Feb 26, 2017

6th Day of Flocktime, CY 579

On the afternoon of the 6th day of Flocktime, 48 hours had passed and Jarrus and Pontus were released from prison. While Pontus and Jarrus were sitting in a cell, Luapan sent a message to the Temple of Celestian in Verbobonc to update them on what was found in the temple, and Sarril used the mirror to visit his master in Almor to update him on what was happening. Sarril and Athan then decided to use the mirror to contact Iuz and let Iuz know that the party is in Hommlet. Luckily, this was on the last day and the party was able to skip town as soon as Jarrus and Pontus were set free.

DM Note: Sarril was actually trying to use the mirror to scry into the 3rd level of the temple. However, trying to use a scrying device like this to scry within a temple controlled and watched by a demi-god is never wise. Just ask a half-elf named Zolan (oh, sorry, wrong game). Athan wisely smashed the mirror before Iuz could snatch Sarril and have his way with him. Good thing for Sarril is that he managed to pick-up an amulet of proof against detection, so other than messing around with the mirror to say hello to him, Sarril is otherwise invisible to the demi-god who would like to take revenge on him for making him dance.

The party headed straight back to the temple, now empty again, to search the Wizard Senshock's room. Many interesting magic items were found, including a Portable Hole and Mirror of Life Trapping. After taking everything of value or interest there, the party moved to Hedrack's room, where they discovered a few more items of interest (although Hedrack had most of the good stuff on him at the time of his first death). They also discovered two women who were charmed into Hedrack's service. After dispelling the charms, some of the party agreed to escort them out to safety, with Athan thinking they would be a hindrance and Pontus seeing an opportunity to act creepy (a real shame, since he is the best looking and most charming, when he wants to be, member of the party - but he's also a barbarian, and their ways are strange). One item found was a figurine which is used to contact and summon Iuz. As Athan was playing around with this figurine (as he tends to do), a summoning was triggered which the party recognized as a sign to get out fast, and they all ran for the exit to return to Hommlet. As the party got close to Hommlet, they could see the smoke still rising from burning buildings. It looks like the entire village was decimated, with no signs of life anywhere. The party then changed course to head to the next closest settlement, the Town of Sobbanwych, which is also the town from which the women had been taken.

Sobbanwych was a once thriving town, walled and under the protection of a local lord who had a keep within. Today, few people still remain, with about 2/3s of the building empty and many, such as the mage's tower and the keep crumbling in age and disrepair. Luapan gave the rescued women several gold pieces each to begin a new life, being the good-aligned cleric that he is (note to DM to give Luapan some bonus exp) and let them go on their way. The party then settled into an abandoned warehouse building to study/pray/identify. When Sarril cast identify on the mirror and looked at it, he was (apparently) polymorphed into a Purple Worm, which the party immediately had to fight. The worm was so large that is destroyed the roof of the building. Even with the massive damage dealt by Jarrus, the fight was tough, with one party member getting swallowed whole (but living to tell the tale).

After the fight, Athan picked up the mirror and was polymorphed into Sarril. That's when Sarril explained that this is a Mirror of Life Trapping and that looking into the mirror actually transports the victim into an extra-dimensional space, trapped in stasis. There are 12 "slots" in the mirror and, because the slots are all full, whenever someone looks in the mirror and gets pulled in, something else gets popped out at random. Based on this knowledge, the party decided to use the mirror to start trapping harmless animals, in turn popping out a random creature or person, one of which would eventually be Athan. Following this process, the party started trapping horses until they ran out of horses, then started trapping squirrels. Many things popped out of the mirror, most of which had to be fought and killed, but due to dumb luck, Athan wasn't one of them. The final "creature" that was released was a blue-skinned "elf" in strange dress. This is where the session ended.

Feb 8, 2017

Sarril Visits Otto and Bigby

While Pontus and Jarrus were sitting in jail in Hommlet, Sarril decided to use the mirror as a gateway to go to Chathold and see his master. When he got to his house, he was led into the kitchen, where Otto was cooking while talking to another man.

"Greetings Master," Sarril says.

"Sarril! My boy!” replies Otto, “Come in, come in!"

"Have I got news for you!" says Sarril, excitedly.

"We were just cooking up a fantastic meal that I learned about from a merchant in Onwall. He managed to get me some prized sea serpent meat, which I am boiling in. . . "

Otto gets cut-off by the other man, "No, we were discussing important matters"

"Nothing is more important than feeding oneself. You can't think on an empty stomach, now can you?" says Otto in an incredulous tone.

Sarril jumps in and says "I have important matters to discuss as well.  As much as I would love a great meal... There is much to tell”

"Ah, no better place than over dinner. Step over here" says Otto, motioning with his hands. As Sarril steps forward, Otto starts handing him utensils and instructing him on stirring various things and shaking various spices. Otto then says "Oh, where are my manners. . . now, see, this is what happens when we don't eat. Bigby, this is my apprentice, Sarril, the one I was telling you about. Sarril, I don't know if you remember Master Bigby, it was a while back."

Not able to withstand the excitement of what he is about to say Sarril blurts out.  "I made the Old One dance!  He danced the jig!  Your spell worked on him!!!"
Bigby looks at Sarril funny. Otto spits something out of his mouth. They both stare at him for a few moments.

