Monthly Archives: June 2013

SOW Chapter14: Betrayal


Betrayal at Monadhan



Several weeks after returning from Tu’narath, Rhogar is taking in some downtime
while his new friends busy themselves with their own personal affairs or the
business of the Coalition. Rhogar is sitting alone in the Slaughtered Lamb, the
rough, but very functional tavern located in the human outpost of Thiradith when
he is approached by a coalition man-at arms. Seeing that the man appear a bit
daunted, Rhogar invites the man to join him at the bar near the fire. Being
Dragonborn had few drawbacks, but the mountain cold was certainly one such, and
the Slaughtered Lamb had a nice roaring fire pit Rhogar liked to take advantage
of. The messenger, a man named Killian calmed quickly enough, recovering his
composure as he too began to thaw by the large fire and addressing Rhogar says,
“Your presence is requested within
Sayre.”



“Sayre?”

Rhogar asks incredulously.


 “Yes,
the Coalition’s capitol city of Sayre …



at your earliest convenience.”


Curiosity peaked, Rhogar presses, but every other word out of the man’s mouth
seems to be that he ‘is only the messenger’, then flummoxed by the dragonborn’s
persistence he adds “You should bring
any trusted allies you might gather,

especially the wizard, Bingus.”




Still on the fence, Rhogar asks, “Why
me, why me specifically, I have had no dealings with the coalition, save in
passing with the bold warriors who have represented it?”
 



“A githyanki emissary arrived in Sayre, and requested an audience with you. His
name was something like, Iliss Gith-vas, a diplomat, I think? He is waiting for
you in Sayre; he requested to speak to you specifically.”
 


Still bewildered, and having never found Ssarina anyhow, Rhogar agrees to travel
to Sayre, and in short order he travels to the beautiful island city, traveling
their by means of the Well of the Worlds. Rhogar arrives in Sayre along with the
most of the heroes he had met during the mission to Tu’narath … All save Danasus
who was still in the City of Death working with the gith. The heroes arrive
without fanfare, but they are soon discovered and quickly ushered off to the
handsome old building where the Coalition was born. The structure was now
permanently occupied by the Coalition, and in route they passed beneath the
artsy decorative arches of the March, past its many statues and monuments to
past rulers of the city. Within they arrive at the build a secretary directs
them to, a small quiet meeting hall where they find the enigmatic githyanki,
Lieutenant Iliss Githom-Vass waiting for them. Immediately Rhogar remembers the
Lieutenant as the same githyanki who had first directed Rhogar to seek out
Citadel Mercane while he was searching for Ssarina, the Citadel Mercane was
where Rhogar had met the friends he now had in tow. 

The
Lieutenant rises from his seat, bowing respectfully, and with a gesture invites
Rhogar and his friend to join him at the table. Once everyone seats themselves,
the githyanki closes the door and addresses the group. 

“Rhogar,
up until now you have known me as Lt. Iliss Githom-Vass, but this is but an
assumed identity; I have followed your progress, the progress of all of you, and
all of you have met me at one time or another, but neither Rhogar or any of you
know me as I am, nor have you guessed at by true purpose.”


  
 


The githyanki maintains his stern countenance and then suddenly as if weightless
he effortlessly floats into the air as wings of blue light spread wide behind
the githyanki’s back. Still at the far end of the long table, his form continues
to shift as ‘he’ rises, but at the apex of the ceiling, having fully raised the
githyanki can no longer truly be discerned as a man a woman, or a githyanki.
Rather the lieutenant appears genderless, clothing transformed to a white tabard
with a red gauntlet design along the edge over a common brown traveler’s robe.
The angel bows and motions once more for the audience to sit, then lowers and
settles as the heroes comply. The whole of the angel’s face remains cloaked in
deep shadow, with only the angel’s glowing violet eyes standing apart glowing
immersed in the shadows of the robe’s hood. Wine goblets appear out of thin air,
one before each guest seated at the table. 



“I am called Rachaela, and I bear news concerning worrisome matters of great
import concerning our wider efforts. Despite your recent success and the
coalition’s victory, Tiamat’s plotting has continued unabated. Even as we speak,
one of her exarchs is guarding a ritualist of unparalleled potency. We, those
who would see your world healed, do not know exactly the nature of the ritual
they are working on, but Tiamat has placed such importance upon the ritual’s
success we, the watchers, feel you cannot afford to let it come to fruition. I
have come to share this information in hope that you might find it in yourselves
to stop the Dark Queen’s plot, by challenging her exarch, Mornujhar, and
capturing or killing the ritualist he protects.”
 



“Know first that this will not be easy, you will need to pass through a
purgatory known as Monadhan, the Traitor’s Hold, and once you are there you will
need find a secret, hidden portal, a portal that is well-guarded. It has been
constructed by the ritualist and hidden within the lair of Monadhan’s own dark
lord. And the portal will be useless until you first find the only key within Monadhan
that can activate it; a secret key which is itself hidden. This portal I have
described leads to the Land of the Dead, Grithstane’s private abode upon Klarn,
a place he jealously guards, it is there the Klarn’s Lord Grithstane, the Lord
of Betrayal, has granted both the ritualist and Mornujhar sanctuary. The reason
I ask you, Rhogar the Dread, is because, you uniquely may succeed within
Monadhan where others would perish and fail. Monadhan is the isle of your birth.
You and the one you have known as father are the only living mortal souls who
have escaped Monadhan. Would you be willing to risk everything, and lead an
expedition to the land of your birth to end to the threats I have described?”
 


Finellior speaks first:
“Excuse me, I don’t intend any insult,
but we really, by your own admission, we do not know you. Why all the secrets,
and if this mission is so important why haven’t you already taken action?”
 


The angel responds,


I am a herald, it is not for me to
decide the fate of mortals that is not our way; yet too, these matters could not
be ignored. Before you decide, be warned, should you decide to travel to
Monadhan, you will not be able to simply use a teleportation ritual to return.
You will need to find the secret, guarded portal I have described, a portal
guarded by Arantor, the dark lord of the domain—it is the only way to now reach
the Land of the Dead, and there you will need confront Tiamat’s black exarch.”
 


Finellior continues: “Again I
apologize if I sound abrupt, but we are long overdue for an extended vacation,
and perhaps I am putting my own desires ahead of my own good sense, so speaking
only for myself … You are a herald for whom? I recognize Kord’s iconography upon
your tabard, but can you please explain yourself more clearly?”




“Suffice it to say that I do admire Kord’s strength, as I have already
explained, you will need to find Monadhan’s key to use the portal, but the
nature of the key itself changes. The key is always the object in Monadhan which
is at that moment the most potent symbol of betrayal within the realm. Once you
locate the key, seek out Rolain, he can direct you to the portal. I can provide
many detail about Monadhan, no one can, for few ever return from there.”


Tired of listening to Fin, Shaden speak up, clearly on behalf of several members
of the enclave, “What are we waiting
for, let’s go! Clearly this is something that needs to be done!”


Rhogar, Hagrid, and Rikar all nod in agreement. Besides Finellior only Bingus
seems skeptical and he offers, “This
all seems important, like something we should do, but it also might be an
elaborate trap. I mean think about it, we the defenders of Klarn all walking
boldly and our own free will into a pocket dimension, a demiplane from which
there is no simple escape? It all sounds a little too convenient, like something
our enemies might design to remove us. What do we know about this ritualist …
Not many people fit the description that we have been given, not many at all. I
fit it, am I the ritualist? I don’t think so, but what I about my brother, he
could do it and it wouldn’t be the first time either. He forced our entire clan
to worship Grithstane once when he was working to those undead in the ruins of




Rivenroar
.”
  
