Jul 15, 2018

3rd Day of Harvester, CY 580 - The Conclusion of Dieg Manor

We had some players absent this week (World Cup Final) and one of those player's had a character die. I don't like it when a PC dies and their player wasn't present for it, but this was a tough situation that was unavoidable. As the players are starting to learn, priests of Iuz don't seem to conform to the cleric rules they are used to, and they have some unique and terrible spells. I have the advantage of running this campaign more than 20 years after the publication of all first and second (and some third) edition Greyhawk material was produced, and recombining it as needed. So the Iuz the Evil supplement has been helpful in retrofitting the priests of Iuz with some interesting stuff. Some of that was used in the battle with the Falcon. Some more got used today, much to the detriment of a certain barbarian.

Starting where we left off, Luapan was out of spells, and Sarril was also starting to get low. Pontus had some unhealed damage, but otherwise, the party was reasonably ready for action. They followed a short hallway beyond the secret door from the treasure room to find a door. Pontus opened the door to find a large cavern. Inside the cavern were some long crates, some barrels, and a pentagram on the floor. The long crates were being used as tables and had books and papers splayed out across them. At the far end of the cavern, behind one of the crates, was an old man reading some books.

Being a barbarian, Pontus decided the best course of action was to make a full run at the old man, then use his barbarian leaping ability to jump over the crate and bring his sword crashing down on the man's head in proper Cold Crow fashion. Initiatives were rolled because, despite that the man appeared to be busy reading books, he was fully aware of the party approaching and was prepared to act if they didn't want to speak. He was ready to cast Blade Barrier on the entire party as his first combat action, but since the rest of the party was still in the hallway and Pontus was rushing in full barbarian rage, he used it to surround Pontus as soon as he came through the door. This had the dual effect of both forcing Pontus to run through the Blade Barrier for full damage, while also blocking the door so the rest of the party couldn't get through. A bloodied Pontus took a massive amount of damage from the spinning blades, but in his rage he hardly noticed and leapt, screaming, over the crates and connected with the man, who, at this point, had shapeshifted back into his original form - that of Hellthrax, high priest of Iuz (the same man depicted in a statue the party encountered earlier). While the blow did not kill him, it was, nonetheless, significant.

The next significant move came from Sarril, who cast Dimension Door, grabbed Jarrus, and stepped through to appear immediately behind Hellthrax with Jarrus in tow. Jarrus, who had held his action, immediately attacked Hellthrax, laying on more significant damage. Generally, at this point, most enemies drop, and the toughest ones know they have only one more round to live, and the choice of which one of a long list of prepared spells to use becomes crucial. Escape is generally contemplated, if possible, but Hellthrax had a panic button already prepared in the form of a Type IV demon (a nalfeshnee) whom he seemed to have some kind of relationship with. He called its name and it stepped through a gateway formed over the pentagram, and immediately closed in on Jarrus.

The first thing everyone who encounters a Type IV demon must do is roll a save vs. wand or succumb to fear (unless they are immune). Everyone saved except Luapan, who immediately ran back up the hallway and was now out of the fight. The demon used Levitate to attempt to levitate Jarrus to the ceiling, and thus out of the fight, but Jarrus managed to make his saving throw and hold fast to the ground, forcing the demon to resort to old fashioned melee attacks (I skipped the psionics, as I figured making Luapan run away was good enough). Jarrus, used to not being hit with his superior magic armor and defender sword, found himself starting to take damage. The fight had returned to even.

Though Cadwin was still stuck behind the Blade Barrier, he wasn't completely helpless. He has a Lightning Bolt at the demon, but unfortunately, failed to penetrate its magic resistance. It looks like it would be up to Jarrus to take this demon down, which he was willing to do, but he wanted to kill Hellthrax first. Hellthrax, however, was focused on Pontus, and unleashed a devastating spell - Lifebane. This spell, unique to clerics of Iuz, drains the victim of 1-4 points of constitution and heals the cleric in return. Unfortunately for Pontus, the attack hit and I rolled a 4. The devastation of this spell is only truly realized on a barbarian. Pontus has a natural 18 constitution, and gets double HP bonuses every level. At level 7, he has 54 extra hit points that come solely from his constitution score, and he just lost them all. He found his altered body suddenly unable to handle all of the damage it had sustained, and he dropped completely and utterly dead.

