Date: Lan the 26th to Dalan the 3rd, 1334 Avard
The troupe had amassed quite a bit of damning evidence against the former Lord of Lena, thanks to the high priestess of Habrem in Rilan, and the assassin from Al Fahim called Talah. The man once known as Baron Alver of Lena was now going by several names, such as the Black Mask, the Black Master, and Black Lord. He had a hand in shipping barrels of deadly arcanogen in from Kur Maeth, experiments upon the people of Rakore, slavery, and the murder of a young priestess of Habrem with the 'voice of an angel'.
The priestess' body had been recovered, but her voice box had been ripped out and never found. Her father – a mob boss in Teras – had posted a reward for bringing the people responsible to justice.
The troupe decided to follow the leads north to Takanal. Roland and Toox were up before dawn at the Blue Tyven in Rilan, packing up and preparing the mounts. They loaded up on the Groom's Bane, owned by Captain Cassidy, and headed north at first light. Roland used his paladin's innate senses to scan the ship and her crew, and found them to be safe enough – or, at least, lacking in evil intent enough to be considered safe.
Roland had also brought along Ruse, the dupe that had done the assassin's bidding. Roland promised the man a fresh start in Takanal, safe from the assassins.
Where the Galanus River and the Turan River met, a harpy eagle the size of a horse landed on the ship's main yard arm. The eagle had an elf on its back, and the crew needed reassurances that it was not a young roc. The elf mage let go his spell, changing the eagle back into Chimes. The elf, Hiko, took a few moments to meet the captain and crew, and go over the ship.
Reunited, the troupe caught one another up on the situation. The werebear and some of the crew of the Seven Gargoyles had escaped – but they obviously worked for the Black Mask. The Seven Gargoyles, though, had been sunk farther up the Galanus River, removing one asset of the Black Lord.
That time of the month where the sun did not rise, but the gas giant Maroth eclipsed it, was known as the Freeze. Temperatures would drop by the second 'day', and travel slowed to a crawl, if at all. Chimes, to expedite things, stayed near the bowsprit and kept up an arcane light to lead the way. The going was slow, but Captain Cassidy was able to make some headway despite inclement weather and the Freeze.
A two day journey that took three days let them off in Takanal on the evening of the 1st of Dalan. They unloaded, thanked Captain Cassidy, and set Ruse off with a small purse of coins. From there, they went to the Seven Sisters Inn to stay the night and plan the next phase of their journey.
Chimes underwent some major character growth. After her near disastrous interaction with the high priestess of Habrem in Rilan, Chimes was no long willing to do 'anything' to get the lime light. When she found a rather mediocre bard on the state in Takanal, she took the time to learn that he was a local. She then went on to do three performances with him, instructing him as they went, letting him be the star of the show while simultaneously letting everyone know that she was a master performer. She shared. She made Roland and Toox literally wonder if she had been replaced with someone else. She grew in stature without growing taller, and amazed them all.
The next day, the troupe headed east. They left Balteest in the stable, paying in advance for several more days. According to the Guardian Paladin Marcus of Yatindar, the trail for the priestess vocal cords had gone cold in some ruins at the top of a spire a day 'east and north' of Takanal. By near end of day, they had found a ridge that ended in a rise – with ruins atop the rise.
Missus Melbourne scouted the ruins while the troupe made camp – and she returned with interesting news. A ghostly form and dead vegetation were seen within the ruins. Through the night, a keening wail was heard from the ruins, despite a distance of nearly a half mile.
They used wax from candles and bits of fur and cloth, and found ways to clog their ears. Chimes and Cleo were more of a problem, but Hiko's intelligence was more than up to the task, fashioning ear muffs for the two that could be tightened down without hurting them.
On approach to the ruins, Roland took the lead. There had once been a fortress of quarried stone atop the rise, but its multiple levels and walls had long since fallen into disrepair. Marcus the paladin had seen nothing, and they had found no clues. Roland, however, was attacked quickly.