 


Rather than comforting the gnome, Rachaela adds:



“You are right to be concerned; you would be traveling at great risk, you could
be captured or worse! Finellior, this will not be vacation you have been hoping
for. You are being asked to travel to the very Domain of Betrayal. You must
consider the supernatural power of betrayal in such a place; to not to do so
would be unwise. Consider this tale as you decide.”





“As I have already explained, Dread Rhogar is actually born of Monadhan.
Monadhan has long been accessible from the Sea of Eternity, or as some call it
the ‘Sea of Fate’.  Prior to laying her
clutch, your mother fled Majyst, in the Sea of Fate that surrounds that isle.
Eventually, she landing upon another isle, one covered by a fog-wrapped jungle.
She wandered alone under a dismal, twilight sky, until she could travel no
further, then she laid her eggs amid the soft rich earth of a bog.




At the time of your hatching, when you first saw the dim day sky of Monadhan,
you were alone. Starving, you were forced to feast upon the other eggs in your
clutch, to survive, even as they began to hatch. You consumed your own siblings,
your brothers and sisters to survive; henceforth, you have been known as Dread
Rhogar, Brother-slayer. At the time, you were still innocent, a victim of the
dark domain that had already taken your mother. Yet unlike you, she had earned
her way to Monadhan by betraying your father. Without her, you survived for a
time alone in the jungle, living off the abundant insects and other vermin which
fester there amid the rot. Eventually you settled near the bog where you had
hatched, close the dark water of the black lake where the people of that land
fish. You have mistakenly thought of them as human tribesmen, regardless, they
found you, but they too were in fact both more and less human than they
appeared. These people are, in fact, reflections of the living, traitorous
spirits, condemned to live, suffer, die … and later be reborn again within
Monadhan, due to the evil weighting upon their souls. They are trapped within
this cycle of repentance, paying over and again for their misdeeds during their
mortal lives, victims of their own corrupt natures. These, the people of the
Traitor’s Hold, caught you and guarded you, but not out of kindness, rather only
so they might use you to serve their own fell purposes. They did this because
your afforded those the rarest of commodities within Monadhan, the chance for
escape.”





“In time their scheme was discovered by others within that realm, and these
jealous leaders of the shanty called upon the undead that haunt the jungle to
hunt down those whom had captured you hoping to steal you for their own
purposes; a fate you were spared by escaping into the jungle while the undead
attacked. For a time, you wandered alone again, lost in the jungle, but
eventually your father found you, and rescued you before you could be caught
again; and by doing so he himself found deliverance for without you he would
never have been able to escape. You yourself had become the key to Monadhan!
Having found you, your father fled from your pursuers, first into the deeper
jungle, and then into the fog surrounds it. He carried you with him, risking all
for someone he had never met, knowing you, had consumed your own brothers. He
never knew you had become the key to Monadhan. And so, your father escaped and
brought you back with him to Majyst … Henceforth you have called this man your
father, even though the truth is your mother, had mated within another. In fact
you are of no blood relation to your father.  Innocent
of your mother’s betrayals your father has raised you as his own, and your
mother’s betrayal, and the unfortunately circumstance of your entry into
Monadhan, forged you such that you become the perfect key of Monadhan, an
innocent bastard who had to eat his own brothers and sisters to survive. And
mayhap, upon your return to that dread land, you will again be.”
 


Having heard Rachaela’s story Fin and Bingus finally agree and the angel provides
a sigil sequence to travel to Monadhan to Bingus reminding the gnome the
sequence used to get there may be obscure but not the problem, the problem being
that neither the sigil sequence or any ritual would be able to bring them back
again. Having provided this warning, Rachaela proffers payment to aid in the
party’s preparations:
1200 platinum coins, 5,000 gold pieces worth of
residuum, and a potion of recovery.
 

Monadhan



“Don’t worry Bingus, it’s not like we are the only heroes left in Klarn.”



offers Fin. “We leave the world in good
hands: Bairdyn, Bhenedict, Eoffram, Zardoz, Chen, Vani, Jerid, Jack, Orion,
Luven, Botellick … And the list goes on and on. I am afraid the world will keep
on spinning without us, and that’s a good thing. Why don’t you help me with
something we do need to be concerned about? Since we will be traveling to
Monadhan soon, I think now is a good time to visit Isabelle Grimaldi, not only
is she beautiful, but she is smart too … and she has the keys to the
university’s library.”


Cheered only slightly,
Bingus agrees and together he and Finellior go to visit the Archdean of the
University of Sayre. This is what they find out:


Monadhan, the Traitor’s Hold:


Monadhan is a domain of wretched anguish believed to be forever linked to the
endless reaches of the Shadowfell. Escaping the clutches of this or any such
dread domain would be no easy task. The place was believed to be a demiplane unto itself; a place so isolated, and so rarely had anyone returning from such a
place, that it would not give up its secrets lightly. The pair of friends, along
with the Archdean, began exploring the library. Much of what they found in the
libraries’ dusty texts and scrolls seemed to be pure conjecture, or perhaps the
scribbling’s of addled minds. Only by coming to understand


something of the nature of these trapped purgatories, known by legend as ‘Domains of
Dread’ could they hope to gleam anything useful about Monadhan itself.


A demiplane of dread was said to be a land corrupted by curse, nature,
circumstance or ritual such that its very substance become permanently linked to
the Shadowfell. These places consisted of a collection of lands, geographic land
masses called “domains” brought together by some mysterious a dark arcane power
or balance. Each domain is mystically ruled by a being called a “Darklord”, a
person or monster who has committed an act or acts of evil so foul earn the
dubious honor of anchoring one of these domains. These lands were most often
revealed by mysterious mists which were said to imprison those trapped within
their borders to the extent of each domain … These mists seemed similar in
nature to those which wrapped the floating Dragon Isles of Klarn. Egress to
these domains is most common through these mists, but generally one could not
escape by any common or known means. Within their domains, the Darklords were
thought to be forever tormented by the objects of their desire, but clearly
their motivations would differ; some might seek love, others were said to hunger
for glorious victory, or one might envy the defeat and humiliation of their
enemies; but whatever it was, the Darklord and their desires or goals would set
the tone of the domain, and such it is that their own twisted natures which
imprisoned them there.



They dug up information on smattering of these planes:



  • Cavitius

    the domain of the demigod Vecna. Cavitius is a realm of deserts, volcanic
    ash, and eternal twilight that drains the life from those who enter. It is
    separated from the neighboring realm of Tovag by the Burning Peaks mountain
    range. Cavitius is named after a Citadel located there.


  • Darkon

    a feudal nation ruled over by the lich-king Azalin Rex, Darkon is the
    largest of the domains of dread. Physically, taking up the northern third of
    the main continent, the Core, and its population easily exceeds that of any
    other single domain. Politically, Darkon was said to be stable but of little
    importance, with its various nobles kept in check by Azalin’s machinations.

  • The domain of Gundarak once held a distorted version of Nerull, who
    they call Erlin as their primary deity, though since that domain was
    conquered by a vampire named Strahd, after which they began to embrace the
    faith of a benevolent deity called the Morninglord instead.


  • Souragne

    is a domain based around “voodoo”,


    a set of spiritual folkways which originated from the traditions of its vast
    swamp. The two most important individua
    ls
    in Souragne are a Zombie Lord and someone called Chicken Bone, the most
    powerful ‘houngan’ in the swamp.


