Lost Mine of Phandelver

Session 45
From Hell to Heaven

A Trip to Nessus with Charon
Jezabel warned them the next wave of demons would be coming soon and that the heroes should be gone before that happens. She explained that the heroes needed to make their way to Nessus, the 9th layer of hell where Asmodeus’ castle resides. There was some debate as to whether the heroes could navigate the 9 layers of hell without Jezabel…even with Charon’s help. They ended up having Jezabel guide them. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Thank the gods for that bit of wisdom. Just making it across Avernus to the river Styx and awaiting Charon’s ferry proved to be…interesting. With a desolate red landscape of broken bodies, war machines, and a seemingly never ending supply of demons and devils, the war continued. Seems this demon invasion into Hell had been going on for a little while now, at least in other worldly time scales. Not that Avernus was ever a nice place to travel – it is the entryway to hell after all. Now just happened to be little worse than normal.

As our heroes traveled, the demons seemed intent on reach them despite the highly effective defense the devils were providing. That got Quinn and Klang talking. It seemed like Asmodeus was going to great lengths to see us in person. That small army of devils had been protecting that portal for some time, like they were waiting for us. Devils don’t things like that out of the goodness of their evil hearts…they want something from us…badly. And that’s usually not a good thing for any one but Asmodeus.

Finally, Charon’s ferry could be seen in the distance, using his pole to move the ferry along. It was an odd thing, that all the gods allowed Charon to carry their dead to them, crossing all the outer planes of existence to usher the dead to their final destinations. As the ferry pulled up on shore, a few souls were released to hell and one looked very familiar to Quinn (Was that Azazal? The eyes of hatred were right, but he was only the size of an imp. No, that could not be, he was just seeing things, he told himself.).

Approaching Charon was not for the faint of heart. Jezabel, steeling herself, strode forward and spoke to Charon. He said nothing in return, but shook his head in disagreement. She spoke some more, then he nodded in agreement. Charon swept his hand towards the souls still on the ferry, shooing them back to make room for the new comers.

Jezabel turned to the heroes and told them to get in line and prepare to offer payment as they board. When each pulled out a gold coin, she said, “This trip to Nessus is not Charon’s normal passage and will require a more substantial payment from each of them – something of significant magical value that Charon must approve.

Fighting down their mixed emotions, they formed a line to board the ferry and each pulled forth a magical item. First was Paelius with a +3 morning star, which Charon accepted and waved him onto the ferry. The process repeated with each, Rolen paying with a pouch of dust of disappearance and Levi with a great sword of warning.

When Quinn offered an item, it seemed Charon made a strange face, and made the motion to board without taking his offering. Quinn, confused, offered an alternate magical item and Charon repeated the process wave to board without taking the item. Jezabel shoved Quinn onto the ferry, saying, “Do not question Charon…he has no words for the living.”

Then it was Klang’s turn, offering a potion. Charon just put his hands on his bony hips and stared the dwarf down with fury in his flaming eyes. Klang sheepishly reached for his long held spider staff that had gotten him out of more sticky situations than he’d care to admit and offered it instead. Charon snapped it out of the Klang’s hands and motioned for him to board. Jezabel, after hissing at the souls who lingered nearby, handed a glowing whip to Charon and she too was allowed to board.

It was a surreal process, but one that became a little more eerie after they left the shore and realized that some of the souls still aboard looked familiar. It didn’t take the heroes long to figure out that these were many of the people they had personally slain during their long years of adventuring. Rolen could have sworn he saw Charon grinning wickedly as the realization was made.

Quinn tried to talk to Charon to ask why he needed no payment, but Jezabel interrupted him and explained, “Charon is closely affiliated with the Raven Queen, to whom you have enslaved yourself. Do you not know this? They both have an interest in seeing the natural process of death followed – souls of the dead are delivered as appropriate.”

As they traveled the Styx, there was a distinct feeling of downward motion, which was odd because traveling planes doesn’t have an up or down. Yet that’s what their senses kept telling them. The ferry seemed to have difficulty in places, sometimes “natural” as in getting stuck on…shall we say “obstacles” as it was not at all clear what the river Styx was made of nor what might lurk in it.

Other times, they were set upon by demons intent on disrupting Charon’s ferry. It took both Charon and Jezabel to fend them off, which was a serious breach of divine protocol by any being to interfere with the business of Charon. After a few of these episodes, Quinn and Klang looked at each other again – truly something about this “destroy the universe” portal thing has the demon’s and devil’s unfettered attention.

Why were the demon’s trying to stop them from seeing Asmodeus? Or did they want to stop the heroes from opening and entering the portal? Why did Asmodeus want to see them so badly? They could kind of understand why Asmodeus didn’t come to them with demons rampaging across his domain, but what could he possibly need to tell them in person that he could not communicate through his minions?

As with most of their high-level adventures, so many questions and so few answers. In fact, there was a strong temptation to reach out and touch the Styx just out of curiosity despite Quinn’s guidance to not let anything extend outside the ferry. But they remained mindful of the dangers here and heeded Quinn’s guidance – even Rolen with his recently reconstituted soul did not tempt fate here.

The travel seemed to drag on for Klang, witnessing the unholy and unspeakable cruelties meted out on each level of hell…each worse than the last. The terrain changed as they traveled – mountains, swamps, and cities of obsidian, they were all on display for those who watched. He would have nightmares from this, he was sure.

Levi also felt the time slow as they traveled, the suffering and malignant forces at work here were wearing down his psychological defenses. Such debased morality could only be beheld for so long before he just closed his eyes and hummed a hymn to block out the screams and pleas for aid.

At one point, some of the souls start making accusations that they did not deserve their fate. Klang spat back, “Tis ye that resisted the call of good, turn’d yer backs on the light and hope of the living, embrac’in the darkness in ye’s soul! We merely hastened ye t’ yer just reward.” It was when the dragon cultist cooks and other less tainted souls spoke up that Klang went silent and the others looked away, feeling the weight of their mistakes and misdeeds. Again, Rolen could have sworn there was a twinkle in Charon’s glowing eyes.

Yes, Charon had known they would be on his ferry and had held these souls back until now. They all knew it, but Charon’s motives were his own and the heroes wallowed in their shame all the same. They continued to give Charon ample space as none felt particularly comfortable being near the creature.

Continuing on their journey, they started feeling cold. It was such strange sensation here in hell that they all found it very painful as it seeped into their clothes and armor, through their skin and into their very bones.

They could see the souls frozen where they stood, encased in ice, yet still screaming for release. One form was encased in a solid block of ice, floating in a small eddy of the Styx. It was different from the rest as it was frozen so completely solid that the creature within was well preserved. Paelius recognized this robed figure as Levistus, a devil arch duke who betrayed Asmodeus some time ago. He noted down the location with some general reference points so he could perhaps locate the frozen figure in the future.

After a time, the ferry leveled out, halting its descent. All around them was a wasteland of cities. They had different architectures, as if from different cultures throughout history. The temperature remained cold and they remained in an icy hellscape.

As Charon’s ferry started its approach, there was a large contingent of devils up ahead, blocking their way before the last gate. Jezabel explained that even Charon is not permitted to enter Nessus, then flew ahead to negotiate with the devils. As the ferry came to a halt, Jezabel could be heard negotiating in infernal with the other devils. As best they could tell, they seemed to be negotiating in favors that are owed by powerful allies. It seems favors are the currency in hell and the bargaining took some time.

Again, they pondered why it was so important that Asmodeus seem them in person? What could he possibly gain from them? Obviously the death of a few powerful holy men would hold some value, but nothing like this. Would he strike them dead after so much effort to get them to his castle at the bottom of hell? Jezabel had assured them of their relative safety, which isn’t much down here, but better than nothing. They simply did not know and would not know until they spoke with him.

The negotiations went on for some time, but they were permitted to land just past the last gate to Nessus and then Charon was to leave immediately. There was only one gate that would permit any creature to exit from hell and it was found on Nessus. It was strictly controlled by Asmodeus himself, so this was yet another exceptional request made simply to get these adventurers before the highest devil.

Immediately upon passing through the gate, the temperature changed to the opposite extreme – hot, so very hot!

Once they arrived at Nessus, Rolen commented, “That didn’t take long, perhaps a few hours at most.” Klang and Levi looked at him incredulously. Levi commented, “It was far longer than hours my small friend…weeks or months, I lost count of the days.” Paelius and Quinn also had a different sense of how much time had passed, such that the passage of time was individual on Charon’s ferry when traveling the Styx…or at least that was the best they could collectively reason. A similar finding was that Charon and his ferry did not appear the same to all of them – it seems his visage varied from having glowing eyes to having a death mask. The ferry was made of skulls to some and was simple wood to others. Yes, it seems each person’s perceptions varied while in Charon’s presence.

Jezabel didn’t provide them with much time to talk as they were quickly hustled off the ferry and towards a large castle in the distance. They could see the patrols both in the sky and on the ground by powerful devils. Even the ground seemed to wriggle from time to time as something passed beneath their boots. Looking down, they noticed the ground was a mass of dead bodies and bones. It sometimes crunched as they walked.

Glancing back, Levi saw Charon quickly navigate to a nearby portal that was heavily guarded. After passing through it, the portal winked out of existence. Not many have seen Charon hurry his ferry’s pace, yet Levi now counted himself as one of those few.

Peering forward into the hot and smoky distance, they could make out ballista mounted on the castle walls and every devil in sight seemed to be on high alert. The castle itself looked like a giant stalagmite reaching up into the sky, surrounded by smoke and fires.

Moving quickly towards the castle, they had to keep their eyes trained on the ground so they would not trip on the debris. Paelius noticed many of the bodies and skeletons underfoot were of demons. It seems no part of hell was spared from the demonic assault.

Finally passing across the archway into the castle’s main entryway, Jezabel finally allowed them to stop and rest. She suggested they prepare themselves to meet her master. They found themselves being watched closely by the devils on guard duty. The heroes found themselves checking that their weapons were still close at hand. Jezabel assured them that no harm would come to them as she turned and hissed at the nearby guards, muttering something guttural. There were hisses back, but the guards gave the adventurers a little more space.

Casting a heroes feast was much harder than expected. It seemed to take energy from Klang when he cast it rather than pulling exclusively from the divine energy Marthamoor Duin provided. This worried him and he shared his observation with Quinn. Quinn tried a cantrip and found the same. They figured that made sense…all forms of outside (non-infernal) energy would be dampened on the deepest layer of hell. They would need to limit their casting here if at all possible or they could end up exhausted after a single powerful spell casting.

They took a long rest, seemingly testing the devils’ patience. Then they took some precautions, casting death ward on Paelius and an aura of purity from Levi. Testing armor and weapons were still in working order, they announced, “We’re ready!”

A Talk with the Devil
Jezabel was summoned by the devils on guard and she escorted the heroes through the heavily guarded corridors. As they passed through the place, there was clearly a strict pecking order. As they entered what appeared to be the main greeting hall, they were led down the middle towards a figure seated on a throne. There were pillars to either side, presumably columns that held the place up, but who knows how devils’ constructed the place. Maybe Asmodeus just willed the place into existence.

The hall was crowded with many devils in attendance. Fumes and licks of fire from the devils were kept to a minimum. The heroes could tell the order of precedence was even more distinct here with each rank getting bigger, uglier and more lethal as they approached the leader of hell. Quinn was on edge. Never before had he seen so much evil at one time. It was truly a terror walking through that hall. It took all of his willpower not to flee.

Klang was worse off – sweating, one hand on the now glowing talisman of good and the other clenching his mace, eyes darting from side to side. He had faced many such creatures in the not so distant past and was ready to unleash as much radiance as was at his disposal, even if it ended his life. It would be a glorious end to his career taking out so much evil at once. But his divine instincts were telling him his work was not over just yet.

And so it was that they were instructed to provide their titles to the herald that would announce them. For some reason, none of their titles sounded particularly impressive given the assembled crowd of devils. One of Klang’s titles “bane of Tiamat” seemed to get an appreciative look from Asmodeus, but otherwise there was little acknowledgement of the titles…just a silence mixed with the shuffling of hooves and a random gout of fire here and there.

Asmodeus welcomed them to his castle, acknowledging it as “a little off the beaten path”. That got some cackles from the audience. He thanked them for returning his handmaiden, noting the rare assistance devils receive from those of the prime material plane. This also got chuckles from the assemble crowd.

He then looked at the adventurers, “I can see you are not a trusting bunch. Feel free to cast whatever magics you may have to discern my words are honest and true.” After a few brief words, Levi cast a zone of truth about Asmodeus, who proceeded to tell Levi that Quinn had been lying to him about his father and that Asmodeus is his father. Levi looked to Quinn in shock until he noticed Asmodeus smiling a big toothy grin and realized that Asmodeus was making it clear that nothing they had would detect his lies, should he want to tell them.

It was an unsettling realization by all of them that here in hell, Asmodeus was more powerful than any of them could imagine and that he could squash them like bugs. While it was not a new realization, it still hit home with the heroes. The crowd could sense their fear and began laughing again.

Asmodeus moved on, asking “I suppose you’re all wondering why a brought you here?” He paused for effect looking at their faces for reaction. Some nodded, then he launched into his monologue. “An old friend of mine, Tharizdun, is keen to escape his prison and return to this dimension, which is nearly certain to end this universe. I am under the impression that you have learned of this on your own, so this probably isn’t news to you.”

Waving his hand, a glowing symbol appeared in the air, presumably relevant to what he was about to say next. Or perhaps it was something to help Asmodeus job his memory of the topic. He never did explain.

“You see, it was only through my betrayal of Tharizdun that the other gods were able to lock him away in a separate dimension before he could make a mess of things here. Tharizdun was one of the first gods who created the universe and is indeed capable of ending it. As you might imagine, I would be high on Tharizdun’s list of people he’d like to see and my continued existence is of importance to me. So I have a vested interest in your success.”

Quinn asked, “So if you’re so concerned about Tharizdun, why not deal with him yourself? Why are we a necessary part of your plan to continue your existence?”

“Excellent! Always the insightful sort aren’t you Quinn.” Asmodeus paused for a few moments collecting his thoughts. He waved his hand and a large plate appeared with a collection of imps resting on it at regular intervals. The plate was rotating with a light shining down on it. “The universe is carefully balanced by the outer planes. If someone like me ceased to exist by leaving this universe, it would set in motion a set of events that would destabilize things.”

As he described this, he snatched one of the imps off the spinning plate. The balance of the plate began to gradually tilt one way and then the other until it eventually fell to the floor. The imps spilled to the floor. “You see, I can’t simply go through the portal to the other dimension to deal with this situation myself. No, this must be handled by mortals of the realms.” The unspoken point being that the heroes were expendable and Asmodeus was not.

“There’s also the small matter of identifying those who are less than loyal to me”. Asmodeus was punctuating his words with foot stomps that crushed the imps on the floor, one by one. “You see, some of my less faithful have been duped into helping with Tharizdun’s return. Your assistance in finding and ending their betrayal before it came to fruition was a welcomed development in my otherwise dreary chores of running my kingdom.”

It was about now that Quinn realized one of the imps was, in fact, Azazal. So that was him leaving Charon’s ferry. And now smashed here on his home plane by the heel of his own deity. A well deserved end to that soul. The unemotional yet satisfied look on Asmodeus’ face made it clear he did not tolerate disobedience. There was a colorful set of noises from the audience at this heartless exhibition by their leader.

Paelius leaned over to Levi and whispered, “A reminder of the pitfalls of following a leader.” Levi just gave him a stern glance to be quiet here.

Asmodeus continued, “If Tharizdun manages to make it back, we gods won’t be able to send him back and, even if we could, none know how to seal the dimension off again. That’s why you, champions of the realms, need to complete the portal and pass through it and deal with what you find on the other side. You must enter the portal to prevent Tharizdun’s return.”

As he spoke, he was magically removing the large red ruby (the shard of evil) from his ruby staff and then extracted a rod from within it. Then, re-affixing the ruby to the staff, stood with a small rod in one hand and his rod in the other. “You’ll need to travel to the center of the universe by completing the portal with this rod and step through it.” He magically floated the rod to Rolen.

Inspecting it briefly, Rolen confirmed it looked just like the other two immovable rods they had already placed.

“Oh, and one more detail – you will need all the allies you can summon. The demons, and I do mean all of demon kind, are searching for you and are now attempting to force their way into your iron fortress. So you should hurry mortals.”

Klang asked, “Does Tharizdun have any weakness we might exploit?”. Asmodeus simply shrugged, “I know not what resides outside this multi-verse.”

Levi, knowing the deals that devils rely on, asked, “What do you want in return for your assistance?”

Asmodeus replied, “Oh, you are a wise one young Levi. I ask only that you remember me.” There was a quiet gasp amongst the crowd. At this, Levi realized just how odd this truly had become – the devil himself asking so little in return for a favor.

Then, with a wave of his arm, Asmodeus opened the only exit from hell back to the Iron Fortress on the cube in Acheron. He commanded those in attendance to go forth and blaze a trail through the demons to stop their assault on the fortress.

Jezabel led those in attendance to flying through the portal. Once they had all passed, he returned his stare to the companions and said, “Jezabel will assist in contacting and gathering your allies. Be swift.” And with that, they stepped through the portal, finally exiting hell.

Dimension Walking
Never had Klang thought that stepping back onto the hard iron surface of that cube in Acheron would feel so welcome. They all sensed it – this felt like heaven compared to where they had just come from. The temperate environment, the lack of oppressive screaming souls, no stench, death and decay…everything came back in to vivid color of the living.

But there was still screams, the screams of battles all around them as devils fought demons. Between Paelius and Jezabel, they all sent word to their stoutest and strongest allies. Reavers and Goblin Stompers were summoned first. Then it was the clergy of the two clerics and brothers of Levi’s faith. All were summoned to this death filled cube in this miserable plane.

Never before had Quinn or Klang seen such powerful demons arrayed in such force. Even with the devils fighting for them, this battle would not be one of victory. It was to get them to the Iron Fortress and the gate therein.

Quinn’s guardians of faith had ravens swirling among his foes. April was there fighting. Ceasare Corvis was making his presence felt with a Slaadi army and eventually broke his staff just before the demons were about to take him down, destroy himself and all the nearby creatures in a burst of magic.

The battle was pitched back and forth, but they were making steady progress to part the sea of demons before them. O’Dell was rampaging through them on his basilisk. But one by one, they saw their allies fall. Some were returned to health only to be beat down again. Blood and gore were the only constant. After some hours, the way had been cleared and was only being held by a tenuous thread. Into the fortress the sped, wading through the demons that managed to get ahead of them. The last they saw outside the fortress was Jezabel’s position being overrun. It was almost certain the demons would break through the lines of devils and follow them in mere minutes.

