Scales of War

31a -- Nightmares in Red Rock
On the trail back to Red Rock, Adren noticed a body partially hidden behind a rock. He immediately stopped to look for an ambush and found that an ambush had already taken place. The body was that of the Shadar-Kai weaponmaster. He body was peppered with crossbow bolts and had been stripped of valuables except for the magical cloak. There was a note reading, “A gift for you—T”. The party did not know what to make of the note. They were tired and miserable from nightmares. Even Elan wanted to wait to examine the magic cloak until they had gotten to a comfortable bed. Adren was more excited about the prospect of a teleporting cloak so investigated it more carefully. He found a secret pocket with a note reading:

Kyrion, Let me make my orders clear: you are there only to train the gnolls, not to fight for them. Watch yourself; they are a bloodthirsty and violent lot, and they may turn on you. You may need to remind them from time to time that I pay them well for their services, and that I can withdraw my support for their butchery at any time. Be careful of their leader, for he is far more cunning than others would give him credit for. I would not have even considered trying to trick them into service with that “Emissary” deception that riled up that fool Sinruth. These gnolls have the power of their foul god on their side. They are not to be trifled with. — Sarshan

From this note they concluded that Sarshan was the Emissary from the note found in Rivenroar and that he (or his employer) had some designs on this part of the mortal world.

Back in Red Rock they let the owner of the sole tavern know that they were looking for a crew to spend a month cleaning up an old temple and asked him to spread the word.

The next two days were spent trying to catch up on sleep while fighting the nightmares. Some of the nightmares were of horrible creatures performing horrible acts but the worst nightmares realized the hidden fears of the dreamer. They dreamt of dying disgraced or anonymous. They dreamt of slowly going mad or stupid. They dreamt of losing their faith, their home, or their friends. They began to question themselves and lose confidence. Elan was eventually coaxed into identifying the cloak.
“It’s principle purpose is as a translocal arcanic capacitor.”
“Dammit Elan, just tell us what it does or give us the magic word.”
“Observe.” Elan stepped into the Feywild and out a few feet away. The cloak glimmered.
“So what? You feystepped. Will that cloak let ME feystep?”
“No,” Elan sighed. “Didn’t you see the transferrence of reservoiric arcania?”
“ELAN! Speak common!”
Elan sighed again. “Observe.” She again feystepped a few feet.”
Biatch was getting impatient. “So? I didn’t see anything. I’m done here. Get me a beer.”
“Wait,” Adren said, “Eladrin can only use their feystep once every few minutes. Elan’s second feystep was 21 seconds after the first. But the cloak didn’t shimmer that time.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. The translocal capacitor draws arcania from proximal ley capillaries.”
“I think she is trying to say that it has to charge between uses. So it only works for your feystep?”
“Um, no. It should work for any teleportals. Like when Gilbain teleported that Leucrotta into the fiery cauldron.”
“So Gilbain could teleport two Crottas?” Biatch asked.
“Uh, sure.” Elan responded.
Gilbain had only been half paying attention. His mind was questioning whether he had made the right choice leaving the temple life, this news woke him up. “Really, that is very useful.”
“Indeed. Let’s roll dice to see who gets it, she grinned wickedly.”
“Well, I’m not sure we should trust that to chance, especially since your dice aren’t goverened strictly by chance.”
Elan was not offended at being called a cheat. “No, I’ll be fair and I’ll even roll first. See there, a 1.” Gilbain rolled a 4. “Have fun,” Elan said, “I’ll be taking a bath.”
“There’s no hot water.” Adren said.
“Oh yes there is,” Elan said as a small flame lept from her hand.

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30 -- Cleaning Out the Fortress
“Time to head back. I don’t think there will be much more resistance. Let’s get back to the training room and and pile up the bodies…” the sight ahead actually caused Longbreath to stop talking. The training room was filled with gnolls. There were soldiers, archers, a shaman, and two gnolls riding large lizard beasts. “To arms! To arms!”

It was a bloody battle but the heroes won. There was a lot of treasure and the shaman wore a suit a chainmail that helped tame beasts.

The rest of this wasn’t played out but explained here in the narrative.

The heroes finished exploring the fortress. They found another door leading to the room with the chaos spirits. On the door was written in charcoal a note in the Abyssal language. It was loosely translated to be, “Danger! Keep Out!”

