The Sinister Six

#16 - Marching to Doom, part 2
Constitution drain is great

Picking through the remains of the cambions’ camp, Kael retrieved the logbook and reviewed it – although the cambions had obviously been lying about being a Darklands patrol, and had in fact been remaining in this spot for some time, their log entries seemed fairly straightforward, cataloguing all passers-by and phenomena. At Kael’s behest, Hazerath used a Sending spell to communicate with Kellux Antigua and inform her of the situation.

The party crossed into Pax, and was repeatedly assailed with unusual weather – often the sky was covered with racing, shifting clouds, and the group endured both a day of blistering heat wave and a day of impenetrable fog over the course of the next few weeks. Marching ever more northward, the party fended off attacks by more centipede swarms and giant vipers, as well as encountering a pair of owlbears that they swiftly dispatched. Darius used a Create Treasure Map spell on one of the owlbears, which mostly produced disappointment, but did eventually yield a magical Longsword in the leavings of one of the owlbears’ previous meals. Kael acquired the longsword by default, since no others could use it. Several days later, Kael also shot and wounded a stealthy humanoid figure approaching their camp, but the mysterious interloper managed to lose Kael and Droverson in the forest and escape.

On the 23rd day of the march, the group suddenly found themselves enveloped in a howling blizzard, unable to see more than five feet in any direction and quickly freezing to death as winds in excess of 75 mph buffeted the party. As Kael and Droverson shouted back and forth over the wind to discuss building a shelter, another swarm of giant vipers burst out of the ground and attacked. With the wind disrupting spells and making ranged attacks impossible, the group was forced to split up and deal with the giant snakes individually using only melee attacks and short-range spells. Things seemed to be turning in the group’s favor, when suddenly Tomokk found himself face-to-face with a wraith and felt the cold touch of the undead sapping his life-force. The half-orc fought furiously, putting his Ghost Shroud Trenchcoat to use, but eventually fell unconscious with bone-white skin as the wraith drained all but a sliver of his energy. Hazerath exercised his dark powers to protect his partner and attempted to gain control over the wraith, but could not subjugate its will – the wraith flailed away at the shadowy cleric while Darius and Droverson bombarded it with bursts of flame and Magic Missile spells until the misty figure dissipated into the howling storm. Finishing off the last of the giant vipers, the group retreated into Kael’s hastily-constructed igloo to wait out the storm. At first glance, Tomokk appeared to be dead, and the group left him lying outside, but later the half-orc awoke and crawled into the shelter to be treated for his wounds.

Hazerath managed to mend the party’s injuries and restore the life-force drained from himself and Darius, but professed exhaustion when asked to mend Tomokk. When at last the screaming blizzard had abated, the party emerged from their rapidly-melting shelter to stare at the surrounding devastation with dismay. Clearly, things were getting worse…

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#15 - Marching to Doom, part 1
Advancing towards the rear

After leaving Nighthold, the group debated upon their next course of action. Although several people were tempted by the prospect of going to Gulark, eventually The Namer’s offer of arcane tutelage won out. The group began making their way on foot to the border of The Darklands.

Over the course of the next several days, the group was often beset by strange and unnatural weather, and twice attacked by creatures boiling up out of the ground – first a number of centipede swarms, and later by a pack of giant vipers. Eventually, however, the group reached the border between The Darklands and Pax.

However, when they arrived, they discovered that a large patrol of Darklands soldiers were patrolling the border. At first, everything appeared normal, but Kael kept noticing small, informal inconsistencies in the soldiers’ behavior, as if they had exhaustively studied Darklands soldiers but had not actually been trained in the same environment. Withdrawing to confer with his companions, the mercenary ranger expressed his suspicions, whereupon Darius took to the skies using a Fly spell and rained down fireballs upon the soldiers.

However, as the fireballs landed, the soldiers brushed themselves off, barely singed, and attacked en masse, revealing themselves as elite cambion soldiers and lesser arrow demons. Although the demonspawn were highly resistant to all of the party’s attacks, their offensive capabilities weren’t nearly as threatening, and the group managed to vanquish all but one of the impostors, who teleported away when the battle became entirely one-sided.

As the dust was settling, the party looked to the north, towards Pax, and prepared to leave The Darklands once again…

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#14 - Meetings with Monsters, part 6

As the haze of teleportation faded, the party found themselves at Sixmeet, standing outside a large gazebo-like building in a clearing which appeared to be in the middle of a vast jungle. Entering, they quickly became aware of an ambient effect which rendered all magic and weapons unusable, as well as an Antimagic Field. The interior of the building resembled an octagon, but only six of the walls were marked with doors similar to those the party had used to enter – one of the remaining walls held a huge mirror, while the other contained a huge pair of double doors made of black stone, carved with forbidding runes. The rest of The Sinister Six were already in attendance.

