Monthly Archives: February 2011

SOW Chapter8: Gladiators

Gladiators

The fight is over

The enemies are beaten


Bets are collected

Gladiators

Dog BoyUgly ManPeasebuttum shook his head, "Ohh this doesn’t look good. The’ve sent dogboy out this time. ‘ov’ers up next is a gonner les thye’s got some silver."

Smrelda giggled, "Hee, hee, oh, I don’t know bout that." She pointed to the other end of the arena where they were pulling back the board that Shaden had just crossed to arrive on the arena floor. The purple light from the lichen and moss covering the covern walls combined strangely with the flickering light from the dancing flames in the four huge braziers in the center of the arena floor to give the scene an even more eeire air than it already had.

Peasebottom sat up straight, "Ah, thisn might be a good fight after all." He called out to the barker, "I’ll take three arcana on Shaden!"

A White Lady appeared next to the two pixies which startled them and they turned invisible again. She moaned and the barker answered, "Yes, madam, four for you on the ugly one, of course." Quickly a bunch of the other fey started switching their bets from the the dogboy to Shaden but it was too late the odds had shifted not that she had placed her bet and no one would take a bet the dog boy anymore.

Smerelda giggled, "Good timing. Can we move to the other side though? It’s a little chilly over here."

Peasbotum agreed.

The fight between Shaden and Lord Leonan Nomad the Cursed was brutal and lasted longer than most expected which caused the betting to open up again for a few moments in a scurry of flurry. But in the end Shaden finished the lycanthrope with a sickening blow that spit the wolfman in two and then again and again and again. Then he scopped the remains into a bloody heap and tossed it into the burning braziers for good measure.

Peasbottom winced, "Ow, tha’s got to hurt; not sure ifn he’ll be able t’ come back fra tha’n."

Smerleda agreed and giggled, "Oo, my, the king will be might mad if he’s lost the dog boy for good. He sure will. That’s good entertainment."

Urisk appeared from nowhere, "Least it lasted longer than Bloody Mary and the Greeny. That was pittful short. Hardly worth mentioning even."

The two pixies lept in fear at the sudden appearance of the poolhaunt and ran to another part of the ledges. Urisk shrugged and looked over at the White Lady who had drifted over next to him, "That always happens." She just moaned and faded away.


BhenedictRhesh Turakbar, MinotaurPhoeby and Challistow were practicing their miming while Merrot looked on approvingly. Suddently he motioned for them to be quiet. The fight was about to start. They stopped still as statues and the two gnomes stood rock still until the arena ramps were in place. The dwarf, Bhenedict, was being urged onto the platform at the same time as the minotaur, Rhesh Turakbar. Between them in the sand of the arena, hogtied and blindfolded, naked was the halfling, Bairdyn, a prize for whoever got to him first. The minotaur had claimed his heart as a feasting prize and the dwarf, well who knows what he had claimed.

The two gnomes moved in perfect unison and Merrot smiled as they executed a mannakin dance back to their seats.

As the dwarf started into the ring the minotaur bellowed out his challenge and the halfling squirmed as he clearly heard the sounds of combat and realized that he was not where he wanted to be. They all met in the middle as the Bairdynhalfling freed his hands and lowered his blindfold just in time to see the minotaur breathing over him about to batter him with his hammer but with his dwarven friend standing next to him ready to defend.

The dwarf and minotaur soon started trading blows with the minotuar getting the better of the dwarf and it looked bad for the dwarf at first. Bets started going against him and cheers started going for the hometown favorite. But then the dwarf appeared to open himself up for a sucker punch but instead let the halfling reach into his belt to remove what looked to be a long-handled butter knife.

Suddenly the tables shifted and the dwarf and halfling started to cook up their bovine foe–they battered his flank and flayed his rump and the naked halfling soon had the steer bleeding in the sand and began to dehorn him.

Phoeby and Challistow took turns throughout acting out the scenes in instant replay, looking to Merrot for approval. Sometimes they got the replay right and sometimes they got a slap to the head and went tumbling to the ground and had to try again.


Maxyzne & ShadenBack in the other ring, Shaden was ushered back into the arena and Smerelda shook her head and giggled, "Oh, oh, this could go either way."

Peasebottum stopped picking his nose, "Ah, lover’s spat, they’s always good fer extra bets. But they’s got em soul drivers. Min’t no go’s well."

Smerlda nodded and giggled, "Oh, I bet some one will step in before things get too far out of hand. The king likes Ugly Man too much and that gem of Green Lady’s seems to have a mind of its own some times that seems to…well do things that make things happen…either that or she’s crazy smart which seems a mite unlikely."