Another room had a strange series of trenches filled from a torrent of water with a magical contraption to turn the water on and off, and change the direction of the flow. They decided to investigate in more detail later. The final room was some sort of prison with three inmates. They were haphazardly chained together, hand to foot, in a sort of jumbled hogtie. They explained that while guarded only their feet were chained but the guards left a few hours ago. One is a wealthy landowner, another a priest of Pelor, the third a retired sage. They would be happy to travel to Brindol, or given food and water, could make their way home. They don’t know anything about the gnolls plans or why they were kidnapped. They previously shared the room with two more prisoners who had been taken away a few days ago.

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Hello Amyria

Elan heard a noise. “I sense auditic vibrations. Perhaps we should prevantulate.”
“I don’t know what that means”, said Biatch, “but I am sure you can handle it.”

At that moment the door across the room flung open and three gnolls came through.

“Wake up!” Elan shouted.

The surprised gnolls were a small scouting party and they died quickly. The party finished resting and prepared to meet Thorn. They proceeded carefully down the long hall until near the end they saw Thorn prepared to open the large doors to the ritual chamber.

“Please… don’t make me do it”, Thorn pleaded.

Antaxia infigno fietherias dokuul dienve”, was Elan’s reply, causing fire to shoot from her, burning Thorn and his wooden pet hawk.

Thorn drew a deep breath of air and opened the heavy door, running in. The party followed to find a huge ritual chamber. A small horde of mutated inhabitants of Elsir vale chased after Thorn wielding sharp teeth and claws. Two gnoll disciples fired rays of necrotic energy and directed two crocottas. The leader, Fangren, had stopped performing his ritual in front of the swirling wall of Elemental Chaos and was watching the battle.

When the party burst in, some of the enemies persued Thorn while the rest attacked the heroes. Thorn managed to climb the wall to the balcony and avoided the horde while the party formed a defensive position. Adren bravely charged Fangren, shooting him with arrows. Fangren responded by sending a blast of flame, throwing Adren back. Biatch ran up to chop Fangren with her axe but Fangren used a telekinetic force to push her back near the Elemental Conduit. Once there, a claw made of chaotic energy grabbed Biatch, crushing and burning her until she eventually broke free.

Gilbain focused on killing the crocottas, slaying the first and throwing the second into a cauldron of fire. The beast howled in pain but used it’s demonic ability to attune itself to the heat before being consumed. It lept from the cauldron, mauling Elan and Gilbain before being put down.

During the melee, Thorn took one shot at Fangren and then fled the room. Adren shouted out epithets of cowardice but Thorn was not seen again.

The battle was hard. Elan used a healing potion to help unconscious Gilbain escape from the burning claw. She used another potion on Longbreath. Eventually the gnolls were slain. They had a good amount of valuable jewels and coins with them that the party now collected.

Elan was able to close the Elemental Conduit. Then the sword (Amyria) gave instructions to Elan how to perform the ritual releasing her from the sword with Gilbain assisting. Soon there was a pale lady of unearthly beauty standing before them holding the ceremonial platinum sword. She had no recollection of who she was or how she got there but had a notion she should go to Overlook.

Remembering how defenseless Jalissa was, Elan asked, “are you instructed in the martial or arcane arts, or are your implements merely decorative?” Longbreath was wondering the same thing. Her armor made from overlapping scales used a technique by Dragonborn armorsmiths creating armor for softer races, like humans.

“I… I do not know.” Amyria looked at her sword. She took a fighting stance and performed moves that Longbreath often practiced himself. It was called the Kata of Inhalation, a series of moves designed for fighting many weak opponents. “I suppose I do”, Amyria smiled.

The gnolls had coins and valuable items. Fangren had a note that read:

I cannot stress the importance of holding Fortress Graystone. Among the assignments I have given you, this should be your top priority. I have armed you well enough that you should be able to repel all invaders. Do what you will with your prisoners, but continue taking them. Focus your efforts on those who seem to be of some importance; do not waste your time with farmers and commoners. I am sending someone to train your recruits in the use of our weapons, at your request. However, I expect you to leave this one alone. The witch I sent to you was one of my personal advisors, and now she is ruined. Do not treat my people so callously as you do your own.

