Evening, the 3rd of Dacal, 1331 Avard.
The party continued to rest, answering the guard’s questions when they could. The on-duty chaplain requested additional help, and brought in a Chillean woman by the name of Hotaru. Hotaru came with a silent bodyguard, a Sholin woman known Aliunii. Hotaru dressed the party’s wounds to good effect, and overheard some of what happened. She asked in a small voice for more information, and as she left, told the party that Xennith was not the enemy everyone made him out to be.
Dolon wrote out five copies of the same message, and had the Guard deliver all five via separate messengers to Gideon Enterprises and Rial Mhenace. Dolon did not tell the others why, though they trusted his judgment in the matter.
Came the dawn and a bit of rest, came the changing of the Guard and a repeat of their story to those coming on duty. With that complete, they left out in a hurry through the stables of the Guard building in that area of the city. Along the way out of Teras, Liffey noticed that they were being watched from the rooftop shadows by a drow, probably the same assassin that had nearly killed Horbe.
With Horbe and everyone on the inside, and their horses to the outsides, they made out of town in a hurry. The river north from Teras led straight to the mountain citadel that housed Lok Magius, but it was normally two days sail or two days hard ride. Gideon Enterprises made an inn and warehouses at the half-way point, to give their ships and their riders a place to layover for the night. A small town sprang up around the facilities, to help service the sailors and the oxen teams that occasionally pulled barges up and down the mighty Galanus River.
The half-way town, known as Avath, was the party’s destination. They rode for it hard, keeping a constant lookout for trouble and continually looking behind them to see if they had been followed.
Just a few marks before sunset, they arrived in Avath. Still on guard, they went to the only inn, named the Eleven Shields Inn – a massive edifice with room for a hundred men to sleep and another hundred to eat and drink. Inside the Eleven Shields, they found a ship’s captain willing to take them upriver as soon as possible. For a lot of extra silver, Captain Tonis even had his crew finish their dealings that evening so that the ship could sail with the night’s wind. The Grackle set out a mark after sunset, and still there was no sign of pursuit.
In the wee hours of the night, a jet-black river ship passed them by. The crew of the Grackle had seen them before – special shipments of Gideon Enterprises, believed to be bullion and other valuables. When Dolon mentioned the ship to Horbe, come the dawn, the mage indicated that such ‘black ships’ had ingenious, perhaps magical means of propulsion, and that GE used them for special shipments.
Not long after dawn, they made the town of Rilan, located at the base of the great Mount Rilan. Mount Rilan stood at a bend in the river where another tributary fed into the mighty Galanus River. Half-way up Mount Rilan lay the dwarven fortress of Lok Giran – the headquarters of the Baron-and-the-Bishop Dwarfendale. Dwarfendale controlled all of the domain of Mount Rilan, and controlled access up the roadway to Lok Magius as well. Hadarai and Master Horbe would be able to get them up the roadway, but they would need horses.
Before they could do much, though, Master Horbe was arrested – for forgery and misuse of government property. The arresting of a mage was a serious affair, and only the Reeve-Knight Sir Bridar and his competent – even antimage-armed guardsmen – gave the party pause in defending Horbe. The situation seemed grim, even though the party itself was not under arrest.
That afternoon, Master Horbe was taken away by Sir Bridar to go directly to Lok Magius through the teleportal in the Silver Gauntlet. The Silver Gauntlet sold mage-made artifacts and items from Lok Magius, and was the only place in all Rakore that the common man could purchase powerful and exotic magical items. The Silver Gauntlet was run by the Twins, and they heavily controlled access to the teleportal that led directly to Lok Magius.
The group was confined to town and escorted by a member of the Guard at all times. They went to the main inn, the Blue Tyven, an establishment run entirely by drow. Hadarai seemed to know one of the drow particularly well, and the drow manager of the Blue Tyven, Levantith, seemed to know Hadarai. Hadarai and many of the mages of Lok Magius would often visit Rilan for a break in their studies, though the mages’ academy was a full day’s ride up the mountain and to the far side.
