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Wrath of the Righteous - Adventures of the Great Hero (may contain spoilers)


Campaign Journals

Scarab Sages

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A couple of years ago, one of my gaming friends decided to start running the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path. Unfortunately after we'd played only four or five sessions, the vicissitudes of life intervened and we had to put the game on indefinite hiatus.

A couple of months ago my friend who is GMing this campaign finally felt he was ready to resume. Unfortunately in the intervening time period I had misplaced my session notes, so the information I have about what happened during those initial sessions is pretty minimal. But I thought I'd start journaling my summaries of our sessions, beginning with a brief recap of how the campaign began.

I've decided to sub-title this "Adventures of the Great Hero" because Jiro has a Destiny, but up to this point he was a lowly gardener. He has no combat or armor training, and has been afraid to actually hit anyone. My character, Asami, has been sent as his protector and finds him a bit trying.

Note: Most of the players other than myself are using classes from the Advanced Class Guide.

Player Characters:
Aegronius - male half-elf slayer
Asamiel no Seimei - female elf wizard (me)
Fairuna - female half-orc warpriest of Iomedae (my husband)
Jiro - male human shaman
Zosta - female human brawler

Asamiel no Seimei and Jiro both come from Tian Xia. Asamiel was not born there, but has lived for years in Jinin, the elven kingdom there. Jiro was born in Minkai. Jiro, who had been a gardener for a noble family, discovered that he was actually a bastard son of said family. The Council of the Golden Flame determined that it was Jiro's destiny to go to the far-away Worldwound to prevent the oni from using it to emerge into the world. The Council believed that the barbaric westerners were incapable of dealing with oni as well as the people of Tian Xia could. Asami was sent by the Council to accompany Jiro and look after him. Jiro was also accompanied by Uncle, an unusually intelligent and mischievous monkey who he believes is the reincarnation of one of his ancestors.

Fairuna (Runa for short) was sent by Iomedae to join the fight against the demons at the Worldwound. Zosta had gone to the city of Kenabres to visit her parents, who were the bodyguards of a barbarian priestess named Cennami. Aegronius came to Kenabres with a companion seeking work, but after the arrived his companion left. The five PCs met on arriving in Kenabres, where Cennami took charge of them and began their training in fighting demons. This training included fighting a redeemed demon named Rhino who was willingly helping to teach the barbarians and their allies to be better demon fighters (Rhino is a reference back to an old player character run by the GM in another campaign).

After the group had been in Kenabres for a short while, they attended a festival in the city. As one of the important officials of the forces defending the Worldwound made a speech, the crowd suddenly saw a demon lord appear, locked in battle with the city's silver dragon protector, Telendrev. Then a crack opened up in the earth and the five newcomers plummeted into it. As they fell, they saw Telendrev suffer a mortal wound. But before they could plunge to their deaths, the dragon cast a feather fall spell on them all. This didn't prevent them from being knocked unconscious by the long drop, but it did save their lives.

After they recovered consciousness, the group began seeking a way to get back to the surface. But first they each found a single scale presumably from Telendrev. These scales would grant them several different magical powers when used. After discovering the scales, they began exploring the tunnels in which they had landed and discovered that other people had also fallen through the crevice that opened in Kenabres: Anivia, a human woman who had suffered a broken leg in the fall; Aravashniel, an elf wizard who had been blinded by the demon that attacked Telendrev; and Horgus, a scholarly nobleman who had somehow avoided any injury. Asami was excited to learn that Aravashniel was a Riftwarden like her parents, who had died defending the Worldwound. The five young companion lacked enough healing magic to heal Anivia's leg or restore Aravashniel's vision, so they did what they could and helped the injured to walk as they continued searching for a way back up to the city.

As they explored, they stumbled upon a site where someone had camped, but no sign of the campsite's original occupant other than an emblem in the shape of a bat, which Runa picked up. Later on they also had an encounter with a dwarf. They were unable to determine if the dwarf had also fallen into the subterranean caverns or if he had already been there, for he seemed to have lost his mind and immediately attacked them, forcing them to kill him in self-defense. Afterward they discovered that he had been a wizard. Asami took charge of his spellbook, as Aravashniel couldn't see to use it and no one else could employ arcane magic. When they paused to rest, Aravashniel loaned her some materials so she could copy one of the spells into her own spellbook.

The above brings us up to the point where the game went on hiatus three years ago. Now we pick up with our revived campaign.

Scarab Sages

February 7, 2016 restart

As they wandered through the underground, the lost party found that to proceed they were obliged to climb up a shaft into a very large cavern, which contained stone arches that reminded them of a temple. The floor of the cavern was cracked, and there was a tall stone tower which had collapsed. Runa caught a glimpse of something under the collapsed tower, which turned out to be one of the mongrelmen who lived beneath the city. The mongrelman, whose name was Lan, told them that his companion had become trapped under some rocks that shifted when the tower fell. After Jiro allayed his fears a little, the group lifted the rocks and freed Lan’s companion Krell, who like Anivia had suffered a broken leg. Lan explained that the fallen tower was a watchtower, and that he, his mute companion Dyra, and Krell had been on watch when it collapsed. Lan told the group from the surface that he knew of a way to get back to the surface, but it would require first going to the mongrelmen city to talk to their chief.

The enlarged group continued onward, eventually coming upon a large chasm which they must cross. Aegron strung ropes across it, but despite the ropes Runa fell in, overburdened by her heavy armor and weapons. Aegron had to pull her out after she removed her armor and weapons and sent them out separately. The group formed a cradle of ropes to carry across the injured Anivia and Krell and the blind Aravashniel.

Once they had overcome the chasm, the party next encountered a circular cavern, which Lan warned was inhabited by ‘spore coughers’, a kind of fungus, that would attack anyone who entered the cavern. He advised that the fungus creatures disliked fire. The group spotted two bodies in the cavern, wearing the robes of priests of Iomedae. Jiro crept up to examine them and found that both were dead. The fungus was dead too, but it didn’t appear that the fungus had killed the two men. Both bore wounds caused by weapons. Aegron noticed that one of the men had a small brass bull’s head with red gemstone eyes clutched in his hand. Several of the other members of the group recognized this object as an unholy symbol of Baphomet, and Runa realized that the men weren’t carrying the traditional longswords of priests of Iomedae. Instead they carried glaives, the holy weapons of Baphomet. They must be imposters.

Lan told the group that he and his people had seen many other men like these in the caverns recently. The bodies were searched, revealing another curative potion and a scroll of cause fear. The group decided to make a litter from the glaives and carry one of the corpses with them, so that when they returned to the surface they could show the priests of Iomedae that there may be infiltrators in their midst.

Suddenly three men also wearing the garb of Ioemedae’s priesthood appeared on the other side of the cavern, wielding bows. Two of them shot Asami and she collapsed. Runa blessed the group, and Aegron rushed up to meet the three enemies. Jiro cast a cure spell on Asami, who was on the verge of death. Runa charged the assailants. Zosta also moved forward, facing a man who dropped his bow and revealed spiked gauntlets. Aravashniel summoned a large lizard and commanded it to attack anyone firing bows, as he couldn’t see what was happening and didn’t realize that the newly recovered Asami was about to fire her bow at their foes.

Asami abandoned using her bow and sent a magic missile at the man in front of Zosta, who fell. The other two enemy archers fired their bows but missed their targets. Jiro followed the example of his companions and rushed forward, but he also failed to connect. Aegron knocked down another of the enemies. Jiro, Zosta, and the lizard attacked the remaining man and overcame him.

Runa then suggested that the one living man be taken prisoner and taken to the surface instead of as a corpse. On the bodies, the group members found two cure light wounds potions and a quantity of arrows.

After everyone had recovered from the fight, Lan guided the group to an enormous cavern with a lake in the center, where the mongrelmen city sat on an island in the midst of the water. They were carried to the island on rafts assembled of various materials. The bat symbol Runa had picked up at the abandoned campsite turned out to have belonged to the son of the mongrelmen's chief. His son had left after a disagreement with his father. Though the chief was initially insulted by some things Aravashniel said about the subterranean folk, Asami shushed Aravashniel and the other members of the group managed to be more diplomatic. The chief agreed to help in the fight against the demons after he was told what had happened in Kenabres and Runa returned his son's bat symbol and told him of how the surface dwellers had found his empty campsite. The chief presented the party members with a bandolier containing six potions of cure light wounds and three potions of lesser restoration. He also gave them a morningstar. In addition they had acquired five chain shirts from the false priests.

After their meeting with the chief, the group planned to join the mongrelmen in an attack on the false priests’ underground camp.

Loot:
Spellbook: all cantrips, color spray, mage armor, magic missile, grease, detect secret doors, blur, levitate, fog cloud, invisibility, resist energy, shocking grasp, silent image
Scroll of cause fear
Unholy symbol of Baphomet
Two glaives
Five chain shirts
Six potions of cure light wounds
Three potions of lesser restoration
Morningstar
42 arrows

Scarab Sages

February 28, 2016
Session 2

Previously: Chief Sull, leader of the mongrelmen, had told the party that the route back to the surface led through territory held by some bad mongrelmen. He also told them that the priests of Baphomet had already been present in the caverns prior to the attack on Kenabres.

The group sold some of the items they had acquired in fighting the Baphomet priests and the mad dwarf. They each gained 116 gp from the transaction.

The mongrelmen village had no inn, so that night the group stayed in a communal space. During their relaxation time, Aravanshiel permitted Asami to scribe the spell acid arrow from his spellbook into her own. That evening while Runa took the third watch, she was bitten by a spider. In the morning as they were preparing to leave, Jiro spotted a spirit, which Zosta refused to believe was real.

Lan escorted the party out of his village. He didn’t personally know the way to the surface, but knew the correct direction to travel. Shortly after leaving the village on the lake, they entered a narrow passageway, only wide enough for them to walk in single file. They could see the marks of chisels on its walls. Suddenly Lan spotted something blocking the crevice. A wooden barricade about five feet high had been built where the passage widened. There was one sentry visible behind the barrier.

Runa took the lead in speaking to the sentry, who demanded that she go forward alone. Aegron and Zosta also moved forward to be a little closer to her, but only Runa approached the barrier. The sentry appeared to be talking to someone else and stalling for time. They heard some type of alarm given as someone shouted from behind the barricade. Runa tried to convince the guard to let her pass by showing the Baphomet holy symbol she carried and taking on an imperious tone, but the mongrelman sentry didn’t appear to be convinced, so she ran around the barrier to attack him. Aegron also threw a javelin at him but missed.

A second mongrelman appeared behind the barricade to attack Runa. Jiro ran forward to join his companions in attacking the barricade guards. Zosta leaped over the wall and kicked the sentry. Asami ran forward, leaving Aravashniel, Anivia, and Horgus behind. She paused to cast mage armor on herself before approaching the barrier. The wall sentry shouted, “Help! Faster!” to someone else.

Two more mongrelmen had emerged from a door behind the barricade and attacked Runa, seriously injuring her. She had to drink a potion to heal her wounds. Zosta hit the wall sentry and he collapsed. Asami ran around the barrier and hurled her splintered spear at one of the mongrelmen. Jiro was fighting another of them using the morningstar Chief Sull had gifted to the group, while protecting himself from a second foe with a stone shield. Jiro smashed his opponent with his morningstar. The mongrelman who had hit Runa fled. Aegron pursued him, but wasn’t able to hit him. Asami threw her spear at one of Jiro’s foes but missed. The fleeing mongrelman ran through the door and shut it behind him. One of the remaining enemies struck Jiro a dire blow, but Jiro hit back with equal force and killed his opponent. Despite being very reluctant to take up arms, Jiro was becoming a warrior.

Aegron opened the door and found the mongrelman he’d been chasing lying just beyond it, collapsed from the wounds he’d suffered. The last mongrelman behind the barrier fell after Asami directed a ray of frost at him. The group then was able to pass through the doorway. There they found three rooms, one of them set up as a bunk room. A large lizard charged Aegron and bit him, then held on. Asami and Zosta attacked it to get it to release Aegron. After it died Jiro realized that its bite was poisonous, but the group had no way of neutralizing the poison. Jiro could only keep an eye on Aegron and treat his symptoms.

There was no one else in the other rooms, and Asami determined that they contained nothing magical. The group went on through a door leading out of the bunk room. As Zosta opened the door, someone shot her twice with a crossbow, and she saw a dark figure apparently disappear into the floor. Runa went into the room first, finding no one, and located another door in a corner. Aegron found that the attacker had descended a rope ladder that led down from the room’s other far corner. He descended the ladder, while Runa opened the door she had found.

The door Runa opened led to a downward sloping ramp and a heap of garbage, apparently serving as the mongrelmens’ trash midden. Her foot slipped and she slid down the ramp into the rubbish, where she discovered that garbage wasn’t the only thing at the bottom of the ramp. Something hidden under the offal grabbed her and burned her with acid. Zosta pulled a rope out of her pack, and Asami cast animate rope on it to drag Runa away from the creature, which Jiro identified as a giant amoeba. When Asami, Jiro, and Zosta all hauled on the rope, they were able to haul Runa away from the amoeba’s grasp.

Meanwhile Aegron had found more mongrelmen at the bottom of the ladder, too many for him to handle on his own. He was shot several times and collapsed, unconscious. By the time Jiro looked down the ladder, he saw only bloodstains on the floor below but no sign of Aegron. He climbed down the ladder to find another barrier similar to the one they had encountered in the crevice outside. Runa then descended the ladder also, but her heavy armor caused her to lose her grip and fall. She landed prone at the bottom, swearing loudly, which alerted the mongrelmen that more people had entered the chamber. A second battle ensued. Aravashniel summoned a celestial monitor lizard to help the group battle the mongrelmen, which helped to produce a quick defeat for the mongrelmen defenders.

The last surviving mongrelman pleaded for mercy and said he would tell them where Aegron was. Jiro approached the door beyond the barricade and heard labored breathing coming from the other side. The mongrelman told them that Aegron was on the other side of that door. He also told them that the leader of the mongrelmen was a human woman named Hosilla, who had slain their previous leader. Jiro opened the door to see Aegron lying on a table, and yet more doorways leading out of the room.

Scarab Sages

March 13, 2016
Session 3

Note: I forgot to say enough about Uncle, Jiro's spirit animal. He's a monkey, and he's much more clever and intelligent than an ordinary spirit animal. He's probably got a higher Intelligence score than Jiro. Our GM likes to tinker with the rules a bit.
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The chamber in which Aegron was discovered appeared to a be natural cavern. In the center stood a stone table, to which Aegron was bound. He appeared to be barely conscious. Several members of the group realized that there was something strange about Aegron, and also that their senses seemed less sharp here than usual.

At the end of the stone table, a figure crouched in an ornate chair. This person, who proved to be female, threatened the group and refused to release Aegron, even when Runa offered gold in exchange for safe passage. To demonstrate that she was not intimidated by this woman, Runa placed a blessing on her sword blade, which provoked the woman to fire her bow at Runa. Runa responded with a swing of her blade. Jiro jumped up on the table, and Uncle ran under a chair. The archer shot Runa a second time. Zosta leaped over the table, accidentally stepping on Aegron in the process, and realized when she did that there was no body there. The figure lying on the table was an illusion. She shouted angrily as she vaulted down and punched the archer. Asami sent a magic missile hurtling at the woman with the bow.

Jiro attempted to touch Aegron and he too discovered that there was actually nothing lying on the table. He called out, “What have you done with our friend?” The woman did not reply, instead shooting Runa again. Jiro tried to hit her with his morningstar but missed his aim. The woman then fired an arrow at him. Zosta attempted to take the bow from the archer, but she failed. Asami took a scroll from her pack and produced another magic missile. After being struck by the missile of force, the archer collapsed. At the same moment, a door behind where the woman had fallen opened, revealing another woman standing in the opening in front of Zosta.

Through the open doorway, Zosta could see racks, tables, and two cages in the next cavern. The woman standing before her held a glaive in one hand, and a book in the other. The woman said, “You need to leave.” Behind her, Zosta observed that on two of the tables were dioramas of what appeared to be Kenabres and some wilderness terrain. Both dioramas suddenly seemed to dissolve into loose sand, which then vanished.

Runa stepped closer, and the woman with the glaive sneered, “I’ll enjoy killing you.” The woman wore a symbol of Baphomet on her belt. Runa threatened to slay the archer. In response, the woman spoke a command word and a spiritual weapon appeared, a duplicate of the glaive she held. The magical glaive immediately dealt a fatal blow to the fallen archer.

Jiro announced with confidence, “There’s nothing you can do to stop us getting our friend,” but his words didn’t intimidate the woman. Jiro then took the opportunity to drink a curative potion, glancing through the open doorway as he did so. He could see that Aegron was imprisoned in one of the cages.

Zosta reached out and snatched the book out of the woman’s hand. The woman responded by saying, “You’ll pay for that!” Asami, whose supply of prepared spells was rapidly depleting, went into the outer room to fetch Aravashniel, Anivia, and Horgus. While she led them into the cavern where the rest of the party were facing the priestess of Baphomet, the woman’s spiritual weapon attacked Runa. Runa was now seriously injured, so she withdrew from the area, hurrying out of the room so that the summmoned weapon couldn’t follow her when she got of the woman’s sight. Jiro then stepped toward the woman, grabbed a ring of keys from her belt, and ran into the room where Aegron was imprisoned. At the same time, Zosta disarmed the woman of her glaive and flung the book away, where it was picked up by Uncle.

Asami borrowed Aravashniel’s wand of false life and used it to cast the spell on the wounded Runa, enabling her to return to the fight with the follower of Baphomet after she also drank a healing potion. The woman tried to command Zosta, but Zosta resisted her spell. Jiro meanwhile ran across the room containing the cages and gave the keys to Aegron, who was in much better health than his illusory duplicate had appeared to be. Aegron then unlocked his cage and emerged. Zosta tried to pummel the woman but her blows failed to connect, and Anivia fired arrows at her, but due to the number of people in the way she was also unable to strike her target. Asami used her last scroll of magic missile against the woman. The woman drew a dagger and attacked Zosta.

Jiro moved around behind the woman to flank with Zosta. The woman put her hand on the glaive that Zosta now held and spoke the command word again, producing another spiritual weapon, but also allowing Zosta to learn the word. She pulled the glaive out of Zosta’s grasp and backed into the room with the cages. Aegron struck at her with a battleaxe, and Runa moved in to attack. Uncle also followed them into the room, ostentatiously holding the book up and ripping out a page. But Zosta could see from her vantage that the monkey was actually tearing an exhausted spell scroll. Zosta followed the woman and once again snatched her glaive away from her, while Asami attempted to harm her with a ray of frost that went wide of the mark. The woman then commanded Zosta again, this time successfully, causing Zosta to flee the room, but Zosta carried the glaive with her when she ran.

Inside the cage room, the woman drank a potion. Runa swung her sword, but as she did the woman disappeared. Asami entered the room and warned her companions to be quiet in case the potion had been one of invisibility. No one heard anything, so Asami and Runa began swinging their weapons through the air hoping to make contact with the woman, though they had no success.

Aegron found that the occupant of the other cage was still alive, barely, and released him. Jiro suggested that Aravashniel summon an earth elemental that could sense the positions of any creatures nearby, but unfortunately no one in the group could speak the language of earth creatures. Jiro was still able to make himself understood by the creature, which pointed toward the outer area from which the party had entered the room with the stone table. Then Zosta heard the woman’s voice curse her and everyone heard rapid footsteps. Somehow the woman had been able to creep past everyone searching for her and she now ran out of the cavern toward the rope ladder leading up.

Everyone ran after her, but they were unable to catch her before she could ascend the ladder. Jiro then decided to tie a pot and spoon to the ladder to act as an alarm in the event she returned. To Zosta’s surprise, a compartment suddenly opened up on the glaive shaft and ejected a wand. That explained how the woman had been able to cast spiritual weapon from her glaive. Asami examined the wand and determined that it still contained seven charges of the spell.

Aegron learned that the other prisoner’s name was Garvin, and that he was a veteran of the crusades. He estimated he had been a prisoner in the cavern for a week. The followers of Baphomet had kidnapped him and questioned him about the locations of various things in Kenabres. The party members told him what had happened in Kenabres a few days earlier, including the apparent death of Telendrev. They also searched the dead archer, finding two potions of cure light wounds, a wand of longstrider with 10 charges, a masterwork shirt of chainmail, and a masterwork longbow. Asami also appraised the woman’s book, which Uncle had not damaged. It was a jeweled book of prayers to Baphomet worth 50 gold pieces.

