Death for Any Price

The Story So Far (Jul 14-April 18)

In the 179th Year of Our Goddess, in the lands of Tyreth…

A Meeting of Like-minded Individuals
The group of adventurers that would come to be known as Norgorber’s Instruments came together in the desert city of Lotani. Each of them were following a rumour that would supposedly lead them to great power or riches. One by one they were approached by a mysterious figure who invited them to meet an individual in the subterranean tunnels and caves known as the Low Places, a black market for all kinds of unusual and precious goods.

When the group came together, E revealed himself to be Emmett, an agent of Norgorber, god of secrets and assassinations. Emmett proposed a deal: in exchange for performing some tasks for him, he would grant each of them rewards beyond their wildest dreams. For their various personal reasons, they agreed to the deal.

The first of their tasks was to obtain the second Book of Hell, an unholy artefact that had recently been acquired by the Lotani Merchant Guild. Despite not having worked together previously, the group was able to infiltrate the Guild warehouse, obtain the Book and retreat temporarily to the desert outside the city. It was there that the Book summoned its guardian, the devil Esveralda, with whom the group did battle so that Toad could claim ownership of the Book. Esveralda was driven off, but not defeated.

Returning to the Low Places to meet with Emmett, they learned that their contact was in fact Norgorber’s avatar on the Material Plane. He gave each adventurer a gift for fulfilling their first task, then instructed the group to meet him in the city of Iomedaea on the 5th of Tora. The group decided that they would stay together until this meeting time, deciding on strength in numbers. Leaving Lotani, their first stop on the journey to Iomedaea was a detour to Dolmar, an abandoned dwarven settlement that was rumoured to have discovered a Ring of Wishes.

The Ring of Wishes
Arriving in Dolmar, the group found that the years had not been kind to the place- the rooms were covered with dust, and the only sign of its inhabitants were skeletons. They would soon discover that ruins had new inhabitants, however, as various undead made their presence known by attacking the party.
Although the party suffered from the attack, they found a large cauldron known as the Cauldron of Goop, an artefact created by a dwarven wizard obsessed with the creation of purely random magical effects. The group’s wizard was able to control the qualities of the cauldron just long enough to create healing potions for those who were injured.

Exploring the rest of the mining complex, they discovered various unpleasant surprises that the dwarves had left for any who would lay claim on their domain including an adamantine-bladed garbage disposal and fireball traps. The group also discovered an animated flaming great axe which singled out a member of the party, chasing them out of the mines. They also discovered a journal belonging to Jarltungstr Dwemen (Jarltungstr being a title given to dwarves who exemplify the virtues that the dwarven race prize.

Further into the mines the party found a vast cavern that housed a gigantic statue of a winged serpent, soaring up into an artificial sky. They also found the sole living inhabitant of the cave, a ratman who called himself Nelod. After quickly dispatching him, the group found that the ring they had sought after was in his possession. The group wizard was tempted by the power it offered, but decided that it couldn’t be that powerful if its previous owner could be defeated. (He might have also thought it was a little bit cursed.)

Continuing on their way, the travellers briefly passed through Myrt, where a little bit of research resulted in them learning that Jarltungstr Dwemen was an authority on divine entities, with more than a passing interest in trying to bind, confine and control the powers of minor entities. They did not linger, however, given the lawful nature of the city.

“Acquiring” Items for Tabody’s Thieves
The next town on the trade route to Iomedaea was Tabody, a trade capital on the edge of the territory belonging to the Khanate of the Aladrim, a fierce and war-like nation of elves. The group decided that they would have some fun, getting in touch with the thieves in town to see if there was any work that needed doing.
The leader of the thieves, Paula Pinlights, said that there was work going, but that the party would have to work for free- she had recognised them as being responsible for the theft in Lotani, and threatened to expose them if they didn’t work for free. Paula was after a collection of magic conch shells that would be auctioned off in a couple of days. A minor noble of House Tavadon was organising the auction as part of a festival that would be held in the nearby Tavadon Halls, and it was up to the party to plan (and carry out) the heist.

After a little bit of reconnaissance (and a good deal of bumbling), Paula provided the group a way in: clown costumes (the group’s barbarian was not amused). After “performing” for the masses, they were able to break into the underground vault, obtaining not only the items that Paula had sent them after but also some items of interest for themselves. Returning to Paula, they were given a note that Emmett had passed on. The note was a list of names and numbers that would prove a puzzle to the group in the weeks and months to come.

The Caves Near Casta
The group took their leave of the town, continuing along the trade road. Hearing various rumours along the road, the group decided to investigate reports of dead sea life and spoiled food near the village of Casta. After questioning the villagers, the group discovered that the source of their problems appeared to stem from a cave nearby. Investigating further, they found that the cave was guarded by a small group of mercenaries.
After neatly dealing with the majority of the mercenaries, they decided to take the sole survivor into their ranks, and explore the inside of the cave. They were surprised to find one of their former compatriots in the cavern, in possession of a strange runed skull. The party weren’t particularly interested in fighting over the item, however, and took off for Casta to claim their reward from the villagers.

On returning to the village, however, they found an enraged devil laying into the townsfolk- the vengeful Esveralda had finally found their trail. Screaming bloody murder the Erinyes bore down on the party’s wizard, who, with naught else to risk, relied on his words to save him. Amazingly, he managed to bewitch Esveralda with his compliments, arranging to meet her later for a date at a quaint village chapel a couple of days ride away.
Once this was arranged, the she-devil returned to the slaughter. With a shrug, the party joined in, killing every last villager in what would be their first action as real villains.

Date with a Devil
After the events at Casta the group rode quickly to the small town of Huxton, where the date was to take place. The party went about securing the chapel, eliminating the small group of paladins who were holding a church service there. Rather than kill the pastor of the church, the group decided to subdue and keep him as an offering for Esveralda.
With the unholy knowledge received from the Books of Hell the group wizard was able to perform the appropriate profane rituals that would satisfy a devil. As such, the date went off without a hitch- a night of gory torture, death and cannibalism. Esveralda left the wizard with a kiss, and the promise of further dalliances.

The group quickly cleaned up the considerable mess and pondered where to go next. They decided to split up- some of the party wished to perform a special morning service for the villagers of Huxton, while the rest wanted to forge ahead to the United Kingdoms’ city of Jebagara. Those who stayed for the service appreciated the skill with which the party sorcerer was able to part the villagers from their coin as “donations for the church”.

A Stop in Jebagara (And a Gnome Named Dusty)
Those who went ahead on the road made good time in their travels. On the way they encountered a gnome adventurer who went by the name of Dusty. Dusty related her tale: she and her fellow mercenaries had been tracking a monster nearby, but her compatriots had been felled by the beast. While the party was largely uninterested in her story, they WERE interested in looting the bodies of the fallen. After killing the monster and a difference in opinions on whether Dusty would receive part of the bounty there was a brief tussle between the party and Dusty. Dusty was able to escape without harm, however.

Arriving in Jebagara the party went to Blackwing Keep to claim the bounty on the monster, only to run into encounter Dusty once more. This time she was accompanied by the head of her guild, Smitty Gorehands. Smitty was less than impressed that the group had tried to kill one of his guild members, but was persuaded to not list a bounty for the adventurers.

Emmett informed the group that Dusty was to join their group (much to their frustration). Reluctant to voice their concerns, the group continued on from Jebagara with their newest member. The party tried to sell a cart and horse that they had obtained in Huxton to a couple of merchants, but Dusty had secretly planted explosives in the cart. The end result was exploded merchants and grain, and another headache for the group as they tried to explain to the authorities that they weren’t responsible.

