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This was a short but pleasant interlude from the brutality that is the Runeforge. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the party got to the Iron Cages of Lust, so while I'll do my utmost to keep this PG-rated, it may well slip into PG-13 just because, well, it's Delvahine and there's not much I can do about her.
16-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last game)
Once they were sure that all the Vraxerises were indeed dead, the party explored the huge mirrored cathedral. The peacock was a permanent illusion, but there was nothing of interest beneath it. The mirrors were tacky decorating, but apparently little more. They looted the identically-clad corpses and stuffed it all in the Bag of Holding for later sorting, then started searching the mirrored walls for secret doors. Sure enough, without much difficulty, they found one mirror that pulled out and revealed a reading room behind it.
In the room, they found the body of the original Vraxeris, slumped dead at his desk. Reading through his journal,
GM Note: They had to have Comprehend Lanugages queued up, at which point I asked, "Are any of you EVER going to take Thassilonian?" Shiro's player says he might. *SIGH*
the party learned that Vraxeris was the original wizard assigned by Xanderghul himself to manage Illusionist research at the Runeforge. Vraxeris had almost mastered an improved clone spell, allowing him near-immortality, but the clones degraded with every copy, and he had finally succumbed to the passage of time. Even more importantly, he had kept track of the activities of the Runeforge since the well awoke. Apparently the denizens of the various wings of the Runeforge had gathered to examine the well, but the wing of Envy tried to seize the well and was utterly destroyed. The other wings were in an uneasy, slowly decaying truce, though he was forging an alliance with "Delvahine", the mistress of the wing of Lust, though he mysteriously said that she was "not of the original blood". He mentioned that bits of mirror from the Peacock Hall combined with one of Delvahine's "toys" might create up to half a dozen runeforged weapons suitable for battling Karzoug. Finally, he mentioned that he had created a portal to escape the Runeforge in the wing of Wrath.
Once they were done skimming the journal, they searched the rest of the room, carefully avoiding Vraxeris for fear of magical traps, and moved on. Listening at the next door, Shiro's sharp ears heard the distinct noises of moans and giggles. They were not unhappy moans. The party Silenced themselves for a few rounds, moved carefully down the hall, and found two storage rooms full of Vraxeris corpses. Because nothing in the Runeforge decayed, there was no way to dispose of bodies other than by destroying them, and the proud Vraxeris could not bring himself to destroy his bodies, so he arranged them neatly in these rooms. The hall then opened into a library, and the sounds, now with the distinct sounds of chains clinking, emanated from the door across the library. Unfortunately, at that point their luck ran out and the room's denizens finally realized they were not alone.
At first, a voice called out in Thassilonian, "Vraxeris? Is that you? Come back and play! We're getting bored without you!"
No one in the party could speak Thassilonian, so on hearing no reply, one of the "women" opened the door. She was obviously a succubus, wearing the standard "outfit" for her trade. As soon as the succubi realized that there were invaders in their wing, they attacked. Once again, there were six clones, this time of Delvahine. About the only noteworthy events of the ensuing combat were Halek and Hi getting charmed by succubi then quickly having Raesh cast Suppress Charms and Compulsions on them, Halek running into the room to go one-on-one with a succubus, and the party learning that the succubi were all bards. It was ugly, it was short, and it was a wipeout, even when the succubi tried to use their flight to outflank Raesh and take on Hi and Shiro.
The bedroom was in the expected state, with chains, manacles, and leather whips on the now-destroyed bed (Halek and the succubus did battle on the bed, which was a pretty hilarious mental image). There was nothing the party even remotely wanted to take with them in the room.
With the Shimmering Veils of Pride safely secured, the party took their time searching every room for any additional secret doors or loot. Once they were convinced they had completely cleared the wing, they headed for the exit of the Runeforge, only to find that it had closed. Rather than exiting, they decided to spend the night in one of the dead clone rooms. They took some time to move all the corpses out of one of the rooms, set up a secure camp, and rested for the night.
Arising in what they believed was "morning" (they had an infallible clock in Raesh, after all), they decided that their next step was to explore the wing of Lust. They passed the Runeforge pool and moved beyond the statue of Sorshen and down the passage to Lust. As they proceeded, both Shiro and Hi felt that this wing was welcoming, while Raesh found it forbidding.
GM Note: Hi has all of 1 point of Lust and something like 6 points of Love, but I see no reason the wing should distinguish between the virtue and the sin, so he got the bonus.
As they approached, Shiro's ears once again picked up sounds and voices. Once again he cast Comprehend Languages, and he heard what sounded like nothing other than girls playing tag. Knowing that they were likely to be dealing with more succubi, Raesh had Halek and Hi stay back in the passage, while the two of them approached.
Sure enough, flitting among the pillars of this massive cathedral (which were shaped like a nude woman in various erotic poses) were four bat-winged girls. Shiro identified them correctly as Alu Demons, the offspring of humans and succubi. The moment they noticed Shiro and Raesh, they flew down, armed themselves with ranseurs, and flew to the entrance, staying roughly 60 feet away. Shiro and Raesh did not enter, but instead entered into negotiations with the girls. (I believe they finally settled on Draconic as the language all of them spoke, though it may have been Celestial.)
Raesh explained that they had nothing against the girls, but they were looking for components to forge a weapon against the runelord of Greed, the enemy of the denizens of this wing. The girls asked Shiro if he would come in and play. They seemed VERY excited to see him. Every round, the girls cast spells at Raesh and Shiro. Shiro eventually realized they were casting Detect Thoughts, but both Raesh and Shiro's (go figure) Will saves were so ludicrously high the girls had little chance. (Yes, my party does choose such things carefully.) The negotiations did not go well, but did not go poorly; the girls seemed perfectly happy to flit about, conversing with (and teasing) their new company, but did not seem amenable to letting them in unhindered. At one point they all transformed into nude flying versions of Raesh, but the imitations were crude at best, and Raesh was unimpressed. Finally, with a massive Diplomacy roll and the mention of the Veils of Pride, Delvahine (who had been listening telepathically) agreed to meet with them. The girls alit two on a side and escorted Raesh and Shiro through the opulent cathedral to the garish silk pavilion in the center. The five stone giants guarding the entrance pulled the silks aside and allowed the group to enter. Both Shiro and Raesh recognized them as long-dominated; they had seen the condition on too many lamias' victims not to know them on sight.
They were led through the garish entryway, down a hall, and into Delvahine's reception chamber, where she awaited them on a plush chair that was almost throne-like, appearing to be fully nude, but reeking of magic. Raesh's eyes narrowed. While the alu-demons seemed relatively harmless, and perhaps even redeemable, Delvahine was obviously a demon of some power and cruelty. Having given her word to negotiate, however, she maintained an outer facade of calm even though the evil made her skin itch. Delvahine asked Raesh and Shiro what they were seeking, and they admitted that they were trying to exterminate Karzoug before he could rise to power, and needed one of her "toys" to combat him. Delvahine was bored with the quest; she thought it might be delightful to see Karzoug rise, but she was amused at Raesh's obvious discomfiture with the request. She offered to grant them a toy if Shiro would bed her. Shiro refused, displeasing her. She tried to Detect Thoughts on both of them and finally broke into Shiro's mind. Immediately she transformed into an exact duplicate of Raesh, once again nude, and told Shiro that she could make bedding her well worth his while. Again Shiro refused. Raesh remained stony-faced but gritted her teeth. The demoness was obviously baiting her by taking on her form...
GM Note: The mind-numbing mist in this room seems really nasty until you start watching the two highest-Will save party members stand around incapable of failing that DC 17 save unless they roll a 1, which they didn't.
Unable to bed Shiro, and with Shiro making another huge Diplomacy roll, Delvahine agreed to part with one of her toys if the party would make it worth her while. After some discussion, they gave her the +3 darkwood buckler they'd found in Arkrhyst's hoard. They figured that since it wasn't a weapon, she couldn't use it to harm others, and they had no use for it.
Delvahine considered this a worthwhile gift, went over to a dresser, and opened a drawer, revealing at least a dozen bejeweled and uncomfortable-looking "toys". She picked out one in particular and took great satisfaction in proferring it to Raesh, who accepted it in a scrap of cloth (she was unwilling to sully her favorite black silk hankie) with a look of wonderful distaste.
Sighing at her inability to corrupt either Raesh or Shiro, Delvahine had her girls escort them back out of the pavilion and the cathedral. Once they reached the exit, the frustrated girls declared, "Let's get Mr. Mutt! We need to play!"
They flew over and two of the girls Dimension Doored into one of the many iron cages around the cathedral, grabbed what had looked up until a moment ago like a corpse, and Dimension Doored back out, living prisoner between them.
Raesh nearly froze, but put on a stony face and strode up the corridor to the waiting Hi and Halek.
GM Note: Watching Raesh's player's face was absolutely priceless. She was sure that they had managed to negotiate their way safely through the Iron Cages of Lust, and she was willing to leave the dominated stone giants to their fate. But once a living prisoner was revealed...
Raesh spoke to the party. "We have what we came for. But Delvahine is an evil that must be destroyed. I cannot ask you to accompany me, but I must go back and deal with her."
Shiro just looked at her in disbelief. "Are you serious, Raesh? Of course we're coming with you!"
Hi grinned, cracked his knuckles, lit a small flame in the palm of his hand, and said, "Awesome! When do we start?"
Raesh was once again astonished and grateful at her choice of friends...
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 28-Sep-2013 (Already played).
GM Note: They had to have Comprehend Lanugages queued up, at which point I asked, "Are any of you EVER going to take Thassilonian?" Shiro's player says he might. *SIGH*
At this point, I think it's a point of pride not to buy Thassilonian.
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You are SOOOOOO right! :-P
And since there seem to be a handful of stalwarts still sticking to this thread throughout, I'll say that I'm cranking out writeups, but with Shiro and Raesh's players both dealing with new jobs, the reviews are taking FOREVER -- this one took almost 2 weeks, and I'm sending out the next set for review on Friday (the battle with Delvahine and Halek's second death). I'd love to say you'll see it next week, but that'll depend on job schedules. But yes, we're still playing weekly, they should finish off the wing of Wrath on Saturday, and at that point they're pondering leaving Sloth and Gluttony to their own devices and getting the heck out of there. (Yes, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Greed have fallen, and Wrath's a final battle away from either more obit posts on my part or another wing down. Lady Athroxis is a BEAR!)
Darned jobs! Can't we just spend our lives gaming and eating extraordinarily decadent foodstuffs? :-P
Well, your timing couldn't have been better -- just sent out the September 28 write-up where you finally get to see how Halek managed to get himself killed (he's up to almost 300 hit points when raging), and we're planning a 10:00 am - midnight session tomorrow, so they should have some time for edits... especially since I'm in bed with a 100-degree fever right now, so I think it's going to be, "OK, Lady Athroxis fight. Nap. Setup for Module 6. Nap. Mountain climbing. Nap."
I must be part cat.
And since there seem to be a handful of stalwarts still sticking to this thread throughout, ...
Might be more than a handful- just 'cause we're not posting doesn't mean we are not reading, enjoying, and appreciating.
On a related note, do you know why you got shifted to"campaign journals" when there are still a bunch in the RotRL forum?
And since there seem to be a handful of stalwarts still sticking to this thread throughout, ...
Might be more than a handful- just 'cause we're not posting doesn't mean we are not reading, enjoying, and appreciating.
On a related note, do you know why you got shifted to"campaign journals" when there are still a bunch in the RotRL forum?
LOL. Shiro's fault.
My guess is that this thread "died" for about two months while I was moving; that's one of the major reasons I'm still over a month behind on the writeups. (Leilani being the other. Silly angel!)
I think "dormant" threads get tagged, and if they're campaign journals, they get moved here.
But I've seen many complaints about the seeming randomness of when campaign journals end up here, and when they stay in the AP-specific area, so you'd have to contact a Paizo employee to be sure.
And even though my players revolted at doing the edits pre-play, Hi and Shiro are already done, and Raesh promised her edits this morning, so expect the next post by lunchtime (Pacific) or so...
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I admit, I have no idea why we missed the week of September 20, but I see that I posted Halek's obit on September 29, so I must have killed him on the 28th. And please cut me some slack about "spoilers", players! I posted his obit almost two months ago! Of COURSE people know he's going to die in one of these writeups!
17-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last game)
Having gained the support of the rest of the party, Raesh pondered the tactics of the situation. She knew that she had to destroy the Succubus, it was her duty as a paladin to eradicate such evil... especially evil with such power and influence. Having completed her negotiation non-violently as promised, even after discovering that one of the parties was an affront to the powers of good, she felt she was now free to return and initiate a more appropriate interaction. The party was concerned that since Delvahine was now aware of their presence, she would also be on high alert against any further incursions, so they decided to wait an indeterminate amount of time before attacking. Since they were already planning on waiting, and they had the "toy" they needed, they decided to return to the Shimmering Veils of Pride, obtain some mirror shards, and attempt to create a runeforged weapon or two.
As before, Raesh used Deeper Darkness to hide the mirrors of opposition to prevent any party members from 'accidentally' looking into them. (Ahem. Shiro. *cough*. *cough*.). They then went to the entryway and examined the mirrored hall. None of them trusted the mirrors. If you broke one, would they all shatter and shower the party with shards of glass? Were they trapped? Would they reflect attacks back at the attacker? After a great deal of debate, they decided to have Hi, Shiro, and Halek stand back as Raesh shot at a mirror across the hall, at a slight angle so the reflected arrow would not return back at her.