"I am dead serious" Sarril says. "St Cuthbert arrived and took him away before he could kill us all."
Otto finally breaks the silence by bursting out laughing

"Here, it’s all in my journal” Sarril says, trying to reach into his bag while stirring the pots.
Otto looks at Sarril, "Sarril, I was about to offer you some wine, but I can see you clearly don't need any.”

Sarril maintains a serious look and says "I know that its Zuggtmoy that’s locked in the Temple of Elemental Evil. Master, I am telling you the truth.  We rescued Prince Thrommel from the temple as well.  He has returned." He shows them Prince Thrommel’s medallion.

Bigby says "Oh, enough of this!" and snaps his fingers. Two disembodied hands appear out of nowhere and pick up the cooking utensils and start stirring. He then steps aside, grabs a goblet and starts pouring some wine "Sounds like we all need to talk"

Otto says "Oh, very well." He grabs a small plate, places some pieces of food on it that Sarril does not recognize, and begins to eat.

Bigby looks at Sarril and says "We know Prince Thrommel has returned. He arrived in Furyondy just a few days ago."

"On an Ebony Fly that I gave him,” interrupts Sarril.

Bigby continues, "I was asked to inspect him personally. To validate it was him. Much to everyone's surprise, it really is. That is why I am here. It seems King Archibold of Nyrond isn't too happy about Thrommel's return. The idea of a combined Furyondy and Veluna makes him feel threatened. Especially if they annex back the Shield Lands."

He turns to Otto, "Otto, this if your territory. You need to turn your attention to Nyrond. They are more of a threat than you think. The Scarlet Brotherhood has infiltrated their ranks at every level. And now that the Theocracy of the Pale is in full civil war, they will have no buffer between Tenh"
Otto replies "yes, yes, I'm on it. . . now Sarril, tell me more. I want to hear the story. Tell me everything."

Sarril asks "You have the information that Krek gave you, want me to start after that.  Or back up and start from the beginning?"

Bigby says "Who is Krek?"

"My Orrek familiar."

"An Orrek. . . most peculiar. And you are a cleric of Boccob also?"

"Yes, I am. I am a Curate / Magician."

Bigby looks at Otto. Otto looks back at Bigby and shrugs his shoulders. Bigby says "Go on. Otto can fill me in on the earlier stuff"

"We found a secret entrance into the Temple of Elemental Evil.  It took us to a secret part of the third level.  There we fought a mage name Falrinth, his imp familiar, and a half orc assassin. He was a follower of Lloth. It was from him that we came to possess the mirror of mental prowess, the golden orb, and improved our spellbooks. We also found a crystal ball that was linked to Zugtomy.  We since have destroyed that item."

Otto perks up at the sound of the mirror

"The mirror is how I got here,” Sarril states in response, before continuing the story. “We continued to search and clear the 3rd level.  Fighting our way through all sorts of things.  It was here that our companion, Gareth, was killed by an umber hulk. We rescued Jarrus, son of Coreal.  He joined our party. While searching the 3rd level we found the body of a dead drow.  The drow had a letter on her to her Mistress Eclavdra. More searching and we found and rescued Thrommel."

"With the 3rd level cleared we moved up to the 2nd.  We found 4 elemental temples up on the 1st and 2nd floors.  Destroying them all.  Earth, Fire, Water, Air. I have books that tell many things about the temples.  It was there that we discovered that the 4th Level, the Greater Temple was control by Hedrak, a cleric of the old one. We made our way to the 4th level and encountered the forces of the Greater Temple.  Slaying many of them, Hedrak, Senshock, giants, ettens, bugbears."

"Stop," interrupts Bigby, "Did you say CLERIC of the Old One?"


"I won’t say his name.  He is more pissed at me then he is at you. " Sarril says looking at Otto.

Bigby asks, very intently, "Did you see this ‘Hedrack?’ Did he cast spells?"

"Sure. We killed him twice. He cast Slay Living on Jarrus, Hold Person on me."

"Did he have a Holy Symbol?"

"Yes.  I can describe it."

“Draw it for me. Otto, give the man some paper"

Otto waves his hand and some paper and ink comes into the room. Sarril takes the paper and starts drawing.  As he is drawing he keeps talking "With his last breath, Hedrack called out to his master.  A few seconds later,” Sarril holds up a drawing of Iuz, “This thing showed up.  The old one.  He was in our heads, telling us things."

Bigby nods, "That's him. One of his forms anyway."

"He was pointing his finger at people and they died on the spot."

Otto says "he isn't as pretty as the last time we saw him."

"No," Bigby says. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. He's changed. And grown in power as he has. And now we know why."

Sarril continues, "He wanted Gareth’s finger and the Orb. He got Gareth’s finger, then I read your spell from my scroll and it got through his resistance and he danced the jig! Oh, how pissed he was at that."

Otto laughs and claps his hands "Oh, I wish I could have seen that!" Otto looks at Bigby and says "not so silly of a spell NOW, is it?"

Bigby shakes his hand and says "you are lucky to be alive, but it might have been better for you if Iuz had killed you on the spot."

Otto says "oh, stop being so gloom."

Sarril keeps telling the story. "We tried to run, but a wall of force was put in front of us. Just as he was about to kill us and take the skull.  A loud booming voice we heard.  and St Cuthbert showed up. They exchanged a couple words and both disappeared, but not before raising all the dead.  We had to fight again."

