Helena

Out of the Frying Pan
And to hell with this douchebag

Jak – please – tell – me – you – are – still – alive – down – there. The – city – is – being – overrun. Find – a – way – to – get – back – up – here – NOW. (explosion)

You awaken to the cool breeze of a cavern. You open your eyes – wait, they are open…wait, are they really? They are – it is so dark that you couldn’t tell at first. It takes you a moment to remember where you are. Your body aches as you attempt to move and regain kinaesthetic awareness.

There is a faint glow several yards away. It’s familiar…that is the stone that was powering the teleportation ritual. Oh gosh! – the mind flayers, the ruins, the battle – Evershade! Thoughts come rushing back to you after you awaken.

The group gathers in the ruins and scours it for treasure and clues.

D’nissa is nowhere to be found.

*Heal 22 Discerns from the dead bodies that you’ve been knocked out for 2-3 days!

You find:
2 Astral Diamonds (from the traps)
2,880 Residuum from the Mind Flayers’ ritual
Various Gnome Jewelry: 4 necklaces, 21 pure gold gears, 9 bracelets, 2 pairs of small bracers, 96 bullets, a letter opener, and 6 pounds of broken bits and shiny things.

The party regroups around the triangular gate on the floor.

The large crystal remains intact after lashing out at you and your group. It is a deep rich blue, with violet lightning bolts flickering inside of it. Somehow, you’ve got to do what the mind flayers were trying to do – hack into the teleportation gate in Evershade’s city hall. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll make it back to the city.

Catherine and Ben take charge on the ritual casting. Jak tends to the blemishes and welts that form on their skin, evidence of how taxing the ritual’s magic is upon their bodies. Max is tired of the “mages” and their stupid bullshit and decides to scout out the area to make sure none of the other shitty monsters that live in the Underdark decide to mess with them. Afterwards, he takes a Total Don’tblowupmyballs Stance.

Remarkably, they harness the crystal’s energy successfully without injury. Not only does a portal to Evershade appear in front of them, but they should be able to link back to this very spot with Durk of Dude Street.

With a thunderous CRACK, the ritual is completed, and the inside of City Hall stands before you. Well, you think so, at least. It is dark on the other side. Catherine double checks her coordinates and confirms that this is the right place.

When you step through the portal, you feel a faint lurch before your feet make contact with the ground. Heavy boots on stone floor echo in the hollow chamber. Your light casts dancing shadows of the pillars along the left and right walls. Aside from the steps and breathing of your companions, the room is silent. You can her shouting and crashes outside, distorted and muffled from the thick walls of city hall.

“So the great do-gooders return. Judeth’s pets are well-trained…but perhaps a few days late.”

Any reactions from the party cause a Force Shackles spell to be cast. Fake some die rolls and give people Restrained (DM ends).

A thin figure steps out from the shadows at the far end of the great hall. “Our mighty city, once prosperous beyond measure, is falling down around us. Despite all of the hard work you put in, all of the errands Judeth had you run for him, our doom is at our doorstep. What a waste of time.”

The figure is draped in layers of white cloaks and shawls, a large silver-trimmed hood obscuring his face from you. “Was it worth it?? Was scavenging the alleys and hiking through the Underdark worth abandoning your duties? Teaching your classes? Seeing your families for the last time??”

He chuckles. “I imagine not. I half expected you to not even survive your foray into the deep…but then again, I know you to be a stubborn lot. Despite my efforts to convince you of forbidden knowledge’s evil hold, to frame you into some preposterous summoning crime, to threaten your mentor and have him captured and tortured, to incarcerate you for your petty thievery, to sabotage your excursion by destroying every damn underdark map in the city, and to bury you alive in a collapsing building, you still manage to stay on course. But not this time.”

“Damn you, Catherine Selden. Know that there is nothing left for you. The illithids have taken over, and the Church of Ioun is overrun. There is not much left on this plane for me to live for…except to see you BURN.”

Daran pulls out a strange, pulsing organ and a wretched bone knife. One swift motion – he raises his hand and pierces the bizarre flesh with the implement. Fluid splashes on his otherwise immaculate clothing. He holds out his hand, knife skewering the organ, and he begins to grow, violently, in random places. He laughs as his monstrous form consumes his humanity.

Initiative.

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Astraltouched
Trippy Dreams

Upon slaying the last Mind Flayer, three quick bolts of purple lightning shoot from the beast’s head. They connect with the massive black crystal in the center of the plaza. The crystal emits a deep, otherworldly hum, quickly being drowned out by a swelling sound of static.

[Arcana 22]: The crystal was somehow magically connected to the illithids. Their death has triggered some reaction that is overwhelming the crystal. The rise in volume is inexplicable; the magic involved must be massive and this crystal is dangerous.

[Arcana 30]: The crystal’s magical power was somehow being channelled through the Mind Flayers and contained by their life force. Their deaths have unbridled this magic, and its unrestrained power is overcharging the crystal. This crystal is extraplanar in origin, and there’s no telling how much raw energy it has. It may explode at any second.

Just moments before the crackling noise becomes deafening, massive purple bolts of lightning strike forth from the crystal, hitting each of you in the torso.

  • Catherine, you are struck in the back as you attempt to flee, blasting you forward dozens of feet. Your impact against the wall knocks you out, but you feel minimal pain from the impact because your body was numbed by the blast.
  • Max, you are jolted continuously back and forth (like a pinball) between repeated bolts of electrical bolts. They strike you dozens of times before your body numbs from shock and fatigue, and you feel yourself collapse to the floor, helpless.
  • Ben, an arc of purple lightning airs skyward before crashing into you where you stand. The dancing lightning begins to pull you back and forth, swinging you around like a massive tether. Your flight is so intensely fast that dizziness overwhelms you and you black out.
  • Jak, you are raised up off the ground like some magnetic force repels you. As you hover 15 feet above the floor, your armor sears with electricity and the energy flows through you like a conductor. The last thing you see is a blinding flash of light as you burst into a shower of sparks.

