At the request of the Church of St. Cuthbert, the party became involved in an investigation into disappearances of many people from Cauldron over the past few months. The most recent incident was the taking of 4 children from a local orphanage. During its investigation the party learned that, for some reason, Cauldron's most predominant thieves guild, The Last Laugh, has an interest in one of the orphans, a young boy named Terrum. The Last Laugh attempted to discourage the church from looking into the taking of the 4 orphans, but does not seem to be otherwise involved in the actual taking. From following clues and clever subterfuge, the party learned that the kidnappers were entering the city via a secret entrance found in the locksmith shop owned by Keygen Ghelve, a gnome. Keygen confessed that his rat familiar was being held hostage to force his cooperation and silence.
The party entered the shop, fought and killed the skulk that was guarding the secret entrance and is preparing to access the secret entrance to the underground complex known as Jzadirune. This was a gnome enclave until about 75 years ago when it was abandoned because the residents were being afflicted with a disease called "The Vanishing", which caused those afflicted to gradually become more and more transparent until they faded away completely.
Keygen provided the party with a map of the well-know layout of the complex, warning the party that there are traps and secret rooms that are not shown on the map. He also provided the party with a codex to translate into common the gnomish runes that are used to identify doors within the complex. Keygen has pleaded with the party to rescue his beloved rat familiar and has vowed to make reparations for his part in the abductions. From his description of the creatures that performed the kidnappings, the party has determined the raiding parties are comprised of a mix of skulks and dark creepers. Keygen surmises that the abductions are part of a slave operation, but he's not certain about it.
After getting equipped, with the help of the gnomish locksmith, we headed down the secret staircase into the abandoned gnomish city of Jzadirune. As it was dark, we let Grunk, who can see in the dark, walk in front. The stairs emptied into a hallway, then some sort of reception room, with a couple of circular doors leading out. The walls were covered with metal masks, which were babbling and making noise, much to Flair's amusement. At one point, one of the masks made some sort of an announcement, welcoming us to the city. One of the circular doors out of the room was open, and Skier went through that door, into a smaller room. He found several small tunnels had been dug into the room...and also found that there were two of the little skulks in the room! They attacked him, then ran off through the tunnels.
We decided to investigate the other door out of the reception room. It was trapped, and both Skier and Harper were injured by the trap repeatedly before Skier was finally able to bash down the door. The room beyond was a guard barracks, full of cots and chests, but no treasure to speak of (stupid gnomes, going to all that trouble to lock and trap a barracks!) We headed out of the reception room, into a large hallway, filled with lots of those circular doors. Each door had a particular rune next to it. Grunk, who was still in the front, fell into a pit trap, which had spikes on the *walls*. Skier stuck his halberd into the pit, to give Grunk something to grab onto, but the trap-door slammed shut, snapping off the haft of the halberd. The pit then began to spin, dropping Grunk onto the spikes. He turned into a flying creature, and was able to hover in the middle of the pit until it finished spinning and the trap-door re-opened. Grunk flew out, and Harper was able to disable the trap. We found that there was an illusionary wall at the end of the hallway, leading into a room. We also discover that many (if not all) of the other doors in the hallway were trapped, and Harper wasn't able to disable any of the traps. We finally decided to try to use the skulks' tunnels. The tunnels led into a large room, sort of like a cathedral (pillars, lights, murals, a pool). As we investigated the room, two skulks popped out, and attacked Grunk. Khalid bashed one, killing it. We pursued the other one around the room, until Harper got off a good shot with her crossbow, knocking it out. Khalid and Skier stabilized it, and we bound it to one of the pillars. There were numerous piles of rubble in the room (likely caused by the tunneling); within the rubble, we found a music box, likely worth several hundred gold pieces.
The next room was a small theater. Flair hopped up on the stage, and the rest of us moved into the room. Before Flair could start hamming it up on the stage, some sort of illusionary show began, with illusionary gnomes telling a woodland story about Willowbow (a dryad) and Silverarrow (a ranger). We found a trap door on the stage. Grunk went into the hole beneath it to investigate, at which point a tentacle grabbed him and pulled him under the stage, while another tentacle slammed the door shut! Grunk cast Burning Hands on whatever was under there, while Skier burst through the trap door, only to be grappled by a tentacle, as well. Cam jumped into the pit, and began hacking at the monster with his greatsword. Flair and Harper took shots at the critter, before Cam finally dispatched it (it was a "choker"). We found some treasure in the pit, including a masterwork mandolin, a spellbook, a wand (Detect Secret Doors, 25 charges), and a notched rod which turned out to be a key to some of the circular doors. We investigated several smaller rooms attached to the theater, including a prop room, and decided to hole up and sleep (Grunk and Khalid were out of spells).
The next morning, we continued to explore. We found a secret room, and a number of expensive paintings. At one point, Grunk was attacked by another skulk -- this one seemed to be transparent. Skier killed the critter with a single blow. We found what looked to be a throne room; there was what looked like a gnome asleep on the throne. In front of the throne was a talking bas-relief face, which asked for a coin (Grunk threw in a gold piece). We proceeded to the throne, and saw that the gnome was an illusion. Harper found a secret compartment in the right arm of the throne, and opened it. The illusion of the gnome then began to speak:
Betrayed we are by our own magic
One by one we fade away
Oh how tragic
We curse the vanishing day
We remembered the story that the locksmith told us about what happened to Jzadirune, and how the residents suffered some disorder that caused them to slowly vanish...we realized that this was what was happening to the "translucent skulk," and decided it was probably not a good idea for us to stay down here for very long. We found some gold, as well as two more of the notched keys. Grunk found another of the spinny-spiky pits, but Harper and Flair were able to disable the trap before it could close, and we got him out of the pit.
We went back down the hallway, since we now had keys for some of the doors. Both doors led to sleeping quarters, but, in one of the rooms, we found a secret door, to an armoring room, in which we found a bit of treasure (3 gnomish hooked hammers, 2 light picks, 1 heavy pick, 1 suit of half-plate armor, 3 light steel shields -- all gnome sized, plus 4 thunderstones, 16 crossbow bolts, 2 smokesticks, a tanglefoot bag, and a wand of Burning Hands (25 charges)). We found a secret passageway, and Grunk fell into yet another pit -- Harper disabled the pit, as Flair laughed her butt off about it. We decided to head back to the surface, to sell some of the loot, and re-equip ourselves.
We had headed back up to the surface, and spent several days training, and buying and selling items. Tallad and Genya posted guards at the secret entrance to Jzadirun while we were on the surface. We went to talk with Skye, a female gnome and retired adventurer, who runs an equipment shop called Skye's Treasury. We told her about what we're up to, and she bought several of the magic items from us.
We headed back down into Jzadirun, and immediately saw that a barricade had been erected in the hallway leading out of the reception hall. No sooner had we arrived than 2 crossbow bolts were fired on us by skulks, hiding behind the barricade. After Grunk cast a fairly ineffectual Burning Hands at the skulks, they threw a thunderstone at us, deafening Grunk. Khalid summoned a celestial badger, placing it on the skulks' side of the barricade. Harper shot and killed one skulk, while the badger injured the other skulk, who fled. At that point, Harper herself was shot by another skulk, lurking in a doorway. Flair and Skier decided to try and get around the barricade by moving through a different hallway, but ran into problems getting through the doors. Meanwhile, Cam battered down the barricade, and he and Grunk gave chase to the fleeing skulk. The skulk vanished into one of their tunnels; Grunk followed for a bit, then gave up. We changed direction, and looked for (and eventually Harper found) a secret door leading into a foyer. The foyer featured four of the circular doors, and a set of large double doors. We were able to open two of the circular doors, which led to uninteresting barracks. Then, Harper unlocked the double doors, which led into a big room -- some sort of gnomish factory, on two levels. We spread out and began searching; Grunk went upstairs, and was surprised by a floating brain with tentacles and a bird beak (a grell), which attacked and grappled him. Khalid, Skier, and Cam ran upstairs to try and help Grunk, while Harper and Flair shot into the grapple with their crossbows. The meleers were able to beat up the grell, which began to try to fly off with Grunk. After another hit or two, it dropped Grunk, but was unable to flee before we shot it down.
We found a secret door (and another floor trap, which, amazingly, Grunk saw *before* falling into it). The passage led to a vault, which was frustratingly empty. We headed down a passage from the factory room; it was lined with niches, filled with odd contraptions. Harper spotted a secret door in one of the niches, which opened into a room filled with a permanent obscuring mist. Grunk decided to search the misty room, and was set upon by a number of large centipedes lurking there. While we fought the centipedes, Skier wandered off, and found a large room containing an item covered by a sheet. He pulled the sheet off, and found a clockwork machine used for tunneling. The machine began to move, and attacked Skier. Once the party finished with the centipedes, we moved to help Skier. The mining machine emitted a sonic wave, which stunned Cam momentarily. Grunk cast Magic Weapon on Skier's weapon, and the knight hit the machine hard. Unfortunately, the machine then hit Skier back, hard. Finally, Khalid and Skier were able to beat on the machine enough to destroy it.
