The Sinister Six

#1 - The Stage Is Set

The curtain draws on The Darklands...

In the late spring of 1262 AP, a group of adventurers are drawn together by fate.

Kael Varda, arriving late, met with Tomokk Bloodfist, Hazerath, Darius Ashanti, and Droverson. The local sheriff, his face drawn with fatigue, laid out the situation for them in short, terse sentences.

Over the recent six months, residents of the hamlet had been reporting strange phenomena in the local graveyard. Two young girls had disappeared, and recently the body of one was found torn into nearly-unrecognizable pieces. The sheriff, knowing that his local deputies would be too afraid to face the possibility of undead, sent for help according to the terms of the Bond of Druxus. Instead of troops, he received a writ of approval to hire mercenaries, and his pickings were slim indeed – only five volunteered.

The sheriff’s eyes flicked warily back and forth between the mercenaries and his deputies as he offered the sum of one thousand gold pieces for conclusive proof that whatever lurked in the graveyard had been dealt with. The terms were stated, and the pact was signed – the five, under the leadership of Kael Varda, were now an official task force.

The dim light which penetrated the Overcast was waning as night began to descend on Painter’s Grove...

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#2 - What Lurks Beneath

(note – because this was the first session and someone was missing, this update is a little more verbose than most of the others will be, to bring people up to speed.)

The party questioned the Sheriff and his deputies briefly, then retired to a nearby inn to become acquainted with each other and search for more information. Hazerath, suspicious of one of the deputies, snuck back to the Sheriff’s office and overheard two of the deputies discussing a plot to “warn the boys” and “scare them off”. Meanwhile, back at the inn, Droverson gave a hungry deputy some magically-enhanced beer and found out more about the local affairs of Painter’s Grove.

Hazerath informed Kael about what he had overheard, and the team made plans to sneak out to the graveyard and ambush “the boys”. Droverson went back to the Sheriff’s office to see if any of the deputies had gone to warn the others, and noticed that one of the deputies was indeed missing. Kael located his tracks, and the party decided to go after him. After a quick crash-course in sign language, the party stealthed out to the graveyard. At first, all seemed peaceful, but Droverson caught sight of someone hiding behind one of the tombstones. Kael and Hazerath quickly ambushed and disposed of the man, who turned out to be the missing deputy, lying in wait for the party with some kind of trip-wire.

The party searched the graveyard, and Droverson accidentally located a moving gravestone, which revealed a hidden series of caves and tunnels roughly 30 feet under the graveyard. Kael performed some reconnaissance and returned to formulate a plan with the rest of the party, but after a few minutes, they were overheard and the lights below were swiftly doused. Hazerath, making himself invisible, went below and discerned that there were bandits preparing ambushes in the tunnels below them.

In a swift, surgical strike, the party went below and split into two groups: Hazerath counter-ambushed two bandits in a cavern to the east, while the rest of the party headed for a larger cavern to the west. Hazerath quickly killed one of the bandits with his crossbow, and engaged in a knife-fight with the surviving bandit for several rounds. Meanwhile, Tomokk led the way into the western cavern, cutting a bandit in half in the first round despite being struck by some painful arrows. Kael was almost ambushed by another bandit hiding in a side-tunnel, but Tomokk Bloodfist and Droverson worked together to spoil his trap, blasting the bandit with a Magic Missile. The bandit tried to play dead and surprise Kael with a stab to the heart, but instead he was the one killed when Kael slashed him apart.

Darius and Droverson entered the fray in the western cavern, fighting a pitched battle against the remaining bandits – Darius bisected another bandit with his katana, while Droverson cast a powerful spell and crushed a bandit with invisible force. Meanwhile, another bandit with a large sword and shield tried to cut Hazerath off from the group, but Kael quickly came to his rescue and cut the newcomer down. Droverson, showing off, tossed another Magic Missile the entire length of the mine and blasted Hazerath’s remaining bandit as well.

Shortly thereafter, the fight was over, with three unconscious prisoners tied up and manacled together by Tomokk and Kael. A quick interrogation of one bandit who had surrendered before being knocked out revealed that there was one remaining person in the mine, the “boss”, located in a locked room to the south. Tomokk bashed down the bolted door, and the party discovered a man in robes standing near an anvil with a crystal object sitting atop it. “Stay back! I’ll smash it!” threatened the man, holding a blacksmith’s hammer high. Kael tried to rush and tackle the man, but the distance was too great, and the man brought the hammer down upon the crystal object.