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28 -- Thorn in Our Side
After spending a few minutes with Wicked Fang, Gilbain declared the blade was not evil and he would be using it. “Perhaps it has been used to kill in the name of evil, but it can now kill in the name of good”, he said as he unsuccessfully tried to wipe blood from the serrated blade.

“Can we take a nap? I could use some rest”, said Biatch. “No. Let’s explore a bit. See if there really are gnolls where that Shadar-Kai claimed.”

So the party opened the back side of a secret door leading into a room with portals for exits and a confused gnoll scurrying about. Even outnumbered, the gnoll seemed happy to fight rather than puzzle out his problem. The walls of the room were glass and two other similar rooms could be seen with more gnolls. The party immediately attacked the hapless gnoll who jumped through the closest portal and appeared in another room. The rest of the gnolls jumped into portals. Some ended up in the room with the party, others in the other room. Most of the party formed a defensive position to engage the gnolls while Elan feystepped into the room with the fleeing gnoll. Given the party’s wearied condition the fight was tough. The largest gnoll fought with demonic energy and the rest used their pack attack to inflict many wounds but no casualties were incurred so the party decided to rest outside of the training room where they could use the arrow slit to keep watch to see if an alarm was raised.

No alarm was raised, but Elan heard a noise coming down the hall. She whispered for everyone to wake up and kicked the person next to her as two mechanical wooden badgers rounded the corner and the corridor filled with arrows from the arrow slit. The badgers were not terribly powerful but they kept the party cramped while arrows devestated them. Finally they fought through the badgers and a mechanical eagle to storm the training room. There they saw Thorn.

“Argh! I knew we should have taken Thorn out when we saw him in Brindol”, someone growled.
“Hey, ok, you got me. I surrender.” Thorn said.
“Forget it. We don’t care what you have to say. You die now.”
“What? Let’s talk about this. Surely I have something or know something…”
“No. No talking. More Dying.”
“OK, have it your way.” With that, Thorn ran down the corridor yelling, “As I understand it, the leader of these gnolls and his demonic entourage are down here. I don’t know where they are or how powerful they are but they will prob… Ow! that hurt! ... probably kill all of us. Let’s just talk. We don’t have to all die.”
“You will die. There is no talking.”
“Just… ow! ... just wait! You don’t understand! He is powerful.” Thorn made it to the door and nervously said, “Please don’t make me open this door.”

The defenders of Brindol were in a tough spot. They didn’t want Thorn to live but they were wounded and were not ready for a big fight. Longbreath said quietly, “We’ll advance to see if he is serious. If he opens the door, we retreat back to the training room.” Then loudly, “D-O-B, attack!” as he charged towards Thorn.

Thorn swore loudly and opened the door. Longbreath called for retreat and Thorn closed the door before he could take a good look inside.

Back in the training room Longbreath started giving order, “We bunk for four hours of rest, with two on watch, one looking for Thorn, the other looking for anything. When on watch you will wear the stag helm, yes, even you, Elan.” Elan protested, “The arcanic resonance between the antenna properties of the stag horns and my ediandana would create a disonnic anti-wave of arcanic feedback.” Longbreath rolled his eyes. Elan continued, “Besides, it would give me hat head.”

“Fine” growled Longbreath. Since your highness is mostly rested you can take watch the entire time. The rest of us will rotate through an hour watch each and we will wear the stag helm. Is that okay with your anti-arcanic wave disassociation?” “Indeed”, responded Elan.

Adren spoke up, “before we get too settled, take a look at this.” The wooden Raven had shrunk down to just a few inches. “Ooh, fascinating” said Elan, “I’ll take a look at this.”
“Are you sure it won’t resonate poorly with your arcane wave?” Longbreath chided.
“Only if I wear it on my head.” Elan responded.

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27 -- Castle Greystone

The party set out for Castle Greystone. They took a boat downstream and then hiked to a small town at the foot of the mountains. It was an old quarry town and a dwarf named Durak said he had seen hyena men in the mountains. The heroes searched the mountains until they saw signs of a fortress, but on the way they discovered a trap which had been recently set for purposes unclear.