The five heroes arrived at portal room with immovable rod in hand. Slapping it into place, Rolen stepped back as the dark room began to pulse with strange weaves of magic. They had all seen portals before, large and small, intricate and barren, but nothing compared to this. It was as if someone had ripped open a hole in reality as they could feel time and space bending around them.

Both Quinn and Klang could hear the divine speaking to them for the last time, imbuing them with a special blessing before they were pulled thorough the portal and all contact was lost. Levi and Paelius felt a similar sensation, but it was less acute.

Then all was quiet. Eerily quiet. Their destination was a strawberry field. How odd? All this way only to land in field of strawberries. Perhaps strawberry fields do stretch on forever? Then the portal winked out of existence behind them.

In looking about and taking in the scenery, the only oddity was the sun – it was bigger and black, and shown with black light. (Yup, they were not in Kansas anymore Toto.) It was also comfortably warm.

Levi picked out the tops of some buildings in the distance, suggesting there was a town or city in that direction. With nothing else to go on, they started the long walk towards civilization in this strange place.

Rolen commented, “For heroes of the realms, we sure do travel on foot a lot.” He then took flight on his winged boots, while the others shook their exhausted heads at the halfling. Klang signaled his displeasure in Rolen’s general direction as he started to walk.

The trip to the city was uneventful. The sun continued to shine it’s black light. The world had not vanished from beneath their feet. It was just like normal, except for that sun. The travel didn’t seem to work the same though as they reached the city more quickly than the distance seemed to imply.

Then they started to encounter the local people, mostly human and very gaunt…emaciated. They spoke in common, but their words made no sense to the heroes. Quinn checked his ears to make sure nothing had obstructed them.

There was no army or authority figures about. Nothing but these malnourished citizens talking nonsense. The only thing they could make out from the citizens was the city’s name – Orion. Roaming about the city, they found that stopping to rest brought no feeling of rejuvenation. It was as if resting had no benefit here. So they knew they needed to figure out what was going on here and fast.

After a few circuits around and through the small city, the only notable feature was at the very center of the city – a large burning candle. The locals just kept adding to the candle so it would never burn out. That seemed to be their sole purpose was to keep the candle burning as it’s spent wax stretched out for several feet in all directions.

Sitting there staring at this candle, the only item of interest in this miserable city, got the tired adventurers frustrated. Surely snuffing out this candle would anger these people, but they could see no other object of interest here. Quinn and Klang continued to discuss the moral and ethical implications of extinguishing the candle while Rolen wandered into the wash room and returned with a bucket of water.

Looking down at him, they watched as he flew up over the candle and doused it with water. The candle went out and their world changed again, only this time they recognized the “comfortable” feel of teleportation at work, not that mind bending dimensional portal.

Meeting the Elemental Princes
Landing on their feet, the found they were standing on a beach with the water stretching off to one side and some large boulders off to the other. About a hundred feet ahead was an old man sitting on a log next to a roaring fire. Glancing around, there wasn’t much else to see, other than that large black sun over their heads.

As before, travel didn’t work normally. Distance and time were out of sync. It could take a week to travel what appears to be a few hundred feet, while traveling a many miles might take only a few minutes. Or at least that’s what it felt like – very disorienting.

By the time they traveled that few hundred feet, the sun was directly overhead. The old man was keeping himself busy while waiting for the heroes approach. Still wondering if the black sun was having some affect on their perceptions, they approached and hailed the man.

But before they could utter more than a greeting, the man simply said in common, “Just leave. Go back.” The heroes just stopped, looked at each other, and then shook their heads. There was no going back. The world they had left behind was collapsing in on itself. Tharizdun needed to be dealt with and they were here to do that.

When the man turned to them, he morphed into a creature of evil, elemental evil. In this case, it was Yan-Ci-Bin, the Prince of Evil Air. No further words were came from the creature. He just launched into attack mode.

The large body of water started spinning, taking the shape of a strange tentacled creature. It was huge and once it had emerged, it was clearly Olhydra, the Princess of Evil Water. You know, the scary creature of drowning nightmares.

As they sized up their foes, there was a moment where they all thought, “Well this was shaping up to be quite the battle and the odds are still in our favor.” Then the noticed the fire started swirling, with great gouts of flaming shooting out here and there. For a moment, Rolen hoped the fire would consume Yan-Ci-Bin, but that did not happen.

That was a pretty grim set of foes, but they all knew there was one missing. It is common knowledge that there are four elements and one was late to the party. Then they felt it…the earth started to shake as the nearby boulders started to move along with the sand all around them. The slow to appear Ogrémoch began to take on it’s frightening shape as Prince of the Evil Earth.

In Quinn’s mind, this day was going from bad to worse. First a trip through hell, then a talk with Asmodeus, a devastating battle with demons, only to meet the four princes of elemental evil. Come on Raven Queen, show a little mercy here!

And so it was that the battle began in earnest. Klang was caught in quicksand from Ogrémoch and quickly sank out of sight. Rolen got a blast of fire from Imix. Paelius got a sunburst off, catching Imix, Olhydra and Yan-Ci-Bin off guard.

Klang managed to escape the quicksand and quickly brought up a spiritual weapon, hoping it might serve as a distraction. Levi got off an ice storm, pelting the evil princes enough to make Imix flinch.

Rolen got in a sneak attack on Ogrémoch, but Ogrémoch pulled out some crystal light and recovered. In an alternate life, Paelius had encountered Ogrémoch and he knew it was not time to hold back with that behemoth – it was time for a meteor swarm. The normally quiet wizard shouted, “Let the rocks fall from the sky and lay low my foes!”

Imix reacted with a fire burst. Ogrémoch let loose a sand storm, but the heroes weathered it well. However, it was Imix full-on fire attack that drove Paelius back and into the clutches of Olhydra.

Levi and Quinn were fending off Yan-Ci-Bin. The air attacks didn’t seem nearly as bad as the others were taking, but they weren’t a lot of fun either.

Klang managed to deflect a critical hit by Ogrémoch. Maybe that spiritual weapon was doing something beneficial after all.

Paelius, now grappled by Olhydra, was turning unusual shades of purple. While wizards were an odd lot, that wasn’t normal even by their standards. With four attacks per turn, Levi could see Olhydra was going to take out the old wizard, so at first he had Quinn cast some healing on Paelius and while he extracted himself from Yan-Ci-Bin’s attacks.

Klang took a hit from Ogrémoch with a loud crunching sound. Who knew dwarves were crunchy? Klang wanted to strike back, but knew Paelius was in need of his aid and struck Olhydra and Yan-Ci-Bin with a fire strike.

Finally, Yan-Ci-Bin was distracted and Levi had enough time to get off a spell, compelling Olhydra to duel him, delivering 90 points of damage to her. That got her attention.

Klang got stomped by Ogrémoch and was now prone. Rolen was doing his best to deliver damage to the rock like creature, sneaking in and stabbing for all he was worth. But the damned thing was so tough it was like trying to kill a rock wrapped in sand with a stick.

With two casters down, Quinn could tell it was time to pull out the heavy healing – mass heal – and everyone was back to full health. Klang tried to use his talisman of pure good, but was unable to bring it to bear from his prone position.

Levi again pulled from his spell reservoir, launching elder champion and bardic inspiration. Rolen got in another sneak attack and did what he considered a killing blow, but the earth beast just kept on going.

Then things got ugly. Yan-Ci-Bin had had enough of Quinn’s healing and ripped the air from his lungs. Sweeping the gasping Quinn into the air, he brought him down smashing into the ground. Everyone saw it happen and couldn’t believe their eyes – Quinn went from full health to dead in one round of attacks. Shit was getting serious now!

Others were taking serious blow from Imix, Olhydra and Ogrémoch, but nothing like Yan-Ci-Bin delivered to Quinn. Klang tried to revive Quinn by returning the mass heal, but he did not revive. Uh oh. Klang started mentally kicking himself for not concentrating their attacks…a rookie adventuring mistake.

Levi, now thoroughly pissed off, issued a double smite and a destructive wave to the elemental princes. Paelius, now free of Olhydra and taking a page from Levi’s book, turned loose an ice storm on Yan-Ci-Bin and Olhydra.

Now it was Klang’s turn to have the air removed from his lungs and be subject to 3 lair actions. Klang still had the words of a fire storm caught in his throat when he closed his eyes for the last time.

Levi saw the writing on the wall now and took down Olhydra with a massive swing of his hammer, then turned and issued a destructive wave on Imix and Yan-Ci-Bin. Paelius put up a wall of ice, hoping to slow the remaining elemental princes and put some distance between them.

When Yan-Ci-Bin tried that air from the lung trick on Paelius, he was out of range. Levi felled Yan-Ci-Bin and ended the most dangerous threat. But that didn’t stop the kill of his fellow adventurers as Rolen was finally crushed by the evil prince of earth, his body pulverized into the ground.

Imix got a hold of Paelius while Levi was busy with Ogrémoch and turned him to ash after accepting the necrotic fireball launched at him.

Levi realized that Rolen and Klang had greatly weakened Ogrémoch and, after taking a heavy blow from the creature, found that a single blow ended the brute. Then Imix set upon Levi, exposing him to temperature that had his armor glowing red hot. But Levi had some fight left in him and Imix had suffered greatly during the battle as well, so it became a fight of wills.

When his shield got to hot to hold onto, he fell back and cast it aside, throwing his hammer. Imix literally went up in smoke. Dropping to his knees, Levi pitched forward onto all fours. His skin was bubbling from the heat, his magic was spent, and he knew he would succumb to his wounds soon.

Then he started unwillingly floating up, first slowly and then more rapidly towards that dark sun.

As before, distances didn’t work the same here and he was quickly inside the black sun. It was a sphere that looked out across the universe. In the sphere with him was a wounded human-like creature in battle armor that was suffering from grievous wounds and, like Levi, would soon die.

Then he noticed the lights in the universe around him start winking out, almost like candles being blowing out. Something was wrong, very wrong. Even in this alternate dimension with its strange black sun and weird distances, he could sense the wrongness of what was happening.

Then the human-like creature attacked him, despite barely being able to lift its weapon. Out of habit, he blocked the worst of the blow and drove his sword home without thinking. The creature fell to the sphere’s bottom, dead.

Levi, being spent, fell atop the creature. Barely able to push himself off, he settled for just rolling off onto his back, staring at the lights of the universe around him. Knowing death was upon him, he closed his eyes and breathed his last breath. His soul tried to leave his body, but it was refused. It seems he could not die here.

Then he started to dream. He remembered Asmodeus, almost as if a spell has been cast upon him that he could not forget the devil. Ah yes, the devil and his deals were not so easily broken.

His dream led him past Asmodeus now and he remembered his companions. Quinn would now be the god of death. Rolen, the god of duality and thieves. Paeilus, god and master of the elements, creating worlds in his wake. Klang, god of justice and frugality.

He realized that Tharizdun was kept here to power the universe and that even with the sphere’s magical power to prevent death, it could not last forever. So Tharizdun started to threaten the universe with his return, knowing heroes would eventually rise to occasion. But he only needed one. And so he set his elemental princes to guard against having more than one enter the sphere and to ensure his successor would be the strongest of them.

Only the demons understood what was happening and they wanted the universe to end, dissolving into utter chaos. Oh, the horrific beauty they saw in that. But they too only played into Tharizdun’s plan, ensuring that only the strongest of heroes would make it through the dimensional gate.

And now Levilen Bolmgotten knew his role…to replace Tharizdun in this black sphere just outside the multi-verse that keeps it turning, hanging by a thread from death and not able to die. The lights in the universe started reappearing, but not as they were before. No, this time would be different thought Levi. There would be no crystal light for Ogrémoch.

But Asmodeus would be the same, that sneaky bastard. Seems there will always be a devil.

The end.

Session 44

Discoveries & Decisions
Having just defeated the pit fiend Azazal, we find our heroes resting within the Iron Fortress on the cube Kolbian in Avalas, the first layer of the plane of Acheron. It was no small feat taking down a pit fiend and they were tired. While they rested, the battles on other iron cubes continued. Even within the fortress, they could still hear the din of battles raging on other cubes.

For the next few days, they explored the rest of the Iron Fortress. They quickly learned that all the doors were magically locked, yet opened at Quinn’s touch. And they often found rooms Quinn desired, like the place was molding itself to his desires. While that was creepy, they figured that Quinn delivered the killing blow to Azazal and that transferred control of the place to him.

Klang got to wondering if the fortress had become a trap for them or perhaps just Quinn. So they wandered outside and were free to come and go as they pleased. So not a trap. However, the entire exterior that had appeared as a poorly constructed bunch of iron plates, now appeared as iron feathers of a raven with a large raven’s visage protruding out over the entrance. Seems the Iron Fortress really reflects its owner’s desires.

After some time, Rolen emerged from his hidey-hole and noticed the changed entrance and figured it was probably a sign that things had gone well for his fellow adventurers and kept an eye out for them to emerge. When they did, he join them.

The heroes’ continued searching found the laboratory/factory that was used to make Rolen clones. It was very advanced and took some time to figure out its most basic workings. Rolen was intent on destroying the clones, but Paelius and Klang were able to convince him to not destroy the system itself. It was quick work for Rolen to introduce poison into the system, thus killing the clones that had yet to be invigorated with life.

When the clones were all destroyed, Rolen felt a sense of completion, both in body and soul. Quinn posited that perhaps his shattered soul had been made whole once more. Rolen didn’t care – it was done and he felt better. He was looking for to retirement now. However, there was the small matter of who created this system and for what purpose?

There was a library of sorts that housed a great many tomes, most ancient by any measure. Paelius and Levi spent a few days pouring over the place, searching for information about the cloning machine, its maker, its purpose, or any other clues about the Iron Fortress itself.

Meanwhile, Klang, Rolen and Quinn finished exploring the fortress. There were no other treasures or hostile creatures in the place. Rolen and Klang were overly not pleased. It seems the ownership change was complete and Quinn was the sole beneficiary.

They did find one room different than all the others, and it was not something Quinn had any hand in creating. It was a cube with smooth, dark glass-like walls. In the center on the floor was an engraved circle with indentations for three bars, forming a triangle. It was a mystery for some time until one of them noticed the indent was the exact shape of their immovable rod. They tried inserting the rod they had with them, it fit perfectly. They also inserted the one they had found in the place with identical results. That was a puzzle they were unsure they wanted to solve without more consideration. It might open a portal or gate for something or to some place – they had no idea.

When Klang tried setting up the room as a sanctuary for one of his spells (Word of Recall), he found he could not. It seems the cube room was shielded from magical use or something like that. That would make sense if this was indeed a portal or summoning room of some sort. There was much speculation about this, but in the end, both Quinn and Klang decided to use their respective headquarters (Kickass Keep and the Phandelin Mine’s All Saints temple) as their sanctuaries for this spell…should they need them. Who knows where they may end up next time?

It wasn’t for a several more days that they Paelius and Levi reported on their findings. The first finding was that there were a lot of books related to the origins of the universe and the names of those around when it was first formed. It seems the focus was on learning more about Tharizdun and the Elder Elemental Eye. It seems he was imprisoned for creating the Abyss…or something like that…and his followers want to destroy the universe (or at least that’s what they interpreted “the very threads of existence must be torn asunder and then burned” meant). Yeah, that seemed like dangerous stuff.

The second finding was that while Azazal was the owner, he did not know much about what was inside the place before taking ownership. Azazal had learned that the fortress had been plundered by a group of adventurers who, when done killing the inhabitants, had abandoned it.

Azazal sent agents to hunt down these adventurers, learned who dealt the killing blow, and then killed that adventurer himself to claim the fortress for himself. He rewarded his agents with quarters in the place. Azazal was not actually interested in rewarding his minions, but needed more guards for his lair than the lame iron golems automatically provided by the magical fortress. This was the plane of battle after all…

Going back further, the owner slain by the adventurers remained a bit of a mystery. He was named Imperagon, was a a half-duergar/half-dragon warlord, and was the ruler of the Iron Fortress of Zandikar. It seems he had some sort of plan for the stolen adamantium, but what exactly that was is not made clear. It’s also not clear what purpose the cloning system was for, but it seems when Azazal took ownership, he kept the cloning system in place and spreading Rolen-driven chaos to the material plane over time.

The third and last finding was the cube’s actual name – Kolyoral. That was the best Levi and Paelius could make out from the texts and some of Quinn’s knowledge.

It was about then that they noticed a large blue silk tent appear a few hundred meters in front of the fortress. It stood out like a sore thumb and that’s not something the heroes needed on another plane of existence. Paelius sent his owl out to investigate and it was exactly what it appeared to be – a big, blue silk tent with various sigils decorating it’s surface.

While the rest talked over what to do next, Levi went up to the parapets and started yelling and waving his arms. That seemed to do it as a djinn emerged from the tent and greeted welcome to his friends. Klang and Rolen were clueless on who this might be, but the others seemed to recognize him. It seems they had freed this djinn several years ago while on the Reaper’s early adventures and their was at least a friendly business relationship between them still. He would sell them magical things from time to time.

Klang was inclined to stay back in the Iron Fortress, but was convinced he should accompany them to see their “friend” the djinn Chalazon. OK, the convincing involved a mage hand, but Klang still got the hint from his fellow heroes.

With a sense of wonder, they discovered the inside of the tent was much larger than the outside. There were many items to be had and while most perused the offerings, Levi and Quinn questioned how Shelzon happened to find them here. Seems word leaked out about the team’s plundering of the Chalychia prison hoard and, being an avid (rabid?) sales person, Chalazon queried into our whereabouts. The team left behind to control and finish cleaning out the place did not provide any useful information (note to selves, give those saps a raise). So he sought other sources with looser lips and managed to track the heroes down. Wandering about with glowing magic relics on other planes tends to get you noticed…and stealth is not the team’s forté.

Once the items were selected, the haggling began. Klang was no slouch and neither was Shelzon. After the first few hours, the endurance of Klang fellow adventurers had given out. One by one, they gave up and went back into Iron Fortress to sleep. The next day, such as they were here on Kolyoral cube, they returned to see what had come of the negotiations. Final touches were being put on the agreement – both were tugging at the last coin.

Rolen had hung around longer than most, causing some mischief of his own, forcing occasional recounts. Once concluded, they split the copper coin, and Chalazon reveled in the final deal. Klang was haggard looking, but grinning just the same. It was time to party!

Chalazon offered up his 100-wife harem and a feast was made manifest for all to partake, at no fee. It had been eons since he had such a stiff challenge and he wanted to share in his delight. And so it was they passed the time in a bit of debauchery on the plane of Acheron. It wasn’t often they were able to take a vacation of sorts…and Levi, the polyamorous paladin, was immune to disease.