Hadarai, trusting in Levantith, confided everything to the drow. Levantith put on the ruse of being a flamboyantly gay and effeminate drow, when in reality he was one of the deadliest assassins in all of Rakore. Levantith told the party that he had heard the rumors of Xennith going rogue, but Xennith did not interact with the rest of the drow – he was a loner, working for his mysterious benefactor, the Bat – the richest man in all of Rakore. Unfortunately, Levantith had no new information for the group, but he was willing to assist them when it came time to get rid of the Guard.
A dwarf introduced himself as Flint Bandylegs, and offered to help the party procure anything they wanted or needed at better prices than they could find elsewhere. Dolon realized that he was, in all likely-hood, not a Bandylegs. He pointed it out to several other dwarves that had been enjoying the night’s bardly entertainment – and those other two dwarves promptly took care of the fake Flint Bandylegs by beating him to a pulp out back of the Blue Tyven.
A mage Hadarai had known before he left, a William Danice, had interesting news for Hadarai. Not long after Hadarai left, a cult of blood mages had been discovered beneath Lok Magius. Only the masters knew of it, and a few others. Hadarai believed William, because the young mage was a prodigy, one of those youngsters gifted with incredible talents and abilities despite their age. William hinted that not all of the blood mages were found – and Horbe might be in terrible danger.
Making use of Levantith’s offer, they escaped out the back unnoticed by the Guard assigned to them. From there, they procured horses with the mage tokens William had, and started up the mountain. The guards at the gate let the party through, seeing that they were escorted by several mages. At Lok Giran, half-way through the night, they were again challenged on the wide-cut road; and again, the three mages in the group were able to allow the party to pass on up to Lok Magius.
Not far from Lok Magius, William directed them off the road and down a steep embankment on the side of the mountain. They tied the horses up in a small clearing, and proceeded through the darkness, being led by William’s familiar, a crow. In the side of the mountain, out of sight of Lok Magius, was a natural cave just wide enough for two men to walk abreast. William led them into the cave, and broke two sunrods to help illuminate their way.
William explained that the ograns had found the cave during their assault on the mages’ academy, and carved it further back into the mountain in an attempt to enter Lok Magius from below. They had been stopped, but the cave had not been collapsed behind them.
Hordes of rats were descended on the party, and a brief battled ensued as the filthy creatures tried to take them down under their sheer weight of numbers. Though William nearly went down, and the party seemed disorganized at first, they quickly rallied and destroyed enough of the rats to send the rest fleeing back down the corridor. Liffey’s Sholin shark-toothed sword, and her companion wolf Lorcan, did considerable damage to the rats.
The final end to the reinforced cave had an illusion on it, and William passed right through it.
The young mage admitted to never having been in the caves, himself, but knew it to be the only way to get the party into Lok Magius without them being seen or observed. The blood mages had linked into the ogran-cut tunnels, and while the blood mages had been ferreted out, most of the tunnels had simply been sealed up.
They began to find arcane and divine runes written in blood on the cave walls – caves carved half out of magic and half dug by some beast through solid stone. The blood was strange, some of it dried black, some of it dried green, and others no color from no beast they could recognize. Small alcoves had been carved into the tunnel, and in those alcoves were huge iron rings bound to the floor with iron chains driven into the mountain itself. And the mountain reeked of evil.
One of the iron rings activated as they drew near – and a drake materialized, spitting at one of them and covering him in acid. The party had seen the drake materializing, and tried to destroy the iron ring before it could finish materializing, yet failed. The drake was quickly brained by Sunalor, and the ring finally destroyed.
As they went further into the caves from there, they destroyed each of the rings they came across, Sunalor’s two-handed flail doing much of the work. Some of the rings would not activated – but they destroyed them, anyway. Others did activate, and at one point, produced a very startled baby white dragon – the size of a warhorse. The party carefully negotiated the situation, despite not being able to say anything more than the word ‘friend’ in the draconic tongue. The lethal dragon was given enough room to exit the corridors the way they had gone in, and it fled from the strange and evil place.
