Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EPISODE 64: Valediction for the Ninja

Maya 5-8, 754 YE


When the elevator hits the lower level beneath the Dark Reliquary dungeons, Emeris, Vatex, Early, Gareth Porter, and Falstef find Dziga holding the strange cube in his hand. Something about the strange cube unsettles them when they look at it.

The air in this temple is supernaturally cold -- other than Early whose Phoenix Helm can protect him from the elements, and Falstef who is immune to cold, the others will soon die from the freezing temperature within 15 minutes. They must find a way to escape.

They also find the ghosts who had ignored Dziga eyeing them evilly. They must get out of this place! So they explore the long tubular tunnel. About 150 feet down they find a single door that miraculously exits onto a ledge on the the Cliff of Lost Wishes. The feel of cool fresh ocean air brings great relief. A narrow pathway along the cliff leads down to the Elan city docks. They are free! Vatex reasons that when the time comes to return and rescue his sister Calista from the Keepers’ clutches, they could theoretically reenter the Dark Reliquary this same way.

When the companions reach the docks, they discover that despite it being past midnight, there is an unusual amount of activity at the docks. Ships are being hastily loaded and moving out of the bay. When they inquire with a few dock workers, they learn that there is a huge protest going on outside the fortress of Dalengard, and there is some rioting and looting going on in Oldtown.

Gareth Porter says it is time for him to go home. But it seems the Rosegate Company, for reasons not entirely clear, has decided that they now own Gareth Porter because they freed him from the Dark Reliquary prison. Dziga saps the poor guy and knocks him out cold, and Early throws his unconscious body over his shoulder.

Falstef is disgusted with his rescuers lack of principles, and says their time together is over. But since he cannot return to his home plane of Mount Celestia, he doesn’t know what to do. Vatex tells him of the Pale Tower, the abode of myriad celestials in Elan. The elven urban ranger escorts the angel there while the others head home.

On the way, Early stops by the house of a wealthy industrialist in the Guildsman District named DORZAN. It seems Early had earlier made a deal with this man to trade the Wind Duke Ring for a powerful weapon.

Even though it is the middle of the night, Dorzan is actually awake, too anxious about the protests going on at Dalengard. He sounds concerned that the government might actually be overthrown, and if so, crazy anti-business folks will take control.

Anyway, Dorzan possesses a powerful weapon called SHEOL, which is an ancient dwarven gunblade that combines a gun with a blade. Beyond the ingenuity of its design, the weapon is powerfully enchanted -- it disrupts illusion effects, inflicts extra pain upon chaotic foes, and holds tons of ammunition within a special extra-dimensional space, so it can be reloaded very efficiently.

Everyone regroups then heads through Oldtown to get back home. Many shops have been looted and many fires have been set throughout the district. Strangely, the city watch isn’t doing much about it. Weirdly, they even encounter a couple of guardsmen killing another guards in an alley.

The protest around Dalengard is huge, possibly as many as 2000 people have crowded into the area surrounding the fortress. Everyone is pissed about high taxes paid to the Holy Empire, high food prices, high inflation, and wars. They even find Seanus, their butler, getting in on the protest. It seems Seanus supports higher taxes on adventuring companies.

Suddenly, a massive explosion rocks the central keep of Dalengard. Word starts spreading that Republican forces have infiltrated the fortress and are attempting to capture the city council and overthrow the government. Could it be true?

Back at the Rosegate House, the companions tie up Gareth Porter and throw him in the basement. Their plans for the unfortunate investigative reporter are not clear...


The next morning, the Rosegate Company heads out to breakfast. They see the huge protest continues unabated. Rumors have spread saying that there is all-out battle within the walls of Dalengard, between the Republican insurgents and the government. What will be the outcome?

While eating a delicious breakfast, out of the blue they receive a shadow sending from WILLIAM ARTURIUS. He is a wealthy aristocrat who used to have a big estate in northern Vigoor. Now he lives in Elan, and is known for being co-owner of the Aristocrats Table (fancy restaurant in the Nobles Quarter), having a massive book collection, and giving lots of money to various charitable causes. He is asking the Rosegate Company to meet with him for a business proposition.

On the way back to the Nobles Quarter to meet Mr Arturius, they again must pass by the big protest. It seems the battle within the fortress is over, as a dude holding a Republican flag and a bloody sword appears on the roof. He calls out to the people in the square, “A new age of freedom is dawning for our city! The imperial government of Elan has fallen. Our leader will appear shortly to address you all!”

The companions wait around, interested to hear this upcoming speech. Thousands more people fill the square as they wait around for several hours. Then Loris Raknian, the new leader of the Republicans since Helmut Itlstein’s death, appears with his entourage on the Dalengard roof.

He declares that Elan is no longer the puppet of a “so-called god-emperor in Tairon.” The new government of Elan, which will be established by himself during this “transition period,” will serve the people, not the special interests. He says the Empire’s Vast Codex will be discarded and a new Constitution will be written. Many new intended policies are announced, including but not limited to:

- higher taxes on capital and adventuring companies
- new social programs to help the poor
- prices controls and minimum wages

As a brutal capstone to this speech, Raknian brings up eight captured members of the city council, otherwise known as the Twelve Commanders. Also among the prisoners is the Commissar himself. In front of his massive audience, Raknian pulls out a gun and shoots the Commissar in the head, tossing his dead body over the ramparts, declaring that there is no place for the Empire’s former executive of the city government. He asks the other members of the council if they will side with the new “free city’s” government or the Holy Empire. Only ASHBY GERARD, former captain of the city watch, openly says his loyalty is forever to his Holy Emperor. So he is shot in the head by Rakian also.