Entering The City of Heroes
The group would eventually arrive at the Last Rest, the last village and chance for would-be adventurers to misbehave before traveling across the bridge to Iomedaea known as the Scales of Justice. Dusty was lost among the sea of faces (much to the relief of the rest of the party), but the group found that there was a substantial paladin presence in the town, including a screening checkpoint to enter Iomedaea.

Luckily for them, one of the group ran into an old smuggling friend who offered to take them to the island city by boat. After the appropriate amount of coin had changed hands, the party found themselves at an entrance to the city sewers. They were able to make their way through the tunnels without incident, avoiding the sewer patrol and only running into one combat (a bone golem in a necromancer’s lair).

Emerging into the light of day, our plucky adventurers found that no-one noticed anything odd about their appearances- apparently adventurers in the sewers was par for the course. They paid for rooms at the Red Parrot, then split off to explore the parts of the city that interested them. While doing so, they also kept an eye out for any location that might be where they were to meet Emmett (as he had not specified where he would meet them). Eventually they discovered that a toy shop called Emmett’s Emporium was a secret entrance to Norgorber’s personal demiplane (hiding in plain sight, if you will).

After entering the demiplane, the group sat assembled in a boardroom before a manifestation of Norgorber. Also in the room were members of the group who had in one way or another been waylaid or left the main group. Norgorber informed the two groups that they would fight each other for the right to decide which path they would follow: the path of subtlety, or that of might. The PCs won, and chose the path of subtlety- they would carry out missions of stealth and secrecy for the God’s (and their own) benefit.

Having done this, Emmett informed the group they were to perform one last task to prove their devotion to the cause. The party were instructed to obtain certain children from an orphanage in the city and return to the demiplane, where they would be sacrificed for the cause. Emmett then took his leave, leaving the group with something of a moral dilemma (for the non-evil characters, anyway).

Barbarian on the Run (Saad Leaves the Party)
The party’s then-current barbarian had decided that the sacrifice of children was beyond his morals, and did not trust the rest of the group to not kill him if he refused to do as instructed. Taking a few select items from the party’s Handy Haversack, the barbarian silently left the inn at midnight, buying a horse and riding as fast as he could for the mainland.

The rest of the group met up in the morning but did not check Saad’s room (it had a sock and a “do not disturb” sign on the door). Content to wait a couple of hours, the party discussed how they would abduct the children. When it became evident that Saad was no longer on the premises the adventurers raced for the Scales of Justice to try and catch him. Unfortunately for the group, Saad made good his escape by triggering the Cube of Disasters and causing a meteor to strike the bridge. In the upheaval it was impossible for the party to follow Saad; in fact, the group was almost caught by a paladin checkpoint. Most of the group were able to flee except for the party sorcerer, who was eventually able to talk his way out of the situation.

The Champion’s Tourney
After attempting to talk their way into the orphanage (and subsequently being asked to leave) the group decided that they would take part in the Champions’ Tourney, an event being held in honour of the Hand of Iomedae. Each adventurer would prove themselves worthy in the initial melee, taking no serious wounds. They then watched the first round of matches, taking notes on the winners and the strategies they used. The party sorcerer would at this time start his flirtations with the Daughter of Day known as Dawn.

The group won their fight against a group of alchemists and were happy to receive a reward in both coin and a magic item. With a day before their next bout, some of the party did surveillance of the orphanage while others relaxed as they were greeted in the Red Parrot with free drinks and cheers. The party sorcerer, however, was taken for interrogation by a captain of the City Watch, and was not released until the day after (as a consequence for not co-operating).

Their next fight was against the Sublime Sisters, the group of all female paladins. While the party was a little better matched against these foes, they were still able to deal with them quickly and efficiently. With their combat finished the group decided to put into action their plan to take the orphans. Part of the party would act as a distraction for the Daughters of Day who supervised the orphanage by inviting them for tea, while the others would abduct the children. The abduction team took advantage of a seasonal holiday in which the Goddess Iomedae would visit children and give them tokens of regard. One of the group was able to use a Hat of Disguise to appear as the Goddess, and lured their targets quietly out of the orphanage.

The group made haste to return to Emmett’s Emporium with the children, only for the shop to explode. Suitably confused as to why Emmett would destroy his own shop, they eventually discovered another entrance to the demiplane. After patiently waiting in the reception as previously our adventurers were led into a large marble chamber with a raised dais and altar at the centre. Norgorber offered the group a sacrificial knife, and gestured to the children. While most decided to kill his or her child, the party sorcerer refused, reasoning that there must be some element of choice at work. The surviving child was led away into another room.

Norgorber subsequently congratulated the group on a job well done, granting new powers to each adventurer for their loyalty. They were also informed of the importance of the List of Names: each number represented an unusual powerful item or phenomena that is owned by the name next to it. The group’s task (when they’re not otherwise occupied) is to hunt down the owners of these items, kill them, and return the items to Emmett.

Victory and Admission to the Hall of Judgement
The group were able to defeat the dwarf Quarth in the next round, earning their place in the final round of the tournament. Knowing that the winners of the competition would receive their final prize from Solomon, High Priest of Iomedae, the group planned to use that meeting as a chance to kill Solomon and raid the Hall of Judgement (Solomon was one of the names on the List).

Though the Red Judges were by far the most difficult foes the group had faced (save perhaps Quarth, and he had entered the competition alone) the group was able to prevail. The only setback they faced was that one of the evil-aligned members of the group had their true nature revealed, and was forced to flee to the sewers.

Arriving at the Hall of Judgement the group received rewards from the Red Judges’ storehouse. Solomon offered to bless each of them, but was refused for the given reason of “differing ideologies”. While the group was in the Hall the group’s wizard was able to identify that the Third Book of Hell was being held there. Given the large number of Red Judges present, the party decided to return the next morning.

The adventurers were able to find an alternative entrance to the Red Judges’ compound due to the team member who had been forced down to the sewers. They were able to silently make their way into the Hall of Judgement’s depository of dangerous and valuable artefacts. Each of the group liberated certain items that were of interest to them, in particular a book named “The Ten Thousand Paladins”, a pair of dragon bookends, and a lovely set of furniture (two chairs and a table) that appeared to have some being bound in it.

The party was subsequently able to lure Solomon away from the majority of his guards and murder him- their first name crossed off the list. With a rather inventive way to get rid of the body (feeding it to summoned hyenas) the group staged a mock battle so that they could avoid any suspicion.

Time to Leave the Island
The group departed Iomedaea in two parts: those who were able to pass the paladin checkpoints on the Scales of Justice did so, and those who could not rendezvoused with the smuggler’s boat near the sewer entrance. Regrouping at the Last Rest the group were given instructions to visit an old friend of Emmett’s at a villa on Lake Maseron, close to Jebagara.

They were surprised to find a large number of people working on a boardwalk between the east bank of the lake and the island which sat on its centre. As the boardwalk was not yet complete the group was ferried across to island and its villa. Arriving at the villa, they saw that it was an older building but also seemed to be undergoing significant reconstruction and expansion.

Entering the main building, the party would meet the vampire Lord Elias du Pont. Du Pont initially invited them to sit and enjoy an enchanted feast, but withdrew deeper into the villa when the group proved aggressive. Our adventurers would subsequently do what they did best- kill and loot their way through the place, floor by floor.

Vampire Slayers
The group continued deeper into the bowels of the building, navigating their ways past traps and fighting the various monsters and vampire spawn (including one troll). They also found two prisoners who had been captured by Du Pont: one, a half-elf female by the name of Fleur, and the other a dwarf barbarian who would join the party with the intent of getting some revenge.

