerath tried one last time to convince the brooding creature to let them aid it, but the Captain remained suspicious of the party and the two groups parted ways. The group continued traveling to Spike, defeating a pair of flame serpents that attacked and poisoned Droverson and Hazerath. However, Kael’s skills at field medicine were able to neutralize the poisons.

Finally arriving in Spike, the group began restocking vital supplies, as well as commissioning a few magic items to be made. Droverson and Darius were obviously in their element, with Droverson often able to secure free lodging or goods for the party by calling in old favors. Hazerath began looking into the whereabouts of one of his hunted quarries, while Tomokk, separating himself from the party, went looking for more information on Taxx Murgen.

Speaking to a shady figure outside a tavern, Tomokk was suddenly told that a nearby sleeping figure was, in fact, the renegade vampire in disguise! Suspicious, the vampire hunter focused his senses to detect the presence of vampires, but did indeed detect one nearby! Convinced, Tomokk quickly grabbed his sword and viciously attacked the sleeping figure, instantly killing his foe. Triumphant, the vampire hunter stood over the corpse, splattered with blood, and waited for the corpse to dissolve into mist so he could chase Taxx to his coffin. Any second now, the corpse would dissolve. Any second now. …Uh oh.

When the corpse did not disintegrate into mist, Tomokk realized that he had been tricked. Around the corner, he could hear his erstwhile informant yelling for a guard golem, and realized that he had been set up. Quickly sprinting away through the city streets, the half-orc rejoined the party covered with blood, to Droverson’s horror. The young merchant quickly used his Prestidigitation spell to clean off the gory vampire hunter, and the group went to ground in a nearby inn. Unsure whether the golem had gotten a good look at its quarry, the party decided to play it safe and hide out in the inn for the next several days.

That evening, an alluring-looking woman knocked on the door, seeking out Kael. Flashing a Darklands Army signet ring, the woman confided that she was here on a mission from Nightstalker and was supposed to pick up a magical belt from Kael to assist her in her mission. The mercenary ranger asked the woman a few questions, but was satisfied with her answers and handed over the belt, then watched the mysterious agent disappear into the night.

The next morning, the group gathered together over breakfast to discuss the rumors each person had gathered. Hazerath had learned that The Gray Render Company had decamped from Deal and was marching directly for The Darklands in what appeared to be a large-scale attack formation – he had also heard news of the destruction of a town in Sildure which had been obliterated by a relentless glacier…possibly by order of The Keeper, according to some. Darius learned of the death of the prominent merchant Deane in Villia, as well as an upcoming tournament at The Academy of Abjuration in Primus, which people were clamoring about Darius hopefully attending. The party prepared to undertake the final leg of their journey to Chain, planning on how to evade The Rattler and his servants…

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#24 - Old Debts, part 4
How much are you worth?

As the party prepared to make a quick exit from Deal, Kael decided to do a little item shopping at one of the town’s local merchants. As he asked about specific items he was seeking, the grim ranger caught a glimpse of a young boy following him. Confronting the boy, he was given a letter, which he read and then quickly burned.

Meanwhile, Darius and Droverson purchased makeshift leather umbrellas to protect them from future rains of slime, while Hazerath and Tomokk searched a local tavern for further information about Taxx Murgen. Hazerath also asked around for the location of one of his “old friends” who had fled to Gulark. Later, Darius and Droverson also congregated in the tavern, where Darius did a little gambling and tried to find out more about local happenings. Kael visited the tavern briefly, but quickly left to do more research regarding his mysterious letter. After initial attempts to find out more about the sender of the letter were unsuccessful, the ranger disappeared for several hours. Hazerath infiltrated the nearby camp of The Gray Render Company, but was unable to overhear any interesting information beyond news that the Company had been employed for a million gold pieces, and would be engaged for at least the next three months.