THE ASTRAL DREAMS

NOTE! This stereotypical dream sequence will have a choice of outcome based upon the moral decisions of each character as they wrestle with their own identities. The characters cannot deviate from the scripted events much. If the players have questions, explain the situation in layers:
1) You are unsure of what happened immediately before you found yourself here.
2) You are in a surrealistic situation, and you have one pivotal choice in front of you.
3) You are trapped in a dream world of your mind’s creation, as triggered by the overwhelming exposure to astral arcane. Your conscience presents you with a choice, and you will come out of this experience changed, as dependant on that choice. That change will be a homebrew feat or power that I have designed to play off of your character’s allegiance to that choice. It should echo your character’s roleplaying moving forward.
4) Your final choice in this dream will net you one of two abilities. Explain abilities.

Max Stirner

This dream for Max is physically demanding. If he wants to make a check to help himself, he can instead spend a Second Wind to successfully accomplish his immediate goals.

Max, you open your eyes and see the night sky above you, the dark blanket filled with stars. Sitting up, you recognize one of the poor town squares of Evershade around you. Orange light dances off of the drooping architecture. You hear the faint sound of shouting, of chaos, and you come to your senses. Several buildings are on fire, and panic has taken over the streets. People flee back and forth, unable to evacuate or act with reason.

A woman leans up against a nearby burning building, almost passed out. She will be burned with the building if she is not moved. You try to speak to her, to help her up, but she is out of it. Do you pick her up?

Poor Violet runs up to you and tugs on your leg. “Max!” she cries, “People won’t listen to me! I keep telling them to run away from the fires, but they keep trying to go back to their homes!” You look up and confirm that people are rushing into the narrow streets between burning buildings back into “shacktown,” the residential area in this district. They will likely become trapped between the burning wreckage and the city wall if they stay there. Do you run to the main alleyway and begin to direct the people?

If he tries to put the woman down: You can’t. It’s like your body doesn’t understand what you are telling it to do.

It is difficult to move quickly with the woman on your back, but you are able to get into position and start to turn people away. Before long, others are spreading your message.
Behind you, you hear the wheezing of a teenage boy. He is covered in soot as he staggers up to you, and he collapses onto you before you ask him how he is doing. He is conscious enough to climb onto your other shoulder. Do you carry him?

“Max!” Violet screams. “There’s people back in here! They’re going to get trapped!” She points to some of the back alleys behind the city block on fire. The flames have grown and now climb higher into the sky than any buildings within sight. You can trudge slowly, but the weight of the two people you are carrying slows you down. You are concerned that, if you don’t get down the alley fast enough, you may not be able to save as many people before their lungs fill with smoke and pass out. Do you continue to carry the two individuals?

Play “Fanfare of the Common Man”

You stagger deeper into the slums. The weight is heavy, but your heart helps bear the burden. You shout out commands to people as they crawl through the wreckage. Your voice reverberates off the stone walls and brings them to their senses. As they struggle to their feet and run past you, you hear their voices. “Thank you…” “Is that…?” “Max Stirner”
You come upon a boy, crying alone in an animal pen. He seems okay, but lost and unaware of his immediate danger. “Kipp!” Violet cries, “You have to leave!” He does not respond. “Max, you have to get him out of here.” Violet tears up. “He’s my best friend…” Do you urge the boy to climb onto your back?
“Which do you choose, Max? The boy? Or the people?”

The flames that surround you get brighter and brighter, and before long they are glowing white in every direction. The purple tips of the flames begin to consume your vision. You stagger forward, thinking your last thoughts. What are they?

Ben Wistershire

Ben, you hear, “Hello? Hellooo??” You are lying on the floor of the Waterman, behind the bar in the front lobby. It’s a man’s voice. As you sit up, you realize that this man is a customer and would like assistance.
The man is a little bit annoyed. “Hi, yes, do you have a bottle of the Rayden merlot? I need a gift and I’m kind of in a hurry.”
You walk to the far end of the bar and open the cellar door on the floor. You climb down a ladder into the dark and clap twice, igniting the magical torches. Your eyes are flooded with golden light as an ocean of gold coins, jewels, trinkets, and artwork lay before your eyes. As you clamber over your veritable hoard to the wine cabinet, you think proudly of your accomplishments. It’s taken years to gather this here. Years of saying just the right thing at the right time to the right people. Years of playing the game. Years of using skills that took years themselves to hone. The power and influence represented by this trove would be enough to buy the city’s representatives outright! You’re not half bad, Ben Wistershire.

The wine in tow, you climb back up to the bar. You close the hatch, stand up, and see your wife standing there, terrified, a massive curved blade to her throat, held in the brawny arms of Judeth himself. He glares at you menacingly, a smirk behind his terrifying eyes.

“Fool. Do not think I do not know who you are. Do not pride yourself on your cleverness and vanity. We know of your sister, the girl you left to die in the dark. And we know of your deceit that has bestowed upon you that mighty stockpile of wealth and power.”
“I’ve come here not to try you for your crimes, but to take advantage of your lies,” growls Judeth. “If you do not give me your hoard – that which you stole from the citizens of this city – then I will take your wife.” Your ears get hot with anxiety. “What’s wrong, Wistershire? Having trouble with your decision? Your relationship is built entirely upon lies; that’s true. Perhaps it is harder to part with possessions when all you have in exchange is an empty life.”
“Which do you choose, Abernathy? Your wife? Or your power?”