After determing there was nothing else of use or value in the rooms where they had fought the woman, the group went on to explore another side room. This one held a desk, chair, and fur-covered bed, as well as an iron lockbox. The lockbox key was on the ring of keys Jiro had appropriated. Within the box they found a leather pouch containing an assortment of gems, a scroll case holding two scrolls, and a golden longsword that radiated magic. When Runa attempted to examine the sword to determine its properties, she suddenly fainted.

Her companions were startled and confused by her sudden collapse, but Asami assumed she had merely been overwhelmed by strong magic, and she began to examine the sword herself. Her mind was suddenly filled with information: this blade was Radiance, the legendary sword of the great demon-slayer Yaniel. It had been held in the Gray Garrison, but had recently been stolen by the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. The followers of Baphomet had likely intended to corrupt it for their use. Its powers had gone dormant after Yaniel’s assassination, but it was still a powerful blade of cold iron. The experience of receiving this information left Asami with a headache.

When Runa revived a few minutes later, she was able to glean some of the same information from the sword. As Runa was a follower of Iomedae like Yaniel, her companions encouraged her to take the sword, though it lacked a scabbard and would be awkward to carry.

They also looked through the papers they found in the desk and were rewarded with a bounty of information. One report told the woman, Hosilla, to go to three safehouses in Kenabres: Nyserian Manor, Topaz Solutions, and the Tower of Estrod. Horgus recognized the signature on the missive as that of Staunton Vhane, the traitorous warden of Drezen, whose treachery had been exposed by Anivia’s wife, Irabeth. Horgus knew that Vhane had tried to make arrangements to buy Irabeth’s sword, presumably after having Irabeth killed. It now seemed imperative for the group to reach the surface and warn the temple of Iomedae of the infiltrators in the city, as well as to warn Irabeth of the danger to her from Vhane and his compatriots.

After they had finished searching the room, the group climbed up out of the caverns safely, finding no sign of Hosilla. Next they opened another door they had bypassed earlier, finding beyond it a cavern filled with shelves of preserved creatures such as dire rats, and two unoccupied bedrolls. They also found an iron ladder leading downward and another door. When Aegron listened at the door he heard the sound of running water. He opened the door, which was unlocked. It led into a hallway into darkness. Jiro peered into the passage and spotted an open shaft with a knotted rope hanging down into it.

While the rest of the group waited at the top of the shaft, Aegron, Jiro, and Zosta descended the rope. Aegron noticed something peculiar across the pool of moving water that lay at the bottom of the shaft. The three of them waded into the water to investigate, and Aegron was suddenly bitten by an albino cave gar. He and Zosta quickly killed it, as well as a second gar that swam up to them. Aegron and Jiro then entered a cave beyond the pool, which held an old, dusty chest. As Aegron started to approach the chest he realized that there was a trap in the floor and managed to jump out of the way, but Jiro was too slow and fell into a pit, wounding his leg on one of the spikes set into the bottom. After Aegron helped him back out, they opened the chest. Within it they found 250 gold pieces, a wooden shield, a twine ring of climbing, two potions of darkvision, a scroll of identify, and a scroll of magic fang. Asami examined all of the magic items to identify their properties.

Having found no exit near the pool, the group members realized they would have to descend the iron ladder to seek a way back to the surface.

Loot acquired:
2 potions of cure light wounds
Wand of longstrider, 10 charges
Masterwork chain shirt
Masterwork longbow (given to Aegron)
Wand of spiritual weapon. 7 charges (given to Jiro)
3 lapis lazuli chips, 10 gp each
2 bloodstones, 50 gp each
Citrine 50 gp
Pearl 100 gp
Scroll of bear’s endurance
Scroll of remove disease
Radiance: +1 cold iron longsword (given to Runa)
250 gp
+1 wooden shield
Ring of climbing
2 potions of darkvision
Scroll of identify
Scroll of magic fang
Jeweled prayer book 50 gp

Scarab Sages

March 20, 2016
Session 4

I also neglected to mention Asami's familiar, Kirara, a small white cat. As I said before, the GM likes to tweak the rules a bit, so when Asami is able to have an improved familiar, Kirara will transform into a silvanshee agathion rather than be dismissed and replaced by one. And yes, Kirara is named after Sango's companion from the anime Inu Yasha.

This is the last session of Wrath of the Righteous to date. We'll probably resume in a few weeks.
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The small band of survivors decided to descend the iron ladder in search of the exit from the subterranean caverns. Aegron dropped a sunrod down to the bottom of the ladder and descended first. He was almost immediately attacked by a trio of unusually large rats. Runa climbed down to help him, assisted by the ring of climbing she now wore. Aravashniel summoned a badger to fight the rats as well, and Zosta vaulted down the ladder shaft to join in the battle. Jiro lay down on the ground at the top of the ladder to see better and used the wand of spiritual weapon he had just acquired, which in his hands produced a tetsubo of force.

To Asami’s surprise, her familiar Kirara jumped down the ladder shaft also, bounding off the summoned badger and then pouncing on one of the large rats. Asami couldn’t see what happened, but Zosta witnessed the small white cat slashing out the rat’s eyes.

When all three rats had been slain, Jiro determined that they were not ordinary dire rats but some unusual variety. Like other dire rats, they probably carried disease to inflict on those they had bitten. But the group had only a single scroll of remove disease available to them and would have to wait to see if anyone had been infected.

Once everyone had climbed down the ladder they continued on down the narrow passage that led away from it. Aegron took the lead again after consuming a potion of darkvision. Ahead he saw another barricade of salvaged materials, manned by two mongrelmen. The mongrelmens’ overheard conversation indicated they were stalling for time. Aegron also heard other voices beyond them.

Jiro and Zosta attempted to convince the mongrelmen to let the group pass, trying to intimidate them by demonstrating that they had taken Hosilla’s prayer book and glaive, but the mongrelmen replied that Hosilla had commanded them to kill the intruders. Then two people emerged from a room behind the barrier. Asami and several of her companions recognized that one of the new arrivals was a cultist of Baphomet, while the other was a follower of another demon lord, Deskari. These two new arrivals warned that there were several dretches left by Hosilla beyond the barrier. The recognition that both people served demon lords provoked Jiro, who suddenly attacked them with another spiritual weapon.

One of the two cultists cast a spell that caused Aegron and Zosta to drop their weapons. Asami attempted several times to target the enemies with ray of frost but failed to hit anyone. Zosta and Aegron recovered and joined Jiro and Runa in attacking the two mongrelmen and the two cultists. One of the cultists channeled negative energy and succeeded in injuring several members of the group from the surface. When the mongrelmen fell, the cultists started to retreat through a doorway behind them, but one of them was slain before he could escape. The second cultists fled.

After the cultist vanished from sight, Jiro and Asami quickly searched the bodies of the fallen and found two potions of cure light wounds. Then the group entered the chamber beyond the barricade. Suddenly a noxious fog filled the chamber, causing several members of the party to become nauseated. Asami identified the fog as a stinking cloud spell. She ran back out past the barrier to get away from it, while Jiro, Runa, Zosta, and Aegron ran farther into the area that lay beyond it. Something in the cloud caused Zosta to become frightened and she rushed back out of the room, dodged past Asami and the rest of the group, and climbed up the ladder before anyone could do anything to stop her.

Meanwhile the rest of those in the chamber encountered two dretches, which they slew, but not before one of them summoned a third dretch which cast another stinking cloud. It also caused Aegron to flee as Zosta had done. Fortunately the effect on Aegron didn’t last as long as that affecting Zosta. When Zosta recovered she returned and entered the area of the cloud, finding and attacking one of the dretches.

After all the dretches had been slain and the stinking cloud dissipated, the group learned that the room beyond the barricade was a small labyrinth, probably constructed by the followers of Baphomet. They made their way through the maze and emerged into a tunnel that appeared to be an old sewer tunnel. A short time later they came to a series of iron ladders leading to the surface.

As they emerged once more in Kenabres, they found the city transformed. Clouds of black smoke hung overhead and the streets were filled with rubble. They saw few signs of people. The ladders had led them into the city far south of the compound where they hoped to find Cennami and Zosta’s parents safe.

The four companions had agreed to escort Horgus to his home for a payment of a thousand gold pieces. Anivia also wanted to find her wife, Irabeth, and Aravashniel wanted to be taken to a place called Blackwing Ruins. Since Aravashniel’s destination seemed closest and they needed a place to rest and recuperate in safety, they decided to go there first. Everyone was hurt, they were nearly out of spells, and they had only a single curative potion left.

They had hardly begun to make their way toward their goal when Jiro saw something he had never expected to see in Kenabres: several kami, which seemed to be anxiously beckoning for him to come to a nearby shop. The group followed Jiro to the shop, where a man conducted them inside, explaining that he had opened the door because something had written the message “Unlock the door” in the dust on the countertop. Then they heard music from outside. Zosta and Runa peeked out through the cracks in the shutters and saw an unusual group of people, led by a floating woman playing a flute. Jiro’s companion Uncle the monkey appeared terrified. Another message appeared on the counter, this time written in Tian: “Beware what’s outside.”

When Asami and Jiro joined their comrades at the windows, Jiro was shocked to recognize one of the people in the street as his half-brother. The group outside had clearly come from Tian Xia. Then Jiro was suddenly possessed by several kami, which allowed him to perceive that his brother had also been possessed, by an eight-tailed fox demon! Even more shocking was the revelation that his brother had willingly accepted this possession.

At the same time, Asami recognized that the people in the group were probably members of the Order of the Black Orchid, a group diametrically opposed to the aims of the Riftwardens. The Black Orchid wanted to bring chaos to the world and had to be stopped.

Loot acquired:
2 potions of cure light wounds
Masterwork glaive
Masterwork scythe

Characters are now 3rd level

Scarab Sages

July 31, 2016
Session 5

As the group hiding in the shop looked on, both Jiro and Zosta realized that they were completely unable to gauge the strength or skill of anyone in the party with Jiro’s brother. While the procession in the street was passing by the shop, the kami allowed Jiro to clearly see the fiery fox demon within his brother. Suddenly the demon turned to look toward the shop and grinned, and Jiro was sure that it was looking at him. At that same instant the kami abruptly withdrew and his vision returned to normal. He recognized that while the demon had been looking in his direction, his brother was still facing forward.

Once the demonic group had passed by, Jiro told his companions what he had seen. Asami and Runa had both spent much time learning about the denizens of the Abyss and the infernal realms, and they both recognized that the demon Jiro had seen was one of the nine demon lords of Tian Xia.

Despite all the strange events that had occurred that evening, and against the wishes of his wife, the shopkeeper offered the group lodging for the night. He introduced himself as Joual, and his wife as Maebel. Their two children were young son Syd and slightly older daughter Neena. After thanking Joual for his offer of hospitality, Jiro sat down on the floor and explained to everyone how and why he and Asami had come to the Worldwound.

When Jiro had finished his tale, Maebel began having Neena do some chores around the basement area where the family had been hiding since the catastrophe that befell Kenabres. Asami noticed that the woman didn’t have the girl do any chores that would involve using wooden objects. She also observed that Neena seemed unusually interested in the fire.

At the same time, Kirara was being exceptionally friendly with little Syd. Syd began to plead for the newcomers to tell him a story. As he grew more strident, there was suddenly a pulse of soothing energy that filled the room, and everyone who still had any injury realized they had been healed. Jiro recognized that the positive energy had come from Syd, and thanked the boy. It was apparent to the group of adventurers that both Neena and Syd had magical power and Syd had been blessed by one of the gods. Runa approached Maebel to suggest that once the city’s troubles were over she should consider taking her son to a temple for training. A little later, as Syd continued to beg for stories from the visitors, it seemed that he was about to release his divine power again. But that proved too much for his small body and instead he fell asleep.

The party members used what healing capability they had left to make sure that everyone would be fully healed the next morning. Jiro also used his magic to create water for the family. In appreciation for the group’s kindness to his family, Joual told them that they could take whatever they needed from the supplies in the shop. They took the time to distribute among themselves some of the items they had acquired underground; Jiro took charge of a scroll of magic fang, Zosta was given a potion of cure moderate wounds, and Asami received scrolls of comprehend languages and identify.

That night Joual and Maebel took turns standing watch while their children slept. The party members offered to watch over the pair so they could rest, but the couple were determined to watch over their children themselves.

The following morning, Jiro and Uncle had a conversation about something else Jiro had seen in addition to his brother's state of possession, something which he hadn’t described to anyone else. While his brother and the rest of his group were passing by, Jiro had caught a glimpse of a red-furred monkey with black wings lurking in the shadows. Uncle immediately knew that this monkey was an aspect of a mischief-making demon called Belphegor, but he warned that Belphegor’s definition of “mischief” would be described by mortals as “torture.”

After Jiro shared this information with the rest of his companions, he went out to check Joual and Maebel’s garden, where he found some berries to use as goodberries.

When Jiro returned to the shop, Uncle told him that one of the kami from the previous evening’s events had offered to remain and watch over the house. Jiro told Joual and Maebel about the benevolent kami and how to provide it with recompense, and the kami was so pleased by what he described that it left an imprint of its smiling face in dust on the counter.

The party then took their leave of the couple. Jiro suggested that if they found any crusaders about in the city they could ask that they keep an eye on Joual’s shop, but Joual requested that they not tell anyone about him. He preferred to reserve what supplies he had left for the benefit of his friends and neighbors. The group members agreed to abide by his wishes.

As the party made their way toward Aravashniel’s desired destination, Blackwing Ruin, they saw more people in the streets than on the previous evening, though nowhere near as many as they would have seen prior to the demonic attack. They overheard a variety of rumors from passersby: that the demon lord Deskari himself had led the attack, that a witch was coming to claim the city, that there were multiple cults of demon-worshippers abroad in the city, and that the water supply had been poisoned. This last rumor was quickly proved to be false.

They also came upon a large man who was surrounded by smears of blood and crushed bones that they could just manage to identify as the remains of some small demons. Since the man’s hammer was covered in blood as well, they took this to mean that he had slain the demons himself. Once he realized they were not enemies, he introduced himself to the group as Johan, a laborer who had come to Kenabres to join the Crusade but had arrived just in time for the attack. He agreed when they invited him to accompany them.

As they neared the location of Blackwing Ruin, a trail of devastation could be seen ahead. It did not lead to Blackwing Ruin, but when they approached that structure they saw that it too had suffered massive destruction. Only the part of the building that was likely the entrance hall still stood. The rest was rubble. Curiously, none of the surrounding buildings had been damaged. The members of the group began to suspect that Blackwing Ruin had been deliberately targeted for destruction. When told of the state of the building, Aravashniel fell to his knees and wept.

Then Aegron heard the sound of a voice coming from within the remaining structure, a man ordering someone to hurry and stack some books. He moved closer and peered inside through a window opening. Within the building, he saw an armed and armored man commanding a woman to stack the books. In the center of the chamber were four people, bound hand and foot. The books the woman was stacking were encircling the four bound people, and it was apparent to Aegron that the fellow ordering the woman about meant to set the books – and the people – on fire. He immediately drew his bow and fired on the man while calling out to his companions what he had seen.

Runa charged forward, drawing Radiance on the run, and used her shield to bash open the double doors. Aegron dropped his bow and ran inside to attack the armored man who had been giving commands. The man dropped a torch on the floor and some nearby tomes caught fire. The man then ran toward the doors where Runa stood, shouting, “Death to Iomedae!” He struck Runa a serious blow with the heavy mace he carried. Two other people appeared from the shadows to attack Aegron.

The woman who had been stacking the books ran to untie the four prisoners. Johan and Garvin, the man the group had rescued from the Baphomet cultists, both moved into the chamber. Jiro went to heal Runa, while Garvin helped Aegron against his opponents. Zosta tumbled through the crowd in the doorway and went to put out the fire and finish untying the prisoners. Johan swung his massive hammer at the man who was attacking Runa, and the fellow stopped fighting and began to beg for mercy.

Asami had remained outside with Aravashniel, Aneva and Horgus. On hearing what Aegron described, Aravashniel began to summon something. An otyugh appeared inside the chamber between the stacked books and the fighting going on near the doorway. When Zosta tried to move past, it lashed at her. Asami gave Aravashniel some advice about how to keep the creature from attacking his friends and the otyugh moved to protect the former prisoners from their attackers.

Runa ordered the man with the mace to drop his weapon and shield, and he complied. In the meantime Aegron badly wounded one of his opponents and slew the other. Runa then angrily demanded to know what her prisoner was doing there. He replied that he had come to join the Crusade. When she asked why he had cried out, “Death to Iomedae,” he told her he disliked priests, especially those devoted to Iomedae and Sarenrae. Determined to make him regret his choices, Runa slashed his cheek with the point of Radiance, which was just enough hurt to cause him to faint.

After the fire was smothered and the prisoners all freed, Asami escorted Aravashniel inside to see what was left. The woman who had been stacking books, Fenna, recognized Aravashniel although he didn’t know her. She was very impressed and excited to see him. She and the four other people had all been librarians for Blackwing Ruin’s huge collection of material on demons and demonology. When Fenna told her rescuers that everyone else in the building had been slain, it brought Aravashniel to tears again. Once he had recovered his composure, he was determined to remain at the ruined structure. He asked Johan if he would be willing to stay there as guard, and the big man agreed.

Runa meanwhile used her divine magic to heal the would-be arsonist just enough to bring him back to consciousness. Then she took him outside, condemned him to death in the name of Iomedae, and ran him through with Radiance.

Loot acquired:
+1 heavy mace
2 potions of cure light wounds
Suit of banded mail
Light steel shield
65 gold pieces
2 shortswords
2 sets of leather armor

Scarab Sages

August 7, 2016
Session 6

Character recap:
PCs -
Asami - elf wizard (me)
Aegron - half-elf inquisitor
Jiro - human shaman
Runa - half-orc warpriest
Zosta - human brawler

NPCs -
Uncle - monkey, Jiro's spirit animal
Kirara - cat, Asami's familiar
Aravashniel - elf wizard Riftwarden
Anevia - human archer
Horgus - human scholar
Johan - human commoner
Garvin - human commoner
Darla - human commoner, friend of Aegron

Runa justified her execution of the arsonist ringleader to her companions by the fact that he had been prepared to burn the librarians alive. Afterward, librarian Fenna told the group that the rest of Blackwing Ruin had been destroyed by a tall man-like being who appeared to be composed entirely of maggots. This being had also taken some treasures from the library, though she did not know what specifically had been removed. She also told them that head librarian Quedneys Orlun had been at the cathedral at the time of the attack, and she did not know if he had survived.

In appreciation for the rescue, the librarians gave the group a spellbook that was left among the undamaged tomes. They were also given a password that would allow them admission back into the library in the future. Aravashniel expressed regret that he would not be going along with them when they departed, but he felt it would be best to remain at Blackwing Ruin and do what he could to restore the library’s collection of materials on demonology. He asked the companions to bring him any books they found that had been taken from Blackwing, or anything that would be useful to the collection.

The spellbook was given into Asami’s care. On examination she found that it contained alarm, dismissal, dispel magic, magic circle vs chaos, resist energy, and versatile weapon. She also discovered a scroll containing the spell dimensional lock tucked between the pages.

Before the small company left to escort Horgus Gwerm to his home, they found several dead, desiccated maggots on the floor that proved not to have originated on the Material Plane. Johan decided to hand over to the group a wand of cure light wounds he had been carrying, as well as a pair of bracers of armor. In return, Jiro gave him the heavy mace they had taken from the man Runa killed. Jiro took charge of the wand, while the group members decided that Asami would be the best person to wear the bracers as the rest of the companions all had armor of their own. To the surprise of everyone, Johan snapped the haft off the mace and affixed the head on top of his hammer, which glowed briefly. When the glow faded the mace head had melded with the hammer.

After saying their farewells, the group set off for the Gwerm estate, their number reduced by the absence of Aravashniel and Johan. It wasn’t long before they stumbled upon a group of tieflings engaged in looting. The encounter quickly became a rout as they slew all but one of the looters and the last fled. They took what little gold the looters had carried, labeled their bodies “Looters”, and went on their way.

Not long after they disposed of the looters, some members of the group heard shouting and jeering ahead. They came upon a fountain, and nearby a group of six or seven armored men surrounding a lone woman. Aegron suddenly recognized the woman as his friend Darla. Jiro called out to the men, “Do you need help?” in a friendly tone. But the encounter didn’t remain friendly when he realized all of the men wore symbols of Baphomet.