Speaking briefly, Nightstalker explained to the others that Droverson held The Dagger of Milambre. The Rattler advocated killing the party and subjecting the dagger to maximum-level destruction spells, but Nightstalker and The Namer were fairly convinced that such an approach would be ineffective. Skinwalker favored sealing Droverson in a block of stone and casting him far out into the ocean, but Darius pointed out that this would merely delay the problem and let others obtain the dagger without being noticed. The Keeper mainly kept silent, while Soulcrusher seemed highly suspicious of the party and of most of the assembly in general. Nightstalker mentioned that the dagger had the ability to undo certain types of magic, which made it very dangerous, but that it was not nearly as important as the undoing of his bindings and the release of the dangerous creature the party had seen an illusion of. The vampire lord also pointed out that there had been many strange phenomena and disasters across the land, and advocated that the party be put forth to investigate them. Droverson and Kael told the story of their adventures thus far to the Six, after which The Rattler and Soulcrusher departed. The party stayed behind to discuss their options with The Namer. Skinwalker seemed disinterested in the entire affair, although he behaved somewhat shiftily before departing. The Namer seemed honest and straightforward, pointing out that it was in everyone’s best interest to investigate, and even offered arcane tutelage to Tomokk, Droverson, and Darius. After the meeting, the party teleported back to Nighthold, where Nightstalker released them from his service for now.

After obtaining their reward of a Resurrection scroll, the party prepared to end their feud with Roscoe. Meeting with the task force that had retreived Caladorn’s corpse, the party obtained the young child’s skeleton and quickly worked to bring the boy back from the dead. Hazerath managed to cast the difficult spell, and Caladorn was returned to life. Although initially terrified of Kael, the mercenary ranger managed to calm the boy with Darius’s help. Kael first tried to foster the boy with Arcadius Lochan, the priest that had retrieved his corpse, only to discover that the cleric had been killed in a freak accident when a water tower had fallen on him. Undaunted, Kael turned to the cleric who had cured Tomokk’s negative levels, but became suspicious when the priest acted strangely (largely because he was Hazerath in disguise, attempting to steal the child away). Finally, with great frustration, Kael sent Caladorn to The Nighthold Wizards’ Guild to be fostered as an acolyte mage, along with a thousand-gold trust fund. As the ranger left the wizard’s guild, the ghost of Roscoe appeared a final time, wracking the ranger with terrible pains before vanishing.

Gathering their strength, the party ventured forth from the gates of Nighthold, only to find that The Gray Render Company had vanished from their encampment outside the city. The winds of destiny were freshening as the party contemplated which way to turn…

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#13 - Meetings with Monsters, part 5

Returning to Nightstalker’s Keep, the party retreated into their private suite to barricade themselves against Roscoe‘s return. However, it quickly became apparent that the undead mage was not content to attack in a straightforward fashion – Roscoe began harrying the party with spells and status ailments from the ethereal plane, much to Kael’s frustration. Tomokk, who kept wandering off as usual, happened to miss every attack, and was often confused by the wounds and damage the other party members seemed to spontaneously develop – at one point, Kael threatened to shoot Tomokk if he wandered off again – a threat the half-orc ignored. True to his word, Kael shot him, but the half-orc completely ignored the arrow. After a series of tense confrontations, Darius managed to convince the undead mage to cease his tactics against the party in return for more effort on their part to accomplish the return of his grandson.

Finally, Nightstalker returned to Nighthold. The party quickly made their way to his location, but found that he was having a closed-doors meeting with all of his vampire lieutenants, including Taxx Murgen and Kellux Antigua. Droverson attempted to barge into the meeting, but Nightstalker quickly dominated the young sorcerer and forced him to “get lost” with such enthusiasm that he managed to elude Kael’s attempt to subdue him. Tomokk also forced his way into the meeting, and was given a chance to speak due to his ability to resist Nightstalker’s domination, but accidentally made the same misstep as Hazerath in falsely accusing Taxx Murgen. Nightstalker became irritated, and used a previously-unseen power to force Tomokk to wander around the keep bent over, with his pants around his ankles, making moose antlers with his hands and constantly saying “Beep! Beep!” in a high-pitched voice (for several hours).

