Wednesday, November 10, 2010

EPISODE XXXVIII: The Banewarrens, Act II - The Outer Vaults II - Aelrich's Return

Juliar 31 - Augustar 1

While Vatex and Emeris await Early's resurrection and load up a wagon to move to the Rosegate House, Dziga the shadowcaster, charged for double murder, finalizes his deal has worked out a deal with Judge Rahl to avoid jail or capital punishment. By turning over documents that implicate the leader of the Republican movement, Helmut Itlstein, in treasonous plot to attack the Holy Palace. His lawyer, Luigi Nono, tells him that he and his friends will be required to testify against Itlstein, and Dziga will be marked as a criminal but otherwise not punished or imprisoned.

Dziga gets out of jail with horrible X's burned into both cheeks. He meets the rest of the Rosegate Company just as they are loading up the last wagon of their stuff to move to their new house in the Nobles District. Seanus the servant is commanded to take the wagon and unpack their stuff, for they must return to the Banewarrens posthaste. Emeris notes that Early's hands shake when he carries even light objects, and the warblade retreats to the ally every so often to vomit fiercely. The shadowcaster convinces him to stay behind when they return to the Banewarrens and recover from his experience with death.

As Dziga the shadowdancer, Vatex the tempest, and Emeris the shadowcaster make their way back to the abandoned manor house in Oldtown, Dziga is brought up to speed on the current situation.

Saharasahla contacts Emeris through the thoughtstone and chastises him for delaying so long, and letting other factions get into the Banewarrens first. He says the Holy Order, the Inverted Pyramid, the Pactlords of the Quaan, and House Vladaam were now obstacles. Additionally, the old shadowcaster suspected that House Sadar knew of the Sealed Door as well. He tells Emeris that he would seek the missing page of the Book of Inverted Shadows himself but for the fact that he cannot leave his library. He calls Emeris his “avatar of shadow” on a quest to recover the lost secrets of history’s greatest shadowcaster. By working together, they will share the glory. He is building a new tool to give the half-dragon when it is ready as well. Finally, he says that they will probably need to eventually get the Banewarrens key to progress through the different levels of the Banewarrens. Saharasahla believes there are three levels beyond the sealed door -- the outer vaults, the inner vaults, and “Tremoc Korin” aka the Baneheart. It is likely that the 751st page is in the inner vaults or the Heart of Banes.

When they enter the old manor they find by the umber hulk’s tunnel MAURICE, a gnome fighter with big hands, and KAZINOR the elven cleric of Maduin, a god of magic and secrets. They are faily impressed when they learn these are the folks who stopped the barbarian invasion and saved the city. Emeris lies and says they came here because they heard a halfling at the Ghostly Minstrel talking about this mysterious tunnel. Coincidentally, Maurice and Kazinor are hunting a group that is accompanied by a fiendish halfilng named GUMMERS. Kazinor reveals that for the past month or so, the followers of the demon god Vazdah, have been converging on the city of Elan seeking out a “favored soul” of their dark master. They pursued a group of these Vazdah followers, including one believed to be the favored soul himself, into this house. They are unaware that the tunnel leads to the Banewarrens.

Finally, he warns Emeris about the banes trapped in the Banewarrens. He worries that Emeris’ dark soul will cause him to be tempted, which could be dangerous if even someone of Danar’s power could be utterly corrupted.

The followers of Vazdah only have a 20 minute headstart on the group. Joining forces, the Rosegate Company, the gnome, and the cleric head down the tunnel. Emeris has a sneaking suspicion that the “favored soul” is their missing friend, Aelrich, who they have not seen since the fight against the chaos beast beneath Derby and Anamethe’s house.

In the broken seal area, the companions encounter the followers of Vazdah. There indeed is Aelrich, covered in evil looking full plate mail that is fused to his flesh. He is accompanied by an orc ranger named KULGORI, who wields a battle axe in each hand. There is also TCHE’DENG, an extremely frail humanoid in robes and wrapped in rags. Finally, there is Gummers, the fiendish halfling assassin.