As the party regrouped in the tavern and pondered how long they should wait for Kael to reappear, their drinks were disrupted by a nearby tavern patron suddenly collapsing and transforming into a slime whelp. A nearby Stone Golem activated, blaring “PUBLIC DISTURBANCE DETECTED”, and began smashing at the whelp, but the whelp’s corrosive form quickly began damaging the hulking construct. Hazerath and Tomokk fled outside, while Darius and Droverson flung spells at the creature from a distance. After a few rounds, the whelp was destroyed, but the party had already been spooked and began summoning Phantom Steeds to escape the town. At that moment, Kael returned, laughing and joking with Cotton. Seeing that his companions were getting ready to make their escape, the ranger promised his mentor that he would have to buy him a drink some other time, and the party quickly rode out of Deal, heading for Spike.

Crossing the burning desert sands, the party was once again attacked by remorhazes tunneling up through the ground. Now well-acquainted with their foes, the party used effective tactics to counter the worms’ devastating bites – Darius flew up out of their reach and bombarded the creatures with fire spells, while Droverson used an Unluck spell to cause one of the worms to miss every attack it made. Kael quickly concentrated his fire to drop another worm, while Tomokk charged the third. Unfortunately, even the half-orc’s psychic shields could not protect him when the worm snatched him up and swallowed him. Seeing their companion devoured, the party quickly dispatched the creature.

Darius was descending to the ground to cut the worm open and retrieve Tomokk when suddenly, the half-orc appeared near the corpse, heavily wounded, and asked for healing. Kael and Darius exchanged glances, and a long moment of silence reigned – then, Kael revealed that the letter he had received in Deal was from none other than Taxx Murgen, offering 10,000 gold pieces for Tomokk’s head. Seeing the half-orc wounded and vulnerable had tempted the mercenary ranger sorely, but in the end, he stood with Tomokk. The party began making plans to acquire a decoy head and trick the renegade vampire as they continued on towards Spike.

Making their way across the desert, the party came across a smashed-up wagon with two skeletons riding in it, as well as a half-buried treasure chest. After inspecting the chest for traps and magic, the group opened the chest and unleashed a fearsome mummy, which moved to attack! However, Kael filled the mummy full of arrows and destroyed it before any of the other party members could even draw their weapons. Searching the chest, the group found gold coins, as well as a few potions and some ruined scrolls.

Continuing onward, the party traveled most of the way to Spike, but soon encountered a light sandstorm. Out of the distance, a shambling figure began making its way towards the group – Kael called out to it, and it waved back, but its arm was clearly twisted and misshapen. As the group considered the figure warily, a swarm of Death Worms erupted from the sand and leapt to the attack. Engaging in battle with the creatures, the group was surprised when the shambling figure moved closer and joined in the fight against the worms, revealing itself to be a flesh golem wielding a daisho (pair of samurai swords). Although the group was battered by the worms’ lightning and acid breaths, they managed to defeat them with the stranger’s help.

Confronting the flesh golem, the group was surprised to find that the creature was intelligent, calling itself “The Captain”. Evasive about his past and goals, the golem seemed to view the party with suspicion. Intrigued, the group invited it to stay with them as they searched for shelter from the sandstorm…

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#23 - Old Debts, part 3
Mad Skeleton Blues

As the horrible slime infestation continued to weaken the party, Ivan slipped away to sleep with his pet wolf Harvard. However, neither the druid nor his pet returned. Worried and filled with fear over the deadly disease, the party left their still-unconscious prisoner and quickly returned to the surface world.

As they entered the room with the mural where they had last seen Harvard, they were instead terrified to find The Rattler casting a Wish spell, which appeared to have no effect. The lich cast a Wall of Force to trap them in the room with him, but Darius managed to convince him that they were his servants. Droverson and Darius began giving a report, but the Rattler turned Droverson into a bunny in mid-sentence and approached, casting a Temporal Stasis spell. However, Droverson managed to resist the lich’s spell and rapidly shake off the Polymorph Any Object effect as well, much to the lich’s surprise. Acting as if nothing had happened, the Rattler instructed the party to continue their report. When they had finished, the lich appeared to contemplate for a moment, then said:

“If I were you, I’d forget about these murals. I’d forget about this place. I’d forget about everything you’ve seen here. I’d leave here right now. And I wouldn’t let me catch you in Gulark again.”