"Here, it’s all in my journal, even our conversation with Jaroo and his daughter afterwards."  Sarril places his journal on the table.

Otto says, "do you have the skull now?"

"Athan has it.  Jaroo wanted us to give it to him, we said no."

Bigby picks up the journal and starts perusing it. "So Jaroo wants you to destroy the skull?" he asks. "Does he think he knows what that will do?"

"Athan is Alyndra's apprentice. But we think she is dead."

"So sad,” Otto says, “We believe the Horned Society was behind her fate."

"It was definitely devils. From the way Athan described the encounter” Sarril responds. "Oh, did I mention that the Old One said he is making deals with Lloth, it’s in my journal if I skipped over that."
Otto says "I'm telling you, they are most assuredly the threat. The temple distracted everyone from them, but devils are patient. They will wait for the demons and their worshippers to destroy each other, then swoop into the void."

Bigby says "that may be so, but if Iuz has accomplished what it seems like he has, then our focus needs to be clear."

Sarril cringes at that word.

Bigby says "oh, it's just a word. If it had any real power, we could be done with him by now."
"Yeah, but being in his presence, feeling him in my mind, and again when I touched the skull.... I am not an arch mage like you two..."

"Keep making creatures like Iuz dance and you will be soon” Otto says with a smile.
"Please don't encourage him. This is serious business." Says Bigby as he continues reading the journal.

"I have a question,” Sarril says, “I keep hearing or reading references to Nexus's.  Almost like the temple is on one.  And another might be found near Perrenland.  What are they referring to you think?"

Bigby answers as he continues to read "some sages believe that there are places were the fabric of the prime material plane is weak. This could result in anything as benign as the hair standing on one's arms, to weird effects like teleportation, or gravity not working as it should. Basically, the laws that govern the prime material plane in these places are weak. It is a sound theory and seems relatively harmless. But some believe that there are nexus points where the veil between this world and the void beyond is such that raw energy seeps through. Places like Tovag Baragu are said to be built on such nexus points. This isn't anything that we would understand. Even the existence of a void itself is just theory. No one has ever been to or seen such a thing."

Otto jumps in "but if the void exists, that explains many spiritual things. Like, what happens to a soul when a raise dead spell fails? Where does it go? Where did the planes of existence that we know of come from? Everything must have a beginning."

"Is that why they built the temple there, so she could use the nexus to build her demi-planes?" ask Sarril.

Bigby continues "So of course, the cult of the temple, which we now know was serving Zuggtmoy, even if they weren't aware of it, is seeking the Elder Elemental God, whom they believe was banished to the void eons ago."

"Banished by the other gods, some say, while others say it was Lolth who did so" adds Otto.
"Clerics of Lolth claim that, but clerics of Celestian reinforce that myth,” adds Bigby, continuing "Cults of the elder elemental God crop up from time to time, but history has shown us that each time, it is either a complete farce, or another power manipulating things. That is what you are seeing in the temple here. Humans would never worship a god of fungus. But if they believed she was helping them tap into something greater. . . Maybe." Bigby is still reading as he talks, then he stops, looks up and says "Zuggtmoy wanted Hedrack dead?"

"Well, each of the Elemental Temples had priests.  As well as elemental forces, inside.  But the temples seemed to fight each other more than the outside world, but that was what Hedrack wanted. So yeah, seems he wasn't trying to free her. He was stopping the elemental temples from Freeing her, actually.  That is why Kella is sorta mad at us for killing him."

Otto says "it is typical of chaotic evil. It always turns on itself. Alliances are always short lived. Once one has used the other to get what they want, they turn on each other. That is why I don't worry about demons so much."

Bigby states, "Clearly, Iuz was using Zuggtmoy for something. Whatever it was, he got it, and now he wants her out of the way so she doesn't become a threat. He could try to kill her, but if he succeeds, she would just go back to the abyss. It seems her imprisonment is perfect."
"See, that is what I said,” says Sarril.

Otto says "but if Iuz has succeeded in becoming a Demi-God, then what real threat could Zuggtmoy be to him? . . ." (A long pause, then) he looks at Bigby, "you don't think?" Bigby says "I do."
"The rest of the party were like ‘let’s go kill her.’  I said ‘Why? We’d just free her and send her back to the abyss.  Leave her stuck there and weak.’" Sarril is staring at them back and forth, waiting to see what is so eye popping as he realizes they are not paying attention to him.
Bigby gets up, if you will excuse me, "Otto, we'll catch up on that other stuff later. I need to go see Mordenkainen."

“Um, nice to meet you again" says Sarril as Bigby leaves.
Otto says, "This is quite the dilemma. Leave her there, and the temple will become active again. Someone will eventually free her. Look at all the spies we had there trying to prevent that and it still almost happened. Kill her, and she goes back to the abyss, but maybe that's not such a bad thing if she is going to be a problem for Iuz. But destroying the skull might weaken them both. This should be your primary focus right now.”

After the talk, Otto gave Sarril a scroll with “Otto’s Irresistible Dance” written on it. “Do try to be more careful this time,” at which point, he heard a loud crash in the kitchen Otto and Sarril ran in and realized that since Bigby left the house, the disembodied hands in the kitchen were now running out of control, making a mess and destroying everything Fantasia-style. Otto dispelled the hands and started the magical clean-up process, while complaining about his wasted dinner. He then turns to Sarril “I guess I am going out to eat. You still have clothes upstairs. Go get cleaned up and changed, and I’ll take you with me to Greyhawk.”