Smerlda giggled, "She’s using the same tactics as against Bloody Mary. Hmmm"

Peasebotton started picking his nose again, "Ah, think ah missed somethin,"

Suddenly, Shaden sensed an opening knocked Maxyzne off balance then using that momentem he continued through and scored a lucky shot knocking Maxyzne out with a crack to the back of her head that nearly left her dead.

The crowd roared with surprise and disappointment. They had expected a longer fight and for the two former lovers to draw out the fight instead of making it so quick. Everyone grumbled and settled up their bets quickly.


SidgevinBhenedictMarrot sniffed the air and whispered to his troupe, "There is something strange in the air. Be ready my lads; I think we may have more than a simple fight before us in this drama."

Sidgevin the Vindicator called out to the dwarf across the arena, "I give you once chance to surrender now. Otherwise your life is forfeit."

The dwarf laughed and called back, "Bring it on."

The dwarf tried to charge closer to his foe, but the eladrin warrior pinned him down with javelin fire until he could get close to him forcing them to fight close to the edge of the arena instead of its center. They traded blows for a few minutes not really making any real progress each just barely scratching the defenses of the other when suddenely from the audience a voice called out, "Bhenedict! Sidgevin! You must go through the portal." A small gnome flew out onto the battle field astride a giant ebony fly–Bingus–casting a spell that opened a portal right next to the two combatants.

Unfortunately both combatants seemed oblivious to the warning and they continued their fight.

Fin, jumped down into the fray, twisting his ankle as he did so, and he called out, "Bhenedict you need to go through the portal. This fight is over we need to get to the other side."

Bhenedict replied, "I’m not leaving without Bairdyn."

Suddenly another elf, Bilgamesh, jumped into the ring immediately followed by Phoeby and Challistow, two more gnomes. The gnomes tried to prevent people from entering the gate while Bilgamesh seemed to be trying to get at least Sidgevin into the portal, though he was attacking Bhenedict at the same time.

BingusOddly, even Bingus ran up and tried to smack Bhenedict with is staff all the while sayng, "You have to run through the portal. We’ll come back for Bairdyn."

BilgameshBhenedict replied, "You’ll never hit me with that thing, but I don’t really appreciate you even trying Bingus. And until these fool elves stop attacking me and we’ve got Bairdyn I can’t leave."

Fin turned his attention to Sidgevin, "Sidgevin you have to stop attacking Bhenedict. We’ve come from Jelandra to rescue you. You too must go through the gate."

Sidgevin answered, "This is a matter of honor. Our battle is not done."

Fin continued, "Honor be damned. Jelandra is not the Lady of Patience, she is the Lady of the Hunt and she’ll not be kept waiting."

Sidgevin appeared on the edge of being swayed and so Bilgamesh added, "Besides, you can aways continue you fight later."

Sidgeven agreed, "Very well but know dwarf that our fight is not over. We will finish this later." And so saying he lept thourough the gate.

FinQuickly the other followed through as well leaving only the two gnomes who had both been knocked unconscious by the heroes. One floating in the air and the other drooling in the sand. Marrot shook his head and hmmed, "This will not do. That was very dramatic (and well played), but they king will likely not be pleased. I doubt we’ll hear the end of this one for a while."

 


SOW Chapter8: Summer’s End

Summer’s End

Found an elf lady

She lost her mad elf lover


She must get him back

SUMMER’S END

Summer's End

After a restful night in the White Lord’s Tower the adventurers, Rikar, Bilgamesh, Bingus and Finellior prepare to follow the leads they found waiting for them on the table with breakfast. Ironically the clue from the Black Lord, delivered raven. The note explained that the Lady of the Deathly Song, Hethralga had entered Klarn:

Behind a waterfall in a quiet grove of trees,
Where the Marth Forest meets the Giant’s Shield Mountains,
At the source of the Elsir River,
Behind the fall, a narrow tunnel.
To Summer’s End.

In the blink of an eye the heroes travel from Mendelland, the legendary home of Lords back to the Elsir Vale via Ishtar‘s Gate which had been prepared for the party’s arrival by Darkhaunt’s savage elves. The elves had keyed the gate for the party’s use and as the passing through they were effortlessly transported to the Vale Gate which lays within sight of ruined Vraath Keep. There from the far southwestern part of Elsir Vale at the west edge of The Witchwood and near the Elsir River they began a long trek east following the Dawn Way toward their uncertain destination in the farthest reaches of the northeast end of the Elsir Vale within sight of ruined Vraath Keep. There from the far southwestern part of Elsir Vale at the west edge of The Witchwood and near the Elsir River they began a long trek east following the Dawn Way toward their uncertain destination in the farthest reaches of the northeast end of the Elsir Vale.