Flair found a lever, and figured out that it would activate fans throughout the factory sector. The fans cleared the obscuring mist, and we found 2 secret doors. The first door led into a scroll storage room, in which we found a programmed illusion of a gnome. The gnome said: "I am Emirystul, librarian of Jzadirun. The scrolls you seek have been destroyed to keep you and others from fading into nothingness. The curse of the vanishing began here, in these mystic halls, and here it will remain. Be careful what you find, and mind whatever magic was wrought here." The other secret door led to a classroom, and nothing of real interest. We found another skulk tunnel, which led into another secret room, which turned out to be an alchemical laboratory. As we entered, a pile of rags animated, and started to attack Grunk (of course). Eventually, the rags grappled Grunk, then tightly wrapped themselves around Grunk, making it impossible to damage it without also injuring Grunk. We were finally able to destroy the rags, without damaging Grunk too badly. We found some equipment in the lab. We found another empty secret room (a potion storage room), before deciding to rest for the night.
The party, having slept overnight in a secret room in Jzadirune, awakened to discover that Skier had wandered off in the middle of the night. We cursed the short attention-span of their Cuthbertine knight, assumed he'd wandered off to go cudgel some poor chaotic person, and resumed our exploration of the city. Now that we had a "U" key, we used it to open up a room, which was empty, but we found a tunnel into another yet-unexplored room. It contained half-made kegs and bookshelves (apparently a carpenter's shop). As we explored that room, Grunk (of course) was attacked by a very small, shadowy creature. It stabbed at Grunk, missed, and attempted to flee. Harper was able to shoot it with her crossbow as it fled, and she felled it. It appeared to be surrounded by some sort of an inky-black cloud, and we determined that it was a "dark creeper" (one of the creatures which had been doing the kidnappings up in Cauldron).
We headed down a hallway, and found a large smithy, which contained 4 forges. Harper, acting on a gut feeling, kicked over each of the quenching tubs next to the forges. Inside of one of the tubs, she found the "I" key. We also found quite a bit of other loot in that area. We then headed into the next room, which was a glassblower's shop originally. In that room, Harper found a secret door. As we investigated the secret door, a javelin came sailing out of one of the skulk tunnels, and bounced off of Khalid's armor. Cam pursued the attacker into the tunnel, but encountered a fog cloud in the tunnel, and gave up the pursuit. Grunk and Cam opened the secret door from the glassblower shop, and entered another room. At that point, a thunderstone was thrown into the glassblower shop from the skulk tunnel, deafening Grunk and Flair. Khalid answered by throwing his own thunderstone back up the tunnel. The skulk and Khalid traded javelins, while Flair and Harper fired their crossbows up the tunnel. Eventually, the badly-wounded skulk fled.
In the secret room, we found an urn, and a suit of gnome-sized full plate, both crammed full of coins. We then found another secret door, to another room. In it, we found another suit of gnomish armor, and a locked chest. Harper went to knock over the armor (thinking it was stuffed full of coins, as well), and it turned out to be an animated object, which attacked her! The animated armor turned out to be a tough opponent, as it nearly killed both Harper and Cam before we were able to destroy it. Once we got the chest opened, it appeared to be empty, but Flair saw through an illusion inside the chest, and realized that it was actually full of treasure. Feeling rather beat up and low on spells, we decided to rest overnight in the secret room.
The next morning, we resumed exploring. Flair found another secret door, to another small room, which contained three chests. They were trapped (with what turned out to be a Leomund's Trap spell), but contained no treasure. We headed into the next room, and were surprised by another animated mining apparatus, similar to the one that Skier had found a few days previously. It began its attack on us with a sonic burst, which injured (but did not stun) all of us. By the time we were able to destroy it, both Cam and Grunk had been knocked down. In the wreckage of the machinery, Harper found a gnomish key (the "A" key), as well as a deep blue spinel, which appeared to be some sort of a battery which powered the machine. We used the "A" key to open up a previous room, which turned out to be a jeweler's office; there, we found an "R" key, and realized that the keys, if we had them all, would spell "JZADIRUNE". We went back to the wreckage of the original mining machine, to see if we could find another gem or key, but discovered that the wreckage had already been looted.
We explored a room that we'd bypassed before (apparently an "automaton factory"), and, in that room, Harper was attacked by a ragamuffin, which had already wrapped itself around another creature (a skulk, as it turned out). We beat the ragamuffin to death, then Khalid and Grunk used Burning Hands to deal with the skulk. We found yet another secret room, and, inside a chest in that room, we found what turned out to be a gray Bag of Tricks. Grunk reached into the bag, and pulled out a bat...we all then did the same. Harper and Cam both also got bats, while Khalid got a rat, and Flair was very proud of herself for pulling out a weasel.
We searched another few rooms, finding nothing of note, before deciding to head back to the surface. En route, Khalid decided to check out a secret room, and was stabbed at by a rapier-wielding skulk. The skulk was able to knock Grunk out, before Khalid gave it a good bash with his mace, leading it to surrender. Cam then hit the skulk for a large amount of subdual damage, ensuring that it'd be unconscious for a while. We then took the skulk up to Cauldron with us, and had the Cuthbertines interrogate it... it divulged the location where Keegan's rat familiar was being held.
We headed back down into Jzadirune, and the room that the skulk indicated. In that room, we found the rat in a cage suspended from the ceiling, and a chest beneath it. The chest began to talk, in Undercommon, and we realized it was actually alive (a mimic). We gave it some food, and it seemed pretty happy about that. Grunk ran upstairs, and bought a Comprehend Languages scroll, then returned. Grunk spoke to the mimic, and learned that the skulks were giving the slaves that they took to a band of hobgoblins, which were taking the slaves to someplace called the Malachite Fortress, beneath Jzadirune. He indicated a door, and said that it led to the Fortress. The skulks work with the "Dark Ones"...dark creepers and taller ones, too. There's a slaver named Kazmojen. There's also another mimic (not so friendly as this one), which the hobgoblins had taken to guard treasure in the Malachite Fortress.
We'd gone back topside. Visiting Skye's shop, we asked her about the Malachite Fortress...she suggested we talk to some of the old gnomes who used to live there. We bought several magic items from her, and Khalid ordered some new armor and a new mace from her. We talked to various people in the city, and learned that one of the kidnapped orphans was the child of a pair of missing adventurers. We spoke to Keygan about the Malachite Fortress, and he pulled out his father's journals. In those, we read that dwarves and gnomes built the Fortress to defend against invasions from below. A dwarf named Zenith Splintershield led the fortress. In doing some additional research, Flair figured out that both Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress were built over 600 years ago, and that Jzadirune was abandoned 75 years ago. Cam went to see his father, and warned him (and, by extension, the city guards) about possible incursions from the slavers and hobgoblins.
We re-entered Jzadirune on the 19th day of Patchwall. We went back to talk with Fluffy the mimic...he'd heard noises, but nothing had moved through his room. We moved on, and Harper found a secret door. Opening the door, we found a large room which looks like a forest (the trees definitely creeped Grunk out, and he muttered something about orcs dying in forests). We could feel a breeze, and sunlight. Khalid cast Detect Magic, and learned that the room was suffused with magic...we figure out that much of the room is gnomish illusion. A number of skulk tunnels led out from the room...we explored them, but found nothing interesting. We then moved on into an even-larger room, with a number of doorways leading out of it. We found a kitchen, which contained the dead husks of 3 large spiders. Skier entered the kitchen through the door, while Grunk (who refused to come back into the "forest room", entered the kitchen through a skulk tunnel. 3 dark creepers, who were lurking in the kitchen, attacked us, two of them ganging up on poor Grunk. Skier killed one of the creepers, and then Cam killed the other two with a single cleaving blow from his greatsword. As Harper searched a cabinet in the kitchen, it fell over on top of her (though she was able to dodge some of the damage).
In the next room, we found a bathing room with a large pool, and fresh water...the room was filled with spiderwebs, and a humanoid form cocooned in webs. Skier entered the room, and poked at the cocoon with his halberd, at which point 3 spiders (one of them particularly large) attacked him from the webs. The big spider managed to web Skier, but then Khalid used Burning Hands to soften up two of the spiders, and Harper, Flair, and Cam each kill a spider. We discovered that the cocooned body was that of a slightly-transparent skulk. It turned out that the bath and water were illusionary, much to Flair and Harper's annoyance. In the next room, we found a dead, dessicated carrion crawler, and bits and pieces of armor. We opened a few more doors, finding nothing of interest. Grunk and Skier started to bash down doors for which we had not found keys. They bash down a "D" door, and find a latrine. As Skier and Grunk enter the room, they were both zapped by an electrical trap in the doorway. They headed back into the main room, getting zapped again, both of them falling unconscious. Khalid and Flair healed them up, and we continued.