Aegron shouted furiously, “Leave her alone!” and raced forward. The cultists moved to surround him, all of them striking him and leaving him stunned. Jiro cast a curative spell and passed it to Uncle to deliver it to Aegron. As Uncle moved toward Aegron, he conjured an image of a large ape to divert attention from himself. Runa moved toward the cultists, giving herself a war blessing as she went. One of the men in the group was bigger and more elaborately dressed than the others. He roughly pushed Darla behind him.

Asami sent a magic missile hurtling at the larger man who held Darla. Uncle delivered the spell to Aegron, while Runa dealt a massive blow to one of the cultists and slew him. Asami directed an acid arrow at the leader, but he deflected it. While Jiro moved in to heal Aegron’s injuries and Runa was struck in the head by one of the cultists, the leader held his sword menacingly to Darla’s throat. Anevia grew concerned when Asami moved closer to the cultists to get better range for her spells, and she wondered why they didn’t concentrate their attacks on the leader, but Asami feared that if their attacks didn’t immediately slay him he would kill Darla. Asami instead sent a ray of frost at one of Runa’s opponents. Zosta tripped one of her foes, but was knocked unconscious by the number of wounds she had suffered.

At that moment, the leader casually sliced his sword blade across Darla’s throat and strolled away. No one was close enough to pursue him, or direct any ranged attacks at him before he disappeared from view among the buildings. Runa rushed to Darla’s side to cast a healing spell on her. Jiro moved to heal Zosta. Asami and Anevia continued to attack the cultists from a distance. Once Zosta had recovered enough to be able to move, she tripped her foe again, knocking him to the ground beside her, and then punched him into oblivion. Aegron ran to Darla’s side. Runa stood up and struck down another cultist, and Anevia and Zosta combined attacks to bring down a third man.

When all of the cultists had fallen except for their leader, the group found themselves in possession of six glaives, six shortswords, four potions of cure light wounds, six masterwork chain shirts, and six silver holy symbols of Baphomet. The cultists had also carried a total of 20 gold pieces.

Once Darla had been healed enough that she could move and talk, she explained to them that this area of the New Kenabres district had many Baphomet cultists, while Old Kenabres contained more cultists of the demon lord Deskari. She also told them that most of the more powerful demons had departed from the city and taken the dragon Terendelev’s body with them to the Worldwound. She had also heard from eavesdropping on the cultists that the witch Areelu Vorlesh planned to come to claim the city; and she had seen huge insects with humanoid faces flying about the city eating people. The cultist leader who had taken her captive was called Garb, but she had never seen his face and felt that his voice sounded otherworldly. Darla offered to guide the group through the city, as she had come to know her way around New Kenabres quite well.

A short time later, they heard shouting and screeching from up ahead, as a high-pitched voice seemed to be ordering someone else to do something. Aegron went forward to see what it was and observed a group of people wearing scraps of armor and carrying broken weapons and sticks, who appeared to be engaged in constructing a performance stage. He also spotted two tiny red creatures with wings that seemed to be commanding the group of townsfolk. Zosta also stepped forward to see better and realized that the tiny winged creatures were quasits. One of the quasits exclaimed, “What’s that?” then commanded the people, “Protect us! Protect us!” The people moved forward to attack as commanded, but they appeared reluctant and fearful.

Aegron rushed up to where one of the quasits perched and it let out a shriek. Runa raised her holy symbol of Iomedae and spoke to the people, telling them that they did not need to comply with the orders of evil creatures. They seemed to be affected by her words and hesitated. Zosta moved beside Aegron and punched one of the quasits with her cold iron knuckles, which caused it to screech and then vanish. Runa moved toward the makeshift stage, and Aegron shifted position so that he could see four corpses lying toward the rear of the platform. Suddenly the second quasit screeched, and Aegron burst into a mad run away from the area, shouting in terror. Zosta also ran, though she remained silent in her headlong flight.

Uncle bounded onto the rooftops and pursued the two fleeing companions. He caught up with Zosta, leaped onto her shoulders, and put his hands over her eyes, forcing her to stop since she couldn’t see where she was going. He turned her around and then took his hands away, causing her to run back toward her friends. Meanwhile, the effect on Aegron faded and he stopped running, then turned and ran back toward the others.

One of the quasits reappeared and attacked Runa. Asami, who had been unable to see the two tiny demons at first, finally caught a glimpse of one and tried to hit it with a ray of frost but missed her target and hit one of the people, who died instantly. The second quasit also appeared and began clawing and biting at Runa. Runa struck it with Radiance and it dropped to the ground. Asami stabbed at the second quasit with her Splintered Spear. Then one of the townsfolk under the demons’ control slashed her arm. The quasit again disappeared from view. Runa called out that it was invisible and began sweeping her blade through the area where it had last been seen, but she swung too hard and Radiance became wedged in the wood of a nearby crate.

Runa had earlier told her companions not to harm the people as they were being compelled by the demons, so Jiro knocked two of them down with his staff. A second man moved up to Asami and stabbed her with his broken sword. Aegron returned just in time to knock the man out. After the fighting stopped, Runa cast stabilize on all of the injured and was able to save everyone but the man who had been hit by Asami’s spell. She realized that the quasits had just been amusing themselves by forcing the people to put on a play for them, and had slain the four people found dead in order to terrify the rest into obeying them.

Most of the people who had been victimized by the quasits lived nearby and returned to their homes, but one accompanied the group as they made their way to Horgus Gwerm’s house. The house turned out to be intact, because his guards and servants had all fled and the attacking demons had been more interested in destroying occupied buildings. To Horgus’ irritation, the guards had also stolen some valuable items, but his vault was still secured. To show his appreciation for the group’s protection, instead of giving them the 1,000 gold pieces they had agreed upon he presented them with 2,000 gold. The local man who had been freed from the quasits agreed to remain as a servant. Garvin, the retired crusader who had been kidnapped by the Baphomet cultists, also decided to stay there as a guard. The rest of the party rested at the house overnight to recuperate from their wounds.

Loot acquired:
Spellbook: alarm, dismissal, dispel magic, magic circle vs chaos, resist energy, versatile weapon
Scroll of dimensional lock
6 glaives
6 shortswords
4 potions: cure light wounds
6 masterwork chain shirts
2,020 gold pieces
Wand, cure light wounds – 38 charges
Bracers of armor +1

Scarab Sages

August 14, 2016
Session 7

The following morning after their arrival at Horgus Gwerm’s house, Aegron’s friend Darla decided to stay there for the time being, until Aegron could find out what had become of their friend Abel. Horgus didn’t seem entirely pleased with having another mouth to feed, but Darla didn’t brook any argument from him.

Jiro climbed up to the top of the house to look out over the city, but there was still too much smoky haze to see anything of the district where the group had been when the initial attack occurred.

After saying farewell to Horgus and Darla, the group set out to escort Anevia to her home. Although her wife Irabeth was a respected paladin and they lived in one of the better sections of Kenabres, their home was a modest one. But on the journey to the house the party saw numerous shops offering higher quality and more expensive goods. They paused several times while Jiro made sure the people they saw had food and water and were not ill or injured.

Suddenly they heard cries for help coming from an area ahead. Aegron, Zosta, and Runa ran forward to see what the trouble was. The spotted a stranger being trying to smash the door of a shop. The calls for help came from within the shop. Aegron, who had learned his way around the city quite well, dove into a sewer tunnel. The others ran into a courtyard with a low wall that faced the shop. As they did so the creature turned to face them, revealing that it was oddly hunchbacked, which at first made Zosta think that it was holding its own head in its hands as she mistook its hump for its shoulders. The creature began to chant words in the tongue of demon-kind.

Runa recognized the creature as an abrikandilu, but she could recall little else about such demons. She did recognize that what it was doing was summoning something else and she called out a warning to her comrades. Asami left Jiro to look after Anevia and ran into the little courtyard to join Runa and Zosta. Zosta then leaped over the wall and bounded across the street to kick the demon in an attempt to disrupt its spellcasting, but though her kick connected the creature continued to chant. Then a second abrikandilu appeared next to Runa.

For an instant Zosta felt a wave of fear, similar to what the quasit had subjected her to the previous day, but she overcame the sensation. The second demon attacked Runa but failed to harm her. Jiro appeared just outside the courtyard and used a wand to summon a spiritual weapon to attack the demon that had been trying to break into the shop. Though his previous attempt had created a tetsubo, this time the weapon appeared as a shillelagh.

Asami shot a ray of frost at the demon attacking Runa but it flew past without hitting her target. At the same time Aegron sprang out of the sewer by the demon across the street. The demon facing Runa clawed at Radiance and seemed to be trying to break the sword, simultaneously biting at Runa. The first demon fled from Zosta and Jiro’s spiritual weapon pursued it. It ran toward Jiro, perhaps wanting to get rid of the caster of the spell.

The demon trying to harm Radiance suddenly let out a scream. Runa could tell by its reaction that it had recognized the famed blade. Asami directed another ray of frost at the demon but it appeared to have no effect, though Asami was unable to observe this from her position. The second demon began trying to damage Jiro’s morningstar and bit him. The wounds the demons left on Jiro and Runa were especially gruesome, and left their victims feeling somewhat demoralized.

The demon facing Runa turned its attention to her heavy wooden shield, which it managed to crack. At the same time she heard a voice say in a commanding tone, “Put some effort into it!” and both demons seemed to gain a burst of speed. Jiro was so badly bitten by his foe that he collapsed. Runa used her fervor to heal herself, though that didn’t get rid of her feeling of inadequacy. Zosta had pursued the demon that fled from her, and when she attacked it again it disappeared. Runa then called out for her friends to find out who had been giving the demons orders. Anevia had come to join the fight and hobbled to Jiro’s side, reporting that he was seriously hurt. Runa went to share Iomedae’s healing power with him.

Zosta meanwhile saw two people peeking cautiously out of the shop, a man and a woman, both well dressed. The shopkeepers emerged and introduced themselves as Belthis and Neera Loomis. They expressed profound gratitude to the group for saving them from the abrikandilu, which Asami now recalled were especially fond of destroying things of beauty. As a token of their appreciation the Loomises told the party members to each take an outfit from their clothing shop. Asami was able to find garments in the style of Minkai among their stock, but they had no such apparel for Jiro. The couple also provided information that the city leadership and defenders might be gathered at the stronghold known as Defender’s Heart.

While inside the shop, Asami also remembered that abrikandilu did not like mirrors. She told the shopkeepers this so they could be prepared if more such demons appeared. She also reassured Jiro and Runa that they would recover from the curse the demon-inflicted wounds had caused in a few days.

Since her shield was too damaged to be useful and she had no way to repair it, Runa decided to use one of the light steel shields they had taken from some of the Baphomet cultists they had defeated. She found some material in the Loomis’s shop that she could use to cover the symbol of Baphomet on the shield’s face.

It was early evening by the time the group reached Anevia and Irabeth’s home. The house was quiet and dark. Anevia called out for her wife as soon as she entered. Abruptly a giant fire beetle appeared in front of her. Anevia was so startled by its sudden appearance that when she fired an arrow at it she missed and shot into the floor. Aegron stepped up and slew the beetle with his spear, whereupon its remains vanished. Runa cautiously checked in the bedroom. A moment later a dark shape appeared, threatening, “Your wife will find your corpse!” as it attacked Anevia.

The shadowy figure proved to be a half-orc man wearing an elaborate outfit and wielding a ranseur. The area he had appeared in was occupied by a large table and chairs, making it cramped for combat. Zosta bounded on top of the table. Runa pushed Anevia behind her to protect her, but the woman refused to remain out of the fight and moved forward to face the half-orc man, who she seemed to recognize. Aegron stepped up to attack him, and Asami cast magic missile at him, but the projectile bounced off an invisible shield around his body. The half-orc focused his attacks on Anevia. Anevia demanded to know what he had done with Irabeth, to which he responded, “She’s not dead yet but she soon will be!” He struck Anevia again and she collapsed.

Runa reached out to pull Anevia to safety and the half-orc used his ranseur to jerk Radiance out of her grasp. He sneered insultingly at Runa, assuming that her coincidental resemblance to Irabeth had been meant to trick him. Jiro summoned a spiritual testsubo from his wand, but its blow did no harm to the half-orc. Asami tried attacking him with her Splintered Spear but it flew past him. The half-orc drew a wand and a magic missile issued from it to strike the unconscious Anevia. Runa picked up her sword and slashed at him, while Jiro used a wand to heal Anevia’s injuries. Aegron rolled gracefully across the table to reach the half-orc but landed badly and wasn’t able to strike. Asami’s spear failed to connect a second time. The half-orc then attacked Zosta. She attempted to wrest the ranseur away from him, but somehow he was able to retain his grip on it despite her skillful attack.

Anevia had by this time recovered enough under Jiro’s ministrations to get up and get her bow, although she was still wounded. Jiro then turned his attention to healing Zosta. Anevia fired at the half-orc, while Runa chopped him with her sword and Aegron stabbed with his spear. Their combined attacks left the half-orc lying unconscious on the floor, but Jiro pleaded with them not to kill him as he might know valuable information.

Anevia then explained to her companions that many years ago, when Irabeth was living in the River Kingdoms, a half-orc cult of Xoveron had formed. Irabeth had captured this person and sent him to prison. He had somehow managed to escape and sought revenge. Zosta searched him and found that he had on his person a spell component pouch containing some components for spells that required more expensive materials, the wand that contained magic missile, a potion which Asami identified as invisibility, and his ranseur, which was magically enhanced. Asami was unable to determine its capabilities, but Runa discovered that it was a ranseur of the gargoyles, which was enchanted to be especially difficult for anyone to take away from the bearer in combat, as well as being able to grant the bearer increased armor protection several times a day.

Since it was already evening, the group decided to stay overnight at Anevia’s house before going on to the Defender’s Heart to seek Irabeth. They bound, gagged, and blindfolded the half-orc. Aegron also produced a group of small bells that they tied to the half-orc so any movement by him would alert them. They stood watches during the night, and while Runa and Asami were on watch the half-orc stirred. Runa assumed this to be an escape attempt and hit him in the head with her sword pommel until he passed out again.

The next day Anevia found a note from Irabeth, telling her to go to Defender’s Heart and giving her the password to gain entry: “Silverstrong.” When the party set out, Runa carried their prisoner. It wasn’t long before they came upon a group of armored men surrounding a woman, who was clutching a baby. They were surprised when they heard these men say, “Your sacrifice aids the cause of good.” The woman appeared to be terrified and looked at the new arrivals as though pleading for help.

Aegron approached and pretended to be friendly to the men, though his companions were a little confused by his behavior. He asked the men what was going on, and they revealed that they believed bathing their swords in the blood of a virgin would help them to fight demons. When someone pointed out that the woman had an infant with her, the men proclaimed that she was probably lying and the child wasn’t hers. Aegron then attacked the man nearest him, immediately dropping the fellow to the ground.

Runa had moved forward to position herself between the woman and the men, trying to convince them that the old wives’ tale they had heard was untrue. The area they had chosen for their sacrifice was a shrine to Sarenrae, and Runa told them that blood sacrifice was not the way of Sarenrae but they appeared unwilling to listen. When Aegron attacked, Runa also attacked one of the men near her. Jiro ran forward to stabilize one of the fallen men, not wanting them to die for merely being misguided. Zosta moved up and disarmed a third man. The woman fled and hid behind a hedge. Runa continued trying to persuade the men, but they seemed irrational. Suddenly they all fled.

The woman, who told them her name was Kayla, explained that she had gone out to find food and had been obliged to take her baby because her parents were both injured. The men had found her and dragged her to the shrine. The man Jiro had stabilized was awakened and was gently talked back into a more rational frame of mind. It appeared that the group of men had all been panicked and confused by the demonic attacks, and when one of them suggested bathing their swords in virgin blood to give them an advantage against the demons, the rest went along with the idea.

The party escorted Kayla back to her family home, where Jiro gave them a few goodberries and created some water for them. Runa also used her divine magic to heal their injuries. Kayla told the group that she had heard that there were several groups of defenders at Defender’s Heart, that the wardstone had been destroyed, and that an army from Mendev was on its way to bring aid to the city.

Loot acquired:
Spell component pouch worth 25 gp
wand of magic missile, 3rd level, 10 charges
Ranseur of the gargoyles – obsidian head, hard as steel; +1 ranseur, +4 bonus on disarm checks; 5/day as swift action, wielder can cause skin to harden for 1 round, gaining +2 enhancement bonus to natural armor.

Background notes: When Runa's player was looking for an illustration for his character, he came across a picture of the paladin NPC Irabeth from this AP. It didn't say who she was, though, so he chose it as his character's image. The GM decided to incorporate this into the campaign. When Anevia first met Runa, she mistook her for Irabeth.

Next session scheduled for August 28.

Scarab Sages

After the group rescued the young woman named Kayla from the group of misguided Crusaders who had meant to sacrifice her, Jiro caught a glimpse of a ghostly figure dressed in the traditional armor style of Minkai. Uncle recognized this figure as Jiro's many-times great-grandfather, wearer of the Phoenix Armor. Jiro wondered if his ancestor had come to help him or his brother. He realized that the spirit's presence meant the party would face more battle.

The group had taken one of the misguided Crusaders prisoner when the rest fled. Runa tried to convince this man, Geoff by name, of the wrong of his beliefs by reciting the doctrine of his goddess Sarenrae to him, but though her words did seem to sway him somewhat, he was not entirely convinced. He had not been one of the leaders of the Crusader band, and he still held convictions that agreed with those leaders. Finally Runa and Jiro asked him if he would be willing to accompany them to Defender's Heart to talk with the leadership of the city's defenders there. This he agreed to do.

By this point Anevia was getting anxious to get to Defender's Heart and Zosta suggested they get underway, as the well-known inn lay a good distance from the part of Old Kenabres where they currently found themselves. They set off once more, soon coming upon a large area of complete ruin in which not even the walls of destroyed buildings still stood. The earth had been gouged deep and streams of what appeared to be lava flowed in several places. As they looked on this sight in dismay, they observed several creatures circling in the air above the devastation. Aegron climbed up onto the roof of an intact structure at the edge of the destroyed area to get a better look at the flying things, and reported that they appeared to be vultures. Just as he passed this information to his companions on the ground, the vultures flew toward them and swooped in to attack, revealing as they did so that they were much larger than ordinary vultures.

Runa immediately called upon Iomedae to bless the entire group to fortify them against the large vultures. Geoff rushed forward toward one of the vultures that had landed by Zosta, and the creature lashed out with its powerful beak and severed his leg, leaving him bleeding profusely on the ground. One of the four vultures had not yet alit on the ground, and Anevia fired her bow at it. After striking at the bird before her, Zosta shouted out to her companions that it appeared to be a fiendish creature that was immune to the special properties of her cold iron knuckles. The vulture above Anevia snapped at her and she collapsed, critically wounded.

Jiro had moved forward to face the third vulture and it now bit him badly. Uncle fled into the building and hid. Aegron took out his greataxe and struck the bird that Anevia's arrows had hit, and his blow was so powerful that it fell dead. But there were still three vultures remaining and their bites were vicious. Runa, Zosta and Jiro were all bitten again, and Jiro was very unsteady on his feet. Asami hurled her splintered spear at the vulture attacking Jiro, but the vulture did not appear to be much injured.

Zosta swung her fists with all the power she could muster and knocked out the vulture nearest her. Asami stepped forward to lay the flat of her wooden sword on Jiro's shoulder and green energy flowed down the blade to surround him with an armor of illusory vines and bark, giving him extra protection against the fiendish vultures. Jiro then used a hex to heal Zosta and summoned up a disc of stone to shield himself. Despite this, when the vulture attacked him again he fell. Runa used her fervor to heal him enough that he could get back on his feet.

Aegron leaped down from the roof and landed badly, falling on his back, but a moment later he leaped to his feet and attacked a vulture. Zosta continued to attack the vulture she had knocked out. Asami threw another spear, but missed the vulture she was aiming for. Jiro used his hex to heal himself. At that moment Uncle came racing back out of the building and leaped onto the vulture that had last bitten Jiro, slapping and pummeling its head. The small monkey wasn't strong enough to do any harm to it, but his actions clearly distracted the creature.

Zosta struck her vulture once more and it went limp. It had become apparent that the vultures would concentrate their attacks on the person who was most seriously injured. That person was now Runa. One of the remaining vultures struck her in the leg and she backed away from it to read a scroll of bear's endurance.