  • Tovag

    a domain ruled by Kas the Destroyer, a part of the Burning Peaks cluster
    neighboring Vecna’s domain of Cavitius, described as a thickly forested, but
    cursed such that any stake fashioned from this wood there could not harm its
    vampiric Darklord. From Tovag Kas waged a war of attrition with Vecna’s
    forces across the Burning Peaks.


  • Vechor

    is an island domain in the Nocturnal Sea, the home of the mad wizard Easan
    and his eternal foe, the ranger Ahmi Vanjuko. Easan is from a small elven
    kingdom on the borders of the Empire of Iuz or possibly Highfolk, while Ahmi
    Vanjuko was born in the Free City of Greyhawk, but is now imprisoned in the
    body of a mechanical golem.

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Monadhan

is a Domain of Dread that has become the abode of traitors of all sorts, the
Mists pulling them in from across the worlds, ruled by an ancient undead dragon
but that was all they could uncover.

Arrival
and the Phantom Beast of Monadhan



After using the sigil sequence is provided by Rachaela, the party of
adventurers: Bingus, Finellior, Shaden, Hagrid, Rhogar, and Rikar use a portal
constructed by Bingus’s to travel to Monadhan. They find themselves within a
jungle filled by an unearthly fog, in
one direction the fog is almost completely impenetrable to the eye, but in the
other, it is less so, and there it is thinned enough to reveal that they are
standing atop a fog-capped hill. Similar hills surrounded a jungle valley that
stretches out before them. The jungle appeared incredibly dense and there are no
discernible paths; otherwise, it could be
any dismal, twisted jungle
valley. With the impenetrable mist blocking their rear, they cautiously begin
moving forward into the valley, which was itself surrounded by cliffs on all
sides at a distance which seemed to be several miles away. As they travel a
dense canopy is formed by trees above them, it varies in height, but generally
hangs approximately 50 feet overhead. The jungle’s canopy turns the already
gloomy day into a heavily shadowed twilight. As they move they hear all manner
of animals prowling through the jungle; they call out in mocking cries, and
stalking the travelers at the edges of their vision. As the day stretches, it is
impossible to assess whether they were making any progress. The plants and vines
seemed to loath their passing and it had been aggressively taking their measure
all during their long march. As a result, the party’s clothes were ripped and
torn; their bodies were coated by a cloying, burning sweat that seeped into
every exposed scratch, hundreds of which were in play upon their skin.
 Time revealed itself in a darkening of
their surroundings. After approximately a day of travel they come to a small
opening in the foliage where they decide to camp. As they prepare, Rikar notices
as the monstrous insects and arachnids begin making the presence more obvious.
He sees one creepy looking spider, the size of a human’s head chittering and
scuttling through the canopy and across the jungle’s floor, and it reminds the
drow of his own home. He began to listen to the wildlife around the party as the
deepen darkness started becoming more difficult for the rest of the party to
see, everyone except the drow.



Soon the heroes divide themselves into three watches, and as Shaden takes his
turn, Rikar mediates nearby when they hear a sudden powerful snarl and commotion
from the camp as if something large had just raided the camp. Looking about
frantically they quickly realize the goliath Hagrid is missing with nothing but
a rustling in the bushes to mark his passing. It was as if the jungle had come
to life and swallowed the giant. Then Rikar notices that the jungle had gone
silent, all but the rustling of some of the foliage to suggest a direction;
seeing this marker, Rikar rushes forward calling to Shaden in his wake,
“Follow me!” 


 Whispers of the animals play themselves
out in the drow’s thoughts …
“Beware”
they call …

“Beware the beast of Monadhan.”




Moving forward like a ghost, Rikar notices the impressions in the mud left by
huge paws, the largest he had ever seen; they brought to mind thoughts of a
great cat of immense size. The tracks make it clear the monster had been
dragging its prey. Then off in the distance, once more Rikar hears the same
guttural snarl he had heard in camp; this time so powerful he felt it more than
heard it. The foliage of the jungle trembled at the sound. Looking about, Rikar
saw it, a huge, panther-like beast, glowing, a mix of phantom-light and shadow.
It was couched over the struggling goliath Hagrid. The huge phantom cat was
larger than any horse, and more powerfully build than any natural beast Rikar
had encountered. It tore unrelenting at Hagrid who was struggling mightily
against it, but as Rikar approached, the monster began dragging the goliath
deeper into the jungle. It was moving fast, carrying Hagrid as if he weighed
nothing. Rikar was being hard pressed to keep up, but then Shaden appears and
joins the ranger’s hunt, and together the close to engage the beast. The huge
glowing beast bats them away, swatting at them with its massively clawed paws,
while maintaining a hold upon the goliath with its massive jaw. Again the cat
retreats dragging Hagrid into the deeper jungle.



Back at the camp the others wake, but Bingus resists, feinting slumber hoping
the ruckus would turn out only to be a disquieting dream, but he eventually
opens his eyes at Finellior’s insistence as Rhogar begins searching through the
jungle struggling to discern any trail. Bingus slowly makes his way to his gear
and pulling out his ebony fly, he summons forth the mount and takes to sky
flying above the canopy following the sounds of the melee below and soon
descends luckily right above the monster. Without delay, the gnome wizard shunts
the beast from Monadhan wondering if his dimension warping magic would work
here. The huge glowing monster disappears engulfed by mist, becoming immaterial.
Bleeding profusely, Hagrid rolls away and stands, and then the mist explodes
with a thunderous crack and the monster reappears lurching once more upon
Hagrid, but this time the goliath is ready, and he resists the monster’s pull,
slowing the beast to a crawl. Heedless of the danger posed be the monster Rikar
and Shaden attack, now joined by Rhogar and together three warriors defeat the
monster, but rather than die, the monster attacks them all once again before
fading away. And eventually the sound of the other animals returns, announcing
and confirming the departure of the Beast of Monadhan.  
 


Lesson in the Swamp



After
the encounter with the beast the group takes some time patching up Hagrid and
then finds they are too awake to go back asleep so instead they opt to continue
their march through the jungle. Both
Hagrid and Rikar were normally comfortable in the wilds, the goliath, Hagrid,
had spend much of his time alone in wild of his northern mountain home. There,
as Vimak, he was known as the Warden of the North throughout the Giant’s Shield
Mountains, but he didn’t find the humid, wet jungle much to his liking. The
dense canopy turned the already gloomy day into a dismal twilight, and the rain
that had begun to fall made matters only worse, but Rikar moved through the
jungle with relative ease. Even now, Rikar still found bright light stifling,
but here in the dark jungle he could see perfectly well, and the overly large
bugs were no worse than their poisonous cousins in the underdark.


Hagrid called to their attention that the grade of the terrain had begun
to slope in a slow descent. With no day or night to speak of, time rapidly took
on an indeterminate quality. The rain fell light at first, but grew in strength
as they continued pushing forward. After several hours of slow headway, they
reached an area where the trees had thinned enough to grant them a brief glimpse
of the surrounding valley. They had made obvious progress, but the mists had
continued to dog their trail, keeping pace with them as if it were following
them. From their vantage point, to the north, they could just barely perceive a
massive waterfall off far in the distance at the farthest end of the visible
valley, but the fall was partially obscured by the falling rain. It fed a river
that wound a serpentine path across the valley floor. In the middle of the
valley they could see a low rise, more a barren hump than an actual hill, and
they could just make out the straight edges of a defensive wall near the top.
Tendrils of smoke rose from that direction indicating the presents of chimneys
or campfires. They decided to move in that direction but as they advanced they
lost sight of the smoke as the jungle closed in around them again. All day they
struggled, and eventually the jungle began to thin yet again. At the same time
the rain suddenly stopped too, but gave rise to even greater humidity and clouds
of noxious insects. After another hour or so of pushing forward, they reached a
marshy area that eventually became a bog and a large pool of murky water.