(At this point, I don't remember all of the details of what happened in each round, so I'll cover what each character did, which may not be in exact order)

Both Sarril and Cadwin attempted to dispel the Blade Barrier and failed.

The demon gated in another demon - luckily for the party, it was only a Type I (a vrock), which are fairly weak as far as demons go. Nonetheless, with Pontus dead and Luapan still out of the fight, it was a distraction for Jarrus and Sarril.

Sarril cast Boccob's Rolling Thunder on Hellthrax and the vrock, but both were kept safe by magic resistance.

Hellthrax cast a spell that seemed to enhance both himself and the nalfeshnee demon, though its unclear what, exactly, it was.

Cadwin decided to unleash another lightning bolt, this time at Hellthrax. It was enough damage that it triggered a Word of Recall that he somehow had setup as a contingency. Hellthrax was teleported away to somewhere to recover (or suffer punishment for failure, who knows). Having no more ranged spells available, Cadwin decided the best option would be to turn into a bat and fly through the blade barrier, taking the damage, and then healing himself upon transforming on the other side. Since the barrier was in a circular column, he took damage once going in, and once coming out, leave him with only 4 hit points, but still alive. He was able to transform back to human form, healing another 24 damage.

Pontus' dead body re-animated as a juju zombie, and joined the fight (a direct result of the Lifebane spell, so this is one of the higher HD Iuz juju zombies)

The nalfeshnee demon used telekinesis to grab Jarrus and send him over into the still-spinning blade barrier and hold him in it until dead. Telekinesis can only move him at 20 ft. per round, and the blade barrier was 45 feet away. This gave everyone two rounds to kill the demon before Jarrus was turned into a smoothie. The good news was, the demon could do nothing else while focused on the telekinesis, so everyone who was able to attack the demon, did so. The bad news was that Sarril was the only one able to do anything at this time.

One round before reaching the blade barrier, Sarril managed to kill the demon, releasing Jarrus, who immediately rushed at the vrock and cut it down. That same round, an earth elemental that Cadwin had previously summoned, managed to appear, but was no longer needed. Luapan also returned that round and, with the demon gone, was able turn the Juju-Pontus. Once turned, the party decided to have the earth elemental pick up the juju zombie while the party experimented with it by poking it, slicing it, and hitting it with spells. They learned that it takes half damage from blunt and piercing weapons, half damage from fire, and is completely immune to magic missiles. They then killed it and kept the body in the hopes that Pontus could still be raised.


A search of the cavern revealed a lot of interesting details. First, many of the books Hellthrax was reading were books related to the Isles of Woe and related mythology and history. Some of the books Sarril recognized from his own research into that place. There was also a short letter which read:

The Falcon has been freed and no doubt is going to attack the Temple of Cuthbert in Greyhawk. I am going there to make sure she doesn’t make a mess of our plans. It is up to you to finish what Hedrack failed to do.
- Maskaleyne
The party guessed that Maskaleyne must be the vampire they encountered in the fight with the Falcon.

Finally, they discovered that the entire southern wall of the cavern was actually freshly mortared rock. Cadwin had the earth elemental smash through the wall to reveal a crypt and a long hallway. The long hallway was lined with hundreds of weapons and armor - enough for a small invading force. In the crypt was a man who looked like the form Hellthrax had taken when the party first encountered him. This must be Carlan Dieg, the party determined. The man was in stasis inside what looked like a Forcecage. Sarril determined that if it was a forcecage, as per the spell of the same name, it has a limited duration and should wear off soon. The party decided to wait two hours, but the cage did not dissipate. At this point, the party decided it was best to go get help, and left the dungeon to go to the Temple of Trithereon.