Not wanting to enter through the front door, the heroes attached a rope to an upper balcony. While doing this, a gnoll patrol came out and was surprised to find interlopers on the front steps. The gnolls weren’t much of a problem but an earth spirit possessing statues shook the party up. It too was defeated and retreated into the earth.

Peeking through the front door, the party was a strange room with many active portals, a runed circle, and walls of thick glass. Through the glass they could see another room with no doors but a few portals and a similar circle. A few confused gnolls were in the second room. Elan was intrigued but the rest of the party was not so they climbed the balcony.

The balcony led to branching corridors. At one spot peepholes spied into a room with gnolls training and ladders led into the room. The party would come back to this room later and continued down the corridor which ended in a secret door which opened to a dais in a strange room.

Half of the room was neat and orderly with calming white walls. The other half had chaotic colors and three bottomless pits. When the party stepped off the dais towards the exit door, five figures materialized. From the orderly side were two Githzerai echoes—manifestations of the residual psychic energy from much powerful meditation. On the chaos side three forms of pure chaotic energy appeared. They were beings constructed from the emotion shed there. The beings were very powerful and filled the party with psychic pain and madness. They blasted Elan back through the secret door, knocking her out. The rest of the party evacuated the room as well, and the beings did not pursue.

After that, the party wanted to fight something real, tangible, and bleedable so they went back to the gnoll room. Elan and Adren fought through the peepholes while everyone else stormed up the ladders. Caught by surprise, the gnolls were no match for the group even though they fought to the death. A Shadar-Kai weapon master assisting in the training was a tough opponent but when the gnolls fell, he fled to the opposite side of the room and teleported through the peepholes. The party gave chase and he ended up bargaining for his life in exchange for information. He told the party that the gnoll leader was in the room past the training room and was escorted by some sort of priests. He said that in the entry room, usually there is only one portal active. He revealed that one branch in the corridor led to a secret door in the “second room” (with the confused gnolls). Gilbain was a bit unsatisfied in letting an evil Shadar-Kai flee, but let the reasoning of Longbreath and others convince him.

The party went back to loot the bodies and plan their next move. They found a lot of money and a weapon named “wicked fang”—a serrated dagger permanently stained with the blood of the many beings it had slain.

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26 -- Back in Brindol

The party mad it back to Brindol without further incident and had dinner at the Ogre’s Skull while Ronnie welcomed them back and gave the local gossip. Gilbain was there and asked to go with them to the Hall of Valor in the morning.

Fed and rested, the party went to the Hall of Valor to meet Sertanian. He explained that the ceremonial platinum sword the party had rescued from Rivenroar had spoken and asked for them by name. He took them to the back where the sword rested.

A woman’s voice spoke in a weak voice saying,

You have come, my heroes, but my thanks must be brief. I am Amyria, and I have summoned you here from great need. I know it must seem strange to hear me speak, but I assure you that this form is only temporary. It is for that reason that I beseech you for your aid.

Decades ago, a race of monastics born of the Elemental Chaos established a fortress in Elsir Vale. These were the githzerai, who lived secretly in their remote outpost before suddenly vanishing. Their Fortress of Graystone was well hidden, and remained uninhabited for long years.

Some months ago, Fortress Graystone was invaded and claimed by a pack of gnoll mercenaries calling themselves the Wicked Fang. Their leader, a sadistic follower of the demon lord Yeenoghu, has begun to send his raiders out into Elsir Vale and beyond. In recent weeks, this gnoll chieftain Fangren has managed to open a conduit of power to Yeenoghu’s realm in the Elemental Chaos. He plans to claim some small fragment of the demon lord’s power, transforming himself into an exarch of the Beast of Butchery. It was the creation of this conduit that awoke me from my age-long slumber.

If Fangren completes his ritual, demonic forces will have gained a foothold in the mortal realm. More importantly, that conduit to the Elemental Chaos can be manipulated through a ritual that I will provide to you. This is the boon that I pray you grant me. Bring me to Fortress Graystone and free me from this prison.

Everyone was curious but Gilbain was especially excited, seeing it as a personal quest from Bahamut himself. The party had a few questions for Amyria but she did not have much memory and during the conversation, a bottle of fire broke through the window and some mercenaries kicked down. A fight ensued. Longbreath, Elan, and Sertanian put out the fire while everyone else fought the attackers. Gilbain proved capable in a fight, inflicting pain of holy judgement while healing with holy grace. In the end, the attackers were slain and the fire was put out with minimal damage, although the table holding the large map of Elsir Vale had collapsed to Sertanian’s chagrin.