They found a huge circular room with a pit thirty feet across, and a ten foot ledge along the edges of the pit. The corridor continued on the other side of the pit. There were six rune-engraved plaques jutting out of the walls at equal distances around the room, and the pit was strewn with bones, dried blood, and hooked chains that dangled about.
Sunalor and Hadarai were quickly able to determine the purpose of the pit, with Dolon and Liffey feeding on their explanations. The blood mages had worshipped the gods Nabrol and Argunas. Nabrol was a god of blood and madness and evil – and Argunas was a god of demons and summoning and corruption. The blood mages had worshipped both, and all their summoning rings had been used to bring innocent creatures in and slaughter them, their blood feeding the pit below. The pit had been used as an altar of demonic madness – and they had to act quickly.
Even as the chains began to move and writhe, they used the six rune-engraved plaques in the correct sequence to shut down the cycling of the pit itself. Hadarai’s prestidigitation cleaned or mangled many of the runes away from the domed ceiling and the walls themselves. They prevented the pit itself from waking, even as something else within the pit did awaken.
A fourteen-foot tall man-like creature made of spiked chains assembled in the center of the pit. Baleful green hellfire burned at the center of it, making many of the chains glow with red-hot heat. And the creature’s eyes glowed with more hellfire.
William whispered, “Master…”
Dolon knocked him senseless with one well-placed sling stone to the head.
Battle ensued, and Sunalor seemed confused and lost, unable to figure out how to deal with the massive creature of moving chains. Liffey fired arrow after arrow into it, sometimes locking the chains down by threading arrows through the open links. Finally, Sunalor was able to call upon the righteous might of Arpelos to smite the creature, and its hellfire exploded, extinguished, and the creature fell into a pile of chains.
In the midst of the fighting, Liffey had backed up too far – and activated another of summoning rings. A wererat would have been a problem, had not Lorcan kept it pinned. When the wererat tried to flee, Lorcan hamstrung – and then finished the creature with Dolon’s help.
They continued up through the warren of corridors, until they found a bricked up wall. In frustration, Hadarai let loose a strange multi-colored orb of magic that blasted out the center of the brick wall. On the other side lay corridors familiar to the mage.
Dolon had William’s spellbook – written in blood and the languages of the demons and the mad god Nabrol. These they showed to the first mage to arrive, a Master P’Arkon, one of his instructors in basic magics. Master P’Arkon’s powers came from demonic blood within him, and he spoke to demons only he could see. The party was ready to attack, and only Hadarai’s familiarity with the strange mage kept them from attempting to do so. Later, Hadarai would tell them that, had they attacked, they would have all died – Master P’Arkon could bring enough hellfire to bear that they would all have been engulfed in flames.
With Master P’Arkon’s help, they made it to the headmistress’ tower, only to be stopped by the secretary. Mistress Ravenwind, the academy’s chaplain, arrived – and proceeded to tend to all their wounds, and get the full story from them. Blowing through the secretary, Mistress Ravenwind led them all straight to ArchMage Mistress Brin, head of all Lok Magius.
They learned that Horbe was there in Lok Magius, and perfectly safe. Once he arrived, he helped the party tell Mistress Brin the whole story. There was some trepidation about telling anyone else the story, for the party feared that even the ArchMages of Lok Magius might have fallen prey to the evils they fought. But, in the end, they told her all.
After they told her everything, she told them to get some rest, and she would meet with them in the morning after the breaking of their fasts. Dolon spent much of the rest of the evening in the library, having been escorted in by a well-rested Horbe. Hadarai, Liffey, and Sunalor went straight to sleep. On rising in the morning, Sunalor was greeted by the morning sun – and Arpelos granted him his second holbrace, making him a Protector Paladin.
They had breakfast with a friend of Hadarai’s, the young mage Savana Lomakson, and then went back to see Mistress Brin.
With her help, they managed to put some pieces of the puzzle together. Horbe’s contact to his rich benefactor had been a man known as Toirin. Unknown to Horbe, but known to Mistress Brin, Toirin was a rogue mage that had worked for Doom Rex – one of the Traitor’s right hand men. The Traitor, Duke Herod Notimeh and member of the King’s Inner Circle, was still at large – as was Doom Rex. Mistress Brin wanted to catch the Traitor, and was willing to give Toirin all the noose he needed, but catching them would prove difficult.