They passed through Drellin’s Ferry (the closest thing to home Bairdyn’s family had), Terrelton, and Nimon Gap, before gasping slack-jawed at the horrific ruin of Talar where only a small contingent of militia remained. Passing Talar they arrived in Brindol after four days of marching. They received a chilly welcome within Brindol, rarely had such a group been seen there. Elves, light and dark, a gnome and a half-elf … they all felt the eyes of Brindol upon them. Bingus fancied the attention and reveled in it. Finellior used it to their advantage, but the two elves remained silent and withdrawn; they were not truly themselves until they left Brindol after a day of rest. Back on the road the came to Elsircross, A small town at a ford of the Elsir River, known for woodcutting and paper-making. Ruled over by harsh Baron Trask and the rest and his rough crowd. After a brief run in with the Baron’s crew, they left quickly after Rikar educated some of the local thugs and continued their quest moving off the road following the Elsir River up and through the Marth Forest. Eventually arriving at the base of the Giant’s Shield Mountains until within a quiet grove of trees they found the source of the Elsir River and there, behind a waterfall, a hidden passage leading into a deep dark cave. Eight days having past since they had come through the Vale gate.

Part I. The Angry Tree

Behind the waterfall the narrow tunnel rises widening into a staircase of stone that eventually descends into a large, mist-filled chamber. While the floor of the chamber is made of worked stone, the walls and ceiling appear to be hard-packed dirt. Across the chamber, the mist shrouds a large tree. The air is still within the chamber but Bilgamesh’s keen senses detect gentle movement within the tree’s branches.

Sleeping Treant

Bonestaff the Ent has been trapped here several weeks ago by the Tulani of Summer but the ent was content and sustained the magic of the mist which kept Bonestaff in a euphoric, dreamy state making the confinement tolerable. If the ent was aware of the party it provided no notice that it was.

Bilgamesh quickly warns the others and after a brief discussion Bingus elects to send in his familiar, a magical spirit dressed as a tiny gold-colored dragon. The small dragon hovers in the air dancing about the tree but garners no reaction.

Fin moves into an alcove set in the north wall of the chamber barely notice a glowing rune beneath the thick mist. Rikar steps in the chamber staying back but moving right in opposite the direction Finellior had taken. Bilgamesh stayed in the entry targeting the ent with his crossbow.

Fin calls out, “Ent forgive our intrusion but …”

The ent’s eyes open and it slaps the familiar out of the air with a lazy swing of a branch … The familiar exploding silently in a burst of golden sparkles. “… Ah, we have come to meet with the King, um, the Stone-skinned King.”

“JELENDRA‘S GUEST?” asks the treant.

“Ah, right … Jelendra?” answers the bard.

Map: Summers End

The ent wastes no time … detecting deceit it crosses from the SE corner to the center of the chamber as smashes Fin with a resounding blow. Rikar leaps across past the treant shouldering the door revealing a hall beyond. Bingus flaring his arms wildly grabbing Bonestaff’s attention, suddenly a translucent golden sphere appears in his hand as if from nowhere and with a flash a vortex appears drawing the ent within in a spinning pattern the ent diminishing it as it spins ever smaller until it disappears entirely; the vortex seals.

Quickly the heroes cross the mist filled chamber pausing at the door where the hear heavy footsteps and the battle cry yelled out in the elven tongue, “For Jelendra, for the Wild Hunt!”

Cyclopse

Part II. Ruined Corridor

Strangely comforted by the mists, the adventures wait in the dim light provided by luminescent molds growing on the walls and ceiling.

The battle in the first chamber had alerted the three Cyclopes in the corridor to the presence of intruders. The cyclopes are readied for a battle charge as the adventurers move through the doors from the northwest side of the hall.

A wide corridor stretches before Rikar. On the west side, a large statue glares within a large alcove. The drow cautiously moves forward peering around the corner, the hall beyond extends eastward. Standing in the corridor he sees two one-eyed giants armed with spears and behind them a third cyclopes, with a glaive held high.

A pair of large wooden doors separates the hall from whatever lies to the east. The doors are shut as the battle begins. Jelendra waits in the hunting lodge, biding her time while she works out a plans of her own confident, committed, and completely unconcerned about the invaders.

Immediately Rikar is cursed by the lead cyclopes evil eye slowing the drow as if he were in thick molasses. Fin rushes to his aid jumping in front of Rikar swinging wildly. One of the cyclopes sets an evil eye to the bard as the second jabs at him with a huge spear. Their leader pushes past the slavers sweeping with the glaive forcing both Rikar and Finellior backwards. The cyclopes take control of the intersection. The second slaver spots the gnome in the NW corner, reaching to his belt he grabs a flask and hurls it at the gnome … filled with sleep powder the flask explodes coating Bingus in a noxious cloud.

