Krys Runs: The Emerald Spire

1st of Arodus -> 2cd of Arodus (Session 35) The Magma Vault -> Fort Inevitable

With the un-petrified people in tow, the party made the long trek back up the secret tunnel… only to find tracks in the tunnel of, presumably, serpentfolk since the tracks stretched from the tunnel leading into the Darklands all the way to the Spire. Sure enough, the party arrived to find two lone crates and a note attached to one of them. Though no one spoke Aklo, Gen’reiel the explorer tried his hand at translating it. Apparently a group of wayward clerics of Ydersius had found their way to the spire and were intent on restoring the shrine, with the crates being basic supplies for that task. Not wanting the serpentfolk to inhabit the level again and cause trouble, the party returned to the tunnel leading to the Darklands to seal it. Remnus came upon a stroke of genius and sought out a small curve in the passage which he stone-shapped to trail slightly off of the regular path, making sure that if someone tries to stoneshape their way through the tunnel, they would simply be burrowing into solid rock and not the actual tunnel. Denizens of the Darklands will have quite the difficult time just walking into the Spire now.

Deciding they want to keep the secret passage on level 3 a secret, the party teleported the wayward adventurers to level 1… where they found some rotting rabbit carcasses lying on the old table. Suspicious, the party sent the undead to explore the ruins again. Zombtaur barely had to open one door before it found a pack of 4 goblins resting in the barracks. Two mighty swings of its hammer felled two goblins in an instant and the rest fled as fast as they could out the back entrance. It may be a while before goblins try to reclaim these ruins again.

Though traveling through the spire glen was risky, the party managed to pass through without incident with the judicious application of Detect Magic and they soon found themselves at the familiar gates of Fort Inevitable. The gate captain, Kiera Wirt, while quite used to the party bringing back all manner of weirdness from the spire, was finally shocked enough by the party’s load to halt them. The undead dragons were… odd, the other adventurers needed to be registered, but it was the half dozen bodies of hellknights that had her question them the most. When they explained they were the corpses of the hellknights from the failed expedition, Kiera was more than a little shocked. She quickly ran off to inform the Lady Commander and the party was able to collect payment from Abernard before the hellknights requested their presence at an emergency meeting.

The recovery of Chaid DiViri’s corpse was apparently a bit more important than the party realized. The hellknights wanted to be sure of her identity and the party was asked what happened and how the found the hellknights. The party was forthright, as always, and the presence of Aoz (Chaid’s creepy, creepy familiar) was all but confirmation. Dandru was especially insistent that they contact the Lictor of the order of the Nail at once but the Lady Commander tugged on his metaphorical leash, as usual and ordered that they get full confirmation before contacting him and Oritian Hast was sent to use his magic to confirm it, though the Lady Commander’s castellan was a bit annoyed at having to depend on Oritain.

Full of questions, the party inquired more on these people and orders. It was explained that Chaid DiViri was the granddaughter of Lictor Severs DiViri: leader of one of the seven major hellknight orders, the Order of the Nail. This was significant since, of the 65 hellknights stationed here at the fort, a full 20 of them are directly from the Order of the Nail, which means they report directly to the lictor who’s grandaughter the party just found. It was almost pointed out that 40 of the hellknights in the fort are from the Order of the Pike, an order that had been disbanded in ages past but had only just recently (35 years ago) regained official status as a minor order, meaning it’s likely the order would have to defer to the judgement of the lictor should he have commands. In fact, the only hellknights NOT directly beholden to Severs Diviri are Oritian and his four signifers of the Order of the Gate.

This was not a figure to be taken lightly.

With the ability to cast Detect Thoughts, Oritian Hast was able to read Aoz’s thoughts and was able to confirm that it was, indeed Chaid’s body and a Sending spell was issued to the Lictor almost immediately. The party inquired with the Lady Commander and she said that a visit from the Lictor is very, very likely. Though he’ll probably take a bit over a month to reach town, he’ll likely come and resurrect his missing granddaughter. A visit from the Lictor is no joke and the fort will likely be EVEN MORE strict than usual as things are tidied up for the visit. Not letting any of this deter him though, Chaaz asked of the Lady Commander might consider training him. She answered by grabbing him and flipping him to the ground, though Chaaz made a truly impressive counter maneuver to drag her down with him. Amused, the agreed to train him with the warning that he would regret it.