Meanwhile, Kael and the rest of the party returned to The Nighthold Wizards’ Guild and requested a scrying on the party which had been sent to retrieve Caladorn’s corpse from Roscoe’s castle. The scrying revealed that the group was on their way back to Nighthold, carrying a large sack which contained the young boy’s skeleton. Their spirits buoyed, the party returned to the castle. Nightstalker quickly requested the party’s presence, and commanded Hazerath to use a scroll of raise dead to return Light-Lord Durett to life. Astonished, the cleric did as he was told, and the paladin rose up once more. Loudly denouncing the elf as a fool and a weakling, Nightstalker removed all his items and challenged the paladin to a duel for the lordship of The Darklands, giving him a weapon with which to fight. Durett quickly activated all his most powerful abilities, bathing the room in the glare of the sun, but Nightstalker ignored all his attacks and powers as if they were mere irritations. Battering the paladin mercilessly with his fists, Nightstalker punished the elf until he was near death, and asked icily, “If you cannot hope to defeat me when I use none of my powers or arms against you, how can you hope to stand against my enemies? How could you protect the Darklands when you cannot even protect yourself?” The vampire offered Durett a final chance to join him, but the paladin, defiant to the last, struggled to raise his blade to attack a final time. Disappointed, Nightstalker crushed his will and drained his blood, raising the rebel leader as a newly-born vampire blackguard.

As Durett arose to serve his new master, Nightstalker asked the party which of them would be best-suited to subdue a vampire, and the group unanimously selected Tomokk – the vampire lord then commanded Tomokk to go retrieve Taxx Murgen and bring him back, using force if necessary. The half-orc vampire slayer departed, but returned after a long absence beaten and near death. Staggering into the chamber, Tomokk stated that Taxx had attacked him without provocation, and defeated him after a lengthy battle. When the half-orc awoke, the vampire had already fled. Although Nightstalker viewed the presentation of yet another tale blaming Taxx Murgen for anything with great suspicion, the half-orc was able to convince the vampire lord of the truth of his story. Satisfied, Nightstalker ordered the party to gather round, for teleportation to Sixmeet

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#12 - Meetings with Monsters, part 4

Stunned by the enormity of what had just occurred, the party quickly arranged the bodies in the Light-Lord’s chamber to make it appear that everything was normal, and Droverson used a prestidigitation spell to remove all the blood. Substituting one of the guards’ corpses for that of the Light-Lord in his bedroll, the party loaded Light-Lord Durett’s corpse into the wagon along with Kael, Tomokk, and Hazerath, while Darius and Droverson used alter self and disguise self spells to change their appearances to that of some of the dead guards. Although they quickly became lost in the caverns of The Liberating Army’s secret base, Droverson was able to bluff a guard into helping them escape.

Making their way north towards Nighthold, the group was surprised to find The Gray Render Company camped in front of the city gate. Luckily, Kael was acquainted with Margon Tallfellow, the leader of the company, who managed to negotiate entry for them into the city. Meanwhile, Kael befriended Cotton, a Witch-Hunter, who gave Kael a training guide for becoming an Occult Slayer.

After returning to the city, the group made contact with Taxx Murgen and presented the Light-Lord’s corpse to Kellux Antigua. Kellux was pleased, but stated that the party would need to discuss the subject of compensation with Nightstalker upon his return.

Their errand concluded, the party began searching for a suitable merchant to sell the Light-Lord’s equipment to, but all the merchants they encountered were wearing yellow, a sign they had been known to associate with the Liberating Army’s merchant spies. The party diverted to The Nighthold Wizards’ Guild, hoping to sell and purchase magic items there.

However, when they arrived, the sentry which usually stood guard outside was missing, and the building was deathly silent. Hazerath opened the door and was confronted by a bank of swirling mist and a deluge of worms, which crawled out of the door and into the night. Hazerath, remembering a scary story about the Lord of Worms, chuckled before the party made their way inside.

For several tense rounds, the party crept slowly through the mist, bumping against furniture and hearing isolated noises in the distance. Finally, Tomokk discovered a seated figure and poked it – when it was unresponsive, he reached out and touched it to see if it was alive. Shrieking, the eyeless fast zombie pounced upon the armored half-orc, gnawing and flailing. The party engaged and eventually defeated more than a half-dozen of the foul creatures, in addition to two shadows, but the encounter left many of the party drained of strength and life. After waiting for the mist to disperse, the party began to explore the first level of the tower – Tomokk tried to bash open a warded chest, resulting in him being caught in a Sepia Snake Ward trap which encased him in a shimmering force field and stopped time for the half-orc. Discovering a set of stairs leading up, Hazerath ordered some zombies up the stairs to explore, but all the zombies vanished immediately upon entering the pitch-black room.

