Recap: The party made camp along the banks of the Turan River, just five miles south and east of Takanal. N'Kara had nightmares on account of the party's destruction of a surrending band of orcs. Xzax, during his shift, left the party. He used some of nature's power to create an alarm around the party so that they were not defenseless, and headed northwest -- directly for the Southern Shard of Al Mudim.
A freezing rain greeted the party, waking them to Xzax's absence. Using Maui and Midnight, they trailed the half-dragon through freezing rains and light snow for four marks, before finding him resting in a tree. N'Kara attempted to talk Xzax back into joining the party, while the rest set up a lean-to against the weather. The drow'ari finally gave up on words, and simply kissed him out of the tree, and back into the party. Many apologies and explanations went about, and the group settled in to rest until dawn. With snow blanketing the ground and the north sides of the trees awash in ice, they travelled back to the Black Holly II.
The ship was waiting for them, and Thalst let them in on what had happened. A scrag had attacked the vessel, and then they had retreated back towards Takanal. The town was abandoned, but repairs were made, and then they cautiously returned -- with no sign of the scrag. When the party packed up and left, heading south, Thalst noticed too much play in the rudder, but couldn't explain why. It turned out that the party had picked up a scrag, attached to the underside of the Holly. Before the party could contemplate their situation, the skies were darkened by a great shadow.
An orc-laden roc had flown to the ruins of Tymarell, apparently to link up with the ogran party there. Finding them dead, it headed for Takanal to harass the humans -- only there were none. Hoping futiley to find some vengeance down-river, the orcs overshot the Holly, and circled around to attack. However, they had an unexpected passenger, and called off the attack after their second fly-over of the well-armed ship. The passenger, however, sailed down out of the sky, through the trees, and smacked into the hull of the Holly.
Before they could make heads or tails of the situation, the scrag burst up out of the water, intent on having an elven meal. N'Kara was thrown overboard, even as the scrag retreated under a hail of enchanted arrows and spheres of fire. The drow'ari went down, and would have been killed, had not Xzax, Maui, and Lucian dived bravely into the water to rescue her. The scrag was forced to flee, but not after nearly killing Xzax and N'Kara in the process. Wounded, they used N'Kara's swift waves to help with the hydrofoils, and jetted downriver as quickly as they could.
They made it to Rilan, where the quarantine was still in effect. They rested with the ship anchored in the middle of the river, while Alora flew messages back and forth to Lok Magius. This gave them time to rest, and to get to know Chimera -- a half-orc, half desert elf that had been after the orcs for revenge. The only problem was, their roc snatched her up as a meal, and only let go of her when it received the attack order from the orcs riding it -- hence the orcs' surprise at letting loose a missile on the Holly that they didn't even know they had.
After updating Misstress Brin on their findings in the ruins of Tymarell, Misstress Brin gave them a probability for the orcs' rocs. The rocs may have already hit Hammer Isle -- a navigational hazard fifty miles west of Firland. If -- as the map within the ruins indicated -- there was a treasure on Hammer Isle, the rocs may have already unloaded it at Firland. Worse, Firland was a near disaster, as the orcs had burned and destroyed a great deal of the coastal town with no losses of their own. Whatever the orcs had taken from Hammer Isle had gone to land, as the rocs had taken off unladen. Misstress Brin suspects a ship belonging to the 'traitor' that everyone searches for, may have picked up the treasure.
In the morning, the Holly left for Lok Sadic, which would serve as a half-way point in their river journey to visit Seamus' clan, the Stonehelms. Lok Sadic did not turn away ships, as Rilan did, but did check them for plague using a dwarven priest of Mikindim. Once the priest had cleared the party, they were welcome to stay while Seamus met with Baron Sadic -- a member of Firestorm who reportedly created Lok Sadic in one night. In the meantime, Xzax and N'Kara met with Vristilistalimar -- an old green dragon that acted as the ambassador for the Dragon Nation, and a druid for Lok Sadic and its environs.
Chimera's half-orc physique attracted some undo attention from a number of the dwarves in Lok Sadic, despite the baron's orders to accept her. During the night, one of the dwarven smiths apparently attempted to kill her. The dwarf's body was found wedged up in the ceiling between two rafters, and one of the two-foot by two-foot beams had been cracked by the maneuver. Even more horrifying, the dwarvf's neck had been snapped like a twig, and the hand prints on it were those of a petite human's. Midnight sniffed around, and kept moving to Cleo as the likely suspect.
The baron ordered Cleo confined to her room until dawn, when Aust and his own priest could use a zone of truth prayer to know if Cleo did it. When the party questioned the baron's ability to ferret out an illusory or hard-to-find opponent, he dropped his illusion -- and before them was a seven-foot desert elven skeleton. Apparently not undead, because he could see the party, the skeleton reformed its illusion of a desert elven baron, and told them that there was no possibility of illusory opponents. The baron's mages -- one a wild mage, and the other a specialist at divinations -- searched the compound thoroughly, and found no signs of intrusion.