GM Note: And might I say how I swelled with pride as they took such great care in such a simple act as breaking a mirror? A good GM causes fear. A great GM inspires paranoia! :-P
The mirror broke uneventfully, and the party members shrugged, very carefully gathered up some shards (describing in great detail how they wrapped them to prevent them from damaging the Bag of Holding), and headed back to the Runeforge pool.
GM Note: At this point I must mildly chastise the authors of the AP. To require that the party get one of Delvahine's toys as a component and then to say that it "glows brightly and seems to buzz with energy" on approaching the pool is truly unkind. It took me several minutes to get my unruly players back in order.
The party took several minutes to review all of the information they had about the Runeforge pool. Were there any instructions anywhere on how to forge the weapons? Unfortunately, they found nothing. Just notes that shards of the mirror combined with one of Delvahine's toys should do. So should they chop up the toy into pieces like the mirror? No one volunteered for that duty, so they decided to throw the whole thing in, along with all the mirror shards. The entire pool started glowing with an eerie golden glow, and wisps of energy reached for Raesh's weapons. She took out the +3 adamantine scimitar she had purchased for exactly this purpose and approached the pool. Wispy tendrils of golden energy embraced the scimitar and pulled it towards the pool. Raesh carefully dipped the sword in the pool, watching as ancient Thassilonian runes etched themselves into her scimitar.
As the Runeforge pool finished enchanting the weapon, Raesh found her mind assailed with feelings of pride and lust. Raesh, being Raesh, went stony-faced and completely suppressed the feelings with a thought (a will-save was required, but a save somewhere in the mid-30's allowed her to behave in her characteristic stoic manner).
Unfortunately, at the same moment, the pool flashed with energy and bathed the statue of Karzoug in golden light. The statue came to life as a massive stone golem and spoke, "You. Again. I can't help but be inspired by your optimism, but alas, your weapons will never reach Xin-Shalast. Your fate is death, here in Runeforge."
Even more unfortunately for the golem, it was facing Halek and Raesh with adamantine weapons. It hit Raesh a few times, causing her to wince a bit, but was quickly rendered rubble by the combined attentions of the two. The most significant interaction of the fight came between Raesh and Shiro, however. Raesh was taking massive damage, and it didn't look like she would last more than another round of two of the pounding. She ordered Hi and Shiro to retreat up the passage to safety. Instead, Shiro chose to stay close, even taking an attack of opportunity from the golem in order to heal Raesh a bit. Before Raesh could chastise Shiro, the rubble spoke: "This... this is not the last... come then, heroes. Seek me atop Mhar Massif, if you value life so poorly. You should be honored to be the first fools executed under the banner of Shalast in ten thousand..."
The statue cut off. Shiro nudged a bit of rubble with his toe. "I think we broke it!"
Raesh deadpanned, "He's impressed by our optimism?"
GM Note: Perspective is everything. Shiro's player wrote that Shiro "politely apologized", while Raesh's player wrote that he "snapped back". Since I'd like to get this posted before my lunch hour is up, I tried to mediate a compromise with both players absent. I'm good that way.
Raesh chastised Shiro about running into danger when the thing was effortlessly hitting her much higher AC and doing a huge amount of damage. Shiro responded (I totally want to write, "In a wacky sing-songy voice," but that would be wrong) that he was not going to simply sit there and watch her die when he could do something about it. He apologized for not following orders, but pointed out he wasn't even hit and wasn't willing to allow her to die without risking himself for her. Raesh went silent, torn between frustration with his recalcitrance and gratitude for his loyalty.
By the time the fight was over, the pool had stopped glowing, but was still seething with magic. The party was convinced that the delay for the fight made it so they would need more components to get the rest of their weapons properly enchanted.
Reviewing their resources at the moment, and considering what Delvahine was likely to do, they decided that they would once again spend the day and night resting in one of Vraxeris' corpse rooms, not so much because they needed the rest, but more because they wanted to ensure that Hi had the proper spells queued up, and that Delvahine was less likely to be waiting for them.
GM Note: At this point I had to decide what the six non-expunged wings would do. Sloth and Envy were easy: They would do nothing. Wrath was clearly in 'rebuild mode' and would be waiting for the ideal time to strike; it just didn't seem like they had enough resources to risk an assault at this point. Lust honestly believed the party wouldn't return, because a paladin had negotiated with them in good faith, and they figured if the paladin didn't attack you when she first showed up, she wasn't going to. I also couldn't think of anyone other than Vraxeris that Delvahine would turn to, and if she went to the peacock room and saw the corpses, she would know what was up and depart quickly. Greed was stuck in an infinite ineffectual loop. That left Gluttony. Reading it over, I deemed that the denizens of Gluttony would most likely wait for the adventurers to depart so as to avoid risk to themselves, and then come through and claim their rewards. So none of the wings were going to do anything, and I let the "night" pass without incident.
With an infallible alarm clock in Raesh, the party arose the next morning and got ready for the battle to come. Raesh prepared spells against charms and compulsions, as well as Sacred Bond so she and Shiro could heal each other at a distance if need be. The list of buffs was pretty staggering! Hi prepared Tongues, Mass Eagles' Splendor, and Protection from Evil. They walked down the corridor to the Runeforge pool, then discussed tactics: Should they boldly walk in the front door? Go in invisibly? After a while, they realized that they saw no reason to kill the alu demons if they could avoid it; they could exist forever in the Iron Cages of Lust without harming anyone and Raesh felt they might be redeemable once their leader was dealt with. As long as they slew Delvahine, rescued "Mr. Mutt", and ensured there were no other prisoners who weren't too far gone to worry about (for example, the stone giants), they would have done their duty. With that decided, they buffed themselves with all of their multi-minute spells (Protection from Evil, Good Hope, etc.) and Shiro used Bard's Escape to place them tactically around Delvahine's chambers. Unfortunately, they did not find her there!
GM Note: Since Delvahine was given two rooms, a "chambers" and a "boudoir", and the only indication as to what she does in her ample free time could be done in either room, I decided there was a 20% chance of her being in her boudoir doing something that she wanted privacy for. (The imagination staggers.) The other 80% would have her in her chambers performing more conventional atrocities. I rolled in front of the whole group before they cast Bard's Escape (I didn't tell them what I was rolling for; I just wanted them to see me roll, and I rolled an 09), and she was in her boudoir. Oops! This provided a second issue: Would she have tied shut the door to the boudoir? I had to conclude that yes, the door would be tied shut for privacy, because any normal-sized person would have no trouble with the knots (given enough time), while the giants would not be able to pass them, giving her some semblance of privacy for the depravities that might stir some echo of independence in their souls. Yes. I really DO think that much about my NPC and monsters' motivations and reactions...
They quickly moved to the door to the boudoir. Finding it tied, they attempted to open it, and were unsuccessful. They tried to cut through, and were unsuccessful! The party was pretty impressed at the toughness of the "fabric" that made up Delvahine's room! Knowing time was of the essence, Shiro used a second Bard's Escape to place them in the boudoir. I drew out the room and almost cackled with glee as Shiro placed himself right in front of a Shining Child.
Normally, I remember combats fairly well, because most combats don't last more than 4-5 rounds. This battle was a complete and epic mess, so I would read this entire section as, "This is kind of what happened."
During their surprise round, I know that Shiro spotted one of the Shining Children, Raesh invoked Aura of Justice on Delvahine and charged but couldn't quite reach her, Halek used the Aura of Justice to invoke Smite Evil on Delvahine (yes. I winced at that,) and I believe Hi used the Smite Evil to target the Shining Child closest to him and tried a Scorching Ray that failed. Unfortunately, both the Shining Children and Delvahine rolled high initiatives, and two blinding flashes later Halek was the only one still able to see, and the Shining Children were blasting away at him.
GM Note: Raesh has used so few drow powers that sometimes we have to remind ourselves about her light blindness. She made her save, but was automatically blind for a round.
Then the four alu demons Dimension Doored in to defend Delvahine, and we had a good old-fashioned barn brawl. It's easiest to remember individual actions: Halek relentlessly pursued Delvahine, ignoring attacks of opportunity from the alu demons to bring her down. Raesh carefully Smote Evil on each Shining Child while laying hands on Shiro and Hi (she has the Blindness mercy) to allow them to see again and rejoin the combat. Shiro tried everything he could to disable the Shining Children: He covered his head with a cloth so he wouldn't be blinded, he put an illusory wall between one of the Shining Children and the party, and he performed. Dexterous little kitsune! Hi had the kind of bad luck you rarely see in a fight; He cast Greater Invisibility on himself but every time he popped his head up to try to cast an attack spell, he'd roll another horrific save and be blinded again. He spent most of the fight flailing around in the dark, until he realized that he didn't need to be able to see to cast Cone of Cold, and hilarity ensued at the random bursts of damage that started flying forth.
The giants were no help at all; with nothing but blunt weapons and huge hands, they couldn't undo the ties to get into the room, and spent several precious rounds rolling STR checks to tear through the otherworldly fabric.
Fortunately, Delvahine was having similarly bad luck with Halek. He didn't fail a single blindness save, and with both Step Up and No Escape, she couldn't get any distance between herself and him without risking a failed Concentration check, and one attack of opportunity from him was far better than a full-round attack! Even the alu demon's protective feats weren't enough to save her from the pummeling she was taking. She couldn't Dominate someone with Protection from Evil on him, her attempt to Dispel it was a dismal failure, and she just wasn't built to go toe-to-toe with a raging barbarian smiting evil. (But then, who is?) I went ahead and put her morale at 50 hit points, because Halek can sneeze and do the 20 listed, and I actually thought she was going to get away... until Raesh took a break from defending Hi and Shiro and felled her!
From there things went massively downhill incredibly quickly.
Halek finally fell to the Shining Children and they focused their attention on Raesh. The alu demons started in on Hi and Shiro. The giants started tearing through the cloth. Raesh stood tall and proud among them, dropping the alu demons one by one and ignoring the continuing assault of the Shining Children. Fortunately for her, the GM's die arrived in the nick of time to save her; thanks to the AC bonus from smiting evil, even with a +19 ranged touch attack they were MISSING MORE THAN HALF THE TIME!!! With her healing herself and Shiro healing her as well, the battle was a slowly degrading stalemate. Unfortunately, Raesh needed to move closer to Hi and Shiro in order to aid them, and she could not leave Halek unconscious on the other side of the room. She attempted to drag him to the opposite corner for a regroup.
GM Note: In another GM, "How would these creatures react to this?" moment, I realized that the alu demons were all about the destruction of love. Raesh was trying to save Halek mid-combat, so she obviously loved him. So he had to be destroyed.
The alu demons all attacked the downed Halek. And killed him. Raesh was incensed. True drow rage dripped from every pore. There was no longer any doubt in her mind as to the question of mercy for any of their foes.
Unfortunately, as the last of the alu demons fell, the giants came in. Hi was dropped almost immediately. Shiro had a last, fateful action: He was in the middle of the party, and had one Bard's Escape left. Hi was down. Halek was dead. Raesh still had both Shining Children to deal with, and now five giants, who looked more interested in crushing Shiro at the moment. She managed to slay one of the shining children, but then had to spend every round keeping the one stone giant who had managed to work his way through the curtain from smashing Shiro or Hi. Evaluating the odds, Shiro cast defensively and Bard's Escaped the party back to the hallway that lead to the Runeforge Pool.
Raesh had called out to Shiro to get himself and Hi to safety. She was fully prepared to finish the fight. When she found herself standing in the hall, she was a bit surprised, but was more concerned for Hi and grateful that Shiro was safe... she couldn't bring herself to be too upset that she was also there to keep them safe.
The party braced for their pursuers, but pursuit never came. Bloodied but determined, they cast Gentle Repose on Halek, put him in the Bag of Holding, and planned their return...
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 04-Oct-2013. (Already played).
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We weren't actually planning on playing this week, but with Halek dead and Raesh seething, we kind of had to. Or Raesh's player would have killed me.
So a *very* short session, but at least it lets me continue to catch up. (Or is that "Start to"?)
18-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last game)
We stayed in initiatives as Shiro used Soothing Performance to heal the party, they reviewed their buffs, and they strode confidently right back in to the Iron Cages of Lust.
Pity the poor shining child. He teleported in and flashed them, but Shiro and Raesh were already immune, and Hi finally made his save. Raesh was still Smiting Evil and wreaked havoc on him with her bow. As the giants poured out of the pavilion, he placed a Wall of Force around Raesh to keep her out of the battle, and she merely used King's Castle to put Shiro safely inside the wall, and herself outside, ready to face the giants and the now-hopelessly-demoralized shining child. Yeah. It was that kind of a battle.
The shining child fell first, to an arrow from Hi, no less. (Yeah, I can't figure it out, either. I think he might have chosen to Smite Evil on it way back in the beginning of the combat when Raesh used Aura of Justice.) Five stone giants sound like a threat, but Hi had plenty of spells left, so they didn't last long.
Before dealing with Mr. Mutt, they searched the pavilion for valuables, obtained several more of Delvahine's "toys" for the Runeforge pool, and ensured there was nothing else living in the wing. They found the final alu demon, wounded and at negative hit points, lying in Delvahine's bed, obviously the inheritress of the wing. Raesh said a quick prayer to Sarenrae, judged the demon unworthy of survival, and quickly and cleanly killed her. With the final demon dead, Raesh's armor started glowing softly again. Sarenrae's reach apparently extended even here!