The next day was finally a day the party could rest… or they would have rested if they didn’t immediately get to work on magic item creation. Chaaz couldn’t help, however, as he was up at dawn lifting extremely heavy objects and carrying them around the fort along side the Lady Commander, allowed only a lunch break to catch his breath. The party assumed naturally that he would be deterred from continuing training but Chaaz was more resilient than was probably wise. In any case, come evening Remnus and the party met with Jherao and informed him that they could use Plane Shift to send him home. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Jherao heaped praise on Remnus’ magnanimity and offered him a final chance at a reward. He would return to his father Ragathiel and advocate for a present of any item within reason. And we left the party pondering just how much they want to risk stretching divine generosity.

The next month will certainly be interesting.

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31st of Erastus -> 1st Arodus (4714) (Session 34) The Magma Vault

With most of the party having been lit on fire at least once today and having spent a fair bit of their energy fighting off the DRAGONS, the party decided they were going to rest. Expending the last reserves of his energy, Remnus stone shaped an arched stone bridge across the magma and the party returned to the spire to port back to Splinterden, intent on exploring the level when they felt refreshed.

Resting in splinterden and having nothing at all bad happen to them during the night, the party returned to the magma vault to find that more of the lava lurkers had made their way into the pools. Refreshed and brimming with new strength, the party crushed the lurkers without mercy, suffering only a few punches along the way and discovering that they can petrify these creatures if they douse them in water. Enlightened and bruised, the party went on to find what Quesh had scouted the day before, the strange hole in the wall, sealed by a wall of crystal with boiling hot water on the other side. Stone shape pulled its weight yet again by letting the party harmlessly drain away the boiling water.

Unfortunately, it also let the magma ooze de-petrify.

Invidia got to quickly discover the joy of using slashing weapons on oozes when her first chop cut the ooze into two separate… and equally violent oozes. Fortunate indeed that the party was brimming with frost magic today and the oozes were quickly dispatched with blasts of cold that Invidia wasn’t at all stuck in. >.>

Regardless of Avarita trying to incidentally murder her sister, FAR more important things were going on. Namely: Loot. The dragons had apparently amassed a great wealth of coin and items in this small cove, as dragons are want to do. Though there were magic items galore, two things in particular stood out….

One was a steel case etched with skulls that Quesh determined was giving off an overwhelming aura of every single school of magic in existence. Rightfully intrigued, Avarita tried to open it but found that the lock was more complex than anything she’d ever seen with hidden mechanical complexities and bizarre interlocking parts that even a master lockpick would be fooled by. They would either need some extraordinary means to open it or, gods willing, a key, lets the risk damaging what’s inside.

Of slightly less ominous note was a small Ioun Wyrd who was playing dead in the dragon’s treasure horde. The tiny construct seemed EXTREMELY happy to find someone who wasn’t breathing fire and taking a nap on him and took an even closer liking to Chaaz, happily perching on the magus’ shoulder while the party journeyed through the spire.

Though intent on heading back to town, Remnus suggested a small bit of mercy and wanted to take another trip to Level 13 where they’d seen some petrified people. With his clerical powers growing, he was able to break the petrification on the small group of adventurers who were frozen in front of the basilisk cage. As it turned out, three of them were from a small party of adventurers who decided they were going to explore the spire… 20 years ago. Shocked by not only being freed but also the long, long passage of time, the group was very grateful (in their own ways) and the cleric Eldrathell was happy to offer the party a wand of cure light wounds as a small payment. The Wizard Archibald too was happy to offer some spellcasting services, though even a magical knock spell couldn’t break the seal on the skull-etched box. The last person though, a half elf explorer, was not part of the group and apparently was tasked with exploring the spire right after the failed expedition 30 years ago…

The party will have a lot to learn when they return to town.