We checked a few more rooms, finding nothing of real value, and finally decided to head to the room that leads towards the Malachite Fortress. Grunk and Skier bashed down the door, and we found a big room, with two hobgoblins lurking at the far side of the room. The room itself appeared to be some sort of an elevator, with chains running from floor to ceiling. Khalid threw a thunderstone into the room, managing to deafen one of the hobgoblins. Skier charged in, swinging at one of the hobgoblins as both monsters swung back at him. Simultaneously, Skier killed one of the hobgoblins, as they dropped the Cuthbertine knight. Grunk cast a spell at the other hobgoblin, managing to drop it, as well.
Flair headed into the room, and healed Skier, as five skulks entered the room (one of them surrounded by a fog cloud), and combat resumed. Skier tried to stand up, and a dark creeper hit him with a poisoned blade, causing him to fall unconscious once more. All three skulks manage to hit us (one on Flair, two on Grunk). Harper tumbled back out of the doorway, and fired her crossbow at a skulk. The skulk in the fog cloud hit Flair with a poisoned blade. Grunk, who had cast Fists of Stone on himself to bash down doors, killed both of his skulks with stony punches (he hit one so hard that his fist went right through the skulk's spine). The skulk in the fog cloud switched targets, and hit Grunk. Flair healed Skier once again. Cam sliced open the skulk that Harper had shot, leaving just the "foggy" skulk, who swung at Harper, before Cam killed it. With Skier and Flair both significantly weakened by the poison, we headed back up to Cauldron once more.
The gnome population in Cauldron is very excited to hear the Jzadirune is reclaimed and that there may be a possibility of restoring it, once they've figured out how to deal with the "curse" issue. Research has begun on the magical artifacts you recovered to determine the nature of the curse. Sages have entered Jzadirune to see first-hand the programmed images that gave you the first clues.
Other adventuring groups have poked around to see for themselves. There were still some potent active traps in places and not all of the adventures returned. The gnomes are hard at work discovering and disabling the traps. They are particularly perplexed as to why the latrine had such potent wards in place.
One cleanup crew, tasked with removing smelly dead things from the complex found some treasure boxes stuffed into the carcass of a dead carrion crawler. The crew sent a joint message to their foreman saying the gnomish equivalent of "take this job and shove it" and packed themselves off to have better lives in other places far away from Cauldron.center>
Poison fixed, the CSO took on the fortress in earnest. Heading down the elevator and completely failing to find any mechanism that might help them return back *up* the group decides to press forward. A number of goblins and hobgoblins appeared who resented that direction, and various combats ensued. Overall, not much in the way of conversation went on as a "kick in the door" approach was adopted, to fair success.
After a while, the party found itself in a workroom, where some halflings and a dwarf were being forced to work at a forge. Being the brave, noble soles that they are (not to mention the lure of lucre and desire to find SOME WAY OUT OF HERE) the party proceeded to effect a rescue plan, consisting of the following steps:
This cunning plan worked well, and soon they were chatting away with the ex-slaves, finding out that Kasmagin was the slaver-in-chief, selling people off to the underdark folks with true neutral evil zest. After a brief discussion with Grunk on the merits of joining his operation, the party decided that they would continue to free the slaves and Be Heroes. But first, they needed sleep.
After hiding to the two Halflings and the Dwarf in the weapons room, the party ventured down a short hall into a dining area. Searching the surrounding rooms, first we found a room with cots and beds. Searching further, we found a meat storage room with dead snakes, hunting bats, giant lizards and a krercher. Continuing on, we discovered the kitchen with a slave cook and two goblins. Grunk and Khalad rushed in and dispatched the two goblins in a blink of an eye. Talking to the cook, we discovered that his name was Griffin Mallack. He refused to leave with us out of fear of Kasmagin.
Trying the last door, we entered a main hall now being used to sell slaves. Kasmagin was in the process of selling the children from the orphanage to an individual named Prillrack. Kasmagin and Prillrack tried to talk us out of attacking while Grunk attempted to convince them to surrender. During the discussion, two important pieces of information were revealed. Someone had given permission for Kasmagin to kidnap people of Caldron to sell and that Kasmagin's howler is named Prickles. As several members of the party mocked prickles, a battle ensued. During the battle, Prillrack escaped with several of the orphans. The battle did not go well for the party. First Flair fell. Cam went down next followed by Harper and Khalad. As the party was falling, Janeer Maple, the dwarf from the forge, joined the fray but was likewise defeated. Grunk attempted to flee but was finally subdued.
The party awoke in cells reinforced with anti-magic. After several days, they were led to the main chamber to be sold. While Kasmagin is negotiating over the orphan named Tarme, a beholder named Orpheus appears and demands the boy. It becomes clear the he is the one from Caldron and that he has a special interest in the boy. Orpheus scares off the buyers, and then turns prickles to stone. Taking both the boy and the Prickles statue, he departs. The party is returned to their cells. A short time later, two individuals enter the cells with guards in tow. The guards are obviously charmed and help release the party before being locked up themselves. The two rescuers introduce themselves as Fellian Shard and Fario Ellegarth. The party with the two rescuers move through the halls eliminating the guards and finally coming upon the treasure room containing magical items of the party as well as other items.
Proceeding through the halls, we found a second set of cells similar to the cells that previously held the party, but they were empty. Continuing to search, Harper found a secret door leading to a room with more mundane treasure. This allowed the party to collect all of their lost items. Finding another secret door, we found a third set of cells with many of the missing people from Caldron. Continuing on, we entered another room with a gong. Not spotting it as Fluffy's brother, Grunk walked past and was attacked. The party quickly dispatched the mimic. Entering the final room, we found 3 people torturing a slave. The party quickly killed the leader and the two guards surrendered. Freeing the slave, we found he was also from Caldron, his name is Koristan Pike.
Attempting to leave with the slaves and the two prisoners, we encountered Kasmagin returning from Underdark with a new howler. He ordered the party killed and his guards attacked. One of the guards freed the howler and was attacked by it. The party with help from Fellian Shard and Fario Ellegarth defeated Kasmagin and his party. As we were mopping up, an attack party appeared from underdark, but before we could close and bar the door, a group of dwarves arrived and attack the underdark party, driving them back. Kasmagin was the last to go down, felled by a mighty blow from Khalad. The party returned to Caldron, to bask in the glory of their great victory.center>
We followed up with Keygan...he was still thrilled that we had returned his rat to him, and the rat is happy and healthy once more. Keygan told us that the gnomes had been busy in Jzadirune, working on re-settling the city, and trying to figure out the Vanishing Curse. They had brought in some senior sages, who indicated that the city's parts of the city's architecture predated the gnomes and dwarves who had settled it -- they estimated that it might be thousands of years old. They theorized that it might have been built by an elder race called the Spellweavers, who were rumored to have been the creators of magic. They believed that Jzadirune may have represented leftover artifacts of failed or lapsed experiments. They also discovered that it is the act of creating magic items in Jzadirune which seems to trigger the curse.
On the 9th of Ready'reat, as we spoke to people in Cauldron, we heard a rumor that the city of Hollow Sky had suffered a infestation of giant snakes. Some feel that it may be a sign that the yuan-ti are active in the area. We also heard that Janeer Everdawn (a jeweler's apprentice, and one of the rescued slaves) had not actually worked at the orphanage, as we had originally been told. We received a note from Terson Skellerag, the captain of the town guard, requesting that we meet him at the town hall. Skellerag told us that interrogation of the prisoners we'd taken hadn't yielded much information -- they were only pawns, and were unaware of any larger plot. Skellerag then told us about a rash of petty crime in Cauldron, perpetrated by goblins. They pop out at night, and scrawl graffiti on buildings, along with other vandalism and petty theft. The town guards had managed to kill a few goblins, but the vandalism was still going on. Skellerag hadn't been able to detect any pattern to the crimes, but wanted to hire us to look into it. He offered us a bounty of 5 gold pieces for each goblin ear we were able to recover. What he was able to piece together is that the goblins tended to come out on dark (cloudy and / or moonless) nights, in groups of three to six, and were armed with shortswords and light crossbows. The most recent incident had been committed on the prior evening. We checked out the scene, and found two bits of graffiti still on the walls: "Hail Drakthar, Lord of the Rats", and "As a wolf, Drakthar hunts".