Darius agreed, plying all his considerable skill at Diplomacy to appease the lich, but the Rattler Teleported away in mid-sentence. Shaken, the party quickly attempted to leave the city, but were opposed by another slime whelp, much larger than the first, which appeared to have some dog-like attributes. Armed with knowledge of the creature’s weaknesses this time, the party was able to dispatch it without any trouble. Outside the city, the group rested and attempted to cure themselves of the slime infestation, but Hazerath’s magic had no effect – only the timely return of Ivan and his powerful Rejuvenative Cocoon spell saved the group. Tersely stating “I have to go. It’s important,” the strange druid dashed off into the trees, disappearing.

Although daunted by the Rattler’s warning, the group proceeded into Gulark, avoiding two more rains of noxious slime. After eight days of travel, the party arrived in Deal, just as the town was inundated by another rain of slime. Kael was intrigued to see the banner of The Gray Render Company flying over a large encampment nearby, but his interest turned to horror when he saw several of the townspeople caught outside in the rain of slime. Knowing that the town might soon be infested with more of the horrible slime whelps, the group agreed to sell their goods and leave quickly.

After a brief trip to a local merchant’s shop, Darius gave Shadow Killerson McDeath a thousand gold pieces and mentioned to the young assassin that they should part ways, and that “Shadow” should set up his own assassin’s guild. Declining, the young man stated that he worked best alone, and seemed amused that Darius considered him inexperienced. Taking his leave of the party, he could be heard asking passers-by where to find the town’s Mage’s Guild, presumably to murder more young mages for their spellbooks. The party was making hurried preparations to leave as night began to descend on Gulark…

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#22 - Old Debts, part 2
Rain falls, you die

After defeating two obyridaemons that emerged from the ground and attacked the party with snake-headed limbs, the group descended into the ruined city of Freesite. Searching the grounds, Kael discovered tracks through the dust and dirt of the city that seemed to indicate that a large group of people had traveled towards the center of the city. As the group followed, the tracks, however, they were caught in a virulent rain of brown slime which infected everyone but Droverson with a wasting disease similar to the one they encountered after fighting the slime whelp. Taking cover from the slime in ruined buildings, the group managed to avoid further pollution, but were unable to cure the disease due to lack of prepared spells – and worse, feelings of supernatural dread and uneasiness prevented the party from resting or regaining spells. When the slime abated, they continued to follow the tracks, to discover that they split into two groups – one group which appeared to turn around and leave, and a second group which entered the large ziggurat at the center of the city. However, Kael was unsure whether the tracks were made by one party which divided, or two parties (one following the other). After some deliberation, the group entered the ziggurat.

Inside, they found a large room with animal-headed statues, as well as some pictograms depicting the history of Cynidicea. Droverson examined the pictures, and managed to perform some rudimentary translation, revealing that they depicted (at least in part) the rise and fall of the Cynidicean society and the worship of some idea or being, indicated only by a staring eye and a ravenous mouth. Searching the first room of the ziggurat, Ivan discovered a trap door in one corner of the room which led to a 400-foot shaft down into the earth. Leaving Harvard behind to guard the door, the group descended into the darkness.

Deep within the earth, the party emerged from the tunnel into a vast cavern, a dozen miles or more in diameter. Within the cave were thousands upon thousands of stone dwellings, many showing signs of recent inhabitance – apparently the caves beneath Freesite were the location of a thriving secret city!

Moving from dwelling to dwelling, the party discovered many signs that something was happening, including killing two search parties of albino cultists who all bore a ritualistic wound in the center of their foreheads. Suddenly, as they subdued a cultist for questioning, Tomokk detected the presence of a vampire nearby. Ordering the party to follow him, the half-orc ventured outside and noticed a large building shaped like a coiled root which had not been there a few moments ago.

