Monday, March 19, 2012

EPISODE 67: The Trial of Champions III - Get to the Final Round! The Froghemoth, the Reaper Knight, and the Fire Mage

Juliar 16-18, 754 YE


The Rosegate Company has defeated the followers of Kyuss in the hidden shrine, although the mysterious infernal outsider, Saygraam Ruby-Eye, escaped. Early figures the ancient scroll of Bozal's altar is one of the Apostolic Scrolls mentioned by the sage Allustan, so he takes it. The party then smashes the glass tube and extracts the body of Emmalyn, Ekaym's sister. She is technically alive, but has seemingly been reduced to a human vegetable.

The party leaves the shrine and returns to their quarters in the Coenoby. There, Early reviews the journal of Bozal. He learns the following:

  • Saygraam the Faceless aka "Ruby-Eye" is an outsider from the Nine Hells. Little is known about him other than he is some kind of baatezu lawyer. His "mask" is actually a powerful artifact called the "Pledge Stone" which is used to make binding contracts with mortals. It is believed that his extensive bandages hide a body that is composed of the fragments of a million shattered magic items... supposedly. Bozal writes that Saygraam is no Kyuss worshiper and seems indifferent to the whole Age of Worms thing, so only speculation offers any explanation on why Saygraam is involved.
  • Raknian's lover, Emmalyn, had been exposed to some element of cosmic horror, and her mind had suffered such intense trauma that she died. Standard resurrection magic had been unable to restore her life. Saygraam made a bargain with Raknian using the Pledge Stone -- if Raknian can acquire an Apostolic Scroll and give it to Bozal, the followers of the Worm That Walks will bring Emmalyn back to life.
  • Somehow Raknian did get his hands on an Apostolic Scroll, and Bozal brought Emmalyn back to life with special necromancy. However, Emmalyn's mind was still utterly destroyed, even though her body had come back to life. Raknian was furious, thinking he'd been tricked, but the Pledge Stone had bound all parties to the agreement -- it's just "restore life to Emmalyn" apparently did not include repairing her broken mind. So Raknian made another deal on the Pledge Stone with the barrister of the Nine. Raknian would siphon 150,000 gold per month and 30 prisoners per month to the worm cult, so they can fund their operations and create new undead allies.
  • Bozal does not discuss the Apostolic Scroll much in his journal. He writes that it evocatively describes the Age of Worms that is to come should Kyuss break free of his prison. It also describes a complex ritual whereby an a powerful servant of Kyuss called an ulgurstata, would be teleported from the Wormcrawl Fissure to a location specified by the possessor of the scroll.

At the big dinner that night, the companions speak with their manager about Ekaym about their discoveries beneath the arena and the recovery of Emmalyn's body (which is stashed in their sleeping quarters). Ekaym looks forward to reporting information about Raknian's allegiance with the Kyuss cult to the Guilders, as that will help them start turning some neutral factions against the Republican government. He is also overcome with joy that his sister was found alive, but is worried of the difficulty in doing so if Raknian had needed the Kyuss cult's help. So grateful is the bard that he says he will ensure they can keep the full 100,000 gold prize if they win the tournament (instead of splitting it 75/25).

Ekaym gives them some intelligence on the froghemoth, dubbed "Madtooth the Hungry". It is an especially huge, nasty aberration that gets rendered sluggish down by electricity. However, Ekaym's contacts report that management has given the monster an item that will absorb electric energy damage to compensate for that weakness.


The next day, after lunch, the Rosegate Company enters the arena. The crowd is going crazy, because they love the giant monster round almost as much as the tournament's grand finale. "MADTOOTH! MADTOOTH! MADTOOTH!" they chant. When Madtooth is finally announced, the crowd gets even CRAZIER.

BUT. Several minutes go by and there is no sign of the monster being brought up to the arena. They see a figure with a glowing red eye balancing at the top of the tallest flagpole, overlooking the arena. Saygraam is observing! They can see Raknian watching from the executive booth with a smirk. The crowd starts getting pissed off, and it seems almost like a riot will result if there isn't a monster battle in the next few minutes!

Finally, after about 10 minutes, a giant box wrapped like a birthday present is hauled by guards and monster caretakers into the arena. They pull on big ropes and the sides of the giant box fall away, unleashing an explosion of confetti and exposing... a ridiculously tiny froghemoth! It lets out a squeak and one of the arena wizards dispels the "shrink froghemoth" spell -- suddenly Madtooth's size expands dramatically until it is a 30-foot long monstrosity worthy of its name. The three big yellow eyes at the end of a protruding fleshy stalk blink frantically in the sunlight.