The party approached the cage containing Mr. Mutt, and quickly learned of his predicament: The silver bars and gold decorations were nothing more than that; mere decorations. The actual cage was a permanent Force Cage around him. Hi had plenty of Dimension Doors left, and he and Raesh Dimension Doored in, grabbed Mr. Mutt, and Dimension Doored him back out. Shiro cast Bestow Insight to grant Mr. Mutt Linguistics (Yeah, it's cheesy, but they could have just as well burned a couple of "Comprehend Languages" spells, so I allowed it) and started speaking to Mr. Mutt, trying to get any reaction at all from him.
Progress was incredibly slow. Millenia of torture and "play" had taken their toll on Mr. Mutt's mind, but Shiro rolled a massive Diplomacy roll (in the 40's somewhere), triggering Mr. Mutt's first Will save to stay sane.
GM Note: Has anyone else done the math on Mr. Mutt's Will save? A DC 16 Will save with a -6 modifier is.... only on a natural 20!
My die decided to be cooperative with the party and I did indeed roll a natural 20, allowing them to speak to Nelevetu for a few minutes. They were able to determine that he had served in Sorshen's army, and was more terrified of her return than anything else. Unfortunately, before they got very far, Nelevetu asked about her, and Shiro explained that all of the Runelords were dormant, and as far as they knew Sorshen was still dormant, although "another Runelord" seemed to be stirring.
I felt this was enough of a shocker to trigger another Will save, and my die continued its trend of, "Those numbers in the middle are for sissies!" and rolled a 1. Nelevetu collapsed back into the incoherent Mr. Mutt.
Knowing that they were ill-prepared to care for such a charge, they decided to take him to Absalom and see whether Xerashir could heal him. With no Halek to carry things for them, Raesh knelt down, gently picked up Mr. Mutt, and the party stepped out of the Iron Cages...
...only to have Mr. Mutt dissolve into dust, aging his full 10,000 years in but a moment.
The party had quite the fascinating discussion on what had caused the transformation, whether it applied to every denizen of every wing, and if so, how was it that the wings met at the Runeforge pool and fought? They decided that it must have something to do with prisoners not having the same protections as residents, which only made sense, as you wouldn't want your prisoners running amok in your research labs. They dutifully scraped up Nelevetu's dust and decided to give him a proper burial in Absalom.
With plenty of components, the party returned to the Runeforge pool and forged a dagger for Hi, a rapier for Shiro, and Halek's earthbreaker. They rested for the night in Vraxeris' library.
Rising in the morning, they discussed their choices: Assault the wing of Wrath in the hopes of finding the gateway mentioned in Vraxeris' journal, or have Shiro attempt to get them out using Shadow Walk. Deciding that they did not want to take on a new wing without Halek, they had Shiro Shadow walk them out of the Runeforge.
[i]GM Note: I ended the session there, wanting to do some research on Shadow Walk and Runeforged arrows. Since no one contradicted me, I allowed Shadow Walk to get them out, but that had to wait until the next session...
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 11-Oct-2013 (Already played).
Well, good news/bad news!
Saturday's session's highlight was, "Raesh, disguised as an elf, wandering Janderhoff."
It was far more side-splitting than it sounds (and I think it sounds side-splitting). And now all of my players have demanded that I catch up on the entire journal ASAP so that I can post that session, and they're willing to edit as fast as I produce.
I think you're going to see a stream of posts over the next couple of weeks... assuming my players can keep up with me! :-P
Sorry in advance about the upcoming torrent!
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Another short Friday night game; I seem to recall we were interrupted by an unexpected trip to Rivoli or some such. But we did eventually get little details like raising Halek out of the way. (Wasn't that a movie/TV series? "Raising Halek"?)
And off we go...
19-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last game)
Shiro Shadow Walked the party out of the Runeforge. Unfortunately, with no solid sense of direction, and it being the first time he'd ever tried to Shadow Walk, I ruled that he had to make several rolls to "guess" his direction out of the Runeforge's demiplane and back to the Material Plane. Needless to say, the party's spectacular luck with unusual modes of travel continued, and they returned to the Material Plane 5000' over Lake Stormunder. Raesh could not suppress a slight scowl as she immediately cast Levitate on herself and Feather Fall on Shiro, trusting in Hi to Fly himself to safety. Once the party had gathered their bearings and regrouped in mid-air, Hi Greater Teleported them to Absalom.
Their dice continued to abandon them (I really should forbid Hi's player from rolling random encounters for a while, Hi's player comments, "And where would be the fun in that?") so they managed to have a random encounter IN THEIR HOUSE IN ABSALOM!!! With a very low roll on the difficulty scale, I ruled that one of the local crime gangs had found the abandoned room and was using it as storage for smuggled items. The party discovered a handful of thugs and a room full of unmarked crates. The thugs, not being idiots, tried to run. Unfortunately, Halek's CMB and Raesh's Intimidate were a wee bit on the high side for them, and they were quickly cowed into confessing all: They were just trying to avoid the import duties on goods from overseas, and were smuggling goods off ships at night, hiding them in houses around Absalom for a few days, and then moving them to the Coins for sale. While Shiro and Hi could at least sympathize with the poor smugglers, Raesh would have none of it, but saw the value in spreading the word about their house. So the thugs were released to spread the word that this particular house was off-limits, and the goods were confiscated and turned over to Haigen Topkick in the Puddles. After all, it was technically "salvage" from a ship, since duty hadn't been paid on it!
Since they were in Absalom anyway, and they had rented a pair of carts and a carriage to take all the goods to Puddles, they proceeded in the carriage to the temple of Sarenrae, Shiro horrifically overtipping yet again, and continuing his reputation as the "best fare in Absalom". (As he puts it, "I don't like to have to deal with this 'gold' stuff, so everything's at least a platinum.") They were immediately ushered in, settled into the V.I.P. seats (these ones had cushions) and waited under 5 minutes for Xerashir to emerge and usher them into her office. Their first order of business was to have Halek resurrected, and they happily paid for a Resurrection spell and a Restoration to avoid having to wait a week for him to recover.
GM/Player side note: It's kind of scary seeing the difference in money between Rise of the Runelords and Carrion Crown. My PCs think nothing of spending 12,000 gold at level 15. In Carrion Crown, we had to pool our money to buy a Ring of Feather Fall at level 13!
While they were at the temple, they turned over the evil items, including the robe of the archmagi and the sadist's lash, for destruction. Xerashir tried to pay them for the items, but they refused any reward, insisting that such items were a blot on Golarion that needed to be destroyed. Raesh was nonplussed when her armor started glowing brightly yet again, but at this point she was getting kind of used to it. Once the truly evil items were eliminated (for some reason the party neglected to mention whether Delvahine's toys were among these items), the party took their coach to the Coins and sold the more mundane magic items and loot for coin. Concerned about Halek constantly using a weapon that increased his pride and lust, they bought him a backup earthbreaker. Their shopping complete and the afternoon wearing on, they decided it was time to spend a relaxing evening enjoying themselves, so they (of course) teleported to the Blue Bunyip in Magnimar and obtained their usual lodgings. Before dinner, they stopped by the Shoanti deli and purchased Halek some home-rotted food and a goat.
Dinner at the Blue Bunyip was exquisite, as always, and Kaede, Umie, and Yuto learned through their usual mysterious channels of the group's arrival, and showed up at the Bunyip shortly after dinner. While Shiro declined a sandwich for the evening, he did perform with Kaede and Umie after dinner. Raesh declared that she wanted nothing more than a hot bath and her hair washed, but accepted Yuto's offer of a post-bath massage as well. Shiro inquired as to whether the marvelous kitsune groomer was available that evening, and the maitre'd assured him she was, so Shiro had his fur washed, combed, and brushed. Hi found his gnome maid waiting for him, and he allowed himself a brief but joyful time jumping around on the bed with her, before sending her out and retiring to his flame shower. Halek re-acquainted himself with his goat, and was gently carried by (a large number of) the wait staff up to his room to sleep it off.
In the morning, the group, refreshed, re-equipped, and ready to see what was next in the Runeforge, teleported to Rimeskull, only to realize that they couldn't get in until sunset. With everyone in Boots of the Winterland, and Halek carrying ample supplies, they decided to make the best of it and have a picnic until sunset.
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 18-Oct-2013 (Already played).
This campaign journal is awesome, just letting you know. Seriously, the interplay between your characters...
Makes me want to play in RotRL even more (well, that and the hilarious opportunities inherent in playing an Aasimar character through Burnt Offerings in particular), and curse the lack of other in-person players I know of! My only real option is PbP. Yeah.
I'm curious as to which schools of magic Hi draws most of his spells from and how that matches up to his Sins of choice.
Thanks! And I can't take credit for the interplay -- that's all my players. (Except Halek. I can take credit for Halek.)
Hi is definitely evocation, evocation, evocation. If it can crackle, sizzle, or freeze, Hi is on it. When he's choosing new spells, it's pretty much, "What can I get that does the most damage?"
The only time he ever strays is for transportation (Fly, Teleport, Greater Teleport), ultra-utility spells (Dispel Magic), or, "Wow! That does even more damage than an evocation spell!" (Disintegrate)
And Hi definitely has the most sin points in wrath. With his relationship with Rilka, I translated Lust points to Love (virtue) points, and he got a TON of those, so those outweighed Wrath in the final judgement.
But yeah, he definitely lived up to his sin's school, all right!
Aw! The award lives on!
It's OK. If my players ever finish their edits (2 sessions in their hands right now, and a third going to them tomorrow morning, so I'm producing...), you'll see that Ordikon finally managed some award-worthy luck (courtesy of Shiro, of course). And the poor, poor Glabrezu demon... some things even demons don't deserve, though that's two sessions out.
But yeah, everyone glare at Hi's player for a moment. Got a really nice job with a really terrible commute, so he's having trouble keeping up with the edits. I'll bug him tomorrow if nothing comes back tonight.
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Apparently Mittean's glare can move worlds! All write-ups are in my hands, and I'll post one a day just so people don't think it's a double post:
Well, lots of confusion as none of us can remember what happened on the 18th other than entering the wing of Greed, and I can't find any notes for it. I was so confused I put in Envy before Greed, then found my November 9 session notes where they did Envy AFTER Greed. Shiro's player is pretty convinced we had one really short half-hour night where I wasn't feeling well, so maybe we really did have a session where they did almost nothing, but that would be a boring read, so I'm leaving Envy as it is in the writeup (before Greed) because sometimes, history just changes. (And the order of those two just really doesn't matter all that much.)
20-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last game)
As sunset arrived, the party performed the rituals to get back into the Runeforge: Cast a spell from each of the seven schools to get the seven keys, ride Phantom Steeds to get to the Frozen Cathedral and use the seven keys, and enter the Runeforge.
GM Note: At this point I mentioned how hilarious I found it that they had yet to use the staircase, and they simply responded, "Hey, we know the Phantom Steeds are safe!"
Before assaulting the wing of Greed, the party decided to see just how "destroyed" the wing of Envy was. Shiro cast Comprehend Languages on himself (GM Note: *SIGH*) and they proceeded down the hall. All of the party members felt unwelcome in this wing, as if none of them belonged. Before they had proceeded very far, a voice boomed out, "Stop! These are the Abjurant Halls of Eager Striving. Know that your powers will be crushed and you shall die! You are not worthy!"
The party was not impressed, even after Shiro's translation, and proceeded.
The first room was a scene of catastrophic carnage. Much of the room was caved in, and charred bones lay strewn about, some hit with such force that they were embedded in the walls. Ephemeral flames flickered in and out of existence, as if the magic that wrought this destruction was still echoing throughout the room. In the center of the room was a sole metal rod, embedded in the floor. The party kept their distance and used Detect Magic and Spellcraft to identify the rod from a distance of 60 feet. Hi successfully identified it as a seriously-damaged Rod of Cancellation. The party stood back and watched to see what it would do.
GM Note: That's what I love about this group. How many groups would stand back at 60 feet for 10 minutes, saying, "Let's see whether it does anything now that we've cast Detect Magic on it," instead of just walking in and yanking on it? I didn't have it trigger on the Dispel Magic because that would have been far too easy for them, and they still managed to avoid any ill effects.
In less than a minute, the rod exploded with magical power, and Hi successfully identified the explosion as a Mage's Disjunction.
Figuring they had a few moments to move through the room, Shiro Sifted areas of interest, being sure not to target the rod, and they moved along the wall to the left down a winding passage strewn with rubble. At the end of the passage was a room with a pool of silvery liquid. They could make neither heads nor tails of the liquid, and decided to leave it alone. They tracked the next disjunction pulse, timed their way around it, and continued checking ruined passages, finally arriving at one that led to a "T" intersection. The left passage led to a dead end, while the right led to a mid-sized room whose floor and walls were covered with ooze. Much to the GM's amazement, the ever-cautious party let Shiro just walk on in. The fiendish mustard jelly that had been lying in wait pounced and tried to grab Shiro, along with Halek and Hi for good measure. The ooze managed to miss Raesh the first time. Everyone was astonished as the ooze invoked Smite Good on her the very next round! A bit disoriented and not ready for the combat, Shiro took the attack of opportunity and made his concentration check to Jester's Jaunt the party out of the creature's grasp and down the hall. They waited for it to pursue. And waited. And waited.
After some time, they realized that they had been attacked by a denizen of the wing of Sloth, and were very unlikely to become involved in any high-speed pursuits. Shiro cast Freedom of Movement on Halek and Raesh, they returned to the ooze, and it really wasn't much of a fight. GM Note: Shouldn't oozes be immune to bludgeoning weapons? Halek smashed the living... er... ooze out of this thing, and it just didn't make a lot of sense that an eathbreaker would be that devastating to it....