There was a burst of light and sound, and the blacksmith’s hammer shattered. The crystal object jumped and sparked, and suddenly an earth elemental appeared in the room and began to attack anyone who came near. Darius and Droverson blasted the creature with spells, and Kael hit it with a well-placed arrow which damaged it badly. Tomokk charged in, obliterating the robed man, but his blade could find no purchase against the elemental’s rocky hide. Suddenly, Hazerath appeared behind the creature and stabbed it with his dagger, then channeled a powerful burst of energy into the elemental. It exploded, showering the party with rock and dust.

The group searched the room and discovered a log book, stating that the robed man was the leader of this gang. The book made references to “this is the place” and “searching for it”, but what the mysterious object was or who wanted it, no one could discern. Kael, approaching the anvil, discovered that the crystal object was in fact an orange-bladed dagger, made out of several types of stone and crystal. Descending into another mining tunnel behind the anvil, the group discovered a small, mostly-collapsed ruin, holding only a large sarcophagus. Inside the sarcophagus was a huge skeleton of a half-dragon man. Although the ruins held no magical auras, the sarcophagus nevertheless emanated a powerful feeling of forbidding, which kept the party from disturbing it. Hazerath noticed the word “MILAMBRE” written on the sarcophagus in dusty, half-faded letters.

Returning to town with their prisoners, the party prepared a trap for the remaining corrupt deputy. Although he attempted to escape out the rear of the building, Hazerath stopped him cold and knocked him unconscious in a mysterious, completely silent manner, to the approval of Kael. After informing the sheriff of all the circumstances, the party was deputized according to the terms of the Bond of Druxus and charged with requesting new deputies and a magistrate from Auspex.

Resting for an evening before departing, Hazerath tried to pick up the dagger, but snatched his hand away when it burned him with magical power. Droverson examined the dagger with his tablet of identification, but each time, it would only display the word “MILAMBRE”. Droverson tried to return the dagger to Kael, but each time, it reappeared on his person. Intrigued, Droverson tried to awaken the magical power of the dagger.

Suddenly, magical energy began to spray from the dagger every which direction, blasting holes in the night. Droverson, bewildered, suddenly felt himself growing huge, bursting out of the inn and crushing it underfoot, until he was enormously big, towering above the trees as if they were blades of grass. The dagger shot out a huge beam of magical energy into the sky, and Droverson slowly shrank back to his own size. Horrified, he tried to cast the dagger away, but it cartwheeled off into the distance as a tumble of blades and scything beams of magical power before reappearing in his hand once more. Droverson, flustered, managed to convince the innkeeper that the Darklands Army would pay for the damage, and the party was forced to find other lodgings for the night. The next morning, they would set out for Auspex...

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#3 - The Unseeing

While preparing for the journey to Auspex, Darius discovered that someone had managed to slip an IOU into his gambling winnings the previous evening. “I don’t take IOU’s,” he grumbled, and set out with Droverson to go collect. When the two arrived at the man’s house (one ‘Thomas’ or ‘Tom’), they discovered that he had been murdered. Searching the scene, they discovered some gold and a slip of paper with a name and address on it, which they pocketed. They then informed the rest of the party and the sheriff. Kael searched for the killer’s trail and discovered the tracks of an elf or half-elf.

The party requisitioned horses and set out for Auspex. After only a day’s travel, they encountered a large battle at a bridge over a huge ravine, where Darklands troops were engaged with The Gray Render Company, a notorious mercenary group. Discovering that the bridge was totally impassable, they decided to try using a known shortcut through some caves to reach the other side of the ravine. While approaching the cave, Kael was shot with a black arrow by a mysterious man who then fled quickly, but not before being grievously wounded by Kael’s own arrow. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the arrow had the word ‘Roscoe’ carved into the shaft, and bore faint traces of being near some kind of illusion magic.

The party made their way through the caves over the next two days, defeating two parties of grimlocks, as well as an ogre and a spellcasting grimlock. During the battles, some of the party members displayed new talents; Droverson created invisible caltrops, while Hazerath created an illusory duplicate of himself to deflect attacks. Tomokk showed a capacity for superhuman endurance when he defeated the ogre despite being mortally wounded, but later managed to stabilize and was healed. Kael also took the tooth of the grimlock spellcaster for a necklace.