Flair went off to do some research on the name "Drakthar", and learned about a few other slogans found on graffiti: "Drakthar is dead -- long live Drakthar!" "Drakthar owns this" (tagged on an outhouse) Based on the contents of the graffiti, Khalad theorized that Drakthar might be a vampire. We got the town guards to loan us a trained tracking dog (named Cap), in an effort to track down the goblins. Khalad managed to learn how to handle the dog, and we spent quite a bit of time going around town, with Cap following all sorts of tracks. What we found was a lot of goblin tracks, but no clear sign as to from where they were coming. Based on this, Grunk theorized that the goblins were showing an uncharacteristic intelligence in how well they were covering their trails. Meanwhile, Harper searched a number of abandoned buildings (on the theory that goblins might be holed up there), but found nothing. On the 13th of Ready'reat, we decided to conduct a stakeout, as it was a dark night. The goblins indeed struck that night, but in a different part of the city. We tried again on the 14th, but nothing happened at all. Finally, as we were out on stakeout, a plump young woman approached Flair, Harper, and Khalad. She stated, "Over on Lava Avenue, check out Aurac's Bathhouse." (We knew of Aurac -- he was a one-eyed dwarf, and former adventurer.)
We headed to the bathhouse, where Flair tried to sweet-talk Aurac into letting us look around. As we spoke to Aurac, we noticed that he was being evasive -- we got the impression that he was somehow being manipulated or controlled. Flair and Harper decided to test out one of the private baths, while Grunk waited outside of the building. Khalad and Cam were in the main room of the bathhouse, talking about Aurac's evasiveness, and Cam decided to head to the Church of St. Cuthbert to get a Protection from Evil scroll (which would temporarily suppress any magical control being exerted on Aurac). Just then, four wererats approached the front of the building, and began to attack Grunk. Grunk defended himself with a fireblast, and injured some of the lycanthropes. Hearing Grunk's shout of alarm, Cam opened the door of the bathhouse, and chopped one wererat in two, cleaving into a second one with the same swing...Khalad finished that wererat a moment later. As Harper and Flair approached the battle, Aurac did, as well...looking very confused and conflicted. A wererat hit Grunk, then Aurac charged Khalad. He hit the cleric with a handaxe, apologizing as he did so. As Grunk (with help from Harper and Flair) finished the other two wererats with Burning Hands, Cam clobbered Aurac with the flat of his blade, knocking the dwarf out after two blows.
Cam then went to get a Protection from Evil scroll. We healed Aurac up a bit, and Khalad read the scroll onto the dwarf. Thanks to the spell, he was able to tell us that a pack of goblins, led by a bugbear with glowing red eyes, had come up from his basement. The goblins had restrained him, and then the bugbear had mentally dominated him. We apologized to Aurac, knocked him out again (before the Protection from Evil could wear off), and alerted the town guard, asking them to take Aurac to the Cuthbertines, to see if they could more permanently deal with the domination. We then prepared to head into Aurac's basement, in search of Drakthar.
We rested overnight, then headed into the "basement" of the bath-house. It was pitch dark, and Grunk took the lead. We found some barracks -- they were uncharacteristically tidy for goblins, but still covered with graffiti. The next room had wooden splinters, and holes in the wall. In the hallway, Grunk found a tripwire, and heard a shout from the next room. He went around the corner, seeing 2 sentry goblins, and a door leading further into the complex. Combat ensued. Grunk cast Burning Hands on the two sentries, killing one and wounding the other. Khalad advanced, and cast Produce Flame. As Flair sang an inspirational song, more goblins arrived. Khalad used Burning Hands to fry four goblins, but more swarmed him, hitting him twice. Meanwhile, more goblins came up from behind us, attacking Harper. Eventually, after a lengthy, three-front fight, we killed all the goblins. We healed up, and continued to investigate the area.
Khalad opened a door and found more goblins, including an adept. We dealt with them quickly, and Cam opened another door. As he did so, he was hit by a pair of Scorching Rays (cast by another adept), and fell unconscious. Harper killed the adept, and Khalad and Flair healed Cam. As we continued to explore, Grunk found where the "basement" opened into a cave complex, and he was attacked by worg-riding goblins. Another fight ensued, and we triumphed once more. We went back into the "finished" area of the basement, and found a temple of Moradin, which had been defiled, the statue of the dwarven god defaced. We continued to search, and Grunk found a smuggler's pit hidden in the floor, which contained a number of alchemical items and masterwork tools.
We had headed back "upstairs", and hired someone to help us haul all the loot out of the "basement" of the bathhouse. On the 16th of Ready'reat, we headed back down, and began to explore a cave complex, which sloped down and away from the bathhouse. Suddenly, the darkness became even darker, and two "somethings" fell from the ceiling, missing Grunk. Khalad cast a Light spell, which dispelled the Darkness, and we saw that two darkmantles were flanking Grunk. Harper shot one of the darkmantles, then Cam charged it, and killed it. Another darkmantle cast another Darkness spell from the ceiling, then dropped onto Cam, injuring him. Grunk cast Fireburst around himself, frying one of the darkmantles. Cam then killed the final darkmantle, and the Darkness dissipated. We moved on.
As the tunnel continued down, we found an area in which the main tunnel was flanked on either side by ledges. Grunk flew forward to see what was on the ledges, and saw a bunch of goblins on them. Some goblins lobbed javelins at Grunk, while others shot crossbows at him. Grunk cast Glitterdust up at the right-hand ledge, blinding some of the javelin-throwers, and also outlining the once-invisible adept who was up there. Khalad cast Produce Flame, and headed forward. As the goblins threw more javelins, Flair inspired us with a song. Grunk cast Fists of Stone on himself, as Cam tried, and failed, to climb up onto the left-hand ledge. Khalad lobbed a gout of flame up onto a javelin-thrower, killing it. The adept cast Scorching Ray at Khalad. Harper and Flair shot at goblins, and Grunk smooshed a goblin with his Fists of Stone, as Cam failed to climb up onto the *other* ledge. Khalad lobbed fire at the adept, which caused it to flee. A goblin stabbed Grunk, then tumbled away, as another goblin scored a solid hit on Cam with a javelin. Flair and Harper teamed up on killing a goblin with crossbow shots, Grunk smooshed another goblin, and pursued the one that tumbled away. Cam finally made it up onto the ledge, only to swing and miss at a goblin. Khalad dropped another goblin with Produce Flame. The tumbling goblin stabbed Grunk, then tumbled away across a rope bridge, strung across a chasm. Harper shot and killed yet another goblin. Grunk pursued the goblin across the rope bridge, and smooshed him to death on the far side. Cam chopped a goblin in two.
A new goblin arrived, riding on a worg. Both goblin and worg attacked Khalad, wounding him. Flair healed Khalad, as a bugbear with glowing red eyes (Drakthar!) arrived at the rope bridge, and attacked Grunk. Harper got a flank with Khalad on the worg, and sneak-attacked it. Grunk withdrew from Drakthar, rejoining the party. The worg-rider attempted to tumble into a more advantageous position, but Harper was able to get an opportunity attack on him. The worg moved in, and Grunk attempted to grapple it (but missed). Both worg and worg-rider attacked the badly-wounded Grunk, but missed. Khalad killed the worg-rider with the last of his Produce Flame. Flair was able to heal some of Grunk's injuries. The adept showed back up, and cast Sleep, causing both Cam and Harper to fall asleep, until Flair and Grunk woke them back up.
Drakthar arrived, and dominated Cam, ordering Cam to knock Flair out. Cam went up to Flair, and punched her. Khalad cast Deific Vengeance at Drakthar, doing a bit of damage. After Drakthar withdrew, Khalad cast Protection from Evil on Cam to suppress the domination, and Flair slapped Cam hard. The party healed up, and headed back upstairs. The next day, Harper heard a rumor about the upcoming Flood Festival (that it's a front for the cult of Hextor to use in taking over the city). Khalad heard that Alec Tercival went to Red Gorge in order to take care of a woman who'd been possessed by a demon. Grunk recalled that there's been a plague of filth fever in Cauldron about 10 years previously. We sold the loot we got from the goblins. Out of the party treasure, we bought 2 scrolls of Cure Moderate Wounds, and one scroll of Magic Circle against Evil. We then headed back down into the caves.
We checked out the area near the rope bridge, and found an empty bunk room, with lots of graffiti. We made it across the rope bridge, with much embarrassment, due to our lack of balance. Grunk looked around the corner, and was hit by a scorching ray. Cam moved forward, and was severely injured by another Scorching Ray...in response, Cam charged the caster, and cut him in two with his greatsword. The party advanced, and the first adept cast Burning Hands on Harper. A moment later, five (!) rat swarms arrived. We slowly wiped out the swarms, and Cam moved forward, finding a throne room. The adept was in there, and he put both Cam and Harper to sleep once more. Khalad moved forward into the throne room, and discovered that the throne itself was some sort of undead animated object, as Drakthar arrived once more. Khalad cast Deific Vengeance on Drakthar, the adept, and the throne. Drakthar hit Khalad, giving him a negative level. Flair healed the still-sleeping Cam, as two crossbow-wielding goblins arrived, and shot at Grunk, missing him -- Grunk cast Glitterdust on them in response, as yet another crossbow-goblin arrived. Flair and Grunk then awakened Cam and Harper. Khalad cast another Deific Vegneance, dropping the adept, and forcing Drakthar to assume gaseous form and flee. Cam destroyed the throne, as Harper and Grunk killed the goblin crossbowmen.