Jarrus grabbed the body of the dead Juju-Pontus and everyone headed to the temple. It was morning now, and the temple compound was open for visitors. Based on the magnitude of their story, the party was able to get the attention of the one of the high-priests, a patriarch named Balthazar. After confirming their story had merit, Balthazar agreed to bring some of his priests into the manor to examine it for themselves. As for Pontus, the priests took the body to another room to study it and learn what they can. It was not clear whether or not he could be resurrected from such a state, but they would try to find out.

The first thing the high priest did was dispell the forcecage around Carlan Dieg, which also removed the stasis around him. Carlan Dieg was able to tell the party that he had been captured about three months ago, and Hellthrax was keeping him prisoner and pulling him out of the cage to question, and sometimes torture him. Most of the questions were mundane, asking about his daily routine and what he likes to eat, where he likes to go and who he associates with. Other questions were more obscure, such as asking if he knows a gnome named Lysander (DMs note: its been a long time, but the party last heard about Lysander from a gnome prisoner during the Temple of Elemental Evil adventure, as the TOEE inhabitants were asking the same question). Dieg also revealed that his business is real-estate in the city, and he owns several properties that he rents out. This led the party to determine that he was targeted by Hellthrax for this very reason, and it was possible that the renters of his other properties could now be agents of Iuz as well, or planned to be replaced by agents (who seem to be able to shapeshift). After a thorough search of the place, Balthazar took the party to see the Viscount, Lord Wilfrick.

Although the party already had an appointment for an audience with Lord Wilfrick in a few days, the urgency of the current situation demanded an immediate visit. Balthazar, being one of the high-priests of Trithereon, is an important enough figure that he was able to get an emergency audience with the Viscount. The party met with Lord Wilfrick briefly in private chambers and recounted their story. Wilfrick, in turn, ordered his city watch, along with clerics of Trithereon (armed with Detect Lie spells), to investigate each of the properties owned by Dieg. The party also handed over the staff they found so that Lord Wilfrick's mages can attempt to identify it.

On a brief side expedition, Cadwin decided to spend a few days investigating a cult of Pholtus worshipers who have both been harassing people in the city, and, apparently, healing people who were suffering from the Red Death plague. This cult has been showing up in other cities and have been little more than a nuisance, but their ability to heal the plague when no other clerics are able, was something worth investigating. There wasn't enough time to go thoroughly undercover (as that would be another side quest the party was not prepared to undertake), but Cadwin was able to determine that they were, in fact, healing people - for a price. Everyone who agreed to be healed were themselves converted to become members of the cult. They would disappearing for a few days, and then emerge, fully plague free, but wearing the plain tunic the cultists were known for, and having the symbol of Pholtus branded into their foreheads. Every member of the cult, regardless of their previous lot in life, now espoused absolute fanatical devotion to the pale one. They even went so far as to take on new names and, in many cases, shaving their heads to blend in and remove all traces of their former life. To the best of Cadwin's knowledge, these were the only known cases of anyone being able to cure the disease.

A few days later, the party was invited to the castle for a ceremony to honor their good deeds for the city. Present were many people of importance in the city, as well as several of the petty nobles from around the countryside. Those in attendance included Rufus and Burne (nobles from Hommlet) and Otis (brother of Elmo from Hommlet and agent of Lord Wilfrick). Lord Wilfrick proclaimed the great deeds that the party had performed, including the destruction of the Temple of Elemental Evil, and, most recently, exposing a cult of Iuz in the city and foiling their plans for an invasion. As thanks for their service, Lord Wilfrick has offered a gift to each of the surviving party (which the players are still contemplating). Additionally, the priests of Trithereon brought forth a living, breathing Pontus, stating that it was no simple resurrection, but they were able to bring him back after applying a number of rituals to cleanse the body and undo the curse that was laid upon him. Because this was not a normal resurrection, and possibly due to some strange effects of divine magic recently, rather than lose a point of Constitution, as is normal, Pontus instead lost two points of Wisdom.

