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...

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