Thursday, December 10, 2009


Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster, Early the human warblade, Dziga the human rogue, and Vatex the elven tempest have been pulled into a battle against the forces of chaos. It was not a fight they asked for, but it is a fight they will finish. At the Temple of the Rat God they first learned of the Galchutt, or the "Ancients" -- strange beings worshipped in the philosophy of "deep chaos". At the Pythoness House they learned about the cults and their "Night of Dissolution", and met their mortal enemy, Khyron. This powerful cultist and his entourage defeated the companions in battle and robbed them of their hard-earned treasure.

In their quest for revenge they have infiltrated secret cult meetings, destroyed the lab of the Surgeon in the Shadows, and saved innocents from terrible experiments. Yet they have not found Khyron. Is the culmination of their journey the Temple of Deep Chaos, the chaos stronghold beneath the city? Is it the location of the "Final Ritual"? What of is the "huge machine" mentioned in Ibulli's letter?

But the servants of chaos are not the only villains who have crossed paths with the company. The Banewarrens have been breached, and a mysterious group of monsters called the Pactlords of the Quaan are seeking something inside. The company tangled with one group of Pactlords, called the Grailquest Team, but they know there are others, and they have great resources. Other factions, the Holy Order of Vigoor, the Inverted Pyramid, the shadowcaster Saharasahla, and possibly more, also have competing interests involving that ancient vault of evil. Why was the Pactlord Ibulli spying on the cultists? What has happened behind the scenes while the company has been satisfying its desire to spill the blood of the cultists and their allies?

Other issues remain unresolved as well. Why did the entity inside the star-headed thing compel Dziga to take the statuette to Goth Gulgamel? What of the recent dreams involving the hag Keziah? Who is "the Black Man" she serves?

Will the group take on Shilukar's contact to kill Doctor Feagus of the Shuul, and destroy his anti-chaositech machine? And what are Shilukar's true goals?

What of Brugul and Angash and the gnolls, presumably still hiding in Shilukar's former lair?

What of Helmut Itlstein and the runechildren? He should have returned to the city by now and found that Phon is no longer his prisoner. Will the strange events described in his prophecies come to pass? Do the runechildren indeed spell doom for the city of Elan, as Helmut believes?

What of the barbarian armies marching toward the City of Elan?

Will Emeris ever learn the identity of his dragon parent?

Will Vatex be the most famous urban ranger in the Empire?

Will Early fulfill his destiny and destroy Kyuss, the Worm that Walks?

And on and on, the Ancients slumber beneath the earth until the time of their awakening...


Episode XXV: Night of Dissolution, Act III -- The Temple of Deep Chaos V

Juliar 21

Vatex rushes to Emeris side but the tiefling as already dashed away into the north passage with some speed-enhancing magic. An imp becomes invisible above them and tries to stab the elf with its scorpion-like tail. Vatex spins away and strikes back quickly, but finds even the Flame of Elmekia can barely scratch the fiendish creature. The imp laughs, turns invisible, then flies away. They turn back towards the brawl at the ancient structure, where Early trades blows with the remaining venom-shaped thrall on the roof and Dziga and Zophas fight off ratlords.

Early keeps the poisoned thrall stinger from getting him, but the creature hooks into his ribs with a claw and pulls him into its grasp. Fury sets in and Early twists and fights like a wild animal in a cage, and pushes free. He lands on the ground in a crouch, and the thrall attempts to grab him again, but he simply uses the opportunity to cut deep with Cryssaegrym, and fire a pistol round into its face as it stumbles back in terrible pain.

Dziga blocks and dodges the ratlord’s sloppy yet aggressive attacks, but cannot find an opening. Zophas does, and smashes the ratman’s skull against the wall with a swing of his hammer. The paladin turns as the second ratlord lunges in with its blade. The paladin turns and lets the tip bounce off his breastplate harmlessly. The ratlord is off balance and cannot recover, so Zophas quickly crushes its face with a mighty strike. Dziga quickly starts moving away from the ancient structure and drawing a dagger. He hurls it at the thrall battling Early on the roof, but flies wide. Early continues fighting the thrall above, each cut of Cryssaegrym yielding a spray of slimy black blood. More black blood spurts from a terrible gunshot wound and the thrall stumbles backwards, and Early looks over his shoulder and sees the smoking rifle of Vatex below. Emeris runs and leaps into the air, wings spreading carrying him to swoop in on the thrall. He stabs at the thrall’s head as he flies by, the thrall striking back, but they do not hurt each other. With the thrall defenses redirected momentarily, Early strikes a killing blow.

As Early climbs down, Emeris warns the group that his magic power is depleted and he needs rest. The consume healing potions and decide to pursue the tielfling sniper into the north passage. They find a bedroom which may have belonged to Woreron. Inside is a locked chest that confounds Dziga’s attempts to open it. Dziga tells them to settle in, and spends considerable time jamming the tumblers with picks. The others stand around for many minutes, getting anxious when Early smells something coming. The tiefling! She fires an arrow at Emeris but shadows twist around him and deflect it wide. The group rushes her and strikes some serious wounds, but still she manages to flee with whatever enchantment she possesses. They leave the unopened chest for now and pursue, following the trail of blood into another room with two ratbrutes…a trap! Both brutes carry huge weapons, but one of them is unusual as it seems to be wearing a human-sized cape and eyepatch (even though both eyes are intact). The group charges into battle, eager to kill the tiefling and her new entourage. A downward swing of the brute with the axe catches Zophas as he moves in and drops him to one knee. He quickly rises again and leaps forward, swinging his hammer into the brute’s chest, which darkens immediately with a disgusting bruise. Zophas staggers from another blow and the ratbrutes jaws snap at his face, tearing flesh from his cheek which felt like fire, and Early rushes in, clashing blades against the pirate brute. It falls back a few steps but Early follows right up, performing a Soaring Raptor Strike. The brute clutches the resulting wound that gushes blood, and seemingly undaunted, comes in with a furious series of strikes that splashes more blood across the floor.

Vatex finds himself again attacked by the imp which appears. The sniper fires another arrow at Emeris before retreating through an eastern door. Emeris curses her again and the imp flies after her, apparently afraid to be left alone. But even against only the two brutes remaining, a brutal fight unfolds.

Dziga rushes into battle with Zophas, fending off the brute’s blows. Zophas is nearly knocked over when the huge, heavy axe smashes into his shield. Zophas is able to recover more quickly than the clumsy brute and uses the split second reprieve to call upon his holy power, and close one of the wicked gashes across Early’s chest. Dziga flips over another swinging attack and lands behind the ratbrute’s. In a fluid motion he pivots and thrusts Asura into the brute’s back. It howls in pain and twists suddenly which throws the rogue off balance.

Vatex dives into combat with his blades spinning, cutting various Xs into the ratbrute’s flesh although it returns the blow and the rip of its sword catches the elf in the hip, sending him spinning. Vatex rolls with the landing and just misses the tip of the pirate brute’s sword from stabbing through him as he hits the ground. Early, refreshed from the paladin’s magic, strikes with Cryssaegrym and his Varja maneuvers recharge.

Blood falls into Dziga’s eyes from a wound above his hairline, and can barely see the rat brute’s axe as it swings and cuts into him. His mind explodes with pain and he tries to tumble away from the creature. Zophas helps him get away but at great cost – first, the brute swings its axe low and catches Zophas below his shield, cutting through his kneecap and dropping him to the ground. Trying to rise, Zophas is helpless as the follow-up attack cleaves vertically into his skull. Emeris grabs the brute around the wrist and shadowy power jolts it, draining its physical strength dramatically. Its shoulders sag and it no longer swings its weapon with such ease.

Vatex jams the tip of his shortsword up into the pirate brute’s groin and it goes down with a blood-curdling scream. With that, Early moves in and helps Dziga and Emeris finish off the one that killed Zophas. Looking at the broken body of their ally, they are glad it was not them, although it seemed like it could have been. They think if they bring the body back to the Pale Tower they will resurrect Zophas. They find one the pirate-brute a filthy copy of a human children’s book, called “The Quest for Captain Jak Silver’s Legendary Treasure”. It has illustrations that obviously served as inspiration for the ratbrute’s costume. Vatex feels a bit strange about killing the child-like creature.

They hurry after the tiefling, but find she has fled down a slippery tunnel that seems too precarious for most of them to navigate. However, they can see another passage that seems to connect to the area around the ancient structure, so they return there. They find a cavern where a natural underground river to the northeast flows into a massive, man-made pit lined with masonry stone of ancient creation. There is no sign of the tiefling. They return to Woreron’s chamber and Dziga finishes picking the chest, where they find gold, scrolls, and a collection of fancy shivvel pipes.

Moving beyond that, they continue past the ratbrute den and find another large steel door. Beyond is a huge chamber that is clearly newly built, with masonry walls and high vaulted ceiling. Painted and chiselled chaos symbols cover the walls—spirals, multipointed arrows, black handprints, coiled vipers, and so on. Hundreds of candles are placed irregularly around the room, but they are unlit. There is a large stone structure in the center of the room. Adorned with demonic visages and sculpture, it resembles a gothic sepulchre. Atop the structure squats a stone statue of a bloated, misshapen demon. Vatex swears he can hear something slimy shifting inside it, and Early smells something unnatural, but there is no apparent way to open it. That might be a good thing.

