Recap: The 26th of Davor is a day of rest and preparation for the party. The Temple of Mikindim in Aboris'shifa offers whatever supplies and equipment the party might need -- and Artimus Sendant, as well. Just before sunset, their guide, N'Kara, and Cleo make a daring rescue of N'Kara's animal companion, Snowy. The quarantine building erupts in livestock and wild animals, and in the confusion, Snowy and a small barge go unnoticed.
Meeting outside the city not long after, the party set out northwest, towards the Simien Hills. Several days later, they met -- and destroyed -- Kiral en Shabbath. The mummy that had nearly destroyed them during their encounter at the Forge proved easy to destroy with flaming arrows, and the battleground of the party's choice. The thirty skeletons that the mummy commanded mattered not -- and Snowy took nearly ten herself.
Some kobolds tried a devious little trap that nearly killed Jena's camel, but they ran rather quickly when Lucian literally blasted one to pieces with a magic-missile.
Once into the hills, the going became a little rougher, and they began to follow the coastline itself. A bandit by the name of Shur'kimel was going to use his clan to extort nearly ten gold a head for the party to continue on through 'his' hills. Artimus managed to make a deal, though -- Shur'kimel's best archer could shoot at him from fifty feet, and if the archer killed Artimus, the party would pay fifteen gold a head. If Artimus could deflect the arrows, they would pay only four gold a head. Artimus deflected first one arrow, and then caught the second. Shur'kimel thought this was most entertaining, and let the party through at the agreed upon amount.
At the ends of the hills, when the Shaefa Plains just became visible, their guide Ye'shenna had to turn back with the camels. From that point on, they were on foot, and using vaguely remembered directions. Four days of travel later, they found the Jayce Forest. Beautiful and unspoiled, several near-misses with Mother Nature nearly cost the party. One ankheg during the Freeze, and a giant spider's web -- and the spider -- a few days later, made them much more wary of the beauty.
Just after that, Gunju and Jena had a confrontation. She had stopped him from committing sepuku -- ritual suicide -- when he had the mummy rot from Kiral en Shabbath. The only thing that had kept Gunju from killing her outright was the thought that she was a foreigner, with foreign ways. The confrontation was tense, and Jena admitted with a nearly broken spirit that she loved him. Gunju, frightened and confused by the confession, strode off into the forest to take his anger and frustration out on two trees at either end of his paceing.
Artimus attempted to talk with Gunju, while Cleo attempted to talk with Jena -- with mixed results. By morning, Cleo was in tears, Jena's tattoo of the paladin's brace had grown another brace (to mark her as a Guardian of Yatindar, by his will), Gunju was almost understanding things, and Artimus was ready to kill them all in his frustration with such a 'short-lived race'...
Picking themselves up and putting themselves together after such an emotional onslaught, they continued on -- silent and brooding, save for N'Kara. The poor drow'ari had too much cat in her, and she went into heat, almost begging poor Gunju to help her. The samurai could not accept in good conscience (or any conscience, but he could not admit that), and the party tried to help the poor drow'ari as best they could, while they travelled.
Alora managed to find the Giant's Tears -- the remains of enormous buildings with bricks made of perfectly spherical boulders. The mortars had long since fallen away, but the foundation and the bricks -- the spheres -- were still there. Alora managed to spy something unusual from the air, and Lucian found the near-collapsed entrance to a cave that went deep down into the earth.
The cave appeared natural -- and was obviously crafted by something. Many marks later -- and many feet below ground -- they were startled by a darkmantle. The creature's globe of darkness descended on Cleo, and then it was on her, crushing her. She almost didn't make it, but Lucian came to her rescue, saving the day.
After some time recovering, the party continued on, to the end of the cave.
There, they found a cavern a mile long and a half mile wide, illuminated by faery fire in some places, and shadowed in others by natural-looking ridges, buildings, and windows. The whole cavern had a natural feel to it, but also had an unnatural, eerie feel to it. On the far side, a huge pool of water bubbled with unseen currents, before a frozen water fall -- crystallized stone, partially illuminated by the unusual faery fire. Blocking the party from exploring the cavern was a drop of nearly four-hundred feet.
Cleo attempted the daunting climb down, but 150 feet from the bottom, she slipped -- and plunged to her death.