With that, Raknian declares that there are warrants out for the arrest of the other council members that have not been captured.

Finally, Raknian declares that the Trial of Champions -- Elan’s team fighting tournament -- normally held every five years, will be held this summer, one year early, to help raise money for the new government and boost its economy.

Now some people think all this is great, but it scares many others. Firstly, there are a lot of Vigoorian people living in Elan, and many of them identify nationalistically with the Empire. So they don’t like all the Empire-bashing and whatnot. And while many folks support Raknian and the Republicans’ general philosophy of “democratic socialism” or whatever it is, it is clear the guy is pretty brutal and ruthless, what with this violent overthrow and the execution of the Commissar and Ashby Gerard.

As the companions head up to Mr Arturius’ house, they discuss whether they should enter the Trial of Champions this year. It is an event known all over the continent where various adventuring companies fight in a tournament. The winner gets a Champions’ Belt and a big pot of gold. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t...


They meet with William Arturius, who says he received a strange letter from the ninja Zuuma, who was the only survivor of the Shadowblade Company sent by Lord Sadar. In the letter, Zuuma reveals that he plans to kill Arturius, and the only way the old aristocrat stands a chance is if he hires the Rosegate Company to protect him. Obviously, that’s pretty weird, and the group reasons that whatever Zuuma’s reasons for wanting to kill Arturius, he apparently wants to get another crack at the Rosegate Company at the same time.

The Rosegate Company agrees to the proposition, taking a big fee plus a few bottles of fancy wine from Arturius’ cellar. The Rosegate Company temporarily moves into the servant quarters of Arturius’ mansion, keeping guard over the property and watching out for ninja attacks.

Overall, it’s a pretty sweet job. Over the new few days, there is zero action. MIDA, the maid, makes them delicious food. JAIRA, the hot daughter of Mr Arturius, exchanges some flirtation with Emeris. The only annoying thing is the son of their employer, JURO. Juro believes this is all some conspiracy to kill his father and that the Rosegate Company is probably “in on it” with this Zuuma character. But all things considered, the situation is strange and so perhaps his lack of trust is justified.

Early takes crazy narcotics that help him stay awake, because he doesn’t want to miss any action. Emeris only sleeps one hour per day, while Dziga and Vatex trade off their shifts every so often.

Then, around lunch time on the third day, Zuuma’s forces attack.

Dziga is hanging out on the roof in the sunny weather, hiding invisibly by the door. Suddenly something flies overhead, and the roof is bombarded by ion cannons! Dziga avoids the assault, then sees five figures jump off the soaring vessel, which then flies away.


Dziga wonders for a second if he is imagining things, as the group before him is so ridiculous. One is a big ogre called MORAG-ZUL who looks surprisingly nimble, wielding a huge hammer that cackles with power. The others are the four Prism Pirates!!!

Prism Red! The leader! He fights with magical energy knives that he conjures up with the power of his mind!

Prism Green! A big brute of a man who fights with a strange club shaped like a shark!

Prism Blue! A specialist mage known as a “grapplemancer”! He starts powering up with magic and doubles in size, grows huge spikes out of his flesh, starts dripping acid from his suit, and becomes surrounded in an aura of fire!

Prism Yellow! A daring rogue who fights with lightning power and acid flasks!

None of them see Dziga, who remains hidden. Prism Red and Green set up a grappling hook then rappel down the house’s eastern side, kicking through the window into Jaira’s bedroom. The ogre smashes through the door that heads from the roof to the house, and then heads down with Prism Yellow and Blue. Dziga silently and invisibly follows them, and calls his shadow from downstairs.

Below, the Arturius family hides in their rooms while everyone heads upstairs upon hearing the ion cannon attack. Emeris, keeping vigilant by Mr Arturius’ bedroom door with Early, sees the attackers come down the stairs from the roof. He tries to paralyze Prism Yellow with shadowmagic, but she resists and launches a volley of acid flasks that splatter all over Early. The warblade avoids the potentially brunt of the devastating sneak attack by having an uncanny ability to avoid being caught flat-footed. Then Prism Yellow generates a yellow bolt of electricity that arcs through the hallway and catches both the warblade and the shadowcaster.

Prism Blue, buffed up with reams of spells to enhance his wrestling abilities, charges the shocked warblade and snatches him into a crushing bearhug. Prism Blue’s magic body spikes pierce Early’s flesh; the flaming aura scorches him; the acid secreted from the pirate’s flesh melts his own.

It sounds like Prism Red and Green are breaking down walls in Jaira’s room. The hot daughter is screaming. Morag-Zul begins to advance down the corridor and Dziga goes for the attack on the unsuspecting ogre. Asura stabs into his back and the ogre howls, spinning with his huge hammer.

“You fool!” shouts the ogre. “You cannot fight against me -- I am the Hammer God!” The ogre swings his magical hammer which smashes Dziga in the chest. Bones crack and one of his lungs collapses. The power of that blow was so vicious Dziga is certain a second will kill him.

After scanning the first level and finding it clear, Vatex rushes upstairs and sees the attack unfolding. He springs forward to help the fighting Early, and stabs Prism Blue with both his swords. The Blue Ranger err pirate stumbles a bit but maintains his vice-like grip of doom on Early.

The warblade switches to Wolverine Stance, twisting his arms of the grapple with Cryssaegrym in one hand and Sheol in the other. “Finishing move!” Early declares anime-style. “Cryssaegrym Wolf Blitz/Raging Mongoose!”