Feb 7, 2017

How Pontus and Jarrus Landed in Jail

Being face to face with a demi-god, and seeing one's life come so close to an end really changes a person. As they headed back to Hommlet, Pontus was left contemplating what Iuz meant by "Your god will soon return to you." Return from where? He is not lost. Kord is real and present. Pontus' father proved that every day, and it was time the Pontus reconnected with his god. Pontus kneeled down to pray to Kord to give him strength and guidance. While he received no obvious answer, he felt much better to reconnect with his roots.

But now all of this thought about Kord, and Iuz speaking about a lost barbarian god, made Pontus realize just how far from home he really is. What was he doing out here in the southlands, hanging out with elven magic users? The temple, the skull, Hedrack, Iuz - fighting these things wasn't making him feel better. These were not the problems of his people. Pontus had abandoned his people, left them to the fate of Ingvar Branson, the traitor. He knew he couldn't return just yet, but he needed to get word to his people to prepare for his return - to someone he could trust. He has a half-brother that he knew would be loyal. Hopefully Ingvar hasn't killed him. But how can he get a message to the other side of the world? Unfortunately, this problem required magic, of which he had little understanding.

So Pontus approached Sarril, and asked him if he could use the mirror to send a message. For some reason, this angered Sarril, who never quite appreciated the way Pontus treated magic items, and this particular magic items was especially important to Sarril. Sarril viewed it as a gift from Boccob himself. He wasn't going to let Pontus near it.

And so Pontus sat a while in thought, eventually doing what he knows best. Drinking. He bellied up to the bar and started ordering drinks from Goodwife Gundergroot. As he sat and drank, he watched as the wench, Gemma, was serving tables. He started asking the goodwife about Gemma, and found out she was the daughter of one of the local farmers, but she had no interest in farming, and was trying to save up enough money to leave Hommlet and go live in the big city (perhaps Verbobonc, Dyvers or even Greyhawk). Gemma has been working for just over a year now, and works extra hard to earn tips, including flirting with the customers and putting up with their rude advances - to a point anyway. Pontus realized he might have an opportunity here, and so he picked up his ale and moved over to a table in the corner, away from the other patrons, so he can order a meal and talk to Gemma.

The inn became busy at that time of day as the guard shift had just taken place and the off-duty guards came here, taking up the two long tables, ordering meals and drinks. But Pontus managed to get enough of Gemma's attention to let her know that he had a proposition for her. The bag of gems he placed on that table, which represented all of the wealth he had acquired on his adventures so far, caught her attention quickly. Eight of the largest gems Gemma had ever seen (or was likely to see in her lifetime) spilled out on the table before Pontus scooped them back in the bag, and placed it in front of him. The value of those gems would be enough to buy a decent sized house in the city (or several farms here in Hommlet). Gemma asked what she would be required to do for such a prize, a bit concerned about what the answer would be. Pontus said "nothing too difficult, I just need you to get a message to someone, and I can't do it myself." Gemma told Pontus to meet her after her shift ended, and they would talk in private. Satisfied with this, Pontus went about eating his meal, and noticed that Jarrus had sat down at another table nearby and was eating his own meal.

Feeling good about himself, Pontus realized this drinking hall was a little low on the rowdiness factor. These southerners don't know how to have a good time, and those guards were real sticks in the mud. It was time to relieve the tension in this place with a good brawl. That will bring everyone closer together. There is nothing like a good bar fight to make men bond together. But Pontus knew Jarrus wouldn't jump into a fight for no reason, so he had to draw him into one somehow. When Jarrus wasn't looking, Pontus threw a stale piece of bread at him, then tossed a piece of bread under the guard's table. Jarrus didn't take the bait, so Pontus did it again. When Jarrus looked around, Pontus pointed under the table at the bread lying on the floor. Jarrus could tell Pontus was starting to get a little drunk from the ale, and thought it best not to encourage him.

"Havin a good day lads!?" Pontus asks the guard. . . a little loudly

Jarrus made his way over to Pontus' table. "A bit early to hit the ale that hard, isn't it?"

"Jarrus! Ha ha! My warrior friend, take a seat, take a seat! I was just saying hi to these young men over here!"

"I think we should keep a low profile Pontus"

Ignoring Jarrus' advice, Pontus yells "Gentlemen! I said HELLO to you!"

One of the guards looks up, a little annoyed that Pontus interrupted his conversation with his buddies.

Pontus then taps the table in front Jarrus with his finger to subtly get his attention.




"Hey, you are the guy that was asking about joining in the Viscount's service" one of the guards finally says, in a very sarcastic tone. "Change your mind? Maybe your friend here is more suited for the task. What say you? You look like you can swing a weapon when you need to."

(DM's Note: Pontus had previously run into this guard on patrol and was asking what it was like to be a guard in the service of the Viscount. Pontus was hoping to find someone unhappy with their job whom he could bribe to work for him, but the guard took his questioning to mean that Pontus was interested in joining, and made it very clear that Pontus lacked the discipline to be accepted.)