Approaching the mysterious building, the party beheld Taxx Murgen, surrounded by the corpses of members of The Gray Render Company, pulling a mirror-colored sword from a pool of water – the renegade vampire had beaten them to the loot, claiming Calabrand for his own. Kael, Tomokk, and Darius quickly mounted an attack, but the renegade vampire fled using his Teleportation Dodge ability through the walls of the building, attempting to escape via stealth. Hazerath and Ivan managed to foil his escape attempt through the use of clever spells, however, and the party caught up with their quarry almost immediately. Alone and off-guard, Taxx Murgen was quickly dispatched by devastating attacks from Tomokk and Kael, but the vampire merely turned into mist and fled, taking the legendary sword with him. Unable to pursue the vampire further, the party regrouped and prepared to interrogate their albino captive. Screams and sounds of chaos echoed throughout the forgotten city as the party collapsed in exhaustion…

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#21 - Old Debts, part 1
The Better Part of Valor

As the party prepared their blades and spells to face the slime whelp, a lanky man in ash-gray and dark green loped out of the trees, a giant wolf at his side. Shadow Killerson McDeath reacted in alarm, and trained his bow on the man, but as he drew near, the man cast a spell which empowered the party, granting them the swiftness of extra attacks. Undeterred, “Shadow” loosed an arrow at the man, who deftly avoided it and appeared to take no offense.

Meanwhile, the slime whelp laid waste to the soldiers of The Gray Render Company, slaughtering all but a handful as they attempted to flee once discovering that their weapons were useless against the horror. Droverson and Darius loosed their most powerful spells at the creature, but it seemed unstoppable – it struck down Tomokk and advanced into the party, battering Darius with its scalding fists. The newcomer shouted out “use fire!” before causing a blade of fire to appear in his hand, and loped into combat with the whelp, but suddenly skidded to a stop as some effect appeared to freeze him in place – worse still, Darius and Hazerath were caught in its grip as well. Desperate to save his companions, Droverson loosed bolt after bolt of his lightning magic into the creature, while Kael hurled flurries of fire arrows at it. Finally, the slime whelp collapsed into a half-melted pile, still struggling to arise and strike – assuring the party that only fire would kill the creature, the newcomer used his blade of flame to destroy the foul monster once and for all.

Tomokk and Darius went to pursue the fleeing survivors of the mercenary party, while Kael trained his bow on the newcomer and demanded to know his identity and purpose. “Shadow” also seemed wary of the newcomer, confiding in Hazerath that this was the man who had recently captured and interrogated him. Dropping all his weapons and throwing his hands out wide to show he wished the party no harm, the man proclaimed his name to be Ivan, but made no other confessions beyond sending his pet wolf, Harvard, to pursue another of the fleeing mercenaries. Kael at first appeared reluctant to trust the stranger, but eventually decided to give him a chance to prove himself.

Shortly thereafter, the others returned, bearing two unconscious survivors and a third who was capable of speech. Under questioning, the mercenary related that his group had been searching the area nearby for their employer, whom he refused to name, but it was evident to Tomokk and Hazerath that he was a minion of Taxx Murgen, searching for the legendary blade Calabrand. According to the mercenary, the group had been scouting near Freesite when they had been assaulted by more unnatural weather, including a squall of brown slime from the skies. Although they had sought shelter, the slime had made many of them ill, and the next day one of them had collapsed, transforming into the slime whelp.

Goaded by the mercenary’s story, the group debated journeying to Deal to find and deal with Taxx Murgen, but eventually elected to travel to Freesite to investigate the strange circumstances there. Traveling with the aid of shadowy horses conjured by Hazerath, the party defeated another trio of remorhazes (during which Ivan summoned a strange creature made of living plants which devastated one of the blazing worms) before arriving at their destination. On a hill below the edge of the forest, the ancient ruined city glimmered darkly in the wan light that penetrated the now-everpresent clouds. The ground began to rumble as more snakes and other horrors surged up from the earth once again…

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#20 - Best Served Cold, part 4
Clerics taste like chicken

Tomokk and Hazerath continued to search for information on Taxx Murgen, while Darius Ashanti purchased a new Mantle of Resistance. Kael also spent some time attempting to relocate the tracks left by Dorn and the Cultists of Jubilex.