Searching the room of the now-defunct ooze as Shiro Prestidigitated everyone to clean off their armor, they found a small hidden panel behind which were 4 potions and a lever. The party took great pains to stand as far away as possible and use Mage Hand to pull the lever, but it had no obvious effect. GM Note: I loved Raesh's player's idea that the lever would drop a second ooze into the room.
Concerned about the lever, but convinced they had completed the Abjurant Halls of Envy, the party moved back to the Runeforge pool chamber, and headed up the passageway to the wing of Greed. They were immediately suspicious when the hallway ended in an opulent doorway; none of the other halls so far had had doorways in them. The fact that the door was set with gemstones and had a keyhole in it made them even more suspicious. GM Note: While I love the writing in this module, did they really have to make this trap THAT obvious? So they very carefully checked for traps, rolled a 40+ on their Perception, and determined that the door was a false panel designed to crush those trying to get into the wing of Greed, while the real door was a well-hidden secret door straight ahead. They opened the secret door and moved on.
Their next blockade was far less physical: A wall a greenish mist sparkling with silver motes of light blocked the passage and prevented any view beyond. Raesh, being Raesh, simply walked down the hall to the end of the mist, making her saves without difficulty, and signaled Shiro to Dimension Door the rest of the party to her. They found themselves in a room whose floor was covered with ivory tiles, and whose walls and ceiling were of marble. In the center of the room was a fountain of a whale spitting water into a crystal-clear pool. Several droopy-eared creatures were in the pool, glaring at them, and started hurling insults that Shiro could understand (Comprehend Languages) as soon as he arrived. On learning that the creatures spoke Common, Shiro worked his magic. With a massive Diplomacy roll (I think he broke 48), Shiro and Raesh convinced the creatures that they were NOT residents of the wing, but were here to investigate and possibly exterminate said residents. The creatures became very excited. They identified themselves as water mephits, and spoke of the wonderful pools all around the Vault of Greed, the purity of the water, and the joys to be had in traveling from pool to pool. They went on to explain that the residents killed them, especially the "silver man", who would come in every week and kill any mephits he found. Raesh asked pointed questions as to why the silver man would kill innocent creatures. Their answers did not please Raesh, and she got That Look on her face. I did not have high hopes for Ordikon's survival.
The mephits provided the party with a crude map of the wing, though they only knew how to travel from pool to pool through the Plane of Water, so the map's distances were relatively skewed, and no hallways were shown. There were four more pools of "pure and wonderful water that feels so good", and one pool of "not water" that the mephits avoided. Raesh solemnly looked at the mephits, and promised that she would find out why the silver man was killing them, and, if his answer was inadequate, she would personally see justice done. The mephits decided they really really REALLY liked Raesh.
The mephits were too terrified of the silver man to accompany the party, but they promised that if the party was in a room with a pool in it, all they had to do was call out and the mephits would assist as best as they could. The party could easily tell that the mephits were terrified at making this promise, but their hatred of the silver man ran greater. The party decided to search the Vault of Greed clockwise, and hence took the left hall, soon finding themselves about to enter another room with a fountain. This fountain was of a nine-foot-tall wizard holding a staff in one hand, and there were many goldfish swimming in the fountain. In another uncharacteristically careless move, Raesh walked into the room. GM Note: OK. I don't know whether it was careless or, "Yeah, yeah, that's a stone golem. Now watch me turn it into rubble."
The stone golem animated, all the residents of the wing mobilized, and I knew that I had a long, running fight on my hands. It was already fairly late in the evening, so we called it a night.
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 9-Nov-2013 (Already played).
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Well, we had a seemingly-interminable two-week hiatus as we ran off to a gaming weekend at Raggedy Point, California (all kinds of fun) and dealt with Halloween and its requisite parties and kid stuff (honestly not as fun this year, but the kids are getting old enough (9 and 12) to be a bit blase about Halloween. Scares me. I was an avid trick-or-treater until I hit 13, at which point my parents declared that "teenagers don't trick-or-treat" and that was that.) Anyway, good reasons to miss a couple of weeks, but all of us were going into RotRL withdrawal by the end of it.
Thankfully, thanks to the wonders of "NobodysHome" being horrifically behind, you don't have to wait 3 weeks for the writeup! Even better, we came *very* close to either a Brass Shiro or Silver Tsuto award, the award not being granted only because poor Ordikon didn't bring about his own doom in any way; Shiro was just 'being Shiro', and that's enough to doom any BBEG.
So as noted, we moved Envy from this session post-Wrath to the previous write-up just to balance write-up lengths; this really was a longer session, the write-up's just cut in two.
20-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last session)
The stone golem sprung to life and attacked Raesh, but, as usual, had trouble hitting her. The reverse was not true, and Raesh and Halek (both with Shiro's backing) made short work of it. Hi knew from previous experience that the creatures were immune to his favorite spells, and the entire party could hear more coming, so Hi started casting protective spells on himself, Fly being the first.
GM Note: It was really convenient: Shiro's player had printed out a map whose squares were too small for the minis, but I could track all the stone golems and Ordikon on it, and the PCs obligingly stood still waiting for everything to get to them. I played it "by the book", with the stone golems using full moves to get there one at a time, and it led to a tense but not-overwhelming fight, so I really liked the way it was written up. Ordikon's six rounds of buffing and then moving there instead of Dimension Dooring in (risking full rounds from all the fighting classes as he recovered) is also just about right.
A second stone golem came roaring into the room, right into the teeth of Raesh's adamantine scimitar and Halek's adamantine earthbreaker, and it didn't last long. If Raesh was a bit miffed that she was hitting first and dropping the golems low enough for Halek to finish off, she didn't show it. As the third stone golem arrived through the same passageway, Shiro got curious as to whether any dangers were approaching from the other passage...
...and things got horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE for Ordikos. His initiative was one above Shiro's, so he had *JUST* finished moving close enough that on the next round he was going to be able to move in and Prismatic Spray the party. Except Shiro moved across the room to look down the hall, made his Perception roll to spot him, yelled, "Silver wizard coming down this hall!", and moved out of the way. Both Raesh and Halek were Hasted, Raesh has Quick Draw and a bow-o-doom, and Halek has reach (Lunge) with his earthbreaker).
So our cheerful-yet-psychotic friend Ordikos got shot up and pummelled before he got an action, tried to 5' "step" back (Step Up by Halek), failed his Concentration check to get out of there (yes. Seriously.), and Raesh dropped him to negative hit points.
The fourth stone golem fared no better.
Happy to finally have a living captive, the party stripped down and tied up Ordikos, and had Halek carry him about for a while.
Searching the rest of the wing, the party found more goldfish fountains, many fabrication chambers for manufacturing items, and a research lab. As they moved towards the back of the wing, a voice called out, "Paladin of Sarenrae! I do not wish to fight you! I wish only for my freedom! Promise that you will not kill me and I will show myself."
Raesh, not a silly paladin, said only, "I promise not to kill you when I see you."
The promise wasn't exactly what the nalfeshnee demon had been hoping for, but considering the alternative was to have the party enter the room and slay him without negotiation, he accepted it. He stepped forth into the party's view, and said, "I want no quarrel with you. I only want my freedom to return to my plane."
The party promptly huddled together. What did they know about nalfeshnee demons? They were the 'administrators' of the Abyss, seemingly managing that infernal realm and with hideous knowledge best not known by mortals. Raesh asked him what he planned to do if they released him, and he responded that he would return to the Abyss, and never return to the Material Plane if he had any say in the matter. He promised many things, including a "great reward" if the party freed him, but his Bluff was no match for Shiro's Sense Motive, so the entire party knew that his promises and oaths were a pack of lies. Finally, Raesh made her decision. "If we release you, you will return to the Abyss and perform your duties, corrupting and torturing hundreds or even thousands of souls, and assisting in the expansion of the Abyss. I reject that and choose to destroy you."
The fight isn't worth writing up. Raesh Smote Evil, Shiro buffed everyone, Hi, frustrated at not being able to hurt the golems cut loose against the poor creature, and Halek was just plain old Halek. Yeah. VERY short fight.
Beyond the (ex-)demon's room was the room with the pool of "magic water" the mephits had spoken of. For whatever reason, this time Hi could discern the nature of the pool (yeah, huge Spellcraft roll): It drained the souls of nearby creatures to power its magic, and that magic could be used to recharge magic items, though there was a chance such items could be damaged or even explode because of the influx of raw magic. The party decided that since they could not destroy it, they would give it a wide berth and leave it be.
Finally, they were ready for the interrogation. Hi cast Tongues on Shiro, and they woke up Ordikos. They learned that he was silver because he (or someone) had transformed his body to mithral. Shiro informed him that they had been sent by Karzoug to check up on his research. Considering the description of his mental state, I allowed a Bluff roll, and Shiro promptly had Ordikos eating out of his hand.
What they learned of Ordikos was disturbing, to say the least. Every day he experimented on animals; typically vermin he caught in the halls. Every day he meticulously performed the exact same experiments, trying to transform them to metal versions of themselves, and every day he got exact same results. And every day he did the exact same thing. They had him lead them to his lab and went through his notes. Horrifyingly, for the last two years every day had been exactly the same. Shiro tried to convince him of the fundamental wrongness of this, but Ordikos would not hear of it, and became angry when his research was questioned. He remembered little of the battle by the Runeforge pool. He knew that "Highlady Athroxis" had killed many of his allies, but he could not even describe who his allies were.
After a very depressing interrogation, they realized that his mind was almost completely gone, and he was living an echo of his past life. Taking pity on him, Shiro reassured him that they were sure he'd done the best he could, and Raesh ended his repetitive existence.
Their encounter with Ordikos disturbed the party: Should they really be out to exterminate everyone in every wing, when many of them might be victims just as much as Ordikos? They decided to proceed with more caution, and more mercy.
Their next step was to inform the mephits of their victory. The mephits were overjoyed, and started an impromptu celebration. Shiro, not one to miss an opportunity, started playing for them. As Shiro played, the number of mephits mysteriously grew; the party couldn't quite tell where they were coming from, but within 15 minutes there were at least a dozen mephits prancing about in the pools, dancing to Shiro's music, laughing, and celebrating. The mephits brought gifts as well: Shell, pebbles, and bits of water from remote lands. One mephit was learned enough to recognize Shiro as from Tian Xia, and brought him water from Minkai.
Exhausted from their day of delving, the party decided to rest in the room with the mephits. The mephits realized what the party was doing, and insisted that they would guard the party and prevent any from disturbing them. Realizing full well that the mephits would be no match whatsoever for anything that might threaten the party, they were nonetheless touched by the mephits' determination to repay them for their kindness, so they set up camp next to the fountain, surrounded by a dozen highly-alert mephits, ready to defend them from all comers.
The party slept remarkably well that evening.
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 16-Nov-2013. (Already played.)
God, I love Raesh. She totally owns her paladinhood. "Fifteen-foot tall demon, huh? Alright, Halek, give me a boost - I'll need to stand on your shoulders so I can cut its damn head off."
I've also seen the post in the Obits. Every post we have gets us closer and closer to the inevitable. At high-level play, it's not "will one of us die?" It's "when will one of us die?"
The start of my next post reads, "This session marked the official start of the "Abuse Hi no end" period." So yeah, the bad guys start getting mean.
And Raesh... yeah. The post after next has her meet the Glabrezu demon. And after that the wendigo. Oh, geez. The poor, poor wendigo. I'm just not going to give her any demons any more.
The next post won't be a long wait. Probably early next week, if not sooner.
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Quick update: The party has entered Xin Shalast proper, and unfortunately that particular section was written without my group in mind; seems like the whole thing assumes the party is going to blatantly walk in and start killing. (If you're familiar with the AP, just look at Morgiv and ask, "What happens if the party doesn't instigate any fights in Xin Shalast?")
So it's a massive section that requires a lot of re-working on my part, and my players would love it if I'd run a double session this weekend (Friday/Saturday), so my work's cut out for me.
I'll get the next "issue" posted in a couple of days (out to the players today, probably posted Wednesday or Thursday), but then the next one won't be 'til next week some time, as I'm being forced by my merciless players to actually RUN the campaign. The nerve!
EDIT: And it's not that I *can't* make it work -- they've met Morgiv and dispensed with the Hidden Beast (dubbed "Count Calimari" by Raesh's player, which I find delightful no end), but I like my campaign to flow as a coherent story, so I need to look at every resident of Xin Shalast and decide what he/she does in his/her everyday life, and how the PCs can get clues as to what to do next without wholesale slaughter. So it's just a bit of time to decide what to do in each area with the way I know my players are going to behave. (Yes, Count Calimari, "The ancient evil extraplanar abomination who is also tasty with a bit of lemon," as Shiro's player put it.)
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I'm interested to see what you come up with. Honestly, if I were a player, and I found myself trying to infiltrate this place, the last thing that would come to my mind would be "let's just kill everything we come across." I can see using Morgiv's tunnels as a safe house while they figure out what's going on in this city, and make surgical strikes to limit their exposure. It's like the Highport section of Scourge of the Slave Lords. You're deep in enemy territory, so try not to kick the hornet's nest too hard, or you're in deep trouble.
That said, there's plenty of places for Raesh to force the party to get involved. Giants, devils and worse inhabit these streets. Surely they won't get through all of Xin-Shalast without angering someone!
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Believe it or not, I'm using a spoiler tag. Why? Because this discusses a *small* amount of what they've been doing in Xin Shalast, and some people may prefer to read the story in order. But it's very short (two paragraphs) and gives away very little, and I just wanted to give Misroi some background.