You hear the entire Waterman creak. Then, nothing….Suddenly, the floor seems to dissolve into the golden sea of riches beneath you. The glow becomes brighter, blinding you with its white light. Your eyes cannot tighten enough as the purple sun engulfs you.

Jak

Jak, you awaken to the warm breeze of a summer’s day. You are face-down on a tile floor. Alternating white and gold tiles divided by black lines stretch out for a hundred feet until they meet the ornate carvings of a palace wall. Stone is decorated with murals of clouds and golden paints. You’re in a palace of some kind, and it is vaguely familiar…
You stand to your feet and you see two guards in several yards in front of you, on either side of a magnificent marble staircase that leads up to a golden throne. You remember now. The guards’ shields gave it away – as if the banners, sculptures, fountains, stained glass, and golden architecture didn’t. You are in Kord’s palace, in his very throne room, and at the top of the tall marble stair, perched upon the extravagant golden throne, is the storm god himself.
In your mind’s eye, what does Kord look like?

Instinctively, you kneel (out of honor, not fear). The whole sanctuary seems to glow in his radiance. In a bold, echoing voice, Kord bids you, “Stand, Jak of Evershade.” After a short pause, he beckons, “I am glad that you have come, Jak. I have observed your righteous deeds, and it is fitting that you should come into my court.”
You have no memory of how you got here. Even your weeks in the underdark seem hazy. If you could tell something to your liege, or ask something of him, what would you say?

As you converse, you hear a whip crack to your left. You turn your head slightly and catch a prisoner being given daily lashings off to the side of the throne and stair. You would have paid it little heed had it not been a minotaur. A minotaur in rags. Wearing tribal jewelry. In a deep green kilt made of dyed strips of hide. You can’t take your eyes off of it now. You know those clothes. And you recognize those horns.
Being restrained and whipped, not but 50 feet from you, is… yourself.

Play “Dies Ire”

“Ah, yes,” booms Kord, “I believe you have been on a long journey to arrive here. And now, after turmoil, and pain, and judgment, you have found yourself.”
The two guards step forward from the stair in unison. One presents to you an immaculate shield of gold, emblazoned with Kord’s mighty fist, so shiny it reflects your own face like a mirror. The other holds out a massive blade, its hilt a cross of lightning bolts. The blade is hard to define because it shows the image of swirling storm clouds, darkening, showing what is to come.
“This beast has been prisoner for some time, Jak. And it shall be lashed no more. Take one of these sacred tools and decide its fate. Show me your strength!”
The domed ceiling has changed to a looming storm cloud, swirling above you. You look at the kneeling guards, frozen in service.

“Which do you choose, Jak? Protect the beast? Or strike it down?”

You calmly take the implement in hand. With one faint snort, you push off the ground with your back leg. Each pounding stride you take creates the crack of lightning and the boom of thunder as you charge the minotaur and its keeper.

Sword: Leaping through the air, you let out a guttural roar. Your aim is true as you land upon the beast, sword sinking deep into its core. Surprisingly, it does not struggle. It does not scream. You pounce to the floor and land solidly on your feat, your foe slain. You turn around to see the minotaur as it looks back at you. Its eyes glow white and it looks upon you calmly. You know in that expression that it now knows peace. Although you have looked many times in the mirror, you do not remember ever seeing your own face without anger. And now, face-to-face with your old self, you know that you need not wear your past as a burden any longer. The light from its eyes glow brighter and brighter, and the purple hue consumes you entirely.

Shield: Sprinting with heavy legs and powerful strides, you watch the punisher reel back his whip in seemingly slow motion. With physical perfection, you slide on one knee, shield-arm extended in front. The satisfying clang of impact strikes your shield. You kneel directly between the minotaur and its punisher, and you remain frozen there for one long instant. Swiftly and powerfully, you backspin, wheeling your shield around, and mightily bash the jail keeper with the aegis, knocking him back through the air. You slowly rise and turn to greet your old self face-to-face. Its eyes glow white and it looks upon you calmly. You know in that expression that it now knows peace. Although you have looked many times in the mirror, you do not remember ever seeing your own face without anger. Immediately, intrinsically, you know that you need not wear your past as a burden any longer. The light from its eyes glow brighter and brighter, and the purple hue consumes you entirely.

Catherine Selden

“General, the men are in position. We await your orders.”
You pick yourself up off the tundra. Up the hill in front of you stand 6 score of troops with their backs to you, perfectly lined up in regiments. Your lieutenant is loyal, trying to give the air of courage that you like to see in your soldiers. You sense his uncertainty, but you know he will not hesitate a moment when you give him the order to charge.
You step past the lieutenant and walk your way up the hill between two units of warriors. Their pikes stand tall. Their armor plating shines on top of thick, padded insulation. They await your very command.

As you crest the hill, the comforting waves of battle cries and clashing swords washes over you. Two massive hordes of armies meet each other in a great valley. Both forces are battered and worn; their equipment was not designed to endure a long campaign in the Kanka plains. Savages claw at their foes with scythes and axes, while uncoordinated men-at-arms attempt to stand their ground with little help from their allies. The whole thing is cacophonous from your vantage point.

“But what of the shrine, my lady?” cries a squire from your tent back below you. You see the young girl’s outstretched arm point to a massive glowing keep on the horizon. Its blue radiance seems to paint the gray clouds overhead.
You know that castle is untouched. You know that lost civilizations have left their secrets inside. But you also know that this is your time to strike. The savages from the east will break here if you rout them this day. The locals will bow down in obedience to you out of obligation; they stand no match for your highly-trained force.