To Rhogar the landscape started to take on a stirring familiarity, a
sense of belonging. This was the Tangledeep, the swamp that lay on the extreme
southern end of Monadhan. Rhogar knew the swamp extended farther into the mists
than anyone dared travel. It was a dark, unimaginably densely packed place of
warped trees and stagnant, scum-covered water of varied and unperceivable
dangers.
Rhogar warns the others, “All manner of
dangerous and hostile creatures lurk within these murky pools, ranging from
carnivorous fish to blood-seeking flies and far more fearsome…”
but before he
can complete his statement; a five-headed reptile erupts from underwater, a
hydra. It bellows as, one by one, each head turns to regard them and then it
begins lurching forward in the heavy muck, its five jaws opening wide and
snapping at the air in anticipation! 

As
Hagrid and Rhogar push forward to challenge the monster, Shaden and Rikar fall
in just behind them a bit more tentatively appraising the hydra. From Hagrid’s
perspective the monster seems well-behaved, and the goliath settles in to fight
the monster. Anxious to prove himself here in the land of origin Rhogar joins
the warden standing with Hagrid, side-by-side. Together they alternately dodge
or strike trading blows with the hydra. In the beginning it appears to be a
straightforward battle, but Shaden calls out,
“You should try to avoid striking the
monster’s heads, they will grow back in twos if they are cleaved!”


Rikar asks Bingus, “Is this true?” 



“Yes, he’s right, but your flaming axes should suffice to prevent that,”

answers the gnome.
 


Rikar wades in chopping one neck and then a second, and almost immediately two
heads sprout from the bleeding stumps, giving the creature seven heads instead
of five. They all attack in succession, ripping into Hagrid and Rhogar with
increasing fury. Another head is incidentally severed, and again two more grow
bringing the total to eight. Unhindered and in a fury the monster continues
attacking easily getting the better of the heroes.



Shaden yells, “Pull back! I will hold
him.”
Rikar stays with the half-orc allowing the others to withdraw.


Bingus yells, “Go Rikar, run! Tell the
others to retreat! I will see to Shaden’s escape!”
 


Rushing Bingus uses his plane shifting expertise to instantly open a glowing
portal just behind Shaden, and calls to the half-orc,
“Step through the portal!”


Following Bingus’s direction Shaden backs into the portal and vanishes,
rejoining the others in full retreat. High above, beyond the hydra’s reach,
again mounted on his hovering fly, Bingus spins about preparing to follow the
others, when he loses track of the hydra for just long enough to allow the hydra
to use Bingus’s own portal again them, following Shaden through the portal, and
reappears in the party’s midst. The monster’s sudden appearance surprises the
heroes enough to allow, two of the hydra’s heads an opportunity to lash out, and
two of the hydra’s jaws snap shut hard on Finellior’s leg and arm, and start
dragging him inexorably backwards. Fin swoons, as blood pours from his fresh,
deep wounds. Shaden snares the two heads, and Rikar quickly severs them freeing
the bard. Then Rhogar lifts and drags Fin backwards as four heads replace the
two taken, bringing the total number of heads to ten.


Then suddenly the hydra vanishes in a mist and Bingus yells,
“Sometimes it’s better to run, hurry! …
I won’t be able to hold the hydra very long.”
Seconds later, the hydra
reappears, but thankfully with enough of a delay and far enough behind them, to
allow the travelers a chance to escape.


The
Death Giant’s Pet


Roughly
an hour beyond the swamp, the party of travelers find their first thin, tenuous
footpath winding its way along a low ridge, the path winds through the jungle
and in the general direction of the nearing rise in the center of the valley
where they had been seeing smoke rising. The path, as poor as it is, still
allows them to make easier, faster progress; being relatively flora free, even
to the novice traveler it is clear that at least one, or more likely several
individuals had cut their way through the vegetation in a haphazard, meandering
fashion, but to Hagrid, who leads the way, it is clear the plants had been
cutback by someone large and powerful, larger even than himself, because the
damage was wide enough to let him, a goliath, to move freely. Hagrid also notes
that the cuts are fresh. When he also begins noticing a change in the tone of
the jungle, Hagrid quietly signals the others to stop and begins cautiously
moving forward. Rikar and Shaden ignore the goliath’s warning and follow
as quickly as caution allows, but Hagrid, the Warden of the North, out distances
them easily and moves through the jungle’s thick foliage with the grace of one born
to the wild. Soon he comes across a huge crab-like monster, which is clearly
stalking him. The thickly armored monster dwarf’s the goliath, as it rushes
forward, plowing through the grasping branches and vines, all the while glaring
at Hagrid through a pair of slitted, balefully glowing, and crimsoned eyes. The
creature has a spiked carapace, and below its mouth, its chin is strangely
bearded by an array of writhing tentacles. At its approach a direful moan swells
in the warden’s mind as the creature, a chuul, nears; the sound fills Hagrid
with a dreadful, painful whine and an increasing sense of unease that makes it
hard for the goliath to think. Behind the huge chuul stands a dark towering
giant that looks more dead than alive, it has pallid flesh, black holes where
there should be eyes. It is dressed in an odd collection of heavy, spiked metal
armor pieces forged of black iron, and a combination of rags and leather armor.
Both creatures are fearsome of both stature and appearance, and having already
captured Hagrid’s scent, there is no way for the goliath to conceal himself.


 


Then
suddenly Shaden races past Hagrid and intercepts the giant, knocking the giant’s
clumsy attack aside and then counterstriking violently forcing the giant into a
quick retreat. Just behind Shaden, Rikar tries to bar the chuul’s path, but it
swats the drow out of its way effortlessly with a wave of its tentacles leaving
a lingering poison that quickly immobilizes the drow. The monstrous crustacean
then crawls over the goliath easily overpowering him and begins ripping into
Hagrid with its massive pincers. Finellior, Bingus, and Rhogar arrive in a
second wave; both Fin and Rhogar quickly rush to offer healing and encouragement
to the struggling goliath while Bingus cast of spell causing a host of magical
daggers to fly at the chuul. The daggers of force bounce off the monster’s thick
hide without harming the creature.


The death giant halts its withdrawal and
draws power from a hidden reserve of stolen souls, first it magically binds the
souls, and then hurls, them at Shaden and Rikar, the souls explode, deathly
energy and pure despair washes over the two heroes but they resist the attack,
and Shaden pressing his advantage, keeps the giant separated from the chuul and
away from the other heroes. Having saved Hagrid, with healing magic, Rhogar
attacks the chuul in a rage. His blade rises and falls shattering the monster’s
outer shell sinking deep into the creature’s fleshy parts causing a spray of
putrid smelling goo to splash over Rhogar and Hagrid. Recovered from the effects
of the poison, Rikar joins in the attack, allowing Fin to pulls Hagrid free of
the Chuul’s embrace. Seeing that chuul was under control, Bingus turns his
attention back to the giant, and quickly shunts the giant, to an alternate
dimension by force of will, and arcane mastery; cloying mist envelopes the giant
and he vanishes … Shaden’s sword slices unencumbered through the fog, and he
yells at Bingus, “Bring him back!”


Bingus responds, “No, we should leave,
we gain nothing by fighting this giant. Let’s leave while we can.”