Hazerath went up the stairs himself, and discovered using his darkvision that the second floor of the tower was crowded with frozen, bleeding figures, but was quickly set upon by a mohrg – the shadowy cleric quickly ran back downstairs to the rest of the party, who dispatched the undead horror quickly with arrows and magical spells. Returning to the second floor, the party helped the wizards upstairs recover from their paralysis, and learned that a mysterious figure wearing a ring marked “ET” had invaded the tower and cast extremely powerful magical spells to kill or paralyze many of the wizards. After summoning the mohrg, the figure had stolen most of the items and wealth of the guild, but the most devastating loss was a well of many worlds. As gratitude for their salvation, the wizards dispelled the force field trapping Tomokk and allowed the party to keep the items they had found while clearing the tower.

With only one day left before the expiration of Roscoe’s deadline, the party waited anxiously for word from Nightstalker...

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Dunstan's Log (Meetings with Monsters, part 3)

Mission Log, LCPL Dunstan Lynwood Recording:

Recv’d mission from command – retrieve corpse of “Caladorn Jenkins” from site 36-A.

Mission Team:

  • LT Jayanti Leafbrood, Commanding Officer
  • LCPL Dunstan Lynwood, Operating Specialist
  • PFC Arcadius Lochan, Medic

Day 1: Uneventful. Embarked w/ horses from Nighthold. Covered approx. 12 miles. Going is slow due to terrain and lack of road.
Day 2: Covered approx. 12 miles. Attacked at night by approx. 9 orc mercenaries. Incapacitated in opening volley. PFC Lochan administered healing, LT Leafbrood covered escape w/ obscuring mist spell.
Day 3: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. PFC Lochan administered healing, all squad members recovered.
Day 4: Covered approx. 12 miles. LT Leafbrood found magical necklace, cited OSP regulations, confiscated.
Day 5: Covered approx. 6 miles. Attacked by approx. 7 orc mercenaries during traverse of wood copse. LT Leafbrood and PFC Lochan wounded in opening volley, LT Leafbrood covered escape w/ obscuring mist spell. (scrawled in margin – damn, a lot of orcs out here.)
Day 6: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. PFC Lochan administered healing, all squad members recovered.
Day 7: Covered approx. 12 miles. Attacked by approx. 8 orc mercenaries during crossing of ravine. Unit sustained heavy damage, including both LCPL Lynwood and LT Leafbrood being incapacitated repeatedly by javelin and falchion wounds. PFC Lochan administered large amount of combat healing spells under heavy fire. LT Leafbrood used multiple battlefield control techniques to slow and evade orcs. At this time, LT Leafbrood is still badly wounded. (scrawled in margins – I shot an orc in the chest with an arrow, and he died. Is it normal not to feel anything? I’m a half-orc, I should feel some kinda kinship with these dudes, right? Can’t believe we survived that.)
Day 8: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. Estimate arrival at site 36-A tomorrow. All squad members restored to full health by PFC Lochan. (scrawled in margins – man, we’d be so dead if not for Arc. I’m going to see if I can’t grease a few palms and get mustache-boy a commendation or something.)
Day 9: Arrived at site 36-A. Appears to be mostly ruins. Searched entry area and were attacked by cockatrice – killed it despite taking minor damage. Recovered scroll of some kind.
later: Assaulted by undead shadow on 3rd floor of castle. PFC Lochan badly injured by shadow, but managed to destroy it using holy symbol. Found magical glowing longsword. LT Leafbrood cited OSP regulations and assigned it to me. (scrawled in margins – Damn and a half, crazy monsters all over this place! If we get attacked by any more of these weird spooks with their crazy lifedrain powers, we’re all going to be going home in a box! Why the hell didn’t they give us magic weapons or something?!)
even later: Located grave under rubble in courtyard, marked with “Caladorn” and epitaph, mostly obscured. Excavated grave and recovered skeleton of young human, approx. 8 years of age. PFC Lochan placed corpse in bag.
Day 10: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. PFC Lochan reported hearing strange voices asking about our progress, and attempted to respond. (scrawled in margins – so, J. Random Jackwagon can spend the time and money to spy on us and pester us about our progress, but not to help us out? F***ed by the Big Green Weenie again!)
Day 11: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles.
Day 12: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles.
Day 13: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles.
Day 14: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. (scrawled in margins – I’m starting to get nervous. This is the longest stretch we’ve ever had without being attacked.)
Day 15: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles.
Day 15: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. (scrawled in margins – our luck can’t possibly hold out, can it?)
Day 16: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles.
Day 17: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. (scrawled in margins – only one day out…don’t dare to hope we’ll make it in without some kind of trouble. Leafbrood’s being a bitch, but what else is new.)
Day 18: Uneventful. Covered approx. 12 miles. Returned safely to Nighthold. Per orders of LT Leafbrood, returning to DARCOM to await debriefing and package retrieval. (scrawled in margins – gotta remember to clean up these notes and scrub personal stuff before I turn in the log. All I need now is for some prissy hat-rack in clerical to report me for Conduct Unbecoming A Half-Orc.)