Aegron's axe took the life of another vulture. Uncle leaped off the vulture he had been straddling and at first appeared to be dead, but a moment later he realized that playing dead in the presence of the vultures was not the best idea and sprang back to his feet. A moment later Zosta punched the last vulture and it too died. Free of combat, the group members realized that Anevia was moments from death and Jiro quickly healed her.

Once Anevia was no longer in danger of dying, Jiro healed the injuries of the rest of the group. He realized as he tended to them that it was likely their wounds might be infected. While he did this Runa said a prayer for Geoff the fallen Crusader, who had bled out before anyone could reach him. His body was moved inside the building and covered with loose stones to form a cairn. When everyone had recovered enough to continue their journey they decided to go and investigate whatever the vultures had been circling before they attacked. Aegron identified the best path down into the depression that had been dug out of the ground by some unknown force. They found only some unidentifiable humanoid remains lying next to one of the 'lava streams.' Getting closer to the lava revealed that it was not natural lava; Kenabres did not stand near any volcano, and the lava seemed unusually slimy, though it was still just as hot as ordinary lava. Asami checked the area for magical auras but found none.

Skirting around the other lava streams, the party made their way across the rest of the damaged area to reach intact streets and buildings on the other side. There were people in the streets, and as Jiro insisted on telling everyone where they were headed and offering healing to any who were injured, the group soon accumulated a collection of followers. They observed symbols on the doors of the houses they passed, which they soon recognized indicated the number of people who had died inside each structure.

When the enlarged group encountered first a howler demon and next a group of tieflings engaged in looting, the crowd of ordinary citizens set upon them and punished them. After the looters were overpowered, the citizens offered the adventurers some of the things they had taken from the tieflings, including two vials of alchemist's fire, three flasks of holy water, three magical crossbow bolts, an elixir of vision, a potion of barkskin, and 55 gold pieces.

Some of the local people following the party left them along the way as they found family members or returned to their homes, while others joined. By the time they reached the Defender's Heart inn, the group had increased in size to more than a dozen people. At the Heart they found the local guards, the Eagle's Watch, in residence. The guards called for them to halt, but as soon as they recognized Anevia and were given the password that Irabeth had left for her, the group were welcomed inside the fortress-like stone structure. There they were greeted by Irabeth, along with a one-armed man who was introduced as Kimroth Otai, owner of Defender's Heart. Anevia and Irabeth were of course overjoyed to see one another safe and happily embraced.

When Anevia and Irabeth separated after their private moment, Kimroth revealed that Irabeth was now leader of the Eagle's Watch. Irabeth explained that what Kayla had told the party was correct: Kenabres' Wardstone had been destroyed, and as a result the remaining Wardstones had been severely weakened. The Watch had found a note that mentioned Minago, a name the party members recognized, which was addressed to someone named Fakson and also mentioned the name Vorlesh, a Nahendrian crystal, and someone referred to as 'our Lord's daughter'. Recalling that it was someone called Minago who had slain Yaniel, the former owner of Radiance, Runa showed Radiance to Irabeth.

After the group told her about the cultist safehouses they had learned of during their time underground, Irabeth announced that she would authorize a reward of a thousand gold pieces if they would search these locations. She also reassured Zosta that her parents and Cennami were alive and were engaged in clearing the warehouse district of dangers. Kimroth called for a runner to take a message to them to let them know that Zosta and her companions were safe. As the companions began to tell the story of what had happened to them when the demons attacked, Jiro and Asami revealed why they had been sent all the way from Minkai and Jinin to the Worldwound. Irabeth then called for the room to be cleared of everyone but herself, Kimroth, Anevia, and the five comrades.

Once the civilians had gone, Jiro told the tale of his half-brother Katsuro Yoshida and how he had been angered when the illegitimate son Jiro was chosen to go to the West to combat the oni. He also explained how he had seen that his brother had willingly accepted possession by one of the Nine Oni Lords. Kimroth knew little of the oni and didn't see how they were any different than the demons that had attacked the city, but Irabeth appeared to know a bit more about them and was greatly concerned when she learned that the oni might be allying themselves with the demons to enter the Material Plane from the Worldwound.

As the conversation continued, Irabeth mentioned that Quednys, leader of the Riftwardens, had survived the attack and should be told of this. Asami revealed that her parents had been members of the Riftwardens, as well as telling Irabeth that they had visited Blackwing Ruin and that Aravashniel had survived the fall underground and was now at Blackwing. Another messenger was sent to make contact, and was given the password that Aravashniel had given to the party. The party members asked if any healing was available to remove the filth fever several of them, including Anevia, had contracted from the fiendish vultures, and that was arranged.

Runa then decided that as Irabeth was the most senior representative of the church of Iomedae, she should present Radiance to Irabeth. As she handed over the sword, it glowed slightly in response to the paladin's touch.

Irabeth swore Aegron, Asami, Jiro, Runa, and Zosta in as Crusaders. As a reward for returning Radiance, she gave them each permission to choose any magic item they desired of a value less than or equal to 1,000 gold pieces. Jiro also used some funds they had acquired previously through selling items to the Mongrelfolk to purchase another wand of cure light wounds, as the wand they had was almost empty of charges.

Loot:
Alchemist's fire - 2
Holy water - 3
+1 flaming bolts - 3
elixir of vision
potion of barkskin
55 gold pieces

Scarab Sages

Session 9
September 11, 2016
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The five newly-sworn Crusaders were settled in rooms at Defender's Heart. Runa took the opportunity to see an armorsmith about repairing the damage done to her armor by the giant ameoba. Aegron went to see another smith to make sure his weapons were in the best condition. Asami used the bonus they had been granted to acquire a low-level pearl of power for herself. She also replenished her supply of paper and ink for scribing spells. While out and about they learned that morale was low among the locals as the promised forces from Mendev had yet to arrive.

After taking care of their personal needs, the group reviewed the letter the defenders' had found, addressed to someone named Faxon who was apparently in command of the Crusaders in Kenabres. The letter made reference to Vorlesh, to a nahyndrian crystal, and to 'our lord's daughter.' It was signed by Minago.

When they had refreshed their memories about the contents of the letter, they set off to search the three safehouses of the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth of which they had learned. They had been given Crusader badges and told that they had authority to deal with any problems they ran into at their own discretion, so they set out first for a shop called Topaz Solutions, which lay not far from Defender's Heart.

Topaz Solutions proved to sit in a small market neighborhood where some of the shopkeepers were trying to restore their business. The merchants were initially a bit frightened when they saw a group of armed strangers approaching, but were soon persuaded that the new arrivals meant them no harm. Aegron and Jiro both purchased some fruit from a produce vendor, which helped to establish goodwill among the local residents. The merchants told the group that half a dozen of the shops surrounding the central square had shown no sign of activity for several days, although they had heard some noises coming from Topaz Solutions and another shop called the Rusty Keg. They also shared the news that the owner of the Green Wyvern tavern had apparently left town after his wife found out that he had a mistress. Aegron wanted to see if any ale was available in the Wyvern, but the door was locked and unlocking it was beyond his skill.

The quintet of new Crusaders decided to investigate the Rusty Keg first. The door of the shop was stuck but not locked. As soon as Zosta forced it open, Aegron smelled the odor of death. A body lay on the floor of the small weapon-seller's shop, near a rack of the shopkeeper's wares. The body appeared unusual pale and was surrounded by a pool of blood. Aegron, Jiro, and Zosta entered the shop to examine the body, and suddenly all three felt the hair on their napes rising up. Jiro recognized that the shop was the site of a haunt, but before he could tell his friends, he was seized by uncontrollable terror and raced out of the shop in a desperate attempt to escape the thing he feared. The instant he exited the shop, the door slammed shut again.

Asami and Runa had both still been outside when Jiro ran out and the door shut, and they both moved to the door. It proved to be stuck again, so Runa put her shoulder against it and pushed. The door then flew open, the unexpected movement causing Runa to lose her balance and topple forward into the shop. Once she was inside the door slammed shut once more, leaving Asami outside.

Inside the shop, a ghostly figure began to attack the companions. While it was able to harm them, their weapons appeared to have little effect on it. When it moved close to Zosta she observed that it looked like a man wielding a tombstone as a weapon, and that he appeared to be saying something though no sound could be heard. Outside, Asami tried to open the door, but found that the knob wouldn't turn and the door wouldn't open no matter how hard she pushed. She ran to the window to look inside and see what was happening to her friends. Runa got back on her feet again, but as she took a step forward she slipped in the puddle of blood surrounding the corpse and fell down. Aegron noticed that there were worms or maggots squirming in the blood.

Out in the streets, Jiro's fear subsided and he turned to run back to the Rusty Keg. Inside the shop, the spirit appeared to be growing increasingly angry. In its fury it hurled the tombstone it held. The insubstantial object shot out through the wall of the shop past Asami's head on a direct course for one of the merchants who was looking on in curiosity, but as it neared the man it simply vanished.

Meanwhile, Zosta had been watching the ghostly figure closely and thought she had recognized the name "Timothy" among the words it spoke, as well as "you can't take my treasures." The weapons on the racks rose into the air and began to spin as thought caught up in a whirlwind. Zosta attempted to calm the spirit by talking to it and assuring it that the group hadn't entered the shop with the intention of looting it, but her words lost some of their impact because Aegron was continuing to attack the figure. The whirling weapons spun faster and Runa's sword was almost pulled out of her hand by the force that moved them. Encouraged by the fact that the spirit was not attacking Zosta, Runa tried casting a curative spell toward it in the hope that would reduce its anger.

Jiro arrived at the Rusty Keg, and Asami called for him to help her in opening the door. But even their combined strength proved inadequate. Something inside the shop was draining Aegron's strength, and the worms in the blood had begun to crawl over his and Runa's boots. The thought suddenly occurred to Asami that she should ask the wood of the door to let them in, since she had a deep natural affinity for all things of wood. She put her free hand on the door and in elven said, "Please, friend, let us in." Jiro didn't understand what she was doing, but when she explained he realized that he could also appeal to the spirits of the building for their aid. The wood of the door seemed to relax and the doorknob fell out, allowing them to open the door.

As soon as he could see what was going on within the shop, Jiro cast calm emotions on everyone inside. The flying weapons fell to the floor and the worms squirming in the pool of blood ceased moving. Jiro then experienced an impression of what had happened in the Rusty Keg, which he narrated to his companions in a dull monotone. He told them that several demons had invaded the shop, one of them disguised as the owner's deceased son Timothy. They had then slain the owner, Logan, and stolen some of his weapons. Logan's spirit was so eager for revenge that it returned as a haunt to defend the shop. Jiro realized that the only way to be rid of the haunting was to bury Logan's remains beside those of his son Timothy.

The companions then went out into the square to talk to the other merchants, explaining what had happened to Logan. Logan's neighbors offered to take care of the burial, as they knew that Timothy was interred in a cemetery not far away. While the neighbors attended to this, the five comrades examined the rest of Logan's shop and the weapons he had sold, finding that all of his weapons had identifying marks that would be easy to recognize if they found any of his wares in the possession of any demons or looters.

Once the Rusty Keg was taken care of and the neighbors had departed to attend to Logan’s burial, the Crusader group moved on to Topaz Solutions. It was clearly a shop that sold potions by the sign over the door, which depicted herbs and a beaker. The shop was connected to two other buildings on either side, so Zosta climbed up to the roof while Asami and Jiro went to the alley behind the shop. But none of them found anything of note. When the group reformed in front of the shop, they found that the door and shutters were securely barred. Concerned about what they might find within, Asami cast mage armor upon herself. Zosta took out her crowbar and they began trying to get the door open. From inside they heard someone cry out, "Help! We're under attack!" They tried asking the people within to admit them, explaining that they represented the Crusade, but the people inside the shop didn't believe them and continued to shout for help.

While Runa and Zosta worked on the door, Aegron took out his warhammer and began to bash the shutters. It didn't take long before both the door and the window had broken open. Aegron was suddenly showered with liquid from a vial that had been hurled at him from inside the shop. Alchemist's fire splashed on Jiro, Runa, and Zosta, and Jiro cast create water to put out the flames. Inside the shop they could see three people standing behind the counter: a dwarf man, a human man, and a human woman, all engaged in pulling out the flasks they found under the counter and throwing them at the Crusader party at the door.

Once the door was open Runa stepped into the shop, announcing again that the group were Crusaders. From behind her, Jiro explained that they had also come seeking evidence that this shop had been used as a safehouse by the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. The human man appeared to recognize the name but was surprised, the dwarf also recognized it but showed no other reaction, and the woman seemed confused by the reference. Aegron asked how long the three had been there. While he spoke, Runa began to cast a spell, which caused the three people to react by throwing more flasks. Aegron hurled a javelin at the human man.

Seeing that the communication wasn't going well, Jiro used his new-found ability to channel positive energy to heal everyone inside the shop. He then told the three people that if they were not cultists of Baphomet, they should talk. The human man introduced himself as Gerald. He explained that he and his companions, Rogar the dwarf and the woman Ashley, had come to take shelter in the shop a few days earlier during the demonic attack. His tale didn't sound quite convincing to Aegron. Jiro offered to provide them an escort to Defender's Heart, but they didn't appear too pleased by that prospect, though Gerald seemed willing to go along with that plan. When he began pushing flasks into a large sack, the Crusaders became suspicious and Aegron demanded that Gerald hand over the sack for inspection. Gerald objected strenuously to this, insisting the things in the sack were his own personal belongings. He and his two friends took a step back and moved to draw weapons. It was then suggested that Rogar and Ashley could leave if they would allow themselves to be searched. Both of them agreed to this, which irritated Gerald. Asami and Zosta checked them before they exited the shop and found nothing that seemed unusual. As soon as the two of them got outside, they began to run.

As Rogar and Ashley left, Gerald cursed them, but still insisted that the sack only contained his possessions. He threw a vial at Runa but missed and it hit Aegron instead, splashing him with a potion of barkskin. Aegron then struck him hard with his ranseur. Asami had held back from casting any spells, not knowing what they might encounter next, and she called out to Gerald to surrender. Jiro emphasized her request by closing the door. Gerald threw his sack at Runa, so Zosta punched him and he collapsed.

The bag proved to contain an assortment of gold and silver pieces, valuable silver cutlery, a brass goblet, and a fine portrait that had obviously been cut from its frame. Now convinced that Gerald was a looter, the comrades tied him up securely. While they looked around the rest of the shop, they discovered a secret door behind the counter.

The door led to a descending stair. With Runa in the lead, the five Crusaders went down. At the bottom of the staircase they found a dirt-floored room, its floor covered by some kind of rotting plant material. Along the wall opposite the stairs stood a table and a chest. On the table rested a small statue of a six-armed woman with the body of a snake, holding a sword in each hand. Above the table on the wall was painted a symbol the several members of the group recognized as a common symbol of Baphomet used among human cultists. Then they heard a voice say, "I hope you are among Iomedae's slaves. I would hate to waste such a personal greeting from Lord Baphomet." The statue swung its swords, shattering a vial that sat on the table in front of it and releasing a cloud of vapor.

At the same time, some of the rotting plant material on the floor rose up and a small plant creature appeared. The little creature let out a piercing shriek. Suddenly everyone but Runa began to retch. Despite the nausea, Zosta managed to kick the creature. Asami abruptly felt herself burning, and Jiro's nose began to bleed. Jiro ran up the stairs. The little creature grabbed Runa by the leg and bit her viciously. Painful sparks danced over Asami, and her familiar Kirara yowled as she felt herself burned by acid. Then Kirara became extremely twitchy as though she couldn't keep still. Asami ran up the stairs after Jiro, taking Kirara with her.

Runa's eyes started to glow red and she realized that her natural ability to see in darkness had improved. The same thing happened to Jiro a moment later, though he had no natural darkvision to improve. Runa drew her sword and slashed at the creature and it bit her severely. Between the creature's bites and the effects of the cloud she was in serious condition. She called upon Iomedae’s divine fervor to heal herself, but then she became confused as an effect of the vapor that still filled the air around her, and struck herself with her own blade. That was more than her orcish constitution could withstand and she collapsed, on the verge of death. Aegron shouted frantically for help from the other companions who had fled upstairs.

Upstairs in the shop's main room, Asami had been trying to soothe Kirara, who was now wildly running back and forth on the countertop chasing her tail. Fortunately by this time the nausea caused by the plant creature’s screech had worn off and when Jiro, Asami, and Zosta heard Aegron's cry for help they all raced downstairs to Runa’s aid. The three companions saw that the creature was still biting into Runa’s leg even as she breathed her final breaths. Asami aimed a magic missile spell at it from the steps. Zosta vaulted off the staircase and landed on the tiny monster with the full force of both feet, causing it to burst like a pumpkin struck by a hammer and splattering everything nearby with its substance. Jiro then scrambled down to the floor and used one of his healing hexes to save Runa before should could breathe her last.

Zosta realized that the cloud of vapor was still inflicting damage on Runa when Jiro suffered first cold and then electrical injury from being within it. Zosta quickly moved Runa’s body out of reach of the magical vapor, and Jiro channeled positive energy to provide more healing. Asami braved the vapor to approach the makeshift altar and examine the remains of the bottle that had released the vapor, hoping that if she could discover what it was she could determine how long it would continue to affect the area. She realized by the vapor’s effects that it must be a bilious bottle, but she was unable to recall any other details about such an item. There was too little left of the shattered bottle to tell her more.

A short time later the cloud dissipated. After using their curative wand to recover from their injuries, the companions searched the chamber. But they found no other evidence of the Ivory Labyrinth presence there and nothing of worth other than the marilith statuette, which would swing its miniature swords when the name of Baphomet was spoken.

Scarab Sages

The group of new Eagle Watch members had suffered a good deal in their efforts to investigate the first of the the three Ivory Labyrinth safehouses they had discovered. Their first concern was to heal as much of their injuries as they could. Jiro used his magic to cure the wounds that Asami and Kirara had incurred. Afterward they ascended to the alchemist's shop and exited into the square.

There they found that the neighbors who had gone to bury the weaponmaker Logan beside the grave of his son had returned. When they told the local shopkeepers what they had found beneath Topaz Solutions, the neighbors were so grateful that they prepared a feast to serve to the five comrades. Jiro was disappointed that the people doing they cooking would not allow him to help.

After they had eaten there was music and dancing. While this small celebration was going on, a messenger came from Defender's Heart and delivered a message to Runa. She called her companions over to hear what it said, which attracted the attention of the local residents. Everyone fell silent while they waited to hear the contents of the message. When Runa opened it, she realized it was actually addressed to Aegronius and immediately handed it to him. Aegronius decided that he had nothing to hide and read the message aloud.

The message came from Irabeth, telling him that his friend Darla, who the companions had left at Horgus Gwerm's residence, had been seriously injured and was now being cared for at Defender's Heart. This news dampened the mood a bit, and the companions decided to return to Defender's Heart to find out more about Darla's condition.

When they arrived at the new headquarters of the Eagle Watch, they were met by Irabeth, who told them that while Darla was too badly injured to give much information she had described an attack at Gwerm's house. Darla had suffered an injury to her eye, one arm, and had lost part of one leg. She had also been afflicted by some poison that seemed to be demonic in origin. She had managed to tell them that some sort of demon had attacked her, which by its description resembled a babau, but it was impossible that a lone unarmed person could have escaped a babau, and Darla had clearly put up a fierce fight as evidenced by the injuries to her knuckles. She had also managed to scrape off some skin from her assailant, which had been examined and did seem to come from something like a babau yet different.

The group chose to remain at the inn for the night rather than continue on to the next safehouse location. That night Zosta received a parcel containing a leather sack which emitted a metallic clink when she lifted it. When she put her hand into the sack she couldn't reach the items inside and the sack seemed much larger inside that its exterior appeared. She upended the sack and a pair of gauntlets fell out. They could be worn as brass knuckles, but along the sides parallel with the edges of the wearer's palms were blades, so that the wearer could choose to slash her opponent rather than punch. Inscribed on the knuckles were the words "Little Sister". When Zosta read these words aloud the gauntlets were sheathed in flames, to her delight. She also realized that the gauntlets were made of cold iron. With the gauntlets was a note. Zosta opened it and recognized the scrawled handwriting as that of Rhino, the demon who had converted to the side of good and helped train her and her companions in methods to fight other demons. The note was brief, stating only that it was good Zosta was well, that her parents were also well, and that Rhino would see her soon. She realized that Rhino must have made the gauntlets himself.