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31st of Erastus (Session 33) The Magma Vault

Having kept watch over the magma pool for an excessively long time, Avarita managed to spy what appeared to be some sort of magma elemental churning in the molten depths of the pool. Quesh was happy to inform her it was a lava lurker when the extremely hard-to-see creature was pointed out. She informed Avarita that the creature was dim-witted but extremely territorial and the party likely hadn’t infringed on its boundaries yet. Which was a great time for Remnus to stone shape a wall away and have zombtaur infringe on its boundaries. With the creature now chucking balls of magma at the zombie, Invidia and Chaaz were forced to cut short their attempts to free the Kolyarut in order to help fight them off.

Quesh found that a well-placed sleet storm not only forced the lurker into an unfavorable position but the excessive amount of snow covering the creature had caused its joints to stiffen and its movements to be staggered. Things were going rather well until Zombtaur moved up the natural staircase to stumble upon the territory of yet two more of these elementals. Risking being overwhelmed, the party quickly split to deal with the attack on two fronts. Invidia was left mostly alone to finish off the staggered lurker which she did almost effortlessly. However, as she prepped to leap her hasted self across the magma pool, she was endangered by a slick coating of grease on the stone from out of nowhere. Though the graceful Invidia didn’t trip, it was… unnerving to say the least and she was forced to take an alternate route.

In the mean time, the party quickly found their ranged capabilities to be… a bit limited compared to the lurker’s ability to chuck giant balls of magma from the middle of a magma pool at them, although the one that got in Chaaz’s range found that getting into sword range was a mistake he wasn’t going to live to repeat. Even with one of them down retreating out of line of sight was discussed among the party… and then a magma dragon showed up. Popping out from his hiding spot in the lava, the creature belched most of them with a giant, fiery breath which quickly hastened the “retreat” plan.

Pulling back to the caves, the party made ready for the dragon and the other lurker… and boy were they ever ready. The dragon landed to viciously bite at Chaaz and he quickly found himself cut to ribbons. Victory seemed well in hand until the SECOND magma dragon showed up and nearly toasted poor Quesh to death along with the rest of the party. It too, however, made the mistake of landing and was dispatched with lightning fast efficiency with Avarita’s haste buff still running on the party. The last lurker, too dim-witted to wait them out, approached when the party got out of line of sight and was dispatched with relative ease.

It was a long, painful fight for everyone, but the party succeeded in the end and they went to free the Kolyarut. Immediately, the mechanical man started to cast Detect Lies and engaged them in illuminating, if terse, conversation. In addition to the war against the forces of chaos on level 15, there was a deeper level the inevitables had decided was going to be off-limits to everyone due to “great potential for planar instability”.

Ominous.

Unwilling to give up the sigil for level 15 and risk compromising the security of the inevitables on the lower level, the Kolyarut was verging on winning the “Most Ungrateful NPC of the Year” award until he offered some of his limited spellcasting ability in exchange for help. The party hemmed and hawed a bit, but ultimately decided on charity, or at the very least wanting powerful planar beings to owe them favor/see them in a charitable light. They offered the Kolyarut easy access to the spire which it gladly took. Though it knew nothing of thanks, it did assure them their assistance would be reported in full.
So they have that going for them at least.

Deciding that the level was reaching that “fully explored” point, the party decided to send Quesh, magically invisible, flying across the magma pool to explore the last cavern. Though empty of threats, she did find a peculiar crystal wall that was holding back a large pool of boiling water. She knew that the crystal wall wasn’t ACTUALLY crystal but even her knowledge dungeons and the depths couldn’t tell her that the crystal wall wasn’t anything more than “very odd and probably not actually crystal”. She also spied a few glittering golden coins in the bottom of the boiling pool and a cavern just beyond the rim of the pool. With vast wealth tantalizingly close but with no spells to reach it with, the party decided to retreat and take a rest and gather up the hellknight corpses.

With Chaid Diviri in tow and glittering treasure just barely beyond their grasp, the party has a lot to do next week.

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31st of Erastus (Session 32) The Magma Vault

Invidia was… not pleased to find the armor empty and the party proceeded to ask the tiny Augur Kyton what on earth happened. Unable to speak, the creature had to resort to nods, shakes and writing in blood to communicate. Unfortunately, it could only get out “HELP MY MASTER” before they noticed the gasses in the magma chamber start to coalesce and take form into strange acidic mist creatures. Poisonous and acid-belching, the caustic creatures gave Invidia a painful coughing fit and melted a bit of zombtaur, but they were slain before they could kill anyone or break the thin bridge they were standing on.