Bingus realizes the danger and even as he fills the consciousness draining he lifts the golden orb siphoning radiant arcane energies filling it with a brilliant orange flame until the energy leaps out at the giant cyclopes exploding on impact. The cyclopes stagger. Bingus slumps in the corner asleep. Bilgamesh lights them up with crossbow bolts and Rikar and Finellior finish them off. The hall falls silent.

Wodan

In the aftermath of the battle Bilgamesh is careful to close the doors the to the entry chamber and Finellior steps forward to examine the statue in in the west alcove of the hall. Remember his studies at the university the youthful emissary of Mendelland realizes that the statue represents Wodan, god of the wind and the dead, and often associated with tales related to hunting, and a dragons or maybe devils.

Thinking hard it comes to him, the lord of the wild hunt.

Part III. Lodge of the Hunt

Fin marshals himself and alone he steps up to the large double wooden doors, the others stand a short distance behind him. The bard knocks, with a combination of both authority and respect.

As the door opens, Finellior bows, standing before him there are two small gray humanoids, one at either door, with the third standing in an open arch on the north wall of the hall beyond. Warm light spills out from the chamber beyond the archway. Finellior clears his throat and speaks clearly in his practiced elven tongue.

“We come to bearing greetings for the mistress of the hunt, Jelendra. We humbly request the honor of her presence that we might request passage.”

In a high-pitched whiny voice the quickling at the door asks, “Who might I say is calling?”

Fin replies, “Finellior, Envoy of Mendelland; Rikar of Erelhei-Cinlu; Bilgamesh of the Fading City, and Bingus of Ak'Anon.”

A clear feminine voice rings out from the chamber beyond the arch. Finellior struggles to make out the words, but then the quickling repeats, “Did you say Rikar and Bilgamesh, a dark and a light elf?”

Looking back towards his companions, Fin raises an eyebrow in question. The two elves nod encouraging the bard and he responds, “Yes”

The quickling turns his attention to the alternate chamber, nods and the tells the party to follow.

Within the chamber, the heads of various animals from a variety of worlds are mounted on the walls. A little distance into the room, a eladrin looks towards as the heroes as they enter, her pupiless eyes sparkle with unearthly beauty, her faces shining so brightly that the heroes find it difficult to look at her. She rise revealing her height, stately dressed in a shimmering robe of shifting violet tones and a luminescent green shawl.

The quickling steps fast reaching the eladrin and bending low with a sweeping gestures directing attention to the beautiful girl, “Jelendra, Tulani of Summer.”

At first the warmth of the comforts the adventurers, but as their eyes adjust to Jelendra’s brilliant display a chill runs up your spine as they notice a swarm of beetles are swarming over parts of her body, their tiny bodies sparkling as if beetle’s shells were bejeweled, their numbers countless.

Jelendra speaks, each sound lives as music in the heroes ears, “Would you be the same Bilgamesh and Rikar who have served the Viscount, Sidgevin the Vindicator?”

“We are,” answer the elves.

“Then destiny has led you … and the Court of Arborea accepts your service. Your arrival is most timely. Sidgevin has been imprisoned by the tyrant fomorian Cachlain. You must travel to this pretender’s court, free him, and bring him to me. Return with him and I will grant you a boon of summer, an enchantment for one of your weapons, such that it will beam with the power of the summer’s sun; it you should fail, do not return at all.”  

Summer's Sun

Portal

After speaking Jelendra pulls a piece of parchment from a small chest and quickly draws out a simple map. When she finishes she hands the completed the map to the adventurers and she hands a golden key to one of the quicklings directing the small fey to unlock the doors and see that the travelers are sent on their way.

The portal exits within the range of land the Stone-skinned King apparently considered his own. They see Cachlain’s troops patrolling the lands making it obviously the king laid claim to the territory both above and below ground but it is also immediately clear that the guards are both excited and more than a little distracted. As the party approaches they spot dozens of exits to the surface dotting the landscape, but they also note that all of them are guarded.

Choosing diplomacy over subterfuge they opt to approach the guards directly hoping to be granted entry and given the event of the day they succeed with little trouble after discover that the king grand games were taking place deep below within the king’s palace.

Below a vast network of subterranean tunnels, both natural and constructed, await beyond the surface openings. The domain of the Stone-Skinned King is Stone Skin Kinglabyrinthine. Purple crystal forms the walls of the passage underground causing them to glow faintly. Strange, vibrantly colored mosses and fungi carpet the floors and walls.