Wilfrick was able to confirm that several co-conspirators of Hellthrax have been found and brought to justice thanks to the party's efforts. He also confirmed that sages studying the staff have determined that it is a unique Staff of Curing that they believe can be used to cure the Red Death, but that its power seems limited based on location, and that location seems tied to the lands surrounding Dorakaa. Nonetheless, having it is useful, as they will continue to study it in the hopes of making their own version of it that will work elsewhere.

Finally, Lord Wilfrick informed that party that a little more than a year ago, a newly freed Prince Thrommel came through Verbobonc and paid him a visit. Lord Wilfrick gave him a meal, a fresh horse, and a contingent of guards to accompany him on his trip to Chendyl. Prince Thrommel was riding a strange Ebony Fly, which he left with Wilfrick, should he be able to return it to its owner. He was pleased to hand it back to Sarril (DMs Note: The party now has two Ebony Flies. It is their goal to eventually have five of them and paint them in a matching color scheme so they can ride into town on them like a biker gang. They are now one step closer to this goal).

It is now the evening of the 6th Day of Harvester, CY 580. The party is in the company of Lord Wilfrick, Viscount of Verbobonc, figuring out what they want to request of him as their gift.

Jul 1, 2018

3rd Day of Harvester, CY 580 - Continuing the Investigation of Dieg Manor

After having skipped the last two sessions, and a month and half between playing, we finally managed to get back together (well, enough of us that we were able to form a quorum, anyway). The meantime, my D&D miniature collection has exploded. I bought several bricks of the newer D&D and Pathfinder miniatures, a ton of singles, and I've started painting my own in earnest. Playing with miniatures really makes it so much easier. There's no question about who is in line of sight, what gets caught in the fireball, or whether or not the fighter can manipulate himself into melee position.

But it also means I've had to adjust maps to 5 ft. squares instead of 10 ft., and the maps are much bigger now. The good news is that the table is big. I'll post a picture of it for one of these posts at some point, but not today. Today, I need to catch us up on the story so far.

We left off with Pontus staring down a vicious guard dog, which immediately started barking and attacking. It bit down on Pontus' leg, but its hard to do any serious damage to the huge barbarian. He retaliated with a blow from his sword, killing the dog and silencing it. The dog had already done its job, however, in alerting the guard behind the door, who ran away to alert the brigands holed up further down in the dungeon. By the time the party reached the room with the brigands, they were ready, with 9 archers, arrows drawn, prepared to fire on whoever walked through the door. Around the corner were another 6 archers, 7 spearmen, and four high-level fighter.

The archers unleashed their arrows on Pontus as soon as he opened the door, but only a couple of arrows could hit him with his ridiculously low armor class. He endured two full rounds of that before Sarril was able to launch a fireball into the room, wiping out all of the low-level brigands.

After some geometry and group discussions (that involved much beer) concerning how to calculate the volume of an irregular room, we determined that Pontus would indeed be hit by the fireball. Still, the barbarian could take it, and made his saving throw so I didn't try to destroy his items. This inspired what may become a future tactic for the party, which is to cast Spell Immunity: Fireball on the barbarian, and send him running into the middle of a room in order to get as many creatures around him as possible before the wizard drops a fireball right on him. Ideally, if they could figure out a way to get the barbarian to trigger the fireball himself, it would be even better. (There are some creature from the lower planes who employ this same tactic. . . it does make me wonder sometimes).

The only living things left in the room were the four higher level fighters who, while on fire, rushed at the party. They did a good amount of damage to both Pontus and Jarrus before being killed, but the party has three healers, and were back up to par immediately after the encounter.