Right. Well, they went in using Wind Walk courtesy of Svevenka (have I mentioned how much I love that my players have an astonishing knack for turning 'neutral' NPCs into allies?) and kept a very low profile (so no encounters in the city proper, even with random encounter rolls), then decided to go straight into the caves to search for the skulks. Rather than telling them they were hopelessly lost after 12 hours of fruitless searching and calling out that they were (probably) there to help, I rolled for random encounters, didn't get any, and just had the skulks send out Morgiv as a 'sacrificial lamb' -- either the intruders were telling the truth, in which case Morgiv was the right one to talk to them, or they weren't, in which case Morgiv was the right one to 'talk' to them.
So it worked out, and Morgiv can give them details on the city that will allow them to plan their next moves, but there are many important things they have to learn that Morgiv doesn't know, and I'm not going to give him that information. So it's just a question of anticipating how my players are going to approach Xin Shalast. They've seen Ghlorofaex, so they're not about to start a huge open-air battle in the northern city, so I've got to work out what all the southern factions are doing, and how they might determine the information they need without resorting to GM fiat. (I really really *hope* Ghlorofaex learns they're in the city before they decide to take him out. My dragon fights have all been very depressingly short. Except the one where the dragon was on THEIR side. THAT one had to drag out...)
(So, planning the world in a realistic way yet so that they get the information isn't GM fiat, but just handing it to them is? Hmm.... gotta go get my brain examined...)
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This session marked the official start of the "Abuse Hi no end" period. I have no idea why it started, but you'll be seeing some serious Hi abuse over the next few sessions (as if knocking him into negative HP when battling Delvahine wasn't enough).
This was also the session where they cleared out most of the wing of Wrath. I have to say, I really loved the setups in the wings of Pride, Greed, Lust, and Envy. Wrath, not so much. Why not? Well, first and foremost, you had a set of teleporters to move about the wing, and teleport is from the Conjuration school. Yes, the text explains that the wing of Wrath got help from the wing of Sloth to set up all these circles, but why? Even my players asked, "Why are there teleport circles in the wing of Wrath?"
I think it would have been a lot more fun to have PCs determined to explore the wing of Sloth constantly teleporting into ooze-filled rooms. Woo hoo! Second, setting up the Warriors of Wrath as primarily evokers (5 levels, as compared to 1 level of fighter snd 2 levels of eldritch knight) make them much too weak for the hand-to-hand combat that's supposedly their preferred tactic. Add that they're most likely going to be facing a sorcerer or wizard with Chain Lightning, and you end up with very short, very one-sided fights. I changed their tactics after the first room and had them spread out and use distance attacks, and they were more effective, but still no match for four high-level PCs.
On the other hand, they did give me a LOT of RP opportunity, so I LOVED the denizens of the wing -- I just wasn't all that happy with the teleport circles and combat tactics, and I changed the latter.
Anyway, on with the story:
The party awoke. If the mephits had moved at all during their slumber, there was no sign of it. They were still guarded by a dozen alert mephits, and the mephits smiled and wished them good morning. Having such cheerful and welcoming hosts in such a strange place warmed the party's hearts. As Raesh performed her devotions, Shiro played for them again. Hi refrained from performing any pyrotechnics for their amusement, as he believed it might not be taken well by creatures from the Plane of Water.
Once Raesh was ready, they asked the mephits about the wing of Wrath. The mephits sadly admitted that they had never been there, and would be no help at all. The party comforted them, and told them not to worry; they'd be fine.
The party proceeded cautiously up the corridor to the wing of Wrath. Ahead, the corridor opened into a massive room, at least 100 feet wide and nearly 200 feet long. The ceiling was nearly 100 feet up, and the entire room was tiled with marble, with a huge mural of an armored woman with crimson hair riding a red dragon and wielding a ranseur. Also at the far end was a 12-foot-tall iron statue guarding the only obvious exit to the chamber, gripping an iron bow. The eyes gleamed like diamonds, and had obvious gemstones of some sort in them. The statue and the exit were at least 30 feet up, and the polished marble looked like it would be extremely difficult to climb.
After quite a bit of debate, Detect Magics, and the like, the party first buffed a bit: Shiro cast an extended Good Hope and Hi put Protection from Energy: Fire on the other party members, since the distance was so great, Shiro Hasted the party to allow Raesh and Halek to cover the distance more easily. Once they were ready, they decided to step into the chamber to see what might happen. As they stepped in, a deafening metallic clanking resonated through the chamber -- the iron archer had set off an alarm! It also shot a burning arrow that struck Raesh squarely in the chest to no effect, thanks to the protection spell. Hi flew upwards, Raesh cast Spider Climb on herself, and Halek started to charge forward, only to be stopped by Shiro, who only told him to be ready.
GM Note: The Spider Climb is critical for next session, though it had no effect this session.
The golem next fired a set of electric arrows, wounding Hi a bit since he was flying about in its chamber. Raesh delayed, and Shiro dropped the hammer. He used Bard's Escape to place Raesh and Halek flanking the golem, and himself down the corridor past the golem a bit. On the bright side, if the golem ever got a round, it would relentlessly pummel Shiro. On the down side, it was now flanked by Raesh and Halek, both hasted, both with delayed actions, and both with adamantine weapons.
Yeah. Shiro's fur remained unruffled.
Leaving the crumbled remains of the golem undisturbed, the party proceeded into the next chamber. There, they found two rings engraved in the floor: One red, and one blue. Both detected of strong Conjuration magic, which was wrong for this wing. There were no other exits from the room, nor any indication as to what the rings were supposed to do. Raesh told them that the rings were magical, so Shiro and Hi knelt down and examined them. Hi determined that they were permanent teleport circles, but beyond that he had no idea. After some discussion, the party decided that one must be an entrance to the wing of Wrath, and the other an exit or a trap. They decided to test the red one first, and all stepped on it simultaneously. Nothing happened. Shrugging, they stepped onto the blue one...
...and were immediately in a storm of fireballs cast by the waiting warriors of wrath. Unfortunately, with the party's Protection from Energy up, the fireballs had little effect. As the smoke and fire cleared, the party saw that they were in a large room, perhaps 60 feet wide and 20 across, and across the room was a 10-foot-wide opening blocked by sinspawn with axes, waiting for the party's approach. Behind the six sinspawn were four purple-haired women armed with greatswords who had cast the fireball. The entire group was in a military-type formation, the sinspawn blocking the narrow passage and the warriors of wrath protecting them from behind.
This did not faze Hi in the least. His first Chain Lightning crackled across most of the opposing group. The warriors hasted the sinspawn, and the sinspawn charged forward, focusing all of their attacks on Hi. The poor little gnome lost most of his hit points on the opening round. Unfortunately, this Did Not Please Shiro, Halek, or Raesh, and the sinspawn had run right up to them. Sinspawn dropped like rain in a tropical forest. The warriors started buffing themselves, but Hi's fireball didn't think much of their Mirror Images, nor did the subsequent Chain Lightning as they tried to enter the fray to assist their rapidly-falling allies.
At the end of it all, all the sinspawn were dead, most of the warriors had bled to death, but one remained, unconscious and bleeding. The party stripped her of her gear and tied her up, then quickly searched the rest of the room for more entrances. There were two more pairs of teleportation circles, but no other obvious entrances or exits from the room. Shiro cast Comprehend Languages on himself and his fallen foe (*SIGH*) and they woke her up for questioning.
At first, all they could get out of her was that "Highlady Athroxis" would have their heads, and did they truly believe they could invade the Halls of Wrath without repercussions? They recognized the name from Vraxeris' journal: She had nearly killed Vraxeris before he managed to flee, and so might be a formidable foe. They took the time to question her carefully, asking for information that could not possibly be of tactical use: Her name was Gaietha. She was 24 years old. She would not speak of her mother or father or where or how she had been born. She would not speak of other areas of the Halls of Wrath. So they asked her about the other wings. She was willing to tell them about the battle at the Runeforge pool, and how proud she had been of her mistress when she carved into that 'foppish peacock' Vraxeris. They had lost many of their warriors that day, and would take many years to rebuild to their full strength.
Realizing she had just provided tactical information, she clammed up, and would not speak another word.
They explored the room more carefully, and found that it was clearly a military-style barracks, complete with training dummies in the center of the room (somewhat the worse for wear after Hi's antics), bunks, a mess hall, and a latrine. This made no sense! If no one in the Runeforge needed to eat or sleep, why did they need bunks and a mess hall? Even more importantly, WHAT did they eat? Each room contained beds for warrior of wrath on one side, and beds for sinspawn on the other. Why? Gaietha would not speak again, so they could not even determine which teleport circles led where. Finally deciding to move on, they asked Gaietha to at least indicate which bunk was hers so they could tie her up properly. She was willing to point out her bunk, and they promptly tied her up in a different room, Shiro reasoning that if she'd hidden any items to help herself escape, they'd be in her bunk or in her room.
Once Gaietha was properly restrained, the group decided to take the northern teleport circle. This time, they were ready for the inevitable ambush, so the battle in the Fleshwarping lab was short and decisive, and they took 3 additional prisoners. The only item of note in the room was a vast vat of roiling "protoflesh" that seemed alive and yet not alive.
GM Note: While the notion of the warriors flinging protoflesh at the PCs is all well and good, the teleport circle is roughly 140 feet from the flesh pit. That's a heck of a throw!
A bit of protoflesh hit Halek, but slid off his scarred and hardened skin ineffectually.
The party spent some time restraining and questioning these three prisoners, and learning about the Fleshwarping lab. The protoflesh was used for many purposes: If fed the warriors and sinspawn, it turned warriors into sinspawn once their lives as useful warriors was over, and it helped form the growth of new children, explaining how Gaietha could be only 24 years old without any obvious males in the wing. The party was admittedly relieved that the sinspawn weren't the fathers.
Once they'd gotten what they could from the prisoners (once again, it was very little, and mostly threats that Highlady Athroxis would have their heads), they restrained those three warriors in the barracks.
Ready for the next room, they stepped on the teleport circle leading to Highlady Athroxis' area....
...and I ended the session.
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 23-Nov-2013 (Already played).
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23-November-2013 Game, Part I
Sorry for the delay, but this was an epically-long, wonderfully eventful Saturday game, and I didn't want to rush the writeup to miss out on any of it. Unfortunately, reading over the notes, there were a few things that I've already put in elsewhere (apparently the smugglers in their room in Absalom happened in this session), but overall we're getting closer and closer to "what actually happened in-game"!
And since Shiro's player just started harassing me that I haven't posted in almost two weeks, I'm breaking this one into two pieces just to get a couple out quickly.
21-Abadius-4708 (continued from last session)
...and the world exploded around them.
In spite of the fact that they'd buffed up and put up Invisibility Sphere and Zone of Silence, the Glabrezu Demon's True Seeing saw them as they arrived, he barked out a warning to Highlady Athroxis, and she hit the party with a Prismatic Spray from one side as he hit them with Reverse Gravity from the other. The world turned topsy-turvy as Raesh and Shiro made their saves against insanity (Indigo), Hi made his save against instant death (Green), and Halek took a full 80 points of electricity damage (Yellow), but didn't seem to notice much, and everyone tumbled helplessly into the air.
Remember last session? When she cast Spider Climb in order to be able to reach the iron golem? It was still up. And she made her save in spades.
Her eyes narrowed to slits as she glared at the demon. He gulped visibly. I swear I just shouldn't give her any more demons!
The demon got to act first and promptly tried to summon a pair of vrock demons between himself and the angry paladin. In a sign that the dice of the universe truly understand gaming, the vrocks chose not to appear. Wise vrocks.
Shiro, bemused to be tumbling through the air to no significant effect on anything he did, started performing and cast Haste on Raesh (and the rest of the party), just because it would be funny. Hi cast Fly and moved to open space so the Highlady couldn't target all of them any more, then hit her with a Disintegrate. She saved. Halek, unable to do anything else, shot a few feeble arrows at her, doing very little. Raesh (surprise surprise) Smote Evil on the demon, ran up, ignored his hopeless attacks of opportunity, and one-rounded him. Seriously. It was something like crit-triple crit while Smiting Evil on an evil outsider. She just doesn't like evil outsiders. Go figure. GM Note: And I'd been hoping to use his Wish offensively through Highlady Athroxis!
With no wishes and no demon, Highlady Athroxis took the low road and hit Hi with a Feeblemind. He failed his save, and that was all she wrote for Hi for the combat. He did bark and yammer at her a bit, but she was airborne and he wasn't, so it didn't do him all that much good.
One round down, one PC and one bad guy out of the fight. Shiro decided that Halek would be far more effective if he could actually DO something, so he chose to push off from Halek in one direction. He failed to overcome Halek's massive CMD, but that gave Halek the idea to push off from him, and Halek had little trouble dropping them both out of the antigravity field. Hi sat around and burbled a bit. Raesh pulled out her bow, invoked Smite Evil on Highlady Athroxis, and let the pain fly. Mirror images vanished. The Highlady, recognizing the biggest threat in the room, took a chance and hit Raesh with Flesh to Stone. It didn't take.
Then came the round of, "My PCs are bad for casters."
Now that she was out of mirror images, Raesh hit the Highlady with Fire of Entanglement and Shiro started declaring counterspells. Unable to act for a round, the Highlady did a magnificent imitation of a pincushion as Halek and Raesh took their shots.