As the party made their way through the castle’s lower floors the party wizard was contacted by Lord Du
Pont who claimed that Fleur had stolen something of his. In return, he offered assistance in their goals and the ceasing of hostilities. As he had caused the group a great deal of inconvenience they chose to continue killing as many of his minions as possible.

After following the subterranean passages to their end the group found a vast treasure vault. The vault was not unoccupied, however- the supposed thief Fleur was taking a ring from a central pedestal in the room. The party prepared to attack Fleur, but she was able to convince them that she would prove to be a more valuable ally than Lord Du Pont. Furthermore, a few verbal slips revealed that Elias was in fact Fleur’s father and that she was a vampire herself. Fleur found herself frustrated that she would not inherit anything from her father, given his immortal nature, and thus wanted to claim ownership over the villa and its lands. In return for helping to depose Elias she was willing to let the group use the villa as a base for their activities. The party chose to accept this deal, as some of the group were looking forward to confronting Elias and introducing him to mortality.

Going up to the roof of the castle (the final part of the building that remained unexplored) the group found Lord Du Pont waiting calmly. He expressed some disappointment in the group’s choice not to follow through with his deal as well as his intention to turn the group’s wizard into a vampire to be his new heir. No one in the group was particularly keen on this idea, so they decided to kill him/slice him into itty bitty pieces. Du Pont was sent fleeing as a swirling gust of smoke to the northwest where his coffin had been sent by Fleur; while she wasn’t overly fond of her father, she did have some remnant of loyalty to him.
Judgement within a Book’s Covers
After the group took a (much-needed) rest, they set about going through some of the loot they had obtained recently. The group’s sorcerer discovered that the being bound within the set of furniture was able to offer a deal: a person could give up something that they truly valued, and would get something of equal value in return. The sorcerer chose to accept the deal, trading his neutrality for the lands and title of Baron of Hensmouth.

Meanwhile, the group’s wizard worked out how the Third Book of Hell was hidden: when the book “The Ten Thousand Paladins” was placed between the dragon bookends, a portal to a small demi-plane was created. The party found themselves in a facsimile of the land leading up to the Scales of Justice, with the city of Iomedaea beyond it. The major difference, however, was that there was no trace of the Last Rest, and the bridge was guarded by the largest group of Red Judges that they had ever seen.

One of the paladins stepped forward and issued a challenge: should the party wish to enter the city, they would have to defeat a similarly sized force of Red Judges. The group’s barbarian chose to try single combat, fighting admirably against a single paladin but ultimately losing. For his courage he was granted a blessing by the warrior that he fought.

The rest of the party decided to fight together, and put up a good fight. Eventually the group decided to fall back on the smooth-talking of the party’s sorcerer, who convinced the leader of the Judges that they were trying to obtain the Book of Hell so it could be disposed of, and that there must be some other way to prove their worth.

It was at this point that a giant eye coalesced in the sky, focusing on the group. Each adventurer had the uncomfortable sensation that it was peering into their very soul. After a long moment, the eye disappeared and the leader of the Judges told them that they were to be escorted across to the island.

The Tale of the Would-Be Conqueror
As the group crossed the Scales of Justice, their escort regaled them with a tale of Tyreth. A few hundred years ago the red dragon Hastelaseth was born to one of the most powerful dragons on the continent. She was not content to be the lesser, however, and consumed her brothers and sisters for the power she would receive. Fleeing from her father’s wrath at her actions, she crossed the southern sea for the nation of Caelon, where she would learn magic from some of the most powerful (and morally lacking) individuals in the world.

Her hunger for power was not sated there, however- she became obsessed with opening the uppermost chamber in the Black Spire and the power that she believed would be found within. Working alone, she concluded that blood magic (a school of magic that came naturally to dragons) could be used to open the doors. There was only one hitch, however- she would need to tap the life force of the entirety Caelon.

Amassing a following of kobolds and other individuals through bribes, threats and promises of power, Hastelaseth was almost able to achieve her goal. Instead, the regent Rhaz Ahai and several other powerful mages of the Black Spire banded together to stop her. As punishment, Rhaz ripped off Hastelaseth’s wings and banished her permanently from Caelon.

Forced to flee, Hastelaseth was carried by her faithful kobold minions to mainland Tyreth, where she would make new plans to gain the power she believed was rightfully hers. When she surfaced again, she commanded armies; she marched upon the major capitals of Tyreth with the intent to subjugate their inhabitants and use the power of their combined life force to invade Caelon and claim the Black Spire for her own.

Faced with such a powerful enemy the individual cities and nations of Tyreth banded together for the first time in centuries. Humans, dwarves, gnomes and even the elves of the xenophobic Khanate joined the effort to end the threat that Hastelaseth represented. (It should be noted that there were other races that participated in the fight against Hastelaseth, but that they generally joined in the armies of the United Kingdoms.)

The war would be ended by a single individual’s heroic (and horrific) sacrifice. Krazztar, Lord of Vrena, was a man of outstanding character, powerful magicks and a determination to finish the war no matter what. He fought Hastelaseth in the skies above the plains between Kawa and Vrena as the battle raged between the armies below. As the minutes turned into hours and the hours turned to days, Hastelaseth lost her patience, lowering her magical shields so that she might strike with full force against this insignificant human. Sensing this change in her tactics, Krazztar took the opportunity to retaliate.

Hastelaseth’s attack drew the life force from combatants on both sides, syphoning the blood from them (and the power it held) and channelling it directly into Krazztar with the intention of overloading him with blood magic. Simultaneously Krazztar summoned Bigby’s Grasping Hand, and ripped one of Hastelaseth’s eyes from its socket.

With a screech of anger, Hastelaseth fled the field of battle. Krazztar also vanished with an inhuman scream of pain; no-one knows whether he was able to make his way back to Vrena. The real cost, however, was to the armies assembled on the plains: every creature in a 4km radius from the combat died from having the blood drained from them, leaving only hollow husks behind. It would take 25 years before the area would return to its normal state.

Hastelaseth swore to return and enact her vengeance, no matter what gets in her way…

A Deal with Judgement
After their escort finished their tale, the group found themselves inside the Hall of Judgement once more. A figure awaited them with an appearance that seemed to change based on who it was addressing. The entity introduced itself as Judgement, one of Iomedae’s most powerful servants in the battle against evil. It had served its purpose in protecting the Third Book of Hell for over a thousand years, but had become aware that a greater threat was returning: Hastelaseth was back.

While Judgement wasn’t inclined to let them leave due to past crimes (in some cases punishing individual adventurers for their acts) the entity was unable to leave the book on its own. In return for releasing it, Judgement would allow the party to take the Book of Hell and would not render further judgement until Hastelaseth was dealt with. The group tentatively accepted the deal, and were whisked out of the demiplane and back to the Du Pont villa. Deciding to stick to their end of the bargain, the group destroyed the book that contained Judgement was destroyed, and a powerful force for good entered the world once more.

Transitions
The party was surprised to be met by Emmett, who (for once) was brutally honest about how events had developed. Hastelaseth had indeed returned, and had somehow subverted a prophecy that would lead to her defeat: the prophesied heroes lay dead at her hand. Emmett had organised an emergency meeting between the various rulers of the races to deal with the crisis. Norgorber was none too pleased at the potential disruption of society that Hastelaseth’s rise represented, and planned to volunteer the group as the next set of adventurers to solve the problem. They might even be… heroes?

When the various groups arrived at the villa, it was easy to see that recent years had spurred on old grievances rather than setting them aside. The Khanate wanted complete and utter control of the combined armed forces, while the other nations strongly opposed such action. The party worked hard to convince all involved that Hastelaseth was an equal threat to all, and that they would need to work together, not against each other.