Upon exiting the caves, the group again spotted the mysterious man, who quickly fled despite Hazerath‘s attempts to shoot him with a crossbow. Kael quickly ordered everyone to follow him, and the party rode to the ruins of a small house. A longsword was stuck in the ground with ’Roscoe’ painted on it in blood. The party attempted to set up a trap for the mysterious man, but Kael suddenly began acting strangely, threatening to kill Droverson when he suggested using the ruins as a defensible position. Eventually, the mysterious man did appear, firing a burning arrow towards the ruins which appeared to do nothing. Like the last, this arrow also bore the name of ‘Roscoe’. The party attempted to track and pursue the mysterious man, who was dressed similarly to Kael, but he eluded them.

The group continued on to Auspex, and agreed to meet back at The Blue Naga Inn. Kael and Droverson made their report to the Auspex garrison commander. When the commander saw the orange-bladed dagger that Droverson carried and heard of the destruction of the Painter’s Grove inn, he summoned a strange pale man who ordered them to take the dagger to Nightstalker at Nighthold. Although the man bore no insignia of rank, Kael found himself instantly obeying the man.

Meanwhile, Tomokk, Hazerath, and Darius had business of their own in Auspex

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#4 - The Man in the Mirror

While Droverson and Kael were dealing with the Garrison Commander, Darius sought out the address on the piece of paper he had retrieved in Painter’s Grove. The address turned out to be a municipal building with safe deposit boxes, and the name on the paper was enough for him to bluff his way past the functionary and get the key. Inside the safe deposit box was a huge stack of vouchers for weapons and armor, as well as the address of a blacksmith.

Returning to The Blue Naga Inn, Darius revealed what he had found to the rest of the party. Tomokk volunteered to try to get more information from the blacksmith, using his strange powers to bolster his espionage skills. As Tomokk was interrogating the blacksmith, Kael and Hazerath were watching from hidden rooftop vantage points, while Droverson and Darius were blending into the crowd across the street.

Suddenly, Kael caught a glimpse of another person hiding on a nearby rooftop. Circling around behind the figure, he got the drop on The Mysterious Man, who was lying in wait with a longbow. Quickly leaping across a gap between the buildings, Kael caught his enemy off-guard and landed a vicious blow with his longsword. Wounded, the figure spun around to defend itself, and Kael caught his first glimpse of The Mysterious Man…himself!

The similarity was not total – The Mysterious Man seemed to be monochrome, made completely of shades of gray, and his eyes were completely different from Kael’s, as if another man looked back at him from behind his own face. Nevertheless, his skills were identical to Kael’s, and the two of them fought a brief but vicious duel atop the building. Kael called for help, but only Darius heard him, and was unable to locate him.

Luckily, Kael’s surprise strike had given him the upper hand in the battle, and soon his opponent was badly wounded. “Yield!” Kael demanded, but the figure instead took a dangerous dive off the rooftop and escaped. Furious, Kael pursued his foe, but The Mysterious Man had vanished into the city like a ghost. However, he had left his bow and an arrow behind, both engraved with ‘Roscoe’ in hastily-scratched letters. Droverson inspected the bow and found it to radiate traces of illusion magic, just as before.

After some deliberation, the group decided to hand over the vouchers to the blacksmith, in hopes of finding out more pieces of the puzzle. As expected, the blacksmith turned over four wagons of weapons and armor, as well as an address on the outskirts of town. Kael went to scout out the address, while the rest of the party stayed behind to guard the wagons. Upon arriving at the address, Kael discovered that it was an old abandoned mansion, partially overgrown with vines and grass – however, many areas were less overgrown than others, leading Kael to believe that it was being used secretly.

As night fell, shadowy figures began to congregate at the mansion, and Kael slipped in among them, listening to their conversations. He was stunned to discover that the weapons were apparently intended for The Liberating Army, the rebels who followed Light-Lord Durett. Kael quickly withdrew before he could give himself away, and reported back to the party.