Navigating the winding, twisting tunnels of the Feydark palace is nearly impossible, not to mention dangerous. Some of the tunnels don’t even appear to lead back to the central complex and within moments all the party member save Rikar are completely lost in the twists and turns of the connecting tunnels. As they near the living quarters and the common areas they find these chambers are scoured clean of the moss. Slaves and their cyclopes overseers walk the halls in increasing number, and as they approach the heart of the palace an ever wider variety of fey are seen and the ambient sounds of cheer, frolic and blood-sport fills the halls leading the travelers to a massive cavern, the jewel of Cachlain’s palace. Within the cavern, each surrounded by a 10-foot wide chasm, are two vast, flat pillars of bloodstained purple crystal, gladiatorial arenas. In this vast open cavern, the newcomers find gladiatorial battles are already underway much to the pleasure of the fey crowds and the fomorian king who watches through his own magical viewing crystal, appearing within the chamber only as a huge disembodied eye floating over one or the other of the arenas of blood. The walls of the massive cavern are littered with tunnel openings, creating dozens of platforms where audience members can watch the matches. The betting is lively, as are calls for blood. All sorts of humanoids and fey enjoy watching the battles from these ‘box’ seats as gnome entertainers dance, prance and frolic raising the revelry to ever greater heights.

Marrot's Gnomes


SOW Chapter8: The Reckoning

The Reckoning

The chase is afoot
Sarshan dreaded enemy
At last is fallen

PART IV: A RECKONING

Githyanki CaptainThe survivors, Vani, Bingus, Ssarina, Fin and Shaden find themselves in another circular portal landing, this time on the top of the tower but they are not alone. The top of the tower is guarded by warrior githyanki, seeing the heroes they pull silver greatswords from hilts on their backs while their leader arms himself with a sliver longsword, his eyes flashing with mystic power. On the far side of a tower, a dark sphere of translucent force protects four figures: Sarshan, his witch and two shadar-kai bodyguards. However, the scars that the arms dealer bore when you saw him in Umbraforge pale in comparison to his current state. The shadar-kai’s skin seethes and bubbles as tendrils of blood chaos erupt from open sores on his face and hands. Within the protective force sphere, he works feverishly, focused on drawing an arcane pattern within a circle.

“He is creating another portal!” yells Bingus.

The githyanki spread themselves strategically surrounding the party.

What catches Fin’s attention is above them, looking upward he sees the magnificent vessel, an airborne galleon tethered by chain to one of four small obsidian structures on the rooftop, the structure in the southeast corner. The air galleon floating upon the hot winds that waft upward from the sea of fire.

Turning towards Finellior, Ssarina asks, “Theren?”

With a crestfallen look Fin just shakes his head from side-to-side in silent acknowledgement of their loss.

Without further delay Finellior speaks up,

"Good sirs, please allow us a brief interlude, to confer amongst ourselves, and take stock of our situation. No doubt you are well aware of the grievous loss we suffered in the trapped rooms below us. Perhaps my more aggressive comrades will see the light of reason and we can avoid further tragedy… ."

Responding in the common tongue the githyanki’s leader answers, "Our blades shine like a thousand stars, our enemies cower in our brilliant light upon countless worlds greater than your own. By our king’s will and upon the edge of my blade rests your lives, your souls, and your future. Your false gods offer you no succor here. Your debts, your sins will be judged here and now, as ordained by our king!"

"Chastise yourselves and throw down your arms afore I bear our judgment upon you for we offer no shelter, no succor, and no mercy to those who oppose us.”

Map: Top of the Onyx TowerTurning towards the others Finellior whispers, “What’s our plan, everybody? Do we have the slightest interest in taking them up on their offer to surrender? Do we think there’s any chance at all we’d escape with our lives if we do surrender? Do we have any way out of here short of killing them all? Without Theren what chance do we have of surviving a fight?”

Seeing all the githyanki and the shadar-kai, Shaden feels the thrill of impending battle purifying him. Looking at the scene played out before them, he knows this will be a glorious battle. The warmth rising from his blade tells Shaden his blade is more than eager to share the carnage to come. The Wicked Fang seems especially anxious to feast on shadar-kai flesh and none more-so than Sarshan. Already almost completely beyond hearing, the idle jabbering of Finellior only briefly interrupts Shaden’s focus as the bard says something about surrender …

Eager to put an end to such nonsense Shaden announces, "No, we will not be accepting their surrender Fin. My blade and I want some shadar-kai blood and nothing less will sate us. I warn you, none of you should try to steal my victims. I claim half those standing between us, all shadar-kai and most importantly, Sarshan is mine. The rest of you can divide up the other half as you wish."

Without another word, Shaden leaps forward attacking that githyanki standing between him and the shadar-kai racing directly toward the shadowy hemisphere shielding the shadar-kai.

Map: Reckoning

Vani, stands perplexed for a moment whether due to Fin’s words or Shaden’s actions none but he can say. Clearly understanding Fin’s proposition, the halfling realizes that their decision had there really been one had by any account already been made, so he offers this, "Well so much for peace talks. My energy is waning, but I think I can manage. Good luck gentlemen … oh, and ah, Ssarina."