The conference was interrupted by the appearance of what appeared to be several heavily armed dragonborn. They attacked the leaders of the various groups but were dealt with by the party. Through the battle and after the dust had settled the group made some unfortunate discoveries. Firstly, these dragonborn were in fact kobolds in mechanical exo-suits that significantly increased their strength and speed. Secondly, these suits could be detonated at will by Hastelaseth, who seemed able to see through the exosuits.

With the danger of Hastelaseth once again made clear, the representatives grudgingly put aside their differences, promising to lend aid wherever Hastelaseth’s forces threatened Tyreth. While almost all the representatives subsequently left to their homelands to begin readying for war, one chose to stay. Sister Dawn of Iomedaea informed the group that the Goddess Herself appeared to Dawn in her dreams, saying that Dawn should join the group in their efforts. The party were a little wary of her offer, but she seemed genuine.

Travel Plans
Thinking for a while on what their next move should be, they decided on what seemed like the most efficient path. They would pass through the barony of Hensmouth (which the party’s sorcerer had “inherited”), stop at the Tower of Beshelor to consult the gold dragon Balthazar on how they might be able to protect themselves (and others) from blood magic then continue into Khanate territory to meet the Khan (the party sorcerer had received a personal invitation).

The group stopped briefly at Jebagara to purchase a cart, horses and enough supplies to pass as a merchant. The party’s sorcerer ended up picking up a small package for delivery to someone’s grandmother in Catania in return for a discount on the horses. He inevitably became curious and tried to open the package, poisoning himself on the intricate mechanism.

The party travelled without running into any fights, but nightmares awaited them when they slept. In particular Hastelaseth seemed to claim some bond on the sorcerer, delighting in making his dreams literal nightmares. They eventually arrived in Hensmouth, a delightful little town off the coast. Most of the group were a little disturbed by just how perfect everything was, while others took advantage of being friends of the new Baron. The adventurers would eventually discover that (as they thought) this village had a secret- everyone was a were-animal of varying nature. To complete the process of becoming the Baron (or Chieftain) the sorcerer had to defeat the tribe’s strongest fighter. As the party’s barbarian had defeated said fighter hours earlier, the two party members were pitted against each other. Although in their altered states (the sorcerer became half dragon) they were a reasonably fair match for each other. In the end the sorcerer won through treachery, and the barbarian earned a few new scars to his face. After the fight the sorcerer was confronted by the shaman about his treachery, and warned that if he brought evil upon the barony that the shaman would put him down personally.

More About Dragons
After being appropriately re-provisioned the group set out for Beshelor’s Tower, the home of the ancient gold dragon Balthazar. The tower was in a state of moderate disrepair but the magic that made the rooms bigger on the inside seemed to be holding the odd building together. Progressing through the tower and finding various oddities including a silver goat’s skull inside a summoning circle (they released the summoned being from the circle), a ruby dragon claw and a golem made of balor parts called Bob.

When they eventually made their way to the top of the tower, they found that they were too late- Hastelaseth was in the process of ripping out Balthazar’s heart and devouring it. They were able to glean some useful information from the dragon before he passed away, however. Balthazar was able to improve their mental defences so that they would no longer be prey to Hastelaseth’s attacks in their dreams. He also informed the group that dragons acted as magical batteries. Over the course of their lifetimes dragons would absorb ambient magic, storing it primarily in a gland within the dragon or in other major bodily organs (usually chosen by the dragon). These organs could continue to serve this function past the dragon’s death, making them particularly valuable to those who could consume the organs without dying.

Khanate Politics
Armed with better knowledge, the party continued into elven territory. They stopped for a while in the central town of House Istel, best known for their fine craftsmanship of weapons, particularly bows. The party’s ranger took on the famous Istel archery challenge, winning a legendary bow that had previously belonged to the ranger who trained him.

Arriving in Aert Trannen, the capital of the nation, they were met with a warm reception by the Khan. It wasn’t long before the party found themselves embroiled in politics (which, for the Khanate, means assassinations, spying and allying with the right Houses at the right times). The Khan requested that they speak with the Heads of the Great Houses to ascertain where this treachery might be stemming from.

After some excellent detective work the group found that one of the Heads of Houses had been enchanted to incriminate another. The party was forced to fight off a group of elven assassins in false House colours that attempted to assassinate the Khan. The group was convinced that the cause of all this was a lesser noble of House Kaelara by the name of Elenya, but had no way to tie her to Hastelaseth. For all intents and purposes it seemed that Elenya had lived a relatively normal life, save for her significant wizardry. Regardless, the group was knighted for their service and allowed to receive a boon from a Great House of their choice.

Dearly Departed
The party ranger was informed by a House Aecoma contact that the grave where he had buried his mentor had been disturbed. As the group was close to the area, they decided to check out the matter. Not having fond memories of the inn where he grew up, the ranger thought he’d have a head to head with the innkeeper that used to abuse him. It turned out that the innkeeper was actually part of a cult of necromancers (albeit a lowly member) and it was he who had suggested that the body be… recycled. Incensed, the ranger killed the innkeeper, and gave ownership of the inn to his mother.

Whimsical Inventions
Having dealt with the threat to the stability of the Khanate throne, the group decided to take a detour into the gnomish conglomerate of Gyntuckets to see whether they could find who was manufacturing the kobold exo-suits. On the road to Tinpaktu (the capital) the group found various amusing developments by the gnomes including pop-up Suggestion Boxes, a Huge mythril stealth golem and other devices that had applications varying from geoscience to mechanics.

The group hoped to find whether anyone had filed a patent at the Hall of Knowledge in Tinpaktu for exo-suits (or similar technology). Failing to do so, they instead decided to see if they could find any additional information about dragons. They were able to discover that the ruby dragon claw they had found in Beshelor’s Tower could be merged with an appropriately prepared orb to become an Orb of Dragonkind.

Unfortunately their enemies had anticipated them- the Champion of the Balance, Galahad, teleported into the chamber and set everything in sight on fire. By the time the fire services had arrived most of the lore on dragons was irreparably damaged. Not only that, but the battle had been difficult- most of the group had been laid low by Galahad.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves.
After their defeat at Galahad’s hands the group decided it was time to get serious (and lethal) with their villains. They knew that Hastelaseth had used a Jabberwock in her previous campaign, and that there were rumours that a creature matching that description in the nearby Arboron Forest. Ready to go Jabberwock hunting, the group paid for a druid to guide them to the last known location of the beast. As they progressed through the forest their guide remarked to them that an enclave of necromancers had been defiling sacred groves within the forest, presumably to create a network of necrotic energy to draw from.

Their guide didn’t get the chance to elaborate, however, as the Jabberwock soon made its presence known. The battle wasn’t easy, but the adventurers were able to triumph. They chopped off its head and removed the vocal chords (in case they could be used in a weapon) and went back to the closest gnome village to claim the bounty with the beast’s head as proof.

The Ruins of Mal Finus
The party returned to the forest with the intention of killing every single last one of them (and obtaining a special robe for the party’s sorcerer). Unfortunately for the adventurers there were two exceptional individuals in the cult: the lead cultist and a hulking half-orc that wielded a blade that pulsed with blood magic.

It was against these opponents that the group suffered their first loss of a party member. The party wizard was brought to his knees, and the devil Esveralda came to collect his body and soul. The necromancers teleported away, leaving the group frustrated and eager to get revenge. Searching the building for any trace of their foes they found a secret passage that would lead below the ruins. Now all that needs doing is finding the necromancers and eliminating them with extreme prejudice.