The others agree with the gnome drowning out Shaden’s protests, and soon the
battle-crazed half-orc relents and they leave, knowing the giant would soon free
himself from the gnome’s trap. When Cyrix of Gur does reappear the heroes are
gone, and he immediately forgets them reserving his thoughts for his fallen pet.
He races to the chuul’s side and finds the creature lies in a pool of its own
juices amid the debris of severed legs and pincers. Quietly, Cyrix collects what
he can of the chuul and begins moving back toward the swamp hoping the cool
water might make his pet feel better … It doesn’t.

Visitors of Shantytown


Moving out of the jungle, past the Beast of Monadhan, past the hydra, and beyond
the giant, the stinging bugs, the biting flies, the poison snakes and all the
other offerings of the jungle, the party finally arrives at the shantytown after
three days of travel.


It is instantly apparent that several thousand odd inhabitants must be living
within the Traitor’s Hold shanty. Pathetic hastily constructed structures were
clustered together in an incredibly dense, bad smelling, gathering of ragged
tents, crude lean-tos, and shoddy huts cobbled together from rubbish. The area
was festering with rot and vermin, endemic due to a crushing overcrowding. The
inhabitants built their crude shelters right up against each other, as if they
were huddling together to protect themselves from the dangers posed by the
jungle. Tiny, twisting paths run hard against the hastily constructed buildings,
which are in turn hemmed in amid piles of collected filth and refuse.

The
travelers begin engaging in a stout struggle against nausea, as take timid steps
into the camp amid the oppressive press of filthy bodies, and the staggering
stench of the offal, and refuse that accompanies the wretched encampment. It is
clear as day that they are not from the shanty; they stand out in a hundred
different way from the regular inhabitants of the shanty. Even after better than
two days of rough goings through the swamp and the jungle, and several bloody
encounters; they were still cleaner and certainly better dressed than the common
denizens of the shanty. They heroes were garbed in fine armor, and beautiful
crafted, weapons, and other finery while the shanty-folk wore rags, and use
cobbled together of rocks and sticks. They shanty folk spread giving way to the
new arrivals, appraising their visitors with a combination of awe and suspicion
until a somewhat better dressed, more attractive woman approaches, bows and
says,


“I rarely see men who look so out of place, you look like you can use a
little company … If you can pay my price I will treat you nice, and if not I
will just be on my way.”


Rhogar answers quickly, “That won’t be necessary, but maybe you can just answer
a few questions?”


The woman pauses before she answers and then says, “I make it a point to know
who I am dealing with. Information cost money too, and it’s usually not nearly
as satisfying as my other charms. At least I never hear any complaints
from those.”


Bingus replies, “I am Bingus, and my friend is Rhogar … He is from this place.
We are looking for a ritualist, have you seen anyone new passing through here
recently?”



“First, I am Dona Marie; and second, I still don’t know who you are. Trust me,
I am sure I can deliver whatever you’re looking for, but
I’m not into pain, or anything that leaves a mark any other perversity
you might be contemplating in your twisted little dwarvy-heart should be just
fine.”   


The gnome protests, “No, no … It’s not like that.”


Finellior interrupts, “I think it is exactly like that, but Bingus isn’t a
dwarf, he’s a gnome, regardless, we really are just looking for information.”



“Too bad, you’re kind of cute, but not so cute that you won’t have to pay. Do I
look cheap to you?”


Shaden hands her 10 gold pieces. She pockets the coins, and holds out her hand,
wearing an expectant grin. Shaden rolls his eyes, and Fin asks, “What will an
hour of your time cost?”



“So, I do look cheap … Let’s start at 50 gold and it includes a kip to rest your
bones for the night, and a fine kettle of black fish.”


“Agreed!” answers Fin as he hands over the additional gold.


Dona
Marie leads the party a short way to the edge of the shanty and into a rough
encampment at the outskirts of the shantytown. As they reach


her destination, she says:



“This is the Raven’s kip, we can take care of business here. No one else will
dare bother us here. This is ‘Edgetown’, on account we’re at the jungle’s edge,
and most times that’d be bad, but we’re wedged in nice and cozy, and here we got
cover; trust me you will need it here … You got to get some friends a place like
this.”



The encampment is a tightly arranged group of very rough shacks, made of
salvaged boarding, several of them so badly constructed they have already fallen
apart. As the group arrives they see it is filled with a rough-looking crowd of
men that eye them suspiciously as they enter the camp. One of the larger men
approaches.


“Hey Dona, what do got yourself here?”



“Just business, sweetness, don’t get yer panties in a bunch … is Stony here?”



“Ya … He’s in the back.”



“Tell to him not to bother me … you know the rule, if the shack is rockin don’t
come knockin.”


The Raven’s camp doesn’t smell quite as bad as the rest of the shanty, but it
isn’t fresh either; mixed in with the harsh odor of unwashed men, it smells of
old refuse and rotting fish bones. The camp holds anywhere from a dozen to a
score of men and women, the women easily being outnumbered six to one.


Fin says, “Miss, if we could get down to business now …?”


“Oh, sweetie, you are in a rush all of a sudden, not that I blame you; the sight
of all these sweaty bodies, always does it for me … Well let’s get on with it then,
you’ll be first. We can get us a little privacy here in the ‘love’ shack.”


Fin, pauses … and starts to say, “That’s not what I m…” but then relents and
just follows Dona into the rough fell smelling shack. She pulls a drape over the
entrance which serves as the shack’s door and once inside, Fin continues.


“Not that you’re not attractive, it’s just that I …” This time Dona stops the
bard placing her finger at his mouth, and say, “Say no more dearie … not that
I’m just not that disappointed, but you are cute.”


Pulling back the drape she yells out,
“Hey bull, this one is more your speed, get over here and spread your cheeks
for a change!”


Laughter erupts from the party of travelers, and Fin interjects himself in their
revelry saying, “You’ve got me all
wrong, as he pulls Dona Marie back into the shack.”


As sounds of vigorous sex begin bursting from the shack, and eventually two of
the larger men in the camp approach, one is obviously their leader, Stony and
another large man wearing leather, who has a crazed-look to his eyes and a
somewhat disappointed continence … Bull.


Stony says, “So you guys just here on
vacation? Enjoying yourselves eating my food, fucking my women … All the while
under my protection? You must be thinking you died and went to heaven. Well,
this ain’t fucking heaven, and no one gets a free ride here! Everyone’s got to
pay their own way, now we can do this smart and you can just ante up,, or maybe
you want’a do a little song and dance first, well it’s your choice. I do enjoy a
good show, so what’s it gonna be boys?”


Shaden is the first to notice that they are surrounded, but Bingus speaks first,
“There’s no need for trouble, how much
do you want? 500, 1000 gold pieces … How much? It doesn’t matter; we are just
looking for information.”


Shaden opens his jaw wide, and Stony answers,
“You know gold really doesn’t mean that
much here, you can’t eat it, and there really isn’t all that much to buy, but
you all seem to have an excessive load of fine metal, and that does have value
here. How about you all ante up a real dagger or two and we can start our
discussion from there.”


The heroes look at one another, and through gritted teeth, Shaden says
“We all have an extra dagger.”


They start to make a pile but as they do, the man closest to Rikar collapses,
coughing up blood and chokes out,



“Kill Em, Kill them ALL!”


He stabs back at Rikar, using a make-shift shank, and fighting erupts throughout
the camp. They gang fights dirty, and with a substantial amount of skill but
they have no organization, and no finesse. Quarter is not asked for or given,
but no one dies easily. To the man, even outnumbering the heroes four to one,
they are no match. As the Raven’s fall they often shout out odd admissions, or
other bizarre exclamations, before finally falling and dying. And then as they
fall, the bodies melt into the same strange thick mist that filled the jungle,
the bodies disappearing entirely, leaving only their gear behind:



“Why fucking bother, that’s my motto, if the gods strike down every last savage
shit today, we will all be replaced again tomorrow!”



