Recap: On Cal the 11th, the party emerged from the underground city of the demons. Cleo's body remained, and the stench of evil wafting out of the tiny tunnel was too much. Jena and Artimus worked to fill in the rubble, and after several marks, had hidden the tunnel from all scrutiny, for all time.
Resting until noon only brought stirges, and the group fled back towards the east -- and hopefully, towards the coast. After two nearly uneventful days, they used Ye'amen's Ring to find the next member of their party -- Seamus Yarbus Stonehelm. Seamus turned out to be a dwarf-raised elven bard that played a strange instrument known as the 'bagpipes'.
With a storm blowing in, the party and Seamus moved further inland to escape torrential rains and winds. In the midst of that, a small group of kobolds -- one even mounted on a baby minotaur lizard -- infiltrated the camp, searching for something. When they were driven away, a snake returned, under the impetus of an, animal messenger spell. The message was confusing to the party, as it consisted of kobold pictograph -- a stick figure in a cage, and a stick figure of a boat.
Confused, the party knew not what to make of the latest development. On top of that, something flaming a rich purple was approaching at a high rate of speed through the rain. Seamus spoke the language of the kobolds, and asked them point blank through the driving rain and wind if they knew anything about the encroaching danger. The kobolds responded that it was a messenger from their master. Apparently, the faerie fire cast on the other snake was to lead the party to the kobold's 'master' -- a kobold druid, trapped in the wreckage of a brigandine that was breaking up on the rocks. The same storm that had cast Seamus ashore had also cast the Colm Hivak ashore. The ship had been stuck on the rocks for days, taking on water, when the new storm had blown in. Desperate, the trapped kobold had enlisted all the allies it had -- the remains of the ship's cargo, probably a menagerie of sorts bound for unknown parts.
Seamus' managed to free the kobold druid from its steel cage, just before the ship began truly breaking apart. The swim out to the beached Colm Hivak was dangerous, however, and both Lucian and Gunju nearly drowned in the undertows from the fierce tides.
Once free, the druid went on its way, leaving the party to find dry shelter on its own. Wondering at what they had just done, and marveling at their tale, they were surprised when Artimus returned -- for they had not realized that he had left in the night. Artimus brought with him the crew of the Te'negard's Beard -- a sloop from Al Fahim that was to bring them 'home', as the captain of the ship put it.
One other had come with the captain and his crew -- an elf by the name of Xzax. Xzax had come for Artimus, to send him to his ancestral home where his brother, his sister, and their great, great, grandfather waited. Altogether, they boarded the Te'negard's Beard, and headed towards Tanel.
Arriving at sunset on the 21st of Cal in Tanel, they were met at the docks by sixteen Al Fahiman desert rangers -- emissaries of the Sheik. The captain of the vessel -- a warrior for the Sheik -- had already gleaned from the trusting Jena the secrets of Al Mudim and the Spin Stone. The emissaries received their cue from the captain, and proceeded to take the party into custody.
Xzax had other ideas. The battle was brief but bloody. No one could see through the thick fog that obscured everything, and the desert rangers found that they could not board the Te'negard's Beard. The crew and the captain aboard the ship fought valiantly, but the white tiger known as Snowstalker turned the tides far to the favor of the party. Having slipped free of the jetty, and escaped into the general current near that Ul'thruthel Escarpment, the party limped the Te'negard's Beard out to sea with three of the sailors as prisoner.
Their options were very limited. They did not have enough crew to sail the sloop, which was in need of repairs, anyway, from the storm. As sunset turned into night, their spirits were low indeed. Then a tiny ring of blue light illuminated the deck, near the mast. The ring expanded, until it was nearly nine feet tall -- and out walked the Sheik. Because of the defeat of his rangers -- and an apparent mandate from Brigain's priests -- the Sheik was willing to negotiate.
He transported them all through the ring to Aboris'shifa. The party would continue to search for Al Mudim, with the aid of the Sheik and Al Fahim. In return, the Sheik would not interfere with their quest to destroy the ancient artifact until it had been found -- and they would take with them one of the Sheik's minions.
Resting comfortably in the small monastery to Mikindim in Aboris'shifa, they learned from the priest of Mikindim -- and the Sheik's parting words -- that dark forces indeed were moving for Al Mudim. The undead sought Al Mudim -- and so, too, did demons.
Artimus, for his part, would no longer accompany the party -- but would instead await passage towards his homeland. The rest of the party, then, went to fitful sleep, wondering what they would do on the morrow. In the dawn light of Cal the 22nd, the calls to prayer of Aboris'shifa awaken the party to an uncertain future, hounded by half-forgotten dreams of chaos and destruction.
XP Awarded: 1,300 (total to date is 4,150)
DM's Notes: I worked with Brandy's Mac to bring in a ranger, by the name of Xzax. Xzax'll work with the party a bit better than Artimus did, and Ye'amen's ring never actually glowed for Artimus -- because at the time, Mac didn't know if he wanted to join in the campaign. I'm glad he decided to join us. Xzax has a rich history, and a ranger will bring added support to the group.
I found Brandy and Mac's lil ones a bit more distracting than usual, but perhaps that was in part due to Adam's distraction with the children. I know I regress to my childhood often enough, but I suspect Adam enjoys his own regressions more than any of us could imagine.
For Pam's part, she was awake and lively, and apparently feeling much better than she had the last few sessions. N'Kara, her druidess, was fairly helpful -- but her animal companion is devestating.
Some of the party are hitting 3rd-level, already. I hadn't actually intended for this quick a progression in the levels, but at 3rd-level, they can better handle the next few events that are coming up. I don't foresee them hitting 4th-level any time soon, but the late-comers -- Seamus and Xzax in particular -- should be able to catch up, now. No one's multiclassed, yet, but I'm not surprised. Many of them do not even intend to take prestige classes -- but just wish to continue on for some many levels in their current classes.
I'm going to have to do some research on Gunju's samurai. It seems vastly overpowered, compared to a fighter of similar level. This may simply be Adam's selection of feats and abilities, but something's not quite right with his abilities. I could be wrong, and I just haven't exploited the weaknesses in Gunju yet. Adam's role-playing is superb, by the by, but... We'll have to see.
I wish all the players luck. Next session starts them out in Aboris'shifa -- searching for passage, clues, and information.