The next morning Zosta showed the gauntlets to Asami, who told her that she would be able to invoke the flames for a short time thrice each day. In the meantime, Aegronius learned that Darla was awake and no longer feverish. He went at once to see her. Darla told him that Garvin, the mercenary who had agreed to protect Horgus Gwerm's mansion, had suddenly transformed into a demonic creature and seemed to go mad with frenzy. She thought that Gwerm had escaped, but she had only managed to do so by climbing out a window that the Garvin-demon couldn't fit through. Her description of Garvin's transformation contained elements of both a dretch and a babau, leading to the conclusion that he had become some sort of hybrid.

Aegronius joined his companions at breakfast and told them what he had learned from Darla. The tale of the demon hybrid and Garvin's transformation left them all confused. How could a hybrid of dretch and babau exist? Had Garvin been a demon all along or had he somehow been possessed?

Once they had completed their morning repast the five comrades decided to continue investigating the Ivory Labyrinth's safehouses. Their next target was the Tower of Estrod, which had served the city of Kenabres as a library and research laboratory. As they left Defender's Heart behind, they saw the body of a looter hanging from a gibbet. Irabeth had told them that the Eagle Watch was bringing in an executioner, as looting and helping the demon cultists were crimes deemed punishable by death.

The Tower of Estrod had once been a five-story structure, but the demons' attack on the city had destroyed the upper three floors and left them as a pile of rubble next to the circular tower. The companions had found a pass phrase in the documents they had acquired. They decided to bluff their way into the tower by pretending to be cult members. Jiro spoke the phrase, "I have new materials for the archive" in a surprisingly gruff voice, and they were admitted by an armored guard who was not trying at all to hide his affiliation with the cult of Baphomet.

Once inside the tower they could see that it had been even more badly damaged than was visible from outside. Sky could be seen through the broken second floor overhead. The guard who admitted them was at first somewhat dismissive, telling them not to disturb his commander, Faxon. Then Aegronius noticed something hiding up above, and Runa intimidated the guard into telling them that it was Faxon's familiar. He was so cowed that he seemed to think Runa was higher ranking in the cult than himself and he told her the group should go downstairs and report to Faxon. Jiro's monkey clambered up a pillar, while the rest crossed a walkway flanked by two rubble-filled pits and passed a stack of crates before reaching the staircase.

At the bottom of the stair they saw a room bisected by a wall, which held a set of double doors that were presently closed. In the part of the underground chamber that they could see were only more crates and a table that was evidently being used as a desk. Just as they arrived, the double doors opened, giving them a brief glimpse into a mostly empty chamber, though Aegronius saw a white bed with a dark stain at its center. A tiefling man stepped out from the other room and shut the doors behind him with the click of a lock.

The tiefling then told the group to turn over any loot they had acquired and give him a report. Zosta tried to size him up. He appeared to be doing the same to her, and by his expression he judged that Runa and Asami were the greatest danger to him. To stall for time the party members began reaching into their packs. Aegronius tried to lure the tiefling closer by showing him the magical ranseur he had recently obtained, but the tiefling only told him to put it on the crates. Then Runa took out her sword, pretending to show it to him as loot, and sliced at the tiefling.

The tiefling immediately cast a spell, which Asami recognized as a curse, and reached out to touch Zosta. Asami was relieved when Zosta appeared unaffected by the curse. Then a small winged creature landed on a crate and breathed out a blast of flame that engulfed all of the comrades. Asami flung a splintered spear at the tiefling. Zosta directed several fierce blows at the small creature, which she recognized as a fire mephit, and though she couldn't harm it with the flames from her new gauntlets it took only a few strikes to slay the creature. An instant later two cultists came running down the stairs. Jiro used a wand to summon a katana of force to combat them.

The tieflng had been startled by Asami's unusual spell, and cast another spell of his own which she knew could draw the life force from the victim and transfer it to the caster, He stepped forward and before she could react he touched her, sucking away almost all of her life energy and leaving her so weak that she toppled to the floor. Runa at once channeled divine energy that healed Asami just enough to bring her back from the brink of death. Zosta raced up the stairs, dodging past the two cultists and vaulted to the floor beside the fallen Asami, grabbing her limp body and dragging her toward the desk in the corner of the room.

While Jiro engaged the first of the two guards, Runa, Aegronius, and Zosta fought the tiefling. Jiro summoned fire to his hands. The tiefling cast another spell, which Asami was able to recognize by its verbal components even though she couldn't see him from her vantage on the ground. She identified the spell as one that would render the victim permanently blind. He tried to touch Zosta but she again resisted his magic. A moment later the mephit revealed that it was not dead when it shot a ray of fire at the group surrounding its master. It missed its aim, though, and the flames hit the tiefling, though his demonic heritage had made him immune to some of the burns caused by the mephit's flames. Asami then raised herself up enough to lift her wooden sword and sent an unerring missile of magical force at the tiefling.. Aegronius had abandoned his ranseur and drawn his sword, and he now stabbed the tiefling deeply, causing his foe to fall unconscious to the floor.

Jiro was still fighting the two cultists with his katana of force and his flames. The mephit tried to heat Runa's armor but failed and then flew away. Asami took the opportunity to drink a curative potion. Zosta charged up the stairs again to attack the second cultist and kicked him down the staircase. He was dead when he came to rest at the bottom. His comrade tried to flee but Jiro and Runa both attacked him and he joined his fallen mate.

When the cultists were all overcome, Jiro used a wand and his own healing energy to restore Asami. He then searched the two guards and the tiefling, gathering up all their possessions. The tiefling carried two keys. He also had booby trapped himself by carrying a scorpion, which stung Jiro but not seriously. One of the keys proved to open the double doors. These opened into a room that had little in it beyond a chest and a bed. A brazen head of a minotaur hung on the wall. Asami determined that the brazen head was magical, as were some of the contents of the chest. The stain that Aegronius had seen on the bed proved to be blood. As there was no one in the bedroom, the five companions realized that the tiefling must have been Faxon. He was not quite dead, so the companions decided to bind and gag him and take him back to Irabeth for questioning.

Asami detected divination magic emanating from the brazen head, which made her anxious that Faxon's masters might be scrying on the tower. But the magic did not seem strong enough to be a scrying spell. Runa threw the coverlet from the bed over the minotaur head. The second key taken from Faxon opened the chest, which held a wand, a pair of magical bracers, an enchanted cloak, a large amount of coins, five silver holy symbols of Iomedae, several swords, and a broken phylactery. Asami was unable to identify what spell the wand held, but Runa discovered that it could grant the blessings of the gods to a weapon. Asami determined that the phylactery had been magical before it was broken and would also have granted divine blessings to the wearer.

There were also some papers and a note within the chest, which provided some information the Eagle Watch would find very useful in combating the cultists. The note was addressed to Faxon and appeared to have been written before the attack on Kenabres, as it congratulated him on his new position and told him that Kenabres would fall soon, as well as mentioning some other names that the comrades had heard before, such as Vorlesh and Minago, who had signed the note.

Runa tried to learn more about the brazen head but was unsuccessful. Jiro felt that it would provide blessings to cult members. The group members then decided to destroy it rather than take it back to Defender's Heart. After they smashed it to bits they left the underground rooms, for the other crates contained nothing but poor-quality foodstuffs. Jiro's monkey locked the outer doors from inside and then climbed over the wall to meet them.

Back at Defender's Heart, they were given a shared reward of 2,000 gold pieces for having captured Faxon. The other items they had taken from the cultists they were allowed to keep or sell as they chose.

Loot:
2 potions of cure light wounds
2 scrolls of cause fear
2 scrolls of comprehend languages
2 masterwork chain shirts
2 bottles of unholy water
wand of cure moderate wounds, 9 charges
12 +1 crossbow bolts
bracers of armor +1
cloak of resistance +1
masterwork longsword
2 masterwork scimitars
5 silver holy symbols of Iomedae
2,310 copper pieces
759 silver pieces
122 gold pieces
11 platinum pieces

Scarab Sages

Having received a reward of 4,000 gold pieces from Irabeth for their investigations into the two Ivory Labyrinth safehouses, the new Eagle Watch team decided to sell some of the items they had acquired and divvy up the remainder among the group members. Runa found a priest who could make the broken phylactery whole and decided to wear it herself. She also claimed a couple of scrolls, while Jiro took the others. Asami sought a curative potion as she had been so badly wounded in the tower, and her comrades agreed that she should have a protective cloak in addition to the potion. Once she received her share of the coin, she used some of it to purchase a wand that would fire tiny unerringly accurate missiles of force at her chosen target.

While the group were taking care of this business, they heard some tales of a terrifying demon that had been seen about the city. The description of the demon sounded familiar to them, and they soon realized that it was not an enemy but an ally, the demon known as Rhino who had helped to train them in demon-fighting techniques under the supervision of Cennami. Zosta was especially eager to disabuse the city folk of their fear of Rhino after he had given her the gift of the magical punching gauntlets.

Irabeth had told the party that they should talk with Kednys Orland, leader of the Riftwardens, and they decided to do this after their trip to the next safehouse, Nyserian Manor. They made their way through one of the most damaged parts of Kenabres to reach the manor, which had completely collapsed into a heap of rubble. It was difficult to tell if the manor, like the other safehouses, had a subterranean level. They encountered a local resident who told them that she had seen a surprisingly large number of people fleeing from the manor during the demonic attack, and that they had all been wearing unusual robes. The group members recognized the description of the robes as those of Baphomet's cultists. The woman also knew that the manor had a basement, but as far as she knew it had no side entrance or other access. The basement now appeared to be completely filled with the fallen remains of the manor.

While they were talking with the woman she made a reference to someone named Kandro. Jiro and Runa recognized the name as that of the man who had purchased a sword stolen from Irabeth. He was also the master of Nyserian Manor. Our of gratitude for the information the woman had provided, Jiro healed her minor injuries. The group then decided that removing all the rubble from the manor's basement to search for more evidence was more work than they were willing to commit to, and they returned to Defender's Heart.

At Defender's Heart, Irabeth took them to meet Kednys. They discovered that he was unaware that Blackwing hadn't been completely destroyed or that Aravashnial had survived the attack on the city. He was pleased to learn both pieces of information. Afterward he and Irabeth told the group that they feared the attack had merely been a prelude to something far worse. They suspected that the demons were plotting to turn the power of the Wardstones back on the mortal world, releasing the demonic forces to invade through the Worldwound. The cultists had taken refuge in the Gray Garrison after the attack, and Kednys believed they held a fragment of a destroyed Wardstone there. He and Irabeth believed that this fragment must be destroyed to prevent the demons from using it to gain control over the other stones. They wanted the new Crusaders to help them attack the Gray Garrison and seek out the fragment. Kednys presented Asami with a forked rod that held a green stone between its two prongs, which he said would nullify the stone's remaining power.

Irabeth explained that the other Crusaders would attack other cult locations in an attempt to draw the defenders out of the Gray Garrison and deny them reinforcements, while Irabeth would go with the group to seek the stone. She admitted that they might not be successful in entering the garrison on their first try, as it was well fortified. But she had some aid to help them in their attack: six mongrelfolk had come from below ground to lend their aid, and they were all accomplished archers. Despite her still broken leg, Irabeth's wife Anevia would lead her old squad in one of the decoy attacks. Kendys then sent a messenger to Blackwing.

Before the messenger could go far, he returned in the company of a second courier who had been sent by Aravashnial. The second messenger carried a magical pack full of equipment, including another wand like the one Asami had just purchased but more powerful, several strong healing potions, a group of cold iron arrows, a chime that could open any door or gate, a wand that would cancel magical darkness, a cold iron greataxe, and a cold iron longsword. Asami took the two wands and one of the potions, Aegron took the greataxe, Runa the sword, Jiro the chime, and the remaining potions were given to the mongrelfolk along with the arrows. Irabeth explained that the decoy attacks would begin once the party attacking the garrison were in place. At that point, the group set out for the Gray Garrison.

Most of the buildings around the Gray Garrison had been reduced to rubble, but there were a few partial walls nearby. As soon as the group neared the garrison, the gates opened and a group of cultists emerged, preceded by what appeared to be two bloated, naked men. As the attackers came closer they saw that the two naked men resembled Kandro, lord of Nyserian Manor, and Lord Hulrune, former leader of Kenabres. Zosta suddenly remembered a type of demon called a vermlek that would wear the flesh of the dead. Clearly both Kandro and Hulrune were dead. The two vermleks ordered the cultists to attack, and the cultists responded by casting spells on themselves, which Asami recognized as protection against the energy of good.The attackers all moved toward the garrison's defenders except Asami, who hung back to use long-range magic.

Asami was the first to act after the cultists cast their spells. She used her more powerful wand to send three missiles of force at one of the vermleks. To her disappointment the missiles seemed to have little effect on the disgusting creature. One vermlek cast a spell at Aegron and Zosta, who were both near to it, inflicting wounds without any weapon. Aegron and Zosta attacked in return and observed that the vermleks' stolen skin closed over the injuries they suffered.

Jiro summoned up a wakizashi of force to attack one of the cultists. Asami decided that the human cultists were better targets than the demons, and sent three missiles at three cultists. Runa called on the power of Iomedae to bless her companions, while Zosa tapped her new gauntlets together and exlaimed "Little Sister!" to ignite their flames.

One of the demons struck at Aegron with the scythe it wielded and dealt him a grievous blow, nearly severing his hand. That injury, combined with the wounds the demon had already magically inflicted on him and the attacks of nearby cultists, left Aegron too weak to stand. After he collapsed, Irabeth rushed to his side to defend him and extended Iomedae's healing mercy to keep him from death. Runa then cast a spell that caused a burst of radiant light to engulf the demons and several cultists. The demons withstood the magic, but two cultists were left blind.

While the companions and Irabeth faced the demons, the mongrelfolk archers picked off cultist after cultist. Jiro's floating weapon was suddenly wrested from his control and moved to strike one of the demons, at the same time transforming from a wakizashi to a tetsubo. At the same time, Asami noticed several force missiles coming from the top of a broken wall nearby. She glimpsed a furry white paw holding a stick taking cover behind the wall, and realized that her newly-acquired wand was missing. She didn't take time to think of how curious it was that a monkey could use a wand. Instead she took Telendrev's silver scale from her pouch and applied it to her wooden sword, aligning the sword so that it could inflict damage with the power of good.

While Asami was engaged in this, the vermlek that had attacked Aegron had dropped its human guise, revealing its true form as a worm-like creature that lacked limbs to grasp the scythe. Irabeth then stepped up to it and with one blow of her sword nearly sliced it in two. The second vermlek began to recite the words of a spell, which Runa recognized as one to summon another creature. She called out a warning to her companions. Asami moved closer to where the remaining vermlek stood and hurled her splintered spear at it. Despite the fact that Irabeth and several cultists were between her and the demon, Asami's spear hit it, and she was rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing that it had wasted the spell it was casting. Two dretches had started to materialize nearby but after her spear hit they faded away. Zosta then turned her powerful blows on the vermlek and it joined its comrade in death. The remaining cultists were slain by the mongrelfolk archers, with the exception of the two blind men, who were encouraged to attack each other by Jiro mimicking the vermlek's voice.

Scarab Sages

April 9, 2017

Character level: 5th

After the team attacking the Gray Garrison had disposed of the two vermlek demons and their Baphomet cultist minions outside the fortress-like garrison, they searched the remains but found no key to unlock the heavy iron doors that had been locked behind them. At first they feared this would bring an end to their mission to enter the garrison. But Jiro made an attempt to pick the lock, and with the aid of a set of fine quality lockpicks that his monkey mysteriously produced, he was able to get it open. Asami, who had just discovered that she was now able to communicate verbally with her familiar Kirara, was confused when Kirara laughed at Jiro's efforts. It wasn't until afterward that Jiro remembered he had in his possession a magical chime that might have opened the doors with less effort.

The iron doors opened into an entry way decorated with a mosaic of Crusaders in battle with an army of demons. The mosaic had been defaced with vile graffiti, and the floor beneath was stained with fresh blood. As the attackers stepped inside the dimly lit entrance, shadowy figures emerged from a doorway to their left. Jiro exclaimed, "Cultists!" and began casting a spell. Asami stepped up behind him, as he held his lantern aloft and it illuminated the foyer. Half a dozen tieflings wearing the insignia of Baphomet cultists had emerged from a side chamber, where playing cards could be seen on a table. Asami sent three missiles of force from her newly acquired wand and one of the cultists collapsed.

As three of the mongrelfolk fired their bows at the cultists, one man rushed out and ran past the attackers into another chamber on the right of the entryway. A second man ran after him but was struck by Jiro's club. A man maneuvered behind Runa, who was standing next to the doorway from which the cultists had emerged, and stabbed her in the back. Two of his comrades also stepped into the entrance. Then darkness filled the area.

Zosta moved into the room to the right of the entrance, which proved to contain a small shrine to Iomedae that the cultists had attempted to desecrate. The man who had fled there was about to open a door on the far side of the shrine, but before he could do so Zosta tripped him and then stomped on him, crushing his ribs.

Asami could no longer see the cultists, but Kirara whispered in her ear and she directed Jiro's arm to attack the cultist who was standing directly in front of him. The mongrelfolk, who had no trouble seeing through the magical darkness, fired on the man who had stabbed Runa and slew him. Irabeth and Runa were also not troubled by the dark, and Irabeth killed another of the cultists. The last remaining man fled out the entrance of the garrison. One of the mongrelfolk outside fired on him. Then Jiro raced out after him, and Asami stepped outside to bring him down with more missiles from her wand.

The room the cultists had come out of proved to have no other exit and contained nothing of interest, other than evidence that the men had been gambling with severed body parts. The shrine had been smeared with blood and excrement, but the cultists had been unable to deface an inscription in the language of the Celestials that was on the wall above an empty sword rest. Runa took out a scroll and read it, granting herself the ability to read the inscription, which was a prayer to Iomedae that Runa found so moving it brought tears to her eyes. Jiro conjured up some water and an invisible servant and set his servant to washing the shrine clean. He knelt down to do some of the cleaning himself, and as he did so he noticed that the ornate script of the inscription formed the shape of a sword with different words inscribed on it. He called this discovery to Runa's attention, and she saw that the sword's message read, "Let us inherit thine arms, Iomedae." Encouraged by this, Runa tried placing her weapon on the stand and praying to Iomedae, but she didn't sense any change to the weapon, only a feeling of peace.

Leaving Jiro's servant to keep cleaning, the group opened one of the doors leading out of the shrine. They were immediately faced with a gargantuan demon filling the space beyond. This sight so terrified Kirara and one of the mongrelfolk that they both fled. But the rest of the group realized that the demon was far too large to occupy the space in which it appeared and must be some sort of apparition rather than an actual creature. The room in which the demonic vision appeared was actually quite small, but had three doors leading out of it. Zosta listened at one of the doors on the left and exhorted her companions to go through it.

The door opened into a room containing a smashed sideboard and an ascending staircase. It also held three creatures that the companions recognized as dretches, having met such demons while they were trapped under the city. Irabeth rushed into the staircase room to attack the dretches. When one of them made a move toward her she laughed and remarked, "You're trying that? I'm protected by Iomedae!" Her sword slashed into the dretch. Then one of the dretches released a cloud of foul-smelling gas that filled the room and spread into the small chamber beyond, blocking sight and causing Zosta to retch and vomit. Kirara was also affected and the little white cat began to retch into Asami's pack.

One of the mongrelfolk archers pulled Zosta out of the gas cloud. Runa started to step into the room with Irabeth, but Irabeth called out to her to wait and that she would lure the dretches into the other room. Jiro cast a spell on Runa. Irabeth moved into the small room and the dretches pursued her. Runa and Aegron attacked them and Aegron killed his target. Jiro cast another spell upon himself, but was distracted by the sight of his monkey, who seemed to be trying to lay hands on himself as Jiro had seen Irabeth and Runa do, though the monkey seemed to be struggling with this action. In the meantime Aegron and Irabeth slew the other two dretches. Once the creatures were dead the malodorous cloud dissipated.