Meanwhile, Shadow Killerson McDeath was captured by a strange gnoll, who took him to a young dark-haired man accompanied by two huge, supernatural wolves. The young man spent several minutes interrogating the assassin before knocking him unconscious and returning him to the city. Upon awakening, Shadow immediately sought out Hazerath and informed him of all that had transpired. Hazerath was intrigued, but decided not to pursue the matter immediately.

A few days later when Droverson had finished his research, Kael gathered the party together to pursue the cultists. The group followed the tracks west for a day, but were eventually able to determine that the tracks led straight into the trackless forests to the east of Primus, where there were no cities for over a thousand miles. Disheartened, the group began returning to Primus to decide where to go next. However, the ground began to shake with another infestation of worms, and the party was attacked by three remorhazes. Things quickly spiraled out of control, as Droverson was eaten by one of the creatures, while Kael was bitten and picked up by another. As Kael struggled mightily to keep the jaws of the polar worm from closing in on him, Droverson suddenly reappeared, alive and quite healthy (although very confused). However, Hazerath was eaten by another creature as Darius blasted the worms with potent fireballs. The party eventually managed to slay all of the remorhazes, but Hazerath’s corpse was quite dead when they recovered it from the monster’s gullet.

Returning to Primus, the group managed to acquire a scroll of Raise Dead from Tarterus Jones, but Droverson was very nervous about his chances of casting the spell successfully. He enlisted the aid of Julius Jackalseye to borrow a powerful Periapt of Wisdom, but to his surprise the warlock instead purchased the item outright with a huge bag of platinum and seemed completely unconcerned about handing the powerful magical pendant over to Droverson as a gift. Stunned, Droverson donned the periapt and used his connections with The College of the Arcane Order to procure additional spells to boost his magical power even further. Unfortunately, the young sorcerer botched the spell at a critical moment, consuming the scroll without successfully raising Hazerath. Undaunted, Droverson gripped The Dagger of Milambre and willed it to restore Hazerath to life.

With a bright burst of golden light, the shadowy cleric was returned to life….and then collapsed, overcome with remorse and grief. The powerful magic of the dagger had raised Hazerath, but had changed his alignment to Good. Shadow, irritated by Hazerath’s new attitude, started to leave the party, but Darius convinced him to stay with a successful Diplomacy check. Stripped of all his dark magical powers, the newly-repentant cleric sought an Atonement spell, but no one in Primus could cast it. The group was, however, able to procure a scroll of the spell. Droverson was just about to cast it when….

Bzzzzzzz! Bzzzzzzz! Bzz bzz bzzz bzzzzzz! the tinny sound of a horn announced the arrival of Ross Talbot, who had traveled to Primus once again. The people of the city gathered in throngs as if to hold a parade, but instead began pelting the half-elf bard with eggs and rotten vegetables, jeering and howling at him. Darius and Droverson managed to extricate Talbot from his predicament, and requested his help with the scroll of Atonement. Luckily, Talbot turned out to be a highly proficient user of magic items, casting the spell on Hazerath successfully and restoring the cleric’s powers. However, it appeared that Hazerath’s change of heart was permanent, and the cleric appeared resolved to conduct himself as a man of goodness henceforth.

Never deterred, Ross Talbot joined the party, and the group purchased a Teleport to the edge of Gulark. When the mists of the teleport cleared, the group found themselves in a scrub forest near the edge of a large desert. However, they weren’t the only ones there – a group of soldiers from The Gray Render Company were embroiled in battle with a large man-shaped creature made of steaming brown sludge, which radiated fundamental wrongness as it clubbed people with its acidic limbs. The party girded for battle as a wolf’s cry sounded from not far away…

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#19 - Best Served Cold, part 3
Traps are for suckers

As the party debated on the best course of action, Darius took to the air with the aid of a Fly spell, pursuing the man in the rowboat, while Tomokk commandeered a leaky dinghy to go after the man by sea. Darius attempted to stay hidden from the man, but was foiled when his shadow drifted across the man’s boat, who then immediately turned his boat around and began heading back to shore. Darius descended to attack the man with a Magic Missile, but was instead greeted with a quick Fireball from the robed man – angered, Darius responded with a Fireball of his own, obliterating the man and his rowboat completely.