It is clear that the delay was probably engineered by Raknian to cause their short-duration power-ups to wear off. Sneaky! Only a few effects are lost, with others having longer durations or able to be re-applied.

The gong signals that start of the battle. The froghemoth roars and begin to hop towards the group at the other end of the arena, but it is primarily an aquatic creature so it is pretty slow. Dziga steps into a shadow and disappears, rushing towards the monster head on, while Early and Vatex begin moving to either side and hit the monster from all sides.

Emeris hangs back, conjuring up shadowy duplicates of the monster that materialize briefly, lash at the mental power of the monster, and fade away. Yet the huge brute monster is surprisingly resilient mentally and even several of these mysteries fails to bring down the best.

Dziga's shadow companion swipes at the froghemoth and drains some strength as the rogue-shadowdancer appears from shadows and sneak attacks the beast as it runs past him, veering sharply to the north end towards Vatex. One of froghemoth's tentacles snaps out, crossing the distance in a split second, its force blasting Vatex to the ground in a cloud of sand. The tentacle quickly curls around his torso and brings the struggling elf towards its gargantuan maw.

Vatex struggles to break free but the grip of the trunk-like tentacle is unimaginably great. His Aura of Law seems to keep his ribs from breaking, but there is nothing he can do as the froghemoth gobbles him up in a single bite. His companions the elf's scream fade as he is swallowed...

Emeris invisibly maneuvers into melee, avoiding the flailing tentacles, and thrusts the Shadowgeist Reaver into the monster. Before it retaliates, Dziga appears appears from shadows and leaps onto its back side. His stabbing frenzy devastates the froghemoth, with Gozu Vrow thrusting deep wounds that sizzle with acid, and Asura's deadly effect disrupting the flesh around the stabs. Blood fountains erupt from the creature and Dziga leaps back. Early dual wields Sheol the gunsword with the Tri-Elemental Magnum and uses his Dancing Mongoose maneuver to unleash hell upon the monster. Massive bloody holes erupt across the monster's flank as Early riddles it with a hail of bullets. There is literally a shower of blood in the arena, but the froghemoth is unrelenting, pivoting its massive bulk to start eating more of these tasty high-level snacks. Then it starts to spasm in agony...

...Inside the belly of the froghemoth, stomach acid spews from slimy walls of flesh and muscular contractions threaten to crush Vatex. He can feel the monster violently reacting to the incredible damage being inflicted by his companions. He has but one arm free, and he begins hacking at the stomach wall. Blood and acid splashes his face and he keeps hacking until he opens the abdominal wall and spills out of the open froghemoth along with a river of gore. The monster stumbles back and collapses dead, rivers of blood flowing through the sandy topography of the arena.

The crowd goes wild, and virtually everyone starts chanting, "Rosegate! Rosegate!" Saygraam teleports away. Raknian looks pissed.


After the battle, they learn that tomorrow they will be fighting a team called "Pitchblade". They are three dwarven barbarians, DRUSFAN, DURK, and PHARBOL, with huge swords, ebony skin and crazy tattoos, from the far off land of Urak. But Ekaym reports something strange -- acting on a hunch, he'd checked out the registration files and he says he believes Pitchblade's documents were forged to add two NEW members after their original sponsorship.

It turns out that the two new members of Pitchblade are Republican agents. One of them is called RUBIA, the "Reaper Knight". She is mysterious, and the story is that that she was a "Chosen of Samhain", and her mission is to help accelerate the passage of souls to the Realm of the Dead. She wields a ridiculously big sword called "Death Penalty".

The other guy is HOBBES, known as the "Fire Mage" because he was born with the crazy ability to control fire at will. He had developed this ability such that he now surpassed any average evoker wizard.

Obviously this was Raknian's team. In addition to tampering with the froghemoth fight, he was now setting them up to fight with his inside agents.

So the next day, the Rosegate Company enters the arena for the next round. Pitchblade stands across the arena from them, looking cocky and geared up to fight. Rubia and Hobbes sparkle with various magic effects, and the dwarves all have strong barkskin and extra strength added.

Once again, Saygraam watches from the top of the highest flagpole, and Raknian watches with a sneer from the executive booth.

The gong! Hobbes meets the gaze of Vatex, smiles, and snaps his finger. "Vulcan Shock Ignition!" Vatex erupts in flames! He starts rolling around on the ground to try to put it out. Durk erupts into a rage and uses his flying potion to get to the middle of the arena, where he is met by Early, Dziga, and the shadow companion. They start hacking at each other.