After a long discussion, the party decided to aid the rebels, and took the wagons to the mansion. There was a tense moment when they mistook the perimeter guards for bandits and nearly killed them, but the group managed to reach the mansion without any mishaps. Once there, they turned over the weapons and listened to a man on a wooden platform giving a speech in a field behind the mansion, who was quickly revealed to be Light-Lord Durett. Near the end of his speech, Durett began shedding a glow like the light of the sun. Droverson quickly realized that the power Durett was displaying was no mere parlor trick, but powerful divine magic. Stunned, the party fled back into the mansion and held an urgent meeting; eventually, they decided that Durett might be the first to actually have a chance at challenging The Sinister Six. They decided to aid him.

After the speech, the party was approached by Durett himself, who relayed the story of the origins of his powers and asked for the group’s help in defeating Nightstalker. After some discussion, they agreed, and Kael was given a ring to show to liberators in Nighthold. Droverson also demonstrated the power of the orange-bladed dagger for Durett, using it to implode a heavy oak tree and make himself grow to twice his normal size. After dispensing some useful advice for evading detection by Nightstalker, Durett took his leave. The group departed and made preparations to journey to Nighthold.

The first day of the journey was uneventful, but during the night a swarm of zombies and a huecuva happened upon the party and attacked. Hazerath detected their presence quickly enough to awaken all the sleepers, but Kael was still rising from his bedroll when the huecuva descended upon him, slashing with its vicious claws. Many zombies also overran Darius, wounding him badly with their clubbing arms. The fire was guttering low, and the darkness was closing in…

(the session ended in mid-combat)

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#5 - Honor Thy Country, part 1

Despite some tense moments, the party was able to defeat the zombies and the huecuva due to a powerful heal from Hazerath and a concentrated barrage of destruction from Droverson, Tomokk, and Kael. The party also defeated a pack of wild wolves, and during the combat Darius displayed a new talent for creating fiery explosions. After many days’ travel, the party arrived in Nighthold.

Upon presenting themselves, they were immediately escorted to Nightstalker’s Keep by Taxx Murgen, a vampire assistant to Kellux Antigua. Once inside, they were taken to a suite of luxurious rooms and told that Nightstalker was currently battling at the front lines, and would return within five days. The party made themselves comfortable and investigated the rooms, discovering many spy-holes in the walls.

After five days, the party was informed that Nightstalker had returned, and were escorted to a meeting with him. After giving their report, Droverson presented the orange-bladed dagger to Nightstalker, who had never seen it before. Nightstalker cast a legend lore spell, attempting to divine further information about the dagger.

Immediately after the spell completed, Nightstalker’s mood instantly changed, becoming very concerned and curt. Although he admitted that he now knew what the dagger was, he refused to elaborate beyond cautioning Droverson not to fool around with it. He also paid Droverson’s debt for the destroyed inn in Painter’s Grove. Before departing, he cautioned the party to keep Taxx Murgen informed of their whereabouts in the future.

The party returned to their rooms, making plans to shop and take care of personal business in Nighthold over the course of the next week. Dispersing to the four winds, everyone disappeared into the city, each on their own mysterious mission…

(the group then had individual adventures over the next 5 days)

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#6 - Honor Thy Country, part 2

After a week of individual adventures, Kael made contact with a liberator agent in Nighthold. The agent informed Kael that two scouts had gone missing east of the city three days ago, and asked the party to investigate and rescue the agents if possible. The group ventured out to the east of the city and located the tracks of the scouts. After determining that the scouts had been captured and enslaved, the group engaged in a fierce battle with a small band of lizardmen gnoll slavers, including a gnoll spellcaster, who was in possession of a Quiver of Ehlonna. Although two of the five prisoners were killed during the battle, the party managed to rescue the remaining three – a smelly albino named Dorn, a merchant from Nighthold, and one of the missing liberator scouts. When Darius tried to broach the subject of a reward with the merchant, he became evasive and tried to lie to the party, which resulted in Darius threatening him. Cowed, the merchant promised to reward the party when they returned to Nighthold. The freed scout told the party that his companion, Casey, had escaped from the lizardmen gnolls earlier that day despite being badly wounded, and had fled further to the east. Dorn promised to escort the other prisoners back to Nighthold, and the party quickly set out in search of the remaining scout. Kael quickly located his tracks, and the party set off in hot pursuit.

Not long afterward, the party caught up with the missing scout, only to see him being dragged into a cave by several men dressed in the uniforms of the Darklands Army. Pursuing them into the cave, the group caught a glimpse of someone vanishing behind a large vault-like door. Suddenly, Nightstalker appeared in a towering rage, and demanded to know what the group was doing there. After Kael related the story, Nightstalker became suspicious, and commanded the group to follow him into the vault to investigate.