(The rest of the log is illegible)

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#11 - Meetings with Monsters, part 2

As the party debated how best to spend their time before Nightstalker’s summons, Kael traveled to the administrative headquarters of the Darklands Army and requested documents pertaining to a mission in his past. Although most parts of the document were heavily redacted, Kael was able to determine the identity of his dead wizard archnemesis, Roscoe Jenkins. Kael tried to memorize as much information as he could about the wizard, including his known allies and next of kin – however, he noticed that all of the wizard’s relatives seemed to be dead, with all but one being killed on the night of Kael’s raid. Contemplative, Kael returned to The Crooked Hasp to join the rest of the group with the exception of Tomokk, who was training with Hartock and Tierad.

While the group gambled, drank, and shared ideas, Darius was suddenly called out to by a woman in the tavern. Turning, he recognized his old employer Vanessa Mackelroy, who offered the group employment escorting her to perform archeological research at Freesite. After a short debate, the group decided that it would take too long to escort her, but decided to see if they could assist her by finding someone else to aid her. Although much of Nighthold was damaged from the recent fighting, they were able to locate Dorn, who had become a competent adventurer in the meantime, and offer him the job. Although he showed some trepidation at the prospect of visiting Freesite due to rumors of traps laid by the previous inhabitants, his indecision vanished when Vanessa offered him a sizable amount of gold for his aid. As the two of them began leaving to make preparations for their departure, the group was yet again attacked by The Mysterious Man.

Attacking with surprise from a nearby rooftop, the Mysterious Man hit Kael and Darius with a devastating volley of arrows, nearly killing both of them. Vanessa summoned up a cloud of obscuring mist, concealing herself and Dorn, and Darius took refuge in the cloud after being healed by Hazerath, while Droverson blasted the Mysterious Man with a series of vicious lightning bolts. Although he had perfect shots at both Droverson and Hazerath, the Mysterious Man ignored them, climbing down from his perch and readying an arrow which shortly took Kael in the face when he poked his head around a corner, dropping him to the ground unconscious and dying. As the Mysterious Man closed in for the kill, he was knocked unconscious by more damaging spells from the mages. Hazerath quickly healed Kael, who manacled and stabilized the Mysterious Man. Aware by now that slaying their captive would be counterproductive, the group instead asked Vanessa to cast dispel magic on their recumbent foe.

As the archivist’s spell went off, the Mysterious Man’s form began to tatter and fray, revealing the ghost of the dead wizard Roscoe Jenkins. No longer unconscious now that his shadow assassin shell had been destroyed, Roscoe began gathering his power for a final battle, but Kael staggered near and asked the ghost what he wanted. The ghost revealed that his entire family had been killed by Kael, and that he sought not only revenge, but a reckoning – that Kael feel the weight of the loss caused by his actions. Although the ghost’s wrath appeared to be mounting, he was suddenly distracted by Hazerath’s question of whether he would instead accept the return to life of his loved ones. Although at first the wizard demanded the return of all his relatives, Darius pointed out that this was unrealistic, which the ghost appeared to accept. At last, the undead wizard decided to demand the return to life of his grandson Caladorn, an innocent killed by Kael during a chaotic battle, within seven days. Hazerath tried to wrest a statement of confirmation from the ghost, but the spectre became agitated, howling “BRING BACK MY GRANDSON!” The awesome power of the undead mage’s emotion withered and chilled Hazerath and Kael, and sent several people fleeing in supernatural panic. When the party was able to look again, Roscoe had disappeared.

Shaken, the party began debating how best to accomplish their task, and were dismayed when they discovered that Caladorn’s grave was likely in Roscoe’s fortress, hundreds of miles away. They were further depressed to learn that there was no one in Nighthold capable of casting Resurrection, the spell needed to return the boy to life. They visited Kellux Antigua, asking for aid, but the only thing she could promise was to send a squad out to recover the boy’s corpse. In the meantime, she had another task for the party – the removal of Light-Lord Durett, whom Nightstalker had decided had outlived his sufferance.

Making contact with one of the surviving agents of The Liberating Army, the group managed to arrange to be taken to the Light-Lord’s hiding place. Carted to a mysterious cave south of Nighthold, the group met with Durett, who had been wounded by Taxx Murgen’s cursed spear and was now afflicted with a wasting sickness. The group arranged to transport the Light-Lord over the border into Gulark, but this was a ruse – after splitting up into two groups, the main team killed two guards while Hazerath unleashed the powers of evil against the Light-Lord and his bodyguards.