On the morning, Aust did indeed confirm that Cleo was not the killer. The baron was satisfied, but asked the party to leave Lok Sadic that morning to prevent the other dwarves from trying something else against the half-orc, and against Cleo.
After noon, the part was intercept by one of the King's Quarrels. The Quarrels were his personal messengers, and to assault one was to assault the king. The messenger identified herself as 'Bunny', and said that she had come down with the plague. Yelling tiredly from the bank of the river, she convinced Seamus to carry a message of critical importance to the king. Apparently, the Black Holly II and a Firestorm ring were enough of faith for Bunny.
Just short of Tikira, and near sunset of that day, the party left the Holly behind in the capeable hands of Thalst, Gheledon, and Visik. Thalst would wait a month before returning to Thayer's Rock, and wait there for an additional two weeks before giving up. Thalst said he'd do no such thing, but Seamus would only realize this upon later reflection, when properly in a dwarven mood.
They shadowed the great road from Tikira to the entrance of Mount Basilisk for two days. Near sunset of the second day, they stepped out onto the highway, and were escorted to Mount Basilisk by hippotaun-mounted dwarven cavalry. The dwarves had a number of fighters guarding the grand entrance to the capital of Rakore, and clerics certified the party disease-free. A half-day's journey through the main corridors, under heavy dwarven guard, brought them to the heart of Mount Basilisk -- a labrynth of cubes, with balconies running along the insides, and numerous corridors connecting them all.
With each step Cleo took near the throne room, dwarven runes would light up in her wake. While Seamus delivered the sealed scroll tube to the king, a dwarven priest named Yalmus Wirebeard ascertained with the true sight of the faithful that Cleo was possessed by some non-evil creature. Cleo attempted to commit suicide, but Father Yalmus was able to save her with prayers to Galgiran. Seamus returned to find Cleo catatonic, and the whole mess forced the party to stay under house arrest until Father Yalmus could assure the King's Guard that nothing was wrong.
Xzax researched possession in the dwarven libraries, while Aust attempted a commune with Galgiran through Father Yalmus. The dwarven priest drew on Aust's faith to invoke the prayer, and the Royal Forge was used to communicate with one of Galgiran's archons.
Aust asked, "Is it connected to Jena?" No. "Do we know 'him'?" No. "Did it kill the victim in Loc Sadik?" Yes. "Is it dangerous to us?" No. "Is it a friend?" Yes. "Did the gods to this?" No. "Has anyone here with us met this being before?" No. "Can we keep her sane?" Yes. "Can we find out about it here?" Yes.
Puzzled, intrigued, and concerned, the party vowed to continue pursuing the matter, helping Father Yalmus to find the answers he sought. The next work period, Aust and Father Yalmus again used the Royal Forge to refine the information they had found in the libraries.
"Is it trying to protect the party?" Yes. "Doest it understand 'good' and 'evil'?" Yes. "Does it serve another?" Yes. "Is it what makes her eyes glow?" Yes. Can we rid her of it?" Yes. "Should we rid her of it?" No. "Could it harm us?" Yes. "Will it harm us?" Unknown. "Is it demonic?" Yes.
Father Yalmus had attempted to scry on Cleo's original body -- the one that had been left behind in the demonic caverns beneath the Giant's Tears. The dwarven priest had observed a maralith -- a tanar'ri -- a demon of considerable power -- slithering around Cleo's body. Worse, the maralith had had a holy symbol of Argunas in filigreed gold about her neck. The party could only surmised that that was the route the possession had taken: that when Cleo had died, and her spirit was unclaimed by the gods because of her lack of faith, the demon-cleric had found her, and tied a demon to her spirit. When Jena ressurected Cleo, the demon had piggy-backed on the prayer-casting to return to Cleo's body. The purpose was clear -- Argunas, the Demon God -- wanted to find Al Mudim at whatever costs, even if it meant protecting the party. When Cleo finally roused from her catatonic state, the party filled her in on what they had discovered, and told her about Galgiran's answers. The question that rung loudest for the party was, "Should we rid her of it?" No. It seemed the gods themselves had plans for Cleo.
As Cleo was accepting things -- and exploring her enlarged upper canines -- all members of the party with any sensitivity to arcane power felt the world drop a few feet from under them. The feeling had become synonomous with Prat's teleportations, for he ripped holes in space-time that set off every sensitive within dozens of miles. Just as Cleo was throwing Seamus around in fury and confusion, Prat arrived to aid them by taking them to Wuron S'fa -- The Dragon Nation.
Cleo, N'Kara, and Xzax went with Prat, and when they returned, Cleo was much relieved. The opportunity to talk with Jena had done the girl wonders, and Xzax had an opportunity to warn the Dragon Council that Argunas was reawakening from a millennias-old sleep.
