Friday, August 23, 2013

EPISODE 76: Balacazar Enforcers

August 26-27

It doesn't take long for the Balacazar family's house clerics to to discover that Menon Balacazar's soul is missing from the lifestream and he cannot be resurrected.

Within a few hours, their magic reveals the identities of Menon's assassins: three members of the thought-to-be defunct Rosegate Company and their Killraven allies. They also learn that Menon's soul was absorbed by Emeris the shade.

With Menon Balacazar dead beyond hope of restoration -- at least for now -- Maystra Balacazar, Menon's beloved daughter, assumes leadership of the crime family.

What most people do not realize is that Maystra, despite projecting an outward appearance of disinterest in running the family's business, has secretly been yearning for her father to die so that she can be in charge. She actually has no interest in seeing Menon resurrected. She also does not want to become the target of assassins herself. Furthermore, she wishes to put some distance between the Balacazars and the Republican government.

She dispatches Hadrien Runihan, a vampire fighter-sorcerer from the Covenant of Blood, to offer a truce with the Rosegate Company. If they do make further attacks against her family, she will let bygones be bygones and will ensure an elaborate cover-up creates the appearance that Emeris was killed but Menon's soul was irrecoverable.

But Malkeen Balacazar, Maystra's brother, loves his father dearly and plots revenge. He knows nothing of his sister's plans to deceive the family for her own benefit. He gathers an attack squad consisting of two Balacazar black magi, and his father's former bodyguard, Azonia the half-fiend drow known fearfully as the "Carnage Princess." He also hires powerful outside contractors -- two Pactlords of the Quaan: the beholder Verehein, and the illithid warrior Sarthaun. Normally the Pactlords are allied with the Killravens, but Malkeen offers so many valuable magic items to the monstrous conclave that they cannot refuse the offer.

Hadrien Runihan shows up at the tobacco warehouse where the Rosegate Company is currently hiding out. He explains Maystra's position, and how she does not wants to be so closely tied with the "fanatics" in the Republican city government.

It all sounds pretty reasonable to Vatex, Dziga, and Emeris. By making this truce, it seems they remove the Balacazar family from their list of "enemies to be slaughtered" and this lets them focus on other foes.

Suddenly they hear screams of terror from the warehouse floor. Hadrien eagerly turns into mist and leaves to deliver the acceptance of the truce to Maystra and avoid the fighting. A column of arcane fire fills the back office and burns the companions. Black mages in the alley are attacking the building with magic, while Verehein, ridden by Sarthaun, have blasted through the main entrance and are killing everyone in sight with the beholder's eye rays.

Emeris teleports out to the alley to deal with the black mages, but finds himself assailed by Azonia devastating sword techniques. He unleashes destructive shadow blasts at his enemies but their combined magic and martial attacks drop him quickly. Emeris' bloodied body goes down, but quickly begins to renegerate as the enemies converge on the warehouse.

Vatex and Dziga find that they cannot attack the beholder directly because of its anti-magic field projected from its central eye. So they focus on the other enemies, hoping to get past them and circle around to flank the beholder and its mind flayer rider. Verehein uses his disintegration eye ray to blast holes in the walls, seeking more people to kill.

They are bombarded by ice beams, electricity webs, fire bursts, and force bursts from the black mages. Vatex and Dziga cut through the mages and focus on Azonia, whose skill makes her one of the most formidable combatants they've ever seen. But that is not enough, and the urban ranger and the rogue flank her and stab her. Vatex scores a critical hit and decapitates her with his vorpal blade.

Emeris' wounds heal sufficiently to get him back on his feet, and he teleports to the rooftop. From the higher vantage point, he starts blasting Sarthaun and Verehein with killing shadows. The Pactlords fire back, Sarthaun with his psionic mind blast, and Verehein with the full barrage of his eye rays. Emeris' powerful spell resistance blocks the rays, and his mental fortitude shields him from the mind blast.

As the shade exchanges firepower with the Pactlords, Vatex advances up the alley and Dziga moves through the warehouse. The beholder closes its central eye, allowing it to attack the advancing elf with his eye rays. Vatex dodges or resists many rays, but two nasty blasts get through and leave malign wounds of withered flesh. As Vatex approaches, Sarthaun stabs him with his huge spear. The despite his pain, the elf's blades dance and slash into the beholder. Now's his chance, when the anti-magic field is down. Dziga shadowjumps through the warehouse wall and emerges in flanking position behind the two aberrations. He stabs the beholder so hard.

Together, supported by Emeris' firepower from the rooftop, the beholder goes down in a disgusting mess of blasted and hacked-apart monster meat. Sarthaun dives off the crashing beholder and finds himself fighting the Rosegate Company alone.

Dziga and Vatex hack at him, and Emeris teleports down and hacks with the Shadowgeist Reaver to drain his energy. The spear-wielding warrior-illithid is capable but ultimately overwhelmed. It dies with a final curse, "damned humanoids!" Victory!

The elf and the rogue patch up their wounds, while the shade's renegeration fixes him up. It seems the timing for their agreement with Maystra was a little late to prevent the brother's attack. Hopefully that's fixed now.

They decide the next person who deserves their vengeance is Loris Raknian. He is the leader of the city council and the Republican movement's thuggish leader. He burned their house down, and made the city believe they were responsible for the huge explosion at the Trial of Champions that killed thousands. Raknian must die. But his government must also be toppled -- it is undesirable that Raknian should die only to be replaced with someone potentially worse.

They recalled how in their investigations during the Trial of Champions, they had learned of Raknian's association with Kyuss cultists. The secret organization "the Chisel" had been trying to find something that would delegitimize Raknian's government. It seemed wise to leverage the Kyuss cult connection for that purpose.

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