Zosta had recovered from her sickness by this time and warned her companions that she had heard booted footsteps before the dretches appeared. Since the demons didn't wear footgear there must be someone else in the garrison. Then the doorway at the end of the small room opened, revealing four cultists who wore the insignia of the demon lord Deskari rather than Baphomet, and a fifth figure who was suspended from the ceiling. Like the Baphomet cultists at the entrance, all of the new foes appeared to be tieflings. Runa moved to attack and the man on the ceiling hurled a vial into the small room that exploded in flames, dousing everyone nearby and setting Irabeth on fire. Asami, Jiro, and Zosta were spared as they had all remained or retreated into the shrine room. Aegron moved forward to attack the cultists in the doorway. Jiro summoned a tetsubo of force to attack the suspended tiefling, but found him a hard target to hit. Irabeth patted out the flames and stepped to one side to lay hands on herself for healing.

Asami directed missiles from her wand at the suspended tiefling but they were deflected by a magical shield surrounding him. The mongrelfolk fired on the four cultists in the doorway, leaving one of them badly wounded. Runa then created a burst of brilliant radiance that left the cultists dazzled and the severely wounded man slumped to the ground. The man on the ceiling hurled another vial into the small room, this time setting Runa aflame. Zosta, who had finally recovered from nausea, moved into the room and disarmed one of the cultists. In turn she was struck by one of the others who wielded a scythe. Jiro ran into the room and channeled divine energy to heal his companions, and Irabeth laid hands on herself a second time.

Asami moved a step closer and sent a spell into the room where the man was suspended from the ceiling, wrapping him and the three remaining cultists in sticky vines. Unfortunately the vines also wrapped Aegron and Zosta, but they failed to entrap the man on the ceiling. The ceiling hangerthen hurled another vial that shattered and splashed Runa, who moved into the space occupied by the vines and set them on fire, then collapsed.

Two more of the cultists fell dead after they were burned by the flaming vines. Asami shot a magical arrow coated with acidic sap at the man on the ceiling but Zosta observed that the acid appeared to do him little harm. Jiro healed Runa and she got back on her feet, but the suspended foe hit her with another vial. Asami tried hurling one of her spears at him and missed. When he tossed yet another bottle of liquid Zosta slapped it out of the air, which caused it to only splash everyone instead of setting Runa on fire again. Jiro's tetsubo finally managed to hit the man, then vanished, the magic spent. Jiro then ordered his servant to shut the door into the shrine to prevent the man from exiting into the other room. He called upon the spirits of his ancestors to grant boons to Zosta and Runa. Zosta then grabbed hold of the suspended tiefling and lifted herself up by his arms, wrapping her arms and legs around him so that he couldn't move. Asami threw another spear but it also failed to connect with the man on the ceiling, who was surrounded by a magical effect that made him difficult to see clearly. He tried to drink a potion, but spilled it instead. One of the mongrelfolk managed to hit him with an arrow, then Runa then rendered him unconscious and Zosta dropped him to the floor.

Scarab Sages

Character level: 5th

In the aftermath of the fight with the ceiling-hanging alchemist and his cultists comrades, the assault team at the Gray Garrison took a few moments to check the corpses of their fallen enemies for any items of use. Asami and Runa both scanned the room for magical auras, finding five vials of magical potions, a ring, and a suit of enchanted leather armor worn by the alchemist. There were also a number of spell scrolls in the possession of the cultists. Some of the dead cultists had curative potions, which the assault group were glad to acquire. Runa examined some of the scrolls and found that half of them were meant to frighten the subject into fleeing in fear, which seemed to be a spell commonly given to the followers of Baphomet.

After the bodies had been relieved of useful objects, the group turned their attention to the chamber from which the cultists had emerged. It was a long narrow space lined by six white marble columns, which had once been carved in the likenesses of people but were now so badly defaced that they were unrecognizable. At the far end of the room an altar also of white marble had been overturned. On its uppermost surface lay a conglomeration of severed body parts stitched together into a vaguely insect-like form. Seven bedrolls lay on the floor next to the altar.

While some of his companions were looking into the room with the columns, Aegronius had gone to keep an eye on the doorway leading back into the shrine to Iomedae that stood to one side of the main entrance. Suddenly three demons appeared behind him. When he sensed them and turned to face them he saw that they were a type of demon he had seen before, ugly creatures that wore their heads where the chest region would be on a man, and had rat-like hairless tails. Before he could warn his companions one of these demons bit him and he felt strangely demoralized. Another demon bit one of the mongrelfolk who were with Aegron and the mongrelman collapsed.

Runa spied that Aegron and the mongrelfolk were under attack and summoned an area of blinding radiance that harmed the evil creatures. One of the other mongrelfolk pulled his fallen friend to safety and prepared to administer a potion. Two of the other mongrelfolk fired on the demons. Irabeth moved into the shrine room to face them as they attacked Aegron again. Irabeth was bitten as well but didn't suffer the same effect as Aegron had. From the other room, Asami could see two of the demons and she aimed her wand at the one nearest to Aegron, firing three tiny missiles into its body. Zosta ran past into the shrine, knocking the middle demon to the floor and slamming it with both of her gauntlet-clad arms, which sent it flying backward in a limp heap.

The other two demons began to mutter in the language of the Abyss, which Runa was able to identify as spellcasting. An instant later one of the demons vanished. Aegron stabbed the demon that was still standing, dropping it to the ground, after which Zosta smashed her fists into it. The demons had been defeated.

Aegron then went to examine the room that lay at the side of the shrine, which the group had previously bypassed. It appeared to have been a museum previously, but everything in it had been destroyed, with the exception of an adamantine morningstar which Aegron found. Having seen this variety of demon previously, he knew that they hated anything of beauty and after finding they couldn't destroy the morningstar they had likely used it to smash everything else. He also found the corpses of two men in full armor, who had both been decapitated. He realized then that the demons' hands had been covered in blood and they had probably been playing with the severed heads, using them as puppets.

While Jiro and Runa took out wands to heal the wounds suffered previously, Zosta went into another room that lay just off the columned chamber. This was was fitted as an alchemist's laboratory. Within it she found a portable alchemist's kit, a longsword in a case, and a small piece of parchment. The parchment contained a message addressed to 'Staunton', which said that the sword had once belonged to Irabeth but had been sold to Lord Kendro Nyserian, who had been punished for failing to reveal it earlier. Lord Nyserian was one of the victims of the vermlek demons outside, who had been wearing his skin as armor.

Zosta showed the sword to Irabeth, who explained that she had indeed sold the sword because she had wanted to purchase a wedding gift for Anevia. As she was now carrying the sword the group had fond beneath the city, she offered her old sword to anyone who would like to use it. After learning that it was enchanted to deal extra harm to evil creatures from other planes, Runa decided she would take it. She returned the sword that Irabeth had previously lent her in exchange for the new one. When she remarked that she would look on the blade as a gift from Iomedae, Irabeth responded that it was a gift from her, not from the goddess.

Jiro happened to look into the altar room at this time and spied a large creature standing at the far end in front of the overturned altar. It resembled a giant tortoise with a spiky shell, standing on two legs like a man. He was surprised to see such a creature in Kenabres, for he could tell that it had come from Tian Xia. Jiro quietly approached the creature and greeted it respectfully. It appeared to be sizing him up. One of the mongrelmen looked into the room as Jiro was walking toward the tortoise-creature, but the mongrelman only saw Jiro walking purposefully toward the altar. Zosta also looked in and saw the same thing. Her curiosity aroused, she went into the room to see what Jiro was doing.

Jiro bowed to the creature. He could sense that his monkey was tense, though he did not know if it was due to fear, anger, or excitement. As Jiro neared, the tortoise-creature smiled, then pointed toward a section of the wall at the end of the room. Then it bowed and vanished from sight. Zosta heard Jiro speaking, but she did not see the creature. Jiro turned to look at the wall the creature had indicated and saw that a section of it shaped like a doorway was glowing.

Aegron left the museum room and followed the others. When he looked into the altar room he also saw the glow and went in to see what was causing it. Zosta, too, could see it. Asami joined her companions and observed it as well, noting that it radiaed a strong aura of magical energy. When Runa joined the rest she too could see the glow, but when Irabeth came in she saw them all looking at a blank section of wall.

Suspecting that the door-shaped glow meant there was a hidden door in the wall, Runa said a prayer to Iomedae, but the door remained shut. Then Zosta suggested that she recite the prayer that was engraved over the shrine. Runa did so, but it had no effect. Jiro attempted to open the door without success. He also described the creature he had seen to Asami, hoping she might be able to say what it was, but she did not recognize it by his description. Then Jiro recalled that it must be a type of oni, though he couldn't explain why it would have pointed the magic doorway out to him. At that moment he also realized that Runa had recited the prayer incorrectly, transposing some of the words. When he reminded her of this she spoke the words of the inscription in the correct sequence and the door opened.

The room proved to be full of weapons and armor. Many of the weapons were made of cold iron, best suited for fighting demons. Irabeth, Zosta, and Runa all went into the secret armory. Zosta drew out the magic bag that Rhino had given her, and they began putting all of the items into the bag as quickly as they could. Two of the mongrelfolk had been standing guard at the door that led to the staircase, and they had heard voices and footsteps coming from the second floor. As the group members removed all the objects from the armory, the sentries warned that the sounds upstairs were getting louder. The group members hurriedly finished emptying the hidden room of its contents, then went to the museum room to retrieve the two decapitated corpses, which had been identified by their gear as paladins. Carrying the supply of weapons and armor and the two corpses, they hurried out of the Gray Garrison. As they departed from the structure, Irabeth ordered two of the mongrelfolk to pick up the remains of Lord Nyserian and Lord Hulruun.

A short distance away the group paused to rearrange what they were carrying and check that no one was following them. Then they made their way quickly back toward Defender's Heart. Irabeth parted from them before they reached the inn, telling them she would go to the various groups carrying out attacks elsewhere and tell them to continue for a little while so that the defenders of the Gray Garrison would not realize that the Garrison had been the true target.

When the group returned to Defender's Heart and told everyone that they had managed to clear the entire ground floor of the Gray Garrison, morale was improved. The supplies provided by Horgus Gwerm and the things found in the secret armory also heartened the defenders of the city. As some of the fighters from the other attacking groups returned to rest, a mood of celebration overtook Defender's Heart.

The group members looked over the items they had taken from their fallen foes and the armory of Iomedae and claimed those things that would be useful to them, arranging to sell the remainder. Runa took her old set of armor to the smith to ask him to repair the acid damage when he had time. Later she and Zosta found Aegron's friend Darla practicing some unarmed fighting skills, and Runa offered to spar with her, which Darla accepted. Aegron then spent the rest of the evening with her. Darla seemed oblivious to the pitying looks of those who saw her partially amputated leg and felt sorry for her. Aegron decided to set aside all his funds to pay for healing for her once a priest was available who could cast a powerful enough spell.

Asami went to her room to give Kirara a good brushing, as the little white cat had suffered a very trying day. Later, while Asami was studying her spellbook, she realized that Kirara was sleeping on top of an unfamiliar book. She left the cat alone, but when Kirara removed to a different location Asami examined the book and found that it was a small, old spellbook, which had had several pages torn out. She also observed that the 'bookmark' tucked into the book was actually a wand, one which looked rather like the wand that had suddenly vanished from her pouch while she and her companions were fighting with the cultists outside the Gray Garrison.

The following morning, the attackers regrouped and returned to the Gray Garrison to continue their search for the fragment of Wardstone. Jiro used the magical chime to open the front gate. They found that the museum room was still in just as much disarray as on the previous day. The alchemist's laboratory was even more of a mess, as though someone had thrown everything about in a rage. They met no opposition, but the staircase room had been filled with boxes and crates. The mongrelfolk quickly formed a line and passed the crates, re-stacking them in a way that they would not block access to either the stairs or the exit. While they were doing so Runa and Irabeth went into the altar room to try to clean it of filth and reconsecrate it. When the crates had been cleared the entire party climbed the stairs, leaving two mongrelmen behind to make sure that no other foes would come from outside the garrison.

Aegron climbed the staircase first. As soon as he opened the door at the top he found himself facing two archers who fired on him immediately. He could see more enemies behind him in another room. All of the foes he could see appeared to be tieflings. He stepped toward the archers, which led to him being peppered with arrows, but he nearly sliced off one tiefling's hand and the tiefling collapsed. Zosta then ran up the stairs. When she saw that there were more enemies behind where Aegron faced the archers, she ran into that room and knocked one tiefling down. Jiro then followed her onto the second floor and moved to heal the wounds Aegron had suffered from the arrows. One of the mongrelfolk moved to the second floor, and at that moment more enemies appeared from a side room, these dressed like cultists of Baphomet.

Zosta's opponent rolled away from her, but as he did so she slashed him with her bladed gauntlets and he fell unconscious. Two of the archers fired on her. One of the cultists or tieflings cast a spell from a scroll and Aegron was consumed by terror and forced to flee. As Aegron departed two cultists stabbed their polearms at Jiro and two archers fired on him. Asami, who had been waiting at the bottom of the stairs, climbed up behind Irabeth, who had already reached the second floor, and used her wand to strike one of the archers with missiles. As Aegron ran past Irabeth she tripped him and he fell, but he scrambled to his feet and kept running.

In the other room Zosta tripped another tiefling and slashed him. Jiro's monkey produced a tanglefoot bag from somewhere and threw it, causing one of the attackers to be stuck to the floor. Jiro summoned a tetsubo of force. Runa moved to attack the cultists and was wounded in the hand. One of the tieflings tried to get past Zosta, but she dropped him to the floor and left him dead at her feet. One of the other fallen tieflings had been attempting to coordinate his attack with the one who died, but his efforts proved too much for him and he lost consciousness. One of the cultists cast a spell, telling Runa to flee, and several of the others attacked her. Then another door opened, revealing more tieflings, followed by a third door opening near the head of the stairs to reveal yet more enemies - and with them, a large winged bird-like creature.

Loot:
4 scrolls of comprehend language
ring of protection +1
2 potions of cure light wounds
potion of cure moderate wounds
potion of mage armor
potion of barkskin
potion of invisibility
+1 adamantine morningstar
+1 longsword of evil outsider bane
3 cold iron longswords
2 cold iron shortswords
Compound longbow of +2 strength
2 heavy crossbows
Cold iron heavy mace
2 cold iron longspears
50 cold iron crossbow bolts
Masterwork longsword
5 holy arrows
Arrow of evil outsider slaying
2 suits of masterwork chain armor
Masterwork breastplate with Iomedae symbol
Masterwork heavy steel shield
Heavy steel shield of blinding
Holy symbol of Desna
Holy symbol of Shelyn
Holy symbol of Iomedae
350 gold pieces each from sale of items

Scarab Sages

April 29, 2017

I've noticed a tendency in my previous posts to detail out the combats, but without much personal information about the characters. I'm making a change to the style of these posts that I hope will make them more entertaining to read. I'll be focusing on the viewpoint of my character, Asami the wizard. Sometimes Asami won't be able to see what's happening to the other player-characters. I hope this won't make it seem like no one else is doing anything. That certainly isn't true.
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Episode 14: Return to the Gray Garrison

Character level: 5th

From her vantage on the stairs Asami could only see a small portion of what was happening in the room at the top. Irabeth was standing in front of her near the head of the staircase. She could glimpse a little of Jiro and several of the mongrelfolk who had accompanied them, and she could see Runa’s head above the heads of the cultists who had emerged from side rooms to attack her. Of Aegron and Zosta she could see nothing at all.

Suddenly more people entered the main room from side doors, and Asami saw Runa fall, vanishing behind the swarm of cultists. Asami raised her wand, directing two missiles from it at one cultist near where Runa had fallen, and a third missile at another figure standing near her first target. A wave of energy spread from where Jiro stood, which Asami recognized as his healing hex. Then a figure appeared in the midst of the cultists, standing over what Asami assumed must be Runa’s prone form. It was a white-furred creature that looked like Jiro’s spirit animal Bohgong, but it was much larger than the diminutive monkey. The unusually large monkey also appeared blurred. Asami saw the giant-sized Bohgong lift Runa off the floor and then leap out of sight toward another room that lay above the stairs and behind Asami’s current location.

Relieved that Runa had been taken to a safer place, Asami sent more missiles from her wand at a cultist who stood directly in front of Jiro. Just after she did this another figure appeared between Jiro and the cultist. It was a ghostly form dressed in the style of apparel common in Tian Xia, which led her to assume that Jiro must have summoned it – or perhaps Bohgong had, as Asami suspected there was more to the white monkey than a mere spirit animal. This spirit guardian standing before Jiro did not bear any offensive weapon, but used its staff to block attacks by the cultists that were aimed at Jiro.

Asami did not know what was happening to most of her comrades at this point, as she could only see Jiro and several of the mongrelfolk. Irabeth had run up the stairs and disappeared into the other room. Asami climbed up to the top of the staircase but still could not see anyone else. The rest of her friends were behind her on the other side of a wall as best she could surmise. Because Jiro and his spirit guardian were facing a large number of cultists, Asami pointed her wooden sword at several cultists in the corner of the room she faced and a wave of energy in the colors of autumn leaves spread out from the sword’s point. She had targeted four enemies, but the magic affected only one, the other three managing to resist its power. The fourth cultist’s eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor.

Asami heard Irabeth shouting fiercely from the other room in the language of the orcs, which Asami was not able to translate. She shifted around the corner behind Jiro to see what was happening in the next room. Her gaze immediately fell on Runa, who was on her feet but did not look well. Runa appeared to have withdrawn from the demonic goat-horned creatures that Irabeth was fighting in order to heal herself. Asami stepped up behind Runa, laying her hand on Runa’s shoulder, and said in a low voice, “Accept the magic,” into Runa’s ear. Runa nodded slightly in acknowledgement. Asami held the flat of her wooden blade toward Runa and moved it from Runa’s head to her feet as she murmured the words of the spell. An insubstantial shape of green energy formed around Runa, surrounding her completely at a foot’s length from her body. The energy took the shape of a sturdy tree. It would protect her from the attacks of evil creatures, and creatures summoned to this place by magic would not be able to approach her. When the spell was complete, Asami took a potion vial from her pouch and handed it to Runa, telling her, “Drink this.” It was the strongest curative potion she had in her possession, and Runa needed it far more than she did.

Now that she had entered the second room, Asami could see that Aegron and Zosta were also there, at the opposite end of the chamber. She watched over Runa’s shoulder as Zosta tripped one of the goat-horned beings and knocked it to the floor. A moment later the creature got back on its feet and stepped backward through another doorway. Zosta followed it and it attempted to gore her with its horns. A second creature of the same kind was engaged with Irabeth and Aegron, who was using his ranseur to fight it. Runa and Irabeth both turned to look toward the wall to Asami’s left. Asami sensed that they had seen something, but before she could get a glimpse of it, the entire room was plunged into impenetrable blackness. Asami heard the sound of bowstrings twanging, and something wet spattered the floor nearby and Runa made a small exclamation of disgust. Then there was the sound of a door closing from the opposite end of the room where Zosta and her opponent had been. Kirara could see no more in the darkness than Asami could, but the cat poked her head out of Asami's pack and whispered in Asami's ear, "Smell no enemies near."

Behind Asami, Jiro said, “I’ll try to dispel the darkness.” She waited as he recited the words of the spell, but when he finished nothing happened. Asami felt slightly foolish that she hadn’t thought to do so first. She spoke the spell herself, gesturing with her sword to encompass the room that she couldn’t see. As she pronounced the last syllable, the darkness vanished and the room was visible once more. But she hardly had time to draw a breath before the room went black a second time! She heard a sound like something spitting and felt the burn of acid on her exposed skin. A large shape approached, causing Kirara to hiss fearfully, and then something bit her painfully in the arm.

Asami heard the sound something being dropped on the floor followed by the metallic grating of a sword being drawn from its sheath and guessed that it must be Runa, as Irabeth was already wielding her longsword and Aegron did not customarily use a sword. Behind her there was a rustling as Jiro moved, and she heard him murmuring. Light suffused the room, driving away the unnatural darkness. Jiro held up his lantern on the end of its pole. The lantern’s magical, never-ending illumination had overcome the darkness. In its glow Asami could see that in the room with her and her companions were two creatures that resembled flies but were as large as men and wore man-like faces. Asami raised her wand. Three missiles from the wand slew one of the fly-like monsters. Aegron killed the second one. But there was a third fly-creature in a narrow hallway that led off from the left side of the room, and this spat on Irabeth, Runa, and Aegron. One of the goat-horned creatures was also still in the room, and it used its halberd to slash past Irabeth, aiming at Aegron. Irabeth thrust her sword into the creature and it dropped.