Play “Lacremosa”

The dark gray sky of swirling clouds begins to brighten with a white light that bathes the hill where your army stands awaiting your call.
“Which do you choose, Catherine? Do you win the glory of your legion? Or do you claim the unknown knowledge of the blue castle?”?

Army: You stand poised, unwavering, and draw your sword. With a single-pitched war cry, you flourish you sword and point to the valley. The quake of legionnaires’ feet like drums, the clashing of blades like cymbals, the yells of strength like horns, your single command like a soprano. So you conduct your symphony of war.

Castle: You stand poised, unwavering, and draw your sword. You spin it above your head in a spiral, and your perfectly trained soldiers about-face and accept your new goal as their own. The quake of legionnaires’ feet like drums, the whipping of banners like strings, the yells of strength like horns, your single command like a soprano. So you conduct your symphony of conquest.

The sky brightens more, a good omen for your mission. The white light of the filtered sun floods your field of vision, and the purple sting of natural light dazzles your mind.

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Battle atop Ruined Plaza
Battlefield 2: Bad Company 2 vs. Grimlocks led by Mindflayer

>>Interlude<<

Graham: “According to the DMG, I just found out, that breaking a grab is a move action.”
Jimmy: “Is this the same day?”
All: “Yes”
Jimmy: “Fudge. I am all out of dailies.”
[I should point out that Jimmy did not actually say ‘fudge’.]
Graham: “This is the fifth encounter of the day, just so you know. Which is good. For stuff. Ok.”

>>Battle<<

Amongst the ruins, there are old buildings, some more intact than others, with some walls providing partial cover, but making travel difficult. There are also some piles which we could climb atop.

We begin fighting three Grimlock Dark Guards led by a mind-flayer, who initially stays behind, protected by its minions.

They are unusually co-ordinated. Within a few moments, Ben is attacked by an invisible force, which turns out to be another mind-flayer. Before we were able to dispatch that one, yet another invisible mind-flayer attacks the party.

The party rages on for an intense fifty-four seconds, after which everything is dead, and the party is left nearly spent.

As we watch after the deaths of our enemies, the dark jewel at the center of the plaza begins to glow, and it attacks us, and we all pass out. Jak explodes in a shower of sparks. Ben is spun around in the air and passes out. Max is struck by many, many shards of dark light. I forget what happens to Catherine.

>>Break<<

We wake up – Ben denies having had visions. Jak wakes up to a message from Judeth – :: Jak please tell me you are still alive down there. The city is being overrun. Find a way to get back up here NOW *EXPLOSION ::

We find in the ruins:

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A quick update on our current status:
On our way to Poison Gulch, after Golden Valley.

So, basically, we all are rather bad at keeping track of this campaign. I mean, seriously, our last post was in May of last year. In any case, the adventuring party (whose name escapes me at the moment (it makes sense I wouldn’t know that ’cause I play Ben)) [insert name here], is on its way after investigating for some time the illithid threat to Evershade, to murder the Elder-Brain and save the world, again.

We successfully navigate our way through the darkness of the Underdark, and somewhat through the ancient deserted kingdom of Golden Valley. Shortly after, more than somewhat disturbed by mad Gnome-king history, the party finds themselves cresting a wide underground hill, coming upon a large industrial plain bordered by a large pond. Jak, still serving as the light source (because he is emitting magical light) gives Ben a better view of the many large factories that now sit before them. At first guess, these buildings were likely a manufacturing center for the kingdom, useful tools such as tools and carts, furniture, weapons, and everything else. It is also apparent that the large body of water was a kind of reservoir, past which sits a gnomish city set atop an enormous stalagmite. Chillingly, the ruins are found to be devoid of life as Max scouts ahead into the ruins. As they spend more time, it is further chilling that the abandonment of this area happened suddenly.

Near the end of the reservoir, Jak finds himself asking D’Nissa “We’re still on the right track, right? You haven’t gotten us lost, have ya?” Pulling out the charcoal etching of the map, D’Nissa notes that at the edge of the enormous plains, that there should be a path. As we continue on, several members of the party show more signs of suffering Gulch Maddness. The time spent underground is taxing indeed.

Traveling further, the reservoir pans out, or rather, does the opposite of that, and narrows into a river, to the point where the party is only a hundred feet from the other side, where the deserted city is located. The waters move fast, with occasional rapids, but the path is the correct one leading to the exit of a the plains towards a tunnel. There is another part of the wall out of which water is flowing, where it appears a kind of cave-in has occurred. D’Nissa, looking back and forth between her map and this strange looking rock-formation, notes, “I don’t understand, the tunnel should be right here.” Thoughts of a cave-in flash through several of the party member’s minds, as well as the possibility that they may need a pass-word. D’Nissa begins to make her way across this river by jumping across to some rocks, followed by Jak, who decides after a few moments of investigation that there is, in fact, no safe way past this pile of rocks with water like a fountain.

Beyond, the river forks beyond this area, to the right, with an upward slope. Catherine notices a magical ringing in her ear. Jak: “What if we went the other way and looped around, like going the long way around?” D’Nissa, “I don’t think that would work, since the path seems to stay within this cavern.” ZZzzzzzzZZZZZzzzzZZZZZ inside Catherine’s ear – as she realizes that there is something magical blocking teleportation magic – but – exclaiming aloud, Catherine has some revelations: “I think there is something beyond here, possibly the Elder-brain. That would explain the blocking of transport magic and the blocking of this cave. The cave-in here looks accidental, but likely man-made. D’Nissa, how old is your map?”
“I…uh, I’m trying to think – this is the map that one House of Master’s expedition used when they were down here several months ago.”

Discussion broke down regarding special kinds of boxes that the party had encountered in the past. Boxes. Box.

“It can’t be that old, because it looks pretty nice. Hard to say.”