With the creatures dispatched, the party could talk to Aoz. Through struggles, he explained that it wanted the party to take the body of Chaid up to the hellknights for them to raise. Not seeing any reason not to, they dragged Chaid’s body out of the obsidian-encrusted tomb the rock had made around her and readied it to be brought back to Fort Inevitable.. once they were done exploring the level of course. As a bonus, Chaid had a Wand of Shield clutched in her hand which was freed when her body was removed from the wall.

When asked about the strange, magical blob of black on the floor, Aoz only explained that it was blood of a sort and couldn’t be much more specific. When asked why the armor was empty, Aoz could only say that the occupant left by some kind of magical means that wasn’t teleportation. Perplexing… and unhelpful.

Slightly more helpful though, Aoz was able to explain the presence of the magical aura back in the hellknight encampment. With an impressive memory it relayed that the hellknights had a Stone of Alarm that they kept to warn them of intruders approaching and even gave them the command word to deactivate it. The stone was valuable in itself, but the few goods that weren’t worn away through time could prove to sell for a bit.

Feeling they were learning all they could and not super eager to watch it write in blood anymore, the party moved on with Avarita scouting ahead… for about five seconds before a strange, bladed magma ooze stabbed at her with a giant blade, able to sense her even without sight. The party fell back to fight the ooze but were a bit surprised when a gray render burst through the wall instead. The ravenous beast was felled quickly and the party moved into the next room to find the shard slag lazily settling back on its platform, not bothering to give chase. Not happy to let sleeping oozes lie though, the party threw frost magic and blade at the creature. Though the ooze was a bit dangerous for weapons to get stuck in it, the ooze was quickly felled and the party was able to relax again.

They didn’t have to go far before they spotted the emerald spire in the middle of a large lake of magma and, disturbingly, a Xorn who was licking the spire with what could only be described as drunken, lusty passion. Quesh helpfully explained those creatures are enamored by gemstones… and apparently the spire fits the bill quite nicely. While Avarita observed the caldera, Ividia busied herself with exploring a small alcove in the rock where she found a Kolyarut Inevitable half buried in the igneous rock. It explained it was on its way to assist in a war against the proteans down on level 15 and sought to use the spire to teleport downward. Though it clearly could not escape, a creature like it would never bring itself to plead for assistance and it was left to calmly explain its purpose and duty to the inquisitive party. Disinterested in the conversation, Remnus decided to walk around and find a good place to stone shape the cavern walls while Avarita had a closer look at the lava pool.

Will they find a way across the lava? Will they assist this stuck inevitable? We’ll find out next time.

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20th of Erastus -> 31st of Erastus (Session 31) The Spire Axis -> The Magma Vault

After talking with the nephilim Jherao, the party decided that the bastard son of Ragathiel wasn’t going to flip out and hurt them so they mercifully let him out of his cage. Quite grateful to the party for freeing him and for closing at least a few of his many, many wounds, Jherao was happy to offer his assistance in battle to the party. Of course with the party being massively bad-ass, they didn’t really feel they needed his help and let him stay back as they continued to explore the level.

The Mistress of Thorn’s small cache of treasure was quickly snatched up and the party found themselves two Spire Transport Tokens richer. In addition, they snatched up her precious Western Star Ioun Stone, which the party found absolutely identical to the one they found in Klarkosh’s stash and not just “the same magic properties” sort of identical, but each was carved to match so perfectly that even a jewelcrafter would have a hard time telling them apart.

With that curiosity aside, the party pulled open the final door and found the rampaging flesh golem the Mistress had talked about and dispatched it almost effortlessly with its tough construction unable to stand up to their adamantine blades. With it dead, they finished up looting the hallway, amused by the threatening warning the devil had left for anyone who touched her treasure, and left the spire for the moment to return to Fort Inevitable to help Jherao heal and to be ready for freakin’ swarms. Eleven days was spent in the Fort in quiet, non-lethal work and while Jherao was willing to assist them in entering the spire, the party declined, feeling his giant bulk would have trouble navigating the typically small corridors of the spire.