Darius fished a few pieces of the dead mage out of the water, then returned to shore to cast his Create Treasure Map spell, which indicated two locations of known valuables – the island he had been heading towards, and a location not far away in the city of Lutus. The party decided to investigate the land-bound location first, arriving at a mostly-collapsed tower. Darius and Kael worked together to defeat the Arcane Lock on the door, and entered to find a mostly empty room in great disrepair. Fortunately, Kael found a secret door which led into a small dungeon beneath the tower. Surviving multiple traps, the party eventually arrived at a long L-shaped hallway covered with enchanted mirrors which blinded people who looked into them – Hazerath tried to cross the room blindfolded, but was nearly killed by a dangerous pit-trap specifically designed to counter typical dungeon-crawling safety measures. Reasoning that the entire hallway must be trapped to kill blindfolded intruders, Darius tried to fly across the room with Shadow Killerson McDeath on his back while averting his eyes from the mirrors, but happened to glance at one accidentally and was blinded by magical force. Crashing into the wall at the midpoint of the hall, Darius commanded “Shadow” to run down the hallway blind to reach the lever to turn off the traps. Although he was nearly killed by the dangerous devices, the young assassin managed to survive, deactivating the traps and allowing the party to reach the end of the hall.

Hazerath, not possessing any spells to cure Darius’s blindness, suggested the party forge ahead, opening the heavily trapped door after Kael and “Shadow” had disarmed it. Inside, the party saw a wizard’s laboratory, as well as a guardian gorgon. Although they inflicted heavy damage upon it in the opening round, the gorgon survived long enough to breathe its petrifying gas upon the party, turning Darius, Hazerath, and Droverson to stone.

After defeating the monster, Kael and “Shadow” searched the room, locating many magic items as well as a Bag of Holding. Placing the petrified members in the bag, the three remaining party members began a long journey on foot back to Primus, hoping to find magical aid for their stricken companions. Fighting off more giant snakes and surviving another snow flurry, the party made their way south – however, Kael repeatedly caught glimpses of someone or something following them throughout the journey. After fleeing from several centipede swarms, the party returned to Primus and enlisted the help of Julius Jackalseye and Tarterus Jones to free the afflicted members from their stony paralysis. Hazerath was also able to cure Darius’s blindness as well.

Taking a few days in the city to recuperate, Tomokk and Hazerath searched for more information on Taxx Murgen, while Darius discovered that another massive tidal wave had destroyed Lutus and severely damaged Deck not long after the party had left – implying that whatever had been occurring on the island, the party had failed to stop it. Meanwhile, ""Shadow" disappeared for several days, and Droverson consulted with Tarterus Jones to learn several important clues about the real dangers threatening Sor’drim. The lights of the candles in The College of the Arcane Order were guttering as Droverson pored over moldering tomes, with critical clues mysteriously missing from their pages…

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#18 - Best Served Cold, part 2
He's giving the signal!

After searching the Jubilex Cultists’ compound thoroughly, the party attempted to track the escaped survivors, but Kael could find no trace of their passage in the city above. The party attempted to gather information on where the cultists might have gone, but were only to find that they had fled somewhere to the west. While searching for more intelligence, Hazerath befriended a tough street rogue calling himself Shadow Killerson McDeath, who professed the goal of becoming the most feared assassin in the world. Amused, Hazerath allowed the young criminal to tag along with the party for a while.

Meanwhile, Droverson and Darius conducted further research on the advice of Julius Jackalseye at their respective schools. After speaking to a Weather Mage and the headmaster of The College of the Arcane Order, Droverson suggested to the rest of the party that they travel to Lutus and investigate the tidal wave which had recently nearly obliterated the city. Paying a moderate sum for a Teleport spell from the headmaster, the party found themselves outside the city of Lutus, a few hundred miles to the north.