“Well, this is an older cave in, based on the age of the rocks. Is…nothing…about older…rocks?”

“This area should have been completely open, since it looks like it should have been a thoroughfare.” Jak, looking deeply into the rocks at the cave in, half-consciously says,

“Can we swim around it? There is water coming through, maybe we can swim underwater?” Ben, callously ignoring this, offers,

“What if we search the city and factories to find things we could use to clear some of these rocks?” Before Jak offers to charge the rocks, Cathering offers a bit more wisdom.

“I doubt we can go through here.”

At which point Jak does, in fact, charge the boulders with his greatsword, attempting to shear through the rocks. The cave in hardly budges, as most of the moveable rocks have already been washed away. The attempt, though good natured, is futile. Aside, Max thinks his thoughts. But…what about that guy with his two dogs? He had a dog, and then put another dog through a portal, and had two dogs. What was he doing? Dirk, who lives on Dude Street?
“Do you guys remember Dirk, who lives on Dude street? Do you remember what he was doing?” Catherine, mind racing, responds:
“Wait! I – as an arcane caster, I mess with magic, weaving and changing. Maybe I can use…magic? of Some kind?” Aside, Jak prays something aloud, placing his hand on the rocks. And then falls down, gets up, and kicks the rocks angrily. Catherine tries, very hard, to remember Dirk’s research, which uses the magic of the shadowfell to teleport and portal around, by bending the material planes around one’s self, instead of actually moving through. This could work.
“We should go see Dirk.” Max, throwing up his arms in the air, shouts back at Catherine,
“How are we going to get past the fact that magic is bullshit to begin with?” The wizened wizard, waving this aside, continues,
“I could try and open a portal to and from Dirk’s place” Jak, seeming to like this idea, says,
“Well, what if we found a portal like-thingamagig in the city? We should go look there, and maybe find something explosive to clear the rocks as well.” Everyone nodded

[editorial note: I can’t decide whether to stay in present, past, third, first, or whatever tense while writing this. I am sorry.]

at this, and splits up to search the city, surveying the stalagmite upon which the ruins sit. The structure of the area suggests that there is not a central area to the city, but a quick look-around reveals that there really isn’t a better way than to get to the very top of the stalagmite.

[wait-there’s a black dragon? -there’s a big black dragon, we figured this out the one week you weren’t here. when we got down here, we saw this black dragon (basically Alduin?) fly over us, though it didn’t see us. -oh. ok. thanks. so now we’re going to go find it, because we like experience points.]

We decide to try a big open space the gnomes may have used as a big common area. As we walk through this cavern for several more minutes, we see this hazy cloud, a bright blue light flickering, like a bright candle, as well as a handful of torches lit in the area. As Max gets closer, he notices statues, and more lights, kind of like a central large gathering public area. He also notices living creatures.

Max reports to the group. “There are things down there. We should explore, using my stealth, and slowly.” The party is able to approach much closer now, having done this kind of light-stepping many times before, taking cover behind a large rock. Catherine determines that there is some kind of ritual going on from the Conjuration school of magic. We can see a mind-flayer conducting this ritual. Jak’s instincts are to charge. We know that we could use this area to portal back and forth from Evershade! After so much time down here, it would be a relief to be able to get some rest. Our job here becomes to ambush the mind-flayer, and head back to the surface.

As we approach the plaza, we saw there were multiple creatures, and a mind-flayer casting a portal ritual, lit with torches, slowly and carefully creeping up towards the entrance of this plaza. Max directs the sneaky sneaking, telling us to get behind two statues, while nothing changes up the road on at the plaza when we hear a sudden gurgly shriek, a bubbly noise. Especially disturbing is the fact that this is the first time any of us had heard the physical sound of a mind-flayer. One of the grim-locks begins to speak, “urgh! master says the static bringers are here” His speaking is somewhat broken, deep, guttural, barely even words. “we must stop them!”

[Begin Battle]

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golden valley backstory
gnome city

man that was some freaky stuff.

raven queen, toreg, vecna, weeping ghosts, really hurty-chains, a king gone mad, and last attempts at salvation.

also the party sent someone to hell, after which they ran away.

’cause ghosts are scary. we can fight illithids, vampires, house of cards and whatnot ’til the cows come home, but ghosts – we run away from. take heed.

yes, this is yet another placeholder.

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placeholder for past sessions
including the golden valley incident, and generally all of the time leading up to and within the underdark. this is a long subtitle.

probably parts of the subtitle should be in here.

Jimmy, you should edit this page.

-dlee

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Between Barakas and a Hard Place
Thank God for Google+

After killing Bharash, Jak suggests they track the path of illithid influence by going to back to the House of Cards. If they branded him with forbidden far realm mind control rituals, they might also know about mind flayers.

Going to back to their trusty contact Tellus the guard, Jak and Max make him pee himself as he tells them everything he knows. They ask him about the only living kidnapper of Bharash (a small humanoid). Tellus informs the party that the halfling they’re referring to was named Tynis and was publicly executed by Barakas this morning as part of an “Illithid Purge” he has started. Back to their old friend Barakas! He tells the details of an investigation he’s been conducting for over a week. He’s singled out a few unresponsive Cards that have been acting…suspiciously. The adventurers form a tentative alliance with Barakas to tap into his information and find thralls.

First, the party goes to nearby Seifri Manor to find Walter “The Houndsman” Seifri. When no one answers the call bell at the gate, Max picks the lock on the front gate. Opening the gate (of battle?) sets of an alarm. Soon, the pattering of paws and fast breathing rounds the corner of the estate as five guard hounds sprint up to the gate. Immediately backing out and shutting the gate leaves the party just out of reach of their snarling jaws. Jak intuitively commands the dogs to back down with his dominating presence. Impressed, the others proceed up one of the twin stairways to the main entrance on the second floor. Max fucks up another lockpick check and sets of the alarm again, which infuriate the dogs, who Jak orders to stand down with a furious growl.