"Sorry to be a bother gentleman.  My friend gets a bit talkative when the drink is in him," replies Jarrus as Pontus is trying to get his attention by pointing to the bread on the floor.

"Ha ha, no no, we're not interested.  The Viscount's service is good for guarding small towns and working out farmers spats and telling drunks to go to bed, truly an honorable gig" says Pontus as all of the guards at both tables stop eating and start paying attention to the conversation.

"Civilized work, is what it is. Nothing your kind would understand, I think." the guard says to his friends as they all erupt in laughter.

Jarrus, having seen drink put the devil in men before and knows what is likely to come, decides he is ready for anything.

Pontus continues, "So yes, while the Viscount offers you a noble trade, those with skill and attributes like my friend here, well, well he heeds a higher calling. We can't all kick bums and chase away children, but I thank you for your service.  Drinks on me! I tell you what, do any of you brave brave men care to make a wager?  You see my friend here, if anyone of you can beat him in arm wrestling contest , I'll buy your whole meal."

Jarrus looks at Pontus.  "You challenge people to tests of strength for yourself all day long, but don't put me out there."

Pontus, in a very loud whisper, replies "Jarrus, you are really really strong, there's not one of these girls could beat you!"

The guard then says to his friends "Get a load of this dude. First he insults us, then he can't even man-up." Then he looks toward Pontus "I think I gave you barbarians too much credit. I knew you weren't good for anything but a fight, and now I see you have others do that for you." He puts down his drink and turned fully toward Pontus "I mean, what the fuck is it you people do anyway, when you aren't trying to rape and pillage?"

Pontus, trying to be clever, says "When your mother is saying 'oh oh yes' that's not rape my friend!"

The guard then walks right up to Pontus and gets in face and says "I tell you what. Why don't we play MY game. It's called, 'you get the fuck out of my face, and shit doesn't need to go down.' Cause I'm off duty, and who knows what might happen." At this statement, all ten guards at both tables stand-up.

Pontus then gets up on the table.

Jarrus stands up and tries to get between Pontus and the guard. "Let's all calm down. We don't want to start anything here. Why don't we take this outside."

From atop the table, Pontus yells "When this chicken shits mother is screaming out my name, begging for it in the arse, that's not rape!!!" This is what Pontus has missed for a really long time. Drinking, then fighting, then shaking hands and throwing back drinks together.

The guard then gets right up in Jarrus' face and says "You have about 5 seconds to get your friend out of here, or you get the same as what's coming to him"

Jarrus says to Pontus, "Let's go outside Pontus. We don't want to wreck a perfectly good inn now, do we?"

Pontus full on leaps barbarian style off the table as far as he can over the heads of the guards, then looks back to Jarrus saying "You comin?"

(DM's Note: It would be several days later before Pontus would realize that he left his bag of gems on the table. They disappeared, along with Gemma the wench, who got to realize her dreams after all)

Jarrus says to Ostler "I'm so sorry!" as he follows Pontus outside. Then the whole tavern emptied out into the street. Even Athan and Sarril, who were upstairs writing spells at the time, heard the commotion and came outside to investigate. What they saw was Pontus and Jarrus, standing back to back, surrounded by 10 men about to beat the heck out of them.

Pontus speaks up "This is what i'm going to do son, and i mean son, because I did lay with your mother. I'm going to let you hit me 10, that's right, 10 times before I do anything to you. That sounds fair?" He steps right up into the guards face and quietly only that the guard and Pontus can hear "But when i do start to do something, oh oh my friend" Pontus eyes are burning red, blood shot and fiery
"you had better pray to whatever fucking god you need to that your friends are willing to die for you"

(DM's Note: In Unearthed Arcana, in addition to rolling a d12 for hit points, barbarians get double Constitution bonuses for hit points and double the dexterity bonus for AC. Pontus isn't the strongest barbarian, but he has an 18 Con and a pretty high Dex. In addition to having a decent natural armor class, he gets between 10 and 20 hit points per level. At level 6, Pontus is just about to exceed 100 hit points. He figured he could take all of these guards on without breaking a sweat. He was wrong).

I won't do a play-by-play description of the fight, but it turns out these guards are not some 0-level village militia. They are well-trained fighters between level 2 and 4. Pontus discovered that when multiple people are hitting him, the damage starts to add up quickly. He and Jarrus did take a couple down with them, but in the end, I realized I probably could have thrown half the number at them that I did and it still would have turned out the same. The both went down and woke up in a gaol cell at the base of Burne's tower. What was said in that cell between Jarrus and Pontus will remain between the two of them.

Feb 6, 2017

3rd Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (online session)

After that exciting encounter with Iuz, and the intervention by St. Cuthbert himself, the group was chomping at the bit and couldn't wait two more weeks to see what happens next. While I am generally opposed to online play because we can't always manage everyone's time equally (especially those of us with kids), I did agree to make some exceptions this time. I agreed to that the party could search the Greater Temple, open chests, etc., and I would reveal what they find. If they do anything requiring an initiative roll, however, I would stop gameplay until our next in-person session. Here is what happened online.

Hedrack had nothing of value on him due to the fact that all of his magic weapons, armor and items were destroyed (while this is a shame on one level, because he had nice stuff, it probably also saved the party as they wouldn't have been able to deal with him easily otherwise). The other enemies that had any loot were turned into monster zombies by Iuz, then turned by the cleric and they ran down the side halls. The party went down those halls to look and found portals that they decided were best not to enter right now. So that loot was gone.