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Session 28: Du Pont Deposed
GM Notes

PCs: Markas, Xeal, Toad, Vanir
Ring of NPC: Urisk, Queen of Spades
Tuesday, 13th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

Entering into the treasure vault, the group was met with the glorious sight of. . . well, treasure. Piles of gold, precious jewels and chests that no doubt had all sorts of interesting things within them. What was of most interest to them, however, was the sight of Fleur taking a small but beautiful ring from a pedestal in the center of the room.

Although the group’s first instinct was to charge in and murder her as quickly as possible, Fleur was able to persuade them that it was in their best interests to hold off on that from the time being. She offered to let the group have their pick of the best loot in the vault and let them go without a fight, as long as they a) left her to her own devices and b) got rid of Du Pont. It was revealed through a few verbal slips on Fleur’s behalf that Elias was in fact Fleur’s father, and Fleur was a vampire herself. She
TBC

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Session 27: From Flesh to Dust
GM Notes

PCs: Markas, Queen of Spades, Toad, Urisk, Vanir
Ring of NPC: Xeal
Tuesday, 13th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The night passed without anything going amiss, and the group woke up feeling rested and ready to face a new day, vampires or not. Toad was delivered back to them as a cloud of smoke, carrying news from Du Pont. Apparently Du Pont wanted something back from a thief, a thief whose description matched that of the woman they had rescued some time earlier. Toad agreed to this act, noting that the vampire lord was treating him with respect, and had chosen him above the others to speak to.

After having told the party his tale, Toad received mixed responses. Some were of the opinion that the vampires needed to be eliminated for the inconvenience they had caused the party, while others thought that taking Du Pont’s offer was a good idea- he was, after all, a powerful vampire, and potentially a powerful ally. It eventually came down to one thing, as most of the group’s murder sprees did- who was on the List. As it turned out, Fleur’s name was found next to a single number (but a number nonetheless). With this in mind, the group decided they would avoid killing vampires unless absolutely necessary, kill Fleur and get the item, and deal with Du Pont another day.

They left the safety of the room and ventured back into the main corridor. Urisk’s mind was immediately assaulted by Alessandra’s psychic grip upon doing so, and he led the charge into a side room where he was promptly assaulted by two other vampires. These proved to be weaker members of the court, however, and the group was able to quickly dispatch these opponents.
The party was then confronted by a much displeased Alessandra, infuriated that the group had smashed her laboratory equipment. While she did some significant damage to some of the melee members of the group, Markas mercilessly thrashed the life from the vampire lady with his adamantine flail. After a few sharp blows, all that was left was an ashen outline on the manor floor and a small golden locket.

With their initial plan officially derailed, the group were still determined to find and kill Fleur, and so proceeded down to the lower levels of the manor and into the vault.

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Session 26: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
GM Notes

PCs: Xeal, Markas, Queen of Spades
Ring of NPC: Toad, Urisk, Vanir
Tuesday, 12th-13th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The group burst through the wall in a shower of rubble and dust. The vampire stopped, needle -like teeth centimeters from Urisk’s throat as she took in the group assembled against her. Weighing up her options, she opted for heaving Urisk into the capsule occupying the main space in the room, then taking a step back and eyeing the group warily.

Taking in the room, the group saw it was quite small but comfortably furnished. There were velvet curtains draping the wall, and a coffin standing ajar directly opposite the door. The most interesting features of the room were the capsule that Urisk had just been placed in and a small altar. The capsule was similar to a humanoid sized stone sarcophagus, save that it had a glass lid. Attached to the inside of the glass lid were a variety of needles (which were now placed dangerously close to Urisk) that fed out through tubes to assorted flasks, as well as a large metal keg. The altar was a humble affair, but Xeal and QoS were quickly able to identify it and its religious symbols as belonging to Lamashtu.

The party had obvious reason to believe something was up, but opted for diplomacy over an outright attack. Through their short verbal exchange they learned that the vampire’s name was Alessandra, and that she claimed she was working on a process that would create a super vampire. She claimed that Urisk was to be a test subject for this, and would be returned to the group without any harm. Despite the group’s automatic distrust of her, her sly words convinced them, and they chose to leave Urisk in Alessandra’s clutches. Markas was not as easily convinced, and opted to stay and watch the procedure. As soon as the others were out of sight, however, Alessandra quickly set about bending Markas to her will, and under her telepathic onslaught even the dwarf’s mighty mental resistances were overcome, leaving two of the party’s members at the vampire’s mercy.

In the meantime, Xeal and QoS cautiously ventured down the corridor where they had left off. QoS’ sharp senses alerted her to the presence of a set of swinging axe blades. With Urisk still in the clutches of Alessandra, the two had to depend on QoS’ abilities with traps. Sadly at this particular time those skills were lacking, with the blades moving in deadly arcs, cutting into QoS before she could dodge back. After two consecutive failures with the axes QoS opted to dodge between them before they reset, leaving Xeal on the other side.

Given that they were separated at this point, QoS ducked into the shadows before the next door, ensuring that she would enter as stealthily as possible. Opening the door just a crack to see into the gloom within, QoS saw two coffins placed centrally in the room. Given the group’s luck with rooms with coffins, she quickly closed the door and backed up to regroup with Xeal.

One set of axe swings later and the group was together once again (albeit somewhat diminished). By this stage the group had decided that they were very much lacking in strength, and needed a rest before Du Pont threw any other challenges at them. It was then that they walked past the concealed entrance to Alessandra’s room and QoS felt a prickling on the back of her neck- a deep sense that something was wrong. Taking initiative and charging in, QoS found Alessandra feasting on Markas’ blood. QoS quickly put a stop to this by changing to her combative form and slashing away. While this did distract Alessandra, it also drew her ire, with the vampire striking at QoS with necrotic energy.
Xeal tried his best to join in the combat, but with few spells left to his daily limit he was forced to send Alan forth to do battle in his stead. Even with the full might of the party (minus Toad) the fight did not seem to be going in the group’s favour- the magic that Alessandra wielded alongside her unnatural vampiric abilities seemed more than a match for them. Only Xeal’s scorching rays eventually dissuaded her from continuing the fight, fleeing through the broken wall in the form of a cloud of mist.

Thoroughly exhausted, the group decided to use this as an opportunity to rest and regroup. Quickly reviewing what they knew about vampires, the group quickly sealed up the cracks in the hidden door with what silver they had on hand, then strung up the holy robes that Xeal had bought in Iomedaea over the entrance to Alessandra’s lab. They smashed the more delicate instruments and flasks connected to the capsule, reasoning that whatever purpose it had ran counter to their survival. The altar to Lamashtu they left alone, reasoning that they didn’t need to potentially earn the enmity of another god.

And so the group settles down for a restless night’s sleep, unsure of whether their wards are suitable for lasting the night. . .

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Session 25: On the Subject of Vampires and How to Kill Them
GM Notes

PCs: Xeal, Markas, Urisk, Vanir, Queen of Spades
Ring of NPC: Toad
Monday, 12th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The group had been a little roughed up by their encounter with Gronk but were still determined to take anything that this vampire lord could throw at them. They decided to quickly double back and find the rest of the gang before going further, reasoning that it wouldn’t hurt to have the extra manpower. In the meantime, Urisk, QoS and Vanir had made it out of the pit trap by way of a hidden door and had started following the same path as the others. The group rejoined as Urisk & co. were having difficulty with one of the puzzles, the other group opening the door to the next room just as their frustration was mounting.