Near the end of the fight, Thorn coincidentally showed up. The party’s first instinct was to slay him on the spot. He explained he had business in a town to the west and just happened by. The party didn’t believe him so Thorn left under harsh questioning. Adren met up with him to get more details and potentially salvage the relationship but Thorn wasn’t feeling friendly and left town. All in all, the circumstances surrounding his appearances had been odd. He seemed genuinely willing to help the party (in exchange for payment) but the timings were too coincidental. The general feeling of the party was that they were better off without his “help”.

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25 -- Jalissa's Big Adventure

From Jalissa’s diary

Dear Diary,
I am sooo excited! Hiram wants me to go to Overlook! Sertanian has a message for Elandrasil Sylaria and Hiram wants to make a lesson out of it. It will be a long horse ride so I can practice my anti-chafing spell. The horse’s name is Phil but I call him Stomperager. I can’t wait!

Dear Diary,
The people at Drellin’s Ferry are so nice! They love Brindol and wanted to know when garrison was coming. I don’t know who Garrison is so I told them to be patient. They gave me a very nice, if provincial, meal and Stomperager had fresh oats. It was also nice to sleep in a real bed instead of relying on my Comfy Bed ritual. When I created that ritual Hiram didn’t know whether to praise me for my cleverness or admonish me for wasting time on trivial efforts. Trivial my unchaffed behind! He sleeps in the softest bed in town and I have no idea from where he got the dire-goose down.

Dear Diary,
I just crossed a bottomless gorge. It was totally scary but I did it so I must be totally brave. Yay me!

Dear Diary,
The last few days have been maximally boring but I am at Overlook now and ready for a nice bed and to find Elandrasil Sylaria. I’ve heard the Clean Sheets is nice, maybe I’ll stay there.

Dear Diary,
Clean Sheets was totally not nice. It was intensely groddy. I got a room at the Traveller’s Inn and have been asking about Elandrasil Sylaria. Some nice men told me they would take me to her so as soon as I get it together I’m going to see her and deliver my message. What an adventure this has been! I’m so proud of myself!

Dear Diary,
I’m like, totally weirded out. Those “Nice Men” were as nice as “Clean Sheets” was clean. Overlook is like opposite land. The thugs took me to an abandoned building and tied me up and slit my throat. The next thing I knew, Elandrasil Sylaria and Mr. Spookypants were looming over me. They said I was dead but I didn’t believe them so I gave Sertanian’s message to Elandrasil Sylaria. I was exhausted from being dead so I rested a bit in Mr. Spookypant’s library while Elandrasil Sylaria learned some spooky rituals from Mr. Spookypants. I snuck a peek at her ritual book. She know some wicked cool mojo! Now I’m embarrassed to think she would be impressed with my “Comfy Bed”.

Dear Diary,
I totally saved the day. These creatures were running all over Drellin’s Ferry. Their momma was human but their daddy was dog. We hid in a building while they tried to shoot us with a catapult. So we nailed some doors together for a shield and jumped on a barge while the doggy-people shot arrows and catapults at me! We get to their island and the butch girl, Biatch jumps off the barge! At first I was kinda happy because she drinks too much and doesn’t bathe enough and looks at me like she wishes I were dead… but then the doggy people surrounded her and knocked her down and were eating her legs! I was like, “bad dog! no!” but they kept trying to eat her face. Just ‘cause I don’t like Biatch, she doesn’t deserve to be dog food so I cast a bip dart on the biggest doggy-man and he died! I felt bad at first because I’ve never killed anyone before, but he was only half man and the doggy half was really bad. So I cast bip dart on the others and we killed them all! Most of the townspeople were still alive and they were so happy to see us! They offered to give me anything I wanted so I told them to give Biatch a bath. Biatch didn’t mind, I think she was worried about rabies.