The group is now able to slip inside the seemingly abandoned house. The party startles themselves with their insane levels of quietness just before a gruff, bearded man comes quickly downstairs. The party scatters like sneaky sneaky mice into the curtains. The gruff man communicates to his hounds and realizes that intruders are present. He turns around and bellows, “WHO’S IN MY HOUSE? I KNOW YER IN HERE!” Jak reveals himself from the shadows and introduces himself. One by one, the others emerge from the curtains like they’re a clown car. Barakas confronts Walter and Jak presents the Flayer’s Foil. Aside from looking like a goofy bearded man in a tiara, nothing happens to Walter. Check one off the list!

Because the adventurers have no lead on the Assassin, they decide to pursue Ambassador Silver Kine.

Abernathy Wistershire messages his assistant Ross and asks for all the latest information he has about Kine. Ross isn’t able to tell him much, but has heard a rumor about a party Kine would attend and gives Ben the Ambassador’s address. The adventurers trek across town to Kine’s chateau where they are greeted by a servant maid. Max makes some bullshit about how Catherine is mute and he is speaking on her behalf and that they were invited but they lost their invitation and so they want to know if they can borrow Silver’s. She’s like, “ummm….” and Catherine speaks up. Catherine says “My friend’s had a long day, let us in,” and the maid’s like “sure.” She knows that Kine is indeed attending an Eladrin-only function that evening and that the invitation may be in his office. Ben finds the letter, Jak finds some Notices of Summons from Barakas in the wastebasket, and Max finds 32 platinum pieces in a lock box underneath a desk. He takes not only the coins but the box as well.

Later, at a fancy party, the “Eladrin” (Catherine, Max, Ben) infiltrate the ballroom while Jak and Barakas pose as bodyguards on the outside. Max overhears someone mention that the ambassador is freshening up in the water closet before giving a toast. Catherine strikes up a conversation with him in the foyer, which sets the stage for later. The adventurers are able to watch him carefully and confront him after dinner. Catherine walks up to him and continues where their conversation left off. Then, Ben walks up with a box containing a crown. “Someone wishes to give you a gift, Ambassador, and they need to know your circlet size.” By feeding his ego, they are easily able to get the Ambassador to believe the ruse. BUT WAIT THAT’S THE BOX FROM UNDER HIS DESK! Ben plays the part so well that he doesn’t recognize it. BUT WAIT THE AMBASSADOR WORKS WITH BEN EVERY YEAR SURELY HE WOULD RECOGNIZE BEN! Ben plays the part so well that he doesn’t recognize him.

So yeah, the Ambassador isn’t a thrall either. One “suspicious character” remains: the Sexy Deadly Drow Assassin Chick.

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JOHANNNNNNNNNNNNN
"What would Johann do?"

Several days have passed since Max’s arrest at the hands of Judeth and the City Guard.

The Beast, the Sage, and the Golden-Tongued await their turn to be escorted into the holding cells where thier compatriot is being held. Eventually, they are led by a guard to a large iron and wooden door, which he opens, motioning for them to enter.

“Ten minutes” he says gruffly. The three enter, and the guard closes the door behind them. Inside are many cells, filled with the incarcerated. In one of them was Max.

After passing some amusing pleasantries, Max first proposes that the magical one “use her magicky stuff and teleport me out of here,” which is deemed impossible due to the anti-magic field in the room. Catherine had also considered turning Max invisible and painting his cell walls with blood, calling in the guard and making an escape then. Ben told Max to kill himself, as we could just ressurect him. And Jak was mostly annoyed at all of this. Finally, Max begged his colleagues to stage an elaborate and exciting prison escape.

The ten minutes passed after what seemed like forty-three minutes. Without much help from Max, the next stop was to visit Judeth for details. Not much help there either. (Say Butts. Say…butts.) Judeth’s elven assistant Dentil Fukyu lets the party know that, 1) Judeth is busy and won’t be able to see them for 4 days, and 2) we should probably stop asking after random NPC’s names.

So, without any leads, the party decides to meet back up at Ben’s Waterman to discuss things. On the way, Ben takes a detour into the more southern areas of the city to announce and act as town crier, letting the populace know that “The People’s Hero Max Stirner has been Unjustly and Unfairly Arrested by the Elite and Corrupt Powers of the City!”.

Right. After that little bit, Ben arrives back at his tavern to see that Jak and Catherine are talking with a street urchin, looking all manner of out of place in his fine establishment.

(ok. losing steam on this. imma just outline and we can fill in later)

Catherine knows who she is, asks her a question that Jak and Ben cannot understand. Girl’s name is Violet, and is looking for Max, asks if he is dead. We say no, she shows us a really nice amulet (“he have me this neckalce in case he didn’t come back”) and tells us about a house she used to follow Max to, so we dressed her up and visited the house that Max used to go visit.

We take a carriage there. Its a big blue house with the name “Schmidt” above it, lots of fancy stone-work on the North-Side in a neighborhood called the “Northedge Coast”, Without so much as a plan, we knock on the door, which is answere by Hinderman, Mr. Schmidt’s right hand man. The house is really nice. Hinderman tells us all about Albert Schmidt, who seems like a pretty cool guy.

Schmidt shows up, we “talk” to him, and he lets on quietly that he knows Max Stirner, but doesn’t want Hinderman to know about it. Ben invites him to the Waterman sometime for more chats. As we turn to leave, the window breaks and we are attacked.