Bingus adds, “There is a time for battle and a time for surrender. They are giving us an opportunity to remove ourselves from harms way and to live another day. Capturing another moment to breath and view the world. This gift of theirs is a good one, one that unfortunately and uncharacteristically I can not at this time accept. No this is not a time to allow ourselves to be captured, this is a time of valor, a time for perseverance and victory. Sarshan must be stopped. Now is our opportunity, there will be blood tonight.”

Then without warning the teleportation circle glows again and two more figures appear, two elves, one light and one dark. Scanning the party quickly the dark elf shakes a small pouch in the direction of Ssarina releasing a sparkling dust upon the dragonborn. Immediately she vanishes and without missing a step the drow yells out, “Send the Crowned-Beast!”and a third figure appears as the dark elf charges following in Shaden’s footsteps but then suddenly the drow freezes in place as one of the githyanki reaches out with its mind locking the drow down with a show of telekinetic force. Two other githyanki flank the drow bearing down on him with their greatswords leaving the drow lying on the rooftop in a pool of his own blood.

King NotakuShaden – Rikar – Vani – Bilgamesh – Bingus – Notaku – Fin

Regardless of their shock and confusion the other members of the party take action. Vani and Bingus start by blasting the githyanki with spells while the light elf fires a crossbow at another and races to the fallen drow’s side. The newly arrived ‘Crowned-beast’ roars and charges into battle dropping githyanki with every swing of his axe. The others recognize him immediately as Notaku, the shifter warden who had disappeared after the climax of the siege at Overlook. Here now, Notaku was wearing the crown he taken from the troll king after killing him in that earlier battle.

With the situation growing out of hand, Finellior turns toward the githyanki’s leader and begins mocking him in verse in an attempt to offer some distraction but in this case the bard’s wit works against as the githyanki leader retaliates with a psychic barrage striking both Fin and Bingus, the powerful attack causing a crushing pain to explode in their heads, and making it difficult to focus. Ship bound githyanki join in attacking him one after another with bolts of telekinetic force driving both the bard and the gnome back and almost over the edge of the tower’s rooftop.

Amid the carnage, a handful of githyanki lie dead. The drow is motionless, and both Bingus and Fin are left bloodied and clinging to the crenellations running around the edge of the tower rooftop. Heedless of the activities surrounding him Shaden attacks the shadow sphere but the force globe absorbs the impact of Shaden’s attack leaving the shadar-kai unharmed. The shadar-kai witch within attacks releasing a dark beam of energy that spreads into a network above Notaku caging him a shadowed cage, tendrils of inky darkness rain in upon the trapped shifter.

BilgameshQuickly the elf, force a healing potion down the drow’s throat, calls out, “I am Bilgamesh of Shinaelestra, and this is Rikar, we are here to assist you against these githyanki,” and then the elf takes cover behind the rooftop gaining a flanking position behind the mind-slicing githyanki leader. Rikar stands and makes a quick assessment before heading the opposite direction towards one of the few surviving githyanki still on the roof of the tower. The githyanki stands closest to a rope ladder suspended from the githyanki air galley and at the githyanki’s feet Rikar notices a chest. Before the githyanki can react Rikar buries an urgrosh in his chest. The githyanki falls without sounding a warning.

Vani takes cover beneath the galley and attacks the githyanki that remain upon the roof finishing off all but their leader. Bilgamesh, Bingus and Fin kill the leader attacking him from all sides. As the leader falls the ship’s captain orders a withdrawl. The ship glides effortlessly through the air and the rope ladder is raised leaving their dead behind.

Shaden says nothing, and acknowledge nothing, mindlessly he beats upon the shadow sphere. From his vantage point Vani sees one the shadar-kai repeatedly strikes the half-orc through the shield with a shadowed-laced, spiked chain. Shaden ignores him. Then a second guard armed with kukri stabs at Shaden through the shield, his weapon also shadow-laced. Reflexively, Shaden reacts parrying the blow with the wicked fang, stabbing back true injuring the shadar-kai warrior even through the shield.

On Vani’s other side Rikar opens the chest. Within he sees a dark cloak laced with black features and emblazoned with the symbol of the Raven Queen, with a beautifully crafted sword, and two felt pouches, one large and one small. Quickly Rikar gathers the items and closes the chest.

Vani tests the shadow sphere blasting it, but his spell has little effect, almost none that Vani can discern.

Bingus yells, “Bring back my ship!” and launches a spell at the sphere that is even less effective than Vani’s.

Notaku finally escapes the cage, and immediately the witch reconstructs it and the shifter is contained a second time.