But there were four nice sized chests in the hall behind the purple fungi curtain. Each chest contained multiple magical traps and wards. Dispel Magic was successful on the first chest, which contained a massive amount of platinum coins, as well as paperwork detailing debts owed to the temple by various temple members. These names would be handy to identify villagers and others in the surrounding area who are part of the temple. Sarril grabbed the paperwork and a magic wand before moving on to the next chest. Dispelling traps on the second chest was unsuccessful, but the party had Pontus open the chest anyway, as he can generally take the damage. This set off a fire trap, destroying the chest and burning all of the papers inside. The disturbance also triggered something else, and the room suddenly grew dark and cold. Sensing something was amiss, Sarril "pulled a Gandalf" and yelled "RUN! (you fools)" and all of the party except Athan ran as fast as they could down the hall.

Nalfeshnee (Type IV Demon)
Athan stayed to search through the broken chest for items of interest. Pontus, confused by the split in the party, stopped halfway out. Once the party realized that Athan wasn't with them, and that he still had the skull, they realized they need to go back for him and that they would have to force him to come along. So back they went. While the rest of the party distracted him, Jarrus attempted to knock Athan out by hitting him on the head, but fell just short of knocking him completely unconscious. An angry Athan agreed to leave with the party and they all ran away, just as a Type IV, Type II and two Type I demons gated into the room.

The Type I demons flew at the party and were about to overtake them when two dozen bugbears emerged from the side rooms and engaged the demons. The Type Is and the Type II demon were ripping apart bugbears as the half-orc seen previously with them ran toward the party also pulling her own Gandalf impression. This time, the entire party, including the half-orc, kept running and didn't stop until they were out of the temple.

On the road back to Hommlet, the party learned that the half-orc is Kella, Commander of the Greater Temple troops. She offered to reveal all of the information the party wants to know if they will escort her to see Jaroo, and so they did.

Arriving in Hommlet, a few hours past midnight, the party was challenged by some new guards who looked much better equipped than the Hommlet militia or "Burne's Badgers" they had seen before. These guards were sent from Verbobonc by the Viscount, apparently at the request of Lord's Rufus & Burne, who were called away by the Viscount. These new guards report to someone by the name of Sergeant Brogan, and they have instituted a curfew in-town. After seeing that the party checks out, they let them pass but tell them to go straight to the inn. Delvin takes Kella to the grove and the rest of the party checks into their room at the inn, which is a bit small now that Jarrus and Luapan have been added to the group.

Kella, Daughter of Jaroo
The next morning, Athan stayed in the room writing spells and Delvin came and got the rest of the party in the morning to say that Jaroo was ready to meet with them. Leaving Athan in the room, the rest of the party went to the grove to hear Kella's story. Kella removed a necklace from around her neck, transforming into a human woman, and immediately bringing tears of joy to Jaroo's eyes as he recognized his long lost daughter.

Kella described how she was sent to spy on the temple and was deep undercover. While undercover, she learned many things that needed to be shared now. The following is a transcript of the conversation:

Jaroo says "I begged Earthramus not to send you to that foul place. . ."

She interrupts him "I went willingly. You should know that."

"When I didn't hear from you, I assumed the worst"

"I am sorry, father, but I was deep undercover. I learned much, but I couldn't risk blowing my cover to get out. That is, until this party came along, and I had to make a move. The stakes are too high now."

Jaroo says, "please, for all of us, tell us what you have learned, so we may determine our next steps."

She looks at the rest of the party and and says "for everyone's benefit, I will start at the beginning, as I promised on the road that I would."  

She starts. . . "After the battle of Emridy Meadow, a smaller force of powerful warriors led by Prince Thrommel of Furyondy pushed into the temple to destroy the remaining forces and raze the building. But what they discovered inside was too strong even for them. A demoness of incredible power who had bound her essence to the temple itself, thus removing herself from the abyss and becoming a native of the prime material plane. Clerics of St. Cuthbert were summoned to assist, along with some of the most powerful archmages known. They were able to defeat her, but not destroy her essence, which was part of the temple itself."

"So they decided the best course of action would be to use the power of St. Cuthbert to lock her into her own temple, turning it into a prison from which she could not escape. You have all seen the doors. Probably some of you could not bear to look upon them. This is by design. If you had any evil in your hearts, the feeling would be far worse, and you would never be able to approach the doors. Thus helping to ensure that agents of the temple don't try to free her again" 

She pauses a minute "I apologize if this is all background you have heard before."

"So the priests of Cuthbert believed themselves victorious, though they were wise enough to know that they needed to keep an eye on those doors. Thus Canoness Y'Dey and others were sent to do just that. Keep a watch on the temple." 

"But those of us of the Old Faith," she says, looking at Jaroo and Delvin, "we knew there was more to it than just a demoness trying to enter our world to do harm. The temple is called the Temple of ELEMENTAL Evil for a reason. We druids have always understood the power of the elements. Natural, chaotic forces that blend in harmony to make the world around us. But the elements are also destructive. There is a legend that some believe, of a lost Elder Elemental God, whose cults spring up from time to time. These cults are usually small and harmless, but they believe that there are nexus points in the world, places where the fabric holding the prime material plane together is weak. And they believe that in these places, deep below the surface, the Elder Elemental God slips through into our world from the void where he is imprisoned."