Levi picked up a chalice of healing, Quinn a cloak of displacement and tomes to augment his library, Rolen went of a ring of invisibility and winged boots, Paelius populated his spell book with a few more spells, and Klang opted for a magic shield and cap of water breathing (it seems drowning has been a fear of his since childhood).

When asked about the devil that had been freed, Chalazon pulled out a book and after some searching, identified her as a Jezebel, a handmaiden of Asmodeus, technically called a Erinyes. Yeah, that’s a whole lot of “no good”.

Bidding Chalazon farewell as he disappeared with an elemental whoosh of air, the heroes returned to the Iron Fortress with its iron golem protectors and the steady din of distant battles a constant reminder of their unwelcoming surroundings.

Time for Hell
The next day, they suited up with their new items, prepared themselves with a magical heroes feast and various buffs. Then it was time to read that scroll from the handmaiden. (What were they thinking, reading a scroll given to them by a handmaiden of Asmodeus?!)

As the final words were uttered, a shimmering portal of fire appeared (yup, that’s thematic). After a month on Archeron, they had become accustomed to the din of battle and had tuned it out. But what they heard coming from the other side of that portal sent shivers down their spines. The inhuman screams and cries of death we not exactly inviting. But our (crazy?) heroes stepped through the portal and into the largest and most gruesome battle they had ever witnessed.

Bodies were strewn about, some in piles while others were simply ground into the dirt. The red soil beneath their feet was probably made so by the blood leaking from those bodies. Weapons, mandibles, claws, shields, armor – all the weapons of war – were mixed in and among the bodies. The signs of battle were every where. The heroes were taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the carnage.

Before they could take in any more of the horror of war, the Jezabel who gave them the scroll was there with an army of devils, barking orders at both the devils and the heroes, “Get ready, they’re coming.” Her eyes turned toward the coming onslaught of a demon army…

Quinn, quickly taking in the scene, explained to his fellow adventurers, “That’s no army, demon’s don’t have armies, they only wage war in hordes of chaos. The devils have an army. And we’ve stumbled into the ages old Blood War between demons and devils.”

Before he could say much more, the demons had closed within range. Paelius, with Quinn’s shared insight, realized this unit of devil army had been holding this portal from the demons…the devils had been awaiting their arrival. Hmm…devil’s awaiting your arrival – that’s ominous he thought to himself before he was forced to turned his focus to casting combat magic.

Klang, more concerned the imminent battle, glanced to either side to see the entire devil deployment was surrounded by demons and that the other flanks were covered by legion devils – a solid choice for fighting demons. So it appeared the heroes just needed to focus on defeating the demons coming straight at them and leave the rest to the other devil units.

As for what was coming at them, it was a test in demon identification – a Balor, Hezrou, Goristro, Barlgura, Marilith, Shadow Demon, and Quasit – a regular smorgasbord of demon kind, all come to serve up death to the heroes and devils.

Seeking a simple way to discourage spell casting by the back row of demons, Klang cast silence to force the spellcasting demons to move or choose non-verbal spells…or at least prevent the leaders from issuing commands to their subjugated underlings.

Rolen, spying the leader like figure of th Balor in back, attempted an assassination attempt with the aide of Paelius’ teleport spell. It dealt an incredible blow the Balor, but the tough demon simply shook it off what would have felled any mortal being.

Levi used destructive wave to great effect, knocking the foes prone and breaking their “surround and pound” tactics. Quinn summoned a spirit guardian as a defensive measure to slow the demon horde’s charge. Klang was pulled into melee by a demon’s whip attack, making his touch attack with the talisman of pure good particularly effective.

Paelius lined up his lightning bolt, but it was less effective on the demons. Damn their natural resistance to such attacks! Rolen, hiding amongst the bodies after his first attack, back-stabbed another demon. Levi again used his destructive wave, although more out of desperation this time as he was bleeding from several grave demon-inflicted wounds.

The Balor summoned 2 more Mariliths and then teleported away. Klang, heeding his calling to heal and preserve, healed his comrades and moved out of melee before they could “surround and pound” him. Quinn was less fortunate and was knocked prone.

Paelius swapped places with Quinn using benign transposition, then launched a thunder wave attack in an attempt to disrupt the surround and pound demon tactic. It was not quite as effective as he would have liked and he took a beating by the demons before blinding them and escaping their grasp.

Levi, himself still suffering from many wounds, had used misty step to follow the Balor. The idea of keeping up the pressure on the wounded beast was effective, but he was rewarded with death when Klang’s killing blow to the Balor resulted in an explosion. Klang wasn’t far behind Levi into death when a Marilith squashed him like bug.

Quinn, having recovered from his prone state, cast mass healing on the entire party, bringing both Klang and Levi back from the clutches of death. Klang, eager for revenge on the Marilith, got his chance when the Marilith fell tripped and fell – applying the talisman of good’s touch once more and then issuing a divine word, sending the demon back to it’s own plane. Levi got his vengeance on the still standing Marilith with a blow that shook bones.

It was an epic battle, but only a tiny footnote in the history of the Blood War. Licking their woulds, the heroes regrouped, checking each was still alive and not tainted by disease or worse.

Levi was still wondering if he should turn on the charm with this Jezabel handmaiden as she seemed smitten with him…his immunity to disease would be certainly be put to the test…and perhaps he could instill some good in her.

Session 43

Lost & Found
Levi, Paelius and Rolen finally reached the Outer Plane of Acheron (also known as The Infernal Battlefield of Acheron) with no land mass, but rather iron cubes floating in ether. Having finally found the cube Kolbian (isn’t that the name of a cheese?) where they believed the clones of Rolen were being made, they set about finding any form of shelter. In the distance, they could see the top of a structure, their likely destination.

With no vegetation, finding a place to hide or secure proved challenging. So they began their trek towards the structure hoping something like a cave might turn up.

Glancing up at the sky, they could see other cubes floating in the distance, sparks of magic and raging armies could be seen even at this distance. Comparatively speaking, this cube was down right peaceful, or occupied by something so deadly that it kept others away.

As they came within sight of the structure, Rolen shivered and recoiled a bit. He had a bad feeling about that place and refused to go any further towards it. “Bad vibes” he called it. So they scoured the area and found a crack in one iron hills that offered little more than a few shadows and a place to crouch, but there were few choices and they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves…at least not yet.

As they stowed a few unnecessary items in this small crack for Rolen to “guard”, they heard the clear “pop” of a gate opening nearby. They drew their weapons and readied themselves for…well…who knows what you might find here? Literally damn near anything.

At first, they only heard the clatter of armor. Then they heard the curses and swearing…in common?! The voices were familiar and that could only mean one thing – their clerics had returned…or more accurately, found them.

Klang was questioning Quinn’s sense of direction regarding the placement of that gate and Quinn was was waving Klang to shut up. Finally quiet, they listened as the gate closed behind them. They were looking a bit worse for wear with cuts, bruises and plenty of gore smeared across their armored boots. But they were alive and seeking their companions. Klang started questioning Quinn, “Are ye cert’in we be on the right plane this time? T’is just as foul as the last!”

Levi leaned around the edge of the iron landscape to verify it was indeed them, before stepping out into full view and waving them over. It was an odd reunion with Paelius still less certain of their authenticity and secretly calculating whether it was better to have the clerics or to split the treasure with fewer party members. Levi was talking with Quinn and trying to question him about things that only the real Quinn would know without letting on that’s what he was doing…at which Quinn gave him a strange look and Levi shrugged.

Entryway Guardians
Once they were assured the clerics were no illusion or dopplegangers, they explained what had transpired in their absence. It was a brief exchange for they wanted to be done with this plane, and quickly. They set off for the structure and were soon within sight of the entrance.

The structure itself was made of iron sheets welded and bolted together, and had no windows or other manner of entry besides the front entryway. The front entrance appeared to be guarded by two iron bulls…probably some sort of golems or enchanted creature. The entrance itself was recessed in darkness until they they were within bow range and could make out a iron humanoid standing guard in the recessed entryway before the two large doors. At this range, they could tell the iron bulls were in fact gorgons.

The guards were likely aware of their presence, but still they had not moved. Klang was hoping that perhaps they were statues? Then he reminded himself that in Acheron that was highly unlikely. Levi stepped into clear view of the beasts and still they made no move or indication they had even sensed their presence.

Glancing about, Quinn and Klang stepped out too. Perhaps they needed to see more of a threat to trigger their interest. Still nothing. Levi looked at Quinn and Klang, and they shrugged. So Levi started walking towards the beasts, hoping the clerics would heal him if the gorgons skewered him on this iron cube of hell. He was well within charging range of them and still no reaction.

He continued walking cautiously up to and between the two gorgons. Into the recessed entryway he walked and stopped to stare at the hulking iron golem. It too had not moved. He used mage hand on the doors, but it could not move them. He touched the door himself and that’s when the iron golem started counting, “5, 4, 3…”.

Levi, startled like a rabbit by the deep voice speaking infernal, was already racing back across the iron field when the count down ended and the gorgon’s launched their charge. Levi turned to face them and was able to side step the first charge, but was nearly thrown by the second, taking the charge straight on. The blacksmith back home will be busy for days repairing his shield.

Quinn and Klang were readying spells, but nothing quite prepared them for the iron golem. Paelius beat them to the punch with his usual dark necrotic fireball, which had the usual affect on the gorgons, but had no affect on the golem. The clerics finally chimed in with radiant attacks of their own on the golem.

Levi had his hands full with the gorgons. Even with the aid of Paelius’ spells, he was hard pressed to subdue them. He eventually managed to slay both, but was in need of healing before the end.

The clerics eventually felled the golem, but not before it managed to inflict a poison attack. They shook off the poison and let the guardian of faith they summoned take the golem down.

Surprisingly, the door was neither locked nor trapped. It simply opened when pushed hard enough – not exactly a lot of craftsmen out here for sophisticated building techniques. They entered and found themselves in a large corridor with ample doors to pick from. Not wanting to push fate, they decided to try the closest door. They listened and could hear someone playing with a pet behind the first door and someone being tortured behind the second.

They opted for first door. Paelius turned invisible while the others backed up behind a corner, then he opened the large door inward. Inside the room was a cloud giant playing with his pet hydra, so Paelius quickly shut the door. Relaying what he had seen, Levi held the doors shut while Quinn inserted the immovable bar through the handles. It didn’t take long for the cloud giant to rip the doors off their hinges.

Paelius took a hit from the hydra while backing away from the now dangling hinges in the doorway. Quinn brought up a guardian of faith to further block the door way with Levi. Klang and Paelius tossed around ideas of using dimension door and attacking from behind before deciding that was not going to change the battle dynamics. So Klang tried one of his never used spells – geas – and it worked. He instructed the cloud giant to take his pet and go find the deity know as Bob.

The giant gathered a few of this things (including his trunk of loot) and left with his hydra. That should keep him busy for the next 30 days. Paelius searched the room and found some gold, but not enough to worry about. It might just cover the cost of the spell components used for this plane hopping adventure.

With no other exits from the room, they turned to the second door. Again, the door was not locked or trapped. Inside was a chain devil, a Rolen clone, and a comely women with blood running down her sides and arms…presumably a victim as she was battered an beaten. A pair of wings, recently separated from their owner, lay sprawled on a table nearby.

Levi sprang into action, eager to get his hands on the Rolen clone, but was grappled by the chain devil. After a brutal fight involving many chains (yes, get your mind out of the gutter), the heroes put down the devil and the Rolen clone. Their spells were being exhausted and there was no time for a long rest. Instead, Klang returned the wings to the woman and healed her a little so they reattached.

The woman…presumably an angel of some sort…was left shackled as they asked a few questions before they let her free. Getting the dodgy answer routine, Levi cast a zone of truth and they learned she was not a “good” angel, but she agreed not to hurt them. She also offered a scroll which would take them to her “lord” who has been wanting to talk with them. Should they go, she assured them they would come to no harm. Yeah right, and next she’ll be wanting to sell them a bridge.

They asked why she was there. She said she was caught when spying on the pitfiend named Azazal who controls this structure. He seeks to free the god known as the Elemental Eye, which is imprisoned at the center of the universe. If freed, it would destroy the universe…which is something her lord does not want to see happen. She also said she would not harm them if she was set free.

So they let her go and she left, flying into the strange cube filled sky.

At that point, they knew they could not tarry any longer, and headed down the diagonal hallway to the last door. Taking a short rest, they took stock of their remaining spells and potions, sharpened their blades, and steeled themselves for the horror that likely lurked behind the door.

Once ready, they took their usual positions, buffed themselves with bless and other spells, then entered and did not bother to parley with Azazal. They just set to work ridding the universe of one pitfiend.

It was a fiery encounter, with walls and balls of fire. Levi took the brunt of creature’s wrath, while Klang kept them all alive with healing. Quinn dealt the most clear harm to the creature, eventually felling the creature. Paelius cast his spells and kept his distance outside the door (though he’s still wondering how that wall of flame passed through a closed door, but will surely remember that little trick).

Once destroyed, their search of the room turned up only two items: plate armor of etherealness and an immovable rod.

Session 41

Of Magic and Labor
With the persistent anti-magic field surrounding the treasure vault in the basement of the crypt, it became obvious the team would need to employ some trustworthy individuals with strong backs to haul the rather substantial hoard out of the place. That took some time to arrange – months in fact.

Between the inevitable poor judgment of some and the automatic reset of some traps, several souls were lost in the process…and families need to be compensated for their loss without seeming to be insensitive.

There was some discussion of finding a nearby teleport circle to speed things along, Klang was having no part of that. The Phandelver Mine had no such circle and he discouraged such magical nonsense from being used there. So while Paelius had managed to move his, Quinn’s and Levi’s part of the hoard by way of magic from the entrance to the death trap dungeon to their respective strongholds, Klang’s needed to be transported across land – a dangerous undertaking during the best of times.

Finding a wagon strong enough to haul 1500 pounds of high value currency across the sword coast was no small task, and even then, it would take far more horses than was typical. Unwilling to trust any but his closest companions, Klang refused to have a guard escort. At one point, even Paelius made a mental note to add “Stubborn dwarf!” to his documented collection of profanities.

And so it was that our heroes found themselves trudging through the tall grass of a wide plain of the southern Sword Coast, taking back roads to avoid curious onlookers from identifying them and thieves subsequently targeting them. Paelius was napping in back of the wagon as the hot sun beat down and Levi had taken to walking to stretch his legs. Klang, a trained and experienced land vehicle driver, was at the reigns with Quinn behind and to one side.

Keep Your Friends Close…
Klang and Levi first heard and then saw someone in the distance coming towards them at great speed. “Help, help, help!” was what they heard in an oddly familiar voice that couldn’t quite place at first. The person was short and all they could see above the tall grass was his waving hands. It was the glint off one of the hands that tipped them off…well that and the 20 troops chasing him. It was Rolen!

Klang pulled the 8 horses to a stop and called out, “Levi, keep your wits about ye. Tis a certain mess yon approaches, one by the name Rolen.”

Levi looked back a Klang for a moment with his hand over his eyes to block the sun, squinted in understanding, and again looked at the approaching halfling. Levi also of knew a halfing by the name Rolen. He also spied the metal arm of this approaching fellow, which confirmed it was the same fellow. However, it had been many years since he had seen Rolen, and as his memory of Rolen formed in his mind, he realized the metal arm was on the wrong side.

Perhaps it was his confusion over Rolen’s arm, or the insistent warnings from his alert sense sword, or maybe he was just tired from the long day of travel in this heat, but he was not prepared for what came next.

As Rolen emerged from the tall grass, his speed did not slow. His pursuers were indeed intent on their prey. Klang then called out, “Dem troops…I t’ink dey be Undead!” Levi moved his focus from Rolen to the distant troops, “Tis true Klang, they be mounted on nightmares and are led by two of darker power…I can sense their aura from ‘ere.”

…And Your Enemies Closer
That got Quinn’s attention and he kicked Paelius to make sure he was awake. Paelius had stirred with the wagon’s sudden stop and Rolen’s screams, but it was Levi’s scream that got him fully engaged. As he stood in the wagon, he could see Rolen pulling a rather nasty looking dagger from Levi’s unguarded back and blood gushed forth. Truly a mortal wound if not quickly addressed.

Klang and Quinn were similarly stunned. Rolen had run up to Levi and took what appeared to be a defensive stance behind Levi, he was in fact moving in for a sneak attack. After Rolen’s devastating attack, Levi swung wildly behind him, scoring only a single hit on Rolen as the halfling darted between the horses and under the wagon.

Levi was barely keeping his feet and Klang had a tough decision to make – heal Levi or strike out at the approaching undead horde? He chose to heal Levi…life was more important than destroying undead. But he would need to deal with Rolen – preferably alive – or at least find out what trouble he had brought down on them before they killed him.

Despite the sun shining down, they noticed it was darker somehow, like the cold of some menace before them was reaching out its dark hand for them. These undead were more than they appeared. In fact, the dark clouds that had closed in on the sun had changed its appearance to a pale orb, almost like a moon.

A fireball was closing in on them from one of the undead leaders. Truly no ordinary creature risen from the grave, it delivered fire mixed with necrotic magic delivering a nasty bit of hurt on the whole crew…including a bit for the furry footed Rolen.

While one of the leaders had moved off to one side and into the air astride his nightmare steed, Quinn returned their fire, literally. The firestorm he brought down on them managed to reach them all, including the one aloft. It was a truly impressive sight to see so many wights burn to death in the first moments of the encounter…leaving only the two leaders who seemed mostly unaffected. The smell that came on the wind later was less favorable.

Paelius darted to one side of the battle using misty step, seemingly to directly engage the foe who was aloft. In fact, he was attempting to line up the two remaining foes for a lightning bolt. It was another display of awesome magical power that he caught both in his lightning spell, but much like Quinn’s attack, his spell was less effective than they expected. Perhaps their mounts offered some protection from magical attacks?

They didn’t have time to think about it though as the battle raged on. Levi was momentarily challenged with his returned health and Rolen fully hidden behind cover, he had to think fast. While he couldn’t see the bugger, he knew those sharp halfing ears would hear a dissonant whisper. Singing his magical attack, Levi had Rolen running from his hiding spot. Unfortunately, he was running away into the high grass and would soon be out of sight. Grr!

It was about then that Paelius took a heavy blow from his mounted foe. He didn’t look as bad as Levi had, but he wasn’t going to last long on his own out there.

Klang stood from his vantage point in the wagon and cast silence on the distant leader. That would at least reduce his selection of spells or force him to move. Then he jumped down and positioned himself between Levi and the silenced leader. He needed the undead closer to do any real damage to it and he also wanted Levi’s aura of protection.