That was the final turning point of the battle; the Highlady had two of her spells counterspelled by Shiro while Halek and Raesh peppered her, and soon the Highlady plummeted unconscious to the ground. The fall didn't kill her and she made her Fort save to stabilize, but then Raesh walked up.
"Highlady Athroxis. You have consorted with demons. You have been training warriors to invade our land. You have destroyed my friend's mind. For these crimes, I judge you irredeemable. What say you, Halek and Shiro?"
Halek and Shiro both gave the Highlady a good old-fashioned thumbs-down (you'd think they didn't like the Feeblemind, either), and Raesh cleanly beheaded her.
As the life ebbed from the Highlady's body, Raesh felt a burning sensation on her forehead. Shiro and Halek gaped as the rune of Wrath appeared on Raesh's forehead. Raesh was nonplussed. "Now what?" Shiro couldn't dispel the mark, and it did not detect as evil, so Raesh decided to research it later, as for now they had work to do.
Unfortunately, without Hi's help, they couldn't figure out the teleport circle they had come seeking. They knew it was a teleport circle. They knew there had to be some way to activate it. But they couldn't figure it out.
Their first order of business, therefore, was to try to raise Hi's intelligence far enough that they could speak with him. Fortunately, they still had Vraxeris' Headband of Vast Intelligence +6, so they put it on Hi and brought him up to the level of a moron. An obnoxious moron.
GM Note: I have to say I am extremely proud of the way Hi's player has evolved over this campaign. When we first started, he only played human rangers, and wasn't comfortable with "roleplaying". At this point, with an INT of 7 and a CHA of 1, Hi's player played him to the hilt. An obscenity-spewing, intolerable sociopath with no redeeming social features.
The party considered having Halek knock Hi out for the duration, or at least remove the headband, but they figured it would be better if Hi could take care of himself, even if it did make being around him insufferable. Hi was unwilling, unable, or just plain too ornery to even bother looking at the circle, so they decided to retrieve their prisoners and move to the wing of Pride for the night, since they already knew it was safe to rest there.
When they opened the door to the room in which Gaietha was bound, the woman's eyes widened on seeing Raesh and she said something unintelligible. Shiro gleefully translated: Mistress.
They removed Gaietha's gag and she explained: Raesh could only be wearing the mark of Wrath by having slain Highlady Athroxis, and therefore was their new Highlady. Yes, they would be utterly loyal to Raesh until such a point as they believed they could challenge her in combat. No, they did not believe even the four of them put together could challenge Raesh now. Raesh was a bit disturbed at the women's eagerness to follow her. Apparently her party reflected battle and adventure, and the women ached to get out of the wing of Wrath and DO something. Raesh asked the final question: What would they do if Raesh and Alaznist came into conflict? The women were confused: Why would Raesh reject Alaznist's rule? She was obviously a warrior of power and renown to have defeated Athroxis, so she would be granted a place of honor under Alaznist's rule. Raesh chose not to press the point. Instead, she asked about Karzoug. The women all agreed enthusiastically that they would love to be the ones to 'eviscerate that self-righteous windbag' or some such.
Content that they believed the warriors of Wrath were now loyal to Raesh, they moved to the wing of Pride. (Not before Hi said something horrifically inappropriate about their purple hair, bless his sociopathic little heart, but Raesh prevented any violence.) They set up shared watches, with one party member and one warrior of Wrath watching at a time. Hi was not given a watch. The warriors deemed this a wise choice, and seemed to be gaining respect for their new mistress. Having experienced Shiro's Shadow Walk once before, Raesh asked each warrior to prepare Fly and Feather Fall, just in case. Shiro was not offended.
Once Raesh finished her devotions, their new, larger party set off through the Shadow Plane. The warriors were extremely excited, and kept pestering Raesh, Shiro, and Halek for details of their battles. Shiro entertained them with tales of their exploits as he prepared and cast the spell. Fortunately, this time the Shadow Walk was far more successful, and they ended up only a few hundred feet in the air over Lake Stormunder. The warriors quickly cast Fly on themselves and Feather Fall on their companions, and guided the entire party to shore. Raesh was pleased that they had not tried to take advantage of the party's temporary discomfiture, but she knew the warriors had no chance of survival in their party; they were going places far too dangerous for even these warriors. But she had a plan...
*** End of part I, because that's a cool place to stop ***
Next Planned Session: 23-Nov-2013 Part II (Already played).
I have patented a glare. And it spawned an alias. BRILLIANT.
Sorry, Sundance has been taking up my January, as per normal. It's actually been the only time I've (sort of) been home, as I was traveling for the two weeks prior, and leave again as soon as we wrap (and I get my skiing in. Sod off, I'm doing it, I'm only human, and the mountains siren call is as seductive as ever, especially after half a bottle of 18-year old scotch).
For the players: Come on, gents, it's been way too long for you to be knacking about with your mitts all in each others ovens. Get on with your write-ups, there's a drooling audience here that needs a form of entertainment that doesn't requite dollar bills and bouncers. And I'll be a hamfist if that doesn't involve fox orgies, lighting your nappies and everything else on fire, a strangely talkative barbarian with some wretched eating habits who enjoys his private "bath time", and a certain dark elf who carves her own vibrating wooden massagers.
She uses it for her sore shoulders. Honestly. She's a paladin, she wouldn't lie.
I should stop writing these after I've been stood here in the cold drinking free liquor for six days with no sleep. :)
I'll say that's not 100% fair -- I'm the one who's almost two months behind on the writeups. So they delay by a week; I delay by a couple of months. But the holidays are over, our schedules are settling down again, and I'm setting aside some time to write every day just to try to knock out two writeups per week in a vain attempt to catch up. But I've said that many times before and not succeeded.
Which I think is the very definition of, "The life of a writer."
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23-November-2013 Game, Part II
Oodles of roleplaying in this session, so let's just dive right in!
22-Abadius-4708 (Continued from last writeup)
With Hi in no shape to teleport them anywhere (except perhaps the center of the ocean), Shiro cast Shadow Walk a second time to make the lengthy journey to Magnimar. As Shiro turned to lead them into the Shadow Plane, Hi cried out, "Kitty," grabbed Shiro's tail, and pulled. Hard. Shiro winced, but allowed that Hi was not himself, and let the indignity go.
An 8-hour walk was more than they'd travelled in ages; an 8-hour walk with a CHA 1 Hi seemed interminable.
While it was already early evening by the time they had finished their second Shadow Walk, Raesh felt her business could not wait. They approached the temple of Iomedae, warriors of Wrath (and Hi) in tow. The paladins guarding the entrance recognized her on sight; the sunny glow emanating from her armor did nothing to disguise who she was. "Your eminence! Is there some way we can help you?"
Raesh rolled her eyes and sighed. For a moment, she longed for the days when she was just another paladin. Then, she set to business. "If it is not too inconvenient for her, I would speak with Tira."
"Of course, m'Lady. Immediately."
Another sigh, and then a very short wait before one of the paladins returned. "Lady Tira will see you now, Lady Rae'Sheleth."
As the rest of the party waited outside, Raesh went in to speak with Tira. "Lady Tira. I have come to you with a problem to which I hope you have the solution. I have rescued four warriors from a 10,000-year-old prison. They do not speak Common, but they speak Elven and Draconic, so I believe many of your paladins could communicate with them. At the moment, they are evil, but they are lawful. They follow me, they keep their word, and they would see battle. I believe that the ways of Iomedae would not be counter to their natures, as the ways of Sarenrae would be. I believe that if you can show them how they can channel their wrath against evil, they can be influenced toward good and be redeemed."
Tira pondered for a moment. "What would you have of me?"
"They want nothing but to prove their glory in battle, and they are fierce warriors who know many fighting techniques that have long been lost. I would have you train them alongside the paladins. Then, when they are ready, perhaps they can find their glory in the Worldwound, battling alongside the countless others who fight there."
Tira thought about it for a long moment, then nodded. "Agreed. If they can keep their word, and behave themselves, and obey their superiors, we will train them. And when they are ready, we will send them to battle in Iomedae's name. And perhaps Sarenrae will smile upon them as well, and they will be redeemed."
She smiled warmly at Raesh as she said the last, and Raesh acknowledged the compliment.
"I have a second request, if you would."
"Certainly, let me but hear it."
"Our companion, Hi, was struck by a Feeblemind spell. I was hoping you could cure him."
"I am afraid that is beyond our abilities. While I dislike sending you away, I suggest the temple of Abadar. They will charge you full price, but they can provide the healing you need."
"Very well. Thank you for your advice."
With an agreement about the warriors reached and nothing to be done for Hi here, Raesh headed outside. Hi was in the process of describing in detail how much Halek's face resembled a gastrointestinally-distressed auroch's backside as she arrived. The warriors came to attention as she approached.
"All of you. I have orders for you. You will stay at this temple. You will train here. You will obey the paladins of this temple without question. If they ask you to fight, you will fight. If they ask you to refrain, you will refrain. If you fail in your duty, you will answer to me. Is this clear?"
"But, Mistress! We would follow you!"
Raesh scowled at the warrior who had spoken up. "You said yourself you are not strong enough to challenge me. You must learn. You must train. The paladins at this temple will teach you ways of fighting you have never seen. And you will show them your ways. I have hopes that you will learn to enjoy fighting evil in the name of Iomedae. She is a worthy and fierce goddess and her followers are dedicated warriors of great skill. Perhaps, when you have learned all they have to teach you, and you have travelled to the Worldwound and battled and slain demons by the score, you will be powerful enough to challenge me."
The women's eyes lit up at that possibility. Eager to learn any new combat techniques, they readily agreed to train with the paladins of Iomedae until Raesh returned for them, or until they felt powerful enough to seek her out and challenge her. They swore to be obedient, to work with the paladins to the best of their abilities, and to share what knowledge they had of combat techniques in exchange for their training. Satisfied, Raesh snapped out one last imperative, "Do not disappoint me." and turned them over to the paladin on duty, and he led them in to the temple proper to show them to their cells.
Raesh's armor started glowing just a bit more brightly in the night. She squinted and frowned. "Now, on to our next order of business."
The temple of Abadar was open for business even at 6 o'clock in the evening, and the bright lights, marble columns, wondrous tapestries, fountains, and gilded decorations were too much for Hi.
"By the gods! This place looks like a cheap bordello!"
As the word "bordello" echoed through the halls, a scowling acolyte approached. "Is there anything I can help you with?"
All three party members looked directly at Hi. "Him."
"Oh, of course, of course. I recognize the symptoms now. That will be 660 gold pieces please. In advance, if you please."
As soon as the acolyte was paid, he scurried off, as if to distance himself from Hi as quickly as possible. Almost as quickly, a high cleric arrived, and without so much as a word, touched Hi and cast Heal on him. Hi returned to his senses.
GM Note: Boo!
He spent a great deal of time apologizing to the rest of the party for his boorish behavior, and was particularly sorry for pulling Shiro's tail. He somehow managed to forget to apologize for comparing the temple of Abadar to a bordello, however.
With Hi back and the warriors of Wrath dealt with (at least temporarily), Raesh asked Hi to teleport the party to Absalom. They arrived in their house without incident, and quickly took a coach to the temple of Sarenrae. (For some reason it was absolutely impossible for Shiro to fail to find a coach in Absalom, day or night. As if every coachman in Absalom knew to look for the eccentric kitsune and give him a lift on sight.) Shiro did not fail to brighten the coachman's evening with platinum.
The paladins on duty at the temple of Sarenrae recognized Raesh immediately, and welcomed her with embarrassing statements such as, "Thank you for blessing our temple with your presence, o Holy Avatar." Raesh was FAR less amused by the whole thing than the rest of her party.
Raesh requested and was immediately granted a private audience with Xerashir. She met her in her private chambers, protected from scrying, listening in, or other forms of eavesdropping.
Raesh expressed her concern: Was the Mark of Wrath evil? Would it encourage her to be wrathful? Was it worth the risk to redeem the four warriors who even now were training in a temple of Iomedae to do battle against the Worldwound? Would it put her companions at risk if she still wore it when they faced Karzoug? Or if Alaznist awoke?
Xerashir pondered. She cast Detect Evil and Detect Magic on the mark. The mark was magical, but not evil in and of itself. She sat back, sighed, and spoke. "The mark itself is not evil. And it is allowing you to steer four young women towards a path of righteousness. Even more importantly, it grants you some boons in combat, and you are fighting a great evil. I do not know whether your enemy might use it against you. I do know that I could remove it, if you so desire. But consider it carefully. You go forth to face foes most of us will thankfully never encounter in our lifetimes. Every edge you can obtain might be to your benefit, so long as that edge does not corrupt you. Since the mark is not evil, I do not believe you need to remove it immediately. Since it assists you both in combat and in redeeming the young women, I believe it is of benefit. However, since it is a mark of your enemy, it may be a danger. I must allow you to make your own decision. Know that I can remove it if you so decide."
Raesh was nonplussed at the non-answer, but thanked Xerashir nonetheless. She silently decided that she would keep the mark for now. It was a burden she would shoulder if it was the only leverage that would allow the redemption of the souls of the warriors of Wrath. She gathered the rest of the party and they headed for the Saucy Wench for a well-earned night of revelry and relaxation. Shiro performed, Hi danced in the flames, and Raesh and Halek watched the proceedings with great satisfaction.
After a few hours, the party decided it was time to retire for the evening, and returned to the temple of Sarenrae to sleep in cells there.