RikarFin yells out at the drow, “What have you done with Ssarina, we could certainly use her assistance here?”

Rikar ignores the bard’s plea and examines the booty from the chest. The larger pouch holds an unusual orb, the smaller a number of intricate rings. He hooks both pouches quickly to his belt, then pausing briefly he considers the cloak and then as an idea comes upon him, removes his own cloak and dons the dark raven cloak in its stead.

Watching, Vani guesses at the drow’s motives, and suddenly he figures it out; a raven cloak … the Raven Queen … and the shadar-kai, all pieces of a puzzle. Clearly their weapons could piece the shield, and so then might not this cloak in that they served the Raven Queen? Fascinated he watches on.

Bilgamesh runs to Rikar who whispers something to the elf. Still frustrated Finellior approaches the two elves. Notaku breaks out of the shadowed cage. And as Fin nears, Rikar charges leaping straight through the shadow sphere. As he enters he casts something at the ground and great roots erupt seemly passing through the floor of the tower’s roof, back to the point Rikar had just left. Both Rikar and Bilgamesh vanish, trading places. Within the sphere Bilgamesh appears and launches a crossbow bolt at Sarshan interrupting his work. One of the shadar-kai guards, a dawn killer rips into the elf. He emerges from the shield pursuing Rikar slashing him viciously from range with the spiked chain. Notaku moves towards this second guard but he is caught-up in the magic of Rikar’s root-gate and the Crowned-beast finds himself within the sphere with Sarshan and the bleeding elf. Furious Sarshan stands splashing an acidic rain of blood chaos upon everyone within the sphere. The shadar-kai lord, appears unwell, his skin seethes and bubbles as tendrils of blood chaos continue to erupt from open sores on his face and hands.

Then both the other shadar-kai retreat from the sphere, the guard forward and the witch back. Shaden slices the guard deep in passing and the Bingus kills the chain welding painkiller slowly with a tomebound ooze spell engulfing him in a magical acidic malaise of his own. As Shaden finishes the second guard.

Vani backs away from the witch as they exchange attacks, the witch gaining the upper hand hitting the sorcerer with devastating shadowbolts that leave the halfling shrouded in life-sapping gloom.

Within the sphere the elf collapses near death, Notaku tries to throw himself upon Sarshan shielding the elf with his own body but small silver metallic sphere orbiting Sarshan’s head intercepts the shift blasting him with an electric bolt hurling him backwards and Sarshan already armed with a large elaborate spear draws a katar in his off-hand. Moving with inhuman speed Sarshan moves in a blur slicing Notaku a half-dozen times in as many seconds with deadly accuracy. Notaku falls into the root-gate vanishing and emerging back outside the sphere.

Ignoring the elf, Sarshan paces after the crippled shifter charging through unaffected by the shadowy sphere. Shaden blocks him shouting, “Finally! Now you will pay for all you have done to me. Your cruelty will be repaid in kind, expect no mercy, abandon hope!”

Wicked Fang

The shadar-kai responds, “Berk you’re a back-ring noise maker playin’ with a biters moren happy to feed you the iron. You’ve hit the blinds now! I keep scribes busy day n night recording all the addle-coves who’ve tried to cross me in the dead book.”

Shaden launches into Sarshan, striking with ferocity unmatched by any of the half-orc’s previous exploits but he find himself unprepared for Sarshan’s speed and his defenses include the sphere which knocks the half-orc backward as easily as it had thrown Notaku. In the end, Sarshan parries even Shaden’s best efforts with relative ease and then responds twice as hard, twice as fast, and Shaden crumbles. Sarshan beats Shaden within an inch of his life and then bleeding from Shaden’s attack he grins and picks up the wicked fang. “Ah, the plot becomes clear. Little dwarf did you think you could kill me? I am the knuckle, so bow down and buckle. Dead is what I do and I do it well!"

Slowly Sarshan lifts the Wicked Fang raising it above Shaden’s neck clearly intending to behead the half-orc warrior. Then suddenly Notaku is there, having taken time to use the Earthmother’s blessings to recover from his injuries. He slaps the silver sphere with his greataxe destroying it and then uses his size and power to drive Sarshan back, enduring the pain caused by the shadar-kai’s aura of blood chaos. Fin rushes in dragging Shaden to safety. Rikar approaches behind Sarshan attacking him from behind flanking with Notaku.

Still inside the sphere Bilgamesh drinks his fill of healing potion, all that he carries making ready to rejoin the raging battle beyond the sphere. Outside, Bingus and Fin treat the worst of Shaden’s injuries. Sarshan counters Notaku’s attack with his spear as he strikes the spear explodes in a brilliant display completely blinding Notaku.