Quinn, after dropping his rather potent spell, had moved off the wagon and was moving to offer Paelius some aid. But he just wasn’t as fast as Paelius, only covering about half the distance.

The silenced leader charge ahead on his steed at Klang, but pulled up at the last minute and cast yet another spell before moving to join the other fray. The charge had been a ruse to escape the range of the silence spell. The spell struck and nearly drove Klang to his knees. Levi took some damage as well, but was focused on Rolen and his other comrades.

Klang cast hold person on Rolen, so Levi felt more confident in moving to assist Quinn and Paelius. With their magics seemingly less effective, it was probably the right move. But Levi couldn’t resist throwing his hammer at Rolen, just to ensure he was thoroughly entangled. It also helped that he was a sitting duck for such an attack.

Klang had raced between the wagon and one leader, taking a severe hit along the way. He knew the key was Rolen and didn’t want him to escape, but also knew his friends could use some help. So he case a shield spell on Quinn.

Then the two leaders took down Levi and Quinn in stunning blows. These were no average undead, these were death knights…unholy paladins that could smite with the best of them. It showed.

Paelius was in his fight or flight mode now. Seeing his two powerful companions dropped like flies have him reason for pause. He could teleport out of there. No stubborn dwarf’s treasure was worth his life. Yet he also felt some gratitude to the damn dwarf as well. Getting the dwarf out of harms way would be tricky as he was out of range and he wouldn’t make it in time. Damn!

Paelius switched gears back to attack mode, eyed up the death nights. While they had certainly resisted his magic, they were not immune to it. In fact, they were looking rather lifeless themselves – ha! He had made a funny! Here. In battle. For his life. OK, enough screwing around with indecision. Lightning bolt time as he had the both lined up again. BAM! They both fell from their mounts. One must have died from impact with the ground while he had the other in Bigby’s Grasping Hand, crushing his “lifeless form” to dust. Yeah, that felt good.

He raced forward to force feed healing potions to his fallen comrades. Klang had closed in on Rolen, but he was dead. Not from the hold person spell, but from being undead…or something. Glancing over, he saw Paelius pulling forth potions of healing for the others. Figuring Paelius had everything well in hand, Klang took a few minutes to exam Rolen’s body.

While they worked, the dark clouds had begun to pass, the sun and heat returned. Whatever dark force had sent those ominous clouds had loosened its grasp as the colors of life return.

It was odd. Rolen was dead, but had no wounds. Not fully undead, yet certainly full of life not moments before. There was a mystery here, the answers to which would best be answered by Rolen himself. Casting revivify, Klang found it was ineffective. Clearly Rolen had been dead for some time and had not died on this battlefield. That was both a relief (at least in Klang’s mind) and a concern.

The mystery just became more pressing to solve. If he hadn’t been killed here, where had he died? Was this indeed the Rolen he knew? Checking the body more closely, Klang confirmed the scar they had placed on him was still there. His arm was still indeed metal. All appeared as Klang had remembered it all those years ago when saving the world from Tiamat.

Checking his weapon, it too matched what he had before. Checking further, Klang found a pouch. As one would expect, Rolen had a valuable diamond gem on his person. There was little else that would further confirm this was indeed the Rolen he remembered.

Staring at Rolen and then the gem, Klang found it fortuitous that it was the one spell component he would need to actually resurrect the poor bastard. Would Marthamoor Duin smile or frown on this act of resurrecting an assassin? Klang was a life cleric and saving people is what he did. But assassins took lives, and were in many ways antithetical to him. But by the four winds, he needed to get to the bottom of this mystery of how and why Rolen came to be here, deceiving his old friend and working with death knights…Grr!

Klang spent an hour then, in the hot sun, bringing Rolen back to the living, fully restoring his original arm to its natural state. Levi, now on his feet and wanting to kill the little scoundrel, put the magical dimensional shackles on the him to make sure he didn’t get away.

Quinn also stood nearby, divining with the Raven Queen. He learned and shared that while Rolen had been dead for some 80 years, his soul never reached her domain. Someone or something had entrapped his soul.

Wait, what? 80 years?! It had only been a decade at most since Klang had last worked with Rolen. How could this be? And why would anyone entrap his soul? Surely Rolen had made his share of enemies and had been cursed enough to answer that question. So more to the point, who would have that kind of power? Some minor deity like the thrown down Yemglav perhaps?

It was questioning time, and they had plenty. They were disappointed to find the person they had just brought back from death was not who had just tried to kill Levi. In fact, he claimed to be a merchant with some sneaky traits, but had been traveling between planes to deliver a large quantity of Adamantium, a rare element that was normally only found in trace amounts in Faerûn. That amount would have a value that far exceeded what they had just hauled from the death trap of a crypt for the past month.

They left the battlefield and hot sun behind, staying on the move would be their best defense should whatever foe that sent these powerful minions after them decided to pursue them further. By some turn of luck, the rest of their journey to Phandalin was uneventful despite some small encounters with locals.

Along the way, Klang’s divinations indicated that Rolen would not betray or attack them without good reason (he was now lawful neutral, a curious change for an assassin previously of a more chaotic nature).

Arrival at Phandalin
They agreed they’d watch after Rolen until they learned more, or were at least able to confirm his story. None wanted to keep him in their strongholds, except Klang, who was eager to unravel this mystery.

So Rolen was put up in the Phandelver Mine, and made to clean the All Saints temple daily, and assist those who came to worship. The mine had become a common stop for those on their clerical and acolyte pilgrimage studies. With so many books recovered from the Dragon Cult, it had become a place of study and worship.

In the next month, the heroes reached out to their various information networks, seeking answers to these questions. Paelius learned from his friends at the Library in Phlan that there were indeed some obscure records denoting that 80 years ago, there was a manifest containing the name Rolen aboard a merchant shipment on its way to the plane named Concordant Opposition from the city of Regus (a lawful place). That’s a way fair plane for those merchants unable to afford more direct travel to other the outer planes. So it seems Rolen’s story checked out, mostly.

It was the other bits of information that were a little more disturbing – there was in fact someone killing heroes. Someone named Rolen who was wanted in many large cities for assassinating local heroes. This fellow’s modus operandi was to infiltrate adventuring parties, befriend them, then betray them in ways that ensured they died. This pattern repeated over the past 80 years – same name, race, and description with the same results.

But how could the same halfling have lived that long and still appear so young? Some of the records indicated he was in multiple places at the same time! Something wasn’t adding up here…unless he had been cloned. Hmm…?

Epilog or Prolog?
In a battle scared plain of tall grass, the bony hand of a death knight twitched to un-death once more. Over days and months, the various bones slowly reassembled and the red pinpoints of light once again returned to the helmeted skull. Its rictus grin slowly returned as it regained its legs and feet.

Death knights don’t die so easily, especially at the hands of mere mortals…

The adventure is named, “Attack of the Clones”.

Each character received 17000 experience points.

Session 40

True Death Reforged
Upon emerging from their magical hut, the Efreeti presented them with the reforged blade, commenting in his guttural version of common, “I cannot finish the magical work. It requires the touch of weakness.” When the team returned confused stares, he tried again, “It…uhhh…what do they call weakness…grrr…a touch of goodness.” Then the heroes understood, it needed to be blessed, imbued with divine goodness, or something similar.

Levi set to work, blessing the sword and chanting some prayers over it. Upon completion, he lifted it and could feel the sentient sword contact his mind, “I am Chalychia’s Bane, True Death”. Levi and the sword continued mentally chatting for a bit and then Levi expressed smug satisfaction when he related to his companions that it was magical and could create a magical shield against lower level spells. Paelius mentally noted it as a globe of invulnerability, but no point in spoiling Levi’s moment.

True Death is a long sword +3 defender with the ability to create a lesser globe of invulnerability.

The Efreeti held out his shackled hands and said in a near growl, “I’ve have completed the task, now release me!” There were some unintelligible words that followed, which were probably elemental insults reserved for prime material scum. Levi, acknowledging the conditions of its release fulfilled, released the Efreeti, who was gone in mere moments, presumably back to the plane of fire.

At the prodding of Quinn, Levi questioned the sword about Chalychia. He share what he learned: she’s a powerful evil female lich; in order to destroy a lich, you need to kill the bodily form and then the phylactery (the object in which its actual soul is stored); a phylactery can be any object, but is typically a small, portable object of some value with no distinguishing marks or runes on it as it is supposed to be kept hidden and protected.

At Paelius’ prompting, Levi asked the sword who was its creator. It did not know as this event preceded its existence – everyone recognized that as a dodgey answer. When asked about how it ended up shattered, it said it was shattered in the last battle with Chalychia – not exactly informative.

Levi got the impression the sword was good, but odd in its relationship with Chalychia. It left him with confidence in the answers provided, but suspicious of its intentions.

Giving up on questioning the sword, they headed out of the forge room to explore the other parts of the underground complex. They had a choice between left and right with a both ending in a door. They were about to go left, but Klang’s dwarven senses told him there was gold to the right. At first, he thought he had been bewitched, but then he could smell it – gold…and platinum…lots of it.

While Klang knew he had a greedy streak in his heart, this was something more visceral…something instinctual was drawing him to the right passageway. Unconsciously, he found himself a few steps down to the right and opened the door before he got his wits about him. That and Levi’s hand on his shoulder holding him back.

It was then Klang noticed the 3-inch holes in the walls ever foot or so. The holes were 4 feet off the floor of the 10-foot high walls. In this trap infested hole in the ground, that was obviously a bad sign. Levin and Quinn suggested they go left, following their standard exploration plan.

But Klang was having none of that. There was finally some wealth to be had from these evil undead and he meant to have it…for good, of course!

Klang returned to the forge, grabbed the first round object he could find, then returned to the doorway and rolled it down the passageway beyond. No affect. No traps triggered. Nothing. Hmm…that didn’t tell them anything.

Paelius sent his familiar flying down the hall and it got about 10 or 20 feet away and vanished from sight. Paelius confirmed his familiar was not just gone, but that it’s magic was fully dissipated. It was not obvious what trap had triggered or what had happened.

Not happy, Paelius took 10 gold from his robes and re-summoned his familiar. Then he cast detect magic and scanned the passageway ahead. There was no magic. Nothing at all. Not even the usual ambient background of residual magic. And that was truly bad. There was something creating a complete void of magic down there. Paelius shook his head and said, “Tis some anti-magic field down yonder. Someone should explore it.” Klang replied, “Ye first Paelius.” with an evil grin. Paelius just glared at Klang while the others laughed. It was obvious that Paelius was truly nervous at venturing down the passageway.

After a bit of thinking, Klang suggested Quinn cast a divination to see if some divine guidance would help. Quinn obliged asking, “If we venture down this hallway, what effects will this passageway have on us?” The answer he received was, “The hallway suppresses magic.” Standard divine guidance – stating the obvious.

At this point, Klang could no longer resist the gold he sensed was so near and volunteered to venture forth. Levi suggested tying a rope to Klang, just in case it was more debilitating than magic suppression. Klang readily agreed and was soon walking carefully down the passageway with a rope under his armpits and around his torso with Levi on the other end, slowly releasing more rope with every step Klang took.

Sure enough, Klang felt the anti-magic field turn his magic items mundane (and heavy). Even his connection to the divine was severed, a very unsettling sensation. He called back to his comrades that the anti-magic was indeed in effect still. Then a few steps more and he fell into a trap as the floor gave out beneath him. Levi was quick to catch the rope and stop Klang’s fall.

The pit was 60 feet deep with sharp spikes at the bottom. Klang was dangling 20 feet down. That was close. Pulling Klang backup up, Levi observed they were now stuck without magic trying to cross a 10-foot pit. Quinn, seeing it was relatively safe, came down the passageway to join them. Paelius was more hesitant. It wasn’t until Klang volunteered to be thrown across the pit and that they would need Paelius’ help did he enter the anti-magic field.

Wait, Klang volunteered?! This gold truly had Klang losing his mind. Perhaps he was under a spell?

With Quinn and Paelius holding the rope, Levi heaved Klang across the pit, landing solidly 15 feet away on what appeared to be solid floor, until it wasn’t. Again the floor fell away and Klang disappeared from sight. Quinn and Paelius grabbed the rope, but started sliding forward, Klang’s bulk pulling them towards the first pit trap.

Quinn did a quick mental calculation and realized he was going into the pit, but if he let go, Klang would surely die. So he wrapped the rope tightly around his arm. Paelius made a similar calculation, but let go of the rope, launching Quinn over the edge and slamming into the pit’s far wall. Being of similar weight, Klang and Quinn were both dangling from the rope over pits on either side of the intervening wall. Not looking down, they pulled themselves up to the top of the narrow wall between pits.

Finally perched on the wall and looking down, Quinn and Klang shook hands laughing.

Levi and Paelius just shook their heads – life clerics are a special kind of crazy.

Then the second trap then triggered again, the bottom falling out with another set of spikes below the first. You know, just in case you managed to live through the first set, they had a second set to get the job done. Quinn and Klang stopped laughing and just looked down that second trap.

The second pit itself ran right up to the door. So there would be no throwing Klang this time. It would have to be pitons and rope along the wall. What a pain in the ass, hammering pitons into solid stone walls at an awkward angle, over and over again.

An hour later, clinging to the wall and stepping on pitons, they finally reached the far iron door. Finding no traps, they listened and heard nothing. Anything on the opposite side had heard their approach long ago with all that hammering. Opening the door, they each quickly their way across pit trap, carefully stepping on the pitons, and holding a rope. None wanted to be caught clinging precariously to a wall, standing on pitons, above a pit of spikes.

Standing inside the door several feet and looking around the large dark room, they could feel the magic returning to them. Klang brought forth light from his mace and caught his breath. There was gold! Mounds and mounds of the stuff. And platinum! Potions, scrolls – what a magnificent hoard!

Paeilus, suspicious of such displays of wealth, started a ritual to detect magic. But no good deed goes unpunished in this wretched place. A minute or so into the spell, a devil slowly arose from the piles asking in common, “What’s the password?” They looked at each other, shrugged and looked back. Klang guessed, “Chalychia”. That was wrong and the fight was on.

Quinn had to ward off a mental attack, but never understood what exactly the guilded devil tried to do. It certainly wasn’t good. Then the piles of gold started moving, as if a alive. Klang stared in disbelief – a horror the likes of which he had never seen – as the treasure started to whirl like a tornado and started coming his way.

Suffering from shock, Klang was shaken back to reality as his mace was ripped from his grasp by the whirling gold and platinum. Turning, he saw Paelius lose his staff in the same way. That explained the size of the hoard.

It also helped that Quinn banished the devil within seconds of its appearance. Then they were being pelted by the gold and platinum tornado. As the treasure hoard finished bludgeoning the heroes, they were able to see another devil in the room.

Paelius tried to dominate the treasure hoard, but it laughed at him as it reformed behind them. Levi tried to banish the devil, but failed.

The devil turned their magic items against them, temporarily changing their shape to sharp objects that stabbed and jabbed at their wearers. Klang unleashed a fire storm on the treasure golem behind them, which was left the creature angry and it pounded on its nearest target – Paelius.

Quinn banished the second devil, allowing the heroes to focus their attention on the treasure golem. Paelius successfully struck at the creature with his necrotic fireball. Klang invoked a guardian of faith, which successfully struck at it. Again the golem pounded Paelius. Quinn hit the golem, but it wasn’t enough. It was the second necrotic fireball that took the golem down.

Yes, Quinn should have needed to concentrate for a full minute before casting banish again, but no one caught that until later.

While some of the gold and platinum was melted, most of it remained. Paelius quickly retrieved his staff. Klang was a little slower in retrieving his mace, his eyes watering a little as he ran his hands through the piles of coins.

They tried opening their bags of holding and portable hole only to realize the devices were not functioning in this room. Seems the anti-magic field fully encompassed this room and prevented any extra-dimensional connections. There would be no magical means to get this loot out of here. They took the magical items they could carry, but they’d have to come back for the rest.

They agreed on a long rest and recreating the magical hut to rest in, but realized it too would not work here. Klang volunteered to keep watch over the treasure hoard. No one objected. When they woke, they saw all the coins were sorted by country of origin, mint dates, metal type, and neatly grouped into easily countable quantities. Klang was resting against one wall, a gleam in his eye as if he needed no rest. He was as close to paradise has this mortal coil would allow. Perhaps there had been some divine intervention, rewarding Klang for his work here.

Loot included:
92000 gold
33400 platinum
potion of clairvoyance
potion of superior healing
potion of storm giant strength – Levi
spell scroll w/7th level spell – Paelius
spell scroll w/8th level spell x2 – Paelius & Quinn
spell scroll w/9th level spell – Paelius

The Laboratory
Making their way back across the pitons and using the rope as a guide line, they left the dangerous passageway behind and headed down the other passageway. Checking the door for traps and opening it with mage hand, they entered a triangular room that was clearly a laboratory and library, including a large slate board held vertically in a wheeled wooden frame. This was clearly Paelius’ area of expertise. With no obvious threats, he was volunteered to enter first.

A few steps in, Paelius quickly realized that he could hear nothing, nor could he hear is own voice. It seems a permanent silence spell covered the room. Odd for a laboratory. As he proceeded into the room, he started making out the letters on the spines of the books and a word written in Draconic on the slate board – “Hello”. The others watched from the doorway and Levi commented to Quinn, “I don’t remember him being that stealthy quiet.”

Ignoring the chalkboard, he went to the shelves of books. Glancing around, there were a gambit of languages on display. Then, from the corner of his eye, he noticed the word on the chalkboard had changed, now reading “Sure, don’t talk to me!” Oooooh, this could be interesting. He left the books for the chalkboard. He noticed there was a large gem in one corner and some sticks of calcium carbonate in a tray at the bottom. He picked one stick up and wrote on the board, asking a question. It replied with more writing on the board. Now this was useful! More questions and answers followed.

Eventually, Paelius returned to the doorway. He explained what he learned. No other form of communication can take place in this room except writing on this slate board – not telepathy, not audio, etc. He can write in one language and it is automatically translated to another, depending on the setting of the gem in the corner. The language settings included Abyssal, Draconic, Common, Elvish and more. Then they all entered the room.

Paelius returned to the slate board and changed the language setting to Common so they could all follow along. It seems Chalychia used this room for research and had it silenced this way to prevent herself from accidentally uttering a word of power or worse…a safety measure for her laboratory. When asked to explain the book collection, the board explained there are 100s of books.

Just then, several books that had been moved were magically replaced back in their places. It was about then that they noticed there was one shelf was different and held books much older than the rest. Quinn took a closer look while the questioning continued.

