Dziga awakes in the middle of the night in terrible agony, his flesh peeling away by the presence of a familiar, disruptive aura. Blood is splattered all around his bed. The room seems stretched out and distorted, like everything is far away from him. In the corner, he sees the familiar robed figure of “the Black Man” sitting in the shadows. He suddenly stands, and his voice is like thunder when he says:
“ON THE NIGHT OF DISSOLUTION, YOU WILL SERVE US.”
Dziga screams in agony and knows he will be dead in moments... but then he awakes, and it is morning. He is alone.
When Dziga tells his friends of this dream, the group is concerned for his sanity. Emeris in particular wonders, didn’t they stop the Night of Dissolution when they stopped Khyron’s ritual? Or was that just an attempt to bring about that dread event earlier than it would otherwise take place?
The Rosegate Company gathers its gear and heads to the manor in Oldtown. Emeris gets everyone committed to staying down in the Banewarrens as long as possible, to make as much progress as they can. They were still playing catch-up on the competing factions.
Upon arrival at the manor, they see soldiers from the Holy Order guarding the entrance. They say they were ordered by Brother Heth not to allow anyone inside. Talking their way past them does not work, so Early scares them away by drawing his Cryssaegrym from its sheath, which produces a frightening roar. The soldiers hurry back to the cathedral, saying the companions will regret their assault. Down in the cellar, another soldier guards the entrance to the umber hulk tunnel. Emeris and Vatex punch the guard out, and tie him up. Emeris suggests they kill him and dump his body in the umber hulk lair. Early strongly opposes such a murder. They decide to tie and gag him, and leave him in one of the bedrooms upstairs.
They return to the location of the plug without incident, although along the way they do notice that Aelrich’s body no longer among the fallen of the dead Vazdah followers. Beyond the plug, they find three open vaults, their evil treasures already looted. Down a long corridor they are attacked by a will o’ wisp that casts bolts of greenish-yellow lightning at them. Early and Dziga bring it down with bullets and arrows.
They navigate past another trap that casts spears of force at them, Vatex and Emeris taking hits. Dziga cannot be convinced to be blasted by the trap while he disarms it, so they resign themselves to getting blasted by it each time they pass. Past this is a stairscase leading to level two of the outer vault area.
In a room with a pegasus statue, they find a secet door that cannot be opened from this side. An adjacent room contains a marble statue of Saint Danar. North they find another vault already opened by Navanna, containing an ancient suit of plate mail held by black chains, suspended above a deep pit. The others cannot approach the suit because of an electricity trap Dziga is unable to disarm, but Emeris flies towards the pit. When he approaches, the spirit of TIRRANTH, an ancient, despicable, cruel old despot from ancient times. He introduces himself as “the Tyrant of Moldonon, the Despoiler of Galboria, the Butcher of San’Rativa, the Bloody King of Vuldoza...” and the list goes on. Emeris finds it hard not to mock the old spirit, which is apparently shackled to this place. Tirranth says that he should not be disrespected, for he knows many secrets about the Banewarrens. However, he says that unless they have a cleric with them, they are useless. Emeris cannot get the contemptuous, arrogant old spirit to reveal any useful information. They leave the spirit of Tirranth. They don’t want to be bothered getting a cleric, but they might be able to have Dziga use divine magic scrolls to use the desired effect.
Exploring northern passages, they encounter four, four-armed, cyclops like creatures with horns sleeping near a shrine to Kiiri, goddess of life and sustenance. A combination of magic and blades takes down the monsters, but Dziga is hurt badly. After healing his wounds with potions, the group backtracks and Vatex’s keen ears detect people talking somewhere ahead.
The group stealthily advances and identifies Navanna Vladaam and her two werewolf henchman in a room with a ceiling shrouded in darkness even the darkvision of Dziga and Emeris cannot see through. They were pondering what the darkness above might hide and how they might search the high area. Vatex casts a spell on his rifle, and Early drinks a potion of strength. Dziga and Emeris fade into the shadows, and the Rosegate Company launches its ambush.