The banshee that attacked was no normal banshee, but was the spirit of the priestess that had had her throat torn out. Despite that, her wails and her deathly visage were nearly the undoing of the party. Hiko and Cleo and the mule Clyde went down quickly, and only the might of Xoriah through her paladin Roland saved them all.
The party took some time to gather their strength from the terrible battle, and then pushed on, investigating. Roland could sense the presence of a fiend somewhere below them, so they moved cautiously, ready for battle.
Where the banshee had killed the most grass and plants and nearly killed a tree, Chimes found a covered panel beneath the dirt. A hidden stone stairwell led tightly down into the earth – towards the fiend whose presence Roland could easily discern, despite the layers of rock and stone.
Hiko took a few moments to summon two small earth elementals. One of the two he had worked with, before. Chimes awarded them with small gems, and the promise of more, for their cooperation.
One of the elementals went first down the narrow, tight stairs, clearing the dirt and debris out of the way. The second earth elemental stayed at the rear, protecting them from behind in case of another attack. They went single file down the stairs, deeper into the earth and out of the sun.
The first elemental was struck by a blast of hellfire, green flames harming it. Roland and Toox, next in line, rushed into a vaulted room – and were almost instantly charmed by a succubus. The succubus had the appearance of the slain priestess, and its vocal chords and neck were ghostly and translucent.
Roland and Toox were ordered to attack Hiko, and Chimes managed to break the spell on the paladin, but not the monk. Roland was able to take some of the damage from Toox's attack, and feed it back to her, helping to break the spell on her. Together, the three tried to take the succubus, only for Hiko to be struck down, again.
Chimes managed to squeeze past them and explore the vaulted room – finding an empty sarcophagus with a desiccated human voice box where the neck would go. Arcane runes warded the voice box, but also were full of conjuration magics. If the succubus were slain, the sarcophagus would use the voice box to resummon her back, ready to go again.
Roland's sword arm was drained of life force so heavily that his blade clattered to the stones and he was unable to move his arm. Despite that, he used his shield, knocking her down, where Toox leapt atop her and started beating her senseless with her firsts. Toox broke the succubus' skull, yellow blood spattering across the stone floor.
Toox, always sensitive to the sight of blood, retched over the succubus' face.
The succubus began to regenerate, resummoned by the voice box.
Hiko, regaining his strength, was able to witness Chimes destroy the voice box. She used all of her might with a well placed arrow strike, using her arcane powers and the powers of the bow, to bypass the magical shielding of the sarcophagus. The mummified voice box was cut to shreds by her enchanted arrow strike.
The succubus turned to brownish ashes beneath Toox, vanquished and unable to return.
Across from the sarcophagus was a collection of treasures – including a hogshead full of the dangerous arcanogen.
DM's Notes: We started off a bit rough with a very in depth analysis of one of our house rules, allowing companions to level up. I had been allowing animal companions to level up with their owners, like a warhorse gaining a 1d10+CON every time its owner leveled up. Some of the concerns were that it was overpowering and detracted considerably from familiars. As we looked into the issue, we saw that the find familiar spell did not address a familiar's intelligence, while find steed set a summoned steed's intelligence at a minimum of INT 6. We also realized that we had been allowing summoned steeds to level up as though they were animal companions by mistake. We decided to allow find familiar to set a familiar's intelligence at a minimum of INT 6, as well – we had, after all, been playing them as more intelligent than cats or owls or giant centipedes, so this made little impact. Fixing summoned steeds so that they did not level up was a good catch, and that left us with only the question of whether or how to level up animal companions. I think we're going to address them on a case-by-case basis, going forward.
That Cleo the gryphon cub almost died, this time, raised some eyebrows and brought attention to just how dangerous it was to adventure with a baby. This was the second time in as many sessions where failing a save was better than making the save – something I'll have to look at. In this case, the banshee's wail dealt psychic damage on a successful save, but on a failed save, the character was reduced to zero hit points.
None to date.