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Emeris takes a hit while Early walks confidently forward to face the ratbrute, knowing that with his new skills it will no longer represent a formidable adversary for him.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.