Jiro called out to Bohgong to seek Zosta, who was nowhere in sight. Asami moved to the end of the small corridor and stroked her sword, drawing green lightning from the wooden blade. The lightning shot down the hallway at the third fly-monster and another of the horned demons that stood behind it. But to her disappointment both creatures appeared unaffected by the lightning. Runa put a hand on Irabeth, who seemed unsteady, and murmured a prayer to Iomedae to heal the paladin’s wounds. Irabeth was still weak and withdrew from the area where she might be threatened by the demonic creatures’ attacks. Runa handed her a potion and Jiro used one of his hexes to provide her further relief from her injuries. Asami pointed her wand at one of the demons that remained in the room, but the tiny missiles of magical force bounced off its hide.

Zosta emerged from a room at the far end of the chamber, tripped another horned demon, then slashed it with her bladed gauntlets. Several of the mongrelfolk archers, who had been busy eliminating the last of the cultists in the other room, now aimed their bows at the fly-thing and brought it down. Aegron charged past where it had hovered to get to the demon in the hallway. It was close enough to where Asami stood that she could stab at it with her spear, but her blow failed to connect. Then Aegron broght his greataxe down on it and nearly cleaved it in two. After it died it vanished in the manner of a creature that had been summoned from another plane. There were no other cultists or creatures sharing the space with the attacking force from the Eagle Watch.

But there were still side rooms that they had yet to explore, and they had not located the Wardstone fragment. Runa and Irabeth both looked weary and were still wounded. Asami assessed the spells she still had in her mind. Her ability to hurl lightning at her foes or dispel magic they cast were gone, and she could not grant anyone else the same protection against evil creatures that she had placed on Runa. That magic would last a little longer, but how much was left of the Gray Garrison to examine? Would they need to leave it and replenish themselves a second time? She had a magic pearl in her pouch that would let her recover one spent spell, but it could not be used to recover the lightning spell or the spell to dispel other magic. As she thought of this Asami could feel the weight of the enchanted rod Kednys had given her, pressing against her back. The stone must be destroyed before the demon lords could use it to fully open the Worldwound. Thinking of the Worldwound made the peculiar Seeker’s Spiral birthmark on the back of her neck tingle and raised memories of her lost parents. She and her friends must prevent the Worldwound from being opened further, no matter what the cost.

Scarab Sages

Wrath of the Righteous, part 15: Finding the Fragment
May 21, 2017

Character level: 5th

The group of Crusaders were all weary and depleted of magic by this point, but no one suggested leaving the Gray Garrison for another night. There was too much at stake. While Asami drank a healing potion and Runa took out a wand to heal more of her own injuries, Jiro took several of the mongrelfolk with him to make sure no more enemies waited in the five rooms on the garrison's second floor. Zosta walked into the long room from which the winged creature had emerged, finding a long table and the bodies of several people, both cultists and ordinary citizens of Kenabres, whose hearts had all been torn out. Asami also saw this disconcerting sight when she followed Zosta. There was a map of Mendev on the table.

Jiro returned to report that he had seen no enemies, so the group members decided to investigate all of the rooms for any clues or useful items. Runa and her mongrelman companion trailed along at the rear of the group, as she felt weak and sick in the aftermath of her near-death experience and could hardly move in her heavy armor.

The party found that the demon cultists had destroyed what they could not use. A barracks room held several overturned cots and an empty lockbox. Across the hallway lay a room with a hexagonal table strewn with texts and tomes about geography, history, and military tactics, including information on Mendevian troop movements both past and future.

At the end of the hallway in the room where Zosta had fought one of the demon-creatures they found evidence that it had once been a library, but all of the books it had contained had been burned to ash except for a few that lay on a small table. One of these could not be read by anyone present. Next to the library was a room containing several empty bird cages and writing materials, indicating that message birds had probably been housed there, but the evidence suggested that no birds had occupied the room for some time. In one corner lay a small closet enclosing a window through which the birds could be released. After a brief look around the aerie, the party members searched for another secret room like the armory they had found downstairs on the previous day, but they discovered no evidence of such a space on the second floor.

When all of the other rooms had been examined, only one room that hadn't been opened during the fight with the defenders remained. The door proved to be securely locked. Jiro attempted unsuccessfully to pick the lock, then used his magic chime. But the door remained stubbornly barred against them. Asami suggested that Jiro speak to the spirits as he had done at the weaponsmith's shop a few days earlier, but Jiro responded that the spirits would avoid a place where so much blood had been spilled. He tried putting out a bowl of milk for the spirits anyway, but the milk instantly soured. Asami then put her hands on the door and asked the wood to give way, without success. Finally Aegronius took out his greataxe and began chopping at it, with little success until Jiro reminded him that his adamantine morningstar might be more effective, and he began to bash at the door with the morningstar, sending splinters of wood flying. Zosta then picked up the axe Aegronius had dropped and joined him in attacking the door.

Working together the two of them soon chopped a hole through the door, through which they saw what appeared to be a zombie.They finished destroyed the door and as the last bits of wood were destroyed they could all see five zombies inside the room. The zombies had already gathered around the doorway, attracted by the noise. The one closest to the doorway hit Zosta in the face. Zosta dropped the axe and kicked the zombie's legs out from under it, then stomped on it twice. The zombie disintegrated into a cloud of dust. Jiro touched a second zombie with a curative spell and it also turned to dust.

Irabeth walked unheedingly through the cloud of zombie dust and went inside the room. Two of the zombies attacked her as she passed them. Runa stepped over to Zosta and used her wand to heal the damage the zombie had done, while Asami used her own wand to send three missiles at one of the zombies. Zosta knocked down another zombie and pummeled it into particles, and her mongrelman comrade shot another zombie with an arrow that hit so precisely it knocked the onyx powering the zombie out of its body. Irabeth grabbed the remaining zombie and pushed it away from the others, as she had recognized the zombies as a variety known as plague zombies that could cause disease, and she knew that when the zombies disintegrated their dust could infect anyone who breathed it in. Zosta had already begun to cough after inhaling a mouthful when she destroyed her latest zombie opponent.

Aegronius exchanged the morningstar for his preferred weapon, his ranseur, and ran into the room to chop the last zombie into two pieces. Irabeth, whose divine blessings made her immune to diseases, inhaled the zombie dust and spat dismissively. She then explained that they were plague zombies and told Zosta what to expect: symptoms would not appear for a day or two, she would begin to experience weakness, and if she died of the disease she herself would transform into a plague zombie. Zosta was relieved that she wouldn't become ill immediately.

With the zombies destroyed, the Crusaders could look around the room. It held an ascending staircase in one corner, and against one wall stood a large alabaster basin, which was currently filled with bloody entrails. Along the edge of the basin were images of knights around a sun. Asami realized that the basin was sacred to Iomedae and that it was ordinarily full of enchanted water. Looking at the state of the basin, Aegronius asked, "Should we destroy it?" Asami answered, "No, we must cleanse it."

Jiro summoned his invisible servant to remove the offal, and Runa repeatedly conjured water to rinse the basin. When it was full of clean water, the water glowed and shimmered and something appeared in it, showing everyone close enough to view it a scene of a different room with torches in two alcoves, which was also occupied by a minotaur whose blood-red hide and glowing eyes indicated it had fiendish blood. The view moved to a second room adjoining the minotaur's location, where a woman wielding a scythe stood next to a sturdy cage holding a glowing white stone. Then the view descended a staircase and showed the Crusaders standing next to the alabaster basin. After this vision vanished everyone turned to look at the stairs in the corner of the room.

As they realized they would have to climb up and fight the minotaur to reach the Wardstone fragment, they heard the blast of a horn from above them. They knew the minotaur was waiting for them. Everyone began to climb the stairs. Aegronius went first and entered the room to face the minotaur, who immediately struck him a harsh blow. Zosta darted past Asami, who was ahead of her, and avoided the minotaur to get behind him, though her presence didn't seem to provide the usual advantage. Runa took a potion from her pouch and handed it to Irabeth, for she felt too weakened to be of much use in combat against the minotaur and she knew the potion would grant the paladin additional protection.

The minotaur appeared to be focusing its attacks on Aegronius in much the same way that Irabeth could focus on a foe. The beast had a huge axe. Aegronius dropped his ranseur in favor of his own great axe, and Jiro stepped up behind him to lend his healing energy to both Aegronius and Zosta. The minotaur struck them both, rendering Jiro's healing almost useless, and Aegronius collapsed. The minotaur then gored him despite the fact that he was lying unconscious on the ground.

Asami could see none of this. She could only hear the grunts of the minotaur and the clash of weapons. Kirara whispered in her ear, "Don't go up there. It smells bad," which Asami knew meant that there was something evil in the room upstairs. While Asami tried to decide what to do, Runa moved into the room to pour a potion into Aegronius' unresisting mouth, which revived him. Jiro raised his staff, prepared to strike the minotaur after reassuring himself that Aegronius would not die just yet.

Asami murmured to Kirara, "I cannot just wait here," and climbed up the stairs to the entrance of the room. To her surprise, Kirara exclaimed, "I'll run interference!" and leaped out of her pack, darting past the minotaur, who swung at her but missed the little white cat. Kirara came to a stop beside Zosta. This distraction allowed Asami to avoid being the minotaur's next target when she stood in the doorway. Asami pointed her wand at the minotaur and the three missiles struck the creature, though they didn't appear to do it much hurt.

Irabeth drank the potion Runa had given her and entered the room, taking up a position near Zosta. The minotaur swung at Zosta, dealing her a terrible blow that caused her to spin and fall. Kirara barely avoided having Zosta land on top of her. Runa gave more healing to Aegronius, which restored him enough to move, but he was now as weak and sick as Runa, and could not stand up without risking another attack from the minotaur. Instead he struck at its leg while still lying on the floor. At the same time Jiro hit the minotaur with his staff, which he had enhanced with magic, and the minotaur slumped to the ground. Bohgong, who had been beside Asami on the stair, raced into the room and jumped on Zosta. A moment later she regained her feet and the white monkey retreated to the safety of Jiro's pack.

Jiro mentioned that he thought the nose ring worn by the minotaur might be magical, and Asami cast a spell to determine that it was indeed magical, as was the musical horn the minotaur carried. There was no time to examine them further so she picked them up and joined her friends at the door to the next room where the fragment awaited them.

A second time they found the door securely locked. This time Jiro used his chime immediately. After four or five attempts, the lock finally clicked open, and the chime disintegrated, depleted of magic. As soon as the door opened they saw the woman from the vision in the basin, holding a ball of flames in her hand that she hurled at them. Slowed by their weakened condition, Aegronius and Runa were burned worse than the rest of the group. The woman then chanted another spell, and Asami saw a hellish vision overlay the contents of the room. Her knees trembled with fear and despair, but she did not run. Her eyes remained on the cage's contents, the glowing white stone, which stood on a pedestal beneath a domed ceiling. Aegronius said to her, "Let's take the stone while the rest take her," and she nodded in agreement.

Zosta moved to face the woman, knocking her to he floor and punching her in the face, but the blow did less damage than she expected. Irabeth moved toward the cage. Jiro ran around behind it to join Zosta in attacking the woman. Though she still lay on the floor the woman returned Zosta's attack viciously, doing her serious harm. Asami waited for Aegronius to shamble toward the cage, but then decided instead of following at his restricted pace she would use her wand to strike the cage. Her missiles did mar it, but the damage was minor. Meanwhile Runa used a wand that Jiro had given her to summon a tetsubo of force to attack the prone woman. While the tetsubo attacked, Runa cast a spell on Aegronius to increase the damage done by his morningstar, which he had brought out again. Jiro abandoned preparing to strike the woman if she tried to cast another spell and instead healed Zosta. This left the woman free to speak the words of a spell Asami recognized, as she had found it in the spellbook that had appeared unexpectedly in her room at Defender's Heart. A wave of blood flowed out from the corner of the room next to the woman, shoving the demon worshipper against the cage. It pushed Irabeth, Zosta, and Jiro away, and knocked Jiro, Runa, and Aegronius off their feet. Asami was spared because she was still outside the room.

Jiro was made ill by the foul blood. Aegronius tried to stand again but slipped and fell. Asami fired more missiles at the cage, and Irabeth began slamming the sword Radiance into it with great force. Jiro managed after two attempts to get back on his feet, but Runa gave up on this and crawled toward the cage, barely able to overcome her disgust at the blood on the floor.

The woman tried to touch Zosta when Zosta returned to stand over her, but Jiro had cast a spell of protection on her before ascending the stairs and the attempt failed. Zosta decided to grab the woman and hold her so she could cast no more spells. She and the woman struggled, the woman repeatedly pulling free of Zosta's grip only to be grabbed again a moment later. Aegronius got up and moved to the cage with his morningstar ready as Runa again granted him Iomedae's divine power. The blood had vanished, and Asami walked over to stand between Aegronius and Jiro, drawing the rod Quednys had given her from her pack and holding it at the ready. When the woman glimpsed her holding it, she shouted, "No! No! You don't know what it will do!"

The woman again tried to touch Zosta when she got her hand free, and though Jiro hit her with his staff he couldn't prevent her from cursing Zosta, which left her struggling even more to hold on to the woman. Aegronius began to smash at the cage with his morningstar. This caused the woman to scream in rage and try casting another spell, but she failed to protect herself from being held by Zosta and thus expended the magic without effect. Irabeth became frustrated by how little damage her sword was doing to the cage and picked up Aegronius great axe to swing at the metal bars, which ran both horizontally and vertically and were too close together for Asami to insert the rod between them. Asami waited for her comrades to break open the cage, taking care not to hold her wand too close to the rod lest its magic be drained and the rod rendered useless.

Aegronius struck the cage a mighty blow and it flew open. At that moment, the woman on the floor managed to cast a spell, not at Zosta but at Asami. Asami was seized with fear and ran out of the room, desperate to escape. She heard Jiro shout, "Stop her! Don't let her get past!" The mongrelfolk, who were at the head of the stairs still, caught hold of Asami as she tried to run past them and barred her from fleeing down the stairs. Jiro came up behind her and took the rod from her hand as she struggled with them.

While Asami was still trying to flee, a wave of golden energy rushed out of the room when Jiro touched the rod to the stone, accompanied by the sound of angelic beings singing. Then thousands of razor-sharp shards of crystal shot out from the shattered Wardstone fragment, shredding the demon-worshipper, who had already been rendered unconscious by a blow from Irabeth. The shards did not touch the Crusaders or their faithful mongrelfolk comrades. As the golden energy touched them, everyone but Irabeth and the mongrelfolk began to glow with the same radiance. They felt all of their wounds heal and every weakness or sickness or terror affecting them fade. All of the spells Asami had expended that day were restored to her mind, and she knew that she could use her splintered spear again just as if she had rested overnight.

Then her mind entered a dream-like state. She saw visions that she understood to be the history of the Wardstone. She knew what year each scene occurred during, and the names of all the people and beings she witnessed even if she had never seen them before. She observed thousands of demons being destroyed and others fleeing as a wave of power flowed out from the other Wardstones still linked to the shattered fragment, in a last burst of energy before all of the Wardstones became inert. Her vision showed her the witch Areelu Vorlesh planning a vindictive strike against Asami and her friends for foiling her plans. She watched the Wardstone being made by celestial beings, saw a young Lord Hulruun having witches executed before it at the start of the Fifth Crusade, saw the demonic Storm King defeated and nearly slain by the dragon Telendrev at the beginning of the Fourth Crusade, watched Irabeth fighting the traitor Staunton Vane beside the Stone before Vane summoned a flying creature and fled. She saw the creature called Minago putting the stone in this very room, where the woman used a powerful spell granted by Minago to create the cage around it. She also saw a vision of something that would now never come to pass, when Vorlesh planned to corrupt the stone and use it transform all of the Crusaders into part of her demonic invasion force. As this vision came to and end, everyone present, including Irabeth, saw Vorlesh using the nahyndrian crystal. Then all of them saw babau demons appear inside the room with them, and they knew this was not a vision. The Wardstones were no more, and they would have to be ready to use their restored magic and strength to fight again.

Scarab Sages

As the group inside the Gray Garrison felt the effects of the energy released by the Wardstone fragment and comprehended what their visions had revealed to them, they were stunned by what had transpired and could not react to the arrival of the babau demons. When the visions of the past and of what was happening elsewhere faded, an image of Areelu Vorlesh appeared to them, accompanied by demons of various other types. Vorlesh sneered at them and threatened, clearly expecting her babau slaves to exact her revenge on them for depriving her of the power of the Wardstones.

Irabeth drew Radiance and charged the wall where Vorlesh appeared, but she collided with the wall and fell to the floor, then began gasping and clutching at her throat as though something was choking her. Asami heard similar sounds coming from the mongrelfolk in the room behind her. At that moment another wave of energy flowed outward from her and the other members of the Eagle's Watch. When this energy struck the demoness she screamed in rage and agony as her bones visibly snapped and the membranes of her bat-like wings were shredded like dry leaves in a high wind. The portal through which she and her demonic minions were about to enter the mortal world snapped shut.

While Vorlesh had been speaking, the babau had all been gesticulating and muttering incantations. Immediately more babau appeared in the two third-floor rooms of the Garrison, doubling the demons' numbers. One of the demons motioned and for a brief moment the illumination in the chamber dimmed, then returned to the golden glow emanating from the bodies of Asami and her friends. Another babau made gestures indicative of a spell to dispel other magic, but it could not overcome the light.

All of the babau wielded polearms as well as magic. There were now four of them within weapon reach of Asami. Nevertheless, she summoned her splintered spear and hurled it at the demon standing directly in front of her. Two of the demons slashed at her with their blades, slicing open both of her arms. Her spear went wide of its target and splintered on the floor. She drew her wand, realizing as she did so that the wound in her right arm had already vanished. She fired three blue missiles at the babau, but because she had to rely on what power the crafter had imbued in the wand instead of her own skill at overcoming magical defenses, the missiles bounced harmlessly off the babau's slimy hide.

While Asami was ruefully looking at the demon she had failed to injure, she saw Jiro, who was behind the demon, slump to the ground. Irabeth was still unconscious from the suffocation spell Vorlesh had cast, as were the mongrelfolk. The situation was already looking grim for the companions. Then two of the demons attacked Asami with their polearms, their claws, and even their teeth. She felt faint and the light dimmed. She scarcely sensed when her body collapsed on the hard floor.

Despite being insensible to what was happening around her, Asami somehow experienced when Kirara fiercely attacked the ankles of several of the demons with bites and scratches that were unusually severe. But she knew nothing else about what had happened to her friends until she opened her eyes again. She did not see Aegronius swinging his adamantine morningstar against the babau, or Irabeth regaining her feet to stand against them. She did not witness Zosta punching and kicking them, only to fall when overwhelmed by the wounds they inflicted on her. She did not witness Runa fighting furiously in the name of Iomedae. She was unaware of her own injuries healing far more quickly than was ordinarily possible, or of how her friends' attacks were somehow able to penetrate the demons' tough hides and their weapons were unharmed by the acidic slime that coated the babau. She did not know that for some inexplicable reason the power granted her and her friends by the Wardstone fragment was not extended to Irabeth.

When her injuries had healed enough that she no longer hovered on the brink of death and she regained consciousness, she found that the room in front of her seemed to be full of babau. She could see Irabeth lying on the floor, now surrounded by a pool of blood. Aegronius was down as well. Jiro was on his feet again, and there was something large, white and furry lying on the floor behind him. She groped for her wand, which had fallen from her hand when she fainted. There were babau standing close enough to her to strike her, but they were all facing away from her for the moment. She expended another of the wand's charges and saw the missiles successfully bypass the demon's resistance, though they did not appear to do much damage. She heard Runa call out the words of a spell, but saw no effect.

Before Asami could decide what to do next, the babau all vanished, carried off by a spell that she knew to be one of teleportation. It was a powerful spell, strong enough to have transported the demons thousands of miles away. Asami staggered to her feet. Jiro was bending over Irabeth with an expression of grief on his face. Asami looked around at her friends. Though their clothing, like hers, was stained with blood, everyone but Irabeth was still alive. The two rooms were empty of enemies. Several glittering shards of the Wardstone fragment were embedded in the walls. Seeing them, she remembered the vision and her heart sank. The Wardstones were no more, and Irabeth was dead. What would defend the Worldwound now?