To his dismay, however, the Light-Lord threw off his bloodstained blanket and rose to the fight, and his bodyguards were strong of will and resisted Hazerath’s energy attack. The group quickly came to his rescue, but discovered that Durett, even in his weakened state, was incredibly tough to defeat, with nearly impenetrable armor and parrying skill as well as the ability to heal himself repeatedly. Hazerath used a wand of silence to stop the Light-Lord’s spellcasting temporarily, but his attacks were still heavily damaging and only spells from Darius and Droverson were having much effect. Although badly hurt, the Light-Lord cornered the two spellcasters and began landing heavy attacks. Just as he was about to teleport away using a Cape of the Mountebank, Kael landed a lucky shot which pierced the paladin’s skull, killing him instantly. One more light was extinguished in The Darklands as the group clutched their wounds….

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#10 - Meetings with Monsters, part 1

After defeating Gilmagar Rujao, the party holed up in the tower for six days while commissioning item enchantments in nicer parts of Deathsgate. Droverson and Hazerath used Gil’s library to do research on The Mysterious Man. After several days of exhausting research, they came up with two separate conclusions: Droverson believed that many of the Mysterious Man’s attributes matched those of a Shadow Assassin spell, while Hazerath determined that the Mysterious Man had many powers of a ghost. Kael began to believe that the Mysterious Man may be the ghost of the wizard who killed his family, whose name may or may not have been Roscoe.

Meanwhile, Hazerath used an Animate Dead spell to reanimate the remains of Gil as a zombie, whom he rechristened “Francis”. The party handed over The Zoretha Scrolls to Soelma Nilaenish, who promised to see them safely returned to The University of Thaumaturgy. She also suggested that Droverson look her up the next time he was in Gulark, with the potential promise of more work.

Purchasing new horses, the party presented their new Writ of Quickening and set out for Mortu. However, they soon noticed that the weather had been quite overcast for some time, and were suddenly caught up in a deluging rain which soon became a rain of frogs. As they tried to survive the battering of the airborne amphibians, two massive centipede swarms erupted from the side of the road and enveloped Droverson and Tomokk, along with their mounts. Using his skills at riding, Tomokk was able to escape with only minor damage, but Droverson’s horse was devoured and the young sorcerer suffered grievous wounds as well as being badly poisoned. However, he managed to destroy the swarms with his powerful Lightning Bolt spells.

Several days later, the party caught sight of some blurry figures approaching from a huge mountain to the east. Hazerath conjured up a cloud of smoke to hide the party, but most of the group quickly rushed out to determine the events. It transpired that a young woman, who was later identified as Tierad Rynesten, was running from a large blue creature with scything claws and vicious teeth. The party rallied to her rescue, with Tomokk landing the final blow and carving the creature in half. Tierad, a powerful psychic warrior in her own right, was overjoyed to see Tomokk – it transpired that she was the daughter of Hartock Rynesten, Tomokk’s mentor and instructor. Tierad relayed a tale of horror, telling the group that she had been guarding a caravan through Sildure when giant blue monsters similar to the one the party had killed had overrun the caravan, eaten half the people, and taken away many of the others to do something mysterious to them. Tierad managed to escape, crushing many of the creatures in a rockslide, and was pursued by the final creature until its defeat at Tomokk’s hands. The party consoled her and took her with them to Mortu.

Upon arriving at Mortu, the party was quickly stopped by a pair of caretakers – a young woman with stitched-shut eyes who referred to herself as “the Voice of the Third Watch” and a young man with a sewn-shut mouth who glared threateningly at the party while clutching a quarterstaff. After proving their veracity by presenting Droverson’s orange-bladed dagger, the party was taken down into the depths of Mortu to meet with The Keeper.

The frozen lich-queen of Sildure, seated on a throne of ice in an echoing chamber larger than a football field, surveyed the party with impassive disdain. Making their way past shadows of cowering figures burned into the walls by an unknown force, the party approached the throne and quickly described the events leading up to their charge from Nightstalker, including the Vampire Lord’s plan to expose his enemy. After listening for several minutes, the lich-queen gestured for the party to gather closely. Laying a freezing hand on Darius‘s shoulder, the Keeper cast Greater Teleport to return the party to the cave where Nightstalker was imprisoned waiting. When they entered the large chamber, the vampire lord was initially displeased that they had tipped his entire hand instead of continuing the charade with the Keeper, but decided not to dwell on it. After a brief and confusing conversation between the two members of The Sinister Six, the vampire and the lich-queen agreed to pursue the subject “at the next meeting”. Nightstalker teleported the group back to Nightstalker’s Keep and instructed them to return in nine days before departing without further words.