"In these places, only a sliver of his essence can be reached, but it is enough power, some believe, to rival, and even destroy, a god."

"These are all rumors and myths, of course, and most sages will tell you the Elder Elemental God is not real, but we druids know one thing, and that is, god or no god, the elements are powerful forces that can be incredibly destructive, especially if turned to evil purposes. We wanted to know what was really going on in the temple, and learn what we could about the cultists that practiced there."

"As it turns out, the demoness chose that specific location for her temple for a reason."

"It didn't take long for evil beings to begin making their way back to the temple. And of course they had a secret way in. There is always a back door or secret entrance. When Prince Thrommel was kidnapped, most people assumed it was the Horned Society behind it, but others suspected it might be agents of the temple who had escaped the battle and wanted their revenge on the prince. Regardless, it had a devastating political effect, as Furyondy and Veluna did not merge, and a distraught King Belvor could no longer make good decisions. The Horned Society has definitely benefited from this. . . but I digress. We recognized that the temple was a magnet for evil, and always would be unless it could be dealt with permanently."

"So I was given the task by my order to infiltrate the temple, discover its secrets and learn the plans of those who now inhabit it. I took on the disguise of a half-orc warrior and joined the troop ranks. Through acts I am ashamed to discuss, I was able to rise in the ranks until I became the Commander of the Greater Temple troops. It was dangerous for me for many years. I had to employ multiple magic items to evade the scrutiny of Hedrack and his mages."

Jaroo says, "and what did you learn in this time, my daughter?"

She takes a deep breath and continues, "First, that elemental evil does, indeed, exist. Each of the temples was powered by an elemental entity that had been corrupted by evil in a most unnatural way. The priests who worshiped the evil received spell power like any other cleric of their rank. This power could not have come from the demoness, who was locked away."

"But the priests also believed the demoness was an aspect of their elemental god, or a conduit, or something or other, and that they needed to free her. Much of their time, when it was not spent fighting with each other, was spent figuring out how to break the seals."

"But the most eye-opening discovery I made, is that Hedrack, the leader of the Greater Temple, did not believe in the elemental god. He was a priest of Iuz, as you all now know."

(Jaroo appears shocked at this revelation)

"It took a long time for me to discover what Hedrack was doing. He encouraged the temples to fight one another for domination. He invited adventurers like yourselves in to create havoc and destruction - even going so far as to plant rumors out in the world of great treasures to be found inside. Most of the weak adventurers didn't make it very far, but some of the more powerful ones managed to destroy the elemental temples and kill the high priests from time to time, before finally falling to Hedrack, who would catch them and throw them in those portals you saw. It was a twisted game of survival of the fittest. I believed for a while, as most his followers did, that this was how he made the temple stronger. With each successive attempt, those that survive are stronger. The rest start over. And it brought in a regular supply of magic items and other goods. No matter how many times one of the temples was destroyed; it would always come back after a time. A new priest would always be found. Evil men are drawn to this place."

"But then one day I discovered the truth of it. He wasn't doing it to make the temples stronger. He was doing it to keep them weak. As long as they were fighting each other, or fending off outside invaders, they weren't freeing the demoness."

"I discovered this when I realized that every time one of the priests was close to finding a way to break the seals, he promoted them to a position in the Greater Temple and replaced them with a lesser priest. And as it turns out, breaking the seals is so much easier than you might think. No magic is going to do it, not even a Wish Spell. But the doors can be physically broken by something large and strong enough. Like a giant. Those with evil in their hearts cannot approach the doors, but everyone else has a chance."

"And just recently, the earth temple was close. . . so very close. A hill giant by the name of Scorpp managed to approach the doors without any issues. When Romag, the High Priest of the Earth Temple, discovered this, he decided to work on turning Scorpp against Hedrack, so he can then use him to break the doors. Luckily for all of us, you guys came along and killed Scorpp. I understand he briefly tried to ally himself with you. It is good you did not fall for it."

"In the Greater Temple, there is a statue of the Old One and the demoness. At first I would have thought the Old One to be allied with her, maybe even trying to free her. But it was suspicious because deep inside the Greater Temple, behind the purple curtain, is a throne similar to the one on the first level. Anyone sitting on that throne is in contact with the demoness. That is how she was giving orders to her priesthood before Hedrack came along. But after Hedrack took over, only he was allowed to use that throne. But I never actually saw him sit on it"

“That is why she wanted Hedrack dead.” Sarril said.

She looks at Sarril, "How do you know this?"

"Zuggtmoy is the one sealed. Athan was controlled by her for a bit through magical suggestion."

"How did you contact her?" She asked. "I never saw him use the throne"

"We found a crystal ball that was linked to her.  Through it, she controlled Athan.  That item is destroyed now. Also, we know how to get to her, behind the seals. . . This is all information that I need to get to my master." Sarril says.

"Hedrack knew it was the key to destroying the temple, and thus destroying Zuggtmoy. But the demoness was smart. She split the four gems and scattered them into demi-planes of her own creation, then hid the skull far away. But it looks now like Falrinth possessed the skull all along. For some reason, he never told Hedrack."