To the south is another door so they exit the chaos sanctuary. Beyond Early smells sewage and stale water. They open the door to a chamber of broken masonry. It contains a waterfall that pours down from the ceiling into a small pool. The dirty water comes from the damaged sewer above. Mushrooms and other fungus grow through cracks all around. There they encounter two demons, a fiendish centaur named ASTARED whose hooves and claws blaze with fire, and a babau named NIRECH-THES.

Early and Vatex immediately move to pin Astared up against the wall, so he has less room to bring his wicked spear to bear. Dziga drinks a potion of invisibility and vanishes. Emeris stands back and watches the babau, which just crouches and waits while the others attack the centaur. Finally it acts, and opening a gate to some nether plane and summoning a second babau, which seems hungry for the chance to kill mortals.

Astared’s spear lances out at Early as the warblade closes in with Vatex at his side. Early takes the hit and leaps into the air, and with a flash Cryssaegrym cuts through armor, flesh, and bone. A terrible wound, but Astared seems hardly phased. Vatex drinks a potion of blur then tosses the flask at the demon, who looks down as the flask smashes against its armor. The tempest rushes in, his swords striking repeatedly but Astared’s demonic black platemail proves difficult to breach. Dziga appears behind Astared suddenly, driving Asura in his flank and tearing the blade down and out, ripping vital tendons and muscles. Dziga clenches his teeth as the vicious blade imparts part of the wound upon himself with its strange magic. The wound should have crippled a horse or a normal centaur, and although Astared is badly wounded, he still fights with impossible ease. Vatex sidesteps the tip of Astared’s spear and cuts the Flame of Elmekia across its arm, in the narrow gap between armor plates.

Suddenly swirling shadows that block even Emeris’ darkvision arise around the melee, making it difficult for any of the combatants to see each other. Nirech-thes laughs at the chaotic results of his shadowy conjuration while the summoned babau rushes after Emeris. The shadowcaster tries to fend off the demon with his sword but its wickedly long claws rake across his face and arms. He considers falling back to the others for aid, but in the corner of his eye he sees Nirech-thes moving to flank Vatex. Emeris knows he cannot let the other babau flank the main group so they can finish Astared, so he holds fast. He fights fiercely, but any blow he strikes on the babau instantly heals. He can only hold the demon back as best he can while suffering its wicked claws.

Early curses as he strikes out into the darkness and misses the centaur again, but he grins as he can make out Dziga cutting the centaur’s flanks. Astared attempts to reposition, his fiery hooves slipping on the damp stone, but manages to get room to use his spear. Flaming hooves smash, sparks scattering across the ground as the tip of the spear cuts through Vatex’s shoulder. Suddenly long claws tear into his back as well, Nirech-thes having abruptly entered the fray behind him.

They finally bring down the demonic centaur, who crashes to the ground. Dziga rushes to help Emeris and Early joins Vatex against Nirech-thes. Dziga fends off the summoned babau for a moment and Emeris retreats back to the sanctuary to drink healing potions, leaving a long trail of dark blood spilling from dozens of cuts. Dziga has some confidence with Asura, the most strongly enchanted weapon owned by the group. He nearly feels sick to his stomach when even the vicious dagger cannot seem to get through the demon’s resistance. Early and Vatex are equally frustrated. Nirech-thes accepts their blows is nary a shrug and strikes back with claws and teeth. When the babaus begin to secrete a slimy red ooze, the group calls a retreat. Vatex and Dziga flee to the sanctuary, Early remaining behind only a few moments more, jumping across the room to the corpse of Astared, severing the head, and dragging it along as a trophy.

It takes them some time to flee back to the surface. Until the temple entrance where they fought the Priests of the Outer Reaches, the babaus teleport after them in pursuit, taunting and mocking, but never attacking. When the group reaches the surface, they tell the Pale Tower men-at-arms of Zophas’ fate, which saddens them. They hope the group will be able to recover the body. But they cannot return for at least a day. They must rest, meditate, and sell their loot. They are determined to defeat the Temple of Deep Chaos with their next expedition, and they must be well-prepared.

Next: What lies at the heart of the Temple of Deep Chaos?

Random Elanian Factoid: Anageo Quigg, a strange gnome wizard known for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, has combined both his spellcasting and tattoo artistry into a new business that offers magical tattoos. Unfortunately, business is bad. Rumor has it he owes money to the Killravens.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Episode XXIV: Night of Dissolution, Act III - The Temple of Deep Chaos IV

Juliar 21

The next morning, Early the warblade, Vatex the elven tempest, Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster, and Dziga the rogue meet with Zophas the aasimar paladin to once to renew their attack on the Temple of Deep Chaos. Zophas reminds them of their urgency, as ratmen forces can be easily replenished and are considered completely expendable in the eyes of the cults.

Dziga reveals to his friends that he had a disturbing dream last night. He says in this dream a hideous hag called KEZIAH rode around on his back as he wandered around the city of Elan for many hours. There were accompanied by Keziah’s human-faced fiendish dire rat familiar called JENKINS. She whispered in his ear about things he did not understand, mostly what sounded like advanced mathematics. At one point she said she worked for “the Black Man,” and that if Dziga played his cards right, he might one day meet “the Black Man.” Vatex suggests that it could refer to one of two different independent criminals he knows of who go by that name, REDGER and ZIGUTH.

The men-at-arms from the Pale Tower report no cultists have attempted to re-enter the apartment house. So the group descends through the hole in the back and down into the sewers, returning to the door to the temple. They find it has been relocked and the alarm mechanism reactivated. Dziga picks the lock and tries to disarm the alarm so they can enter quietly, but he makes a stupid mistake and trips it. They can hear a bell ringing somewhere beyond inside the entry hall. Emeris rushes into the darkness and sees that a couple of ratlings with dragon rifles are looking around apprehensively. Him and Dziga cut them down, then three more ratlings arrive with a ratbrute and start firing. Emeris takes a hit while Early walks confidently forward to face the ratbrute, knowing that with his new skills it will no longer represent a formidable adversary for him. The ratbrute charges and swings its wicked, massive rusty axe – a blow that would have cut through the defenses of a lesser fighter and decapitated him. But Early skilfully turns the blade aside, then strikes back, leaping up and cleaving Cryssaegrym into its torso. Dziga finishes the wounded brute with a fatal backstab. The others finish off the ratlings and explore the northwest passage. It ends in a messy room that apparently serves as the ratmen quarters. It is now empty, but by rummaging through feces and garbage Vatex finds a valuable silver statue of the Rat God.

The group returns to where they killed Zlith, Theral, and Vocaetun, and ventures down the stairs to the level below. They find what appears to be an excavated portion of the OLD city of Elan, built in the early days following the Ghul War by buried in the intervening millennia. They are in a cavern with some very crude and old portions of masonry, where a tower has been partially excavated. It is built into a stone wall which cuts off the far part of the cavern. They decide to move towards the tower, of which two storeys are visible. As they advance towards it, a fiendish hawk is conjured up above them, and it swoops down on Vatex with its talons reaching for his eyes. The elf’s blades spin and the hawk disappears in a cloud of blood and features, then suddenly a fiendish monstrous spider appears beside them. It latches on to Dziga’s leg and it bites him, leaving a numbing poison burning around the injury. Emeris impales the spider and flings its broken body off against the wall. Looking up, they can see a spider-like creature (which they later learn was an aranea) called IBULLI casting spells from a perch in the tower’s upper floor window. Vatex and Early fire their guns, Zophas his crossbow, and Dziga hurls a dagger at the aranea, forcing it to retreat back into the tower.

Emeris, Vatex, and Early rush into the tower while fiendish hawks and vipers are conjured up around Zophas and Dziga. There is clearly another spellcaster, but where they do not know. Inside the tower, they find what appears to be a woman’s living quarters, and a weird ceramic statue of a bloated, tentacled, humanoid thing on which is carved, “And on the Night of Dissolution, we shall awaken and break free.” A door is ajar across the room, but they hurry up the stairs, and find a room where the floor is covered covered in bones and grisly detritus, and the upper half is shrouded in webs. moving along its webs, the aranea sees Early charge up the stairs and hurls a bundle of sticky webbing at him, which slows him down long enough to start preparing another spell as Emeris and Vatex rush up. Vatex sinks a round of his rifle into Ibulli’s bulbous abdomen and Emeris surrounds it with freezing black fire. Ibulli retaliates and a bolt of lightning bursts from its hand-like apprendages. Early manages to pull free of the webbing quickly enough and leap aside, avoid the brunt of the blast. Emeris is not so quick, and is smote with electricity.

Zophas and Dziga kill a few fiendish critters and rush to assist the others. Up the stairs Dziga is assailed by another conjured fiendish viper. A dwarven chaos cheric called WORERON enters the tower behind him, where he came from they don’t know. He mutters to himself madly, then shouts to Ibulli that they must kill the intruders. The aranea sorcerer seems to distance himself from the cultist, saying this should not be his fight. Upstairs, Emeris clenches his teeth against his injuries and downs a healing potion. Ibulli hits Early with another lightning bolt. Early recovers quickly and leaps into the air, waving his torch and lighting up the webs around the aranea. It squeals in pain, casts another spell on itself, then takes to the air with magic flight out the window. Emeris dashes across the chamber, his wings bursting through the back of his jacket and spreading as he picks up speed, and leaps out the window, flying in pursuit.

Ibulli screams in derision about humanoids as Emeris closes in behind him. The shadowcaster blasts his breath of shadowy cold over the aranea. Ibulli tumbles through the air before restabilizing. The aranea turns around and hits Emeris with another lightning bolt, but Emeris keeps coming, slamming into the aranea and pushing his hands against its body. Life-fading energy jolts the spider, who pulls away from Emeris and hurls webbing at him. Entangled, Emeris is forced to land.