The party continued to search through the dungeon and eventually came into a room where a man in yellow robes immediately disappeared as the room went dark. Drawing another Continual Light coin from his pocket, Sarril immediately restored light before casting Detect Invisibility, and seeing the invisible cleric that Cadwin already sensed. Cadwin cast Faerie Fire at the cleric, outlining him in a glow that allowed Jarrus and Pontus to close in on him and quickly finish him off before he could cast anything really nasty. The most he was able to effectively do was a Cause Serious Wounds on Jarrus, which didn't do much to the fully healed fighter.

The group decided to search this room and found a staff with demonic carvings on it (not magical that anyone could tell) and a secret door that led down a twisting hallway. At the first turn in the hallway, they encountered a statue that was clearly of Iuz, and another of a man with reptilian features wearing a crown of Furyondy, in a subservient position. This was definitely a clue as to what they were up against, and Jarrus immediately realized that they needed to alert the Church of Trithereon and thus earn some favor with Lord Wilfrick. Continuing down the hall, they party came across some pools of water that cast no reflection. They avoided the pools. Then they came to another pool - this one dark and acrid smelling. Pontus decided the best way to investigate the pool would be to spit in it. A moment after he spit in the pool, a splash of water shot back out at him, striking him in the chest, withering it and paralyzing him. The clerics and druid immediately cast Remove Paralyzation, Cure Disease and Neutralize Poison. It was a good attempt, but none of those things worked. Lucky for Pontus, the DM rolled very low, and the paralyzation only lasted 1 round, which prevented his death. The affect also aged him 6 years, which, raised his biological age from 18 to 24, which everyone agreed suited him better.

The party then continued to trek through the dungeon until they came across an earth elemental stomping around in a room. It tried to attack Pontus but missed. Rather than fight it, they backed out of the room and sent Cadwin in. The elemental saw Cadwin and calmed down, and then started making gestures - a form of sign-language. Cadwin, who is completely blind, was oblivious as to this attempt at communication, and left the room. The party moved on, skipping the traditional searches for secret doors, trying to make time before the Detect Traps spell wears off.

The room to room searching eventually led to three clerics in yellow robes (much like that other guy they killed). These clerics had a funny trick up their sleeves. Each of them changed shape to resemble one of the party members, hoping to cause confusion. But such a trick was useless on the blind druid, who responded with Faerie Fire to make each of the enemies glow. A Silence 15' radius in the middle of the room shut down anything else these three might have been able to do, and Pontus and Jarrus quickly cleaned up. It turned out these clerics weren't quite so invested in their work, and tried to surrender, but being silenced limited them hand gestures, which Jarrus interpreted as attempts to cast spells. Luckily, one of the party members caught on before the last cleric was killed, and they managed to keep him alive for questioning. The cleric was willing to trade information in exchange for his life, but suspected the party may kill him anyway, so he revealed just enough to pique their interest, offering the rest of the information to Lord Wilfrick directly in exchange for immunity. The information he revealed so far was that they were recruited by a priest named Margus (described as the man the party already killed earlier), who was preparing Verbobonc for an invasion by Iuz's forces. Seeing the power of Iuz directly, and not wanting to be caught on the wrong side, they reluctantly agreed to go along. But now that he sees the power of the heroes, there is hope, and he would be more than happy to renounce Iuz and cooperate with the party and give details of the plans to Lord Wilfrick. Sarril responded with a couple of magic missiles, killing the cleric and proclaiming that the party has learned all that they are going to learn from this man.

And so the party determined that they have already killed the "boss," and now they just need to finish searching the dungeon and tie up any loose ends. They eventually charged down a wide hallway that led into a room containing this fun beast.

The Dracolisk was hiding in the corner of a large room at the end of the wide hallway. As soon as Pontus burst through, it took the air, centered itself in front of the group, and spewed acid on everyone. The acid wasn't so bad, but the gaze attack that went with it was a little rough as Jarrus turned to stone (everyone else made their save - Rings of Protection are no joke). The Dracolisk was not prepared for Pontus, who could jump high enough to reach it with his two-handed sword. It did take Pontus a couple of rounds and some more saving throws to realize that he should probably avert his gaze, which he joined the rest of the party in doing.