“Didn’t you ever misjudge someone? Well, you have now!”



“I am only a collaborator!”



“While
you fought for others, I entertained you lover in your bed; a wiser shepherd
knows to guard his own flock … How does it feel to die knowing she is with me?”



“And then he says, May you live forever; imagine that shit … May you live
forever!”



“Let me die in this old armor … May Magnus forgive me.”



“You don’t understand, I acted only to save myself!”



“With my lips I denounced you, while your heart bleeds its last!”


Midway
through the fight a voice spoke in Bingus mind, “You look like you
could use a hand friend Bingus.”

Bingus cautiously replied, “You sound
familiar but I don’t see a familiar face to go with this voice in my head. Who
are you?”

“It is I, Aeneid. I haven’t revealed my pesence yet, while I have
been observing the fray you and your new companions have gotten involved in.
Where are the rest of the Brigade?”

“Ah, friend Aeneid, they are either dead or still defending Overlook
and the Elsir Vale. This great adventure is not for them. But I am glad for your
presence here and we would welcome your aid.”


Suddenly a face familiar to Bingus appears above the fray hovering like
an angel of death.



“Who is that?”


calls out Shaden.



“He is a friend, and the most interesting man in the world!”

says Bingus. “That is Jeroen!”


The hovering man answers in coolly, with an exacting tone,
“You are wrong Sir Bingus, but that is
the man I seek. I am Aenied, Avenger of Erathis, and Scourge of the Underbelly
of the City of Seven Dark Delights.”


Finellior emerges from the shack holding on tightly to Dona Marie who struggles
mightily in his grasp:



“Let me go!”


“If I did that I might have to kill you; besides if you hadn’t already tried to
kill me you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”



“If I hadn’t done exactly as I was told, Stony would have done far worse.”


“I don’t find a fault with your logic, except that it appears Stony isn’t in
much of a position to do anything to you now.”



“Yes, but he will be back, they all will. No one ever leaves here.”


“Never … But that is precisely what we must do. We were told there is a key we
must find. If you can but point us in the right direction, you might yet gain
your freedom, but I am amiss, I have failed to greet this new arrival. Aenied is
it? A friend of Jeroen’s no doubt. What pray tell brings you here? I confess I
am surprised to see you here.”



“Finellior, hail fellow well met!”

calls out Aenied.


“And yet, somehow, it feels like the first time, at least to Me.” answers Fin.
“Did I hear you right? Did you say you are looking for Jeroen? I’ve some bad
news for you my friend, Jeroen is dead. I saw him die before my eyes at
Garaithas Anvil where he fell victim to a githyanki death ward.”


“Wherein lies the mystery, for such a ward should not have been able to kill
Jeroen, still this ill tiding only magnifies the importance of my mission; it
seems I will have to take on a task meant for Jeroen. I came to warn him of a
new threat to the realm, I have discovered that dark necromancers, followers of
Grithstane, have been long complicit with our enemies. I have heard the tale of
how your party has defeated one of them, a certain Kaius Dantus, known as the
‘Necromancer of Beyond’. The man you battle within the Well of the Worlds. This
same man had kidnapped, the infamous suffering man the Coalition forces had
found within the Fist of Mourning. What has come of the tortured man we do not
know, nor do we yet understand the point of his kidnapping, but this much I have
uncovered. Another of these dark practitioners has been discovered, yet before
he could be revealed, he fled Klarn, under guard of yet another of Tiamat
Exarchs; Mornujhar, Prince of the Black, I pursued them here. And I hoped to
warn Jeroen, but if he has truly fallen, then I will continue to chase them
myself,” declares Aenied.



“We are happy to have you join our quest; and perhaps not so surprisingly, that
is why we are here ourselves. Besides, I’ve been hoping to run into one of you,”

responds Bingus.


Aenied glares at the gnome with one
cocked-eye as if considering a response, but then choosing simply to ignore
Bingus, the avenger lands and joins the others. Bingus spins around Aenied
casually looking for the avenger’s magic bag … the same bag all of the ‘Jeroens’
wore … Disappointment shows on his face as Bingus fails to spy out the bag.


The battle over, Hagrid, Rikar and Shaden busy themselves examining the leavings
of the missing bodies of the fallen Ravens; and Fin queries Rhogar about their
strange departure of the bodies but the dragonborn has no answers; he explains
once again that he was very young when last he visited Monadhan. Rather it is
Aenied who offers his suppositions in response to Fin’s questions.


“Traitorous spirits make up the vast majority of the inhabitants here. They look
normal enough to us, but they are in fact damned spirits trapped within Monadhan
by their own actions. I have been told when they are ‘killed’ they simply wake
in the jungle with nothing, one year and a day after their falling remembering
nothing or little of their past, but with an ever greater, enduring sense of
loss. Such is the nature of this purgatory.”


Fin turns his attention back to the woman in his arms and asks, “Is this true, if I
kill you now will you simply fade away?”



“Why would you do that love, when I can be so much more useful as your guide?”


“But we would never be able to trust you,” answers Fin, “What did you do to get
here?”



“I was but a consort of very powerful men, not so different than I am now. You
may stab my body and it will heal, but the injury to my heart would last much
longer.”



“Enough of these word games, you have not offered a single piece of useful
information, you will do so now, or I will slay you myself!”

declares Shaden.



“The type of answers you’re looking for can be answered by only one person here,
the Governor’s seer, Sarissa. I could take you there if you’d like.”<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

The
Governor



Dona Marie leads the party to the only defensible, structurally sound building
in the area. As they travel through the shanty towards the outpost she explains
that
“the outpost is currently under the control of a man named Pelnur Gatesfist, but
no one calls him that, anyone smart only calls him ‘The Governor’ … And the
Governor makes permanent ‘guests’ of anyone he find of value within the
Shantytown: smiths, armorers, horseman, and the seer.”




A rank dirt path, 20 feet wide leads from the squalor of the shanty to the
outpost, approximately 100 feet beyond. The path shows hoof-prints revealing the
regular passage of horses. If not for the locale, the fort itself would not be
very impressive, but here within Monadhan, it is truly an outstanding
achievement. The fort is surrounded by jungle on three sides, but the jungle is
cutback almost 100 feet on all sides. The walls of the fort are 20 feet high and
there is a tower built in one corner extending twenty feet higher than the
walls; in the southeast corner, and allowed guard to oversee the front wall and
the entrance gate. Several men armed with longbows are positioned there atop the
tower.




As the party approaches the men on the tower call down:



“WHO ARE YOU, AND WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
 


Dona Marie answers:
“These men have questions for the seer.”
 


The guard responds: “THEY WILL HAVE TO
SPEAK TO THE GOVERNOR.”
 


After a short wait another man appears, a man of haughty appearance, and
one-patched eye. The Governor says: 



“Pleased to make your acquaintance gentlemen, lady … I hear you would like to
speak to my seer. You being newcomers, you may not be aware, but I’m the
Governor here, and it’s my job to see to our resources, something we all share
around here. I’m sure we can come to an amicable arrangement. Looking at you it
is clear you are overburdened with goods, and my people have so little … This
should be a simple business transaction, 300 gold to get in the gate and then
you pay Sarissa for her time. Does that sound fair to you?”



Finellior replies, “Is that 300 for all
of us or per person?”
 



“That price is for the group of you, but it goes without saying that I can’t
have a bunch of armed strangers in our camp. You will leave your gear with my
men, where it will be safe, or if you would rather, you can leave your gear with
some of your men outside of outpost. Makes no difference to me, but anyone
coming through the gate is coming through the same way you came into this world,
save for one of these robes.” 