Tche’deng orders Aelrich to kill these enemies, but the favored soul of Vazdah pauses when he recognizes his former friends. Aelrich explains that after the battle with the chaos beast, he sought to remove the curse Vazdah had placed on him. One night, however, Vazdah sent Aelrich a vision, and he learned it was his destiny to find the “Sword of Lies”. The next day, he met Tche’deng and many other members of the Church of Vazda,. who convinced him that he was not cursed but blessed. He says he awoke last night after receiving another vision from Vazdah, which told him the Sword of Lies was in the Banewarrens, which were now open, and that anyone in their way must die.

Maurice and Kazinor are confused as to how Dziga, Emeris, and Aelrich know each other. Emeris tries to convince Aelrich that they should work together, but it seems the favored soul has been essentially brainwashed, convinced that battle is the only option. Dziga and Vatex cut down the Gummers, while Tche’deng casts a haste spell on Kulgori, who charges the others like a whirlwind of blades. Aelrich powers himself up with dark magic. Kazinor is badly wounded but Kulgori eventually dies when Maurice puts the tip of his sword through his heart. Tche’deng a spell on the area and causes Maurice, Vatex, and Kazinor to move as if mired in molasses. Aelrich and Tche’deng unleash various spells at their enemies but they are resisted.

Dziga strikes a blow that should have cut vital organs, only to learn that Tche’deng is only a skeleton under those robes. Tche’deng is taken down by Vatex’s flaming sword, and the group converges on Aelrich, who fights despite hopeless odds. Emeris tells him to yield, but the favored soul of Vazdah will not. Dziga finally kills him, stabbing him twice in the back, then running his blade across Aelrich’s throat as he goes down.

Kazinor casts healing magic upon those wounded in the fight. Emeris lets slip that they are going “back to the Banewarrens”, which exposes the lie they’d told to Kazinor and Maurice. Although trust is very strained, the group patches things up enough explore further. Kazinor and Maurice wonder if that was the last of the followers of Vazdah.

Before returning to the outer vaults, the group decides to investigate the unexplored areas surrounding the sealed door. In one room, the evil of the Banewarrens has animated dead insects into humanoid shapes, creating two wight-like creatures that attack them. Kazinor’s holy turning power causes the undead to cower against the wall. Maurice, Vatex, and Dziga fire guns and arrows, and Emeris casts black fire. The monsters are dispatched without difficulty.

They find signs that mark someone else’s passage. One room contains four ghoul-like creatures that appear to have been hacked violently apart. They also find a hallway full of doors, three of which are open. One opened room is extremely cold, and the floor is covered in water as if ice recently melted. In another room, they find a glass box fixed with straps, meant to hold a roughly man-sized humanoid. Was this the ‘eternal’ cell of ancient dark elf, Tavan Zith? All the other chambers are completely empty, perhaps having been intended for something at one time but unfinished by Danar before the legendary priest was utterly consumed by evil.

Elsewhere, they find a deep empty pit fitted with big chains and manacles, but fortunately holding no monster (which appears to have been the intent). Another room contains a pile of stone that appears to be the result of a large statue of a warrior being shattered. In the room where Kalerecent had hidden for several days while being hunted by one of the Pactlord lamias, they find a bunch of strange tools and brass plates, apparently meant to complete the partially constructed-device of mysterious nature that sits outside the sealed door to the outer vaults.

In another room, behind a door marked with unrecognizably ancient runes, they are attacked by a fierce reddish-purple wraith. It is defeated easily enough. The group moves through various archways connecting different sections of the chamber, and finds an altar holding a massive jewel roughly the same color as the wraith. Dziga disables the traps meant to protect the jewel, and takes it. The group makes their way back to the sealed door, and is attacked by three more wraiths, each appearing a few minutes after the destruction of the one before it. It is deduced that the stone itself is generating the wraiths, so they decide to get rid of it. Dziga runs off and tosses it in the big pit. Regrouping at the sealed door, they step through and back into the outer vaults.

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