Dziga, Vatex, Zophas, and Early converge on Woreron who fights fiercely with his battle axe, but is outmatched. His full plate armor repels numerous attacks, but when he raises his arms to swing his axe at Dziga, Vatex plunge the tip of his short sword into the exposed armpit, a fatal wound. They rejoin Emeris outside the tower and find that the aranea swooping down to bite Emeris. The shadowcaster’s knees buckle when the poison hits his system, but he fights breaks free of the webs and fights back with his sword. Early rushes in and thrusts Cryssaegrym through their enemy, and the battle is over.

On the dead Ibulli they are surprised to find it wearing a Quaan bone ring. They also find an unfinished note in Sylvan. Fortunately, Vatex can read it. It says: “Brothers of the Quaan, the chaos cultists prepare something big. They talk of a huge machine in the caves beyond, and something called the Final Ritual, which will be performed beneath a temple.”

They pass through the tower and find another excavated area between it and another ruined structure to the east. To the north, the entrance to another passage is flanked by life-size statues carved to look like humans in billowing robes. However, instead of normal heads, they have translucent, smoky grey glass spheres about ten inches in diameter atop their shoulders. On the roof of the structure to the east, two venom-shaped thralls stand ready for battle, equipped with javelins and chaositech bombs. The thralls hurl their grenades. One goes off harmlessly wide, exploding disgusting webs ever twenty feet in every direction. The other’s aim is true, exploding with a shower of hundreds of tiny needles that catch Dziga and Emeris. Early runs forth and bounds high enough to catch the edge of the roof. The thrall readies an attack with its stinger as Early pulls himself up, but a burst of black fire conjured by Emeris distracts it enough to Early to rise safely. Zophas and Dziga rush the structure to climb up and help their friend, and find themselves attacked by two ratlords who were hiding in the building.

Screaming from the freezing black fire on its chitinous legs, one thrall steps back and hurls a javelin at Early, who knocks the weapon aside with a sweep of his sword. He channels his spirit through the Vajra and performs a Soaring Raptor Strike, leaping high into the air and coming down with a devastating slash that goes right through the thrall’s upper torso, killing it instantly.

Back at ground level, a female tiefling rogue with tiny horns and a tail becomes visible between the two statues to the north as she looses an arrow at Emeris exposed flank. Angered and wounded, he limps towards her with his sword drawn but she flees down the passage with unnatural speed. The last thing they need now is to be harried by stealthy sniper!

Next time: Can the characters defeat their enemies and make it out of the Temple of Deep Chaos alive?

Random Elanian Factoid: In the aftermath of the Ghul War, the humans of Vigoor and the dwarves of Stonelost and Dwarvenhomme formed an alliance. This led to the construction of Dalengard and the “old” City of Elan (which is now buried under the “new” City of Elan). The Vigoor leader, Dalian Von Tessel, dominated this alliance, which eventually went on to become the Empire of Vigoor, with Tessel its first emperor. In the early days, only Vigoor humans and Stonelost and Dwarvenhomme dwarves could be citizens of the Empire, with the legal privileges that entails.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Episode XXIII: Night of Dissolution, Act III - The Temple of Deep Chaos III

Juliar 20-21

The weasel-faced sorcerer-rogue Greldean moves in behind Dziga who battles the half-drow warrior. He attempts to find an opening for a deadly strike, but Dziga is too nimble and quickly covers his temporary weakness before it can be fatally exploited. Still, Greldean’s short sword manages to get through just barely, a minor wound but it burns with poison. Greldean leaps back, and Zlith drives her spear deep into the rogue. Emeris, awaiting this moment, leaps in when the half-drow woman’s attention is diverted and brushes his fingers across her hand, pumping shadowy magic into her which drains her energy. Then the trap door in the east wall opens, and an ugly harrow elf wizard named VOCAETUN casts a spell from his wand, attempting to blind the shadowcaster and burn his eyes, but the magic is too weak. Zophas rushes up and attempts to strike the elf through the hole, but he quickly closes it up again.

On the other side of the large entry hall, more ratlings and ratlords are charging into the battle from the northeast passage as the initial group reloads its guns. Half a dozen filthy dire rats scuttle around them, rabidly closing in on battle. They are apparently all led by a double-pistol-and-saber wielding albino ratlord who commands his entourage to gun down the intruders with a series of excited squeaks. It coordinates them into a system where one group fires while another reloads, keeping up a constant barrage of dragon rifles. Vatex takes a hit and fires back, striking the lead ratlord while he shoves another round into his rifle. The elf then rushes forward and cuts down a ratling, and Early attempts to help him slow the tide of ratmen by charging into melee as well, cutting down the ratlord Vatex had wounded moments earlier. Their rush is slowed when four dire rats attack them. Vatex spinning blades and Early’s katana and pistol take them down.

With a deafening staccato burst ratmen fire another series of rounds. Early and Vatex take a bullet. Another combatant enters the battle through the illusory wall, an armoured chaos cleric called THERAL, who wields a wicked mace shaped like a coiled asp that looks like its ready to strike. Dziga avoids his attacks while he keeps up his assault the half-drow woman, knowing to take her out of the battle is to eliminate a very dangerous opponent. Greldean jumps up and runs along the wall, flipping around Emeris’ reach to backstab him. Emeris’ scaly skin repels most of physically weak the attack. Zophas attacks Theral so that Dziga does not get surrounded again. As Theral carefully avoids the massive, swinging hammer of the aasimar paladin, he calls to Zlith to fall back and abandon Greldean and the ratmen. Early falls back from the press of ratmen to help Dziga finish Greldean. The weasel-faced rogue dies cursing the cleric while Theral and Zlith fall back behind the illusory wall.

The ratlings, nearly twenty of them overall now, have spread out in the corner and the rain of bullets is becoming more of a threat. Emeris deals with this by advancing towards them, ducking bullets and taking in a huge gulp of air. He blasts a devastating cone of shadowy breath over the vermin, few of which are able to desperately scamper out of the way in time. Ten of them fall, blasted by freezing shadow, while survivors trip and fall over the piled up bodies. The albino rushes out to join the surviving ratlord and ratlings, who are too shaken up not to flee without support. Vatex and Early fight side by side against the last rats. Zophas heals Dziga and the two pursue the cleric and the half-drow. Behind the illusory wall is a locked door. Dziga curses as he snaps a lockpick. Zophas tries to smash down the door but it holds.

Emeris joins them as Dziga gets the lock open. Dziga opens the door and finds a large room painted in a dizzying array of crazy colors, and finds Theral, Vocaetun, and Zlith waiting for him. Zlith was ready for as soon as he opened the door, and nearly all her previous, gruesome injuries seem healed. She strikes a nasty wound, and Vocaetun tries to get Dziga with his wand, but to not avail. Zophas sprints past the rogue as he disappears, and tries to force Zlith back. He suffers two terrible injuries but cracks Zlith’s skull with a lucky swing of his hammer, allaying the fury of that woman’s spear for a moment. Vocaetun activates a spell and is surrounded by three mirror images of himself. Emeris enters the room followed by Early, hurling arrows of dusk at Theral. The cleric dodges and retaliates with a sonic burst that stuns the warblade and the paladin, who drop their weapons and nearly fall over.

Zlith lunges forward, trying to take down Vatex as the ranger joins the melee, his swords still steaming with the slaughter of ratmen from the previous room. Vatex grits his teeth as the tip of the spear tears through his leg, but he maintains his footing and holds keeps Zlith locked up. Dziga appears suddenly behind her, his invisibility fading as he drives Asura into her kidney. Vocaetun suddenly turns his wand against the wounded half-drow, protesting to the companions that he will help them defeat these “vile cultists”. Vatex works his swords around the weakened parries of the dying half-down, slicing an X into her throat.

No one trusts Vocaetun, so Emeris casts black fire around him while causes the mirror images to disappear and fleezes the wizard’s flesh. However, while his wand had been unable to afflict anyone, the harrow elf’s significant protection spells made him nearly impossible to hurt with weapons. Blades would deflect off his protective circle, strike harmlessly against a shield of force, or simply pass through him! Still Vocaetun pleads for his life, saying that he had infiltrated the cultists for the purpose of defeating them, and he could offer help. His pleas are ignored by the heroes, who eventually cut him down amid much frustration, but Theral condemns him as a traitor and unworthy of the blessings of chaos. Enraged but helplessly outnumbered and outmatched, Theral too is defeated in melee.

The group considers its position. A staircase in this room leads to another level below them, and this level has not been fully explored. But Emeris’ shadow magic is depleted until he can get a good rest, and the group has suffered many injuries. They fill their bags with gear and treasure from their enemies, and return to the surface.

Zophas tells them they must return soon for the Temple of Deep Chaos will not delay in buffing its defenses back up. He tells them they must return to assault the Temple again in the morning, and in the meantime he will place some men-at-arms from the Pale Tower on guard duty to make sure no cultists gain access to the apartment house.

The group heads to the adventurers’ square, selling and identifying loot. The next morning, before joining Zophas, they distribute their identified loot and sell the rest. When they are done, they have much more money and Early has acquired a ring of jumping, Emeris some powerful bracers of armor, and Vatex acquires from gloves of dexterity. The group heads to the apartment house for the next stage of their assault on the Temple of Deep Chaos.