Once everyone FINALLY awoke in the morning, the party set about selling the massive amount of loot filling Halek's Bags of Holding to bursting. Evil items were turned over to temples for destruction. All other items were sold in The Coins. At the end of it all, each party member had over 80,000 gold pieces! Shiro used his share to purchase a Ring of Continuation. Halek obtained a Ring of Freedom of Movement. Hi purchased an intelligent clockwork servant and a large amount of quills, ink, and paper, with the intent that the servant would copy all of the works from Vraxeris' extensive library so they could later transport those works to the library at Jorgenfist. Raesh used the money to significantly upgrade her armor.
The shopping took most of the day, but by late afternoon they were ready to depart, and Hi teleported them to Sandpoint. As was becoming typical, Hi vanished into Rilka's arms (and house), and the rest of the party first visited Shadowmist at the Goblin Squash stables, and then moved on to Ameiko, Bethana, and the wonderfully-comfortable Rusty Dragon.
Once they had settled in, they discussed what they were going to do next. The Runeforge seemed temporarily subdued, so they decided to spend six days reading the books that would increase their characteristics. Since Raesh wasn't going to be reading a book, she headed to the Curious Goblin to pick up some reading material for the week.
GM Note: And here was my single greatest GM'ing regret of the campaign so far. If you read the description of Chask Haladan, he sounds like EXACTLY the kind of guy who would sit quietly by, watching a book burning, and then very carefully purchase a new copy of every single volume that had been fed to the flames and stock his bookshelves with them. So after Raesh's previous reaction to, "Lawful Naughty Paladins in Chains", I figured he'd be sure to restock the book and a few others like it, even if he personally didn't care for them. So Raesh came in and saw that not only had he restocked the book, but he'd put in others like it with a sign saying, 'As purchased by the Heroes of Sandpoint.' To say that it caused hard feelings around the table would be a gross understatement. Raesh took it as a very personal and deliberate insult. Never mess with bookstores.
So we ended the session on a rather sour note...
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 1-Dec-2013. Yes. A *Sunday*!! (Already played.)
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Well, I'm not going to ask for a Mittean Glare yet, since both Shiro and Raesh make valid points that the roleplaying leading up to Raesh having the Mark of Wrath removed after all of her internal struggles with it was significant, but the next writeup is out, and the one after that is about half done.
Who knew that just setting aside half an hour a day would make such a difference in writing output?
Expect more very soon...
LOL. Is there nothing a truly great session won't accomplish?
Saturday's game was (in both my and Raesh's player's opinions) one of the single-best days we've had in the entire campaign. It was awesome. It was epic. And Raesh's player immediately sent me her edits for December 7, saying, "I need you to get to writing up Saturday's session!!!"
And since I am no longer allowed to spoiler, I'll just say that I scheduled next session (Friday the 7th) as, "Khalib regrets his life choices" even though they've never met the man.
Yeah... they met Ayruzi. To say that Raesh and Hi are pissed is like saying Pompeii was "a bit of volcanic activity".
There's a hunt on. I'm betting on less than a single round for Khalib.
Damn, I have to get writing!
If you're confused by seeing a game on a Sunday, imagine my surprise: We're supposedly playing Carrion Crown on Sundays, so how Rise of the Runelords slipped in I don't know. But that's the date on my notes and I'm sticking with it...
...on the other hand, considering how incoherent my notes are, I'm thinking I was hitting the gin a bit hard that day, so betting on what day it was is a fool's errand. Anyway, rather than attempting to translate my drunken notes verbatim (what does, "Congrats barked from Shoa to Bell" mean anyway?), I'll do my best to reproduce the actual session.
23-Abadius-4708 (continued from last session)
It was already early evening in Sandpoint, and Hi, Shiro, and Halek had standing reservations for the evening (with Rilka, Ameiko, and the name-changing redhead (who was "Celeste" for this particular evening) respectively), while Raesh was in no mood for company, still seething at the betrayal at the bookstore. They flew the banner to let Shalelu know they were in town, dined together at the Rusty Dragon, retired to their respective rooms, and called it a night.
While the party's main goal was to allow Hi to read the book of Charisma and Shiro the book of Intelligence (!!), the fact that both of them had Rings of Sustenance meant that they could relax during the day and study at night when everyone else had gone to bed. How Ameiko and Rilka felt about this, I didn't ask. (Did I mention I'd been drinking that day?)
Having the entire day in front of them, the party first decided to seek out Brodert Quink. As usual, they found him in the catacombs. He was in quite a state. His studies of the Catacombs of Wrath were nearly complete, and he was desperate to study the ruins of Thistletop. Not needing any further motivation to visit Yippy, Shiro meandered over to the Hagfish, hired four reliable-seeming guards, and put them in charge of keeping Brodert safe at Thistletop. The nine of them headed out, only to meet Shalelu just outside of town. With ten riders and only six available phantom steeds, the men-at-arms were forced to ride regular horses. On the other hand, I didn't roll for a single encounter, because the encounter table just isn't designed for 15th-level characters, so it's not like they had to earn their keep.
As they rode to Thistletop, Shiro had an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. He sidled his horse up next to Halek's and spoke in Shoanti. "Halek? What do you think of Shalelu?"
Halek did not think a moment about it. "She is an excellent warrior. A survivor. A good tracker. She should find herself a strong mate and have children to carry on her blood line and family honor. Any Shoanti warrior would be proud to have such a woman at his side. I am glad we know her. But she should have a mate. The world deserves more such as her."
Shiro smiled a little Shiro grin. "You know, Halek. I've noticed that you and Shalelu are both outdoors-types. I think I've seen her look at you in that kind of way. Maybe you ought to... get to know her a little better? Maybe tell her what you just told me?"
And that was all it took. My dice knew true love when they saw it. Halek and Shalelu were inseparable for the rest of the day, discussing hunting techniques, skinning techniques, and the best way to bring down large prey. Since I knew this was going to take both of them out of the scenario for a while, I ran it ahead a few days for them as they searched for the Sandpoint Devil. Halek rolled a natural 20 on his Survival check to find it. Of course. Days later, Halek and Shalelu returned to Sandpoint, both flushed, and carrying the skin and carcass of the Sandpoint Devil between them. It was an epic moment.
Returning to the moment, the party arrived at Thistletop. Not only did they find a happy, healthy Yippy, but they found that he had a mate! They were ecstatic, and spent some time discussing what to name her. Yippette? Yippee? They decided they needed to find some goblins to feed to them. Alas, the goblins had long since abandoned Thistletop as accursed, and they had to content themselves feeding Yippy a few of the multitude of bunnies that now populated the underbrush around Thistletop.
The party scouted ahead throughout Thistletop, but found nothing even remotely threatening, so they allowed Brodert to set up camp. With Halek and Shalelu chomping at the bit to run off into the wilderness together and Brodert completely lost in the wonders of Thistletop, Hi, Shiro, and Raesh teleported to the Blue Bunyip in Magnimar.
The maitre'd didn't bat an eyelash. He welcomed them profusely, apologized that it was too early for any of the kitsune to be performing this fine evening, and told them their rooms would be arranged forthwith.
Before they settled in, Raesh went to check on the Warriors of Wrath. Much to Shiro's amusement/horror, there was Tesserel, demoted but still a paladin, training the four warriors in the courtyard in Elven. He couldn't decide who was receiving a worse punishment. Raesh, seeing the warriors "in good hands", returned to the Bunyip with Hi and Shiro.
Finishing off their "duties" for the day, Raesh checked on the Sarenrae temple in Underbridge to make sure that its restoration was well and truly underway, they stopped by the Shoanti deli to purchase a 'congratulations basket' for Halek and Shalelu (they figured it couldn't rot, so they'd just buy it and give it to them when they got back) (and this was the aforementioned, "Congrats barked from Shoa to Bell"), and Hi teleported back to Sandpoint to retrieve Rilka and Ameiko.
The five of them had an amazing night on the town in Magnimar. Unfortunately, even with a GM's all-knowing eye, none of them told me what they did.
Believe it or not, the party allowed several days to pass uncontested. Hi and Shiro were reading their books, Raesh was volunteering her time to help restore the temple of Sarenrae in Underbridge, and Halek (and Shalelu) were nowhere to be found. Towards the end of the week, the trio (sans Halek) teleported to the library at Jorgenfist to research Xin Shalast and Mhar Massif, but they didn't get all that much information: They learned that Xin Shalast was somewhere in the Kodar mountains, at the headwaters of the river Avah, and situated at the base of the massive mountain Mhar Massif. Mhar Massif itself was supposedly the tallest peak in the Kodar mountains, and situated on a gateway between the Material Plane and the nightmare dimension of Leng. Because of its proximity to Leng, approaching Mhar Massif required great strength of spirit (Will saves) to approach.
They also interviewed the Warriors of Wrath as to what they knew of Xin Shalast, but they knew little beyond what the library had already revealed.
One night, Shiro went to Raesh's room when he was supposed to be studying. Doing his typical scratch on the door he waited to be allowed in, after which he shifted to his Kitsune formso he could speak with Raesh. The basic topic of the conversation was that Shiro didn't feel that Raesh needed any benefit from the Mark she was wearing as she would surely be successful without it. He felt that there was very little gain from wearing it; and that it presented an unknown amount of risk. Certainly it wasn't evil, but neither were the amulets they found and they suspected they could be used to find people. The last thing they would want is one of the Rune lords knowing where they were going of what they were doing. Raesh told Shiro that she agreed with him entirely, and would prefer to have it removed. She would wear it, however as long as she felt it was the only thing driving the redemption of four souls. A short discussion ensued and Shiro felt that he done his best to convince Raesh to get rid of the mark.
With all that said he hugged Raesh and wandered back to his room to finish his reading for the night.
The very next day, Raesh sought out the Warriors of Wrath and asked the women how their training was going. They were very enthusiastic about what they were learning. She asked them if they were happy, and they said they were happier than they had been for many years having a chance to test their skills with new partners and trainers. Then she asked what they would do if they were not trying to challenge her for dominion as Highlady of Wrath, and they said that they had never considered that, but that they felt they would like to continue their path with the Iomedaeans. Raesh smiled inwardly and took her leave. She was convinced that the redemption of the warriors of wrath no longer hinged on her commands.
With no further clues as to where they were going, Raesh made a fateful decision: She had Hi teleport them to Absalom, and she asked Xerashir to remove the Mark of Wrath. They returned to Magnimar to confront the Warriors of Wrath with this revelation. Much to Raesh's surprise, the warriors remained loyal to her, and begged to go with her on her quest. She told them that they still belonged at the temple of Iomedae. Privately, she took aside Tira and told her that now that she no longer carried the mark, Tira would have to be doubly cautious of the warriors, but at the same time if they ever did find themselves redeeemed, Tira should feel free to release them of their vows. Tira agreed to this request. Raesh addressed the warriors: "As you see, I no longer carry the Mark of Wrath that makes me your 'Mistress'. But you still have your vows to this temple, and I expect you to uphold them, and to train here to the best of your abilities. And when you are done here, and believe yourself ready for release, I hope that you will seek me out. Not to challenge me, but to address me as, 'Friend'."
Raesh could not read the expressions of the warriors, but hoped that she had made her point.
With all of their business concluded, the party teleported to Sandpoint to collect Halek and spend a final night before continuing on their journey.
Unfortunately, even with Halek 'acquired', the party had no idea where to turn. For lack of anything better to do, they visited Brodert at Thistletop. He told them that he had heard of Xin Shalast, and indeed had a letter relating to it in his home in Sandpoint! He gave them permission to read it, and the party hurried back to Sandpoint...
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 7-Dec-2013 (Already played).
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07-December-2013 Game, Part I
Back to a Saturday game, and what a game it was! My (in)famous "notes" are usually only 8-10 lines of key events from the day, and I can read a line and reproduce roughly what happened in that section of the session. My December 7 notes are a whopping FORTY-EIGHT lines!! I've barely started the writeup and I already put "Part I" at the top. Who knows how many pieces I'm going to have to chop this one into?
I'd love to give Shiro a Silver Tsuto award for his horrible, horrible mistreatment of locks, or perhaps Hi a Band-Aid of Sympathy for the amount of abuse he suffered through in November and December, but even with such epically-long notes no award-winning moments stand out at me. Some awesome roleplaying moments, but no out-and-out, "Wow, that was epically bad, even for this group," howlers.
Now that I'm a couple of pages in and I haven't even reached Janderhoff, I know this is going to be at least 3 parts, so even the lock and Hi abuse will be a bit...
01-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last session)
The party was unsurprised to find Brodert's house unlocked. What madman would dare attempt a robbery of the home of such an eccentric antiques collector? They approached his bookcase with extreme caution, and had Halek do the honors of pulling various books and scrolls out of the way to locate the letter. Again unsurprisingly, it was exactly in the spot where Brodert said it would be. The letter was from a man called "Redwing" to Brodert; apparently the man had written some kind of book that Brodert has praised, and in return wrote Brodert a "nice" letter indicating that a pair of dwarven brothers named Vekker claimed to have found Xin-Shalast, got funding in Janderhoff to finance an expedition there, and vanished without a trace. Their disappearance bankrupted all but one of their investors. The only clues in the letter were that the brothers were trying to set up a base in the "low Kodar Mountains along the Kazaron."
While this gave the party a valuable lead, many uncertainties remained: Just how old was the account? The letter itself was years, if not decades old. And the letter indicated that the account of the dwarves was already old when it was written. Had the dwarves found Xin-Shalast 20 years ago? 50? 100? 1000?
Almost as troubling was that they would have to travel to Janderhoff to investigate. What would they do with Raesh? Come to think of it, what would they do with Shiro? The party's past relationships with dwarves did nothing to convince them that visiting Janderhoff would be a pleasant journey. After a great deal of discussion, they finally decided on a plan.