Entering the vault, the group crossed into a huge, circular stone room, with a squirming figure bound and covered in a black cloth on a central dais. Nightstalker approached the figure, but suddenly four golems appeared in the corners of the room: a flesh golem, a force golem, a stone golem, and a magma golem. Nightstalker used his magical powers to keep the flesh golem imprisoned in a corner of the room, and battled the stone golem on his own for several rounds while the party defeated the force and magma golems. The group then assisted in the destruction of the stone and flesh golems, with Darius’s fiery burst power dealing a large amount of damage, Tomokk dishing out devastating hits on the flesh golem, and Kael finishing it off with some well-placed arrows from his new magical bow.

During the combat, Droverson took the time to analyze the writhing figure on the dais, and discovered an insidious magical trap and illusion. Although Nightstalker at first dismissed Droverson’s warnings, he reconsidered and examined the dais himself, narrowly avoiding being caught in a powerful Magic Circle against Evil trap. Concerned, Nightstalker revealed to the group that a critical binding had been undone here.

According to Nightstalker, a creature had been imprisoned in this room, and its captivity was highly important – the vampire lord hinted that its freedom might mean the world’s destruction. Furthermore, whoever had laid the trap had been attempting to use Nightstalker’s own preparations against him, indicating that they had in-depth knowledge of his methods and resources. Hazerath attempted to implicate Taxx Murgen as the potential traitor, but Nightstalker sensed his deception and used his powers of domination to subjugate Hazerath, forcing him to reveal his heretic’s brand and beg for forgiveness. Nightstalker also read Hazerath’s mind and taunted him with knowledge of his true past.

Teleporting the group back to Nightstalker’s Keep, the vampire lord laid out his plan – he intended to use the group as his cat’s-paws to discern the identity of his enemy. Instructing the group to act as if he had fallen into the trap, he sent them to Sildure, to beg assistance from The Keeper. He also rewarded them with 5,000 gold pieces for their loyalty (as well as to purchase equipment for the journey). Night was falling as the party regrouped to discuss this turn of events…

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#7 - Favors for Friends, part 1

After relaying his parting instructions, Nightstalker disappeared to set his plans in motion. The party began to purchase equipment in preparation for their journey to Deathsgate, but before leaving, Darius persuaded the party to track down the merchant they had rescued from the lizardmen gnolls, who had promised them a reward after being intimidated.

On their way through the city to the merchant’s warehouse, Kael was ambushed yet again by The Mysterious Man, who landed a devastating critical arrow wound on Kael. Kael returned fire, while Droverson used an Alter Self spell to disguise himself as Kael and draw the Mysterious Man’s fire. Darius launched painful magic missiles at their foe, while Tomokk began circling around behind the Mysterious Man’s sniper nest. Taking heavy damage, the Mysterious Man attempted to escape and hide, but was spotted and cornered near a building. After a brief fight, the Mysterious Man was knocked unconscious and bleeding, and Kael worked to stabilize and restrain him, hoping to gain some information about his assailant – however, Darius loudly voiced his disdain of the idea, and killed the Mysterious Man with a Magic Missile. The Mysterious Man’s body dissolved into smoke and echoing laughter, and Darius knew that their foe was still alive.

Continuing on, the party arrived at the merchant’s warehouse. After making sure there were no rear exits for the merchant to flee out of, the party made their way inside – only to find that the merchant was already embroiled in a confrontation with an unfriendly woman and her six guards. Darius used his Disguise Self spell to pose as the merchant’s dead partner and demand his half of the money, but quickly found out that the woman had already claimed it. The party intimidated the merchant into giving up his own share, but a threatening movement by Tomokk set off a confrontation in which the merchant was killed by an explosion of negative energy from Hazerath. The woman and her guards were revealed to be cambion soldiers led by an alu-fiend, whom the party defeated in a bloody battle ended by a powerful Hunter’s Mercy attack from Kael. Two of the merchant’s guards survived and had battled against the cambions on the party’s behalf, spurred by the promise of a 20-gold payment, but when the smoke had cleared, Darius quickly incinerated them to eliminate witnesses. Their terrified screams were echoing through the darkness in Nighthold

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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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#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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#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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