Next: Deeper into the chaos temple, and deeper into danger! Can the companions defeat the cultists and their powerful allies? And mostly importantly, can they find Khyron?

Random Elanian Factoid: Oldtown residents sometimes talk about the “shade tower.” On bright, moonlit evenings (which are not common in Elan), a passerby near the intersection of Vock Row and Ridge Road might spy on the ground a long shadow of a round tower, even though no apparent tower casts the shadow. This tower is Kadmiel, the Shade Tower. Few people know the name “Kadmiel”, and fewer people know how to enter it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Episode XXII: Night of Dissolution, Act III - The Temple of Deep Chaos II

Juliar 18-20

The five prisoners held by the cultists, who were to be used for vile experiments, are now freed. Emeris, Vatex, Dziga, and Early sneak up to the second floor of the apartment building to clear out the rest of the place. Dziga overhears some whispering cultists of the talking about how they murdered one of their allies, and how they expect the Ebon Hand to betray them. Dziga opens the door and rolls a powder bomb inside. As the tall, heavily armoured chaos cleric named AUDON recovers from the stunning blast, the rest of the party’s volley takes him down. The other cleric, URANIK, calls for another venom-shaped thrall to assist him, and strikes back at Dziga, but he suddenly joins his comrade in death as Vatex’s rifle bursts his head like a melon. The thrall he summoned charges from another room and grabs the elf, preparing to hit him with a devastating shot of poison from its stinger. Dziga seizes the distraction and finishes the aberration.

They search the bodies. The murdered priest was REGGALOCH from the Ebon Hand. His body carries a note from another cultist named RHINNIS, which warns of planned treachery by the Brotherhood and how they must warn their leader, MALEK. They continue on from there and find find more cocoons, some hatched and some still intact. The group carefully destroys any and kills the thralls inside. In the final room, the come across another hatched cocoon which seems to have given birth to another monstrosity altogether – a disgusting protoplasmic blob covered in hundreds of eyes and mouths that appear and reappear amidst the amorphous body. They aggressively attack the vile monster, but Early is rendered incoherent and randomly violent by the incessant gibbering of the numerous mouths, and turns his blade against Vatex! Dziga can find no vital areas to which he can make a deadly strike. The gibbering mouther ignores the cut of his blade and begins to engulfs Emeris. Early, his mind filled with the nightmares of a lunatic because of the insane gibbering noise, quickly snaps a dagger free of his sheath and plunges it into the elf as Vatex and Dziga try to defeat the monster before it consumes Emeris. Emeris’ blood is being drained by a hundred tiny bites. The half-dragon bites back, tearing off a massive piece of the creature’s flesh and it dies.

They figure it is time to retreat for now. All the enemies in the apartment have been defeated, but the group is worn down and cannot continue. They spend the next day resting and selling loot, and acquiring equipment. Their next goal is whatever lies at the bottom of that deep hole in the apartment house. Vatex spends a good part of that day in an intense, specialized training ritual to more perfectly embrace the two-weapon fighting style.

The next day everyone is well-stocked with gear and newly identified magical items. Vatex the elven tempest, Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster, Early the warblade-fighter, and Dziga the rogue all return to the cultist apartment house. They are surprised when they find the aasimar paladin Zophas, from the Pale Tower, already there finishing off a couple of cultists who had shown up. He says that since Early told him about what happened at the Temple of the Rat God, he has been investigating cultist activities concerning the “Night of Dissolution”. Eventually, word of cultist experiments led him here, albeit after the others had slaughtered everyone there. Zophas asks if the group will work with him to explore whatever is below.

They all descend the rope ladder down the hole in the apartment. It leads to the sewer. They search the immediate area, stumbling across a cowering ratling with a gun along the way, and eventually find a very clean, new-looking iron door. Dziga picks the complex lock and disables a simple wire-based trap. Beyond is a massive entry hall, empty and quiet and dark. Its dark stones in the walls, floor and ceilings are laid out in a strange pattern that catches the eye in a distracting, even disturbing manner that one cannot quite describe. A huge banner hangs on the western wall, but no one can identify it. The only other path seems to be a passage in the northwest corner.

The group starts looking around, with Dziga finding a tiny peephole in the eastern wall. When he looks through, it is obvious someone is looking back at him! Zophas and Dziga find a 1x1 secret door around the peephole, but no way to open it from this side. In any case, they have been discovered, and as the group prepares for battle while Dziga and Zophas continue searching the wall for a secret entrance to the eastern area.

Dragon rifle equipped ratlings charge into the entry hall from the northwest passage. Emeris puts up a line of black fire around them and they drop dead. This seems to stop further access for now, but suddenly the window around the peephole is opened and two spells are cast through it. One summons a couple of lesser devils around Early. The other spell attacks Early but the tough warblade shrugs it off. Zophas runs to the middle of the entry hall and blesses everyone around him with holy power. The secret panel is closed again. While Early and Dziga kill off the little blob-like devils, everyone else prepares for all hell to break loose.

The black fire blocking the northwest passage dissipates, and four ratlings and their ratlord dash into the entry hall firing their rifles. Emeris backs away from the sudden rush of vermin toward the opposite corner. Suddenly a spear-wielding half-drow woman called ZLITH dashes through an illusory wall and strikes a brutal wound against the half-dragon, screaming fanatically about something like “the glory of the Outer Reaches.” Dziga runs to the shadowcaster’s aid, hits the woman with a vicious wound from Asura. Then another comes through the illusory wall, a weasel-faced human in a hooded robe named GRELDEAN. He lunges forward with a short sword that drips with poison, trying to find an opening with which he can sneak attack Dziga before he recovers from attacking Zlith.

Next: Emeris, Early, Dziga, Vatex, and Zophas versus the Priests of the Outer Reaches!

Random Elanian Factoid: The so-called "Seekers of the Outer Reaches" was a cult that was run out of the Temple District by the Knights of the Dawn a few years back. They were accused of narcotic-fueled acts of depravity in their small temple, as well as the murder of four young women. There is a rumor that when their sect disbanded, the remaining members joined the Brotherhood of Elan.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Episode XXI: Night of Dissolution, Act III - The Temple of Deep Chaos I

Juliar 18

A column of black smoke rises from Oldtown as the lair of the Surgeon of the Shadows burns down. Vatex, Early, and Emeris flee the district and head to the Adventurers’ Square. In the Undercity, they try to sell the strange harness and steaming axe to Rastor. The liontaur believes they are chaositech devices and he does not deal in such things. The group wonders if Shilukar would buy them.

The group runs into Dziga, the missing rogue! The group stops by the Ghostly Minstrel for dinner and drinks and discussion. Dziga first tells of how something in the statuette of the star-headed thing had possessed him had entered his body at the Pythoness House. The entity lingered within much interference for many days, and then finally compelled him yesterday to take the star-headed thing up to the fortress of Goth Gulgamel. Unable to resist, Dziga acquired a potion of flight and ascended to the entrance of the abandoned fortress, about 1300 feet up the Spire. Surprisingly, the main door was unlocked. The entity had Dziga’s body place the star-headed statuette on the floor inside the entrance, and with that the rogue seemed to be free of the possession. Dziga felt great dread within the place, and took flight back to the city.

Jevvica Nor arrives and joins the group, asking about information concerning the Banewarrens. They tell her what they know – she is concerned by the so-called “Pactlords of the Quaan” and also that the Holy Order of Vigoor knows about this. She arranges for their payment and asks them to meet her soon to share what she learns about the Pactlords. If powerful monsters are trying to get inside, she wants to know how they might do that. The group seems not to trust her and the Inverted Pyramid, especially Vatex. He thinks they know more than they say.

Now there is considerable debate – should they explore Goth Gulgamel? It is interesting that someone can simply walk inside unimpeded whereas Jabel Shammar seems utterly impenetrable, but even so Elanian stories about the Skull King’s fortress invariably end in “and they were never heard from again.” They figure they should hold off. Do they investigate the “secret project” of the chaos cultists? They know the “joint project” involves the Society of the Tolling Bell somehow, and Khyron is their leader. Vatex also worries about this “Night of Dissolution” that the cultists are trying to bring about. Everyone in the group wants revenge for their defeat at the Pythoness House. On the other hand, Emeris has to find the 751st page of the Book of Inverted Shadows somewhere inside the Banewarrens, and believes they might find all kinds of other powerful items as well. Early thinks they should keep the Pactlords from plundering the place and releasing more “banes” like Tavan Zith. Emeris additionally cites the Book of Faceless Hate, which had said the Keepers of the Faith would like to get inside the Banewarrens.

They decide to tackle the cultists for now. They gear up and scope out the apartment building on Crossing Street. It shows no outward signs of cultist activity, so they enter through the front door. As Dziga enters, disgusting violet slime falls upon him from the ceiling and drains his strength. There is a dead woman in the first room. They hear metallic banging coming from another room. A large, hatched cocoon of some sort blocks a door, and from it emerges a swarm of red-and-black centipedes. They hit the swarm with spells and powder bombs, which alerts other creatures to their arrival. They are attacked by two monsters that are some twisted amalgam of insect and man. They defeat the monsters, but the their poisonous stingers have drained Early and Dziga’s strength. The rogue has been weakened considerably but they press on.

Dziga avoids another falling slime and they find the source of the banging noise. Two short, fat and disgusting demons are eating garbage and banging pots together. On a table in this room is a huge syringe and several vials of black liquid, and several empty vials. Vatex attacks one of the demons but its demonic traits resist both the cut of the steel and the flames around the blade. The fat demon hits back while its friend belches a nauseating cloud of fog that fills the room. The group retreats quickly back into the hallway, and one demon waddles after them in pursuit. Dziga and Vatex manage to cut it down, while the other resumes banging pots.