On the way to the spire, the party heard some distant screams and found a woodcutter being accosted by a pair of giant stag beetles. Of course, the party dispatched them nigh-effortlessly and continued on to the spire. As was becoming typical at this point, they returned to the last level with the tokens and descended from floor nine. Oddly enough,the caverns meandered a shockingly long way and the party was forced to endure a two mile hike down natural caverns until they reached a section of the caves that was turning downright hot. Hot enough for Remnus to bless the party with protection from the harsh elements.

No sooner did they enter the caverns however, then they found the aged remains of four hellknights all covered in crystal remains and a leather bound journal. The journal revealed that Signifer Chaid DiViri and his expedition pushed into this level… and by the look of the bodies, it looks like the expedition ended poorly. As they read the journal a tiny augur kyton floated by and slew a tiny chrysmal (a beast-like earth elemental) and immediately retreated deeper into the caverns as the party made moves to approach. While odd, Avarita insisted on scouting ahead again. She found another cavern with foul fumes and a separate cavern with the bodies of more hellknights… one who had her family crest hanging off his armor. She quickly relayed that news to Invidia who took off towards the cavern in a big hurry, ignoring the sulfuric fumes and heat. With out even a pause to look at the augur kyton who had written “Help” on the wall, Invidia started to search the set of armor with her family crest… only to have the helmet fall off to reveal the suit to be empty…

What strange mystery has the party stumbled onto? Find out next time.

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20th of Erastus (Session 30) The Spire Axis

After being briefly interrupted by a sudden slam on the door which was explained as some kind of wild, violent flesh golem, the party decided that they were FOR SOME REASON, reluctant to make a deal with a devil and left the Mistress of Thorns without trading with her. Though told not to invade her chambers or steal her tribute, the party was allowed to move on. And move on they did.

With Avarita invisibly scouting the way, the party found a statue to Abraxas, the demon lord, which had fallen into a heavy state of disrepair. Peculiar, to be sure, but ultimately just a distraction. More pressing were a band of morlocks living next to a couple of pits of food and filth. Able to smell Avarita, the morlock followed her scent… right into the waiting blades of the party. Chaaz and Invidia made very short work of the creatures and they soon confronted the rest of the morlocks. Oddly enough, four of them seemed to be rather young morlocks and hid on the ceiling as soon as the party entered the room and slew the rest that were willing to fight them. The smaller morlocks hissed and clawed through the air at them but were clearly too afraid to engage the party directly. But whether it was the stench or the fact that morlocks are evil, Chaaz decided to fire an arrow at them, prompting the little buggers to launch a vigorous but doomed offensive.

With the band of morlocks deader than disco, Avarita pressed on to find two sleeping, drunken morlocks and a wooden lever that was connected to a non-obvious trap. In a hilarious bit of tomfoolery, the invisible sorceress taunted the morlock who woke, drunkenly ambled forward and was instantly slain by the trap. The remaining morlock, freaked out of his mind, shouted at shadows and swung at the air until Chaaz ended its life with a few quick strikes. Little left was left to explore, apart from Avarita happening upon a small hidden cache of alcohol and medicine, both of which could come in handy.

After doubling back, the Avarita was quick to spot a hidden tunnel buried beneath a pile of rubble. A small check revealed the sounds of morlocks at the end of the tunnel and the party clamored into the tunnel and sent the undead in first to fight. Lucky they did, because as soon as one of them approached the rock barricade, an enraged, terrifyingly buff looking morlock leaped from its hiding spot and caved a fairly sizable chunk out of it with its greatclub. The fight, as it tends to be with barbarians, was quick and brutal. The morlock was felled, though not before landing some powerful blows on the party. With its rage being the only thing sustaining it through otherwise fatal injuries, the morlock dropped dead as soon as it was unable to fight.