GM Note: I know I say it way too often, but I *love* my players! They spent a good 20-30 minutes discussing tactics on how to visit friggin' Janderhoff, just because of Raesh!
The plan had three relatively 'easy' steps:
- Get a disguise kit and disguise Raesh as a 'normal' elf.
- Get a formal letter of introduction from Tira to the high cleric of Torag in Janderhoff. Hopefully at least the dwarven paladins would recognize a fellow paladin!
- Find something that would be valuable to the dwarves that they could exchange for the information they sought.
It all seemed easy enough, so they decided to pursue the easiest step first. They teleported to Magnimar and headed for the Dockway. Shiro had no trouble at all obtaining a disguise kit that might possibly give Raesh elven coloring, but he couldn't find anything to do with her teeth. He recommended that she not smile in Janderhoff. She told him not to concern himself about such unlikely events.
Next, they went to the temple of Iomedae. Raesh greeted the warriors of wrath, and was happy to see them smiling and enjoying their training. It warmed her heart that she seemed to have truly redeemed the women. The fact that she glowed slightly brighter as she made this realization did nothing to dampen her spirits.
As usual, she was allowed direct access to Tira and explained her dilemma: She needed to accompany her companions to Janderhoff, but did not believe a drow would survive long enough to explain herself. Tira understood completely, drafted a letter of introduction to the high cleric there (whose name seems to have escaped my notes), and promised Raesh she would perform a Sending to notify him as well.
Their final visit in Magnimar was to check in on the temple of Sarenrae in Underbridge. The temple was doing extremely well, and Brandi had not completed her journey from Absalom yet. (MOST paladins have to travel by ship, rather than be teleported about willy-nilly by pyromaniacal sorcerers.)
With their business in Magnimar complete, Hi teleported the party to the library at Jorgenfist. There, they began searching for "anything the dwarves of Janderhoff might be interested in." It took several hours, but they discovered a series of mineralogical surveys of the region around Varisia pre-Earthfall. They figured the dwarves would go nuts for such stuff (I think Shiro said something along the lines of, "Oh, my god, that's so boring the dwarves have GOT to love it!"), and set the librarian to copying the records onto modern paper using modern ink.
Since the copying would be a several-hour task, they settled in to their favorite couches and spent a pleasant night in the library, nothing disturbing them save the scratching of the librarian's quill and the soft whirring of his gears.
Crossover note: I previously ran my family through Curse of the Crimson Throne and tracked the dates there, so when the RotRL party decided to visit Korvosa I had to check for crossover. Fortunately, it was just between Edge of Anarchy and Seven Days to the Grave, so the CotCT party was out of town (side quest in Riddleport) and there were no major events happening in Korvosa. But I did try to integrate the two campaigns a bit, explaining much of what the party experienced in Korvosa.
While Hi had never been to Janderhoff, he had frequently visited the gnomes (and Varisians) living in Path's End in Korvosa, and the party recalled that that was where Antonio and his family had planned on wintering. Excited to see little Nictiana (and Nick) again, Hi teleported them all to Korvosa.
Hi noticed immediately that something was wrong; where normally there would be bright colors, street vendors, singing, and dancing, even in the heart of winter, it was quiet and depressing. Those on the street eyed them suspiciously. There were at least double the usual number of town guards in the area, maybe more.
Hi, being Hi, completely ignored the stares and glares and waddled triumphantly to the field where the Varisian caravans wintered. Shiro, being Shiro, started strumming his lute. They had little difficulty spotting Antonio's wagons, and called out, "Ho, the caravan!"
A long-missed, "Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi Hi!!!!!!!!" came pouring forth as a colorful streak rushed down from the wagons and Nictiana jumped into Hi's arms, bowling him over. Those with high Perception rolls might have noticed a flicker of a smile cross Raesh's lips. Nick was clearly almost as excited, but came forward at an almost-dignified pace and greeted Raesh, Shiro, and Halek in turn. Raesh looked down at Nick. "Young Nicholas. Have you been practicing the sword as I taught you?"
His immediate pallor and the drop of his gaze told all Raesh she needed to know. "Yes," he lied.
"Good then! Show me what you have learned."
As Nick tried hopelessly to demonstrate at least some of the techniques Raesh had taught him, Antonio strode over, beaming but silent, not wanting to interrupt the lesson. Once Nick was done, Raesh merely said, "That was fine. We will practice in the morning."
Nick looked like he'd swallowed a goblin, but agreed.
The party greeted Antonio warmly, and asked him what was going on in Korvosa. He explained that with the king's recent passing and the ascension of the "<expletive> queen", riots had broken out across Korvosa. While the riots had been quelled, helped in large part by the groups of adventurers Field Marshal Cressida Kroft had employed to help her maintain order, food was still scarce, and guards were quite common, especially at Path's End where the Varisians were constantly suspected of harboring rebels and fugitives.
Raesh immediately offered to Lay on Hands for the sick or injured, and Antonio had no difficulty finding plenty of Varisians who needed her ministrations. Unfortunately for Raesh, every injured or sick Varisian insisted on pressing gifts into her lap. She soon had dozens of scarves, pressed flowers, bits of silk, and a few beautifully hand-illustrated harrow cards. If there was a tear in the corner of her eye, none noted it, or at least spoke aloud of it.
Antonio then asked if he could speak with Shiro privately. Shiro agreed immediately.
As they walked along, Antonio apologized to Shiro. As he had said, food was scarce. They would love to feast the heros "properly", but he did not think the meal would be up to the party's "usual standards". Antonio's group was carrying enough supplies to get them through winter, but barely. They usually relied on Korvosa to provide them with extra supplies, and they knew that some of the caravans would not make it. Many were talking of risking winter travel to get far away from Korvosa, hoping to find better opportunities for wintering elsewhere. Shiro's ears drooped a bit, but Antonio tried to perk him up. "Do not worry, my friend! What we have may not be grand, or elegant, but we will freely share it with you!"
Both Hi and Raesh made the required Perception checks to overhear all of this.
It really didn't take more than that.
Raesh knew immediately what would happen. With a deadpan expression she turned to Antonio and the Varisians, "I have been meaning to learn some Varisian songs... are there any you could teach me?"
With the ensuing rush of Varisian musicians, dancers, children and onlookers dragging her away, Raesh was certain that she had created an adequate distraction for however long the inevitable operation would take.
With a twinkle in his eye, Hi began to cast Greater Teleport on himself, Shiro and Halek. At the last moment as he was dematerializing, a tiny hand slipped into his. NO!!!!
As they arrived in Absalom, Hi looked down, aghast. Nictiana stood there, regarding him with big, pleading eyes. "Where are you going, Hi? Can I come too?"
Slowly, Nictiana realized that they weren't in Korvosa any longer. Her lips formed a perfect, tiny circle. "Oooooooooooooh!"
Hi fixed her with a stern look. "If I let you stay, will you give me your solemn promise to behave and stay with us the whole time?"
Nictiana was ecstatic, "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! I promise!"
Hi was still nonplussed at the petite stowaway. "You!! Stay with Halek! Do NOT wander off!! Got it?!"
Nictiana nodded enthusiastically.
Hi swung his finger to point at Halek and said "You!! Protect her at all costs!! Do NOT let her out of your sight!! Got it?!"
Halek smirked slightly, slid his earthbreaker into his hands, and nodded down at Hi. Nictiana clambered up Halek like a somewhat-small tree and perched herself upon his shoulders, grasping his huge bald head for balance. With Nictiana's safety assured, the party then went shopping.
The Coins district in Absalom spread out before them like a vast sea of delectable riches waiting to be pillaged. Without a second thought, Shiro procured a guide for them. (For some reason Shiro has no difficulty whatsoever hiring assistants in Absalom. As if they all know to look for him or something...) They asked how much a feast for 100 Varisians would be (100 g.p.), then spent ten times that much, then doubled it, just to be sure. (Yes. My notes are at 2000 g.p. For maybe 50-60 people. Yeah.) They stocked up not only on fresh meats, fruits, breads, wines, ales, candies, and desserts for the immediate feast, but bought barrels of flour, salted meats, more ale, wine, pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, and everything they thought a Varisian (or two hundred) might need for the winter. All of Halek's Bags of Holding were filled to bursting with supplies. He didn't complain. In fact, he seemed to be out-and-out enthusiastic about helping his distant cousins. From her vantage point on Halek's shoulders, Nictiana would occasionally point at a foodstuff none of them recognized, and Shiro or Hi would obligingly purchase it, figuring that if no one else could stomach it, Halek probably would. They weren't satisfied with that, so they also got toys for the kids, silks for the ladies, and a few random instruments.
Stuffed to the gills, they teleported back to Path's End.
They found the entire encampment dancing, singing and playing around the communal fire, teaching Raesh more songs than she could sing in a month. Raesh seemed uncharacteristically pleased about the whole thing. Shiro, being Shiro, approached Antonio as Raesh hid a grin. "Antonio! I'm afraid we've found a bit of food, and it's rather more than we can eat! Do you think your people can help us?"
For once in his long life, Antonio was struck speechless.
A few moments later, he was organizing the Varisians into a distribution line; neediest first, children second, beautiful women third, and everyone else fourth. (It was Antonio, after all.) The activity quickly attracted the attention of the Korvosan guard, and they moved in aggressively. Raesh would have none of it, and just as aggressively blocked their path. "What business do you have with these people?"
Raesh's stern tone attracted Halek's attention, and his earthbreaker slid silently into his hands.
The guards could understand "hopelessly outclassed" when they saw it, and decided that speaking with Raesh would be wise.
"Madame paladin. I am Boller of the Korvosan Guard. May I ask where you got all of this food?"
"What business is it of yours where we got it?"
"Well, you're new here, so you probably don't know, but we've had troubles recently. Riots. Burned storerooms. Food shortages. We're to keep a close eye out for hoarders. Everyone's got to do their part, you know. So I am required to ask where you got all that food."
"Er... begging your pardon, ma'am, but exactly what does 'elsewhere' mean?"
"We got it nowhere near Korvosa nor any of its holdings. I will swear to that as a paladin of Sarenrae."
"No need to swear, ma'am. You're a paladin good and proper. No mistaking that! Well, then, you're not exactly guilty of hoarding, are you? Well, carry on, then! Honestly, I'm glad to see those people finally get some decent food. It's been bad around here. When your mess hall serves food that's better than what the locals are eating, you know things are bad."
Raesh immediately warmed to the man. "Guardsman Boller? Would you and your men care to join us?"
"You bet we would!"
And the party started. Every Varisian with at least one leg performed, danced, sang, played some form of instrument, and feasted until the sky grew rosy with dawn. The camp transformed from drab and lifeless to vibrant and colorful in an instant, as valuable silks packed away to be hidden from looters and worse were unveiled and spread out over caravans. Shiro played, Hi danced, Halek was swarmed by at least a dozen children and looked like nothing but some freakish meld of child and giant tottering about the encampment, and there were faint rumors that Raesh might have even sang a bit, though very quietly and only when no one was looking.
There was feasting, and storytelling, and more drinking, and more dancing, and a heap of exhausted children being carried to their beds half a dozen at a time by Halek.
The group, truly happy, content, and exhausted, slept in the Varisian camp that evening.
Yes, I was not stupid enough to roll for encounters.
Raesh arose at dawn and started her devotions. While still working, a woman in elaborate plate mail flanked by half a dozen chain-clad guards approached. The woman had the good taste to stop a few feet back and gave Raesh her space as she completed her devotions.
Once she was done, the woman spoke. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Field Marshal Cressida Kroft of the Korvosan Guard. My men told me of your arrival and of your deeds here, and I felt I needed to come and see you myself."
"You see, we are in a time of great unrest here in Korvosa. Certainly we have quelled the riots at the moment, but there is still great dislike of and mistrust in our new queen. I have found that having teams of experienced adventurers I can call on to assist me in more urgent tasks is extremely useful in keeping the peace. I was wondering whether I could rely on you if I were to call?"
Impressed by the woman's devotion to duty and her city, Raesh was sympathetic, yet unyielding. "We have other business. We fight a great evil elsewhere. After that, I go where Sarenrae bids me. She has sent me a vision that showed very clearly that she is aware of the plight of your city. I promise you that if she sees the need, I will return. And I will aid you."
Cressida seemed both taken aback and reassured by these words. "Then I would call you 'friend', and wish you luck on your mission, whatever it is. And I hope for all our sake that Korvosa does not sink low enough that Sarenrae herself must send you to our aid. But I am glad to know you would come."
Raesh, determined to be polite, did not scowl. "Of course I would. It would be my duty."
Cressida saluted sharply, turned, and left with her entourage.
As promised, Raesh woke Nick up and tutored him in sword and shield for an hour or two, at which point the party had to bid their fond farewells to the Varisians. All of the caravans were now well-stocked, and many were taking advantage of the unexpected bounty to move far, far away from Korvosa, Antonio's included. "Korvosa no longer feels safe, my friends, and I thank you for giving us the supplies we need to move on."
The party headed for Janderhoff, camping a couple of hours out. I rolled 8 wolves as an encounter. I just didn't bother, since it would have disturbed Halek's beauty sleep. According to Hi's players notes, "Raesh delt with them so quickly no one else had time get disturbed from their sleep."
*** End of Part I ***
Next Planned Writeup: Part II: Fun and games in Janderhoff. (Already played.)
(Yeah, that's 13 of 48 lines. I think this one's going to be a 3-parter!)