The
Governor pulls a common brown monk’s robe from a bag and holds it high enough
for everyone to see. 


Fin’s eyes pan over the rest of his party where he sees his own doubts reflected
in their eyes, but then Aenied speaks up. 


“Let us discuss this back in the shanty, away from the prying eyes of the gate.” 


Away from the gate they forge a plan. Aenied says, “I can hide myself in a cloak
of invisibility and walk on the air as you saw earlier. This will allow me to
hold on to a few weapons discreetly, and pass them to whoever needs them should
things go awry within the outpost.”


After a brief discussion, Finellior, Bingus and Shaden agree to meet with the
mysterious seer with the understanding that Aenied would follow them discreetly
above, and arm them if it became necessary. Decided they return Aenied already
invisible rises above the outpost. Finellior pays the fee and strips with Bingus
and Shaden; they outfit themselves in robes and pass through the gate together.
Two guards close the gates behind them. 


Beyond the gates wait four additional guards armed with long spears and swords;
they are mounted on horseback, and their black undead steeds snort derisively,
their flesh torn and bleeding, they sneer with blood-laced lips pulled back
revealing sharpened teeth, eyes glowing with the feral need to kill. The guards
back up the steeds, four in all, splitting themselves on either side of a muddy
track which leads to the smallest of the three buildings within the fortress’s
courtyard. It is just a small dwelling, 20 foot square. To your left of the
shack there is a large two-story stable, and on the right side of the courtyard
is the four-story tower. The guards leave the path to the smallest building open
and the cabin’s door opens revealing an inside dimly illuminated candles. A
woman waits in the doorway, she wears a heavy-hooded purple robe that masks half
her face in shadow and says: 

“I
knew you would come.”



As the travelers approach she adds, “I am
Sarissa, of the fold … Within my creases your future will be revealed.”


She removes a strange square of cloth covered in symbols from somewhere within
her robe and she begins folding it mechanically in a pattern the covers both her
hands such that she can manipulate the cloth opening it on either its vertically
or horizontally axis, like an insect’s mouth. Once completed, the outermost
shell of cloth projects symbols at each corner of her fold. She presents the
device outward towards you, and says using a different, deeper tone:




“Ask the right questions and your path will be made clear!”
 


She backs away inviting the visitors to enter the small shack. They note the
seers ankle is chained, a chain anchored in the corner of the shack to prevent
her escape. When they have all entered she closes the door and stands with her
back to the north wall opposite the entry and she continues, first casting her
attention downward as see stares into the folds of the cloth. Then she begins
alternately opening and clothing the device, first one way than the other, both
vertically and the horizontally; her lips begin moving as if silently chanting.
After a short time she is stops and she begins unfolding her creation partially
and invites the traveler an opportunity to ask their first question. 


Fascinated Bingus asks, “It is said we
will need a key to escape this realm, where can we find it?”




“The key of Monadhan, the object within the land most strongly linked to
betrayal; any who would escape our fate, must take the key with them, leaving
only the mystery behind, thus it is always hidden and ever shall be.” 

Continuing
Bingus asks: “What form does the key
take now?”
 




The key of Monadhan is the Sword of the Betrayer, the one with the Bloody Hand.”
 


Finellior turns to Bingus and whispers, “Kas … Do you know the legend?” Bingus
nods, “Kas the bloody-handed … I thought it only a story, but he is said to be
the most trusted lieutenant of an arch-lich named, Vecna, but it is said he
betrayed Vecna and cut off his hand and plucked out an eye before escaping.
Vecna’s dismembered hand, his eye and the Sword of Kas are all described as
relics, artifacts which contain great power.” 


“Yes and Vecna is said to have followers, a cult, fashioned after writings found
within the Book of Vile Darkness. People who worship the villain as a god,” adds
Finellior.


Finellior takes a turn asking a question:
“Who is the dark lord of Monadhan?”


Sarissa manipulates her device and says:




“Arantor, the dragon is the dark lord who rules Monadhan, but he sleeps, as he
has for many a year, since the reckoning … Rue the day that he raises from his
slumber.”
 


Following this the bard asks, “Where is
the dark lord’s lair?”
 




“He slumbers within the heart of the land, always close yet beyond reach, beyond
sight, beyond care … In a place I cannot reveal, for fear of the doom such
knowledge entails.”
 


Before another question can be asked, they
hear a loud thump, followed by a thick
scraping sound on the wood of the shack; then something races hurriedly pass the
shuttered window … Shaden raises the shutters and looks outside seeing a
half-naked woman coated in greenish jungle mud capering within the courtyard.
She wears only a tattered sarong and an expensive looking necklace. Her nails
are long, and filthy … sharply curved, appearing more like claws. As the
half-orc watches the strange woman calls out,
“Sarissa! Oh, seer! You were warned not
to speak to strangers?  … I have
come for your guests … Tell them I want to play.”
 




Shaden
notes that the woman in the courtyard cast no reflection upon the muddy puddles
that mar the courtyard, and her teeth are hideous and fanged.
 


Sarissa breaks her trance and says, “They have come.”
 


Without another word Shaden opens the door and races out into the courtyard
towards the crazed woman, his arms raised high towards the sky. Finellior
follows close behind the half-orc. The woman crouches, hisses and springs;
leaping better than fifteen feet, and landing upon the unarmed half-orc;
immediately she begins clawing at his flesh, tearing his robe into ribbons in
the process. Finellior tries to come to Shaden aid, but suddenly pair of hulking
male vampires fall upon the bard. They stretch Fin’s arms wide, as a third
vampire races across the courtyard from the tower howling … In an instant he is
there, and all three sink their teeth into Finellior’s compliant flesh, but
there is nothing gentle about their embrace, they savagely tear at the
bard like sharks, making great bloody wounds, while gulping ravenously at bard’s
blood. 


The crazed female vampire yells, “Take
the seer, make her suffer … Gwenth will not suffer her lies; let those taint by
her words share her fate!”
 


Above the other concealed by his invisibility Aenied rushes desperately trying
to get into a position to supply desperately needed weapons to his allies, but
he had been taken aback by the speed of the vampires attacks, and the effortless
way they had manipulated where each battle was being fought. Aenied pauses torn
impossibly between the needs of Shaden and Finellior and then calls out to
Shaden and throwing him a blade, and then moving directly to attempt to save Fin
ready to use every resource at his


disposal.


In the shack Bingus yells to the seer,
“Take cover! I will return with help,”
and immediately the gnome vanishes. 


Outside of the outpost, as Bingus appears next to his dragon familiar, he warns,
Rikar, Hagrid, Rhogar, and Dona Marie …
“They are under attack!”
 


Without
warning, a beautiful, red-cast, nearly naked, devil appears above them. She
carries two great axes. Hovering she spreads her wings wide and points the heft
of one great axe towards the gnome, and a wispy cloud of life-force stretches
outward from the gnome’s body painfully elongating as if the devil was feeding
off Bingus’s living soul. Bingus speech becomes slurred as she smiles and says,
“Is my voice not sweet? Is my shape
not pleasing?  Take hold mortal,
your end is upon, I come for you.”
 

Without
hesitation Rhogar takes to air barreling into the devil. Rikar turns and runs
for the gate. Hagrid interposes himself between the devil and the gnome, and
Dona Marie runs back towards the shanty. There from behind a building another
woman appears, a pale beautiful woman in dark leather outfit, and wind-swept
raven hair; gracefully she draws two short swords and Dona Marie’s head falls to
the ground exploding silently into a ball of mist. The woman fixes her eyes upon
the goliath.