They decide to let the dumb creature be for now, and explore the rest of the first floor. They carefully avoid another hatched cocoon, then find another one that seems to have a gestating thing inside. This appears to be the source of the large insect-like monsters that attacked them. They cut through the cocoon and a human falls out in the gush of slime. He wheezes a few times then dies. They figure it is best not to take chances and they remove its head. Otherwise, for all they know, the body might yet become a monster.

They find a hole in the floorboards that goes far below the house into the darkness, then return to kill the fat demon. It tries to use some kind of magic, perhaps to summon another demon? But it fails and the group cuts it down. Behind a locked door they find five prisoners. They free the captives who reveal that they were captured by the cultists for horrible experiments. When the cultists inject something called “Askara” into people, they form a cocoon and then a venom-shaped thrall emerges. He says the cultists have been heard talking about a “Temple of Deep Chaos” which lies somewhere beneath them…

Next time: The companions battle the forces of chaos – is their revenge against Khyron getting close?

Random Elanian Factoid: Goth Gulgamel - “Castle of Darkness.” The name is the corrupt and somewhat awkward combination of an Elvish and a Dwarvish word, but that fact perfectly describes the nature of the place’s original master. Ghul stole what came before him and twisted it to his own ends—first and foremost, he stole the legacy of the Dread One. Some believe that his flagrant, self-proclaimed association with Eslathagos Malekith was his ultimate undoing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Episode XX: The Banewarrens, Act I - The Broken Seal II / The Surgeon in the Shadows

Juliar 17-18

While Dziga flees to the surface due to a magical compulsion, Kalerecent attempts to detect the presence of evil among Emeris, Early, and Vatex. Kalerecent sees an aura of darkness around Emeris, and distrusts him, but the group convinces the paladin that they were hired by Brother Fabitor to find him.

Kalerecent explains that he has been alone in the dark for many days now. He and his monk cohort RSANIR had investigated the old manor in Oldtown following a request from a concerned neighbourhood resident who heard digging noises. They used potion of invisibility and followed the monsters down the tunnel into the unsealed part of the Banewarrens. Originally, there was Ios and Verochin, a second lamia, a green hag, a goblin rogue, and several goblin archers. The rogue opened some vaults and released Tavan Zith, who just ran off and the monsters forgot about him completely. In the chamber with the massive sealed door, they saw a green hag use a ring to cast a Wish spell and open the sealed door. Knowing the monsters must be stopped, they ambushed the monsters. They killed the goblins but the monsters were too strong. Rsanir sacrificed himself to close the sealed door, and Kalerecent was forced to flee. Only the green hag was able to get beyond the door before it closed. Ios and Verochin left the Banewarrens to get more goblins, while a second lamia remained behind and pursued the paladin. Out of lamp oil, he found himself in a cat-and-mouse game with the lamia for the next several days in the dark. It was then that the “Grailquest Team” returned with more goblins, followed by the warblade, shadowcaster, and urban ranger.

Returning to the surface via the umber hulk’s tunnel, the group heads to St. Gustave’s. Fabitor thanks them for finding the paladin and has the acolytes heal their wounds and restore their willpower drained by the lamia monk’s fists. Fabitor invites them all to the Grand Cathedral to speak with his superiors in the Holy Order of Vigoor.

At the Grand Cathedral meeting, they meet various figures in the church. First is Brother TOBIAS, who wants to consider exploring the Banewarrens in search of ancient lore from the time of the saint Danar rather than sealing it up immediately. Brother HETH believes the Banewarrens should be sealed quickly, but first he would like to learn more about the magic used by Danar to seal up evil banes. Sister DALIASANA is an elderly, stern woman who simply wants to seal up the umber hulk tunnel and be done with it. Sister MARA does not express much opinion. Finally there is TELESTIR, not in the clergy but a devout servant of the Emperor who works with the hierarchy in the Holy Order, who leans towards Tobias’ position.

Heth asks the companions to accept a new mission. He gives them a scroll that, if used at the sealed door in the Banewarrens, should reveal some information about Danar’s magic. Kalerecent volunteers to return to the Banewarrens and keep watch over the sealed door. Emeris takes the scroll but secretly cannot use it, and will need to find Dziga for that. Telestir gives him a token that will enable him to send a message to the Church should there be trouble.

After leaving the meeting, Emeris is overcome with horrible pain as his draconic heritage begins to emphasize itself further. Early and Vatex head back to the house and stay up through their friend’s painful transformation. The next morning, Emeris emerges more dragon-like – and more powerful – than before.

The next day, the group tries to find Dziga but he is nowhere to be found. At the Bull & Bear Armory, Early hears some rumors about an army of barbarians that has just…appeared in Willendorf to the west. The army, it is claimed, is now marching on the city of Elan! The Commissar is supposedly preparing the massive guns of Elan for the city’s defense. It seems highly implausible, but the man assures everyone that he has a reliable source. The man is also an ethnocentric jerk and gets beat up by Early for disparaging comments about northerners.

Hirus and his brother FEEK ask Early if he has seen Itumar, who didn’t show up for yesterday. Early thought he was fine, as the boy had safely left their house after the raid on the cultist meeting. But Feek explained that Itumar’s apartment was trashed and the boy seems to be in trouble. Itumar’s friend, bard named LAVIS, went looking for him and found his jacket with a spell in some by some old storehouse. But now she has been missing for a day herself. Early reports the information to Vatex, who deduces Itumar’s location using Lavis’ only hint and his extensive knowledge of the city.

Early the warblade-fighter, Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster, and Vatex the elven urban ranger hurry to the old storehouse. Although it is set up to appear abandoned, they find a trapped secret entrance. Early is electrocuted and the group is attacked by a human aberration modified with chaositech. Fearless and aggressive, it fights with spiked gauntlets and a strange harness that controls swinging, serrated blades. A fury of attacks weakens the thing enough that Emeris' arrow of dusk can render it unconscious. Vatex descends on the fallen thing and hacks it apart. They take the strange harness it wears, and in the next room they find the gagged and bound Lavis. She tells them this is the hideout of the Surgeon in the Shadows, who is mythical in the Elanian underworld.

The bard joins them and they encounter the Surgeon in his nightmarish operating room, splattered with gore and reeking of old blood and chemicals. It is full of weird tools and diagrams. The Surgeon and his dwarven assistant RASTOR are preparing Itumar for some awful procedure. The Surgeon teleports away, but his Castor and another chaos-shaped guardian, once a human woman, with a stumbling gait are left behind and fight to the death. The group fights to save Itumar. Vatex fires his rifle and hits the dwarf, who charges after him with a steaming chaositech axe. The dwarf stumbles over a cable across the floor and Early leaps upon him with a flurry of attacks. Emeris conjures black fire around the chaos-shaped guardian, who gets across the room with surprising speed and agility thanks to chaositech-enhanced legs. She flanks Early and cuts him with her chaositech blade-arm, and Emeris chases behind to touch her with a surge of life-fading power. Lavis inspires the group with bardic singing and Vatex leaps onto one of the blood-stained operating tables and cuts down the dwarf. The guardian has armored plates grafted to her flesh, but it only keeps her alive a little longer before Early strikes the fatal blow. Itumar is saved!

Itumar explains that a couple of cultists followed him back to his apartment when he left Emeris and Early’s house. They captured him and eventually brought him to the Surgeon. He learned many things while he was with the cultists. They are up to something big, and they speak of Khyron who thinks he can bring about the Night of Dissolution. Itumar tells them the cultists are planning to destroy a powerful anti-chaos device in a place called the “Kaleidoscopic Temple”. He corroborates information about the “secret project” between the Brotherhood and the Ebon Hand in Oldtown as well.

Early takes a few things from the hideout for Shilukar to look at, then the group sets the twisted place on fire and flees the scene. It is time now to find Dziga. Where did he go?

Next: Does the company return to the Banewarrens, or investigate the cultists’ secret project in Oldtown?

Random Elanian Factoid: Kinion Luth is the real name of the “Surgeon in the Shadows”. It is said that for the right price he will alter you in horrid ways to grant you fantastic abilities.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Episode XIX: The Banewarrens, Act I - The Broken Seal I

Juliar 17

Emeris the draconic shadowcaster, Vatex the urban ranger, Dziga the rogue, and Early the warblade have decided to find the entrance to the Banewarrens. Before they can leave Emeris and Early’s house, they spot some ratlings coming from the alley and trying to steal their chickens from the backyard! The group rushes outside and hacks down the thieves mercilessly and the chickens are spared. An obnoxious neighbour complains about them bringing trouble into the neighbourhood. They drop the ratling corpses in said neighbor’s yard and head for the manor in Oldtown from which the dark elf Tavan Zith emerged.

The large old manor on Crossing Street is long abandoned. They enter what appears to be a quiet, empty place full of old furniture but little else. Vatex however hears some heavy breathing from a storage closet, and they get the jump on an orc warrior woman looking to ambush them. She fights but quickly realizes she is horribly outmatched. There is no escape, however – the company surrounds her and cuts her down easily. They search the body and find a strange, spiny bone ring around the orc’s finger.