The group exited the keep to see that much of Nighthold had been devastated in the failed coup by The Liberating Army. After Kael and Darius cautioned Tierad Rynesten to keep her mouth shut regarding what she had heard, Tomokk escorted her back to her father’s shop. Overjoyed at the safe return of his beloved daughter and greatly impressed by her descriptions of Tomokk’s prowess with his powers, Hartock declared that he would teach Tomokk the secret techniques of the Vampire Slayer. The clouds were thicker than ever in The Darklands as the party began to discuss their fates…

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#9 - Favors for Friends, part 3

Deciding upon a course of action, Droverson and Darius used their disguise spells to assume new shapes and search for more rumors about the tower of Gilmagar Rujao. Kael trailed along with them using his stealth skills. Hazerath elected to stay in the abandoned warehouse and read the book that he had taken from LuShen Mon, while Tomokk stayed behind to guard Hazerath.

En route to local taverns and shops, the first party was again ambushed by The Mysterious Man. Kael, catching sight of their foe as he prepared to fire, yelled out " ROSCOE! " and the two traded arrows, injuring each other. As the two rangers jockeyed for tactical positions around a building, Darius caught sight of the combat and began moving towards the Mysterious Man. At the sight of the disguised gambler, the Mysterious Man grinned an evil grin, then shot Darius with a deadly arrow which left him bleeding out in the street. Droverson yelled for Kael’s help, and Kael was forced to let the Mysterious Man escape in order to save Darius’s life.

Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, Hazerath began to enact a dark rite using the black book he had been reading, tracing lines and runes of blood on the floor. As the rite progressed, the room began to fill with shadows and cold, and Tomokk fled outside in trepidation. Inside, Hazerath began to feel drains on his life force as he battled with shadows for his soul. In the end, however, he was successful, mastering the dark energy and transforming himself into a Shadow-Walker.

Shortly thereafter, the party returned, badly wounded, and spent a day resting and healing. After recuperating, Darius, Droverson, and Kael again ventured forth, later returning with a bounty of rumors. In addition to finding the location of Gilmagar’s tower, they also heard of a crushing defeat of The Liberating Army by The Darklands Army which may have resulted in the death of Light-Lord Durett, a mysterious tidal wave badly damaging the city of Lutus, and of a rash of killings in Villia, where the killer had been painting “VENGEANCE” on the walls in blood. The city was also buzzing with rumors of their previous day’s actions involving LuShen Mon. Undaunted, the party made their way to the outskirts of the city and approached Gilmagar’s tower.

The tower was a large, square building which had at one time fallen into disrepair, but had been patched together with large chunks of other buildings sealed into its surface with Stone Shape spells, according to Droverson. Kael tried to unlock the door, but was shocked by a cunning nonmagical electricity trap. After several attempts to climb the outside of the tower resulted in painful falls for Tomokk, the half-orc became angry and smashed the heavy metal doors apart in fury. Inside, the party faced and defeated a lesser cadaver collector golem in a room full of corpses and body parts. They also located a large room with writing all over the walls and floor – endless ravings about “the red and the blue and the brown” and “the time of cleansing” as well as the relentlessly repeated phrase “THEY WAIT”. Droverson, seeing the writings, guessed that Gil might have been reading The Zoretha Scrolls. After making their way through a room filled waist-deep with broken cups and glasses, the party ascended to the second level of the tower.

Drawn in by the temptation of an illusory library, Droverson triggered a magical trap which summoned four dretches and set off a loud alarm. After quickly defeating the pitiful demons, the party charged up the stairs but was quickly attacked by a dangerous blood golem, encased in an iron suit. Several members of the party were badly wounded, but Tomokk used his Gauntlet of Rust to destroy the golem’s iron armor, weakening it significantly, and Kael was able to dispatch it with his newly-effective arrows. After healing up, the party went up the final set of stairs.

At the top of the tower, the party was confronted by a confusing room made of jagged stone shapes. Suddenly, Gilmagar Rujao burst out of hiding and blasted the party with a powerful Fireball. Wrapped in a coccoon of protective spells, the mad mage cackled and babbled to himself as the party’s attacks slowly weakened him, but still managed to unleash a vicious Empowered Scorching Ray which badly wounded Darius. Finally, as Tomokk and Hazerath flanked and hacked away at the mage, Droverson unleashed a barrage of powerful Lightning Bolts which sent his insane former classmate to his final reward. “Now you’re a good Gil”, remarked Droverson as Kael extracted the mage’s tooth for a trophy.