With what HAD to be the last of the morlocks slain, the party went through the door they were barricading against to find yet another devious pit trap. Avarita easily jammed it shut and flung open the final door… only to meet the Mistress of Thorns face to face. Without so much as a “hello”, the devil slashed the flat-footed Avarita across the chest and the sorceress fell to the ground in a heap and her two morlock creepers leaped from the shadows to descend on the party. The morlocks were felled somewhat easily as they threw themselves at the brick wall that is Invidia, but the mistress of thorns proved a rather much tougher customer. Invidia, enraged at seeing her sister fall, incapacitated herself on the mistress’ thorny body and Chaaz found himself inches away from bloody collapse and in the devil’s thorny grasp. Fortunate for him, Remnus managed to get a lucky Sound Burst right in the devil’s ears. The sound loud enough to stun her and make her drop the bleeding magus. Having bought a precious few seconds, Quesh was able to throw what was truly a miracle hex of sleep on the devil. Even though the devil had powerful will, the burst had apparently let her mental defenses down and she passed out into slumber.

Saved from the jaws of death, the party healed up… well nearly everyone and Zombtaur took his massive battleaxe and decapitated the Mistress of Thorns, ending whatever clearly evil schemes she had for this level. Wounds licked, the party decided that hey, now that she’s dead, let’s loot her stuff. They went to her sanctum to find a large nephilim (the child of a demi-god) trapped in what could only be described as a torture cage. Who is this giant of a man and what is he doing here? Will the party continue downwards after such a close brush with death? Find out next week.

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19th of Erastus -> 20th of Erastus (Session 29) The Pleasure Gardens -> The Spire Axis

Realizing the swarm was not full of regular wasps but actually full of terrifying, tough, semi-intelligent hell-wasps, Quesh informed the group that their lack of ability to handle swarms combined with the supernatural might of these infernal insects would spell doom for them.

Then she summoned a sleet storm.

With the cover of snow and a tricky illusion wall from Avarita, the party managed to make a hasty retreat back into the caverns and seal up the wall behind them, preventing the wasps from chasing after them. Deciding they’ll come back to this level when they’re better prepared, the party made the long, long 3 1/2 mile trudge back up the caverns. After such a long, taxing climb, the party wasn’t big on continuing, so they teleported back up to splinterden to take another rest inside the spire behind the locked doors of the den.

When they awoke, refreshed and ready, they teleported back down to level 8 and descended the actual stairs to level 9. Much to Zombtaur’s dismay, the corridors in this level became horribly narrow and the party was forced to squeeze though several small holes. Though the rooms they arrived in were clearly impressively built at one point, most of the level had collapsed in on itself and the hallways were filled with rubble. Worse yet, the entire level was steeped in darkness.. which was a problem when Avarita stumbled on several morlocks hanging from the ceiling waiting to ambush her.

Though they got the drop on the sorceress, the morlocks were pitiful compared to the party and they were swiftly cut down. One cheeky one tried to lead the party into a trap-lined hallway but the trip wires were spotted and the morlock was cut down. As the party explore further, they came upon a pile of rocks with even MORE morlocks hiding in a hole in the rocks. Though they scrambled out to murder the party, they couldn’t match their might and soon the tunnel was clogged with their bodies.

Seeing no other way to progress apart from crawling through tiny morlock tunnels, the party decided to nope on off to fuckthatville and stone shaped a hallway clear, giving them easy access to what would normally be a difficult to reach section of the level. No sooner had they walked down this hallway then they found the emerald spire and a creepily congenial devil calling herself the Mistress of Thorns.

Rather than trying to immediately murder them though, the devil greeted them warmly and explained that the morlocks were her guards and that she was studying strange, ancient magics locked deep in the spire on this particular level. In order to study these magics though, she needed spire transport tokens and offered to trade her precious ioun stone for one and sigils for the lower levels of the spire for others. She explained that the set of stones were specifically carved as a set and that the party should think long and hard before walking away from her deal. She also helpfully explained that the levels below had more to do with the crowned skull the party had been searching for, though she didn’t know specifically what it was about.

The party will have to decide if they’re willing to deal with this devil. NEXT TIME.