They look around further, first upstairs, where Vatex sees in a cracked mirror the image of a silver haired elf woman who seems strangely familiar for some reason. The image fades abruptly and he wonders if it was even real. Vatex thinks perhaps the building is haunted, but there is nothing else to find upstairs. The group eventually descends to the wine cellar below. There they find a large tunnel dug into the wall, going deep into the west. Lighting a torch, the group enters the tunnel. Along the way, they explore a side passage to the north and find the lair of a fearsome umber hulk! The creature advances upon Emeris, who resists the confusing effect of the creature’s gaze by strength of will. The shadowcaster warns the others not to meet its gaze, throws up a wall of shadow fire to slow the monster’s advance, and the battle is on. The hulk charges through the stinging cold of the black flames, and tears a gouge the side of Emeris’ head with its claw. However, the umber hulk’s main advantage is denied as its opponents avoid its gaze. Dziga finds a gap in the hulk’s carapace and strikes a crippling blow with Asura. Vatex punches through a plate on its chest and pierces through soft tissue beneath, and when the monster slouches from the wound, the Flame of Elmekia’s burning blade arcs across and takes out its throat. They find that the umber hulk wears a bone ring just like the orc woman in the house.

Further exploration turns up the umber hulk’s eclectic stash of treasure, and an uninvited guest in the monster’s lair – an ochre jelly, which surges up from a fissure in the ground and attacks. Dziga hurls a dagger which merely causes the jelly to split into two like creatures. Emeris tosses a powder bomb at them, which nearly destroys one jelly. Early fires a shot with his pistol which separates the wounded jelly further. Vatex hurls a flask of alchemist fire which consumes one of the new jellies. The strange living puddles slide towards them, and one of them engulfs Dziga, constricting him with surprising strength and burning him with its acidic composition. Early smashes an ooze with his heavy flail, and Vatex burns away the last one with his flaming elven sword.

The group returns to the main tunnel and continues west. Three-quarters of a mile from the manor house, they find a dug out chamber containing unused digging implements and a bag of supplies for underground exploration. Inside the bag is a note:

Once you get inside the unsealed part of the Banewarrens, you will have to find a massive iron door. This is a warded door. It may be trapped, we do not know. It is, however, sealed beyond your capacity to breach. Therefore, you will use a Wish from the ring to open it – and even that will keep it open only for a moment. On what lies beyond that door, our spells are silent, except that you will find the Grail within Tremoc Korin. The second Wish in the ring will be your key to get out.
-- Yuinthu”

Immediately to the south, the group finds the entrance to the Banewarrens. They enter a massive chamber dominated by a strange tower-like structure. It is topped with a brass sphere covered in runes. Emeris cannot discern its purpose, but it seems incomplete or damaged in some way. A narrow walkway lines the chamber high above, and provides access to various other passages and a huge iron door. More exploration is considered when Vatex hears a group of people coming to the walkway from a southern passage. VEROCHIN the lamia monk, IOS the minotaur warrior, and four goblin archers arrive. Ios and Verochin wear the distinctive bone rings.

Between derogatory comments about humanoids and aggressive boasting, Ios reveals some facts about these other Banewarrens explorers. They are members of the “Grailquest Team” and they are “Pactlords of the Quaan,” and they seem to have tangled with the paladin Kalerecent at some point earlier. Goblin archers begin raining arrows down on the companions, while Verochin drinks a strength potion and Ios drinks a haste potion. Early runs to the base of the spiral staircase that connects the walkway to the floor level to face off against Ios. Verochin leaps from the walkway and lands below to fight the others.

Early discovers Ios’ audacity is at least somewhat justified as the minotaur storms down the stairs swinging his huge greatsword. Early can only hold back the quickened minotaur for a moment before being badly wounded and forced to fall back to the others. Dziga hurls a dagger, getting a goblin in the throat, and springs upon Verochin as the lamia recovers from his landing. The lamia monk strikes back with terrible blows from his fists that drain the rogue’s very willpower. Vatex attacks Verochin like a wall of blades but finds the monk is well protected by magic.

The battle is then joined by another – Kalerecent! He immediately takes the companions’ side when he sees their enemies. Emeris slays a couple of goblins with black fire, but is speared in the back by one of Ios’ horns as he charges after Early. Badly wounded, Emeris stands and breathes a wave of icy shadow across the minotaur which staggers the huge warrior. Dziga flips over Verochin’s strike and stabs the unsuspecting minotaur on landing. Vatex finishes off Ios, and Kalerecent beheads the last goblin. The group converges around Verochin, who uses an enchantment on Dziga and sends the mentally vulnerable the rogue fleeing back to the surface at top speed. The battle ends when Early finally drives Cryssegrym through the lamia’s chest.

The group knows it should try to catch up with Dziga, and Kalerecent too seems eager to leave this place. All are burdened with the knowledge that not only are the Banewarrens unsealed, but powerful monsters are trying to find something inside.

Next: A friend goes missing! And Kalerecent shares his story…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Episode XVIII: Night of Dissolution, Act II - Dark Servants II

Juliar 15-17

Dziga and Vatex regroup with Early and Emeris in the afternoon to exchange information. Early and Emeris reveal their plan to infiltrate the Brotherhood of Venom’s meeting. Vatex and Dziga have had little luck finding the missing paladin Kalerecent, learning only that he and his monk cohort may have been looking into “monsters digging in Oldtown.”

The group receives a late invitation to one of Castle Shard’s extravagant dinner parties. They attend and encounter various famous people of Elan. They learn that Lord Abbercrombe has been restored but he’s a bit spaced out and they do not see him at the party. Instead, their encounters include the enigmatic, taciturn IRON MAGE, who comes and goes as he pleases without invitation and is perhaps the most powerful wizard in the city if not the Empire; ARGAEN RAVENWHISPER, a disturbingly frail and flamboyant elf sorcerer known for casting wishes at the drop of a hat; URLENIUS, an ogre-mage converted to goodness by the Brotherhood of Redemption; and JEVVICA NORR, a sorcerer of the Inverted Pyramid mage guild who is a beautiful woman with a glass arm. She is very interested in the incident with the dark elf monk that happened several days ago, and invites the group to join her at the Ghostly Minstrel to hear a proposition after the party.

The group also speak with Shilukar, attending the party disguised as a simple shoal elf using the name “Shaelukar Darkfingers”. They tell him they found nothing beneath the Pythoness House, and he seems disappointed. He reminds them even without the chaos weapons, his offer stands to pay 4,000 gold for the head of the Shuul scientist, Doctor Feagus.

The group feels socially awkward at the party and they are happy to meet Jevvica Norr at the Ghostly Minstrel. There she tells them the dark elf monk was called Tavan Zith, who was more than 20,000 years old! She says through divinations and research, her organization learned that Tavan Zith was a “bane” imprisoned by the great elven saint Danar in the impenetrable Banewarrens, because of his strange ability to release latent magical power in those around him. If Zith was wandering around the city, he must have escaped the Banewarrens somehow. She offers them a substantial amount of gold if they will investigate and provide substantial information about the opening (and resealing) of the Banewarrens, and they accept the mission. She tells them spells have revealed that Tavan Zith emerged from a wine cellar beneath a house in Oldtown, and provides the address.

Saharasahla summons Emeris, and they discuss the 751st page of the Book of Inverted Shadows, supposedly sealed up in the Banewarrens somewhere as well. The old shadowcaster tells Emeris that while it would probably be better overall that the Banewarrens be resealed and the Inverted Pyramid will probably be committed to that being done. But before that happens, it is vital that Emeris find the missing page, a coveted fragment of shadow lore said to grant great knowledge and power.

The next day, the group meets with Itumar and prepares for the Brotherhood of Venom’s secret meeting. They follow Itumar and a cultist into a nasty eatery called the Rat’s Nest, then to a house where the meeting is held. The use their fake Brotherhood rings to get access to the house to follow the young man and the cultist. Inside, they find meeting attendees must wear hoods. The guards are confused when there are more people than hoods, so only Early and Emeris are able to enter the meeting. The guards try to get Dziga and Vatex to leave, but the smooth talking rogue convinces them to all have a game of cards together while they wait for the meeting to end instead.

Disguised as cultists, Emeris and Early join the meeting on the lower level. There are seven hooded cultists with Itumar. Early’s preternatural scent detects what seems to be a horse in the backroom. The chairman of the meeting says they will be initiating their new “brother,” Itumar, discussing their “secret project” with the Ebon Hand, talking about poisons, then engaging in something that is implied to be a gross sexual act. The meeting discusses a joint project between the Brotherhood, the Ebon Hand (led by someone called MALEK), and the Society of the Tolling Bell (led by Khyron). They need volunteers for experiments, the nature of which are not revealed. Infighting between the Brotherhood and the Ebon Hand is also discussed, and the group seems psychopathically amused by the prospect of having to backstab their allies. Next they discuss poisons and ritualistically douse their daggers in a few samples brought by one cultist.

When the initiation begins, Itumar – foolishly brave until now – tries to back out, but the cultists will not allow it. Emeris tries to convince them to let the “blasphemer” leave, saying he is not worth bringing into the group. This seems to excite the cultists to instead want to murder Itumar on the spot. One cultist cuts Itumar with a poisoned blade, and the young man tries to flee. Early and Emeris cast off their disguises and attack. Emeris conjures a blast of shadowy cold that kills several cultists, and Early cuts down the depraved chairman. It looks to be a one-sided slaughter until a massive centaur fighter, apparent leader of this cult group, enters from the backroom, wielding a huge falchion and trying to crush Early beneath his hooves.