The ArchMage had other knowledge for them, as well. The golden dagger and the golden circlet – and the other things Toirin was searching for – were all among the Eighths of Serendim. Centuries before the Storm Wars in which mages battled mages and caused much destruction, Serendim established a mage academy ‘somewhere in the west’, though where was still cause for debate. When Serendim retired, he gave his eight favorite students custom items that would work only for them – powerful items imbued with his great magics.
Given the recent War of the Undead, Brin’s expert on magical items that had spent the night analyzing the circlet figured that if the corpse of Serendim were to be found, the Eigths of Serendim could be used to reanimate the great ArchMage. It explained what Toirin was up to for Doom Rex, for Serendim was ‘one of the greats’, a mage with more power than anyone living could hope to match, who would make even the Inquisition tremble in fear.
It was decided that the group would make use of the Tower – this time legally – to go after the other two pieces of Serendim. The Kambringer had yet to return, and the pieces were still in their resting places, so the crew of the Kambringer had failed, somehow. With the Tower to teleport them from place to place, and Master Horbe to make it happen (along with some additional guidance on using the Towers), they all felt that they could at least keep the other Eighths of Serendim out of the hands of Toirin and his ilk.
The dagger was protected from scries while it was inside of the enchanted holding bag Horbe had given Dolon – and there it would remain. The bag would never be opened, and would go into the vaults of Lok Magius. The circlet would remain with the party, to help them locate the other Eighths, as well as to prevent any of the pieces from being in one place at one time.
There were still too many questions, though – such as why William had betrayed them, and whether he had known Toirin or not. The armlet of Serendim was located in Chasadan, a city there in Rakore. That Horbe had not even been told about it seemed to indicate that the armlet was the Eighth of Serendim already in Toirin’s possession. Knowing where it was gave them something of an advantage, and might help them track down Doom Rex, as well.
Before the party set out, though, Mistress Brin had explicit instructions for Thedlar Doomar, master of the Hoard of Lok Magius. Master Thedlar outfitted the party from the myriad enchanted items located in the Hoard, and took the stranger and more ungainly magical items they had accrued in their travels off their hands. When Dolon gave him the ‘blade of roses’ all in ebonite that the group had received from the druidess Ilinaranee, Thedlar gave them an extra crate of healing potions – and told them all not to tell anyone, as Thedlar had stolen it off of a priest. Even Lorcan received a little something to help outfit him against the perils they might soon face.
Morning of the 6th of Dacal, 1331 Avard.
Each player received 1050 experience points for playing. Hadarai and Dolon now have 4195 experience points each, and Sunalor and Liffey have 3750 apiece, putting all of them at 4th level.
The following notes represent the 'behind the scenes' and 'post op' actions of the players and the Dungeon Master.
We met again at my place on Saturday, March 21st 2009. Dinner was a beef stew in the big crock pot, with a bit of meat set aside for Ross in the small crock pot – since he isn’t as fond of vegetables as the we are. (raspberries) Means more for the rest of us, Ross. The game seemed to play out fairly well, and I’m enjoying the players wondering who they can trust and who they can’t. I feel like I’m grooming my own personal paranoid schizophrenics.
Speaking of, special thanks to Diego da Silva for creating Master P’Arkon, whom I enjoyed bringing back for an encore performance. Many thanks to Jared Ho for his creation of Himamoto Aliunii and Himamoto Hotaru for their services in Teras.
The players also seemed to enjoy the barbarian sorcerer Thedlar Doomar, an overbearing man that enjoys belittling everyone with a thick accent. And kudos to the players for somehow knowing the name of one of the guardsmen; I think they just guessed his name. “Dick!” “How do they know you?”
“The Kambringer had yet to return, and the pieces were still in their resting places, so the crew of the Kambringer had failed, somehow.”
They clearly didn't pray to the DM hard enough.
Also somebody remind me to say something about Kambitore's journal (somehow slipped my mind)… probably has useful bits in it about the other “favorite students.”