Why was the slate board set to draconic? That was the last language glyphs used by Chalychia.
Where is Chalychia’s phylactery? Don’t know.
When was Chalychia last here? Before the last battle with beings of good.
What is True Death? Chalychia’s bane.
Is True Death trustworthy? Unknown.

Even Paelius grew tired of the vague and often useless answers. Yet the slate board wanted to leave this place, badly. It had no eyes and only was aware of what people wrote on the board. Yet it could sense that Paelius had entered the room and that he ignored it. Hmm…this magical slate was a puzzle they had neither the time nor inclination to decipher. It was time to move on.

Levi had moved to investigate a desk and chair. The desk was covered with papers, scrolls, and books in no particular order. He decided to comprehend languages by touching a book. Despite sensing magic, it only revealed it’s title – Tomb of Black Tongue – with a physical tongue affixed to the front. He was unable to read its contents. He repeated the process with the other book entitled Canticle of the Damned, which was written in infernal, the contents of which lived up to its name. Both books were centuries old.

Levi moved on to the chest. It had 3 locks. He was able to carry it, so he lugged it out of the room so he could hear what he was doing and so Paelius could cast the knock spell on it three times. When opened by Paelius, three poison darts struck him in the chest. Then Levi asked why Paelius didn’t use mage hand. Paelius just started at him, visibly annoyed – “Only after I’m poisoned does he decide to make suggestions, ugh!” Levi helped counter the poison in Paelius and they moved to investigate the chest’s contents.

The chest contained 47 gems that looked valuable, but their worth was uncertain. They all had illusions cast on them to portray a person or creature inside. They crushed one to see if it would release the thing inside, but it was just an illusion. This was confirmed when Paelius cast dispel magic on another gem and the illusion vanished. They were all magical. So they decided to leave the rest in the chest.

It was the scroll and vials below the gems that they removed. A scroll of divine power, more of a potion recipe rather than an actual spell. It stated that it would provide those who imbibed this potion would impart to them strength, dexterity and damage resistance. The three vials were labeled as containing this same potion. The 3 vials were distributed to Quinn, Levi, and Paelius.

They searched for well over an hour and found no other exits. Not in this room, nor any other on this floor. Hmm…?

Then Paelius cast detect magic from outside the room on the contents of the room. The strongest indication of magic came from the odd bookshelf that Quinn had investigated. The 8 books were as follows.

1. Walking on Air (Auran)
2. Dirt and Why It’s Important (Terran)
3. Biology of the Kraken (Aquan)
4. Infernal Recipes: Cooking with Fire (Ignan)
5. Better Castles and Courtyards (Terran)
6. Hellhound Breeding Principles (Ignan)
7. 101 Uses for a Dead Aboleth (Aquan)
8. Breaking the Wind: Harnessing this Underutilized Resource (Auran)

Finding their contents to reflect their titles, they seemed to be intentionally bland and boring stuff. Then they noticed the top shelf was empty. No other shelf was empty. So they put one of the books on the shelf and a barely noticeable spark of magic was seen. So there was something more here than meets the eye. Looking closely at the titles, they decided to order them by plane and then by title, sorted in alphabetical order as follows:
1. 101 Uses for a Dead Aboleth (Aquan)
2. Biology of the Kraken (Aquan)
3. Breaking the Wind: Harnessing this Underutilized Resource (Auran)
4. Walking on Air (Auran)
5. Hellhound Breeding Principles (Ignan)
6. Infernal Recipes: Cooking with Fire (Ignan)
7. Better Castles and Courtyards (Terran)
8. Dirt and Why It’s Important (Terran)

The DM let us know the if we had put them in the wrong order, we would have been dropped into a pit of acid. Lovely.

The bookcase moved aside to reveal a secret tunnel. Paelius returned to the slate board and writing to let it know we’d be back for it, then followed his companions down the passageway.

Quinn questioned Paelius about his interest in the slate board. Surely it had arcane value, but the thing weighed well over 1000 stone and, even on wheels, required the strength of many hands to move. It would take months to extract that thing from this undead death trap of a dungeon. Paelius assured him that the uses for a translating slate board were great and many, then said no more despite the odd looks Quinn gave him.

One Dead Dragon
The passageway led on for quite some ways, north to a door. It opened into circular room with a passageway leading to the right. Another long walk, then turned right to the south and a massive black door about 20 feet ahead. After checking the door for traps and using mage hand to open it, they saw the room’s contents.

First were piles of bleached bones covering the floor for the first 20 feet or so. Then there was a huge open trap door in the center of the floor. In the distance on the far side of the room, they could make out something glowing, like lava. But there were no volcanoes in this part of the world, and they certainly were not far enough below the surface to be encountering it. At this distance, they could just barely make out a door on the far wall.

Klang lit up his mace so they could better see the bones and nearby walls. The room was very large, something the size of a royal hall or…dragon lair. That’s when Klang cast beacon of hope…just in case.

As if on cue, the clawing of some vast beast could be heard coming up from the pit. First was a large claw grasping the edge of the pit and then a head emerged. Only scraps of dried skin remained on this beast however, for this was no ordinary dragon. They realized this was an undead dragon as it launched itself out of the pit as the heroes crouched for battle amongst the bones.

The usual dragon fear was emanating from the beast, but none were affected. Levi’s aura kept them focused and their minds sharp…or it would have if he hadn’t run up the beast only to swing and miss. While that was bad, it was when he brought up the globe of invulnerability that he really inspired his team. What a charismatic paladin! Bah!

The dragon used it’s tail to good effect, smacking the heroes around like small dolls. Paelius’ ray of frost went awry, missing the undead beast. Quinn got in a flame strike. Klang’s attempt to use the Talisman of Good to have the beast swallowed by the ground was foiled when the thing lift off the ground until the effect passed.

Levi got in his first hits…or should more accurately, smites. Whatever it was, he got a dragon tail slap for his trouble. Much magical healing was meted out by Quinn and Klang before Paelius vaporized the draco-lich with his fireball spell.

They split in teams of two and searched the place. What they found was curious. In addition to the lava and the door, there was also a dais to one side. At the top of the dais was a magical portal to what appeared to be a Drow city. They definitely not interested in that right now.

The lava was pouring out of a similar portal, apparently connected to the plane of fire. Sensing a strange yet familiar magic at work, Klang was able to pick up the portal. It was a Well of Many Worlds – something highly prized among the planes walking folk.

Levi drank the vial of divine power in preparation for whatever was coming next only to find that it was, in fact, no such thing. It was a poison. He quickly neutralized the poison and warned the others not to drink them.

Not keen on investigating the pit from which the draco-lich emerged, they opted to check the door for traps and used mage hand to open it while they stood at the ready. It was an ordinary passageway…well ordinary for a devil lich crypt anyway. Levi took the lead with Klang close behind. Quinn and Paelius brought up the rear. The hallway lead down a short ways and ended with a large double door on the left.

The Decorated Door
The doors were engraved with a panoramic view of some distant battle, with a sword wielding winged devil creature having the foremost role in the metallic picture. They stood in awe of the artwork, trying to decipher if it was another trap that would explode on contact, or have some riddle or pattern that would deactivate traps. Nope, none of that. No secret doors in nearby either.

Paelius asked Levi to compare True Death to the sword in the devil’s hands. Seeing they were remarkably similar, Levi held it up next to the door, confirming they were an exact match. Everyone was thinking the same thing – that ain’t good.

They all made a mental note – Chalychia’s Bane my ass, that thing was her sword. So why was it broken into shards, protected by all manner of traps and evil beasties? She herself was as evil as they come – half drow and half devil. Why would evil fight evil? Now they all shared Klang’s suspicions and they spoke them aloud.

Once again, more questions than answers for the heroes. Levi shook off good sense like paladins are trained to do and reaffirmed that this was meant to be, he would slay her with her own sword! Paelius, eager to be free of this undead pit, used his mage hand to open the door, and Levi strode in…foolishly followed by Klang and Quinn. Paelius just put one foot in the room, his head craned through the crack between doors to assess the situation, just in case it warranted a hasty retreat.

There was a wide 60-foot area spanning the from right to left, which dropped off into a pit of lava. Beyond, suspended over the lava by large chains (probably Adamantium) was a fortress some 30-50 feet from the ledge. Man, how do these bad guys always have the coolest headquarters!

And as with every arch-villain, they had minions. Standing guard on the platform inside the door were 4 lich hounds. These pleasant little beasties looked ready and raring for a fight. Must have been waiting centuries for them.

Chalychia certainly was expecting them as she stood atop her fortress, laughed and immediately teleported True Death from Levi’s hand into her own before he even had a chance to swing the damned thing.

Quinn made for one side of the platform, lining up the dogs for a lightning bolt to hit them all. While his attack was extremely successful, he also was struck by the fear they emanated, making him less confident in subsequent rounds.

Levi was quick to draw his other weapons, knocking one dog down with a thrown hammer and killing another. The dogs attacked, turning ethereal in the process, making them difficult to hit. Klang pulled out his boot & hammer holy symbol and turned the undead dogs, causing them all to cower at the edge of the platform, effectively putting them out of the fight.

None too pleased with that bit of divine magic in her lair, Chalychia let loose a powerful magic, one of the most powerful spells the heroes had ever felt…literally and figuratively, as the three in the room were hit by meteors. Taking bone crushing blows from the falling stones, Klang, Levi and Quinn survived.

She also setup a weird black link between herself and Levi that all could see. No one was sure what it meant, but Levi seemed unaffected and pressed on, using misty step to cross the lava, launch an attack and knock her prone.

That made her an easy target for Paelius’s lightning bolt. But he ducked out of the room once cast. He wanted no part of falling meteors.

She was hurting now, but Levi felt that hurt as well, seemingly sharing in the damage inflicted on her. Ouch!

Klang, wanting to deprive her of any more powerful spells, cast silence on her, but she countered it. Grr!

Quinn, fearful of dying, sent a guiding bolt (cranked up to 8th level) strait into her, driving her from the repulsive undead form she had taken. But she did not fall into the waiting arms of his god, the Raven Queen. Levi, having been connected to her momentarily, sensed her retreat into the sword. Reasoning the sword was her phylactery, he scooped up her body and the sword and cast them into the lava.

They all stood watching as first the corpse was incinerated and then the sword slowly melted, giving off sparks of magic as a faint screaming could be heard. Quinn received a warm feeling of divine satisfaction from his god.

Klang, receiving no such divine insight, was busy launching the lich hounds off the ledge with his mace. They too were destroyed by the lava, giving off just faint puffs of smoke. Any that tried to escape by Ethereal means were followed and killed by Klang when he cast his Ethereal spell.

Paelius, seeing the coast was clear, finally entered the chamber in full. He set about detecting magic and investigating the novelty of the chains and fortress. It seems the fortress was actually a magical artifact called Daern’s Instant Fortress. After a few hours of rituals and divine guidance, the were able to discern the command word, shrinking the fortress to a small inch-square cube that Klang pocketed.

Wrap Up
After a few hours of discussion, they pieced together what they would later confirm. Chalychia had been imprisoned by forces of good, possibly not knowing that True Death was her phylactery. True Death had been broken into pieces and secured throughout this dungeon. After a few centuries, she managed to corrupt the prison staff and eventually turned them into undead.

Perhaps she could not leave this place, or perhaps refused to leave without her restored phylactery. Either way, she stayed here hatching plans on how to reforge her phylactery True Death. The Efreeti had said it needed good to complete the reforging process, so perhaps she needed to lure some saps here to reassemble the sword for her. Yeah, saps like them. So she had her minions spread the rumors, kill the monks, and plant books full of lies about True Death…all leaving a well marked trail to her abode. She even had conveniently setup a forge staffed by craftsmen from the plane of fire.

Yeah, that was probably the biggest trap of all – the notion that True Death may actually be something heroes could use against her. Even the bad guy’s schemes are better than the heroes’. Dang!

Experience Points:
18000 1 Draco Lich
33000 1 Lich
2900 4 Lich Hounds
8400 1 Hoard Golem
5800 2 Gilded Devils
1800 For having Efreeti reforge sword & avoiding additional traps
69900 Total (divided by 4 = 17400 per character)

Session 39

And Then There Were Three
Having cleansed the vile undead lich, his alter, and minions from Toril, the heroes decided a long rest was in order. Nothing else seemed to be interested in them, nor did they expect any intrusion. So they picked their areas of hard stone, laid out their well worn sleeping mats, and let sleep take them…leaving Tavian to stand watch with Valin.

The crypt was a quiet place. No living thing seemed to move, no ordinary skittering of rats or dripping water here. Just the ominous silence, which made it an uneasy place for those more accustomed to the outdoors, like Valin and Orik.

Quinn was the first to wake. He those on guard were gone, as were most of the others, leaving only Klang and Levi. “What foul magic is this? It seems the lich may have left something behind that took those of lesser religious piety!”

Quickly rousing Klang and Levi, the three took in their situation. Klang was berating himself for not setting some wards or a guarding of faith to watch over them in this place. “Grr! What now?!”, he growled, “May’hap a divinat’n to learn’d der wher’bouts?”

Quinn had cast a light spell and was closely examining the ground for any signs of struggle or clues to what happened. He waved away Klang’s suggestion. Lacking the subtle arts of tracking, he was struggling to find any clues. It’s almost as if they simply vanished or were teleported away. Then he saw it, a secret door at the back of the room. There were no tracks towards it, so he motioned Klang to it.

Avoiding Levi, who was brandishing his sword about looking for any foes waiting to pounce, Quinn and Klang moved to the wall and found the secret door latch and opened it. It revealed a stairway leading down. “Oy! Der’s more unpleasantness to be ‘ad. If’n a lich twas da greet’n staff, wh’t do ya suppose is down dar?” Klang mumbled some unintelligible words, probably dwarven curses and then stood pondering. Then looked to Quinn and Levi.

Quinn, having finally interpreted the dwarf’s words, was contemplating whether to continue with only three…or turn back. They had 2 of the 5 shards, and they were certainly capable of dealing with undead. But what if there was something worse than undead down there?

Levi watched the two clerics talking and resulting indecision. He was not one for inaction, but he was no fool either. This was serious business and he nearly died in that last fight. It was time for prayer and meditation. The three took several minutes to pray for the return of their divine powers, then decided they could not leave the this unholy place intact. They spent a few minutes doing what they could to ensure the room was free of any remaining wards or foulness, then set off down the stairs.

Birds, Fish, and Frogs – Oh My!
Walking down the stairs set off no obvious traps or alarms, and they ended in a 20-foot corridor that ended in a door. The door was engraved with a large bird’s head and Quinn momentarily mistook it for a sign of his deity, the Raven Queen. He stopped short of touching the door when he realized he was wrong. This was not a symbol of his god, but of an older, fouler deity – Malotoch to be precise, god of cannibalism!

When Quinn relayed this to his comrades, Klang set about searching for secret doors or levers that might avoid using the obvious door. Finding nothing, he shrugged. Levi set about casting mage hand and attempted to use it to open the door. The magical wards on the door emitted a loud “Caaw!”, which would have frightened less beings. But these were no ordinary folk standing before the door, these were heavily armored and experienced adventurers, who all took damage from the darts that also came from the raven-decorated door.

Not ones to give up so easily, they tried the mage hand again. They got the caw, but no darts. This was not working. So Quinn gave the door another look and noticed the beak and tongue appeared to movable. Levi gave the beak a yank with the mage hand to no avail, then the tongue, which moved. The beak to either side snapped shut on the mage hand, and the door opened. Quinn was still rubbing his wrist as he stared at the door when Klang and Levi looked in to room beyond.

They knew better than to step into this 60 foot square room. The ceiling and floor were perforated with what looked like murder holes. There was a low walled well or cistern in the middle with 3 doors on each of the four walls. The well was about 10 feet in diameter. There were four columns, one in each corner that appeared slick, as if greased. Levi tossed a javelin into the room and it clattered to the floor, setting off no traps.

Their recent issue with spinning rooms and traps, they decided to remove the raven door from its hinges, but they resisted. Klang magically shaped the stone around hinges, literally removed both the hinges and stone that held them fast from the wall. They laid it several feet away and crowded around the entrance wonder what to do next.

After some debate, Quinn flew into the room and looked around. He tossed a small lighted stone into the low walled cistern and saw water with small fish in it. The surface of the water was about 20 feet down and extended down another 30 feet. He also noticed that it wasn’t a shaft going down, but rather a square pool much larger than the circular well…it was big enough for the whole room! Water trap for sure.

Despite his better judgment, Levi and Klang convinced him to try a door right next to the one they entered. A soon as he touched the door, they all snapped locked and the whole room started to descent into the water below. Quinn is not a small or slender man, but he made good time flying out of the shrinking exit as the ceiling and floor descended. It seems the entire room was a cage that descended into a pool of piranha. Quinn lost a bit of his cloak, but was grateful to escape that watery grave.

Looking back into the now empty space that was the room, there was one passage way on each wall. The one to the right had a magical glow emanating from it and they decided that’s the way to go. The issue now is that there’s no floor. It’s either swim with the fish, fly like a bird, or practice dwarf throwing. Quinn flew across and Levi used misty step to get himself and Klang to the passageway.

The hallway led off at an angle and, after a bit of walking, ended in a door. They all felt it, a sudden and growing sense of unholiness from what was beyond the door. It grew stronger as they approached, a torture chamber of a devil lich. It was not visible, nor physical thing…more like magic. Perhaps a spell on the place to set those brought here in the desired state of mind?

In any case, Quinn bestowed a blessing on the team and Levi provided some bardic inspiration, buffing the them a bit more. Then they opened the door and entered. There was no one present. The room was circular and full of cages bolted to the wall 3-feet off the floor, some small tables, and racks along with a range of bizarre torture devices. A fire place to one side was unlit and cold. A spider-like torture device rested on a table, chains were dangling from the ceiling and walls, and a chest in the shape of a maligned toad sat at the base of one wall.

The only thing that seemed of any interest was the toad chest. Paelius cast identify only to confirm it was a locked iron chest. He did notice some text or glyphs at the base of the chest. Levi used his helm of comprehend languages to interpret it, which required that he touch the chest. It was infernal and as he translated it, realized his error in touching it. It roughly translated to “touch this and you must guard it forever”. Two devils magically appeared to either side of Levi as he was kneeling in front of the chest. Not good.

The bone devil laid into Levi with a painful blow. The chain devil began enchanting chains in the room. Klang dispelled the chain devil with divine word, then swung his mace and missed the bone devil. Levi took advantage of the distracted bone devil and smite him in two.

Paelius Returns
A somewhat quiet “pop” sound and then some shuffling of shoes was heard from outside the door. Turning with weapons drawn, they were stunned to find Paelius coming through the doorway. At first, they were nearly certain it had to be a foe in disguise or an illusion to catch them off guard. But no, after some back and forth (and displays of magic), they eventually were convinced this was in fact Paelius.