The next round, however, the dracolisk's keeper, a 6 HD troll came charging into the room, leading a hoard of really pumped up JuJu zombies. Juju zombies are normally really nasty 3 HD zombies with fire resistance, immunities and other special properties, but these were Iuz's special Juju zombies inside his own temple (6 HD, with attack bonuses). Eight of them came flooding into the room. Cadwin cast Summon Elemental, and rolled randomly for a 16 HD fire elemental (very lucky), which made short work of the troll as Pontus finished off the dracolisk. Unfortunately, the fire elemental couldn't do very much damage to the juju zombies, which are resistant to fire. Luapan attempted to turn the juju zombies without any success. They had to be finished off by the fighters. The good news is that Sarril had one extra Stone to Flesh spell tucked away, and was able to burn it to bring Jarrus back into the fight. It was a tough battle, but the party was victorious.

We were at the end of the session but the party wanted to first search the room where the zombies and trolls came from. They found a room with 20 regular zombies in it. Luapan brandished the holy symbol of Celestian and bellowed something apocalyptic and they were all turned to dust. They did find a secret door with a room filled with treasure, and another secret door beyond that which led to another part of the dungeon, which is where we will pick up next session.

It is approaching dawn on the morning of the 3rd Day of Harvester, CY 580.

May 20, 2018

3rd Day of Harvester, CY 580 - Poking Around Dieg Manor in Verbobonc

Since we are playing an old-school Greyhawk campaign, using much of the original 1st & 2nd edition source material, the events of the original Fate of Istus module have been in play for some time, though our heroes haven't really been in the thick of it. It has been mostly plot elements crossing over into the other modules they are playing. Since the events of the module are part of the overall story, so I have weaved it into the background up until now. Since the party decided to go to Verbobonc this week, it was time to dive in.

We left off on the first day of Harvester when the party was finally reunited in Greyhawk. After a couple of days of getting reacquainted, the party decided to head to Verbobonc to see Lord Wilfrick about the former Temple of Elemental Evil, and the Temple of Thrithereon about Jarrus and his former squire's knighting. They chose horseback and the road as the best route, which, for lower level characters, would have been dangerous, but for the Badass Motherfuckers, it was an easy trip. Bandits could easily tell they should leave them alone and wandering monsters were no challenge. The entire trip took 14 days, during which Luapan and Cadwin were able to create food and water. Having clerics and druids and barbarians with outdoor skills in the party pretty much means I get to skip the Wilderness Survival Guide as a DM and just let travel happen. The players appreciate that, as our sessions are time constrained.

Verbobonc City Gate
As the party approach the city gate of Verbobonc, they could see a long line of merchants and other travelers trying to get into the city. It took 2 hours of waiting before they could get to the front, where they were informed that everyone entering the city had to submit to a "plague check." They were looking for signs of the Red Death, which has been plaguing the area. The check required a full strip down and examination by a cleric, which the party agreed to do without complaint (Pontus the barbarian actually thought it was fun). Once through the gates, it was late, and they decided to seek an inn and secure a room. They were able to nice inn called The Jewel of the Velverdyva and get two rooms for the night.

Jarrus immediately headed to the Temple of Trithereon, which was closed for the evening, but he put in word with a cleric that he was in town at the request of the high priest. He then returned to the inn and had dinner and enjoyed some entertainment, being sure to inform the tavern bard about their great deeds and offering to regale him with stories of their adventures as material for new songs. Pontus enjoyed a night of drinking and the company of several ladies, roping Luapan into being his "wingman" for the evening. It was an unlikely pairing, but it worked.

