After a cold, uncomfortable rest in the airlock, Emeris the shadowcaster, Vatex the tempest, Early the warblade, and Dziga the shadowdancer feel ready to proceed. Outside the airlock, Early pulls a heavy iron chain that activates a secret door elsewhere in the complex. Vatex locates a secret door to a passage that leads back to the chamber with the pegasus statue.
Near the chamber with the cyclops-things, they find the chain has opened a secret passage into a long corridor with three bane vaults. The first vault is already opened and apparently plundered. When the group enters the chamber to investigate, a gust of wind from down the corridor signals the conjuration of a huge air elemental that attacks them. It kicks and punches at them with arms of slamming air. As sword and shadow magic wear the thing down, it makes a desperate punch at Early, then reaches down to snatch up Emeris, trying to crush him. Dziga’s magic dagger finally kills the thing before it squeezs the life from the half-dragon.
When they reenter the room to investigate, they find themselves facing another air elemental, conjured up somewhere in the darkness down the northern corridor. The massive elemental transforms into a whirlwind and sweeps through the passage, battering and tossing the Rosegate Company. By the time it is finally defeated, it has taken its toll. Early and Emeris had been badly battered.
The second vault has also been opened. Inside, they can see a transparent orb of force holding a swirling green mist. When they enter the room to investigate, a third huge elemental is summoned from the north. Blasted by magic, and cut by a flurry of blades, the elemental is defeated. All but Dziga are significantly injured, and they leave behind a veritable pile of empty potion vials by the time they are done healing.
The third vault has not yet been unlocked. Dziga gets it open and they see that there is a little recess in the far wall, with a human skull tattooed with strange arcane markings. It is held behind a grate with iron bars. Emeris wants the skull, but the party is now wary of entering these vaults. They proceed north and find the apparent source of the conjurations -- a large, wood-and-cloth folding screen on which are painted whirlwinds. At Early’s suggestion, they burn the screen.
They now safely enter the vaults. The orb containing the green mist is immovable and impenetrable with their resources. The skull is acquired by a feat of tremendous combined strength, whereby Vatex, Emeris, and Early pull the grate right off the wall. They take the skull and proceed north, discovering a secret door behind the air elemental summoning chamber.
Dziga and Vatex move into the passage beyond to scout the long, eastward passage. Early and Emeris, waiting by the entrance to the passage, are suddenly attacked by Pactlords of the Quaan appearing from the ethereal plan -- a phase spider, and a female dwarf carrying a piece of paper.
Emeris is lucky enough to see the appearing enemies at the last second, and gets off a blast of killing shadows buys that him a few extra seconds, but it is not enough. The phase spider extends a long leg and touches him. At the same time, the dwarf drops the paper and touches the spider. Early watches in shock as the three of them disappear back into etherealness.
Dziga and Vatex emerge from the secret passage, to find Early alone. They read the dwarf’s dropped paper, which says: “If you ever want to see your comrade alive again, you will leave the Banewarrens. We will contact you again once you are out. Do as we demand, or your friends dies a slow, agonizing death.”
On the ethereal plane, the phase spider and the dwarf try to subdue Emeris, along with their brutish Pactlord ally, a 18-foot tall athach named CHAST. With ease, the three-armed brutish abberation grapples Emeris and pummels him into submission. The Pactlords take their unconscious captive back to the city.
The warblade says its time to do to the Pactlords of the Quaan what they did to the chaos cults -- strike a blow from which they would never recover. Dziga and Vatex agree. But their first priority must be finding Emeris and getting him back. The group makes haste back to Elan, fortunate enough to encounter no adversaries on the way back.
Back at the Rosegate House, Vatex, Early, and Dziga consider any resources available that might help them find the shadowcaster. Vatex heads to Saharasahla’s library, and Saharasahla is distressed to learn that Emeris has been captured. He says he will use all his resources to find him, and disappears into his bedchambers upstairs.
Dziga and Early head to Castle Shard to ask for magical assistance. Lady Rill says she will scry and attempt to find Emeris that way, and they should return in the morning.
Emeris regains consciousness, his vision blurry and his head pounding. He finds himself strapped to a large machine, and something heavy attached to his head. He tries to look around and sees a steepled wooden roof and stone walls, like a bell tower or similar place. He sees a vaguely familiar, stern-looking bald man talking a brutish, brown-furred humanoid wearing an unidentifiable iron holy symbol. He cannot make out what they are saying before he slips into a deep, sleep-like trance.