We were able to dispatch the last of Drakthor's lackeys, and were able to knock the vampire down to zero hit points (which forced him into gaseous form, as he sought to head back to his coffin to regenerate). We pursued him (in gaseous form) through the tunnels (which narrowed down at one point, forcing us to squeeze). We eventually caught up to him, as he entered a chamber full of half-orc mercenaries, along with a human, and a single goblin archer. Combat ensued, and Grokk quickly blinded a number of the mercs with a Glitterdust spell. Cam, Harper, and Flair dealt with the half-orcs, while Grokk and Khalad continued to pursuse the vampire. Grokk grappled with the human, who seemed to be not much of a combatant, and we eventually knocked the human out, then continued the pursuit. Eventually, realizing that he wasn't going to be able to shake us, Drakthor gave up...rather than let us capture him, he let his form dissipate.
When we got back to the half-orcs, we discovered that at least one of the (female) mercenaries had mysteriously escaped. We roused the human, and learned that he was a craftsman named Zodan, but weren't able to learn much more from him. We brought him upstairs, and hired Skye to cast Charm Person on Zodan. She learned that Xodan was one of three partners working for an ogre mage named the Blue Duke. Xodan once overheard the Blue Duke speaking with a soft-spoken woman. He learned that the Blue Duke is a member of some sort of secret society or cult, apparently worshipping some demon. The Blue Duke was negotiating with a noble in Cauldron to provide a mercenary army (the half-orcs we found were the first batch of these mercenaries, and the noble specifically wanted half-orcs). Xodan and his two partners (whom he didn't like) met the Blue Duke in an inn outside of Cauldron some time ago. The Blue Duke made them responsible for smuggling the mercenaries in through Drakthor's domain -- they paid the vampire off to let them come through. Xoden let on, in his debriefing, that Drakthar realized the Blue Duke was part of a larger organization and Drakthar was trying to get a seat at the table. His sent his minions up into Cauldron to create petty mayhem as a tactic to prove himself to Blue Duke's group and to get them see him as a major player. Xoden, at that point, let out a hearty sneeze that sounded like the word "Poser". Clearly Drakthar was small potatoes to this group and was only being humored so the valuable access route into Cauldron could be secured. Xodan was under the distinct impression that big changes were coming in Cauldron, and soon.
On Sunsebb 9, as the rainy season started, so started the Flood Festival. It will last for six days ... people close up shop, and the entire city parties.
A big event that spans the festival is the drinking contest. Grunk and Cam joined in, at the Tipped Tankard. Lord Velantrue, who is rumored to be the most prodigious drinker in Cauldron, traditionally takes on the winner from a field of 64. The winner from the field gets 30 gold and a trophy, as well as the right to take on Lord V. If the challenger wins, he would get 500 gold.
We heard a few rumors:
Flair, in her studies of Cauldron's history, discovered that 650 years ago, there were profitable mines in Red Gorge -- Surabar decided that Cauldron would be a good defensible location against the demon hordes that plagued the area. Also, 7 years ago, there was a plague of filth fever
We headed to the drinking contest. Grunk passed out on the first day, while Cam advanced (his opponent passed out after his first drink). We heard about another group of adventurers -- the Storm Blades, all of whom are young nobles. They have made a little bit of a name for themselves, but mostly they're just rich kids looking for something to do.
We spent some time at the Drunken Morkoth bar, owned by Garin Tomik. The bar is known for having a mascot ... Morey the Drunken Morkoth (a guy in a costume ... currently the costume is worn by Janfel Coombs, but rumor is that Cam used to wear the costume).
The Blue Lake Academy sponsored the Crater Lake Monster Hunt. In this competition, a number of wooden boats (carved by the students at the academy) are floated in the crater lake. Competitors swim out to the boats, and try to find a boat that matches a key that they've been given. Harper (who was wearing a gold bikini, loaned to her by Flair), got the winning boat in round 11, winning a trophy worth 10 gold. In the drinking contest, Cam lost his second-round match, and was teased about it by Todd. In response, Grunk and Khalad dumped beer and water onto Todd's head, eliciting a "you'll pay for that!"
Today's feature is a performing contest. Flair, of course, entered, playing her flute (and wearing the gold bikini). Grunk, Khalad, and Cam also entered, though they did not perform particularly well. In the end, the competition was between Flair and Anna; Flair won 9 out of the 10 rounds, and was named champion. After the contest, Flair was approached by a prominent merchant, who offered her a job. It will entail Flair writing a commissioned composition for the merchant (will take 8 hours a week for 12 weeks to compose). If the merchant is pleased with the composition, he'll then host a private party, at which Flair would perform the piece. Depending on how well she performs it, the merchant will compensate her.
In the drinking contest, we all bet against Todd, but he won anyway. We were all invited to a costume party, held by Lord Zachary Aslaxin, to be held on the last night of the festival. Contests of strength were held on this day. Khalad won money at these games; Cam failed at them, even though he competed while wearing the gold bikini.
Todd advanced again in the drinking contest, much to our chagrin. Cam won at a contest of strength.
Todd won the drinking contest. Grunk took out a loan in order to bet on him. After the contest, we tried to cast several spells on Todd, in an effort to embarrass him. He was oblivious to this, but the other members of his group noticed, and asked us to go outside for a fight ... we were happy to oblige. Once we were outside, Cam charged Todd, and hit him hard, with the flat of his blade. Grunk cast Haste on the group, and Flair shot Cora. Zachary came up and hit Cam, then Cam knocked out both Todd and Anna. Grunk hit Zachary with a Ray of Enfeeblement, then Flair cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter on Cora. Zachary called the fight off at that point, yelling at Todd as he woke him up ("you idiot, Todd!") The guards showed up, and yelled at all of us for fighting, warning Cam that his father would be giving Cam a particular talking-to later.
Todd took on Lord V in the special round of the drinking contest, and passed out on his first drink, much to our amusement. For the costume party, Cam and Khalad were told to come as demons, Flair and Harper were told to come as historical figures from the founding of Cauldron, and Grunk was told that he would be given a special costume. We learned that Grunk would be dressed as Nabthatoron, the demon that Surabar fought in the war. Lord Aslaxin was dressed as Surabar, and there was a staged combat between Lord A and Grunk. During the "combat", Grunk cast a few minor spells, to make the fight look good. While we mingled at the party, the Storm Blades glowered at us. Someone (probably Anna) magically dumped a pitcher of beer on Harper's head. A messenger came up to Flair, with an urgent request that we see Jenya at the Church of St. Cuthbert. We made our apologies to our host, and departed. Jenya told us that Sarcean has been gone for two months, but she received a Sending spell from him a short time ago. He had found the missing wands of Control Water, but had been attacked by barbaric ape-men, and bandits, at the Lucky Monkey road house, about a day's journey from Cauldron. Jenya loaned us horses, and we left immediately after gearing up. We arrived at the Lucky Monkey around dawn, accompanied by Rufus Laro, a cleric of St. Cuthbert, who had been sent with us by Jenya. The roadhouse, on the edge of the jungle, featured lots of statues of monkeys. Baboons screamed at us from the trees. We saw broken windows, a spray of blood against one of the exterior walls, and trampled plants, and heard a crashing from inside ...
Harper listened at the front door of the inn, and heard crashing and loud talking. She unlocked the door, and Grunk opened it. We saw that the occupants of the inn has piled up an ineffectual barricade, using several tables, which Cam quickly pushed aside. On the other side of the door was a big common room, currently occupied by a half-dozen men, all drinking -- two rogues, and four hillfolk bandits. Grunk dropped two Fireballs into the room, and the fight commenced. As the fight went on, we discovered three more bandits in side rooms, including a couple who were canoodling in one side room, and a drunken woman who was in another. The fight ended as the wounded drunken woman (a bandit) ducked out a different door.
We followed her, and found a hallway with a number of doors, which we began to search. We found a storage room, a library, a shrine to Fharlanghn (trashed), a lounge (trashed), and servants' quarters. Finally, we found a door opening into an interior courtyard, and spotted the bint hiding (ineffectually) behind a tree). Grunk hit her with a Magic Missile, then moved to open the next door, as Cam closed in on her.