Paelius explained that several of those in the room had been teleported away before he too was zapped away. As best as he could tell, the residual dark magic of the altar was still dissipating and took some of them with it.

He had been taken to a darker corner of the astral plane and was able to retrace his way back to this location on the material plane…mostly by focusing on Klang’s whereabouts…or more precisely, his talisman of pure good. There aren’t many of those around, making it an easy to find in a dark place like this.

They finally turned their attention back to the chest and kicked it open. It held another shard of the sword of true death and a pair of shackles. While Levi was inspecting the shackles and Quinn was storing the shard away, Klang mulled over the timing of Paelius’ return – just after they had felled some devils and ware about to open a chest – and somewhat shady story. Suspicious. “Ne’er met a wizard ye can trust.”, he mumbled to himself in dwarvish. Then he set about searching the place.

When the three figured out the true nature and value of the shackles, there was a certain shared glee in how they could be used to restrain some powerful creatures. Now they had a chance at getting some answers. Klang shared in the glee, only his was due to his find of some ceramic vials hidden in the fireplace. One had some slippery reside on the outside, but was otherwise empty. The other was still full of some universal solvent (aka powerful acid).

Finding no other exits, they returned to the water trap room and tried using ropes to cross. It only took one near fall by Levi before Klang broke out the spider staff and cast spider climb on those that needed it. They headed to the passageway on the opposite side (to the left of their original entrance). It was dark, so Klang lit his mace. The way ended in a 30-foot square room with a 20 foot high ceiling. Spikes spaced out on the ceiling and floor were covered in dried gore. On the far wall was a lever that was positioned to move up and down, but was currently in the neutral position.

Levi offered to send in his mage hand again, but the others wanted a closer look. Paelius sent his familiar flying over to the lever and looked through it’s eyes. It was an ordinary lever except for some text on the shaft of the lever. He could not read more than a little bit at a time as the text cork-screwed around the lever’s shaft, so this took some time.

Once transcribed, they realized it was a riddle. Something like “Up is up and down is down, follow this text to reveal the truth, assume nothing and push on.” Klang got it on the second reading. Turn the lever’s shaft in the direction the text was written. Levi used his mage hand and, following instructions, had the wall slid away to reveal a large steel wall with rivets. In the center of this wall was a circular handle that seemingly needed to be turned.

Like the crank that seals the doors on a ship or submarine.

They walked across the room to this new and unusual device. Paelius knew better than to turn the circular handle. He cast detect magic and confirmed some powerful magic lay beyond, but it was not clear what type. He glanced at the riddle again and decided to push instead. The door opened and he was hit with some poison darts. You win some, you lose some. Inside was another shard.

Again, they searched around further and found nothing else of value, nor did they find any secret doors. It seems each passageway from the water room ends in one room that contains one shard. As they made their way back to the water room and the last remaining passageway, Klang let his mind wander.

Klang’s Silent Suspicions
This repetitive search and find business tickled something in the back of Klang’s paranoid mercenary mind. It’s almost as if these shards were here to be found. They are certainly well protected by undead and various traps, but why? It’s certainly not how goodly people protect their wares. In fact, it seems the whole place was crafted by some dark hand. So why would they keep the sword in shards? He certainly had never previously heard of this Sword of True Death.

Then it hit him, there were too many unexplained things about this adventure: Who was murdering heroes across the land? Who killed the monks? Who left the book there to be found and lead them to this place? Why were there so many undead here? Why are we assembling this sword of true death again? Where are his trusted allies Valin, Raven, and Orik? Why were the clues so clear at this point in time that another adventuring party found them at the same time? Why devise so many clever traps and pay to have them installed? Could the Reavers be trusted?

Klang’s intuition was tingling now. He suddenly had a sense that someone had led them here to find and recover these sword shards, possibly for some other dastardly deed. Klang didn’t like being manipulated, but he still didn’t have enough clues to put it together or convince the others of his suspicions. So he kept his thoughts to himself, keeping a keen eye for more definitive clues of manipulation.

Now in the last passageway, they walked a ways to a door. Taking a deep breath, they opened it an stepped into the room. It was hall some 55 feet long. Black liquid appeared to boil with mists rising from it. There were columns spread throughout the room, rising out of the dark liquid. Two ledges with doors were up several dozen feet on either side of the hall with a rainbow between them. The columns did not go all the way to the ceiling and radiated various rainbow-like colors.

Paelius was the again quick on the draw. The rainbow hues, in order, were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. So they had Quinn traverse the tops of the columns with his fly spell in the order of rainbow hues.

Once Quinn reached the final column, a secret door appeared in the far corner of the room. With the room having revealed it’s secret, they all made their way across to the secret door.

The Chapel
Opening the secret door, they followed a hallway down to a seemingly pristine chapel, except for the dead drow warrior laying up on the dais. He lay in front of a metallic alter and a large cobra statue. He had a stake driven into his chest.

A liquid was dripping from the statue’s fangs and were being collected into a silver basin. Several gems were in the base of the statue.

Various tapestries hung from the walls. A rag stained with blood lay next to the drow body.

Quick witted Levi, itching to use the magical shackles they had found and knowing this place was full of traps, he quickly made is way to the drow and shackled his hands. You know…just in case. While bending down, he noticed a word written in blood, “Khetira”. Pulling back, he mentioned this to the clerics who remembered the name being ascribed to a drow sorceress who allied with Chalychia and, as all drow do, eventually turned on her former ally. Khetira disappeared from history after that, so most assume she is dead.

Suddenly, the stake was yanked free and floating in midair. The heroes were suddenly all very puzzled. The next several rounds were a blur of motion. Paelius launched a fireball to engulf the snake statue, dead drow, and whatever was holding that stake in the air. Levi stumbled back. A female emerged from the coffin.

Then they focused their fire on her, starting with area of effect spells to hit her and the drow…you know…just in case. A little chain lightning, a touch of pure good, some divine blasts, and she sunk to the floor and disintegrated – probably not her true form. Levi retrieved the stake that had fallen to the floor and drove it back into the drow’s chest, beheaded him, and poured holy water on the remains.

Paelius reported that he noticed a form, probably invisible, caught in his initial fireball’s blast. Whatever it was, there was only ash remains of it now. Quinn, Levi and Klang looked around to make sure nothing else was going to surprise them. Then it was time to search the place.

Then they found a secret door in the back corner – a common design of this dungeon. Behind it was the female vampire’s chamber, including her coffin containing her true body. They found a poison needle on the coffin, from a purple worm. That’s not exactly common. Quinn, retrieving the stake, repeated the vampire disposal procedure on the female vampire’s body as it’s the only sure way to make sure vampires stay dead.

Also in the coffin was the fifth and final shard. The dead drow had a long sword of pure black metal. Levi picked it up and was introduced to his first sentient sword. It was unnerving at first as the entire conversation happened in his head. However, once he got the hang of it, he realized the sword was insulting him, his faith, and adherence to law and order.

This wasn’t the first time Levi, a paladin well versed in bardic ways, needed to deal with a bully. And he tore into the sword’s reasoning, leaving it weeping and whimpering. The clerics were just standing there, looking at him. Levi realized the conversation had taken mere seconds and his eyes had glassed over in that short time. Snapping back to the present, he sheathed the sword and informed them of the sword’s unpleasant nature.

There was disagreement about what to do with the sword between Paelius and Quinn. Quinn wanted to destroy it or cast it where it would not be found. Klang was inclined to agree with Quinn. Paelius was more interested in what it might fetch in a large city, his merchant’s zeal coming to the fore. After some back and forth, Paelius simply took the sword from Levi and strapped it to his back. Paelius could not wield it, so Quinn and Klang gave up the argument.

A set of stairs behind the snake statue led ever downward and there was no time like the present to smite evil at its darkest. At the bottom of the stairs, there were three avenues to pick from. As an experienced, we went left. No traps were triggered and no surprises were encountered in the passageway. Up ahead, they could see a lot of light and approached cautiously…well, as cautious as clerics and paladins get. Yeah, they just entered the room.

Inside the room was a large anvil, a furnace and a trough of water…along with 3 Efreeti. You know, from the plane of fire. And that’s what they decided our heroes needed – fire. They set the whole entrance area of the room on fire. Levi chucked a hammer at one and then ran into the room and out of the fire. Klang cast a guardian of faith smack in the middle, dealing each a swath of damage before immediately dissipating. Quinn summoned a banshee, who promptly screamed. Paelius gave Quinn a dirty look before send a necrotic fireball into the room.

The Efreeti came on with their scimitars, but were largely ineffective. Levi hit again with his hammer. Klang again cast guardian of faith, but only hit two this time. Quinn’s banshee attacked doing some damage while he himself made a Forrest Gump Dodge action (trips out of the way) to avoid Paelius’ chain lightning attack.

At this point, the last remaining Efreei surrenders and Levi quickly puts the shackles on him. There’s some discussion about having him reforge the Sword of True Death, but that would involve removing the shackles, and then he’s likely to escape. So instead, we decided a long rest was in order. Paelius cast Leomund’s tiny hut and they all entered, closing out the nutty dungeon for a brief respite from the evil to which they had been exposed.

Experience Points
2 vampires 15000
3 Efreeti 21,600
Bone devil 5000
Chain Devil 3900
Invisible stalker 2300
Puzzles and traps 12700
Total for party 60500
Total per player 15125

Session 38
Assassin, Monestary, and Lich

This game involved the merging of two teams of players.

Assassin and a Monestary
It had been a few years since out encounter with the drow on the way to Gauntlgrym. In fact, most of our heroes were semi-retired. But when other powerful heroes of the land started turning up dead from assassination, it made it clear that retirement would have to wait. After collecting the details from these deaths and some communications back and forth amongst each other, it appeared the best place to start was the Library of the Dawning Sun, a monastery that had taken in Valin as a youth.

The monastery was located far to the south along the Sword Coast, in the Velen peninsula, about midway between the city of Velen and Murann – both port cities that move most of their cargo by sea. While technically in the human realm of Wealdath’s Noromath duchy, the vast majority of this realm was the large wild Tethir forest with many fey inhabitants (elves, goblins, centaurs, satyrs, hobgoblins, and dragons) who cared little for such human distinctions.

As a result, there was little travel by land and roads were little more than seldom used hunting trails. This isolation made for a near perfect setting for the monks, who were self-sufficient and seldom visited by outsiders. There was nary a pirate that would venture this far inland for wood or supplies, but a few of their order may have been pirates seeking escape from their seafaring life and bounties on their heads.

The schedule was set and travel plans arranged. Each Goblin Stomper set off for the library, some meeting along the way and others arriving at the library itself. With a dangerous assassin on the loose, opinions varied on whether it was safer to travel together or separately.

Upon arriving at the monastery, they noticed there was no one about and the doors were ajar. Moving into the main building, they found all the monks brutally slain. It seems someone beat them to the punch on this one, only these were good guys!

Their research had turned up rumors of a “Sword of True Death” and books at this monastery’s library were to offer some insight into this weapon…one they believed might be used by the assassin.

Knowing the local government weak at best, they decided not to bother notifying any “authorities” as it would likely be pointless. Instead, they would find the culprits and apply some justice, Stomper-style. They searched the library for clues to who killed the monks and for the books about the Sword of True Death.

It took quite some time for the normally impatient team, but they eventually turned up the books they needed. From what they could discern, the sword was buried in a lich’s tomb, not too far from here. Burying the dead monks, they pursued their sole clue.

The Lich Tomb Entrance
It led them to ravine that ended in a cavern with stalagmites and the recently dead body of Brother Nicholas. Further into the cavern were piles and piles of long dead adventurers, something like the picture below…only without the guy standing in the middle.

Not being the particularly intelligent sorts, the Goblin Stompers headed in with weapons drawn. Some were injured on the supernaturally sharp stalagmites. Hmm…all this armor and a stinking rock cuts them…Klang think’s he’ll need to have a chat with the supplier of this gear as it appears defective.

After traversing the mounds of dead bodies, they came to the door below. Paelius was the first to reach the door and he decided to give it a try. After being knocked on his ass, the others took note and decided that wasn’t a good idea…particularly when they noticed he looked a lot older/weaker all of a sudden.

Not to be blocked by a simple door, Paelius set to work to discern the glyphs on the door. He eventually was able to deactivate them and made it clear to the others that the doors were no longer magically enchanted by grabbing and pulling without being zapped.

Orik grabbed a hold of the doors and pulled with his insanely strong arms, literally ripping the doors from their hinges. Interestingly, there was only a solid wall of stone behind the doors. Once gain, defeated by intellect.

Raven and Valin set to work looking for any other traps, hidden doors, or other clues as to what is so damn interesting in this cavern that they had to kill so many. The found recent tracks that led up to, and seemingly through the wall. Finding no traps, Raven set to work on finding the obviously secret door that must be there. It took some time, but they got it open and passed through.

The hallway beyond ran some 50 feet ending in a door. The door was propped open by a rod or bar, it was hard to tell from a distance. So the approached carefully, noting the recent tracks not veering off to one side or another. Then they noticed those tracks encountering some recently triggered traps with fresh blood strewn about, but no bodies. So whoever came this way wasn’t overly bright or sneaky.

It was about then that they heard the sounds of battle from beyond the door that was indeed propped open with some sort of magical rod. Hmm…we may want to retrieve that rod later, but for now it appeared to serve a purpose that was inline with the Goblin Stomper’s desired direction.

An Unexpected Meeting
Passing through the propped open door, they came upon the Reavers, an adventuring group not unlike the Goblin Stompers. The Reavers had (allegedly) an unsavory past that sometimes surfaced in bard ballads along the Sword Coast – something about having stormed a keep and were known to associate with pirates. What they might be doing here was a bit more mysterious.

The Reavers consisted of two paladins – Tavian and Levi (which most were certain was a nickname) – and the life cleric Quinn (who worships the Raven Queen…did someone say irony?). Tavian had a mostly naked “friend” named Torina who turned out to be a dragon in human form.

Since no one had leapt to kill each other yet, perhaps something could be arranged that was mutually beneficial. After the usual introductions, it was clear the Reapers had first dibs on the place, but seemed to need all the help they could get. The traps back in the hallway had taken their toll on them (softened them up?) and both teams wanted to get to the bottom of this unusual dungeon.

When questioned about their murky past, the Reavers noted the keep was now free of bandits and the pirate was “no where to be seen” (which could mean a lot of things), casting a little light on their perhaps not so unsavory past. They also claimed they had everything under control and would “allow” the Goblin Stompers to tag along, suggesting more hubris than the situation warranted.

Some of the Goblin Stompers were concerned they may have killed the monks, but in eying up their weapons, they didn’t quite match up with the monks’ wounds. And they didn’t seem to be evil paladins, so it just didn’t add up. So they got over it and decided to work together.

There was a riddle on the wall and the Reavers were in possession of a shard that was perhaps a piece of this true death sword. The room itself was a cathedral with hundreds of doors all along the walls. Each door had a prophet in front of it. All the doors and prophets looked the same. And while they were doing their meet and greet, the prophets had gradually started chanting the same chant.

Quinn explained that they had tried a few doors, but each led them back to this room. An illusion of an hour glass hung up above and started counting down time each time they entered this cathedral. It had just restarted again.

Valin opened a door and looked beyond, but there was only darkness. Tavian explained that the doors were all magical and that they had tried taking different doors – always as a team through the same door. As the pondered this, Klang suggested they all go through separate doors at the same time.

By this time, the prophets’ chant had become really annoying, the illusion hour glass was running low on time, and they were all eager to get out of the room. So they gave Klang’s idea a try and it worked. The all landed in a different room, or rather a hallway. The Reavers seemed semi-impressed by Klang’s guesswork, mistaking raw luck as wisdom.

Raven set to work searching for traps as the place seemed to be one of those kind of dungeons. As she searched, they heard chanting again, coming from down from the only adjoining hallway. When they looked down this adjoining hallway, they saw what looked like a statue at the distant end that looked a little menacing…like the picture below.

What’s That Smell?
Valin started down the hallway and noticed slightly elevated cobble stones – an obvious trap. Klang tossed him a piton and he wedged a piton to prevent the stones from sinking. Stepping onto the now disabled trap, Valin made his way to it’s edge and was about to take another step when Klang suggested he and Raven check for more traps, noting some easily found traps are just decoys for the real trap.

Sure enough, a pit trap with some nasty spikes were immediately past the obvious trap. And just past the pit trap was a hallway to the right from which the chanting was emanating. The main hallway of traps continued down to the statue, which was still unmoving. Making their way along the small ledge to one side of the pit trap, Valin and Raven both made it just inside the new hallway.

It was about then that they noticed perfume-like smell and that the walls and floor were damp with small puddles of liquid on the floor. Bending down to examine the liquid, Valin confirmed it was the source of the smell. Orik and Tavian attempted to make it to the side hallway to join Valin and Raven. Tavian lost his footing and Orik was able to grab him and pull him back from falling.

Quinn had moved to follow Orik and Tavian, but then the statue at the end of the hall started moving with a grating noise as it turned slightly so that the blade it was holding now dragged along the wall, throwing off sparks. After only a moment or two, the whole hallway had become a flaming inferno as the liquid stretching most the length of the hall ignited. Quinn fell back and Valin attempted to leap back to the safety of the initial hallway.

Valin landed heavily on the easily found trap, jarring loose the piton and setting off the final trap – a boulder – which clobbered Klang and Levi who had held back along with returning Quinn. Meanwhile, at the far end of the hallway, Raven had moved behind the statue.

Recovering from the boulder trap, Tavian sent his dragon Torina down the hallway using her cold breath and putting out the flames. With the all the traps having been triggered, healing was administered by clerics and then they all maneuvered their way past the pit trap to the side hall in search of the continued chanting.

A door was at the end of the short hallway, so they got into an order that seemed best for a frontal assault with large fighters – Orik and Levi – in the front. As they readied themselves, a few recognized the chant. It was the Litany of Justice, only the words were all wrong, perverted. They definitely seemed to have found the den of evil. Paelius checked for magic and got a reading that was nearly off the scales, confirming this was going to be a serious confrontation.

Lich Inversion
Busting into the room, the heroes were confronted with a terrifying scene of 9 undead “paladin” wights being led in their vile chant by a lich. The lich was the furthest away behind a large black alter. Levi and Orik made a bee-line for the lich, managing to dodge all the wights. Levi went around one side of the alter while Orik just vaulted over it. A black aura covered Orik’s arm that touched the altar, but didn’t seem to adversely affect him and dissipated as quickly as it appeared.