"And your party is in possession of the skull now. And it nearly got in the hands of the Old One himself. I am certain he did not want to free her with it, but I don't know what else he might have done with such a powerful artifact. Rumor is that part of his essence is tied to that skull as well."

Kella also told of a visitor named Warduke, who came to visit Hedrack and call in a favor owed to him.  He seemed to be influential in Furyondy politics and was offering assistance to the Old One in exchange for assassinating some nobles. She didn't hear the names. (Jarrus knows that Warduke is the nickname of Sir Damen Tynneman, eldest son of Duke Tynneman of the Reach. If anything were to happen to King Belvor, without an heir, Duke Tynneman would be next in line of succession).

After the meeting, Jaroo told Delvin and Kella that he needed them to investigate a strange phenomena reported in Istivin. He thought it might be related to the black shards that the party reported about when they first arrived in town. Jaroo then went on to warn the party about the evil skull artifact and encouraged them to leave it with him so he can find a way to keep it secure and learn how to destroy it. Since Athan still had the skull, the party said they would consider, then parted ways.

This was the morning of the 4th day of Flocktime, CY579. After this the party members went separate ways, with the intention of getting back together on the morning of the 4th to return to the temple in order to look for the gems needed to destroy the skull. Unfortunately, Pontus and Jarrus got into a brawl with the new guards at the inn, and ended up in the hoosegow. They are scheduled to be set free the afternoon of the 6th.

Feb 5, 2017

3rd Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (continued)

It is the morning of the 3rd Day of Flocktime, CY 579. The party has just driven off or slain most of the inhabitants of the Greater Temple of Elemental Evil, including Hedrack, when, into the middle of the temple appears The Old One himself, Iuz - in the flesh.

Iuz scans the room and begins to probe everyone's mind, searching their darkest, innermost secrets. To the great warrior, Pontus, Iuz proclaims that his lost god will return soon. To Sarril the cleric, he casts doubt about the legitimacy of the one he prays to every day. But for Athan, the skull-bearer, he took particular interest. Athan quickly burned a Scroll of Protection from Magic to protect himself from whatever the demi-god might throw at him. But Iuz did not attack. He simply commanded Athan to hand over the skull. The compulsion was so strong that Athan could not resist, but when he tried to comply with the command, he found that it conflicted with an equally powerful, but opposite command from another. The conflict overwhelmed Athan's mind, causing him to lose consciousness. But the circle of protection remained where he fell.

(DM's note: The command from Iuz for Athan to hand over skull was in direct conflict with Zuggtmoy's command for Athan to bring the skull to her. Both commands were of equal power, which caused the suggestion spells enthralling Athan into Zuggtmoy's service to finally be broken.)

Pontus picked up the dead body of Hedrack and ran to stand over his friend to protect him. Moving into the circle caused all of Hedrack's magic items to be nullified, and most of Pontus' as well (DM's note: I realized later that I misinterpreted the spell, and the Protection Circle is supposed to be broken after the first magic item is nullified, but this one nullified dozens). Breaking free of the web, Luapan also ran over to intervene, as did Delvin and Sarril. Iuz then cast Dispel Magic on the circle, reached down and grabbed the pouch that contained Gareth's finger. Delvin tried to stop it but couldn't get his spell to penetrate Iuz' magic resistance. Iuz' next move was to take the skull, but before he could act, Sarril burned a scroll of the 8th level magic user spell "Otto's Irresistible Dance." Through sheer luck of the dice, he managed to penetrate the demi-god's magic resistance, and the spell worked! Iuz the Old, Lord of Deceit and Pain, began to dance a jig. That was the cue to everyone left in the room to run like hell! Pontus grabbed Jarrus' body and everyone ran down the hall, being chased by the remaining trolls.

Halfway down the hall was a Wall of Force, behind which were ogres, bugbears, another giant, ettin and a half-orc. One of the magic users was able to dispel the wall of force. Athan brandished the skull, sending the bugbears and half-orc fleeing (and losing another point of charisma). The party fought the remaining enemies, through physical combat and a holy rain of fire. The victory was short lived, however, as the spell keeping Iuz at bay wore off, and he began in anger to slay party members left and right, taking out Delvin and Luapan. Just as Sarril and Pontus were about to meet their doom, there was a clap of thunder and a loud voice shouting "Iuz! Stop!"
St. Cuthbert

In the middle of the hallway appeared St. Cuthbert himself, in his gleaming plate mail, brandishing his famous cudgel. After a brief dialogue between the two gods, they disappeared together in a puff of smoke. All of the dead party members were raised from the dead and fully healed, but so too was Hedrack raised from the dead and the other dead enemies were animated as monster zombies. Luapan immediately turned the monster zombies, who ran down the side hallways and disappeared. Hedrack, all of his magical armor and items destroyed by the Magic Protection Circle, could not withstand an assault from Jarrus, who managed to exact his revenge on the evil priest, slaying him with extreme prejudice.

Pontus began messing around with the purple curtain behind the altar, which was actually a wall of Violet Fungi, whose tentacles infect their victims with rot that destroys limbs or kills their victims in a single round, unless a cure disease is cast. Lucky for Pontus, Delvin was able to cast Cure Disease immediately, saving him from permanent disablement or death. The party decided to use the massive amount of flaming oil they found earlier to set the curtain on fire, easily killing the fungi and revealing the room beyond.

This ended the session as we moved on to watching the Super Bowl.