With that, Early unleashes a fearsome assault with both weapons, the details of which become lost as Prism Blue literally explodes into a cloud of body chunks and blood. So brutal and savage is Early’s assault that even the bad-ass members of the Rosegate Company have to avert their gaze. Probability-wise, Prism Blue should have still survived... his displacement field should have negated enough attacks. However, the new gunblade Sheol’s illusion bane property completely bypassed this otherwise effective defense.

Prism Yellow regains her senses, stunned by the violence, and launches more flasks at the warblade. Vatex rushes her and hits her with two sword attacks. The Prism Pirates’ red and green members continue smashing through rooms to the side, apparently trying to flank the group by coming out the wall behind them. Dziga takes a gamble and tries to kill Morag-Zul as his shadow companion appears and flanks the ogre. His flurry of sneak attacks is awesome, but Morag-Zul laughs it off despite being badly injured. His wounds are regenerating!

Dziga ducks the first swing of the hammer, but the second two smash him in the body and head. He drops to the ground bleeding heavily from his ears and seeming dead to his observing companions. “HAHAHA” laughs the ogre as Emeris shadow jumps beside him and attacks with the Shadowgeist Reaver. The ogre dodges the attack but finds Early rushing down the hallway, past Vatex and the Prism Yellow. The warblade completes a Swooping Dragon Strike maneuver. The ogre takes a swing at Early while he jumps, hitting him but not knocking him off course. The maneuver leaves the ogre stunned and near death. The shadow saps strength from the dying ogre with its chilling touch.

Early’s Elder Mountain Hammer takes down the ogre while he is stunned, as Prism Red and Green smash through the wall into the hallway. Emeris goes to Dziga’s side and finds him barely alive. The shadowcaster uses his power to connect Dziga’s lifeforce to the Plane of Shadow, giving him power to fight temporarily. Prism Yellow tumbles out of Vatex and the others’ reach, hurling an acid flask at the elf and then firing a lightning bolt down the hall. Only Dziga evades the shot, and Early would have been killed but for the electricity resistance generated by his helmet.

Prism Red fires up a protective multicolored aura of swirling colors and throws a bunch of flaming knives of pure force at Vatex, but the elf’s displacement cloak protects him from all but a single hit. Vatex uses his Boots of Active Assault to quickly rush Prism Green. As the raging barbarian in the green lycra raises his shark club to strike, Vatex hits him with a full attack. The Storm Sword and Sword of Aqa’a splatter the Green Pirate/Ranger in seconds. Dziga gets to his feet and fires an arrow from Roguefriend that busts through Prism Yellow’s visor and into her face, so she dies.

Early starts downing some healing potions and Emeris joins Vatex in attacking Prism Red. Vatex smacks his swords together which produces a blast of lightning, but Prism Red’s inherent powers give him resistance to all elements. The shadow companion of Dziga flies in and its hand grabs at the pirate leader, draining strength.

Emeris strikes with the Shadowgeist Reaver, draining some of Prism Red’s lifeforce. Unfortunately, as he strikes his spectral weapon passes through arcing yellow energy in the prismatic aura around his foe, and suffers a backlash of powerful electric energy. OUCH! Red backpedals nimbly and hurls another volley of flaming force knives at Emeris, but his protective shield of shadow energy blocks them. No one wants to attack Prism Red directly after seeing what his aura did, but then Dziga fires a few arrows that leave the pirate struggling to survive. Prism Pirate Red makes an attempt to flee, leaping over the railing to the library on the first floor, but his escape ends with death as Emeris fires an umbral ray that blows his head off.

Mr Arturius, Jaira, and Juro emerge from their rooms. “Is it over...?” they ask.

It seems to be, until a moment later when they hear a loud voice: “Rosegate Company, join me outside in the courtyard and we will finish this once and for all!” That sounds like Zuuma!


Everyone heals up and rushes out of the busted up hallway, that is going to need a renovation after this. They head downstairs and outside. They look around for the ninja but there is no sign of him -- but suddenly, a wall of mist arises from the ground and expands to form a ceiling over them.

Then stepping into the dome of mist at the southern edge is the powerful ninja Zuuma and ten other shadow ninjas.

“This ends now!!!” Zuuma yells as he launches a flurry of flaming shuriken at Vatex. Again Vatex’s cloak protects him from a lot of pain, but he takes one nasty hit that leaves a nasty scorched cut under his left eye. Dziga returns the attack by disappearing into the elf’s shadow, then reappearing suddenly and shooting an arrow at Zuuma, catching him in the chest. Before Vatex can follow-up on that attack, he is attacked with three shadow rays fired from ninjas on the right. The other two ninjas on that side charge Dziga’s with their Cthonic Serpent Strike maneuvers. Dziga takes a few hits then Vatex shifts over and cuts them down swiftly.

Ninjas on the other side fire their shadow rays, hitting the group. Early deflects one attack with Cryssaegrym. Emeris advances on the left side and strikes back with Killing Shadows, slaying three of them in a blast of destructive power. As he readies a second blast, the other two attack him with more Serpent Strikes. Despite the assault, Emeris keeps drawing shadow energy into himself.