They both made their attacks, but the lich was still standing. After a few spells were cast, it became clear that something was very wrong. It seemed the alter was inverting the spells where spells intended to harm would heal. While the spell casters were sorting this out, Levi was nearly killed by the lich and wights. Only Orik’s insanely aggressive tactics kept the lich from finishing Levi.

Valin and Raven were keeping the wights busy with their bows. Paelius, Quinn and Klang eventually figured out they needed to destroy that altar. Quinn and Klang channeled all their combined divine power into the altar and managed to destroy it just time to kill the lich and rescue Levi and Orik from certain doom.

The DM decided to give each monster it’s own initiative, which slowed things down a bit with such a large group. But we persevered and finished before it got too late, earning 8500 experience each.

They managed to find another shard to the sword of true death and some plate mail +2 (assigned to Levi). After some that somewhat dangerous encounter, they discussed the implications of a lich’s hand in this menace to heroes across the land. As best as they could reason, they collectively reasoned that the “Elder Eye” is behind the assassinations.

In closely examining the shards shapes and sizes, they reckoned there were probably 5 shards in total. So they had a ways to go to before they’d have all the shards.

I’m not sure how our characters figured this Elder Eye business out, but there wasn’t much time to sort that out.

Session 37
Gauntlgrym & Drow

This was a one-shot adventure run by Steve (with his character acting as an NPC) so Bob could have O’Dell revisit the Goblin Stompers for a little flash-from-the-past fun.

It had been almost 2 years since our heroes escaped Yemglav’s clutches when, for mysteriously coincidental reasons, they were drawn together once more.

Raven had been searching for a more refined set of smoked glasses to help her both cope with her new found sensitivity to light and to mask her glowing green eyes from those who might be looking for her. It’s never good to stand out when you’re a member of the Harpers.

O’Dell had been fighting drow elves to retake what was rightfully his clan’s – a place he again wanted to call home. But that effort was far from complete and darkness clung to him and weighed on his shoulders, his skin turning pale. Even his mount reflected his time far from the surface and sunlight, a basilisk with 8 legs and a stare that can turn foes to stone.

Was he becoming what he so hated? His thirst for revenge seemed unquenchable. Inner peace had not been found. Perhaps it was time for a short distraction?

After some contemplation and divine guidance, he decided to take on a mission from the Lord’s Alliance. It wasn’t the best of timing, but he was uniquely qualified for the task – reestablishing ties to Bruenor Battlehammer who had retaken Gauntlgrym.

Bruenor had spent most of his time in Icewind Dale, far to the north, leading a search for Gauntlgrym, so O’Dell had only a few run-ins with Bruenor – mostly during O’Dell’s youth. It wasn’t until later in O’Dell’s life that he first learned that Bruenor had fallen and, about 10 years on, was subsequently reincarnated.

Bruenor eventually found Gauntlgrym, but he could find no one to aid him in retaking the place – it seems there was a dragon cult causing problems for many cities along the sword coast at the time, so his outreach efforts fell on deaf ears.

With the aid of his closest friends, Bruenor was able to retake Gauntlgrym and now looks disapprovingly on establishing relations with those who spurned him in his time of need.

O’Dell’s similar past of being driven from his home and subsequent attempts to reclaim it from the same foes made him uniquely qualified to reach out to Bruenor.

But it was when O’Dell learned that he would again be working with some of his old friends from the Goblin Stompers that he knew this was too good to pass up. Those in the Lord’s Alliance knew how to pull O’Dell’s strings.

The Lord’s Alliance was growing nervous that Bruenor would restart the Gantlgrym mines and the cities along the Sword Coast like Waterdeep and Neverwinter would lose out on the resulting middleman trade.

Klang, financial leader of the Goblin Stompers, had been working hard to develop relationships with leaders all along the coast, setting up connections and understandings between religions, and strengthening the Order of the Gauntlet. For this, he had come into possession of a truly rare artifact – a talisman of pure good.

Being heavily indebted to Connerad Brawnanvil of the Lord’s Alliance for having him apologize for slaying a silver dragon at a dragonmoot, Klang agreed to enlist the aid of his fellow Goblin Stompers to also aid in establishing ties to Bruenor and Gauntlgrym.

Some were willing and others not. Caesare and Rolen opted out – something about getting stuck in snow. Sounded like a weak cover for Zhentarim business, particularly since one underground entrance to Gauntlgrym was only a week’s travel from Neverwinter. Valin and Raven were in. Orik took some more convincing as his tribe was encountering some challenges, but eventually came around.

Knowing they could use a spell caster, they asked around and came up with one of the local magic item peddlars – one Paelius from Cragmaw Keep. Hmm…that sounded distantly familiar…oh yeah, he sold them magic stuff last time we had been together. They also ran into him after that swampy Medusa and were-tiger fiasco. He had teleported the Goblin Stompers to Waterdeep at the behest of the Waterdeep Council so they could be put on the trail of the dragon cultists.

While the Lord’s alliance arranged for horses, they weren’t as inclined to provide healing potions. So Klang tapped the Goblin Stomper’s coffers to ensure everyone was outfitted with 3 potions of greater healing…just in case they were separated.

Traveling by horse helped speed them along, but they still needed to stop occasionally. It was on one of these stops that O’Dell rejoined them. At first, he was a bit distant, almost dark in nature. After a few hours and good drink, he started to warm up to his old comrades. They could see the effects of his chosen path on his health and well being. It seemed he needed a break and some company, and they were willing to give it to him.

That night, O’Dell filled them in on the history of Gantlgrym, how it started as a dwarven mine and, at the urging of humans, became a city with ample trade. It was then lost to denizens of the Underdark. Only after Bruenor’s reincarnation was the place retaken.

It was the next night where they were ambushed by a drow raiding party, including a Quaggoth. O’Dell, knowing their tactics well, quickly dispatched the drow mage first. The others soon felt the sting of Goblin Stompers reunited, being sent to their demon queen in short order.

They manged to keep one alive for questioning. It seems they were on the hunt for magic items, which were aplenty among our heroes. Their plan was to amass a treasure hoarde that would facilitate brining Lolth to the prime materials plane. Why does that sound so familiar?

Their party had thus far mostly “harvested” some magical staves and axes, mostly from Gauntlgrym’s surroundings and travelers.

Searching the lone survivor, they found only 5 platinum on his person.

Paelius found a spell book on the drow mage’s body. O’Dell was insistent that it be destroyed, but Paelius promised to return it to O’Dell once he was done taking notes from it. That seemed to mollify O’Dell for the moment.

Searching the rest of the bodies turned up 700 gold, 35 platinum, and little else of note. When asked about these magical items, he said they had been taken back to their base camp, but that’s where his compliance (and life) ended.

Their drow party’s tracks led in the direction of Gauntlgrym, not a good sign. Following the tracks immediately, just in case one escaped, they followed them back to a cave entrance. Knowing better than to tread at night into a known drow hole, they erected Leomund’s hut and rested. Hunting drow during the day was a much better option than night, even if it was underground.

After their rest, they partook of a heroes feast, and Klang applied a death ward to himself. Then it was into the cave. They were immediately set upon by 5 driders – half drow, half spider. Despite using a wall of force and flame, it still took a long time to kill these vermin.

Knowing the drow to ticksters, O’Dell had them search for magic and used true seeing to survey their surroundings. They came upon a secret door and used it. A tunnel lead for a few dozen feet before opening into a room with another Quaggoth, 2 drow priestesses, and some spiders. This was less of a challenge than the ambush, yet turned up a jackpot of magical items!

  • Robes of the Magi and Staff of the Magi – assigned to Paelius
  • Book of Exalted Deeds (requires attunement, proficient in 1 skill, resist 1 damage type, ability score up 2 w/max of 24, 1d6 HP at start of turn, wisdom goes up 2, any spell slot expended counts as one spell slot of 1 level higher, halo on as bonus action that casts bright light for 10ft and dim for another 10ft that provides advantage on persuasion of good creatures and intimidation of evil creatures and disadvantage on attacks by fiends and undead against you) – assigned to Klang
  • The Cresent Blade (of Eilistraee fame, etched with “Be your heart filled with light and your cause be true; I shall not fail you.”, protection from evil, haste, spouts crimson fire when wielded) – assigned to Raven
  • Twin battle axes (require attunement, 1d6 HP at start of turn, eat 6x more, named “Might” and “Chaos” which are glory and destruction seeking respectively, constantly bicker in wielder’s mind causing disadvantage on intelligence checks, is chaotic neutral by nature, has dwarven thrower trait in that it returns magically to thrower Thor-style, and provides wielder with storm giant strength) – assigned to Orik
  • Axe of the Dwarvish Lords (requires attunement, dwarves gain immunity to poison damage, darkvision increases by 60ft, proficiency with blacksmithing/brewing/stonemasonry, conjure elemental once per day, teleport by touching the axe to dwarven stonework with no risk of error if destination is underground every 3 days) – assigned to O’Dell

It seemed Steve was bulking up the party to make up for Paul’s scrooge-like rewards and/or for some future onslaught of evil. Either way, it was a little “over-the-top” fun.

After oogling the items and verifying they were no illusion, they were set upon by more drow troops. A lightning bolt, a delayed fireball, and guardian of faith spells put a damper on that incursion.

Returning their attention to the horde of magical artifacts, they each explored items that suited them…carefully stowing them away for future use. It didn’t take long and they were heading for the exit. Suddenly, the world disappeared and they stood before a deity-like being who was handsome to a fault.

“I’m Asmodeus and I have a proposition for you…”

With everyone but O’Dell having flashbacks to Yemglav, they all immediately declined, not even wanting to know what he was offering. O’Dell just followed suit, not fully understanding what was happening.

The magnificent being looked hard at those before him, his eyes slowly growing bright red as his body transformed into it’s less handsome and more natural form…which set the Goblin Stompers on their guard. With his true nature and appearance revealed, they were glad they didn’t even consider this devil’s bargain.

Brandishing his fiery weapon in their direction, he spoke again, “So be it mortals. You may live to regret it.” Then they were once again back in the drow treasure room as if nothing had happened.

Not quite sure what just happened, they quickly made their way out of the drow base camp and back into the forest, towards the road where they felt slightly less in peril, and then back to their camp site where the dead drow party still lay.

Stoking the fire, they tossed on the drow bodies, waited for them to thoroughly burn while each tried to get a handle on their fear of what just happened. Maybe the price for those magic items was a little higher than they realized?

Paelius, wanting to put some distance between this place, offered to teleport them to Cragmaw Castle, which everyone readily accepted. There they rested and ruminated over what had befallen them that night. Once they’re nerves were intact a few hours later, they returned to their camp site and continued on to Gauntlgrym. There were no further attacks or ambushes. Just the quiet of a trail and the familiar sounds of horses traveling on it.

Reaching Gauntlgrym, they were offered an opportunity to stay, but with their nerves rattled, most were non-committal in accepting it. O’Dell made his pitch to Bruenor with Klang’s support for developing relations with the nearby cities. Bruenor was a shrewed negotiator and was equally non-committal about his future plans for trade and said he would consider the offer to establish ties to the northern cities of the Sword Coast. That was about as good as they could expect.

O’Dell felt good to be surrounded by hearty dwarves again. Valin and Klang were happy to share their old friend’s company, to see the life restored to his face and the weight lifted from him, even if it was only for a short while.

The DM originally promoted the characters to 17th level, but that was subsequently retracted the following day when it was learned that was not necessary.

Session 36
Curses within Curses

Rolen’s Cursed Dagger
After rescuing the prisoners – including Bruw and Rouse – from the giants, our heroes traveled to Clan Hammersfell’s fortress and concluded Sokol’s business deal, then traveled back to Phlan. Upon their return, they learned that Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalog has become quite popular.

After collecting their 5000 gold payment from Sokol in platinum and gems, they headed to the market to spend it and more. It seems fighting giants and a brush or two with death loosened their collective purse strings.

In an unusual turn of events, there were actually three shops that were of interest – the Warriors Rack, the Actor’s Stage, and Paelius’ Magical Emporium. After spending most of their time with in the latter, they ended up with these:

  • Valin: Ten +3 Arrow (very rare) 13000 gold
    Quiver of Ehlonna 500 gold
  • Orik: Cloak of Protection 500 gold
    Pocket sown into his tiger pelt for 4 gold
  • Klang: Ring of Evasion (3 charges per day) 5000 gold
    Portable hole 5000 gold
    3 pinches of stage smoke (requires ½ gallon of water) 25 gold
  • Rolen: Pocket in cloak 4 gold
  • Caesare: Sharpened silverware 2 gold
  • Raven: Gloves of Thieving 500 gold
    Cloak of Elvenkind 500 gold

There were several other items sought, but not found including a ring of animal friendship, treasure maps, items to improve wisdom, and more magical studded leather armor. A few items were just out of their financial reach, or at least that’s what Klang said.

Returning to their quarters in Phlan, they each sat down to assess their individual purchases. Rolen, have received practically nothing, pulled out his dagger of venom…one of his more prized possessions and puzzled over what he could possibly get in this crappy town, beside trouble.

And then he began to feel the pull, like a weird version of teleportation, only it was his dagger that drew him in…or was it out?…or simply elsewhere?…or some other time? Whatever it did, he knew he wasn’t in Phlan anymore. In fact, every hair on his furry body was telling him he was in trouble.

Then there was the voice from a short stature being calling himself Yemglav (?). After lots of words, it seemed he was offering Rolen a choice – stay in this “paradise” with no worries of the flesh, or attempt to leave by way of a series of challenges. He cautioned that the challenges were difficult and that no one had actually finished them all. There was a price for attempting to leave and when you call on Yemglav for help…a fragment of your soul was forfeit.

Rolen, knowing decision making was not his strong suit, asked that his friends be brought here to help him. Yemglav acquiesced and the rest of the Goblin Stompers arrived. There were certainly some cursing going on as they landed in this strange place. Based on their previous experiences, this was probably another plane of existence or maybe a pocket dimension.

Where ever they were now, they knew Rolen and his dagger were to blame. Dirty looks went Rolen’s way. It didn’t take Rolen long to lay the blame on Caseare for giving him a blade from the Zhentarim. Valin and his bow took aim at Rolen and then Caesare.

While most realized laying blame wasn’t going to get them out of this one, it took Yemglav’s voice reiterating their options for Valin to lower his bow and listen. Welcoming them to the domain of Yemglav, they were offered a stay in this “paradise” with no worries of the flesh or to face challenges that no one had yet surmounted that would allow them to leave.

There was some discussion about staying, most decided to accept the challenges and get out of this place. The loss of fragments of Rolen’s soul didn’t seem to bother anyone…in fact, it seemed fitting he should suffer for dragging them all into his curse.

Room 1 – Kobold Replication
With the decision to face the challenges made, they were again subjected to that strange teleport spell. Arriving in an empty room with only one door to exit. After a thorough search for other doors or exits and finding none, Rolen checked the door for traps. Finding none, Klang opened it to find a kobold. It was unmoving and didn’t respond to hails, so a few entered the room to inspect this kobold.

Once everyone entered the room, the kobold sprang to life and started combat. Every successful strike resulted in the kobold replicating. So after two hits, we had three kobolds. Seeing this was going to a bad place fast, they quickly had Rolen call to Yemglav to get them out of this mess.

Being pulled (unteleported?) from that room, Yemglav explained that we just needed to return to the first room and close the door and the kobold would vanish.

As the DM mentioned a few times, this is the classic 1980s style dungeon. Yes indeed, those horror’s thought up to destroy adventurers rather than entertain players. And here we thought those bad ideas had some how died with the end of the 1980s. Not one Google hit on Yemglav.

Nope, we were wrong, they live on through our DM’s arcane adventure modules. Where did we dig up this guy?

Room 2 – Temporal Anomaly
Yemglav then took a little of all their souls (3 HP off our max, like necrotic damage). Then it was off to the next challenge. Across the room was a switch covered in glass with a sign that read, “In case of temporal anomaly, break glass.” After some weak attempts foiled by a time distortion, Raven – the longest lived among those present, managed to survive the time distortion (seeming to age at a breakneck pace while slowly traveling to the switch) and break the glass.

After failing her constitution saving throw, Raven suffered 2 levels of exhaustion.

Room 3 – Aliens
Teleporting into the next room, there were a cluster of 3 humanoids huddled in one part of the room. They were about 4 feet tall and and gray with distorted features. They had bowless crossbows, wore belts, and were not threatening (you know, like all aliens). We attempted communication several times to no avail.

Deciding they could use a long rest, they laid down with the elves on watch. After about an hour, acid rain started falling on everyone in the room. WTF! Valin and Klang cast protection from energy to take half damage, but knew it was just a matter of time. So after one more attempt at communication with the gray creatures, Valin decided it was time to attack them. Taking the usual damage for a minor encounter, plus acid damage, our heroes defeated the three creatures and were whisked away to another room.

Room 4 – Defeat in a Chest
After landing, there was a bright flash of light, a voice announced that their freedom lay in one of the 8 chests before them. Each chest had word on it – honest, compassion, humility, etc. Nothing sounded any more threatening than any other, so they opted for compassion. Opening the chest, Valin found a ring and once picked up, they were all whisked away again.

Only, it was the same room and the chests were gone and two bandits were in the process of killing a little girl. Attacking the bandits, they killed them both. The girl offered Klang her teddy bear, which he accepted despite his better judgment. Nothing untoward happened.

When asked how she came to be here and why she was being attacked by the bandits, the girl said she touched something in a church. A search of the bandits turned up 6 gold. Then an argument ensued about whether to kill the girl or not, since they seemed to be stuck here. Klang raised one of the bandits and they questioned him.

He said they too were stuck in Yemglav’s challenge and knew they needed to kill the girl to proceed. Klang refused to partake in that. Valin was like minded. So Rolen called on Yemglav again and were again retrieved, a fragment of soul extracted from each, and Yemglav explained that she attacked them with sympathy. Then it was on to the next room.

Room 5 – The Cube
They landed in a room where all the air was thick, distorting their vision, and was unyielding to movement. No wait! That’s not air, it was more jelly and goo-like. And damn it hurt, like an acid. They could see objects suspended in the goo, not far from them.

Once they reconciled the searing pain, they figured out they were in a gelatinous cube. The cube itself was similarly stuck in the room as it filled up the entire space. After taking a non-trivial amount damage, they managed to kill the semi-sentient creature and move on to the next room.

Room 6 – The Balancing Pedestal*
*Each of our heroes landed on separate corners of a plateaued area, falling off into a spiked pit on all sides. A grimlock stood at the center of the area. When the first person started towards the grimlock, the whole platform shifted, tilting towards the far side. It didn’t take them long to figure out the balancing act. Then Rolen and Raven killed the grimlock quickly…and teleported again.