Zoretha scrolls in hand, the party looted the mage’s corpse and recovered a tidy sum of platinum as well as a few minor magic items. They were already planning how to spend their newfound wealth…

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#8 - Favors for Friends, part 2

As the sounds of battle and explosions began to die away, the party quickly began to take action to avoid entanglement with the authorities. Acting on orders from Hazerath, Droverson quickly melted off the jawbones of all the human corpses with Acid Splash to avoid leaving evidence for a Speak With Dead spell, then used an Alter Self spell to assume the appearance of the dead merchant. Darius, already disguised as the other dead merchant, gave the real merchant’s keys to Droverson and quickly made his escape. Hazerath cast Invisibility on Tomokk before slipping into the shadows. Kael stayed behind, hidden, to watch Droverson.

Droverson began to attempt to lock the door to the warehouse as guards approached, but couldn’t find the correct key in time. As the watch began to ask questions, Kael suddenly appeared and waved his signet ring, commanding the guards to leave. The guards obeyed, but Kael overheard their talk of suspicious behavior and noticed that the guards sent two operatives to tail them. Kael and Droverson quickly made their escape, and Droverson used Invisible Caltrops to slow their pursuers and force them to lose the trail.

After escaping from the city, the party journeyed several miles to the east before discussing their plans to head for Sildure. Kael left the party and returned to the city to purchase some additional equipment, but was unable to infiltrate the front gate due to Nighthold’s exceptional security. Meanwhile, the rest of the party was attacked by several monstrous centipedes, but were able to defeat them.

After resting, the party regrouped and reentered Nighthold using more disguises and stealth. Returning to the still-undisturbed warehouse, the party sealed the corpses in a large crate (which Droverson marked ‘SHIP TO NECROMANCER’S ACADEMY’) and made a more thorough search of the goods (in which Kael found a small stash of highly valuable adamantine arrows) before leaving a sign on the warehouse stating ‘GONE TO GULARK’. After seeking an audience with Kellux Antigua, the group procured a scroll of Greater Teleport to travel to Sildure, but no one in the party could cast it. After using an official writ from Kellux to request assistance from the head of The Nighthold Wizards’ Guild, the party was successfully teleported outside the city of Deathsgate in Sildure.

Making their way into the city, the party quickly discovered that they needed a special writ to travel further south into Sildure, but the office to apply for them had a huge line and exorbitant prices. While pondering their options, the party was suddenly approached by Soelma Nilaenish, a former professor of Droverson’s and Darius’s from Chain.

As the party made introductions, Soelma revealed that she possessed one of the writs the party needed, and would gladly give it to them if they would help her regain possession of a stolen document that had been taken from the Mages’ College in Chain. While the party discussed this, Tomokk began acting oddly, asking Soelma if she had dwarf ancestry and directing flatulence in her direction. When Soelma mentioned her intent to kill Tomokk if this behavior continued, Hazerath quietly questioned Droverson if they could just kill Soelma for the writ, but Droverson quickly replied that Soelma was a powerful archmage who could easily destroy the entire party. Daunted, the party agreed to retrieve the document from Soelma’s rival, Gilmagar Rujao, who could be found in a tower on the outskirts of the city.

Hazerath and Darius began searching nearby taverns for clues, and Hazerath quickly discovered the location of someone he told the party could lead them to Gilmagar’s tower, a certain LuShen Mon. When the party arrived at LuShen’s residence, they discovered it to be an idyllic townhome in the middle of a large residential sector. Kael began scouting the residence for escape routes, but quickly created a scene when he was unable to hide while scaling a wall, an unusual occurrance for the Darklands-dwelling ranger. Droverson, thinking quickly, managed to bluff the locals into thinking the party was searching for a thief.

Meanwhile, Hazerath attempted to pick the lock on the door, but was gashed by a vicious blade trap. Angered, he kicked in the door and stormed into LuShen’s house, much to the party’s surprise. Darius accompanied Hazerath into the house, while Tomokk stood guard outside. After breaking through another door, Hazerath came face-to-face with LuShen, a monk who began to assault Hazerath with shuriken and kama. Although badly pressed, Hazerath defeated his opponent with help from Droverson and Darius. The party carted his unconscious form away as Droverson assured the locals that the dangerous thief chicken-lover had been captured. Among LuShen’s possessions was a strange black book, which Hazerath showed great interest in.

Later, at an abandoned warehouse, Hazerath admitted to the rest of the party that LuShen actually had nothing to do with Gilmagar, but was in fact responsible for Hazerath’s brand. Although angered that Hazerath had used the party to advance his personal goals, no one interfered, and Hazerath questioned and tortured LuShen briefly before killing him. Loose end snipped, the party prepared to resume their search for the tower of Gilmagar Rujao…

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