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12th of Erastus -> 19th of Erastus (Session 28) Fort Inevitable -> The Pleasure Gardens

Having learned that a phantom set of armor was attacking each of the town’s gates, the party hurried off to handle things at the south gate where they were lacking leadership. While the animated set of armor managed to land a powerful lance blow on one of the hellknights, a hasted, long-armed Chaaz made extremely quick work of the armored spirit, to the point where the party decided to run along the wall and help the fight at the east gate. Though a combination of spells and arrows, the phantom lancer was felled quickly as well and Quesh managed to save the life of a grievously injured hellknight while Ividia went home to sulk about flying enemies being bullshit.

With the town saved, the party received a small payment for their help and they went back to magic item creation, though Chaaz took a small break to commission a few additions to his tower…

Finally, it was time to return to the emerald spire. The trip through the woods was quiet, again and the party bypassed the dangerous glade of planar instability by entering though the splinterden passage. When they returned to level eight, the explored the cavern they had previously left untouched. Several hundred feet deep into the cavern, the party found a message written in Alko and Undercommon stating that a town named Harrowspire was thirty miles down this tunnel. With Quesh realizing this passage could lead straight to the darklands, the party turned back and explored the small off-shoot cave.

Surprisingly, the cave was designed to appear to be caved in just thirty feet below the mouth of the cave entrance… but only from one side. Apparently, the serpentfolk didn’t like anyone coming up from this tunnel. Deciding a bit if spelunking wouldn’t be too hard, the party descended down the tunnel for what must have been miles until they finally came to an opening.

Strangely enough, the opening lead to a smaller cavern filled with strange plants, a ceiling with an illusion of stars on it and an enclosure of transparent crystal… with a basilisk in it. Able to narrowly avoid its gaze, the party ducked out of line of sight and discussed how much they would like to not be turned to stone today. As they talked, they realized that Remnus’ undead minions were immune to the creature’s gaze and Zombtaur just walked up, smashed the crystal and soloed the little piss-ant lizard like a boss.

With the creature beheaded and its severed head turned towards the wall, the party looked closer at the strange cavernous garden. Peculiarly, they noticed to drow corpses slumped on the ground… and one was twitching and swelling like it would pop. Naturally curious, Remnus tried to take control of it to find it wasn’t an undead at all! It was just a corpse. Figuring they may as well smash it, Zombtaur cut the creature into three separate pieces… and a swarm of diminutive wasps burst out of the corpse….

With the party’s just… STELLAR history with swarms, how will they cope? Find out next week.

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12th of Sarenith -> 12th of Erastus (Session 27) The Circle of Vissk-Thar -> Fort Inevitable

The serpentfolk didn’t last very long under the party’s assault. Invidia’s and Chaaz tore through them easily and Quesh’s wasp swarm kept one of them too nauseated to do anything useful (though Avarita very nearly suffered nausea from the sight of it.) With the serpentfolk dispatched, the party went on to find a peculiar room with winding, twisting passageways, all marked with a green serpent mosaic. In the center of the twisting hallways, the found the shattered remains of 4 bones. One could only guess what series of events lead to his destruction, but one thing was for sure: the hallway was magically trapped and was still charging by the time the party had triggered it.

Moving on, the party decided to explore the strange cavernous passage. About 80 feet into the natural cavern, Quesh’s toad spotted a hidden cavern hidden in the stone and moss. It descended somewhat sharply downward and the party couldn’t tell just how far it could go. Not wanting to risk such a deep exploration in such a state, they decided to leave well enough alone for now and returned to the surface to head back to Fort Inevitable.

When they returned, the party set right to work translating the journals on portal research and handing them to the Goldenfire Order, curiing the poison from Avarita’s veins and working on magical items. Abernard Royst, seeing the party’s impressive progress in the dungeon, started to ask them what they felt about the hellknights. It was clear the old wizard was not a fan of the hellknights and was curious if they felt the same. Though Remnus and Chaaz assured him they were not interested in delving into the politics of the town, the old wizard still related the story of the town’s uncomfortable history…

Fort Inevitable apparently used to be called Southwood. Plagued by monsters and bandits even back then, the townsfolk begged a hellknight by the name of Emos Varden and his troupe of knights who were all bound for the worldwound to help the town. To his credit, Emos rid the town of their bandit troubles with ruthless efficiency over the course of a month, but then decided that there needed to be a haven of law and order for crusaders on their way to the worldwound. He turned around and declared the town to be under martial law. With little chance against a fully armored contingent of hellknights and still grateful for his assistance, the town reluctantly fell under his rule. The town flourished under his heavy handed rule but five years ago Emos caught a poison crossbow bolt in the neck while wandering the town and died. Enraged at the loss of her mentor, Emos’ second-in-command, the well-known Audara Drovust, tracked down eleven conspirators over the course of a month (though it probably included anyone loosely associated with them) and hung them without trial in the town square.