Awed by the level of devastation, the party began picking their way through the ruins of the city. Although technically still inhabited, the city had been mostly demolished, with survivors living in scattered “safe zones” throughout the city; many survivors told of hearing stories about an ancient myth called “The Leviathan” and a strange series of events just before the tidal wave. Making their way between safe zones as they journeyed towards the docks at the lowest tier of the city, the party fended off several half-orc reavers and a group of nagatha, with “Shadow” making a good accounting of himself against the monsters and thugs infesting the ravaged city. Reaching the lowest tier of the city, the group began searching for clues, when suddenly Darius and Kael glimpsed a robed figure in a small boat, sailing far out towards the horizon in the direction of a small island several miles away. The party gripped their weapons, pondering what course of action to take…

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#17 - Best Served Cold, part 1
Adventures in Cultism

The party made their way the last few leagues to Primus, defeating a pack of wolves and a roving band of ghouls and ghasts. Once arrived at the Marble City, they were at first stalled by a clerk who demanded they fill out entry forms to get into the city, but were eventually allowed in after a warlock calling himself Julius Jackalseye made an appearance and declared himself an envoy of The Namer. Once inside, Darius, Droverson, and Tomokk went with Julius to undergo the Testing, while Kael and Hazerath began gathering information to search for another of Hazerath’s enemies.

Following up on a rumor overheard in a tavern, Hazerath and Kael went to a local graveyard and dug up a dead man, using Hazerath’s Speak with Dead spell to find further leads on Hazerath’s enemy, Edward Kells. A guard stumbled across them and nearly arrested them, but Kael managed to talk his way out of the encounter. Armed with new information about their quarry’s potential location in the city sewers, the pair returned to their inn to wait for the rest of the party to return.

Meanwhile, Droverson became a member of The College of the Arcane Order, while Darius joined The Academy of Abjuration. Over the course of the next week, the two mages from Gulark trained in new magics, learning the beginnings of techniques that might grant them new and unusual powers in the months to come. Tomokk, despite being offered tutelage in The Cerebremancerium, declined the offer and vanished for several days.

Finally, the party reconvened and set out into the sewers to pursue Edward Kells. After some searching, they located what appeared to be an underground lair of some kind, guarded by a tatterdemalion arcanist. Kael struck from hiding and cut the mage down before he even knew he was in danger, but the party was quickly assailed by the man’s guards, a defacer and a lesser spawn of Jubilex. Despite suffering moderate damage, the group managed to overcome their foes, and Hazerath discovered a medallion on the guard’s corpse which bore the sign of Jubilex, signifying him a cultist of the demon lord.

After a first failed attempt, Tomokk bashed his way through the double doors, revealing a large meeting-chamber with a stone throne at one end. Kells, sitting in the throne, jumped up in alarm and yelled “Sparker!” upon seeing Hazerath, who answered with an evil laugh. Giving a servant orders to flee through a nearby iron door, Kells readied his weapons and spells and prepared to defend himself, summoning a quartet of wrackspawn and a full-grown spawn of Jubilex to his aid. Although the monsters were powerful and badly injured Tomokk and Droverson, the vampire slayer showed a new power when he transferred all of his wounds to the ooze, healing himself completely twice during the combat. Injured by Kael’s arrows and Darius’s spells, Kells made for the nearby door to escape, but Hazerath teleported to his foe and viciously stabbed him with a dagger as he tried to flee, burning out his foe’s eyes and life with his dark powers.

After finishing off Kells’s guards, the party made a quick search of the compound, but quickly discovered that all the other cultists had escaped. However, Kells had left a journal behind, detailing the recent capture and torture of an albino who had told a tale of wandering out of a desert, which the party quickly guessed to be Dorn. The cultist’s journal told of a sinister fate in store for the albino mercenary, however, relating that he had lost his mind under the cult’s cruelty and sworn his soul to Jubilex, the Faceless Lord. Spirited out of the compound along with the other cultists, Dorn’s very soul was now in peril…

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