(And, this is when things got interesting... :-D )
As Cam closed on the bint, 4 baboons dropped out of the trees in the courtyard, and started attacking Cam (doing a lot of damage). Simultaneously, Grunk opened a door leading to the kitchen, where he found a were-baboon (originally a half-orc barbarian), wielding a falchion, accompanied by another three baboons. For a while, Cam and Khalad fought in the courtyard, while Grunk, Harper, and Flair held the hallway against the were-baboon and his minions in the kitchen. After some time, Harper and Flair head to help out Cam and Khalad, and the four of them manage to end the fight against the bint and her baboons, and they moved to open the "back door" to the kitchen. The were-baboon (Tongue-Eater) and some of his crew then moved into the courtyard, as more hillfolk came up the stairs from the basement, into the kitchen. Grunk was dropped by baboons, while Tongue-Eater knocked down both Cam and Harper. Khalad finally managed to kill Tongue-Eater with a mighty stab from his silvered longspear, but then a baboon knocked Flair out. Things were looking dire....
...when the &%$*@# Storm Blades came running in! With them drawing off some of the attention from the remaining hillfolk and baboons, Khalad was able to get Cam and Flair conscious, and we were able to kill the last of the bandits. As we mopped up, Rufus found the severed, tongueless head of Sarcem, hanging in the kitchen. There are no signs of Sarcem's body, nor of the wands of Control Water. The rest of his body is not evident. Rufus can tell that Sarcem's tongue has been eaten. Hence the name "Tongueater" for the gang boss. Interesting gang, by the way - a mix of hillfolk, Alleybashers and baboons. We know that the Alleybashers are the wannabe gang in Cauldron, vastly overshadowed by the Last Laugh Thieves' Guild.
The combat in the first floor of the Lucky Monkey Roadhouse had just ended. Flair rushed over to the unconscious Harper, cradling the rogue's head in her lap as she tapped her with the Cure Light Wounds wand. Harper awakened, looked at Flair, said, "we've waited too long", and kissed the bard. We regrouped, healed up, and prepared to check out the second floor of the roadhouse, while the Storm Blades put out the fires on the first floor.
We headed upstairs, and, at first, found a series of trashed rooms. Eventually, we found a room with an ajar door, with the sounds of looting coming from within. Flair began singing an insipiring song as we headed in, discovering 2 hillfolk, and 2 members of the Alley Basher gang. As we began to fight them, several more hillfolk and Alley Bashers came in from an adjoining room, and we found ourselves with a two-front battle on our hands. As the fight went on, the Storm Blades came up from downstairs to assist. Grunk got very cross with the bandits for drinking cure potions during the fight, which he considered to be "our treasure". After an extended combat, we finally finished off the bandits on the second floor. We searched the rest of the floor, but found no one else. At about this point, the Storm Blades departed for Cauldron.
We then checked the basement. We found two Alley Bashers, who surrendered -- we took their stuff, and they fled into the jungle. In the basement, we found Sarcen's headless body, along with his mace, which Rufus indicated was also a sign of office for the head of the Church of St. Cuthbert in Cauldron. As we looked further into the basement, we felt a chill, which we identified as coming from a large patch of brown mold covering the end of the hallway (which also featured a warped wooden door). Rufus cast Bull's Strength on Cam, hoping that he might be able to bash the door at the end of the hall down before the cold from the brown mold overcame him, but Cam failed to do so. We went back upstairs, and discovered that there were two dinosaurs (deinonychus) munching on the bodies of the late guests of the roadhouse, out in the rear yard. Harper realized that the walls in the basement were made of wood, and that it might be possible to chop into the last room of the basement through the wall. Cam does so, and discovers an unconscious, dark-skinned female elf in the room, in addition to a well. Cam carried her out, and we discovered that she was wearing a holy symbol of Fharlanghn.
We revived her, and learned that her name is Shensen Teseril. She is a druid of Fharlanghn, and had lived in the Lucky Monkey for the past year. She and Sarcen had wound up in the basement during the battle, and she had seen Sarcen fall, after fighting off waves of bandits and baboons. She also saw a woman, who took the wands from Sarcen's body -- this woman was tall and striking, with short curly red hair, and tattoos all over her body, including her face. She wore spiked full-plate armor, featuring a symbol of Hextor. Shensen believed that Tongue-Eater reported to the redhead. After Sarcen fell, Shensen barricaded herself in the inn's "cold room" with a Warp Wood spell, then did Plant Growth to increase the size of the brown mold (which had been used to keep the room cold). Eventually, she fell unconscious from the cold. Shensen told us about herself -- she was raised in a monastery, and trained as a monk. One day, a bard came to the monastery, fleeing persecution. The monks turned him away, but she took pity on him, and snuck him into the monastery, hiding him. The monks found the monk, and turned him out -- he was soon thereafter lynched by an angry mob. Shensen then left the monastery, and wandered, becoming a bard for a time. Eventually, she began to concentrate on the druidic life, and took up residence at the Lucky Monkey. She had been out in the jungle when the fight broke out; she ran back to the inn, and wound up cornered in the basement. She intended on heading back to Cauldron, and asked if she could travel with us. As it had already been a long morning, and our spellcasters were tapped out, we decided to stay overnight at the Lucky Monkey before heading back.
The next day (Sunsebb 18th), we looked for the redhead's tracks, but found nothing. We interrogated the surviving bandits, but didn't learn much, other than that the redhead and Tongue-Eater were specifically targeting the wands of Control Water that Sarcen was carrying. We returned to Cauldron; Cam offered to let Shensen ride with him on his horse. We reached the city in the evening. We immediately went to see Jenya at the church of St. Cuthbert. Rufus presented her with Sarcen's mace, and told her that she now was the head of the church in the city (Jenya seemed reluctant to assume the role). Jenya told us that the dwarven merchant, whom we'd captured when we fought Drakthar, had been broken out of the city jail the previous evening. A number of guards were killed during the breakout, and Cam's father was seriously injured. The jailbreak was led by a tiefling warrior, and a male human spellcaster, along with a number of minions. Jenya gave us Sarcen's armor and Periapt of Wisdom, in gratitude for what we had done, and we went to see Cam's father in the infirmary. We told Cam's father about the Lucky Monkey. He recognized the description of the redhead -- her name is Triel Eldurast, and she was formerly a city guard. Ten years ago, Triel killed several other guards, and fled...she had not been heard of or seen since.
We hit the streets, looking for information on Triel, but no one had seen her since her departure 10 years ago. Everyone who knew her agreed that she'd be hard to miss if she *did* return. We went to the Drunken Morkoth, and had dinner with Shensen. Cam bought her flowers, which impressed her, but she seemed to be even more interested in spending time with Flair and Harper (much to Cam's frustration, and the amusement of the ladies). While we were there, we ran into the two elves who had rescued us in the dwarven stronghold a few weeks earlier...it turns out that they were friends with Shensen. We went back to talk to Jenya, who had identified the strange symbol that we'd found on Tongue-Eater. It's the symbol of the Ebon Triad -- a kabal of followers of several evil churches (Hextor, Vecna, and Erythnul), who believe that their gods are splintered from one, more powerful deity, and hope to reassemble it. They are considered to be heretics by the three churches in question.
Flair began work on the song that the merchant had hired her to write, and made a good start on it. Flair and Harper went back to the bathhouse. Cam kept sending flowers to Shensen. On Sunsebb 20th, Jenya cast a Divination spell -- we asked, "what is the best course of action for us to take in order to recover the wands of Control Water?" The answer was, "Find the man who cooks food -- he knows many things at the Tipped Tankard." We went to the Tipped Tankard to have dinner. While there, Flair saw the cook (a male human), and went to talk to him. His name was Artus Shemwick, and he was also an entrepreneur and information trader. He knew about the wands, and that the person behind the theft intended to ransom them back to the city, at an exorbitant price. Flair eventually talked him down to a price of 350 gold for more information.
Artus told Flair that, just outside of town, there was a lava tube that went underground to ruins of a one-time lair of kepru (an old race of fish-men). The wands were being held in the ruins, and Triel was running the operation as a fund-raiser for the Ebon Triad. Artus gave us a map to the old lava tube entrance (on the northeast slope of Cauldron's cauldron).
We went to the church of St. Cuthbert, where we bought a fresh wand of Cure Light Wounds out of party funds. Cam and Flair cleaned the church out of their stock of Cure Moderate Wounds potions. Flair placed an order with Skye for a mithral shirt, which will arrive in 10 days. Several of us bought silvered and cold iron weapons. On 20 Sunsebb, Shensen visited Cam in his room at the Tipped Tankard.
The next day, we headed to the location of the lava tube, and Harper was able to find the entrance. We followed a winding tunnel, which eventually opened into a very large chamber. The tunnel led to a cliff, overlooking a large underground lake, covered with phosphorescent green algae, about 100 feet below the level of the tunnel. There was a structure built into the rock at the end of the tunnel, with a door. We saw organic-looking structures on the far side of the lake. We also saw a series of cables stretching across the lake, with a cage hanging from the cables on the near side. We opened the door to the small building on the near side. Inside, we found winches for the "cable car", and another door. Harper snuck up to the second door, and listened at it -- she heard Common being spoken as someone played cards on the far side of the door. We prepared an ambush, and Flair called out, "hellooo! Can you help a girl across the lake?" The door swung open, and a thunderstone was thrown into our room, but it did not affect any of us. We saw two hillfolk guards in the room, and we headed in to engage with them. It takes us far too long to kill them ... one of them nearly got away to sound an alarm, but Cam and Khalad finally managed to drop him before he could do so.