Upstairs, Dziga and Vatex attack the guards, cutting them to pieces in seconds. They join the battle below as Emeris consumes another cultist with supernaturally cold blackfire and spreads the effect around the centaur, who has Early badly pressed. The warblade hacks vicious wounds into his enemy. The centaur counters, hooves cracking into Early’s skull and falchion cleaving into his guts. Vatex comes down the stairs and fires a shot with his rifle and hits the centaur in the head. Still the centaur fights. Dziga enters the melee to take pressure off the dying Early, and fends off attack after attack from the frenzied centaur. The centaur is finally defeated when the rogue slams Asura into his chest.

The group sets up a gruesome display of dead cultists stuck to the wall with daggers, and take a set of documents carried by the centaur. Itumar is unconscious from the poison, so they take him back to Emeris and Early’s house. Emeris looks over the documents and finds the location of the cultists’ secret project – an apartment house in Oldtown. The companions wonder what sorts of experiments are being done there, and if it might lead them to Khyron.

The next day the group sells loot and rests. And the following day they sell more loot, and acquire items to keep them alive longer. Early buys an amulet that makes his skin like tough leather, and Dziga buys a ring that deflects attacks. Vatex has learned that Kalerecent and his monk where checking out the same house for which Jevvica Norr provided the address. The group then considers its next course of action. They decide they will investigate Tavan Zith’s emergence point for now, and hopefully find the paladin while they are at it.

Next: A legendary dungeon meant to forever lock away malignant forces of evil, sealed for thousands of years, and now opened…the Banewarrens!

Random Elanian Factoid: Although the Banewarrens had been Danar’s obsession, he was aided in his efforts by his mighty servants. These included a silver dragon named Saggarintys, a planetar named Bastion, and a solar named Averon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Episode XVII: The Legacy of the Silver Wolf / Night of Dissolution, Act II - Dark Servants

Juliar 12 – 14

The urban ranger Vatex splits off from the group for now to start hunting down the missing paladin from St. Gustav’s. Dziga the rogue accompanies him. This leaves Early the warblade-fighter and Emeris the draconic shadowcaster to begin their hunt for Khyron and his cohorts.

But first, Early and Emeris are weary of staying at the low-class Dragonsfire Inn and would like to find a place of their own. They find a nice single-story home in a secluded neighbourhood in Midtown which they rent from a wealthy merchant named YAVILL. Hours after they move in, they encounter Seanus, the halfling who worked with Linech Cran until the companions killed him, and who then worked with Darkwater before the Vai assassin attack that devastated the smuggling operation. Seanus moves in with them and essentially becomes the household chef.

Over dinner, Emeris and Early pore over the rest of the Book of Faceless Hate. They read of the philosophy of “deep chaos”, based on change and destruction and hate and death. They learn of the Lords of Chaos – aka the Ancients, the Galchutt, the Hylden, the Natharl’nacna, etc. – who are apparently imprisoned in caverns deep beneath the city of Elan, hence the city it is the locus of chaos cult activity. The Ancients created the “earthbound demons” called the rhodintor and the kython. To the cults, the greatest gift of the ancients is chaositech – strange ‘technology’ that uses the power of raw chaos for awesome effects, which is hidden in “vaults” in the caverns beneath the city. They learn also of the mysterious “Surgeon in the Shadows” who is Elan’s expert on such matters. It is said he possesses more chaositech than anyone else.

Additionally, they learn much about various chaos cults:

> The Deathmantle, worshipers of death and murder, allied with the Vai assassin and the undead-worshipping Forsaken.
> The Order of the Bloodied Knife, a cult obsessed with large-scale human sacrifice.
> The Crimson Coil, now largely defunct, a very destructive, secretive group more or less wiped out by the Knights of the Pale.
> The Brotherhood of Venom, politically active and fixated on revolution, death torture, and poison. Also known simply as “the Brotherhood” or “the Brotherhood of Elan.”
> The Ebon Hand, worshipers of mutation and deformity, who actually have a chapel in the Temple District. The place is the subject of many frightening rumors but the government has not shut them down for lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
> The Plagueborn, whose members seek to spread filth, decay, and disease. They commonly live in the sewers and other dirty places. They associate with ratmen, whom they consider their brothers.
> The Society of the Tolling Bell, whose goal is complete eschaton – the end of the world.
> Finally they learn of the Keepers of the Faith, not a cult so much as a clandestine organization that uses its secretive influence in matters of business, church, and state to facilitate chaos operations and obtain wealth. Dedicated servants of chaos are often recruited into the Keepers, and when that happens, they are somehow given the ability to take on a powerful new form. The Keepers are ruled by twelve overlords, who are said to be the most powerful followers of the Ancients. It is said the Keepers main goal is to uncover the forbidden lore of the Ancients, by finding a way into Jabel Shammar or the Caverns of the Galchutt.

Later that evening, the two of them head out to try and find out more about the cultists. Emeris learns from a former Knight of the Pale that Khyron allegedly abandoned the Crimson Coil and joined the Society of the Tolling Bell after the fall of the Pythoness House one year prior but otherwise there are no leads. Early tries to learn more about the “Brotherhood of Elan”, i.e. chaos cult Brotherhood of Venom, but can’t find much that is useful as the organization is quite secretive. He does however hear some interesting rumors about the war between the Empire and the Silmarians in the north. The barbarian horde is not advancing on the capital city, Tairon – they hold fast at Guardia. It is said that a large part of the barbarian army, tens of thousands of men, seems to have simply disappeared. Rumors also say that the legendary Drax the Destroyer, King of Silmaria and Unifier of the Barbarian Tribes, was slain in battle.

Emeris and Early stop by a tavern to discuss their findings. There, Early is confronted by an old northern man named VEGARD who claims to be Early’s uncle. He claims to have known Early’s father, and even knows Early’s name given at birth – Sigurd Thorvaissen. Vegard challenges Early to a duel in the middle of the tavern, in order to see if Early is worthy of carrying on his father’s legacy. In a furious melee that sends the other patrons fleeing from the building and the manager cowering behind the bar, Early defeats his uncle. Vegard tells him that he carries the Blade of the Silver Wolf, “Cryssaegrym.” Early’s bloodline is honor-bound to carry on the sword’s legacy and fulfill its mission. Early’s father, Dodend Jakter I Monshin (which translates as “Death Hunts by Moonlight”), failed however, and Vegard took up the task. However, after being captured and imprisoned in a vampire’s “pantry” for three years, most of Vegard’s power was drained away. Although he escaped, he did not feel he could fulfill the sword’s purpose, so he spent the last few years seeking out Sigurd aka Early. He tells Early how to complete a ritual that will reveal the mission of the sword him.

Emeris is summoned to Saharasahla to receive a gift – a magical rod that empowers the shadowcaster’s mysteries. Saharasahla asks how goes the search for the Book of Inverted Shadows – Emeris admits it is not going well. The strange old shadowcaster seems to care nothing of the situation with the chaos cults and equally uninterested in what they found beneath the Pythoness House.

The next day, the friends get their remaining chaos items identified, and Emeris is particularly taken with the skull of chaos, which can be used to conjure up a blast of chaotic energy. Early and Emeris get some horses and head out to the forest to complete Cryssaegrym’s ritual. That night, while Early sets up camp, Emeris seeks out an appropriate glade for his friend’s task ahead. Upon finding it, he finds he is being stalked by a pack of worgs and hurries back to camp. Him and Early are forced to fend off the ravenous monstrous wolves, which they do but they suffer great injuries. The next they, they kill time fishing and Early meditates in preparation for the ritual. That night, under a full moon, Early feels the power of Cryssaegrym and has a vision of himself running alongside a massive silver wolf on a plain of silver grass. The silver wolf spirit reveals that that wielder of Cryssaegrym must defeat a being known as Kyuss, or “the Worm that Walks”, and promote the natural order of nature against the force of destruction and chaos. This ritual seems to unlock some of the Silver Wolf Blade’s powers, while taking a bit of Early’s own strength to do so, and the warblade learns that as he himself grows stronger, more rituals can unlock greatest powers.

Emeris and Early return to the city. Early visits the Bull and Bear Armory to check on a helmet being fitted with the rhodintor horns. It is ready, but upon handing it over, HIRUS SHON, the armory’s owner, asks Early a favour. He says Itumar, his adopted son, has been hanging around with some sketchy characters that are part of the Brotherhood of Elan. Hirus asks him to talk to the boy and convince him to stay out of trouble. Hirus obviously disapproves of revolutionary types, but Early knows now that this Brotherhood is actually a chaos cult. He finds Itumar at the Ghostly Minstrel adventurers’ tavern that evening.

At first the boy is indignant and denies knowing anything about the Brotherhood. Eventually he confesses that he has actually been getting involved with them even before Early asked him to investigate the group several days ago. But Early is unable to convince the boy that the Brotherhood is more dangerous than he could imagine. Emeris, silent until now, takes the Book of Faceless Hate from his pack and places it on the table. He shows Itumar the relevant passages about the Brotherhood of Venom, and the wannabe adventurer is immediately convinced. He reveals that two nights from now he was supposed to attend a secret meeting in Midtown where he would officially be inducted into the Brotherhood. He gives them a ring with a broken square symbol, an item he was to use to gain access to the meeting.

Emeris and Early think this is a startlingly good lead on hunting down Khyron. From Itumar they learn that most members of the Brotherhood don’t know each other’s real identities, so they convince the young man to help them infiltrate the meeting two nights hence.

Next: The companions versus the Brotherhood of Venom! And the group receives a proposition from the Inverted Pyramid!