Rikar speedily, effortlessly scales the 20 foot wooden wall of the outpost,
until the guards upon the tower seen him and begin peppering him with arrows
from their vantage atop of the tower. Their aim is true and Rikar leaps from the
top of the wall hoping to spare himself further injury. He lands softly in the
muddy floor of the courtyard. Quickly, he lifts and tosses aside the heavy
timber that bars the gate; all the while still enduring the guard’s attacks, and
then he throws the gate open, taking cover behind one of the heavy doors at the
same time. Rikar’s body had already been pierced by several arrows, but quickly
takes in the scene carefully judging his next move. In the courtyard Aenied
frees Fin’s taking up a defensive position in front of the bard. And now armed,
Shaden had flung the crazed vampire into the mud and he was daring her to rise
as he plied her with another swift attack, but Shaden too had now become a
target for the archers, and not only those upon the tower, but from arrows slits
set in the tower as well. Knowing Shaden could stand long against such odds
Rikar darts into action; he running at full speed directly towards the toward
crossing some forty odd feet before leaping up stairs set at the outside of the
tower; the stairs rise to a locked door set at the 2nd floor of the
tower, but the door is not Rikar’s goal; from the top of the stairs he leaps
over the edge, over the railing and he lands in a heap upon the back one of the
riders, opening the rider ear-to-ear with a skinning knife. The rider dissolves
into a fog, and Rikar takes his place upon the dark steed.


Spinning the horse about the drow ranger pulls hard on the reins causing the
deathly horse to buck up and stand high upon its hind legs. Raising his burning
axe high, Rikar shouts at the men inside the tower: 



“FIRE
ANOTHER ARROW AND I’LL SET THE TOWER ABLAZE!” 


The devil crashes to the ground with the dragonborn arriving fast upon her, he
attacks relentlessly; catching the devil’s eyes with his own feral glare. Hagrid
prepares for the new threat, but then without warning, this new vampire is upon
him spinning faster than his eyes can follow. She slashes him viciously with her
twin blades, and almost immediately he is bleeding from a half-dozen fresh
wounds, and the woman had somehow spun entirely around him. Hagrid looks up
realizing to is upon the ground, on hands and knees, moistened by his own blood;
worse, Bingus too is grievously injured, he staggers a short distance from
Hagrid, bleeding profusely, desperately backing away from the beautiful vampire.
Gwenth advances, but in a flash violet lightening leaps from Bingus’s to the
vampire and she is gone. Bingus launched the vampire violently, inexorably into
a harsh, chaotic, dimensional cascade of elemental energies. As Hagrid rises, he
realizes that the beautiful vampire had not been alone, as two others appear,
one in tattered robes emerges from shadow of a small dilapidated shanty to the
east holding another victim, and a second larger male causes a rustling on the
other side of a porous shanty building to the west a appear holding a second
victim high lifting her overhead with one arm. They toss the bodies aside and
then race engage the bloody goliath. Nearby, Rhogar’s blade raises high and
falls heavily, cleaving wide the devil’s chest wide; she vanishes exploding into
a sulfuric cloud.


As Shaden’s sword sinks deep into Bloody Alice’s torso, she scuffles against the
blade until she devolves into a thick cold mist. The mist spreads across the
moist earth and then begins drifting over the ground with direction and purpose.
Shaden turns attention to Aenied and Finellior and with the half-orc’s aid the
quickly gain an upper hand again the three remaining powerful, but animalistic
vampires. All are thankful that the arrows had stopped, as Rikar continued to
harry those hiding within the tower. The other riders give way seeming unanxious
to engage the angry drow. 


Outside the gate the remaining vampires engaged Hagrid, but Rhogar arrives as
soon as the vampires and catches the larger of the two on the end of his sword.
The vampire pulls himself forward on the blade, still reaching for the warlord
in a hideous attempt bite him. The horror of the maneuver hits Rhogar at his
superstitious core, and he leaves the blade in the vampires body and retreats
into the courtyard leaving Hagrid and Bingus to face the vampires alone.
Prepared and furious, Hagrid holds his ground attacking both vampires while
standing guard over the still bleeding gnome. Embarrassed by his fear Rhogar
leaps upon back of one of the vampires in the courtyard throwing the vampire to
the ground; the vampire spins fast and tries to rise, but Rhogar answers with
dragon fire, setting the vampire ablaze. The monsters rises engulfed in flames,
awed the dragonborn backs away, and the vampire dissolves into a mist. The other
two vampires are also destroyed by the combined attacks of Shaden, Aenied, and
Fin. Together the group moves quickly towards the gate. Rikar yells,
“Go!”
  


Once outside they see Hagrid, barely holding one vampire at bay at the end of
one extended arm, his meaty fist wrapped around that vampire’s throat, while a
second female vampire was viciously sucking blood from the goliath’s neck,
crouched upon Hagrid’s shoulders like a giant spider. Making matter worse, the
beautiful vampire, Gwenth, had reappeared. She was still smoldering from the
elemental hell where Bingus had deposited her. 


Gwenth says, “I am a herald of Death,
sworn to destroy any who would oppose my master. This is why I exist. I have
waged this war against your kind for centuries; my record perfect, I remain
unseen by the prying eyes of living mortals. To see me is to die, do you imagine
you will change this?”
 


The next instant the heroes are on her, Shaden, Finellior, and Aenied strike as
one as Rhogar takes control of his more feral nature. The dragonborn blocks
Gwenth’s approach refusing to yield her any avenue of attack. Rikar rides out
from the outpost and severs the larger vampire’s necks with one swipe of his
burning axe. And Hagrid rips the final vampire from his shoulders and hurls her
to the ground, driving his falchion straight through her skull. All the vampires
all disperse into mists which vanish amid the trees in the jungle. Only a mask
remains where Gwenth had been.


As the party turns their attention back to the outpost, they reenter the
courtyard victorious and, approach the seer. Finellior says, “We can free you,
and you can come with us.”


She answers, “I am safer here. They are gone, not destroyed. You need to find
Rolain, Gwenth’s brother … He waits for you in the graveyard and when you find
him no place will be safe.”


Rikar keeps the undead horse DARK HOOF … And collects three platinum rings with
inset diamonds (worth 7,500 gold pieces each) and an additional 2,500 gold
pieces from the Governor to leave the outpost intact.


Mask
of Familiar Betrayal




Exquisitely crafted from nearly paper-thin marble and bound in delicate golden
frames, these masks are magic items. When worn, the wearer can choose any
humanoid creature within 3 squares and until the target moves beyond the aura
the wearer of the mask can choose to appear as an exact likeness of one of the
target creature’s friend’s, allies, loved ones or any inconspicuous person;
because the mask works only within an aura of 3 squares, the mask of familiar
betrayal has limited use for espionage and other subterfuge; the effect has both
psychic and illusionary components, neither of which effect individuals beyond
the aura. The masks are being used by Gwenth and Rolain to hide from Kas within
the shanty town of Monadhan. They also use the masks to help break the spirit of
their victims by making it seem as if someone they love is hurting them, or to
disguise themselves as a prostitute or any other lost soul within the shanty.




Property


While using this item’s power, gain a +15 item bonus to Bluff and Insight checks
to pass off a disguise or to guess at a target’s motivations.



Power
 Daily
(Illusion; Psychic)
 (Minor
Action)

You
gain the appearance of any humanoid race of the same size category as you. Your
clothing and equipment alter appearance to reflect this change. The illusion
does not alter the sound or texture beyond 3 squares, so a creature beyond that
range listening or watching you might detect the illusion.