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24 -- A Peaceful Rest
The specters moved slowly but were impervious to normal weapons so the party was concerned to be trapped in a large cavern with them. Still, they seemed unable to move far from the now-broken gate to Shadowfell so the party picked a spot far away to set up camp. While everyone else was resting, Adren explored the cavern more carefully and discovered a secret door. The party went through to discover the basement of the Happy Beggar. They marched through, much to the bewilderment of the patrons and owners.

After cashing their raincheck at House of Sleep, the party reported everything they had learned to the council of elders. Some concern was expressed and later it was discovered that the Shadowfell gate had been dismantled. Reness decided that her sister had been avenged and left to pursue a different path. She kept one of the communication gems in case someone needed help.

The party was able to rest and recover for a week and a half until they heard that a messenger was looking for them and were shocked to discover that she had been kidnapped. The kidnappers were the Lost Ones, the same group of thugs that Modra had previously hired.

During this time, a mercenary named Gilgathorn (“Thorn to my friends”) informed the party that there was a 1000 gp bounty on their heads and he offered to protect them. They refused but told him that if he helped stop any attack on them, they would pay for it. He shrugged and left.

After doing some sleuthing, they determined that the messenger was being held prisoner in an abandoned temple of Pelor. They called Reness and met at the temple. Adren and Elan scouted the roof while the rest of the group waited at the front door. When Elan saw through the broken skylight that Jalissa was the messenger and her throat was bleeding she feystepped down to bandage her. Adren sensed an ambush and sent a flaming arrow down to the others to signal their attack.

The battle was tough and the attackers were determined to silence Jalissa despite any healing she received. Near the end of the fight, Thorn burst into the temple and warned that three assassins were coming for the party. Adren happily paid the fee and Thorn barred the door. After some banging, the rotted door broke down and three guards stormed in ordering everyone to lay down their weapons. The remaining Lost Ones and their leader were happy to comply but the party was not sure what to do. Thorn insisted they were assassins and eventually the party ordered the guards to leave, which they did.

With Jalissa dead, the party turned to the Lost One underboss, Szagyn. He brokered a deal to help them bring Jalissa back to life and provide them with information in exchange for his life and freedom. They learned:

  • Rufus Crumley has been known to raise the dead. He is a creepy man inhabiting the tallest tower in Shantytown.
  • Szagyn is a Lost One underboss. He was hired to kill the party by an unknown source but he suspects it was Sarshan.
  • Jalissa was collateral damage, the contract was just for the Defenders of Brindol.
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23 -- Escape From Shadowfell
“You are tired, hurt, and covered in beetle goo”, the battlescarred Shadar-Kai noted, “lower your weapons so we can talk.”

The party nodded to each other. Longbreath murmured, “if we can keep our weapons let’s hear what he has to say.”

At that moment the seemingly defunct portal activated and an aging but commanding Shadar-Kai came through. The veteran seemed slightly surprised and reported, “Sir! This is the group partially responsible for the mess in the foundry and in this tower they have burned down the library, slain four loremasters, three guards, one gloomblade, the diplomatic envoy from Graysley, his pet wraith, and our negotiators.”
“And Sir Billingsworth!” called a guard standing over the corpse of a dead giant beetle.

The hooded figure smirked. “You are literally the last people I expected to see here. Nice to see you again, Reness.”
Reness explained that the hooded figure looked similar to the man who gave her the tip where to find Modra.

“I am Sarshan and we have an interesting situation here. On one hand you should be tortured to death for the slaughter you have perpetrated. On the other hand I am in your debt for slaying Modra and foiling his plan to sabotage the foundry. My reputation depends on dealing harshly with enemies and honoring my deals so I have a proposal that will solve this problem. Work for me. Your combat skills are clearly excellent and I could use you. The world where you grew up will soon no longer be a place you would want to live anyway. What do you say? Or would you rather die trying to return to a doomed world?”

“Um, what do you mean by doomed world?”

“Not much more than I have said. Know that I am not the cause of these events, just an opportunist taking advantage of the situation.”

“How long would we have to work for you?”

“Ha! A year should be more than enough time for you to realize your place here. After that time you are free to go where ever you want.”

“We are good and righteous and won’t do evil for you.”

“Oh don’t worry. I won’t ask you to kill babies or torture puppies. There are plenty of monsters and bad people who need slaying.”

“OK, we’ll do it. Where’s the mess hall?”