Early switches to his Steel Wind stance and moves extra quickly to take on Zuuma directly. He goes all out with Wolf Blitz again, and channels another Elder Mountain Hammer. Zuuma’s kusari-gama lashes out as he closes in, cutting him across the legs. Zuuma adjusts his kurasi-gama as Early attacks savagely and snaps out the blunt end of the weapon which hits Early flat in the face, breaking his nose. At that moment Early’s maneuver is executed and with tremendous force smashes Cryssaegrym into the ninja’s chest, leaving Zuuma spewing blood from his mouth and struggling to regain balance.

Two more ninjas close in on Vatex and Dziga. Vatex takes care of them masterfully while Dziga advances on Zuuma again, but the ninja avoids his arrows.

Zuuma swings the chained weapon around Early’s legs, tripping the warblade. The heavy ball end of the weapon swings down toward the prone Early’s head, but he rolls aside at the last moment. The fifth ninja on the right side charges the prone Early as well, finding the prone Early an easy target. The slender ninja cuts him pretty good.

Vatex cuts down the two attacking ninjas swiftly, taking only one hit in the process. They are good, but no match for the elf’s fancy and deadly swordsmanship. Emeris blasts more killing shadows killing the final two ninjas on the left side.

Early tries to stand as the last ninja and Zuuma hack at him. Dziga springs into the melee which draws enough attention for Early to get on his feet. Zuuma’s weapon lashes out and wraps around the blade of Cryssaegrym, and the weapon is yanked from Early’s hand! “Damn you, ninja!” says Early as he grips Sheol with both hands and executes a Swooping Dragon Strike. Zuuma’s head goes flying from his shoulders and hot blood sprays all over the place. Dziga attacks the final ninja although the ninja should have dodged it, Dziga triggers the Impossibility Cube to change reality and make the blow connect. The ninja dies from Asura stabbing him in the face.

Zuuma’s arena of mist dissipates upon his death, and the Rosegate Company takes all the valuable gear possessed by their dead foes. Mr Arturius pays them and they head home, happy with a job well done.

Monday, January 9, 2012

EPISODE 63: Escape from the Keepers

Maya 4, 754 YE


In the dungeons beneath the Dark Reliquary, home of the demonic Fallen and the undead-worshipping Forsaken, and at least a few members of the mysterious Keepers of the Faith organization...

It is only a few moments after the demon lord Ochremeshyk exits the Cruciform Prison that Emeris the shade, Vatex the urban ranger, and Dziga the shadow-rogue hear sounds of battle erupt outside. Seeing as the big red demon is thoroughly occupied, Dziga hastily exits his cell and grabs the magic keys from the dead guard. He then releases his friends and they retrieve their equipment from the chest in the guard room. Fully equipped, they return to the prison and release all the prisoners.

Except Calista. Her cell door is made of black adamantine layered with an aura of invisible force. Its complex locking mechanism is completely alien even to Dziga. She says only Drusii carries the key to her cell. Vatex declares they will simply hunt down Drusii and kill her, but surprisingly Calista protests. She avers quite convincingly that they are simply too weak to defeat the mighty Drusii. “Long have I yearned to be free, but even I must understand that now is not my destined time to escape. All this time I have had a profound sense that there is a greater destiny planned for me, and your appearance confirms it. Please brother, promise me you will return when you are stronger! You are my only hope.”

With that, something seems to awaken within Vatex. A small multifaceted object that looks like a prism of polished glass emerges from his chest. Calista focuses on it for a moment and then it reenters Vatex’s body.

“We both carry these Talismans of Law,” she says. “It is a sign that we were chosen. Come back for me... but for now you must go!”

Vatex feels different now. He feels a power within him, a power linking the lawful aspect of his alignment to the metaphysical lawful order that structures the universe.

Falstef the angel and Tiraeg the orc are eager to escape. Falstef’s angelic spell-like powers have faded over the many thousands of years he was locked up, but once Vatex restores some of his power with various healing items, he is at least capable of fighting. When they release Cardalian the halfling, she goes totally crazy rolls around on the ground screaming about “they’re cutting me!” Thinking she is utterly insane, they abandon her. The unnamed elf, who is actually an award-winning investigative journalist named GARETH PORTER. As for Prisoner X, they try to recruit him for their big prisonbreak and break the ring of salt that seems to restrain him, but he seems unable or unwilling to communicate, and Dziga is forced to put him down with three quick arrows when he makes a motion to attack.

Then as they are about to leave the prison, they suddenly hear a familiar voice from the prison exit, over the sounds of Ochremeshyk’s battle agains the Dark Reliquary’s denizens. It yells, “Suck it, demon!” Hey, that’s Early!

Suddenly the warblade stumbles into the doorway, half-naked and filthy, hands covered in blood, and carrying the severed head of some unfortunate demon. It seems Early had been captured as well... and he too had escaped from a torture room a few doors down the hall, albeit in a less fancy way. They learn that Early had been tricked by a merchant who’d turned out to be an agent of the Keepers of the Faith, and captured by him. He’d actually been in the Cruciform Prison before they showed up... but for the last 18 or so hours they have been beating him, burning him, and pulling out his toenails.


So the reunited Rosegate Company and their hodgepodge squad of escapees head out of the prison to the dark dungeons. They note the vestibule to the north is full of carnage as Ochremeshyk is assailed by all sorts of Dark Reliquary inhabitants as he fights his way to the exit. Ochremeshyk explodes them with powerful magic or simply hacks them apart with his sword. Many demons teleport into the fray, take a nasty hit, then immediately teleport away, only to be replaced by others. Then the Dark Reliquary’s two balors arrive on the scene, and its a balor smackdown!