With everyone back together the group went to investigate the miniature arena in which they had fought Gronk. While the sandy arena itself yielded no items of interest, they discovered two rooms that were adjacent to the arena.

The first was behind the wall that Gronk had burst through- those with a sharp eye for detail noted that it was an incredibly neat break in the wall, and those with a knack for engineering nothing that it had been rigged to break apart and reassembled easily. Stepping over the rubble they looked into a roughly hewn but large-ish room, with a troll sized coffin in the centre of the room and some animal carcasses in the corner. The group put two and two together and made the reasonable assumption that Gronk was now resting within, restoring health and still being a potential source of trouble for the party. The general concensus was that he should be exterminated with extreme prejudice, which brought up the question of how much the party actually knew about vampires. Casting their minds back to when they each had first heard of vampires, most of the party remembered that you could kill vampires with a stake when it was helpless, but that to finish it you would need holy water- not a commodity that was easy for the group to procure.
There were, however, multiple glowing runes carved into the coffin which interested Xeal. Casting detect magic on them, he was alarmed to find that they had a very strong evocation aura attached to them, and backed out of the room very quickly. The rest of the group soon followed suit upon asking him what was the matter, and took a second cautious look at the coffin from a distance. After determining that the runes were probably activated by contact, Vanir decided that he would try to fire some arrows to disturb (and thereby activate) the runes. While it was a good idea in theory, the arrows merely skittered off the stone surface and faded into the darkness. While the party wasn’t enthused at the idea of leaving a potentially deadly enemy behind them, they also didn’t want to be blown up (I believe Urisk rolled a nat 1, making disarming the trap difficult, if not impossible).

Leaving the first room, the group went to investigate the second room, found by listening for the wind coming through gaps in the wall. After entering through the false wall the group found a small armory with sets of ceremonial plate resting on stands in the corners of the room. The most interesting feature of the room was a beautiful mural on the ceiling of Lord Du Pont astride a chestnut stallion. Naturally the group looted the most expensive looking armour, then left the room.

Having exhausted all avenues to proceed further, the group retraced their steps back to where they had chosen to take the right fork. Choosing instead to take the left path, the group were treading warily on the off-chance of a bone box being present. While there were no immediate traps, keen eyes spotted two concealed passages. The party chose to go left this time, which led to a sealed room.
Urisk stepped forward to trigger the door mechanism, but the wall slid open without prompting. Furthermore, he felt a force grip his mind and beckon him to enter. As he did so, the wall closed behind him, leaving his puzzled comrades behind. He was not alone, however- stepping out of a velvet lined coffin was a lady vampire, who wasted no time in quickly draining as much blood from him as she could.

Realising that something was wrong, the more brawny members of the party rushed the wall en masse. Through their combined efforts the old bricks and mortar exploded inwards, revealing the vampire and her half-finished meal.

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Session 24: All Vampires, Big and Small
GM Notes

PCs: Toad, Xeal, Markas
Ring of NPC: Vanir, Urisk, Queen of Spades
Guest PC: Fleur (Claire)
Monday, 12th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The cover of the pit slid smoothly shut, separating Xeal and Vanir from the others. While Vanir tended to his critically injured leopard, Xeal quickly used a Message spell to see if Urisk was able to trigger the trap to open the pit again. After a few moments he was answered by the satisfying click and whirring of the mechanism as the pit opened up once more (but with no-one falling in this time). A rope was lowered down into the pit, and Xeal made to climb out of the pit first. In his haste he didn’t grab the rope as securely as he could have, tumbling back into the pit. He was much more careful the second time, though, and made it up the rope successfully.

With the group now reunited the next priority was to check the hall for anything they might have missed. With the chandelier no longer lighting the room Toad summoned some Dancing Lights so that the party could better assess their surroundings. The long wooden table had been flipped in the battle with the crystal golem, wrecking the sumptuous feast that had previously been laid out before them. Toad and Xeal took the time to examine the shards of crystal and appraise them (Toad being more successful in doing so). Each of the large chunks they had found were worth roughly 50gp each, but also had the more interesting quality of being from the elemental plane of Earth. Toad discerned that they would work well as arcane focuses and decided to pocket some of the larger chunks (with Xeal following suit).

Although the room had not been fully pillaged the group decided to prioritise finding and killing Du Pont so that they could claim the manor as theirs. Having been discouraged from going to the upper levels, the group decided to try their luck with the lower levels. Urisk and QoS went first, striding in confidently with the knowledge that there were no traps- only to be dropped into a pit and be cut off from the others. Recognising that Urisk had a pretty good chance of getting out of there by himself, Toad and Xeal decided to head down the stairs, carefully skirting around the edge of the pit.

In the next room they were greeted by the sight of two prisoners chained to stone pillars. Both were garbed in basic homespun robes and securely fastened to each pillar. One was a lithe, attractive half-elf woman and the other was a well-built but somewhat wiry dwarf. Upon realising the party were not vampires, both clamoured to be released from their bonds. The party were their normal paranoid selves, of course, and huddled in a corner to discuss which of the prisoners was likely to be a trap. With not enough info to go on, they reluctantly freed both of the prisoners. This turned out to be advantageous as Fleur was not only a rogue, but had navigated her way past many of the traps before she was caught.

As they were releasing the prisoners from their bonds, Xeal put on his most winning smile and tried to charm Fleur. However, something must have disagreed with his stomach because as soon as words started leaving his mouth the contents of his stomach followed suit (natural 1). While Fleur avoided the worst of it, she hasn’t deigned to respond directly to Xeal since.

With Fleur’s help the group quickly made their way past a variety of traps. Following the corridor to their right led to a small arena built into the rocky walls. Although the group smelled a trap from the start, they still chose to go forwards. As Toad stepped into the amphiteatre (going as close to last as possible, as usual) a portcullis slid shut behind him, separating Fleur from the rest of the group. Torches around the room flared into life, illuminating the pallid faces of Elias’ vampire court. Elias stood from his massive stone throne to greet the group and congratulate them on making it this far.

Du Pont spoke for a little while about the nature of vampires, and the nature of the curse (or blessing). It was in doing this that the group were introduced to Gronk the vampire troll, the culmination of Du Pont’s siring programs.
The battle against Gronk was brutal but quick, and after a combination of fire, roiling water and hacking blades Gronk disappeared into the air, a ghostly laugh on the wind. Elias looked at the group with the beginnings of respect. He challenged them to continue on their exploration of the manor, with the promise to challenge them once more at some point soon…

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Session 23: I Roll to Check for Treasure
GM Notes

PCs: Toad, Xeal, Urisk, Vanir
Ring of NPC: Queen of Spades
Monday, 12th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The group took a moment to take in the large well-lit space that was the dining hall. There were between ten and fifteen villagers dining at the long wooden table, with the throne that Du Pont had recently vacated at the far end. Both the throne and table seemed to be reasonably humble affairs, carved from large logs and fitted together to form more complex structures. The most eye-catching thing in the hall by far was a large crystal chandelier, with crystals ranging from clear quartz to deepest amethyst. It was, however, beyond the reach of any in the group, so they decided to leave it be (for the time being).

To the sides of the hall were two painting galleries, with seats to sit and admire the paintings. The paintings were of exceptional standards, the actual paintings appearing to be almost emerging from the frames. The frames were also high quality, fine oak with gold trimmings. The paintings seemed to be mostly portraits, tracing the Du Pont family line through history. The most recent painting was dated about 400 years ago, and showed Du Pont with an elven partner and a young daughter.