After their return to Mount Basilisk, Father Yalmus reported his findings to the King, who allowed the party to continue on their way to the Stonehelm Clan -- under escort. Four days later, they rested on the edge of the Stonehelm territories, after having walked through corridors and caves well beneath the surface. Though they could not see the eclipsed sun far above them, dawn of the 27th of Trical brought the end of Autumn, and the beginning of Winter.
XP Awarded: 2,000 (total to date is 14,550)
DM's Notes: This is really a great role-playing group. Sometimes, I feel like all I'd have to do is throw in a few stupid orcs, and this party would turn it into an episode of Days of Our Lives. The drama is thick enough to cut it with a knife, at times. (A psychodynamicist would get a kick out of this groups 'repressed emotions' that come out during the sessions.) All told, I couldn't be more proud of them. Good job, guys.
We met again at Brandy and Mac's, and welcomed Brandy back to the table after her month-long withdrawal.
Cut Scene: Rial Mhenace, manager of Gideon Enterprises, and head of the king's spy network, was normally a very calm and collected person. The quarantine had annoyed him, as it cut down on trade, but it saved lives -- and Rial knew that people were a company or a nation's best assets. The quarantine had not been enough, however, and he had agreed to Winter's proposal to ask Kur Maeth for aid. The paladin had done an admirable job in aiding Teras and all Rakore in its time of need, but the crusader that had been put in charge of the Kur Maen aid was a prick with notions of his own regarding the Inquisition.
Lord Fabio Carridyiar, Defender of Yatindar, Champion of the Faith, Duke of Kelles, et cetera, ad nauseum... had sailed into Teras with an armada of fifty heavy triremes, and close to fifteen thousand troops -- including three-thousand paladins and four-thousand battle-hardened clerics. Lord Fabio had blocked off the mouth of the Galanus River, and attempted to assume command of Teras and its duchy from Duke Therinol Navaillo. Fabio and Therinol had nearly come to blows over how to begin healing the masses of Teras. The Kur Maen duke wanted to cordon off the city by race, healing elves and humans first, while his men enforced curfews, house quarantines, and more. The Rakoran duke wanted clerics to treat the diseased, and troops to aid the dwarves and tomanths taking care of everyone else.
Rial would have sworn that Fabio's titles wore down his intelligence, but the Kur Maen duke was wily, using Rakoran treaties, the Avard Accords, and more to try to usurp command of Teras. Rial had called up the tomanths, and had them sink two of the heavy triremes. Despite their numbers and powers, the Kur Maen aid could do nothing against hundreds of tomanths in the water -- and suddenly Lord Fabio believed Rial when he said that the Kur Maens would not leave Teras alive if they didn't cooperate.
What had Rial fuming was Fabio's more covert actions. The Kur Maen had 'lost track of' nearly a hundred of his troops, and Rial had encountered a number of them down in the sewers beneath Teras. Almost sixteen Seekers had tried to waylay the GE manager down in the sewers, and he had killed each of them with a malevolent glee. Duke Fabio, however, had lost nearly twice that number of troops in Teras to magical means. Rial had no idea who had killed the other Seekers, or even if any mages were left in Teras, but Fabio had withdrawn all his aid until the situation could be resolved.
Duke Therinol was a slight, woodsy elf that wore his studded leather to court functions. His beautiful elven blades and bow were never far away, and he somehow had the presence of nobility and natural law within his gaze. Therinol said in a quiet, elven-tinged Common, "I dispatched one of the Quarrels to the king, last week, fearing this. I've already had most of the mages moved out to my ancestral home -- or what's left of it. The tomanths tell me that its all burned to the ground."
Rial asked, "Can Fabio's fools find it?"
The sylvan elf shook his head. "Unlikely. There are only a dozen of them, and they're using shielding to prevent prayers from finding them. The tomanths assure me that conventional methods will never locate them."
"How many tomanths are guarding them?"
Duke Therinol smiled evilly, and on his thin, elven face, it made for a frightening smile. "Close to four hundred, all armed."
Rial nodded, thinking. "Good. However, if the mages are already out of the city -- who's killing the Seekers in Teras?"
"You mean, other than you?"
Rial nodded, his dark eyes glinting. "Yes, other than me."
The elf steepled his fingers before his face, his elbows on the table of his massive desk. "I've no idea. You're the only remaining mage in Teras, so far as I know."
The GE manager nodded. "Well... Winter's doing all he can to convince Fabio to resume aid -- and his own clerics are yammering that they've got to help, no matter how dangerous it is."
Therinol nodded. "It's only a matter of days before Lord Fabio relents, too. In the meantime, people are dying. I'll assist you in whatever way I can, Mister Mhenace."
Rial rubbed his face, thinking hard. "I wonder..."