Everyone wonders how they will escape if they have to cross the vestibule. Then Dziga says they need to go down to escape, and explains that Keziah showed him the way to “freedom” in his dream. Everyone concedes to trust him, but it seems terribly counterintuitive to go deeper into the Dark Reliquary’s dungeons.

One problem: they need to find Early’s stuff! Fortunately they find it after searching only a few rooms, but then as they leave the room they are attacked by a pair of vampires in the corridor! Dziga slows them down with an illusion which gives Emeris the opportunity to blast them at point blank range with killing shadows. This attack instantly destroys the rapier-wielding vampire fighter and weakens the vampire sorceress. She powers up a defensive spell but then Dziga hits her in the throat with an arrow. This triggers her defensive magic which fires a blast of dark energy along the path taken by the rogue’s arrow. Dziga leaps aside just as he fires another shot. As the vampire tries to pull the first arrow from her throat, the second takes her in the face and she bursts into vampiric vapor.

At the other end of the corridor, two hideous kere demons comes rushing towards them. They look like naked bald women with clawed talons like vultures for feat and spider legs sticking from her back where wings would be, and they wield nasty looking double-bladed swords. Vatex takes a hit but retaliates with a brutal onslaught with the Wind Duke swords. The Sword of Aqaa, being especially potent against chaotic evil outsiders, just hacks shit right up. The kere is gruesomely dismembered as Early smashes into the second one -- “Rabid Bear Strike!!!” blood sprays in his face as the warblade strikes a nasty blow, but it still lives, its demonic resistance having softened the blow. He hits it against, overcoming resistance with Elder Mountain Hammer. Emeris joins the fight and wills the Shadowgeist Reaver to appear in his hand. He swings at the nimble demon and the incorporeal blade passes through her torso with no resistance. A fraction of the demon’s lifeforce is passed into Emeris, and it is dazed by the agony. Vatex uses this opportunity to spring in and slay it with the Sword of Aqaa.

Dziga leads the way after the fight. Again they pass the battle at the Vestibule, this time seeing Ochremeshyk marked with a few not-negligible wounds and the two balors he’s fighting bleeding badly. They teleport away, then six seconds later a beautiful, black-haired woman appears in the northeast corner, and fires a wave of black energy that knocks the huge demon to the ground. Then the two Dark Reliquary balors reappear, fully healed. Another wave of lesser demons teleports in as well, and the assault is renewed as the black-haired woman vanishes.

The companions pass by and go down the stairs to the lower level. They enter a large hallway, down which they find Ralderpon, Ganbar, and Zagdok! But they are no longer dressed like Knights of the Pale. They are dressed like Keepers of the Faith, and each of their robes feature a numeral I, II, and III respectively.


The Keepers then shift to their battle forms -- and the companions find themselves fighting three battle forms just like Relegin! Well, Relegin had looked a little bigger and stronger than these, but they could not overlook the fact that Relegin had put down Vatex (maybe even two Vatexes, depending on how you look at it), put down Dziga, then nearly put down Early as well back in one fateful battle down in the Banewarrens. Now they would face three such Keepers!

Early and Vatex rush Ralderpon. As the elf springs forward, a lashing tentacle from Ganbar pierces his shoulder, and Ralderpon winds up a huge punch that clocks him in the face. He stumbles but lunges and stabs, triggering his magic vest for an extra attack. He dives to the side as Ralderpon takes another swing at him. Ralderpon attacks Vatex full-on. One tentacle pierces his shoulder, another goes through the side of his abdomen. The displacement cloak saves him from a nasty hit aimed at his face, and he ducks under one claw but the other hooks him in the back. As Ralderpon forces the elf back on his heels, four deep cuts slice into him as Early attacks with the Rabid Wolf Strike. As the Keeper stumbles back gushing blood, Early takes an unexpected low swipe. Cryssaegrym hacks deep into Ralderpon’s ankle, then pulls free to block a piercing tentacle strike.

Emeris rushes forth, his hands becoming charged with power. He extends his hands and an umbral ray hits Zagdok square in the chest, a wound that jets hot blood. Zagdok rushes the shadowcaster and hits him with a series of tentacle attacks. Bleeding heavily, the shadowcaster Emeris calls upon his shade powers and creates 7 duplicate images of himself to draw attacks.

Dziga advances, loosing arrows as he slips in and out of shadows. Somehow, Gandar still manages to see him and assaults Dziga with an array of attacks. He avoids the grabbing claws but three tentacle attaks pierce his body.. As his blink armor saves him from another nasty hit, then he remembers that Relegin had extremely keen senses. He falls back into shadow and drinks his special elixir of hiding.

As Dziga vanishes from sight, Falstef charges in against Ganbar with a glaive taken from a dead demon upstairs and hacks at the Keeper. Tiraeg follows, brandishing the fiery rapier taken from the blasted vampire upstairs. His emotion obviously got the better of him, for he is in no physical condition to fight, being totally emaciated. Ganbar’s tentacle lashes out and pierces his skull, killing him instantly on approach.

Emeris needs to heal, but instead he hustles to reposition for an attack, letting his mirror images absorb the opportunity attacks. Drawing power from within and heightening it with his metashadow rod and ring, tenebrous energy begins flaring around him. “METASHADOW MAXIMIZE...EMPOWER... KILLING SHADOWS!!!”

A wave of pure shadowy destruction erupts from Emeris’ eyes, hitting both Ganbar and Zagdok. Their powerful spell resistance provides no defense. Chunks of flesh are torn from the Keepers’ bodies and the floor is covered in green from their blood. Emeris then fires another umbral ray before shadow jumping down the hallway, out of the fight to drink a healing potion.