We used the cable car to cross the lake, after determining that it was only sturdy enough to carry two of us at a time. Cam and Grunk went over, then Khalad and Harper winched the cage back to the near side, and used gravity (with some help from Flair) to come across. Cam and Harper explored the structure at the far side, looking for a mechanism that we could use to send the cage back for Flair. Harper failed to spot a trip wire, and it caused a wall to collapse on her (but the collapse revealed an opening into the winch room. Cam pulled Harper out of the rubble, and we sent the cage back for Flair. We noticed that the algae covering the lake was quite thick and spongy.
As we stood on the lake shore, Harper thought she saw a big reptile on the far beach, and she started freaking out about it, insisting that we had to kill it. At that point, it entered the lake, and began to swim towards us. As it approached, we were hit with some sort of magical effect, which slowed Harper and Grunk. When it got closer, we could see that it looked like a dragon; Khalad recognized it as being of demonic origin. It reached our shore, and began to attack us. It focused its attacks on Harper, and knocked her out. Flair resuscitated Harper, while Cam, Grunk, and Khalad fought and killed the beast. Upon regaining consciousness, Harper continued to act in a rather obsessed manner.
We chose one of the doors in the complex on the far side of the underground lake, and entered, Grunk in the lead. We passed through several empty rooms, until a trap went off -- poisoned spikes jutting out of the floor and ceiling, striking all of us. The poison affected Harper, Flair, and Grunk, sapping their strength (Grunk was particularly hard-hit by it). Khalad cast a Lesser Restoration on Grunk, which restored a bit of his strength. We decided to let *Harper* search for traps from that point forward. We passed through several more rooms, and Harper eventually found several locked doors; at one of which, she heard pacing. We also found an unlocked door, and opened it -- it was a mess hall, inhabited by 6 hillfolk, who seemed to be expecting us. In the ensuing fight, both Harper and Cam were knocked unconscious, before we were able to drop the hillfolk. Flair rushed to heal Harper as soon as it was safe to do so. We found six potions of Cure Moderate Wounds on the hillfolk, and immediately drank three of them.
As we were healing up, one of the locked doors (the one where Harper had heard pacing) opened briefly...an Alleybasher glanced at us, then closed the door and locked it behind him. We went to the door, and Harper unlocked it. We opened it to find 4 Alleybashers, plus Triel (the redheaded Hextorite). As the door opened, Triel cast Hold Person on Grunk. We moved in to fight them (all except for Grunk, who was unable to shake off the effects of the Hold Person spell). Khalad and Harper made short work of Triel, while Cam (fortified by a Heroism spell, courtesy of Flair) took care of most of the Alleybashers. We found a number of items on Triel, including 3 of the missing Control Water wands (though we burned a charge on one of those wands, as Flair used it to determine the nature of the wands). Triel also had a key to the other locked room, which turned out to be an armory (and also contained some good wine). We moved on, continuing to explore a number of empty rooms, including another trapped room (though the trap was non-functional), and an opening to the cauldron's lava tubes. Eventually, we found another inhabited room (this one containing 4 hillfolk), which we quickly dispatched.
We were in the hideout of the Ebon Triad, in lava tubes underneath Cauldron's caldera. After several tough fights, we discussed heading back to Cauldron to heal up, and drop off the wands of Control Water which we'd found on Triel. However, we decided that, in doing so, we might provide the remaning Triad members an opportunity to escape (with the other wands), so we decided to stay, and continue exploring. We headed down a lava tube, which opened into a chamber with several exits. Harper began scouting around, and triggered a Glyph of Warding which she hadn't seen -- fortunately, she evaded the explosion, and was unhurt by it.
The chamber was otherwise unoccupied, and had two exits. As we headed towards the exits, Harper once more in the lead, she accidentally triggered *another* Glyph of Warding (but, again, took no damage). The right-hand passage led to a smelly room, containing the rotting carcass of a giant spider. The left-hand passage led to a chamber containing glittery reddish-black crystals, and a big black obelisk. Khalad cast Detect Magic, and looked at the obelisk. He didn't detect any magical aura, but, he did suddenly notice that there were two undead dwarves in the room (they turned out to be Spawn of Kyuss). An aura of fear emanated from the Spawn, and it affected Grunk, who fled the room in a panic. Cam pursued the half-orc, while Khalad used a Greater Turning to destroy the Spawn.
Harper then looked into the right-hand room, and saw two ogre zombies. Khalad turned the zombies, which shambled away, deeper into the tunnels. Meanwhile, Cam finally caught up to Grunk when he encountered a closed door, and grappled him (the fact that Grunk was still weakened from the poison helped Cam hang onto him) until the fear effect ended. Harper and Flair shot at the fleeing zombies. As the zombies entered the next room, they passed a skeletal dinosaur (tyrannosaurus), which was unimpressed by Khalad's powers over the undead, and came after Flair and Harper. It bit Flair and Harper, seriously injuring both of them, before Cam and Grunk could make it back. Grunk cast Haste on the party, which helped Khalad and Cam to finally destroy the skeleton. Cam and Grunk pursued the ogre zombies while the Haste was still active. They ran into a rubble-filled chamber, which contained eight human zombies. The zombies slowly moved to attack, giving Grunk time to cast Grease in front of them, which slowed some of them down. We were able to mow down the zombies, with Flair healing us when needed. At that point, the ogre zombies returned. They proved to be considerably tougher than the human zombies, and Flair stayed busy keeping Cam from succumbing to his wounds, but we eventually dispatched them.
We returned to the room containing the obelisk. Harper found a locked chest. As she opened it, she accidentally set off a trap, but the poison of the trap didn't affect her. We discovered that the chest contained the cult's treasury. We then checked out the final room in this wing of the complex. It contained a lab, and evidence of a large explosion having occurred there in the past. It also contained a muttering creature, which appeared to be an undead gnoll cleric of Erythnul, complete with a spiked chain wired into its body. The gnoll (which Khalad identified as a huecuva) cast Cause Fear on Cam, who appeared ready to bolt from the room. Harper grabbed at Cam's ankles to try to stop him, but missed. The huecuva cast Hold Person on Grunk, though the spell only affected him for a few seconds. Khalad cast Remove Fear on Cam, keeping him from fleeing, before melee ensued.
The huecuva hit Grunk with a "blight" attack, inflicting a disease on him, then focused its attacks on Khalad, and very nearly killed him. Grunk aided Cam on his attacks, which was enough to allow Cam to land several solid blows on the huecuva, destroying it. We were able to piece together that the huecuva was once known as Tarkalar, the head of the Erythnul part of the Ebon Triad. We figured that we had likely wiped out the Hextor and Erythnul factions of the Triad, leaving the Vecna faction. In looking at our maps, we realized that the first two factions' areas in the complex were interconnected, but that there didn't seem to be any connections to the Vecnan area, save for the "conference room" in the very front of the complex. Exhausted, we decided to camp in the remote cave where the T-Rex skeleton had been located, hoping that the Vecnans would not realize that the other two factions had been destroyed.
We camped overnight in the caves where the dinosaur skeleton had been hidden (it being not quite as nasty as some of the other areas, and well-protected). After we awakened, and Khalad prepared his spells, he cast Lesser Restoration on Grunk (since Grunk, Harper, and Flair were still suffering damage to their Strength from the poison); the spell restored some, but not all, of Grunk's Strength. We decided to go through the double doors out of the "conference room". Those doors opened onto a long, wide corridor, with another set of double doors visible at the far end. Harper noticed that there was a large pit trap on the other side of the doors ... with Flair singing an inspirational song, Harper was able to disarm the pit.
We then proceeded into the hallway, with Harper checking for traps as we went. When we were halfway down the hall, archers opened fire at us, from arrow slits on either side of the corridor. Cam ran forward, trying to get to the far door, and barely avoided falling in a second pit trap, which opened up in front of the far door. The rest of the group moved forward to the pit, and Grunk cast Stinking Cloud behind us -- the spell gave us concealment, and also sickened four of the six hidden archers. Cam pulled the "dropped" floor up, and Harper disarmed this second pit trap. Khalad began casting a Summon Monster spell, as we opened the doors. The corridor opened into a very large, oddly-shaped room (bordered by several alcoves), which seemed to be some kind of workshop. The workshop had no obvious exits, nor any apparent occupants (though it was dark). Khalad finished his spell, summoning two celestial badgers behind one of the walls, and set them to plague the archers, as we moved into the workshop, and began to explore it. Flair lit some of the room with a pair of Dancing Lights spells, as Cam struck a sunrod for more light. Once everyone was in the room, Cam closed the doors behind us.