Undetected, Dziga suddenly appears from the shadows, firing an arrow from his bow, Roguefriend. Navanna twists an the arrow glances her shoulder. She fires back with two well aimed shots and Dziga takes an arrow in the leg and in the abdomen. Early charges down the corridor, his sword glowing from Emeris blacklight magic. Navanna’s werewolf guards draw dragon pistols and fire off shots, and the rushing warblade dashes side to side to avoid the bullets.
Emeris appears from the shadows, blasting waves of shadowy destruction from his eyes and mouth. Navanna and the werewolves are smashed by magic, then Vatex takes aim at Navanna and pulls the trigger. The shot takes her in the side, a grave wound. As Early engages the werewolves, Cryssaegrym in one hand, silver dagger in the other. Navanna uses her bow to defend against Vatex and Dziga as they come at her, blades flashing.
Unwillng to fight under such poor circumstances, Navanna activates her magical headband and disappears to an unknown location, saying as she vanishes they were lucky this time and she would meet them again.
This leaves the urban werewolf henchman very outmatched. Their resistance to all but weapons made of alchemical silver gives them some survival power, but Early’s fierce blades eventually cut them down.
In the darkness shrouding this room’s ceiling, Emeris carefully flies around and finds an iron ladder hanging from the ceiling. Dziga climbs the ladder and searches the ceiling carefully, finding a switch that reveals a secret door in the south wall. This leads to a water shrine, with a glowing statue of the nymph ESTALADA, one of Danar’s allies.
West of the shrine they find an airlock connecting to a huge water tank, which they estimate to be above the drainage pool. Fish swim about the water, occassional snatched by the monstrous octopuses in the glass tubes beneath the tank. They can see there is another airlock on the other side of the tank. Getting there will be a challenge.
The company figures they can fill the airlock, then hopefully get across the water tank to the other side without being snatched by the octopuses. They pull the lever to let water into the airlock. Taking deep breaths, they pull the second lever to open the glass door to the tank and head out.
Emeris and Dziga slip into the darkness. Early and Vatex remain visible targets, and each are snatched up by the tentacled monsters. Early fights desperately, slashing with Cryssaegrym and filling the water around him with bloody mist, but each time he pulls free he is grabbed and constricted again. Air is squeezed from his lungs, his ribs crack. Again he breaks free after a bloody slash, but his equipment is so heavy, he can only slowly walk along the tank floor, and he his easily scooped up again.
Vatex situation is similarly dire. His belt of giant’s strength helps him right off the lashing, grabbing tentacles, but his equipment too encumbers him too greatly. He is repeatedly snatched up until Emeris makes a desperate gamble and blasts the octopus and the elf with shadow magic. Both his friend and the monster are wounded, but Vatex fights his way free, struggling to hold his breath against the pain of broken ribs.
As Early keeps fighting, Dziga quickly ties a rope around one of his arrows. The second octopus attacks Emeris, grabbing him and crushing him. The half-dragon shadowcaster breaks free and blasts more shadowy energy at the monster, destroying it. Early is still a problem. They can see he is losing his fight against the octopus. Dziga fires the arrow with the rope attached at the monster, hitting it in the eye. Early grabs onto the rope and Vatex yanks repeatedly, trying to pull the warblade free of the tentacles’ grasp. With a tremendous gust of strength he does so. Early kicks away from the monster as Emeris fires an arrow of dusk, which miraculously puts the thing into a coma. Dziga finishes it with a point blank arrow through the head.
Desperate for air, the companions get into the far airlock and activate the levers. The glass doors seal on both sides, and the water in the airlocks drains out. Exhausted, wounded, and badly shaken from their encounter in the tank, they decide to rest.
In the glow of shadowy blacklight, sitting on cloaks laid over puddles on the cold floor in the small room, Emeris the shadowcaster, Early the warblade, Dziga the shadowcaster, and Vatex the elven tempest drink potions, bind their wounds, meditate for strength, and rest for many hours. Navanna has been driven off for now and there is not yet any further sign of the Pactlords. It could be that they have taken the lead.
Meanwhile, the Pactlords of the Quaan have lost both their Grailquest Teams to the Rosegate Company. If their hunt for the Black Grail is to succeed, it seems they must get rid of the companions. To that end, they put a new plan into motion...
Next: Will the companions reach the Inner Vaults?
Random Elanian Factoid: Assault upon Holy Order officials or soldiers is generally known to carry a penalty of 1-20 years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.