Of more interest to the party were two display cases behind the throne (2x nat20s on Perception). One of these was identified by Toad to be a Lesser Oathbow, and the other was a [can’t remember what it was]. They very carefully inspected the cases for traps and found both magical and mundane systems intended for murder. However they were able to disable the traps and grab their new loot without a single hitch.

As the group were buoyed up by their little triumphs, the chandelier suddenly broke free from its securing chains and crashed to the ground over the party. Shards of the crystals started whirling around in the air, slowly coming together to form a golem. The crystal golem put up a good fight against the group but was no match for the team’s might. As the last blow was dealt the golem exploded, shards of crystal driving deep into anything within range.

After the group had suitably recovered, they decided it was time to leave this room for the next. The party chose to go upstairs with Urisk in the lead to detect traps. Upon reaching the top floor, however, a phantom skull came screaming at the group, turning the stairs they were on into a chute heading straight for a pit of spikes! While most of the party managed to jump in time to avoid the pit, Vanir and Xeal fell straight in, with the trapdoor quickly shutting above them
TBC

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Session 22: An Invitation to Dinner
GM Notes

PCs: Toad, Queen of Spades, Xeal, Urisk, Vanir
Ring of NPC: Nada
Tuesday-Monday, 6th-12th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

After having finished off Solomon and his guards the group had the significantly more easy task of disposing of the bodies- Toad summoned hyenas and crocodiles to devour the remains, with QoS using acid to dissolve what little remained. They then used what time they had to fake the evidence of a fight between QoS and the others so that the Red Judges would not have any reason to suspect them of any wrongdoing. QoS then blew a hole through the roof and split off from the others, aiming to lead the Red Judges’ attention elsewhere.

While this excitement was going on, Amos’ ship sailed into the hidden harbour at the entrance to the city’s sewers. This was not manned by Amos, but by a ranger named Vanir Fistmele who had come into Amos’ employ by Sasha’s recommendation. Furthermore, he had received advance payment to join the group that he was to pick up and keep an eye on them from a mysterious cloaked figure. At this point, however, his patience was wearing thin as there had not yet been any sign of the group.

Fleeing from the Red Judges, QoS made good use of her invisibility and returned to the (relative) safety of the sewers. As she was making her way back to the rendezvous point, she felt the very slightest of pulls from within the bowels of the sewer. Backtracking a little she found an off-shoot of a tunnel that had resulted in a cave-in, and protruding from it was a skeletal arm holding a box. Ignoring the danger that this presented, QoS stepped forward to take the box, and was instantly assaulted by a crashing of rocks as the tunnel behind her collapsed.

The rest of the group had in the meantime convinced the Red Judges that they needed to go after the perpetrators of these vile acts at once, and left with all the haste they could muster. Those who were able to clear the Detect Evil checks left the city via the Scales of Justice, while those who were not left for the sewer rendezvous.

Upon realising that QoS hadn’t made it to the rendezvous, Vanir began searching the nearby tunnels for her (as he wouldn’t receive full pay without retrieving every member of the group). By chance (and by QoS’s efforts to be heard) Vanir was able to find the tunnel and dig enough of the rubble out that QoS could be retrieved.

When all the group had gathered the ship set off for the Last Rest at a fast clip. QoS took the opportunity to discover what was in the box, and was aghast to find that it was a Deck of Many Things. While various members of the group had different levels of knowledge about the Deck, the major consensus was to leave it the hell alone (or perhaps sell it to someone who might be interested).

Arriving at the Rest they were greeted by Amos with a message from Emmett. Their new instructions directed the group to an old villa on Lake Maseron. Emmett had written that the villa belonged to an old friend of his, and that the castle in the centre of the villa would work as an excellent base of operations should his friend be willing to let them stay there. The message also recommended that the group include Vanir in their adventures, though left his reasons for doing so unexplained.

They departed the Last Rest with all due haste, not waiting around to potentially have any Red Judges discover what had actually taken place. With Toad providing magical mounts the group made good time on the trade road between the Rest and Jebagara. They deliberately chose to avoid Jebagara and the political instability brewing between the Eastern Kingdom and the Khanate, instead heading straight to Lake Maseron.
The party was surprised to find a not insignificant number of people building a boardwalk between the shore and the villa in the center of the lake. The workers seemed to be unusually fixated on their work, but gave cheerful responses when spoken to. Upon asking if there was any way of getting across to the villa the group were directed to a barge being manned by a cheerful young man named Samson. Samson offered to take them across for a few coppers each, saying that they were expected by the Master.

One boat ride later and the group stood in the midst of a villa under reconstruction. The more observant members of the group could discern the building work as being quite recent, with a number of outbuildings seeming to be entirely new buildings started in the past weeks. The party were most interested in the main building, however, a hulking structure that was part castle and part mansion.

Upon entering the mansion it was as if the group had been transported into a completely different building- the crumbling bastions of outside had been replaced by neat brickwork, the dull lights of lamps were replaced with the bright flames of braziers and various decorations hung from the walls to breathe life into the place. The party proceeded with caution into the main hall, where a feast was spread out before them. A group of villagers were stuffing themselves with little regard to the presence of the party, but the man at the head of the table was very much interested in them.

The man introduced himself as Lord Elias Du Pont, and invited the group to have a seat at the table. The group politely declined, and he “requested” again that they take a seat and eat. Given the magical emphasis behind his words, most of the group recognised that they were being manipulated and made to draw weapons. Du Pont chose not to directly challenge the group, however, turning into a cloud of mist and vanishing, a chilling laugh the only reminder that he had been there just seconds ago.

The portcullis then slammed down behind the group, leaving the group with no choice but to further explore the manor and hunt down the vampire Du Pont…

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Session 21: Vault Plunderers and Priest Killers
GM Notes

PCs: Toad, Queen of Spades, Xeal
Ring of NPC: Ms Terspungecake, Urisk
Tuesday, 6th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

The night passed uneventfully for the group with the majority continuing their stay at the Red Parrot and QoS staying in the warehouse that Emmett had provided for them. While waiting for the others to meet her in the morning QoS took another look around the warehouse. Her search yielded rations, a basic survival kit as well as a set of glamered robes, the last of which she was very happy to find. A closer inspection of the crate that she found these items in yielded a similar traces of magical energy similar to those generated when the party moved between the Material Plane and Norgorber’s pocket dimension. Reasoning that this was probably a safe house for any of Emmett’s agents passing through, QoS decided to only take what she needed.

The party regrouped at the warehouse in the morning after having made the decision to break into the Judges’ Vault as a party. The group took the route through the sewers with QoS leading the way. They didn’t run into the gelatinous cube that had previously been acquainted with QoS but did have to cautiously make their way around two paladins in the lower chamber. One of the paladins appeared to be praying to the gauntlet down in the depths of the water while the other appeared to be on guard (likely as a result of QoS’s antics.

Using the rungs from the wall and the ceiling the group stealthily made their way up the chute and into the Hall of Judgement. The others gathered around Urisk as he concentrated on disabling the locks and wards on the basement access to the Vault. Eventually he was successful, and the group stepped into a dark and dusty room lined with artifacts and magical items.

The Vault proved to be far larger than expected, with eight large subterranean rooms in addition to the room above ground for our villains to peruse. Luckily they were able to come across an inventory list for each room indicating what some of the more significant items were. Items taken from the vault included:

  • A bag of holding Type III identified by Toad
  • A sack (incorrectly identified by Xeal as a Bag of Holding Type III)
  • A small fist sized black cube identified by Xeal as an Instant Fortress (but later identified by Toad as a key to the Astral Plane)
  • A hat of disguise identified by QoS
  • An adamantine rapier studded with diamonds appraised by Urisk
  • A set of red lenses owned by the leader of a powerful cult some 300 years ago
  • A monkey’s paw, identified by Toad
    (I believe I may have forgotten some items, please tell me if I forgot anything)

Toad remained focused on finding the most important item(for him): the third Book of Hell. Following his imp’s directions he quickly found a large, leather-bound tome pulsing with infernal energies- but it wasn’t the Book of Hell. The book was entitled “The Ten Thousand Paladins” and detailed how the paladins protected the Book of Hell from any who might take it. Alongside the book was a pair of bookends in the shape of dragons that the group determined were linked to the book- the party decided to err on the side of caution and pocket both book and bookends.