Khalad found some sort of arcane equipment on a workbench, but neither he nor Flair could identify it. Grunk moved to the far end of the room, where he ran into a lurking monster (a mud slaad). Grunk cast Fireburst on the slaad, then flew up to the relative safety of the rafters. Cam closed on the slaad (which appared to be quickly regenerating from its wounds), as Khalad hit the slaad with a Searing Light. At that point, a hidden door opened into the workshop, and three of the archers (Alleybashers) entered the room, shooting at Khalad as they did so. Meanwhile, the slaad closed the distance on Cam, and let loose with a sonic screech, which did not affect us. Flair began a countersong, expecting another sonic attack. Cam and Harper combined to kill the slaad, as two more Alleybashers arrived (apparently, the final one was occupied with celestial badgers). Khalad was the focus of the archers, as a second slaad materialized. It, too, attempted a sonic screech, but Flair's countersong neutralized it. As Cam engaged the second slaad, and Khalad and Grunk worked on the archers, some sort of a Fear spell went off, affecting Harper, who fled the room. As she did so, she nearly ran into the final Alleybasher, who had finally gotten free from the badgers, but ran past him, into the hallway, then onto the beach. Both Flair and that last Alleybasher pursued Harper, as Grunk, Khalad, and Cam finished the slaad and the rest of the archers. As Flair gave chase, she was also attacked by some sort of tiny, invisible creature, which bit her. Grunk, Khalad, and Cam pursued Harper, as well, while the final Alleybasher disappeared through another door (headed for the "Hextorite" portion of the complex). Flair and Grunk pursued Harper onto the beach, while Cam and Khalad found themselves trapped in the hallway, between the once-again-active pit traps.
Flair grabbed Harper, preventing her from running any further before the Fear wore off. Grunk decided to join in the grapple, much to the ladies' annoyance. Once she was free from the Fear, Harper disabled the pit traps again, and we returned to the workshop to investigate more thoroughly. Our spellcasters got the impression that the room had been used to create something, using spells from the conjuration, abjuration, and necromancy schools. We found some loot (including a lute) wrapped up in a ragged cloak, but we also discovered that the first slaad's body had gone missing (the second slaad had apparently been summoned, and so, it had disappeared when Grunk and Cam had killed it). We checked the hidden door which the Alleybashers had used, and discovered that it led to a meandering hallway.
We went back to the last unopened door in the complex. Harper unlocked it, and we found an armory, full of mundane weapons and armor. We started searching for secret doors, but did not find any. Then, on Grunk's insistence, we went back to the "spider room", and followed him into the tunnel. Eventually, the tunnel branched: one branc was humid, filled with fungus and webs. Grunk kept moving into the room, and eventually got stuck in the webs. Cam followed him in, chopping away at the webs as he did so. Grunk got stuck again, and then more webs were fired at Grunk and Cam, by a number of big spiders, who began to move towards Grunk and Cam. Meanwhile, an even-larger spider loomed out of the webs, threatening Flair, and the rest of the rear of the party. Grunk and Cam (with some help from Khalad and his Cloud of Knives) took out the small spiders, then everyone teamed up to kill the big spider. We searched the rest of that room, and finally found a ball of webbing, which contained some treasure.
We headed down the other branch, which contained more spiderwebs, but seemed more "decayed". We began to search again, and, at the far end, we found a big cavern. As we advanced, two ettercaps attacked us from the webs, but we quickly dispatched them. As we moved into the large cavern, Grunk suddenly collapsed (he was the target of a Phantasmal Killer spell). In the cavern, we saw a large spider-like thing, but it had 10 legs, and human-like eyes, and was covered with spines. As we began to attack it, the quasit appeared, attacking Flair. We noticed the quasit was carrying a Control Water wand, as it flew off. A moment later, a halfling wizard became visible, casting Scorching Ray at Harper, and another ettercap entered the fight, as well. Cam cut up the spider-like monster, then Harper and Khalad killed the ettercap. The wizard hit us with a Lightning Bolt, but we were able to kill him soon thereafter. We searched his lair, and found a lot of treasure, including another Control Water wand.
We pursued the quasit. Eventually, we ran into the two surviving Alleybashers, up on a balcony. We spoke to them for a bit, but then Grunk flew up to their balcony and began attacking them, killing one immediately with a Fireburst. Harper moved into the room, and fell into a pit trap, filled with water, which was covered by an illusory floor. We pulled Harper out of the pit, just as an ooze in the water began to attack her. We eventually killed both the ooze and the other Alleybasher, and found another Control Water wand in the pit. We headed to the beach, where Cam found himself joining the parade of dominated party members. We saw the quasit flying over the lake. Flair used Fascinate to immobilize the quasit, then Harper and Khalad shot it with crossbows, killing it. Grunk flew out and grabbed the wand, then began to swim back to the beach, pursued by the kopru, which commanded Harper to restrain Flair, and Cam to restrain Khalad. Grunk made it to the beach, but the kopru then commanded him to hit the rest of the party with his strongest spell. Before he could do so, Khalad broke Cam's grapple, and cast Resurgence on Grunk, allowing him to make another save against the domination, which he made. Finally, Khalad casts Protection from Evil on Cam, which suppressed the domination for long enough to get away from the kopru city (Harper was continuing to restrain Flair, but Flair wasn't complaining).
We returned to Cauldron, and delivered the wands to Jenya. It had been pouring while we were gone, and everyone was very nervous. The clerics of the various churches (except for those of Wee Jas) worked together, using the wands to hold back the flood waters.
We sold various magic items to Skye, and most of us worked with Skye to order or upgrade magic items. Grunk began looking for a house to buy. Cam was happily reunited with Shensen, and presented her with some beautiful jewelry. We were hailed as heroes by the city, and each of us found a bag containing 100gp at our doorsteps, with a note, "Thank you and keep up the good work -- The Last Laugh Thieves' Guild". We suspected this was due to us largely destroying the Alleybashers. Flair negotiated a possible purchase of the Lucky Monkey Roadhouse, while working on her contract piece.
Tyro Amberhelm, a dwarven merchant, and employer of Shensen, invited us to a dinner meeting, along with Fario, Fellian, and Shensen. At this meeting, Tyro showed us that he used a hat of disguise, and that he was actually a half-elf wizards named Meerthan Eliothorne. Meerthan and the others are "Striders of Fharlanghn", a loose-knit organization of individuals who try to maintain the balance, and prevent evil from spreading. They'd been tracking the workings of a group called the Cagewrights, who are aligned with extraplanar evils. He believed that we'd crossed paths with elements of the Cagewrights in our adventures, and proposed that we and the Striders could help one another. Meerthan also indicated that all of the Striders shared a telepathic bond. He gave us a pair of Boots of Striding and Springing (which it was decided to let Cam use), then asked each of us about our backgrounds.
The next day, as we moved around town, we heard a rumor that the Storm Blades had gotten rid of a nest of kobolds under the city, and that they would be named Champions of Cauldron for what they'd accomplished. As we walked through town, we felt a rumbling, and a nearby building collapsed, with a big bipedal creature (an umber hulk) rushing out of it, leaving bystanders near it acting in a confused manner. Grunk slowed the hulk down with a Stinking Cloud, and we were able to kill the hulk before it could destroy another building. The city guard, including Cam's father, arrived, along with members of a new agency called the MTA (Magical Threats Agency). We learned that the collapsed building was a warehouse belonging to Maavu -- the merchant who had commissioned the song from Flair. In the wreckage, Flair found a summoning circle. The employees told us that Maavu is out of town, and we learned that the warehouse contained mundane, but expensive, items (silk, fine clothing, wine).
Cam's father invited us to join him at the watch house for a drink. During that time, the rest of the CSO worked hard to embarrass Cam in front of his father, though the most awkward moment was when Cam's father asked when Cam was going to bring Shensen to meet his family. Cam's father told us that there were no reports of similar incident to the umber hulk attack elsewhere, but we heard rumors that Maavu was seen fleeing the city on a black horse (with clouds for hooves) at dawn. Flair talked Cam's dad into letting us investigate Maavu's office, to which he agreed, as long as he came along. At the office, we read through his books, and found nothing unusual -- the business seems to be doing well. After we parted ways with Cam's dad, we decided to break into Maavu's house. On the way there, a gorgeous woman stopped us, introducing herself as Celeste. She invited us to dinner the following evening at the Cusp of Sunrise (an exclusive association of nobles). Harper and Gurnk broke into Maavu's house. Despite Grunk falling down the stairs and attracting attention, they found nothing suspicious in Maavu's home office, and departed.