Cadwin decided to kick-back and use his listening skills to eavesdrop on conversations going on inside the inn. He heard a couple of local men complaining about their neighbor, a man named Carlan Dieg, who used to be their friend, but has become quite an unpleasant recluse recently, and letting his house fall into disrepair. "Dieg" was a name mentioned in a cryptic message that Jarrus has received in back in Greyhawk from a old man on the street. The full message, the party recalled, went like this:

"Are your ears a-prickle? Good! 
Then know that there are ways to win your victory before the son’s aware but be stealthy! 
Ask the neighbors, do not go knocking; for announcements now work against you! Dieg is the answer, for Dieg is dead, yet Dieg is not! That's the riddle, and yet there's more. For when are neighbors who were once friends no longer both yet both? Eyes can see yet be blind .... "

The group knows an adventure hook when it hits them in the face, and so they decided they would investigate this man, Dieg the next day after concluding some other business. So the next day, they first headed to the Temple of Trithereon. On the way, they saw alleyways full of sick and dying people - the Red Death. They also saw some cultists they have seen before. These cultists wore rags and had the symbol of Pholtus branded into their foreheads. In some cases, they were harassing people, and Jarrus put a stop to that, but in other cases, they seemed to be recruiting from the sick and dying folks, claiming they had the only cure. Some of the cultists claimed to have been stricken with the disease before they converted to the light, and could testify to healing power of Pholtus. It seemed to be working for their recruiting effort to a certain extent. At the temple, Jarrus made an appointment for 3 days from now to meet with the high priest and then went to Lord Wilfrick's castle and managed to get an audience with him scheduled in six day's time (using his credentials as a member of the church of Trithereon to smooth the process). The party then moved on to investigate Dieg.

They started the investigation with a house that was for rent next door, hoping to use it as a base of operation. The owner informed them that it had already been rented and would not provide any details about who rented it. Cadwin was able to use "Speak with Nature" to divine that there was an underground tunnel system (read: dungeon) under Dieg Manor. Physical scouting of the place showed that it was freshly, but hastily painted over, all of the windows were boarded shut and the house really was being neglected - with weeds growing everywhere and dust and cobwebs around the front. Based on some information they obtained from the neighbors, Dieg started acting strangely about 2 months ago, and while he has been rude to people when he is seen, for the most part, he is rarely seen at all.

The party then decided to scout the place from the inn across the street. They were able to get their nice rooms downgraded in order to move to the front of the building and get a view of the house. They then began watches that night, keeping an eye on what was going on. During Sarril's watch, he saw a figure in black and red robes - colors often associated with evil clerics, approach the front door and go inside. The party decided not to wait any longer and go immediately inside the manor.

Choosing a place on the north side of the house, Sarril cast Passwall in order to get the party inside while avoiding the front door. They saw a bedroom on the other side of the wall, and surprised a sleeping merchant (Cadwin recognized his voice as a patron of the inn earlier) who immediately woke up and drew a knife to defend himself. Jarrus and Pontus were too fast, however, and they cut the man down before he could act. After searching the body and recovering very little, the party
headed west, where a group of six men with scimitars had prepared an ambush, having been woken up but the noise in the next room a few minutes ago. Jarrus and Pontus swept through and took out these men with almost no effort. The party was convinced now that the man in the other room was no mere merchant, and this home was being used as a base of operations for some nefarious activity. They searched the rest of the first level and the upper level, finding no other people or monsters. Pontus, however, found a golden skull under a pillow in the master bedroom - very similar to the artifact in the Temple of Elemental Evil, though without the gem slots. When he uncovered it, he, Sarril and Jarrus were forced to avert their gaze as they could not stand to look at it. Luapan was so overwhelmed by it that he ran from the room. Cadwin seemed unaffected, and so he wrapped it up in a pillowcase and put it his bag.

The only place left to go was down a staircase, and so down they went. After going down about 50 feet, they came to a secret door. Pontus opened the door and confronted by a raging war dog standing in front of a trash heap. The dog was clearly angry and starving and ready to attack.

And that is where we left off. It is about 3:30 am in the early morning of 19th Day of Harvester, CY 580