In the meantime Xeal was drawn to an attractive set of furniture (two chairs and a table) that were in chains. The magic in them was particularly strong, and prompted the group to set up the table for a conversation, with Xeal sitting down in the plain chair. As he did so, an amazingly beautiful woman in a seductive red dress appeared in the opposite chair and offered him a deal of power for the loss of his looks. Xeal tried to bargain down, but the entity seemed unmoved by his lesser offers of trade. Given that they were beginning to grow short on time before they were potentially discovered, the group opted to stuff the furniture into the Bag of Holding.

Eventually the party decided that they’d risked being in the Vault long enough and retreated via the path they’d come in. Going back to the warehouse, the group decided to wait there until Solomon’s speech. When the time for the speech came they left for Foi, arriving just in time for Emmett’s distraction- two of the audience members being horrifically polymorphed into demons. With the Red Judges scrambling to take care of the situation, the group lured Solomon and his personal guard into the warehouse under the pretense of taking him to a safe location. Then, when the moment was right, the group struck, disabling Solomon and his guards with a dazing aqueous orb and finishing them off with deadly strikes from the Queen of Spades.

The party has officially crossed their first name off the list- what new adventures await them now?

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Session 20: Some Call It a Curse, Some Call It a Blessing
GM Notes

PCs: Toad, Queen of Spades, Urisk
Ring of NPC: Xeal, Ms Terspungecake
Monday, 5th of Nethysta, 179th Year of the Goddess

While the majority of the party was being victoriously paraded through the streets of Iomedaea Queen of Spades was doing her best to make good her escape from the tournament grounds. Knowing that both her guise as Garny and her outsider appearance were compromised, QoS took to the sewers to avoid her pursuers. Her invisibility gave her a significant advantage against those hunting for her, letting her lose them with ease.

That was not the end of her problems, however, as the group had not designated a meeting spot if things were to go pear-shaped. QoS reasoned that the next best course of action was to go investigate the underground access to Jugement that Toad had discovered, since she was already down in the sewers. Her hope was that the rest of the group would eventually make their way down there to infiltrate the Hall of Judgement.

QoS made slow progress through the cavernous tunnels that made up the sewer system without a map to rely on. Using her limited knowledge of stonework she was able to recognise that there were three types of stonework that were present in the construction of the sewers: brick and mortar (human construction), dwarven granite and large granite boulders. By following the areas that were made of the latter two and marking her passage on the walls, she was eventually able to find a dwarven-made passage that sloped downwards.

Proceeding with caution (as all competent adventurers should) she realised that the corridor ahead seemed unnaturally clean, being bare of any sewer muck or even molds or lichen. Choosing to hang back a little, she was soon met by a gelatinous cube slowly squelching its way towards her. Seeing that the cube took up the whole corridor, QoS backtracked a little to see if the cube would follower her. It did so, and for its efforts received an acid splash to its. . . face? Faced with prey that would put up more of a fight than sewer scum sent the cube fleeing in the other direction, and allowed QoS to resume her previous path.

As she continued to wander the winding sewer tunnels her keen senses let her know that someone was attempting to sneak up on her. Readying a spell, she spun around to confront Steve Moncrieff. Steve was quick to recognise QoS and was able to let loose a few arrows despite QoS casting Hold Person on him. Unwilling to risk a potentially deadly confrontation, QoS turned invisible and fled from the ranger.

She eventually stumbled upon the chamber that she’d been searching for: a wide, domed space where the water from the tunnels ran down into a central pool. Strangely enough the water was crystal clear, to the extent that QoS could see a single silver gauntlet at the bottom. There were also three giant chains that led from the walls into the pool- a quick use of detect magic allowed QoS to ascertain that these chains were intended to move somehow.
The main feature of the room that QoS was interested in, however, was the view of the sky far up above- a clear sign she’d made it to the right place. She spent the next hour carefully examining the room to see if there was a way to climb up to the chute, chancing upon a cunningly hidden switch which allowed a user to spiderclimb their way up the wall and onto the curved ceiling.

MEANWHILE

The rest of the party arrived at Jugement and were granted access by the Judges to the Red Judge compound. Once inside the compound the Judges escorting Solomon relaxed significantly, with some leaving the group to attend to other duties (including overseeing the manhunt for QoS). Solomon congratulated the group on having won against the Red Judges, and invited them to take one item each from the Judges’ storehouse. Items chosen include:

  • a Sword of Subtlety for Urisk
  • a Headband of Inspired Wisdom for Queen of Spades (stolen by Urisk)
  • a Lesser Rod of Dazing for Toad
  • a ____ for Xeal
  • a _____ for Ms Terspungecake

While there were other potentially more powerful items that the group could have taken, the majority of these were good aligned, and the group didn’t want to risk negative levels or worse.

After being gifted with their new loot Solomon then proceeded to lead them to the main prayer room of the Hall, informing the group that is was here they would be given the blessing of Iomedae. The group were very hesitant to take on the blessing, especially when they recognised that the sword they were to be blessed with was good-aligned. Not wanting to risk themselves on the touch of the blade, Xeal was shoved forwards protesting and forced to receive the blessing of Egalite:

  • Protect the Innocent, Uphold the Law – While taking part in actions that can be considered good or lawful, 5/day the individual can choose to re-roll a d20 and take the higher of the two.
  • Lest Evil Take Root, Remain Pure in Action – If the individual takes actions that cannot be reasonably argued to be good they are subject to the negative effects of a Lesser Geas. A suitably good action or a day spent in prayer will reverse the effects.

Toad was able to identify the geas aspect of the blessing, and flatly refused to take the blessing, likening it to slavery. Urisk joined in the argument, saying that he felt this was akin to the oppression his race faced and that he would not subject himself to it. Despite Solomon’s insistence that this was a blessing, the group’s arguments won through with some very convincing arguments (and a lucky nat 20 mixed in there). Solomon then left the group to retire to his quarters, with Rognuk close behind.

Back underground, QoS decided to climb up the chute to try and get a better view of things. As she climbed she passed openings to what appeared to be old living quarters, now relegated for use as storage. As QoS cautiously approached the surface opening to the chute, she stealthily extended a hand to detect any living beings. Unfortunately for her, one of the Red Judges had heard the sounds of her sneaking up the chute, and she was quickly grabbed and held at arrow-point.This was just as the rest of the party finished up with Solomon, and there was an awkward moment where they all waited to see what would happen next.

Thankfully for the party, the Red Judge let QoS off with just a warning, making it clear that things would be more serious if she were to sneak in again. The group left separately to QoS, but both groups received a message from Emmett that there was a warehouse in Foi where they could regroup. Toad and Urisk were less than pleased with QoS being caught, but quickly got down to planning their next move.

The group knows that Solomon will come out of Jugement once more to address the townspeople regarding the damage that Felicity’s group did to the city. They also know that the third Book of Hell is kept within the Hall of Judgement’s depository of evil items and artifacts. The only thing left for them to do is kill Solomon, grab the book, and find out what 738 and 826 are…

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