Undetered, Artimus attempted the climb on the opposide side of the lip from which Cleo went down, and successfully reached the bottom. There, he was accosted by a small demon of some sort that could poison him, but whom he could not hurt. The demon delighted in tormenting the party, and the separated Artimus.
While the demon was accosting the party, Artimus took the chance to explore -- noting the horrific scenes of demons, murder, bloodshed, and rape. The eerie faery fire cast dark shadows to his elven eyes, but the scenes were the stuff of nightmares.
The party quickly began using Jena's detect evil ability, as the small demon even assumed the shape of Alora for a moment -- but quick reactions and quick thinking saved Lucian from casting a magic missile into the wrong Alora. He could harm the evil thing with his magic, but he had to be able to see it -- and it often assumed various shapes or turned invisible. It was not until much later that the party would latch on to using Alora to communicate with the separated Artimus.
Artimus, for his part, witnessed the demon communing with the inert Gate -- and listened to its cursing. When it fled to harass the party, he discovered the demon's cache, which included a tarnished silver ring, more gems than he could hold, and a dwarven axe with an edge so sharp that it glowed red in a razor's line, as well as glowing a more dull red all over.
After the demon returned, and spoke with the Gate, it flew to the opposite side of the cavern -- and the Crystle Falls of the Prophecy. With that clue, Artimus was able to find the map-pendant within the falls -- once the impotent demon had flown away once again to harass the party. Artimus could only hope the party would keep the demon away from him, while he inched his way around to the crystalline falls, and then slowly swam around to the right face. There, he secured a rope with a wedged-in knot to a ridge above the area of the pendant -- and he began using the enchanted axe to hack through the stone.
The demon, for its part, had other worries. For though it could clearly hear Artimus' echoes resounding off the cavern walls, Alora was hunting him -- enhanced and enchanted by N'Kara's powers and Lucian's magic. Alora destroyed the demon in a quick and dirty fight, and then began her return with the glowing demon in her clutches. Lucian, thinking the demon returning, fired a magic-missile into the darkness -- at the glowing form of the demon, and the wings flapping above it. Luckily, Alora was not killed by his magic, but the frightened familiar dropped the demon, and quickly spiralled in to her master with a nearly scorched-off wing.
Many marks later, Artimus freed the map-pendant, barely catching it before it was lost in the depths of the cavern's pool for all time. Tired and exhausted, he bade Alora fetch it, and bring it to Jena, while he rested. Some time later, he was well enough to attempt the return climb up.
He slipped, and would have plunged to his death -- had he not slipped on the tarnished silver ring from the demon's hoard. Floating gently towards the ground, Artimus resumed his climb up full of confindence -- and sadness that they had not found the ring before Cleo's downward attempt.
Returning to the surface, the party is sad and despondant at Cleo's death, but glad to have found one of the Shards of Prophecy. The midmorning light of Cal the 11th greets the party, as they emerge inside the Giant's Tears.
XP Awarded: 1,100 (total to date is 2,850)
DM's Notes: We met over at Brandy's house again, and had a good time -- until Cleo died. For Mac, it was a sad time of introspection. We can only hope he rallies with a new and interesting character. It's amazing how close Cleo came to death at the hands of so many different peoples and traps -- back in Shir Amanod, the mummy-rot from Kiral en Shabbath, the darkmantle, and that close-call on the way down... Mac, you're an awesome role-player, so keep up the good work -- but we'll miss Cleo.
The emotional interplay between Brandy's Jena and Adam's Gunju was phenomenal, and I have to give those two ample credit for that night's intertainment, as well. Brandy and the other Mac's kids were pretty good, and of all things, I never pictured Adam as a kids kind of guy -- but he's full of surprises, lately.
Some of them were a little disappointed with the experience award, because it put them just a few hundred points shy of 3rd level. I've played games where you level up every night -- and sometimes two levels in a night. I've played games where it took four sessions to go up a level. I'm awarding the experience, this campaign, based off of when I want the characters to level up. My reasoning is this: they want to grow more powerful, but without a sense of accomplishment, leveling up too often gives them too much power too quickly. They're a well-running machine, right now. With a bit more time together, this party could be a great challenge to anything they encounter. Hell, the whole party has an average Charisma of 14! I'm excited to run for this emotionally-charged, action-packed group.
Oh, yeah -- and their average Charisma's about to jump. Mac's already talking with me about a new character. A bard. A dwarven-raised, elven bard. With bagpipes.