The party spent a day resting and practicing. During the night Elan burst into flame and vanished. After the bed was put out, she appeared again, barely singed. “That was close but I’ve mastered Fire Shield and Invisibility. I just shouldn’t attempt both spells simultaneously.”

The frequency of tremors continued to increase until a huge tremor and explosion rocket the tower. Guards hurried down to investigate. The party did so also until confronted by the veteran head of the guard in the garden.

“What did you do! What has happened?” He demanded.
“We didn’t do anything. We were here the whole time.”
“You lie. I never trusted you and now it seems I was correct not to do so.” The head guard ordered the other guards rushing by, “kill them!”

Most of the party stood together to fight off the guards. The archers took cover behind trees. Elan ignited herself and stood in the open, daring the guard to approach her flaming body. None did. The veteran was mighty and his panthers worked well with him, but once the panthers died, he was in trouble.

“Guards! I need help here!”

Guards started to flood into the room from the elevator but were quickly slain. They backed off to regroup and charge from the stairs to surround the party. The party took this opportunity to reexamine the portal. Inspired by the sounds of a hundred guards, they removed all safeties and bypasses and stepped through the portal.

The party found themselves in the black temple with the gate back to the World. Two seated guard were startled and jumped up, drawing their weapons. “You.. you shouldn’t be here. Where did you come from?”
“It’s okay. We work for Sarshan. Don’t worry (somebody break that portal behind us).”
“Uh.. but nobody but Sarshan is to use that portal.”
“See! That proves we are here on his authority (I took an activator crystal. That should do it. Now who has the key?)”
“Er.. I don’t know about that. Maybe you should wait here while we get instructions.”
“(found the key! Let’s go!) No thanks. Byebye.”

The party stepped through the gate and felt their insides turning out but made it to the World, if somewhat nauseous. As their vision refocused, they felt a strange chill in their souls. Looking around they saw half a dozen specters come out of the gate…

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22 -- Caught

The party was unsure what to do next. They were tired but didn’t know where to rest. Longbreath looked over the black stone archway. “I recognize some of these symbols. This is definitely a transportation portal. I can activate it but cannot travel through it.”

Elan studied it. “My perspicacious faculties indicate solitary arcanic attunement.”
Biatch said, “Say that in common. We don’t speak snob.”
Elan replied, “Sorry. What I meant to say is, ‘you are a moron’”
“If you are so smart, who ruled the ancient city of Horenton when it burned?” asked Longbreath.
“Vizen the third”
“How many toes does a spotted sloth have?” asked Adren.”
“Three on the front paws, four on the rear, eighteen total”
“Who do you bribe to sail tobacco south from Brindol?” Biatch asked.
“um… A halfling?” Elan answered.
“ah ha! so you don’t know everything!” Biatch chortled.
“wait. 70 years a halfing named Farnsom Broadbottom organized all river transport, legal and otherwise. He never married but he did have mistresses and hid sons undoubtedly took over the trade and passed it down to their sons. Halflings honor their ancestors by taking similar names. I’d wager the river boss is a great grandson of Farnsom named something like “Farny Smokybottom” or “Fanny Broadleaf”.
“hmm.”
“is my assessment accurate?”
“It’s Fansom Soggycheeks”

At this point Donaar started to laugh. This is all very interesting but how do we get out of here? We can’t go back the way we came in. Can you figure out the portal or not?

Everyone looked at the portal. Adren pointed at some symbols saying, “this describes how the portal is attuned. Can you work with that Elan?”
“Perhaps if I was cognizant of the mechanism through which the arcanic energy is channeled.”
“How about these crystals?” Biatch asked, “They have a regular pattern. It’s not obvious at first but if you focus on the smaller ones you can see it.”
“I retract my previous assessment. You are not a moron. Let’s see perhaps if reorganize based on a Platib Series… no.. oh, yes.. a third order Platib Series with some…”
“wait!” Adren ordered as he looked down the shaft. “Crap!” he jumped back and drew his bow as 6 Shadar-Kai guards floated up the shaft and into the room. Following them was a battle-hardened Shadar-Kai with ritual scaring. He had two panthers in tow. Noises of more guards coming from the three staircases could be heard.

The Shadar-Kai ordered the party “Stand down! There is no escape. Lower your weapons and come with me.”

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