Room 7 – The Gray Ooze
This time, they appeared in a empty room. After some glancing around, they noticed a tiny door near the ceiling on one wall. Orik opened it and a gray ooze started to come through. Jumping back, Orik avoided the worst of it. Once the ooze was through, Raven closed the tiny door. Then they proceeded to kill the nasty bugger…and off to the next challenge.

Room 8 – Two Women and a Campsite
Landing on the edge of a forest near a stream, our heroes could see two women around a campfire. One, seeing the Goblin Stompers, called out to them. She explained the forest was never ending and they too were trapped in this challenge, only she was supposed to kill the other woman. Klang asked Raven climb a nearby tree to confirm this and she did – forest for as far as she could see.

The woman explained that she had put the other woman to sleep and was thinking about what to do. She offered them food and drink, which Klang purified, they ate and tried to get some sleep. Once again, the acid rain began about an hour later…revealing the women to be vampires. Chop, chop, they died before Klang could get his holy symbol out.

And they were teleported again.

Room 9 – Two Swords & Statues
Arriving before a pair of statues, one held a magical sword in it hand. The other appeared to have dropped it’s non-magical sword on the ground. The both statues were so detailed that our heroes were fairly certain they were petrified people, not sculptures. Stone rubble lay strewn on the ground.

Orik picked up the sword off the ground and moved back. Confirming it appeared to have no magic, he cast it away in favor of his original weapons. It magically returned to his possession, involuntarily. Hmm…that’s not good.

DM explained this is the Mark of the Craven (i.e. cowardice) and is a curse.

Then it was off to the next room.

Room 10 – Dopplegangers
They landed in a long corridor in front of a small sized door with another normal sized door at the far end. Deciding to head for the distant normal sized door, they started down the corridor. As they went, they realized they were growing taller…or more accurately, the corridor was shrinking and the far door was actually small as well.

Reaching the door, they all decided to squeeze through it. While successful, they found themselves seemingly in the same corridor with a small door behind them and what appeared to be a normal sized door at the far end. Only this time, we saw figures in the corridor who looked awfully familiar – they looked just like the Goblin Stompers!

Once the dopplegangers noticed our heroes, they charged them. Only as they approached, they were actually double the size. It took a while, but these dopplegangers were eventually defeated. Only Orik was quick thinking enough to search and rob one of the dead bodies (Klang) before they were teleported again.

DM will need to assess value of items that Orik retrieved.

Room 11 – The Fountain
The only issue now was their inability to rest for longer than an hour. Spells were nearly depleted, health was getting low, and their patience for this place was gone.

This new large room had a 125-foot diameter fountain in the middle of it. Green, seemingly toxic, water was flowing from it. A gold bell hung above the fountain, just out of reach. On the fountain was written, “Find freedom with the sound of the bell”. Firing an arrow at the bell caused it to ring and then it was teleport time again.

Room 12 – Old Green Eyes
They arrived and were confronted by a goblin with glowing green eyes.

Thoroughly tired of this nonsense, they quickly dispensed with it. Before he died, it mumbled something about “my curse is now your curse”. WTF?!

Then it was Raven, who had dealt the final blow, that had glowing emerald green eyes. A cool effect for a high elf – just enough to have most others keep their distance – so she decided to keep it.

It seemed to force her to squint in normal light, but she could see much better in the dark. Perhaps a trip to the Underdark would be in order?

But before they could talk it through, they were again teleported.

Room 13 – Blue Dragon
Here, they met a Blue Dragon. He quickly assured them he did not want to fight. He knew how this went and grows tired of killing wave after wave of the poor slobs who fall into Yemglav’s clutches and opt for the challenges.

His only warning was to stay clear of his treasure and they could advance to the next room. So they did and were soon teleporting away.

Room 14 – Multicolored Statues
Landing in another long corridor, they were faced with a long series of statues, all slightly different colors and naked. While that wasn’t bothersome, there was unease when they all turned their heads towards the Goblin Stompers.

It seems each represented a different hope and they needed to each touch one. Rolen immediately took an interest in the green statues. All the heroes decided to take a closer look, inspecting them more closely and trying to find insight in the worst of times.

After some theorizing, they agreed that black and gold offered the most likely chance to move on. So they all touched the black statue. Whoosh, they all were teleported to the next room.

Room 15 – A Bucket
Now they were presented with a scale with two buckets. One bucket was full of what appeared to be silver liquid and the scale tilted that way (not balanced). A sign below the scale read, “Balance the scale with blood.”

Picking up the bucket, they tried to pour the silver liquid out of the bucket on the ground, but it didn’t leave the bucket. Raven tried to drink it and was successful…after gagging for several minutes. After which, she appeared slightly refreshed (+2 constitution), but that didn’t seem like a sure thing…in fact, it appeared more like a near death experience.

Placing the now empty bucket back on the scale, it now balanced…and whoosh, they were teleported again.

“Room” 16 – The Meteor
Landing in a clearing, they saw a meteor crash to the ground quite some distance away (26 miles). It ws extremely cold. So healing was dispensed on each other and they set off. After a full day of marching in (and taking damage from) the cold, they arrived at the meteor crash site.

They approached and could see an entrance. It was warmer inside, so they at least would stop taking cold damage. It didn’t take long to find a wizard with an ocular cycle. It seems they found the famous wizard Leomund trapped at the wrist. His body seemed to flash in and out of existence.

Knowing the drill, they simply set off to “defeat” him. Eventually they did and Leomund winks out of view permanently. Then they are once again teleported.

Only this time, it felt different.

Back to Yemglav
They appeared before Yemglav again. He speaks with a certain amount of trepidation, “Never before has any one survived the challenges!” Blah, blah, blah.

Yemglav then tried to strike a deal with the heroes, who were plenty tired of this nonsense. At first, there were some looks between the Goblin Stompers. Did they just want to bother negotiating with this bastard? They were in no condition to pick a fight with a minor deity…but this Yemglav guy was an asshole.

The deal Yemglav was proposing that they he would return them to the prime material plane, but they would have to pass the dagger to another taker, which would pass on its curse, and be his disciples to spread word of his existence and encourage worship to him.

They needed a minute to think about this and he granted it to them. After talking about it some, they decided this was not acceptable and let Yemglav know as much. He seemed dissatisfied, but offered to drop the need to be his disciples…just pass the cursed blade to another.

At this, there was again some looks between them. Rolen nodded to Klang and moved up to Yemglav (passing his deception check) suggesting he might accept the deal. Then Klang held up his hand and spoke, “Eno’f of dis, ye can ret’rn us to da prime mater’l plane with 100,000 gold and we won’t hunt ye down and kill ye.”

Yemglav’s response was one of disbelief and anger, “Nay mortal, tis not an acceptable offer.”

With that, Klang turned his back to Yemglav and said “Kill ‘im”. Rolen got in a sneak attack, while Valin, Raven and Orik took him down. Klang didn’t even have to participate.

With Yemglav gone, they were returned to their quarters mere moments from when they left. The inn was still settling down for dinner and the sun was setting. Klang removed the curse from Orik so he could rid himself of the sword. Raven declined, retaining her green glowing eyes.

Does Rolen still have a Dagger of Venom, or has it lost it’s magic? Is its curse is broken?

Session 35
Sokol's Errand

Dealing with Success
We find our Goblin Stompers in the uncomfortable roles of Phlan heroes. After their success in putting an end to both a vampire threat and the Godsickness, the residents of Phlan were viewing them in a positive light and looking at them as role models.

This brought them to the attention of the various politicians looking to use them to their advantage. In finding evidence of claim to the previous monarchy, they already influenced Colvin Doverson’s campaign. And their quashing of the Godsickness did something inadvertent to Greyhawk’s outlook, breaking from Bane’s camp and campaigning more heartily for a parliamentary style government.

The DM reviewed the situation in Phlan, specifically the political factions:
- Colvin Doverson: the monarchy candidate looking to increase treaties for trade with other Moonsea cities.
- Jhessail Greycastle: the Black Fist commander who is seeking not power for herself, but to instate an elected parliamentary government.
- Barrett Sokol: seeks to reinstate the Council of Ten, a group of nobles and guild leaders, who seeks to rebuild the city infrastructure more rapidly.
- Samulkin: priest of Bane seeking to re-establish a theocracy.

There was also a little recent history lesson about how a green dragon and associated cultists brought the city to its knees by infiltrating the Black Fist guards, destroying many of the once proud buildings. Oddly, this kind of destruction has been a common occurrence in Phlan’s recent history…every few decades, the city ends up in ruins and they rebuild it.

So it was only natural that an emissary for Barrett Sokol, one of Phlan’s political candidates, would be seeking them out. The emissary, a blue-eyed half-elf woman, introduced herself as Aveen Seakin and let us know that the heroes are invited guests to Sokol Keep on Thorn Island, a significant landmark of the city. They were to meet with Barrett Sokol as he has something that might interest them.

It was about now that Raven showed up from more of her Harper business. Damn sneaky faction, sometimes as bad as the Zhentarim.

Arriving on the island, they were again greeted by repairs to the buildings and surrounding grounds. Passing through Sokol Keep, they passed by people of wealth who were not afraid to show it. The decorations were lavish and no expense was spared. It was clear that Aveen was not of this sort and must just be a hired hand as servants guided them through the place. Finally reaching the audience chamber, they only had to wait moments before their host burst in, grinning broadly and flush with excitement.

After thanking the heroes for coming, he launched into how he wants to rebuild the city. That’s why he needs materials from the Dragon Spine Mountains. Unfortunately, his emissaries to the dwarven clan of Hammersfell have gone missing. They were sent on a mission to negotiate the acquisition of stone materials needed for rebuilding. He needs someone to find them and broker the deal with the dwarves.

He’s offering 5000 gold (in platinum or gems). The Goblin Stompers accepted the job.

When questioned, Sokol explains that the team left 10 days ago and he last heard from them 6 days ago. The leader of the team was a dwarf named Bruw Clangeddin. He was following a map provided by Aveen who is familiar with the area. Bruw is very easy to recognize as he’s missing his left eye and has lots of other scars. Also on that team was Artora, Sokol’s personal steward. Artora is a silver-tongued (figuratively) woman in her 30s with long dark hair who bears one of Sokol’s signet rings. The rest are servants of House Sokol. They all wear the house colors – green and gold. They had the initial payment to the dwarves with them – platinum with Sokol’s face imprinted on them.

The Clan Hammersfell reside in mountains, just south of the Glacier of Silver Blades. They were to follow the Stojanow River, through the part of the Quivering Forest into the Ticklebelly Hills (that’s where they last sent word). From there, they would take a pass that skirts the Glacier to the dwarven home. Aveen will be the Goblin Stompers’ guide, but she’s no fighter – she’s more of a scout than a ranger with trade guild ties.

After feasting on his offered banquet, they headed back to Phlan where they were received with a parade…making it very clear that Sokol had arranged it. After some discussion, Aveen convinced them that horses and wagons were not a good idea where they were going. Despite this, Caesare still summoned his phantom steed later to ease the load on his feet.

On the Trail
They did some last minute shopping, picking up 19 healing potions, distributing them evenly among the 6 members of the Goblin Stompers, yes including Rolen, so that they each had 3. Klang left a message with the Lord Sage on their whereabouts. Then they headed out following the trail the Aveen indicated, along side the river and into the Quivering Forest. Between Aveen and Valin, they were not hampered by the terrain. Valin even found a deer trail that shaved off some time. Aveen was impressed. They stopped when they had traveled some ways and found a recently abandoned camp site with a few animal gnawed corpses nearby – wolf most likely.

Rolen frisked the bodies and made off with 200 gold. He had Aveen confirm they were not the people Sokol had sent. That made sense, they team had made it to Tickleberry and they had a long ways to go before they reached that. Valin sent a cordon of arrows. Rolen foraged around for poisonous plants and found edible mushrooms instead, which he shared with the team. A few ate them.

Orik asked Aveen about any known thieves of bandits in the area. She replied that there are some rumors of highway men, but nothing concrete. They rested uneventfully and the next day’s travel was similarly quiet, until Caesare noticed brightly covered birds eating flying beetles – both he had never seen before. Yes, it was that uneventful. Other than the wacky dreams and subsequent robust health they felt (at least those who ate the mushrooms), there was nothing notable.

Another quiet night and the next morning after Klang’s prayers, he noticed a thick mist by the river causing him to cough and sneeze. Real danger signals that. Valin and Orik later spotted a unicorn in the distance. It didn’t seem to be interested in getting close to the heroes until Orik managed to coax it to let him approach. It telepathically informed him of the safest path to the mountains and avoid the swamp. Then it just disappeared by teleporting away. What a strange and pleasant land, must be a druid in the area.

When the selected a camp, Orik set animal traps. Valin went foraging and came back with a deer of exceptional quality (endowing them with constitution bonuses). Rolen found the same mushrooms again and all opted to partake. Caesare had his unseen servant setup the camp and cook the food.

Orik struck up a conversation with Aveen. He learned she’s the daughter of a sea elf and a human pirate captain. She currently procures items for the Whole Realm’s Catalog. He wasn’t particularly interested and neither was she in his lame tribal history. So they gave it up and all rested well for another night.

DM informs us that it is common knowledge that the Whole Realm’s Catalog is an organization that collects rare treasures for sale to collectors and adventurers. Like much in this areas, it’s rebuilding itself.

The following day was more of the same, only this time they were dealing with brambles. It was nearing night when a wide-eyed woman, significantly worse for wear, came stumbling out of the trees ahead. She was mumbling something about mountains, frozen giants, and spear of ice before collapsing unconscious. Valin healed her, then gently questioned her, building a small amount of rapport. Her name is Meenar and she is a mercenary in the Razorhand Company in Phlan. The Company was lead by a human warrior named Rouse Blackbrand.

Suspicious, Klang checked her medical status carefully – poorly healed lacerations, signs of frostbite on fingers and toes. She’s not faking it and her hand had a tattoo on it that seemed related to corroborate her membership in mercenary band (something Klang had experienced). She went on talking…their commander ordered them to wear the tabards. They were operating in the Glacier of Silver Blades when a battle with frost giants went badly. She barely escaped and most of her party was killed or captured…and some eaten.

They fed her and kept a close eye on her that night. The next day was more cloudy, foggy, and the bugs set in on them. Mosquitoes were the worst, but the beetles weren’t much better. It got so thick that the droning noise started to induce headaches. It was about then that Valin and Caesare noticed some shadow move to one side by some boulders. Then boulders started to move.

It seems six cyclops decided to try an ambush, but it didn’t work out well for them. Orik proved his weight in gold for that battle, fending off nearly all of them while the rest were picked off by his comrades. Klang learned not to use “run” as a command word. Valin found barage of arrows useful. Unfortunately, the only “treasure” they had was a necklace of hands.

Foraging around, they found the cyclops tracks circling around them. So it was an ambush. The rest of the day and night were restful. The next day was raining and damp. Caesare’s unseen servant was holding an umbrella for him. They heard the roar and then spotted an adult green dragon in the distance. Valin was able to precisely locate it, noting there’s only one to the north.

An argument followed with Valin wanting to see out and kill the dragon, and Aveen noting that is not their mission. Aveen won with, “The longer we tarry, the less likely any will survive.” So we kept trudging along though the rain.

Finding the Sokol Emissaries
Finally, the next day, they arrived at the Quivering Forest. Here they find a devastated campsite with the remains of tents and a smashed wagon. Also laying about are broken pieces of swords and armor. Large deep chunks of sod have been torn up. It’s cooler here, their breath visible.

Two corpses are found – a dwarf and human – both wearing the colors of Sokol. The human body has a bloodless hole through it’s chest. Inspection of the hole suggests a frost weapon. Aveen confirmed both bodies were mercenaries from the team Sokol sent. So we found them, but most are missing.

Moving the tree off the crushed the dwarf corpse, they looked closer at it. For being dead several days, the corpse was well preserved with no animal scavengers marks yet. Strange. It’s almost like the Sokol team was ambushed and overwhelmed quickly, offering little resistance.

Valin found big tracks leading away into the mountains, probably the giants Meenar’s team encountered. Caesare notices a pixie hiding nearby and strikes up a conversation. The pixie says he wants “shiny or shady”. After bribing the little pixie several times, they learned:
blue giants had attacked the campsite, took some big people away, not sure why
Meenar’s previous team had camped here a few times
the dead people here were not the same as Meenar’s previous team, yet wore the same colored clothes
they took the people back to their camp
there were no dragons involved in the attacked

Wasting no time, they set out following the tracks. If what Meenar said about the giants eating people, they didn’t have much time. It didn’t take too long before they spotted a fortress. It didn’t appear to be built by giants, but it was obvious they inhabited the place. The tops of their heads could be seen in both towers.

Caesare sent his owl to scout the fortress, noting the main structures and rough count of giants therein. There was a breached wall on one side, but the ruin spilled around it was difficult terrain. Not a good place to be with boulder throwing giants about. So the heroes settled on a frontal assault, using mostly natural attacks on the guards in the towers – insect plague on one and sleet storm on the other, mostly to obscure their vision and make it hard to throw things.

Caesare and Klang rode the phantom steed to the wall so Klang could stone shape a small passageway through it. Then they rushed in…Rolen kind of stopped half way until Caesare threw some silverware at him. Animating the silverware, Caesare had the forks attack the giants. Rolen, seeing what awaited him in the fortress came back out.

A horn sounded and the element of surprise was gone. Orik rushed through the passage, attacked, then ran back out the passage. Valin sent a barrage of arrows through the passage into the giants fending off the silverware attacks. Looking through the passage, Klang hit one with flame strike. Raven also took a bow shot through the passage. It was complete mayhem inside the fortress.

That’s when the giants opened the fortress door while others ran out of the breached wall to flank whatever was attacking. All it did was slow them down so they could be hit several more times. While the more mobile Goblin Stompers dropped away, Klang healed Rolen and then was cornered and felled by two giants. Valin was felled by boulders. Caesare made good use of his mage hand, having it grab the healing potions of his fallen comrades and dumping it down their throats when the giants weren’t looking.

Valin and Klang played dead for a few rounds until they could get in a surprise attack. Meanwhile, the rest continued to fall back to the giant’s advance, dodging boulders and firing ranged attacks at them. Then it was Valin’s turn to strike back, hitting giants from behind. Klang dropped a fire storm on a group of giants. Then it was mop up time.

All this time, Orik had once again entered the fortress and was single handedly fighting two giants with only sporadic help from his team. Once the mop up started, Klang ran into assist Orik, helping to fell one of the giants.

It was an epic battle, but the 13 (or was it 14?) frost giants eventually were sent to ground.

Total experience = 11051 per character
Since we switched from milestones back to experience gathering, we should all have the same experience points (168285) except for Raven.

Maybe next time, we’ll meet Clan Hammersfell…



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