An assassin calling himself Max Stirner and using his signature moves and copycat equipment and two shadow assassins are quickly dispatched, all while Hinderman is out getting tea for Jak.

Alert Schmidt asks us, “Is Max Stirner…still alive?”

We take the carriage over to the city hall. Alber drops some names (“My name is Albert Schmidt…and I’m a good friend of Gloria Fieldman’s”)

Turns out that Albert is Max’s father, and that Max’s name is really Johann, and there are some awesome backstory things that I’m going to either fill in later or Alex is going to. Highlight of the exchange:

Schmidt: “Johann, its time to put a stop to these little delusions. The family is being threatened. I’ve already used Gloria Fieldman’s name once tod-”

“DON’T BRING HER INTO THIS!” Max brashly interjects.

“-day, and I’m sure she would be more than happy to have you released.”

“I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!”

“Johann. Son.”

The party meets back at the Waterman. Having had one assasination attempt on his life, Albert decides to stay there as well.

Then we get a message from Hindenburg saying that he has the key to the problems today.

So we meet him back at the manor, and he goes all crazy and says some stuff about a how wrong it is that were Albert to be killed, then the entire business and all of its wealth would go to some delusional kid in prison somewhere instead of the one who knew how to run it and really deserved it.

Turns out: he’s an invoker, starts summoning crazy Lancy and Aegis guys.

We kill him.

Ding.

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Vampires and Mind Flayers
and Drow and Duergars and Dragonborn

After casting the Disruption Ritual, the adventurers take a well-deserved break. Jak stands just outside of Bharash‘s quarters overnight, highly vigilant of his mentor’s safety.

After lunch, the group meets at the Waterman to discuss the previous’ days events. They received a note from an enigmatic “Zenial” to an also enigmatic “Shane”. The group decides that contact with these figures is the next priority. Answers must be found.

Meeting with Judeth, the adventurers assess their goals. Judeth empowers each of them by granting them the Seal of the City, giving them the authority and access of a Guard Captain.

Catherine sends to Tyco of House Nocturne to inquire about Zenial. By sheer luck, Tyco indeed did hear of Zenial. Tyco would have to get back to Catherine after he asked around.

Max‘s ear-to-the-streets tells him of a man by the name of Shane who has just recently checked into the inn-and-tavern Martyr’s Handaxe. Cautiously, the adventurers scope out the tavern – blocking exits, making back-up plans, and delegating duties. Abernathy Wistershire and Max approach the shady figure in a lonesome booth…who responds with a beer in Ben’s face and a quick BAMF to the street outside.

The party chases Shane down the streets, through the alleys, and into the heart of the Laborer’s District. Surrounding him, they capture Shane and bring him to one of Max’s safehouses. A Discern Lies ritual and multiple intimidating statements forces Shane to spill his fears. He is scared of his “Masters” finding him. He “knows what we did to Zenial, and [he] won’t let it happen to [him]!” BAMFing into the street outside the safehouse, he holds a hand of blue energy to his head and blasts it into oblivion.

Putting the pieces together, Catherine suggests that the underdark races they’ve encountered – drow and duergar – and the mind flayer they slew in the sewers may be connected. The hive-mind pronouns “we” and “us” that Shane and Zenial have used could be related to an illithid Elder Brain. The references Zenial made in his note may be referring to a Mind Flayer invasion.

Tyco, contacting Catherine, said Zenial was asking for aid, acting frantic and evasive. He’s a nice guy.

Max and Jak search the streets for a drow that fits the description of the drow that captured Bharash. A barkeep in the southern city states that a drow by that description went by the letter “Z”, suggesting that Zenial did indeed abduct Bharash.

Ben and Catherine head to House Nocturne to meet with Tyco. He gives two nobles [Noble Eyha and Noble Beea] as contacts. Eyha reveals that Zenial is hiding and laying low in the servant quarters of the top floors of the tower. Beea, a vampire, alludes to turning Zenial into a vampire upon request.

Max and Jak come to the tower of Nocturne. Splitting up to increase the odds of finding Zenial, Catherine and Jak notice a draft of cold air and go to the roof. They see man crumpled over in pain in the rain and wind. As Catherine approaches, he jumps to his feet. His skin grey, his veins purple and inflated, and his eyes a flaming red, his screams at her: “You…how dare you come here! You’ve ruined everything! I tried to destroy my body and I still could not avoid their wrath. You cannot hide! You cannot win!” Without their bard or rogue, the adventurers begin fighting the drow/vampire/mind flayer.

After mere moments, Max and Ben arrive on the scene. The group withstands the wind and rain as well as the life-draining and mind-affecting attacks of the aberration. Ben triggers the final blow, magically inspiring Jak to stand in the right place at the right time. With a final shove, Ben sends Zenial into Jak’s blade, cleaving the creature in half. Part of the corpse falls off the building, turning into bats before dissolving into dust.

Later, Judeth praises the adventurers for an investigation well done. “Unfortunately,” he states, “I must do my part in protecting the city.” He knocks on the closed door to the conference room, inviting a group of heavily-armed paladins of Erathis. “Max Stirnir, I hereby place you under arrest for the crimes of murder, treason, insubordination, larceny, superlarceny, smuggling, and anarchy.”

Max is forcefully escorted to jail.

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If I only had a Heart
Ben Finds a Heart

Getting a heart is hard work. Ben goes back to the Waterman, and asks Ross to find an unwary heart (in as many words) and to ask about House Silver Celeste’s contacts in House Greymist.

Ross basically says, “No dice bro. And that’s weird that you asked for that”

An hour after he left, Ben returns to where Jak and Catherine are waiting. Consulting with Catherine, he borrows her Ritual Book (with Gentle Repose) and sets off on his Plan B:

Back at his tavern, Ben finds the secret office hidden behind XXXXXX, which is accessed XXXing the XXXXX with the XXXXX XXXX times. Inside are disguises, the secrets which give him power: tomes of information, items of blackmail and his secret cache of weapons, armor, equipment, and gold. His fortress of solitude, hidden in plain sight.