Ralderpon is flanked by Early and Vatex and in trouble. The elf aggressively goes for the kill, his blades striking vital organs five times with a flurry that overwhelms the Keeper. Ralderpon takes a few steps forward, reaching for the elf with his big claws, then falls over dead.

Undetectable to the remaining Keepers, Dziga fires at the bloodied enemies as the dust settles after Emeris’ attack. One of his arrows hits Zagdok in the side of the head, and he begins stumbling around clumsily. Falstef is caught by one of Zagdok’s wild swinging claws, but he recovers and slashes thrice with his own weapon at Ganbar, who screams. Early uses the Elder Mountain Hammer against Ganbar, which explodes through the Keeper’s chest, killing him, but he takes a nasty hit in the process. Vatex rushes forward and slays the crippled Zagdok with a final blow.


The group is bleeding from many wounds, however they are given no time to rest as another demon stumbles upon the scene. It has a body like a burly dude with shaggy brown hair, four arms wielding swords and axes, and a big ape-like head. But then the ape-head opens its mouth wide and reveals a human head inside! It is a carnevus demon, and it gives them a strangely pleasant greeting before starting to speak unbelievably fast with its mouth-within-a-mouth. A fireball launches from its chest into the corridor -- Early and Vatex are caught in the blast but Dziga manages to jump clear with his unnatural deftness. Vatex lunges towards the carnevus and stabs into it with the Storm Sword. Then Emeris reappears nearby, firing an umbral ray blasts a smoking hole in the monster’s shoulder.

Then another demon, a solomoth, enters from the other side. It is a big fat disgusting creature, with a disturbing baby-like face, whose giant belly seems to contain many screaming heads whose expressions of horror can be made out in the indentations of the demon’s belly flesh. It thrusts its own hand into its abdomen, causing burning blood and slime to spray out. It rummages around in the disgusting contents of its belly then pulls out a flaming, screaming head that drips with slimy gore. Dziga hits it with an arrow, but still the demon hurls its disgusting projectile at Early. The warblade snarls and fires a few shots at the demon, whole returns the favor by throwing a flaming head at Dziga. His armor blinks at the right moment and it sails through him. Dziga triggers his haste boots and disappears, helped by his elixir. The solomoth looks on stupidly a rapid volley of arrows seemingly shoots out of nowhere and into its engorged stomach. Its flaming slimy blood sprays everywhere. Then demon explodes in a shower of burning putrescence.

Vatex finds himself focusing intently against the carnevus’ four-armed assault of blades. The demon is fast and deadly, impossibly so. It begins yammering another rapid spell but Vatex interrupts the effect with a strike before it completes. The carnevus makes ten attacks! Vatex’s cloak of displacement shifts him to avoid one blow and he dodges or blocks all but one of the others! Early is badly injured, but he wants to spill more demon blood. As Emeris fires more umbral rays at the demon, Early hacks into it, following up with an unexpected blow. Vatex’s brutal assault finishes the nasty demon.


They then navigate a creepy side passage where clawed hands burst from the wall to grab at trespassers. Dziga and Vatex tumble through, Emeris shadow jumps, and Early uses a potion of flying to get himself, Falstef, and Gareth Porter across.

They pass a room of magical darkness. Before them is a massive set of double doors, beyond which they can hear the most awful, inhuman screams of agony. At the side is a distinctively older door. They pass through it, and into an old storage room that seems to never be used by the denizens of the Dark Reliquary. Down the hall they find a chamber that seems to be an old shrine of some kind. Its walls are painted with intricate images of various demons and eldritch horrors. Everyone in the room feels an indescribable sense of dread, which seems to emanate from the old well in the center of this chamber. The dream of Keziah seems to have been accurate. However, the well is fitted with a massive iron plug that would be difficult to move. Dziga and Vatex locate a hidden lever around the sealed well which opens a secret entrance into a strange spherical room below.

Dziga goes down to investigate. He finds a panel, hits a switch, and discovers this spherical room is actually some kind of elevator. The chamber seals, cutting him off from the others, and he begins to descend.

An indeterminate amount of time passes. Dziga’s senses seem clouded. His head is pounding. A profound, ineffable sense of evil emanates from below. He reaches the bottom and a part of the wall slides away to reveal a circular room. It is obvious the place is not a natural cavern, but it is so old that that calcite deposits dripping from the stones have formed stalagmites and stalactites over time. The air is dangerously cold, and the walls and floors are damp and slippery.

Strange spectres drift around the room, barely recognizable as human because of their extreme deformities, but they do not seem hostile. Dziga exits the circular room into a long corridor shaped like a horizontal cylinder. The darkness and cold seems especially deep here. The passage extends farther east than Dziga’s enhanced vision can detect. On either side of him it a set of very large double doors made of strange black metal.

Then, one of the doors on the south side opens slightly. For some reason, Dziga feels as if it had opened to _welcome_ him.

Dziga passes through the open door, and goes around an unsettling pit in the center of a large cavern. Somehow, he senses that there is something on the other side that he must see. And yet, the great sense of evil grows stronger as he proceeds.


Beyond, the next cavern looks like it was melted with acid or something. In the center of it is a 30 foot tall idol that looks like an obelisk but is composed entirely of writhing black tendrils. Dziga hears what he thinks is an unintelligible whisper, then a strange object appears within the tendrils and is held out.

“You must take it for us,” says Jenkins, who has suddenly appeared at Dziga’s feet. “We need it.”