Random Elanian Factoid: Elanian people know of chaos cults. Cultists are apprehended and executed by the Commissar frequently enough that it's just a regular fact of life. They don't know much about them though. The situation is similar with the Forsaken, however they are probably the most reviled of all. They are known for repulsive acts far too violent and depraved to be mentioned here. Worse still, the Forsaken reside in the Dark Reliquary with some of Elan's most awesome evils -- Lord Archanfel's demons.

But the Keepers of the Faith are different -- few people believe they exist. A Keeper has never been brought to justice publicly. Rather, they are said to exist only in the most unfathomable of conspiracy theories. People who believe in the Keepers of the Faith are frequently regarded as paranoid and deluded.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Episode XVI: Night of Dissolution, Act I - The Pythoness House IV / The Case of Tavan Zith

Juliar 9 - 12

Dziga the rogue, Early the warblade-fighter, Emeris the draconic shadowcaster, Vatex the elven urban ranger, and Saral the cleric of the Emperor, awake from a comforting sleep in their own beds. Emeris awakes to find he has become significantly more draconic than before. He is starting to barely look human. They spend the early part of the afternoon visiting a local jeweller and selling the reams of jewellery and other valuable items. They sell the rhodintor axe at Rastor’s and the rhodintor shield at the Bull & Bear Armory. Given the discovery of the Brotherhood of Elan membership ring at the Pythoness House, Early asks Itumar about the Brotherhood. The young man says he knows nothing of them, other than they oppose the Empire, support freedom, and are not afraid of causing trouble to achieve their goals. Early proposes Itumar investigate the group and find out more about them.

Emeris heads to Oldtown to visit Saharasahla’s Shuul contact to obtain anti-sleep drugs. Early tags along but splits off to follow up on a lead from the Temple of Vexander, to speak with an old dwarf from the Shadowhearth clan named Rinner. Rinner says he can sell Early a six-shooter dragon pistol he has, a family heirloom passed down from the Shadowhearth days that he no longer has use for. The price is prohibitive for now, but Rinner also offers to simply trade it if Early can find him one of the legendary keys to Shadowhearth.

On the way to the Shuul agent, Emeris is assailed by a half-orc named TORUS who is ablaze with flame! The flames do not hurt the half-orc, but they hurt others, and in the chaos Torus lights a house on fire and burns Emeris badly. A friendly stranger with a huge axe helped Emeris shake off the distraught half-orc, and Emeris finished him off. Further down the street, a middle-aged woman selling pastries begins to levitate uncontrollably until some quick-thinking commoners throw up a rope and tie her down until the effect wears off. Another man starts firing lightning bolts every few seconds out of his body, killing various bystanders before the city guard fills him with crossbow bolts to take him down. Vatex and Dziga arrive, meeting up with Early who investigate the situation while Emeris goes up to meet the Shuul agent.

Encountering a dwarf who has suddenly developed the power to summon monsters into the streets, the group finds that very very old and insane dark elf monk, babbling incoherently in an obscure drow dialect, seems to be triggering the latent sorcery powers within people as he wanders around the city. Vatex and Dziga pursue and slay the drow monk in the street to the excitement of the gathered crowd. Early dispatches a summoned shadow mastiff and knocks the dwarf out cold, but not before he summons a giant octopus, a formian worker, and an imp (the last of which flies off before the group can stop it). The surrounding commoners, excited about how the group put an end to the situation, offers to buy them drinks and have a party for them at the local tavern. The group declines the offer – they must return to the Pythoness House. On the way there, a cleric from St. Gustav’s approaches Vatex and tells them Fabitor is looking to hire someone who is good at locating people.

Returning to the obscure corner of Oldtown, they pass a few kids playing in the street before entering the house and the room with the fat man statue. A slot has opened up in the fat man’s belly for the spiral key, and when they place it inside, the statue slides forward and reveals a ladder going down a shaft into a chamber below. The room below seems empty but for another shaft covered by s strange, translucent, fleshy membrane and a 10-foot tall skeleton that seems impaled to the wall by a greatsword. When they cut through the membrane, they find another shaft into a frozen cavern but without any ladder.

As they descend the ladder, however, the skeleton animates and pulls free the greatsword, using it to attack them with vicious strength. Dziga takes several terrible wounds and tries to tumble out of the fight to drink a potion – however the giant skeleton uses the opportunity to strike a mortal blow to his back, ending the rogue’s life. Emeris’ magic is virtually useless against the skeleton, and Early and Vatex find their edged weapons will not take the thing down quickly enough. Saral enters the melee to try and heal her allies, but the skeleton kills her with a series of awful slashes. Vatex lunges to grab the fallen Dziga’s dagger Asura, and tosses it to Early. Early channels the power of the Vajra through the vicious blade, pulls himself up using the skeleton’s ribcage, and drives the tip of the dagger through its face. The head shatters and the giant skeleton collapses into a pile of bones. Victory was achieved, but at a terrible price. With everyone badly wounded, and two of their party slain, the group returns to the surface.

The group visits the Temple of Ashe and tells Mand Scheben of their misfortune. As a favour to Castle Shard, this cleric of the god of civilization prepares a resurrection ritual at greatly reduced cost. The next morning, the group is whole once again, with Saral and Dziga badly shaken from their brief visit to the afterlife.

After purchasing climber’s tools, the group once again returns to the subterranean chambers of the Pythoness House. Vatex notices a strange twitch or spasm in Dziga and becomes somewhat concerned, but Dziga assures him it is probably just a side effect of the resurrection. It is odd though that the rogue suddenly proposes leaving the house without any explanation. They climb down to an unnaturally cold, frozen cavern about 100 feet below the house without much trouble, but for Vatex who slips and falls painfully the full thirty feet down the second shaft. In the strange cave, they find two minotaurs in an icy prison that begins to melt upon their arrival. The monsters bear strange tattoos and reveal they are guarding something and awaiting the “Night of Dissolution”. Vatex kills the first one with his spinning swords, which prompts the second one’s focused rage which takes down the elf. Dziga activates an old scroll from Toridan Cran’s wizard henchman and takes the minotaur down with two bolts of energy.

They find a strange tome of chaos called “The Book of Faceless Hate” also trapped in the ice. Otherwise, there is nothing but a foreboding passage through freezing water that waits under two feet of solid ice. Suspecting hypothermia should they plunge into the icy water unprotected, the group returns to the surface and acquires potions to resist the extreme cold so they can explore the tunnel. Emeris also reads one section from the chaos book about the Night of Dissolution, and a “final ritual” which can bring it about early. Apparently the Night of Dissolution is the ultimate goal of the chaos cults,

The group returns to the Pythoness House again and braves the frozen tunnel. They break through another foot of ice at the other end and find a chamber with six chests containing the treasures of chaos. Dziga picks each lock carefully and three-quarters of an hour later, the group has its loot – three magic swords, a magic spear, a skull-tipped rod, a skull of chaos, a couple pouches full of strange dust, a scroll, and perhaps most interesting of all -- one of Neveran’s allkeys. A massive steel door seems to hide more, but they can find no way to open it. It bears the inscription: “The Greatest Threat to the Stalwart Kings of Order, Created by That Ancient Elven Champion, Vaios the Slayer.” What lies beyond that door?

Leaving with the goods easily proves to be impossible, however. It seems the forces of chaos were somehow alerted to their taking of the anti-law arsenal. Khyron, former leader of the Crimson Coil, now a member of something called the “Keepers of the Faith”, faces off with them outside the keep. His sizable entourage includes Andross, the man from the Rat Temple, a liontaur chaos cleric, a lizardwoman archer, and six double-sword wielding human warriors. Khyron says his membership with the Keepers has granted him great power, which he proves by transforming into a massive demonic creature. Andross transforms as well, into a terrible toad-like monster with tentacles for arms that look like eyeless snakes. They demand the weapons of chaos be turned over to them.

Early, Vatex, Emeris, Dziga, and Saral are not about to turn over that which they worked so hard to acquire, even when offered their lives in return. Against dire odds, they have the fight of their lives against Khyron and his forces. Emeris unleashes a devastating wave of shadowy energy which badly wounds most of the warriors and the rest are cut down. But for the liontaur cleric’s terrible bell which compels them with a strong magical sleep enchantment, it seems they might win. But Khyron is too strong, and his group too determined to take the weapons for themselves. Everyone in the group is knocked out or put into a magical slumber, and the chaos cultists take the three swords, the rod, and the spear. Fortunately, they do not bother to kill the downed companions nor do they take the skull, the dust, the scroll, or the allkey.

They are roused by two children who have brought the city guard. Burning with the desire for revenge against the cultists who took from them, especially Khyron, they return to Dziga’s. They use the allkey to at last open the unopenable chest. Inside they find a flaming elven longsword called “Flame of Elmekia”, a wand of fireballs, and a shield of fire resistance. Vatex takes the sword and they sell the rest.

They then pay a visit to St. Gustav’s to speak with Fabitor, who again thanks the group for helping Phon. He tells them Vatex he would like to hire him (and the others) to find a missing half-elf paladin named KALERECENT. Divinations point vaguely to his involvement with the strange incident with the dark elf monk from a few days ago.

More urgent for the moment though is confronting Shilukar at Castle Shard. The group suspects treachery -- did the dark elf set them up to get the chaos weapons and tell the chaos cultists about it?

Next: The companions receive a proposition from the Inverted Pyramid! And the quest for revenge against Khyron begins...