Notaku’s momentum halted Sarshan spins on Rikar but he finds the drow has already left. Vani and Bingus open up hitting him with all the power they can still muster. It is enough to give the shadar-kai pause to recover. While he does Finellior begins to sing out with a virtuous song with perfect pitch and a stirring shout adding to the heroes courage and purpose, charging them to new heights with the magic power of his repertoire. Shaden rises more himself, no longer under the influence of the Wicked Fang he attacks again, only now wiser and with more caution holding Sarshan at bay until Notaku’s sight recovers then together they drive Sarshan back on his heels.

SarshanSlowly methodically Bilgamesh cocks his crossbow and takes aim, putting a bolt deep within Sarshan brain and the arms-dealer falls dead even before he hits the ground.

With a cheer the battle is won, the heroes look towards each other in disbelief for a moment forgetting any disagreement. Hands are clasped in mutual respect and thanks; Sarshan had fallen. Without a moment’s hesitation, Notaku fell to one knee and reached a hand out, fingers extending towards Sarshan’s crumpled, unconscious body. Most of the rest of the party initially took no interest, distracted with their own concerns…

Shaden was reviling in his mostly sated blood lust, having just finished a worthy battle, though he was angry that it was Bilgamesh that had just felled Sarshan. In somewhat of a huff, he walked away from Sarshan’s body, already looking for more foes to fight, hopeful that perhaps somehow, somewhere near, the party had missed a hiding enemy. He did not realize that what the party had overlooked was actually a new friend (and unfortunately, also an emissary of the Stone King).

Rikar was doubly-distracted, his arms filled with the items from Sarshan’s chest—’my how the sword sings,’ he thought—and his mind filled with the undeniable compulsion to deliver Shaden to the Stone King. ‘That should happen now,’ Rikar thought.

Finellior was aware that Rikar had already raided Sarshan’s treasure chest, and as such, his attention was fully occupied on Rikar. After all, who was this Rikar? How had he happened to appear just at the beginning of the battle? And what had he done with Ssarina? Uncomfortable with these thoughts, and covetous of the treasures Rikar held, especially the singing longsword, Fin’s hand danced softly on the hilt of his own longsword, his fingers tapping out quick, nervous rhythms.

Vani, satisfied for the most part with his actions, was nevertheless running the just finished battle through his head, trying to determine what he could have done differently, what he could have done better, how he could have caused more damage. A proud halfling, and a powerful spellcaster, he was nevertheless always plagued with an almost unhealthy sense of perfectionism. In his mind’s-eye, he was replaying the battle, running through alternate scenarios, each of which improved upon his own performance. Thus occupied, he missed both of the actions that were about to happen.

No, it was only Bingus and Bilgamesh who still had their attention on Sarshan’s dying body and thus, it was only the two of them that witnessed the first action. The first action was as follows: Notaku’s fingers reached Sarshan’s face, and as soon as his fingers made contact, Sarshan’s chest heaved up and then promptly collapsed, as all his breath, his last breath, was exhaled, quickly and permanently—his mouth remaining open in a silent scream. At the same time, Sarshan’s eyes snapped open and then immediately rolled back into his head, leaving white, round orbs staring into nothingness. Finally, and this was the worst, a wisp of something, not smoke exactly, but something…flew out of Sarshan’s open mouth and seemingly was absorbed directly into Notaku’s outreached fingers dancing up his arm to finally be sublimated into the crown atop Notaku’s brow.

It was only Finellior who witnessed the second action, and this action occurred at exactly the same time as the first: Rikar walked up to Shaden, and without saying a word and without touching the half-orc (but, ‘was there a small flick of the wrist?’ Fin wondered), Shaden simply disappeared. If it wasn’t for Rikar’s immediate expression of relief, Fin wouldn’t have even known for sure that Rikar had anything to do with Shaden’s disappearance. But although Fin was not the wisest member of the band of adventurers known as Brindol’s Brigade, even he had the insight needed to determine that Rikar was somehow involved, especially given Ssarina’s earlier identical disappearance.

Fin’s hand stopped dancing and his fingers closed hard upon the hilt of his longsword. “Rikar!,” Fin shouted, loud enough to gather everyone’s attention. “Rikar…,” he shouted again, “What have you done with Shaden…and with Ssarina?”

Bingus and Bilgamesh turned towards the shouting. In the back of their minds, they both noted that they should probably mention something to the party about Nokatu and what they had just seen, but then, both of them turned towards the more pressing matter. Notaku, for his part, also turned his attention to Fin and Rikar, as he rose away from the white-eyed corpse and walked a few feet towards, Fin and Rikar, ending up standing by himself, his back against one of the tower’s many pinnacled adornments, now watching the conflict with apparent interest. ‘By the Earth Mother,’ he thought, ‘…what is happening here?’