“What is it? Why do you want it?”

“It is special gift to us,” the fiendish rat familar replies.

Dziga approaches the writhing spire and takes the object, which is a black metal cube, about 3 inches to a side. Or at least, almost a cube. As Dziga looks at it, some of the sides look less-than-straight. Or maybe not. He can’t be sure. It seems hard to focus on the cube. There are also various chaotic squiggles etched on the cube, which might be writing of some sort, but when Dziga tries to focus on them his head hurts and he feels nauseous.

When Dziga begins to walk out of the cave, and sees Jenkins’ head sticking out from a small crevice in the wall. “Good!” he says with a creepy smile. “You hold in your hand an Impossibility Cube.”

“Impossibility Cube? What does it do?” asks the rogue.

“It has many purposes. Most importantly, it is a BEACON.”

“A beacon for what?” Dziga asks. Jenkins says nothing. “Damn you Jenkins, answer me! I don’t know what you freaks are planning, but this cube is mine now. I’m not giving it to you. If Keziah or the Black Man won’t tell me what’s going on, they’re just going to have to try and take it.”

“But we don’t want to take it from you,” Jenkins says. “We want YOU to have it.” With that, he retreats into the hole in the wall, leaving Dziga cold and confused in the cave with a weird cube in his frozen hands.


Above, Vatex is able to trigger the elevator to return to the top. While they wait, a thought occurs to Falstef that seems to concern him greatly. “If that goes where I think it goes,” he says, “we should definitely not go down there.”

“What exactly do you think is down there?” asks Early.

Falstef replies, “A temple of incredible evil that is so ancient, it has existed here since the birth of this world.”

But what choice to they have? Back through the Dark Reliquary, and get killed in the crossfire between that demon lord and everyone else? Or down and out through the old evil temple? Everyone hops in the elevator and rides to the bottom, oblivious to the gravity of what has just transpired below.

NEXT TIME: What's up with that cube? Can the companions escape through this ancient temple of evil?

Friday, January 6, 2012

EPISODE 62: Prisoners of the Keepers of the Faith

Maya 3-4, 754 YE


The Rosegate Company has decided to help Mystina go stop the resurrection of Khyron. They meet her the next day, with her entourage -- three Knights of the Pale men-at-arms named RALDERPON, GANBAR, and ZAGDOK. Early, however, does not join them. He had said he was going to take the Wind Duke Ring to trade it for a special magic weapon he needed. However, he does not show up at the time of their meeting so they go on without him.

They enter the Necropolis in the daytime (to avoid the undead that roam the streets at night) and go to the crypt of a guy named “Bruce Willis”, where intelligence acquired by Mystina reveals that the undead worshipping Forsaken will try to restore life to Khyron. Within the crypt the companions fight against a Forsaken spellcaster and his group of ogre and minotaur zombies. It is an easy fight... too easy.

When they reach the chamber in the undercroft where the ritual is supposedly taking place, they discover the entire ritual is just an elaborate illusion. Mystina breaks open a special spore that releases poison gas that knocks the companions unconscious. Dziga’s shadow flees as the fake Mystina and her cronies haul the sleeping companions away.

When they awaken many hours later, they discover they have been taken to one of the most dreaded places in all the world -- the Cruciform Prison beneath the Dark Reliquary.


The kidnapped companions find themselves bound with special antimagic bracers that prevent any of their magic or supernatural powers from operating. There are other high-profile prisoners in the prison as well:

> FALSTEF, one of the original angels to come to Enhasa, captured long before the city of Elan was even created. His wings had been cut off with a special technique from a hellish manuscript to ensure they would never grow back.
> TIRAEG, an orc from the Plains of Panish in Zeltennia, brought here because Keeper Overlord Shiiva believed his tribe possessed special knowledge about the demon lord OCHREMESHYK.
> CARDALIAN, a mysterious halfling lady.
> An albino psychokineticist called PRISONER X, who has no door on his cell because it would be useless. Instead, he seems to be held in place by a ring of salt on the floor around him.
> An unnamed elven male.
> Most interestingly, a silver-haired elf woman named CALISTA. This is the woman Vatex had seen in the mirrors on so many occasions.

Dziga makes a brave attempt to escape by getting out of the bracers then shadow-jumping through his cell’s force door. He is spotted, however, by the guard, a d’stradi “dancing demon”, who teleports away then returns with two more guards, and the mistress of the prison -- the powerful Keeper of the Faith Drusii. Drusii takes on her battle form, a large serpentine six-armed demon, then tail slaps Dziga and grabs him, trying to crush him into unconsciousness. He resists and shadowjumps out of her grasp. In desperation, Dziga rushes Prisoner X and breaks his ring of salt, and the special psion unleashes blasts of force that sends both him and Drusii flying. Drusii knocks out Dziga with another tail slap, then recaptures Prisoner X while he tries to breakdown the black adamantine door at the north end of the prison with telekinetic blasts.

Dziga is taken elsewhere to be “dealt with” for his escape attempt. Emeris speaks with the orc Tiraeg, who seems to have a powerful soul magic spell inscribed on one of his teeth. Tiraeg says someone with a connection to arcane magic should be able to activate that spell and it could be their only chance to break free. But if the attempt fails, then they might be stuck here forever. The orc will not reveal the exact nature of the spell for he says if he does, Emeris might not want to activate it.