Scarab Sages

Part 17: Aftermath

Though Asami had at first thought the demons had been called away by one of their demon lord masters, after she spoke with her friends she understood that they had fled when they realized they could not overcome the defenders' defenses and that no matter how much injury they inflicted their targets would not die. With the departure of the babau, the energy that had suffused the six companions dissipated, leaving them weary and full of sorrow. While Runa straightened and cleansed Irabeth's body, some of the others searched the corpse of the woman who had been guarding the Wardstone fragment. On her person they found three spell scrolls, a magical amulet, an enchanted cloak, a quantity of onyx gemstones, and a small amount of gold coins. They also gathered up the six shards of the Wardstone that were embedded in the walls of the chamber. It wasn't until then that Asami realized that the explosion of the stone had torn the roof off the chamber, and the walls were crumbling.

Runa insisted on carrying Irabeth by herself as they descended to the ground floor. There they paused to cleanse the defiled shrine before leaving the Gray Garrison to return to Defender's Heart. Runa bore Irabeth in her arms all the way there, her face streaked with tears. On the walk back to the inn Zosta berated Aegronius for failing to protect Irabeth. Jiro tried to persuade her that Irabeth's death was not due to any fault of Aegronius's, but Zosta would not listen.

By the time the group reached the inn they were all stumbling with fatigue. They were met by Kimroth Otai, who brought a contingent of the Eagle's Watch to take charge of Irabeth's body. The mongrelfolk left to seek food and rest, while the remainder of the group went to the war room of the Defender's Heart to meet with Quednys Orland and tell him what happened a the Gray Garrison.

Jiro took charge of most of the narrative. Asami listened in silence, still feeling the disappointment that she had been unable to contribute to the battle with the demons. Runa was still grief-stricken over the loss of Irabeth, who had become her mentor in the short time since they met the paladin. Zosta perked up when she asked about the well-being of her parents and the other members of her tribe. Kimroth told her that all seemed well with them, and a message was sent to ask Cennami to come to Defender's Heart to help decide what should be done next. Quednys was horrified when Jiro described what the vision had shown of Areelu Vorlesh's original plan for the Crusaders. Despite the destruction of the Wardstones, at least the Crusaders had been spared that fate. The members of the group agreed with Quednys that they should not share the news of the Wardstones' destruction with the general populace of Kenabres, for fear of causing a panic. All of them hoped there would be a period of reprieve until the demons who survived the Wardstones' destruction realized that the stones were no more.

Once the discussion was concluded, Aegronius went to visit Darla, while Runa went to the temple to say a prayer for Irabeth. Then one by one the group members retired to their rooms to rest. Asami settled on her bed to meditate, holding Kirara in her lap. After a time a strange dream or vision came to her. She saw a scarred woman clad in plate armor, who spoke to her, expressing gratitude for the deeds Asami and her friends had accomplished against the demons' minions, and also telling Asami that she regretted she couldn't help them directly. Though Asami did not know the gods of the West well, she recognized that this woman as the goddess Iomedae. Behind Iomedae she saw a dense wall of vegetation, which formed into a wooden face. When the face opened its eyes she knew that it was a living being, not an image. This wooden entity's hair and beard were made of leaves, and the warm green luminescence in its eyes spoke of living, growing things. Then Iomedae kissed Asami on the forehead, and Asami opened her eyes to see that it was dawn.

As she contemplated what she had seen, Asami recalled an ancient legend she had heard, telling of a great cherry tree with roots that extended all the way to the center of the world. The tale told that this tree gave life to the world, and that it also had a caretaker, a wood spirit who, like the tree, had no name but resembled the being she had seen behind Iomedae. At the same time, she realized that Iomedae's kiss had a lingering effect. She had not only recovered from weariness and all the wounds she had suffered on the previous day; she also felt more hale and hearty than she ever had before. She knew that she could both prepare more spells than she had been able to do before and prepare spells of greater potency.

When Asami joined her friends in the common room for breakfast, she learned that all of them had experienced dreams very similar to hers, in which Iomedae spoke to them and kissed them, but like her Jiro had seen something else. All of them also felt that Iomedae had blessed them with new talents and greater abilities to stand against the demons. Just after they shared this discovery with one another, they heard that Cennami and Zosta's parents had arrived at Defender's Heart.

The characters are now 6th level and have achieved their first Mythic tier.

Scarab Sages

Part 18: Many Blessings

Discussing the dream-visions each of the companions had experienced led them all to recall more details. Jiro had recognized the woman he had seen as Kelei, sometimes inaccurately known as the "queen" of the kami. Kelei had even fired arrows from her fiery bow at dream-Jiro. But he shared only with Bohgong that when her arrow passed through him it seemed to have carried away a dark mist, which seemed to relate to a frightening experience he had once had.

Asami had also seen Kelei, but only in the background of her vision. Her attention had been focused on the ancient guardian spirit of the World Tree, and on the other creature that had briefly appeared to her. It had emerged from the uncountable leaves of the Tree, a creature made of branch and leaf and root but wearing a skull-like mask where a humanoid face would be. This creature had wielded a sword of wood, its blade perforated by whorled shapes.

It had pointed its sword at her, then turned to look back at the Tree and vanished among the leaves. Then two leaves had shimmered and blown from the Tree, transforming into the figures of Asami's parents. They hugged her and silently returned to the Tree, after which a branch stretched out and touched her forehead where the Golden Flame tattoo rested on her brow. Her mind was suffused with knowledge of demons and how to combat them. Then the branch touched her wooden sword, which her dream-self held, and she knew somehow that she could reshape her wooden sword into other forms with her thoughts and even use it as a weapon, something that had been impossible for her in the past. The myriad leaves shivered in a breeze and the vision came to an end.

While she sat with her companions discussing these visions, Zosta looked at her oddly, and Jiro commented that her hair, which normally had a violet undertone, now appeared to be green. Then Zosta asked her if she was turning into a tree, which she found most confusing. Runa then explained that they could all see swirls and lines on her skin, very faint, like the pattern of wood grain. But when Asami looked at her own hand she saw nothing, nor could she perceive the green tone in her hair.

Jiro took Bohgong out into the garden for his daily meditation. Though his friends weren't aware of it, he had a serious conversation with the white monkey, who kept his ability to speak a secret from the others though Runa had overheard him once. Bohgong warned Jiro not to be too pleased about his new abilities, for the stronger he became the more dangerous the world would become. Jiro then experienced a vision from the spirit animal's memory when it was Jiro's ancestor, a mighty warrior. He watched as his uncle destroyed innumerable oni, but when his uncle turned to look back at his comrades, all of them had fallen.

While Jiro was outside and Asami was still contemplating her vsion, a commotion could be heard from the corridor outside their sleeping room, Runa,and Zosta went out to see what was happening. Asami remained in the room. Her friends struggled to get through a crush of people clogging the hallway, until someone exclaimed that "It's a miracle!" Runa asked what was going on, then began trying to push her way through the crowd. She heard someone say that Irabeth might be alive! Runa immediately began to sing a song of praise to Iomedae.

Amid all this chaos, Zosta also overheard that it seemed Darra had experienced a miraculous healing. Runa began to lead a group of people who joined in her song toward the temple of Iomedae, while Zosta went to find Darra. She found Aegronius with her - and to both their amazement Darra's missing leg had been replaced by a "limb" of golden light. Her injured eye was also glowing. Zosta realized that perhaps some of the divine gifts given to Aegronius by Iomedae had also been extended to Darra.

Once the celebration of Irabeth's miraculous resurrection had died down a bit, everyone met in the hall of Defender's Heart for a celebratory breakfast. Spirits were so high that Jiro felt it necessary to remind everyone not to speak of the destruction of the Wardstones in the presence of others. While they were eating they heard the news that the queen of Mendev was on her way to Kenabres and was expected to arrive the following day. They also heard that Irabeth's survival had been due to the sword Radiance that she carried, which had stored her soul and prevented it from being permanently separated from her body. Though she had survived she was very weak, a state that was familiar to Aegronius and Runa.

Their breakfast was interrupted by a second disturbance outside. Then a huge red-skinned, horned demon covered in tattooed runes burst into the hall. The companions were not entirely surprised to see him, but his arrival caused consternation among the other people present. He strode across to their table, bellowing, "Little Sister!" and swept Zosta up in a crushing bear-hug. As Asami observed Rhino she realized that the demon had acquired more tattoos since the last time she had seen him. Rhino then sat down at the table and demanded that they tell him the details of what had happened to them. They carefully avoided mentioning the Wardstones or the demons that had survived. In the course of the conversation Rhino also revealed that he was distantly related to Areelu Vorlesh, which Asami realized meant that among the demons he must be a kind of royalty. Rhino was very impressed at how the group had been able to deal with ten babau.

When the conversation waned, a large crowd of listeners had gathered around the table. Zosta and Rhino then decided to go outside to meet Zosta's parents, who were just arriving at Defender's Heart. Darra went with them, but they found that Zosta's parents were with Qednys and could not be disturbed at that moment. Zosta then watched Darra spar with Rhino, who was eager to test out her skills. When Zosta joined in and was able to trip the demon and stomp on him, giving Darra room to make an attack of her own, Rhino was delighted and burst out in a hearty belly laugh.

A little later the whole group were invited to join Qednys, Kimroth, Cennami, and Zosta's parents in the War Room, where they found a weak Irabeth sitting in a comfortable chair. Qednys confirmed that as they had heard, the Queen was coming to meet the heroes of the defense of Kenabres. Qednys suspected that the Queen would ask them to complete another dangerous mission on behalf of the Crusade: to seek out the Sword of Valor, the banner once wielded by Iomedae herself, which was believed to be held in the fortress of Drezen, which had fallen to the demons. He also revealed that scouts had reported demons were massing all along the Worldwound, preparing for an attack on the cities to the south, including the capital. Irabeth added that rumor held Staunton Vhane, the betrayer, could be found in Drezen. She was determined that he should be dealt with once and for all.

After these topics had been discussed, Qednys told them that he had spent the night examining the Wardstone fragment they had given him. He had determined that by rubbing it on a weapon or suit of armor, it would impart special abilities to them geared toward combating demons and evil creatures from other planes. These benefits would last for only a day, after which the stones would become inert. Qednys offered to return the stone he had been examining, but Jiro immediately responded that it should go to Irabeth.

When the discussion was completed, the members of the group separated. Asami went to find some apparel appropriate for meeting royalty, and afterward made her way to Blackwing to see Aravashniel. He was already aware of what had happened to the Wardstones. To give him further detail of what had taken place, Asami agreed to allow him to cast a spell to share her memories, as this was now the only way for him to truly see anything. Afterward she left him to return to his researches on ways to guard the Worldwound without the Wardstones. She returned to Defender's Heart and sought to purchase a wand containing a spell to protect a person from evil, which she was able to acquire at a discount as it was not fully charged.

While Asami was with Aravashniel, Jiro had arranged to sell some of the items the comrades had acquired from their battles in the Gray Garrison, and he distributed over a thousand gold pieces to each member of the group. Thus equipped with extra funds, new magic items, and in some cases new clothing, they prepared for their royal audience the following day.

Scarab Sages

Part 19: A Royal Request

As Queen Galfrey’s arrival in Kenabres neared, the group of heroes who had destroyed the Wardstone fragment did what they could to prepare for an audience with royalty. This was something with which none of them were familiar. Jiro had been in the presence of people of high social status before, but that had been in his native land, and he realized that social customs were different in Mendev. To learn more about how one should behave on meeting a Queen, he sought out Horgus Gwerm, the nobleman he and his friends had escorted out of the underground realm after the demonic assault on Kenabres.

He found that the nobleman, who had abandoned his manor after the armsman Garvin transformed into a demon and attacked him, had taken up residence in a local inn and was in the process of hiring servants. To Jiro it seemed that most of the people present waiting to be interviewed weren’t well suited to be servants and were only there because they were seeking any kind of employment. When Jiro explained to Gwerm’s secretary who he was, he was immediately invited to meet personally with the nobleman and Gwerm cancelled the interviews for the rest of the day. Gwerm told Jiro that Queen Galfrey was a warrior Queen who preferred to lead her troops into battle rather than wait for her generals to send reports to her. As such she would not be impressed by elaborate courtly apparel or manners. Jiro understood that the traditional methods of showing respect to superiors that he knew, such as kneeling and bowing deeply, would probably be offensive to the Queen. He thanked Gwerm for his advice and for the much-needed supplies he had sent to Defender’s Heart a few days earlier, and then made his way back to Defender’s Heart.

Zosta had meanwhile spent the day with her family, celebrating the memories of those who had fallen in battle. In their culture this type of celebration led to drinking and brawling. But to her surprise, when she woke the next day her bruises had vanished. She was then called to meet with her parents and Cennami. Cennami informed her that she believed Zosta had more to accomplish with her comrades and that it was all part of her destiny. Zosta had been eager to go back home when the mission to destroy the Wardstone fragment was completed, but now she accepted that she had more to do and that she would likely be away for some time. After talking with her parents and the priestess, it occurred to Zosta that perhaps the reason her parents and Cennami were so effective in battle was that they had acquired divine blessings similar to the ones she had received from Iomedae. As she was about to leave their tent, she heard a chuckle from outside and the sound of heavy footsteps departing and she realized that Rhino had probably been eavesdropping on their conversation.

Asami learned that her familiar Kirara had also experienced the same vision of the Ancient of the World Tree that Asami had seen, but the little white cat lacked the intellect to do more than be awed and a little frightened by what she had witnessed. After their talk, Asami spent some time learning new spells from the spellbook that had mysteriously appeared on her bed two days earlier. She also discovered that the wand she had been missing had reappeared, depleted of a few charges.

Later Quednys informed the group that the Queen had given them the choice of where to meet with her as a courtesy. Jiro initially suggested his garden, but after some discussion it was decided that the best place to meet a Queen would be to take Runa’s recommendation and see her in the chapel of Iomedae’s temple.

Queen Galfrey arrived the following day with an army of seasoned veterans of the Crusades. They camped just outside the northern wall of the city, but groups of soldiers began to enter the city to assist with rebuilding from the rubble. The five companions were told they would be given an audience with the Queen in the afternoon, after she met with the remaining city leaders and with Cennami and Zosta’s parents.

Zosta had bathed and put on some new clothes her parents had given her, but found it a challenge to make sure she kept herself clean and presentable while waiting to be summoned into the Queen’s presence. Asami and Jiro had both been fortunate to find a shop that carried some imported items from Tian-Xia and had acquired some new clothing of the style they were accustomed to wearing. Runa’s original gilded armor had been repaired and she wore it because it had the symbol of Iomedae on the breastplate. Darra had even managed to persuade a reluctant Aegronius to bathe and tidy himself up for the royal audience.

When at last they were summoned to the temple, they saw a crowd departing, including Horgus Gwerm and Aravashnial. The Queen had brought a scroll that had been used to restore the elven wizard’s sight, much to Asami’s relief. As they entered the chapel, they saw that Irabeth was with the Queen and that she appeared less fatigued than on the day before.

Asami had heard various rumors about Galfrey on the previous day: that she had ruled Mendev for over a century, that she was immortal, that she had met Iomedae personally, that she received prophetic visions from Iomedae, and even that she was keeping the Worldwound open to prolong the Crusades. Asami assumed that all of the rumors were the sort of gossip that humans were especially prone to repeating and gave them little credence. She did note that the Queen appeared youthful and attractive by human standards, but her hair was silvery gray, which usually indicated advanced age among humans.

A row of chairs had been set up in front of the altar, and Queen Galfrey invited them to sit while she spoke to them. She began by mentioning that there were some people who blamed the group for destroying the Wardstones, an opinion she clearly thought foolish, and she then added that the five companions would be their replacement, a statement that took them all by surprise! While they pondered what she meant, the Queen went on to ask them to tell her their story from the time that the demons attacked the city through the destruction of the Wardstone, as she wanted to hear the tale from them personally.

When they had finished telling the tale of their adventures, the Queen informed them her scouts had reported that Aponavicius, the fiend who held the captured city of Drezen, had taken most of her forces away from that city, leaving an opening for a force of Crusaders to enter Drezen and reclaim the enchanted banner known as the Sword of Valor. As Quednys had predicted, Queen Galfrey wanted them to lead that force. The goal was not to retake the city, as she couldn’t spare enough troops to do that. Demons were massing all along the Worldwound and she expected most of her army would be required to defend against them in the South. She wanted the five young heroes to recover the banner and replace it in the location it had originally occupied, which would restore its magical protections to the city and the Queen hoped that would make it easier for her army to reclaim the city later on.

The five friends were prepared to enter Drezen and seek the Sword of Valor, but they all felt uncomfortable being asked to lead soldiers. None of them had any experience in leadership. They admitted this to the Queen. She reassured them by telling them that the force they would be leading would be made up of 100 seasoned warriors capable of commanding themselves, all of them devoted to Iomedae, and along with the soldiers she would send three specialists who would provide them with details about Drezen, maps, and other forms of assistance.

When this conversation was concluded, the Queen asked them to stand. She then approached them and one by one touched them on the shoulders with her sword blade, dubbing them Knights of the Fifth Crusade. When the knighting ceremony was over she presented them each with a circular medallion featuring two gray eyes on a blue background encircled by a lightning bolt. These medallions were magical and would grant them special abilities once each day, as well as continuous protection against effects designed to cause confusion or madness.

Kirara had become bored and wandered off to explore the nooks of the chapel while the Queen spoke, but Asami had observed that Bohgong remained with Jiro and even stood erect beside him during the knighting. For a moment she thought the Queen might knight the monkey as well, but she only looked at him for a moment.

The royal audience then concluded, and the comrades followed Queen Galfrey to the army camp outside the city to meet the three specialists who would accompany them to Drezen. These three were introduced as Sosiel Vaenic, a human priest of Shelyn; Aron Kir, a human expert in battlefield tactics and finding and disabling traps; and Nurah Dendiwhar, a halfling bard expert in the region and very knowledgeable about Drezen. They also met the group of warriors who would be sent with them, all of them well armed and armored humans equipped with divine magic. The Queen then left them. Just then Jiro noticed that Bohgong was missing. Runa caught a glimpse of Queen Galfrey bending over and appearing to shake hands with something that looked like a white monkey, but when she blinked the monkey disappeared.

When they were on their own again, the companions engaged in a deep discussion of who should be designated the commander of the soldiers. In the end it was decided that as a warrior priestess Runa was best suited to that role, though she was uncomfortable with taking that part and doubted her ability. The others encouraged her to remember what Iomedae had told her in her vision: she needed to trust herself more. She then decided to seek out Irabeth and ask if the paladin would be willing to accompany them and give her advice, as reports held that Staunton Vhane was last seen in Drezen and Runa knew that Irabeth would be eager to confront the betrayer.

Runa found Irabeth with Anevia, who also volunteered to come along as neither of them wanted to be parted from the other. Runa remained with them overnight. Zosta returned to spend a last night with her family, and to her surprise Darra asked to accompany her and at one point while sparring so impressed Rhino with an attack that the demon couldn’t stop laughing for a long while. Asami went to see Aravashnial again and learned that he intended to go along to Drezen whether he was invited or not. Asami couldn’t deny that she was pleased by this. She was glad to be able to spend more time with him now that he was able to see again, and his knowledge as a spellbreaker would no doubt be invaluable to their cause.

In the middle of the night Runa was awakened by something sitting on her chest. She opened her eyes to find Bohgong looming over her. Earlier she had asked Jiro if he could help her speak to the monkey, but every time she had tried to approach the monkey during the past two days he had run away. Runa presented Bohgong with a packet of tobacco blend from Tian-Xia that she had purchased in the same shop where Asami and Jiro had acquired their new clothes. She then thanked him for all the help he had provided. The white monkey inhaled deeply of the tobacco, looked surprised, said, “You’re a good kid,” and ran off leaving a startled Runa with confirmation that as she had suspected, he could speak.

Jiro spent the night in the army encampment, where he asked the soldiers’ assistance in learning to set up his newly-acquired tent. He also volunteered to assist with cooking the evening meal, which proved to be very pleasing to the men. The next morning he encountered the arrival of Aravashnial astride a magically-summoned mount, and told him that the plan was for them to leave on the following day once they had all acquired some additional supplies that Kimroth had suggested they might need.

That morning Runa asked the head priest of the temple of Iomedae to permit her to perform the service that day, and he agreed. Irabeth and Anevia arrived at the camp, Irabeth looking much healthier. The newly-knighted companions went out to purchase horses for the journey to Drezen. Aravashnial went back inside the city for more supplies, and reappeared accompanied by Horgus Gwerm, who had decided that he wanted to lend his skills to the effort to reclaim Drezen. It seemed that all of the group that had found their way out of the subterranean caverns beneath Kenabres would be joining forces again in the quest to retake Drezen.

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