Emeris uses his inherent shade power to teleport to a shadow in close range of the other enemies. He channels power from his ring and blasts the two dwarves, Rubia, and Hobbes with a Maximized Killing Shadows. Emeris curses when he sees everyone survived the attack, and Drusfan and Pharbol burst into rage mode and charge him with a leaping totem pounce attack! One of the dwarves gets lucky, breaking through the steel shadows and cutting his chest. Rubia aim at Emeris as he fights with the barbarians and calls, "Soulclasp Web!" With a wave of her arm, a black tangle of energy fires at the shade. He dodges too late, but fortunately its touch only glaces his shoulder. Nonetheless, it reduces his agility a bit. Hobbes attempts to hit Emeris with a Vulcan Shock Ignition but his natural spell resistance as a shade is too hard to penetrate, even for the powerful fire mage!

Vatex rushes up the side of the arena, putting a Hunter's Mercy spell on his rifle with the magic of the Grim One. He passes the combat in the center of the arena, where Early, Dziga, and the shadow companion are completely overwhelming Durk the barbarian. Early Rabid Bear Strikes hack rip his flesh, the shadow drains his strength, and Dziga's stabs him in the face five or six times and he dies.

Emeris fights off the two barbarians while Hobbes blasts him with beams of white-hot flame. Emeris, fortunately, is too quick, but he will not be able to hold off against these three attackers for too long. He unleashes another Killing Shadows attack that reduces Drusfan to a bloody mess in the sand and leaves Pharbol quite weak. But Hobbes keeps shooting fire blasts...

Early charges Rubia and Cryssaegrym clashes against Death Penalty with a shower of sparks. They exchange blows but then Rubia uses her Doom Strike attack. The apparition of a grim reaper with a scythe appears behind her as she attacks, mirroring the motion of her own attack. This dark power might have put Early down. But the warblade's senses expand through the Vajra and his Wall of Blades technique deflects the attack.

Vatex keeps moving towards the melee and sets his rifle sights on Hobbes. The Hunter's Mercy shot nearly blows the fire mage's arm clean off. The next two shots explode his head like a melon.

Early slashes Sheol across the face of Rubia. The warblade is a better warrior than her, and worse yet Dziga and the elf were closing in as well. She swings her sword, hitting Early and activating her Chronos Typhoon attack. A cone of distorted space-time blasts Early and Dziga. The rogue resists the unusual attack, but Early is overcome. He suddenly ages 50 years. He sees his wrinkly face in the mirror-like reflection on Sheol's blade. His body suddenly aches terribly, and clutching his weapons produces stabbing arthritic pain.

The ferocity of Early's attacks fade a bit as Dziga sneak attacks her. Unfortunately for him, her Reaper Plate seems to be especially resistant to his attempts to target vital organs and she fends him off. Shadow guy saps her strength away.

Emeris conjures up the Shadowgeist Reaver and starts methodically sucking out Pharbol's lifeforce. The brutal experience is so agonizing that Pharbol can do basically nothing to fight back as the spectral weapon passes through his flesh, ultimately breaking his soul down into pure shadowstuff and absorbing it into the shadowcaster.

Vatex throws down the rifle and goes into a dervish dance maneuver, spinning around Rubia's flank and landing two decisive blows in his back, killing her for good... but when her body hits the ground, a minor death emerges! The undead monster starts swinging its life-stealing scythe. Early, although he is basically geriatric now, is still connected to the Vajra, and still pissed off. Cryssaegrym surges with extra power when facing the undead foe. Early completes a Rabid Bear Strike maneuver, and the minor death explodes in a single powerful hit.

Once again, the crowd is in awe, not only of the the Rosegate Company's impressive level of power, but their brutal efficiency as well. "Rosegate! Rosegate! Rosegate!"


Early gets his youth restored with some costly healing magic.

Tomorrow the Rosegate Company will be fighting Auric's Warband, last year's champions. Auric is some kind of tactical fighter, Tirra is a bomb throwing rogue / master thief, and Khelben is a generalist wizard. They are fighting with their construct minions, the "Stoneworks" -- three stone golems.

The companions openly ridicule Auric and his team in front of as many people as possible. Auric is pissed and vows to embarrass them in the battle tomorrow.

During the night's festivities, it seems more and more people are starting to dig the Rosegate Company, or at least give them begrudging admiration. Some dancer named RENAYLA gets a somewhat drunk, celebrating Early into the sack that night and then tries to convince him that they should get married. It seems she has this dream of running off with a mighty adventurer and living happily ever after. Early lies and says "yeah sure after the tournament..."

The next morning, after Golem Lacrosse and Illusion Fights, the Rosegate Company begins walking up to the arena grounds for the final round of the Trial of Champions...

NEXT TIME: The Final Round! Is Auric's team actually any good? Will Raknian allow the Rosegate Company to win the tournament? Will Saygraam seek revenge?