Vatex speaks with Calista at last. He is relieved to have found her, and yet she is very sad and speaks of grave matters. She says that both her and Vatex carry “Talismans of Law”, and she asks if he knows who carries the third talisman, but he has no idea what she is talking about. It is revealed that Calista has been here since she was a baby, a subject of great interest to Archanfel and Shiiva. It seems that the Keepers of the Faith’s leaders believe that the Elder Gods themselves encoded important information within Calista’s dreams about their return to Enhasa, and the return of the Vallis Moon. The companions know that the Vallis Moon appeared in the night sky when Khyron attempted his ritual to bring about the Night of Dissolution, but it vanished shortly after its appearance. It seems Archanfel had long ago given up on getting any special information out of Calista, as whatever information was meant to be revealed by her dreams was completely unknowable, since she seemed incapable of dreaming entirely. No magic could force her to dream or reveal information hidden within her mind. But Shiiva remained convinced that her special information was somehow vital if only it could be revealed, and continued to seek a means to discover this information. So far, there had been no success...

Unconscious elsewhere in the Dark Reliquary’s dungeons, Dziga dreams that he is visited by by Brown Jenkins. The night hag’s fiendish familiar tells him that when he gets his chance to break out of the prison, he must “go up to escape, but go down to find freedom.” This enigmatic suggestion becomes more concrete when Keziah appears and guides him ethereally through the corridors of the Dark Reliquary dungeons, down to the second level to a sealed-off well, from which Dziga can sense an overwhelming sense of dread.

Then he awakes. He is laying on the stone floor under the watch of two d’stradi dancers, at the base of a large deciduous tree that grows out of the stone floor, and seems quite healthy despite a complete lack of sunlight. Large ripe fruits grow on the tree. This is the “Temptation Tree”, used by the dungeon keepers to control the minds of unruly prisoners as it puts them into delusional rapture when they eat the fruit. Dziga feels a strange compulsion reach up and grab a fruit and eat it... but he resists the effect, which earns a thorough beating from the dancing demons guarding him. As he slips into unconsciousness, he hears them say that they will have to tell Drusii he resisted the effect of the tree, so she’ll probably take him to someone called KNIFAL, the torturer at the “Hungry Pit”. The demons share a laugh at the prospect. Whatever that is, it doesn’t sound good.

Back in the Cruciform Prison, Vatex and Emeris are relieved to see Dziga returned. Extra precautions are taken to bind him in his cell. Unfortuately the guard duty has increased to a total of three demons, complicating any escape. Even so, Dziga is pissed and not ready to yield. With his superhuman escape artist abilities, he breaks out of his chains and antimagic bracers. He then proceeds to deactivate the forcecage using a trick that only an elite rogue is capable of. Stealthily creeps out of the prison to scout out the area, and hopefully locate where their equipment has been stashed. Out the western door and down the hallway, he finds a guard room with two Keeper guards and a chest marked “CONFISCATED!” He returns to the prison and sneaks back into his cell.

They decide its time to act now, before the situation becomes more complicated. Tiraeg painfully rips out his molar on which a special soul magic spell was long ago inscribed by orc shamans. The orc spits out blood and tosses the tooth to adjacent Emeris’ cell. He reaches through the bars of pure force and takes the bloody tooth in his hand.

The soul magic calls out to him... although he is a shadowcaster, the shade’s connection to arcane power is just enough to give him the mental grit to manipulate the magic and activate the spell. The tooth begins to quiver in his hand, surging with power... Emeris tosses it out onto the prison floor and instinctively takes cover.


An inferno of demonic flame swirls around the tooth and a 20-foot crimson humanoid with massive horns and a sword shaped like fire. It is the demon lord, Ochremeshyk! He is a balor who tried to fight his way to the top of the Abyssal realms. Unfortunately, before he could attain the power of demon princes like Demogorgon or Orcus, Tiraeg’s great-grandfather, an orc shaman of legendary power, used a powerful soul magic spell to summon Ochremeshyk from the Abyss and bind him to Tiraeg’s tooth when he was but a wee orc boy. The original plan was for the Panish orc tribes to summon this demon lord during the prophecied “Wars of Fire” to ensure their ultimate triumph... but unfortunately, demons in the service of Shiiva abducted Tiraeg a few years ago and brought him to the Dark Reliquary, although they were unable to uncover the secret of his tooth.

Now Tiraeg, not caring about the “Wars of Fires” anymore and only for securing his liberty, has relinquished his tooth to the one person with any connection to arcane power to show up in the Cruciform Prison after all this time -- Emeris. The problem is that he was always told that if Ochremeshyk was released before the proper time ordained, the demon lord would attempt to destroy everyone in his path -- even his liberators. A necessary risk, Tiraeg thought.

“FREEDOM AT LAST!” booms the soul-shuddering voice of Ochremeshyk. With a single blow of his massive sword he nearly cleaves the nearest dancing demon in two. Hearing the disturbance, two more demonic guards teleport into the prison and stop dead in their tracks at the sight of the angry balor who is clearly not a member of their faction.

“Someone needs to warn Drusii about this!” shouts one of the dancing demons.

“Drusii? Hell, someone needs to warn Lord Archanfel!” answers another, recognizing the seriousness of the situation.

Two of the demons quickly teleport out of the prison to inform their superiors. The remaining two exchange worried looks as the raging demon lord turns his attention to them. Within second he hacks them to bits, then he storms out the northern door leaving a trail of fiery footprints.

The prison is now empty of living guards. Now is the companions’ chance to escape!

Next time: Time to escape from the Dark Reliquary before an army of demons and Keepers and Forsaken regroup to stop them!