A sordid history, if probably one-sided. Chaaz and Remnus took their leave of the old wizard and were left to ponder things as they got back to magic item creation. The party spent a staggering 30 days in town dealing with the various troubles that come with owning businesses before something went awry…. As night fell, strange phantom sets of armor, both horse barding and a set of full plate, started flying around the fort, harrying the defenders on the wall. With who knows how many of these flying sets of armor attacking, the party set out to fight the undead yet again…

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12th of Sarenith (Session 26) The Circle of Vissk-Thar

Luckily for the party, the fireball wasn’t nearly as murder-burny as it could have been. Though the snake heads in the room started spitting acid, the party largely ignored the inaccurate things and were on top of Uzar-Kus in seconds. Though the serpentine sorcerer slung several scary spells, swift scimitar slices soon slew the high priest. Though the party was singed and Invidia was poisoned yet again, the group felt they’d gotten through the fight without too much trouble. Soon, they went to the business of disarming the traps and trying to figure out how to remove the GIANT emerald from the statue of Ydersius. Though elaborate plans were made to cut the gem free, the presence of empty fang slots on the statue suggested that they might be better served looking for the second stone fang and maybe unlock it properly.

Goal in mind, the party continued and unlocked a door behind which they found a curiously ornate room with more statues of Ydersius and a natural cavern that extended deeper into the earth.

Figuring the cavern would take a bit more time to search, they moved on to open another door, this time revealing a nest of eggs and a giant emperor cobra. Riled and vicious, the cobra lunged at the first thing it could find, which happened to be Avarita. Though the cobra was slain almost immediately, the party was soon treated to a harsh lesson in respect for poisonous snakes.. Were it not for Remnus’ medical knowledge and an antitoxin the party had long ago prepared, Avarita might have flat out died from the virulent toxin of the infernal-touched snake. Fortunately, the toxin was halted before it could kill her and magical restoration saw her getting back up to… at least semi-ok shape.

Though in possession of a healthier fear of snakes, the party pressed onward into the level to find a prisoner pen that held six dire rats and what looked like the wizard Tiawask! After letting their zombie minotaur squash each and every rat in the room, the party went about talking to the wizard. Though in possession of a convincing disguise, clever questioning revealed that it was actually yet another serpentfolk and not the wizard they were hoping to find.

The unmasked serpentfolk revealed himself as Ziszkaa, the former high-priest of Ydersius for this level until Uzar-Kus usurped power from the old cleric. He explained that Uzar had lead the denizens of his level to attack floor 7 and stop the worshipers of Kroa’koth, but the assault was arrogant and premature and many of his clutch were killed or captured. Not having a portal to the Abyss for reinforcements, the circle of serpentfolk could ill-afford another assault, so the war came to a standstill.

Taking what I would generously call a “Prudent but Evil” approach, the party decided a chaotic evil cleric of a chaotic evil god was too dangerous to let live, even when bound in a gaol and with all but a paltry fraction of his forces dead. Ziszkaa was killed swiftly, though he put up a brief struggle and the party continued on to fully close this chapter of serpentfolk history. Of course, as soon as they left the goal, the statue animated and tried to punch Inivida. She took umbrage to that and broke it almost immediately.

Moving on, the party found themselves in front of a snake pit with another serpentfolk. Though there was a clever trap designed to shove people into the pit, Invidia was simply too spry for it and she and Chaaz slew the serpentfolk almost instantly. Zombtaur, again, used his staggeringly large and long weapon to squash the helpless snakes in the pit…

When we meet up with our heroes again, they’ll find themselves facing another pair of serpentfolk and exploring the rest of the level. Look forward to that.

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