Meanwhile, Vatex has hit the streets, prodding his contacts in the seedy underworld, trying to find information about Pactlord operations. After all, they must have a base of operations in the city. He learns of various unusual monsters being sighted in the dark alleys of Riversgate District, particularly around the Chapel of St. Thessina. Strange, he thinks.
Before calling it a night, he also speaks to a fortune-teller about seeing the silver-haired elf woman in mirrors. The fortune-teller has heard of the phenomenon of “mirror seeing,” and tells him to speak with the Fate Weavers, an organization of prophers and seers who claim the ability to see others fortunes.
The next morning, Dziga and Early visit Lady Rill for the results of the scrying. She reports that she could not discern the exact location, but she saw Emeris strapped to a huge machine and apparently unconscious. In the background, she could see an open balcony, overlooking what appeared to be King’s River Gorge.
They then visit Myraeth's Oddities to have the tattooed skull from the Banewarrens identified. They are informed it is a legendary item called "the Lying Skull" -- once per week, it allows the possessor communion with the servant of an evil god.
Vatex can learn nothing from Saharasahla, who is in a deep slumber when the elf visits the library that morning. So the elf heads to Riversgate District and tries to get some information about the Chapel of St. Thessina. He speaks to a man who runs a bakery across the street, who reports that Brother Heth runs the place. The baker says he knows a lot of people but doesn’t actually know anyone who worships there, even though there always seems to be a lot of activity there -- including lights on in the belfry in the middle of the night. The baker hadn’t seen any monsters though.
Vatex also leaves a message the Ghostly Minstrel for Jevicca Norr. He figures since the Inverted Pyramid and the Holy Order are enemies, perhaps he can get aid in an assault on St. Thessina’s chapel. She later responds with a sending to meet for lunch the next day.
The party regroups at the Rosegate House, seeing all signs pointing them to the Chapel. Before they can get down to planning, they are visited by an elf priest named KURAIL from the Temple of Calethon. He says the temple wanted to extend an invite to Vatex to join the elven community for a star-signing ceremony. This was because he had developed a bit of a reputation for his involvement in stopping the barbarian siege. Vatex is reluctant to accept, generally feeling only disdain for religious types, but then Kurail mentions “Shaelukar Darkfingers” said they should attend. Kurail explains that he is one of the temple’s most generous donors. Shilukar?! Why is he so interested in giving money to a temple for surface elves? The Rosegate Company agrees to attend the ceremony in two days hence, if only out of curiosity.
They decide to hold off formulating a plan for attacking the chapel until they speak with Jevicca and see if the Inverted Pyramid will commit resources. The groups wonders about Emeris’ current condition...
Lastly, they visit Geristranomos at the Temple of Vexander, and see it is fully repaired. It makes a hubbub about how it must return to the Banewarrens to close vaults, reset traps, and keep people from plundering that place. He also mentions something called “the sealing rod,” and it is intimated that this item could be used to seal the place up.
The next morning they receive another sending, this one apparently from the Pactlords of the Quaan. They say they will turn over Emeris, alive and well, in exchange for 100 platinum coins, to be placed in the alley behind the Bull and Bear Armory after midnight, that night.
At the Ghostly Minstrel, they enjoy a tasty lunch while speaking with Jevvica. The sorceress says she finds them unreliable and she has hired the “White Wizards Three” to be the Inverted Pyramid’s new agents. Their mission will be to enter the Banewarrens and seek a way to seal the place up. She has also heard that the Holy Order is preparing to send a team down into the Banewarrens.
She does not believe them when they tell her the Pactlords are working with Brother Heth. Nor does she believe them when they say they know how to seal up the warrens, but they do not mention the sealing rod. The two parties each refuse to be the first to give up information or assistance, so it looks like the business relationship between the Rosegate Company and the Inverted Pyramid is dead.
It looks like Dziga, Emeris, and Early will have to take on the forces inside the Chapel of St. Thessina alone, but at least they have acquired enough intelligence to plot a good assault-and-rescue strategy. They return to the mansion and begin to make their plans...
Next time: The Rosegate Company brings the battle to the Pactlords!
Random Elanian Factoid: It is said that the Chapel of St. Thessina has been denying healing services to needy worshippers, even those with money. If true, such actions are likely to get Brother Heth get a strong reprimand from the Holy Order.