He gathers up two different disguises – one of a priest and one of a magistrate’s aide, richly adorned. Always careful, he picks the finery and colors farthest from his House – no need to risk more any more than necessary.

He catches himself wondering why he’s doing this at all, why he’s let himself be involved in the first place. Then he remembers, remembers it all in an instant. Friends are good, but loyal friends are better. Powerful loyalty was best. And he would need allies. Soon, and dearly.

On his way out, he considers which hospice to hit. Southside, of course, somewhere poor, half forgotten, and old. He signals to one of his blind servants: useful for the fact that they know not by sight but only sense and sound who they are working for (discretion at its best, and its most expensive). “Come with me. Extra coin in it for your quietude. No questions, just work. Savvy?” “I see nothing, know less, and remember only what I had for supper” Ben taps his companion’s shoulder. “Size 10, patent leather, three flaps above the ankles, and I am carrying my sword.” It was all the information this man would need to be able to follow him through a crowd. By all appearances, he would not appear to be blind at all. “Follow behind, ten paces.” And with that, Ben walked out of Waterman, south.

On his way, Ben listened for reports or rumors of sickness, death, decay, and the usual things that occupy Evershadian conversation. Another cold day. Damn. Near a sundries stall, he overhears “…dozens dead this week near the Stream…” His ears perking, he slows his walk. Two men. Not richly dressed, commoners, but workers as well. Not trustworthy exactly, but knowledgeable enough about the city. “…buried a few, paid poor coin, but coin regardless…” Laborers. Sharing tips about where to find work, burial of the dead amongst them. “…the Temple of Pelor, the chap with the beard, he’ll…” And it was all he needed. Ben notes their gait and shoulder, walking briskly again in the direction of the Temple.

He stops to see a man about some papers: reclamation of family remains, signed and sealed. They cost him a few gold.

Twenty minutes later, Ben emerges discreetly from an alley, dressed in the colors of Pelor. Walking into the Temple, he signals to his shadow to wait until his next signal.

The laborers were right, of course. He could sense the death and decay around him the moment he walked into the large antechamber of the Temple. The sounds of wailing and suffering were only disturbing is so far as the kind of quiet whimper they created against the sound of wind outside.

No one so much as bothered him. He knew how to blend, and blend well. Hardly ten minutes passed before he had found the perfect candidate: just on the verge of death with hardly a breath left. Consciousness had left long before. The man, probably just shy of five decades agem had been driven both blind and deaf by his disease, though not, unfortunately, mute. His low groans, involuntary punctuated the air.

Strong facial features. Ben checks the dying man’s eyes – pure white. “I’m sorry for your pain, and pray for your release. May she take you and make you.” He was still not bothered by any of the other priests, all of whom were too busy to notice or care. They had the sick to tend to. They had their duties.

Ben leaves the Temple, signals his companion, and finds a nearby alley in which to change clothes. “Same shoes. Long robes. No sword. Dagger. I will speak like this.” And with that, Ben changed into his Magistrate’s aide robes, and chooses a deeper voice. With his talents, he changes his facial features to match, slightly, the dying man. “Follow close. Three to five paces.”

Re-entering the Temple, Ben is immediately approached by a Cleric of Pelor, looking extremely concerned and confused. “You shouldn’t be here. Our faith keeps us safe, but laypeople are at risk of the taint-”
“We are on official business, good Cleric. We have taken the precautions and will be gone in but a moment.” Ben hands him the papers. The Cleric looks down, his brow furrowed. The faint sound of someone’s desperate whimpering fills the air from the next hall. Ben can tell that the Cleric isn’t even reading the papers. He doesn’t care at this point. There are too many dead, too many sick. “He is of my family, good cleric.”
“Yes, yes. Very well. Watch yourselves.” And with that, the Cleric wanders off, leaving Ben and his companion alone.

Relieved, Ben walks off to find the man he had said a prayer over before. Speaking quietly under his breath, he muses “Hello, cousin. It seems as if uncle has decided to bury you after all.” Two minutes. “I’m sorry for what’s happened. I understand your choices, but what is is what is.” The man groaned quietly. Standing above him, Ben considered the possibility that he was awake, and knowing. Conscious, and fighting. One minute.

He chose not to watch. Preparing the components of the ritual, Ben began to clear his mind. It would not be difficult, but it would also not be easy. He closes his eyes, focusing only on the control he would need.

A great moment of silence passed.

When Ben reopened his eyes, the man’s breathing was no more. Ten minutes later, the ritual complete, Ben and his companion placed the man onto a stretcher, covered his body with a blanket, and walked back to the men by the stall that had led him here.

“I need two men to help bury my companion. A sovereign each, and another if you do it without questions.”
The laborers looked him over, then nodded.
“Good. I need ten minutes alone with him. When that time has passed, enter this alley and take care of the body. Be sure to do it properly. He was a good man, wrongly treated by this city.”

The nearby alley was one he had scouted out before. Secluded, that none could see. Regardless, he asked his companion to keep watch. Hardly a task for a blind man. “Wait two minutes, then forget all. Understood?”
“Savvy indeed.” His companion produced a long thin cane from out of nowhere.

A few minutes later, Ben walked away from the alley, dressed in his usual disguise, with a box under his arm. He walked towards Max’s favorite safehouse.

Behind him, the slow fall of snow began to cover his tracks.

A nameless man was being prepared for burial by two good men.

A blind man considered all he hadn’t seen that day.

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