We started the session with Jarrus, Luapan and Shan-Ju in the earth node cavern, wounded, wondering what just happened to Sarril. After some brief discussion, they decided they needed to go find him, and decided to try the portal to the Fire Node. Shan Ju led the way, which happened to go through the cavern of a Dracolisk. They decided to have Shan-Ju turn invisible and walk silently into the room to see if the creature was there. As the invisible Shan-Ju stomped loudly into the room, the creature came forward to investigate the noise. The rest of the party held back, but Shan-Ju ran forward, into the narrow passageway that led to the portal. Due to his monk speed, he was able to stay ahead of the Dracolisk as it chased the sound of his feet down the narrow tunnel.
The rest of the party chased after it. Shan-Ju realized that in this narrow part of the tunnel, the creature would not be able to turn around, and so stopped to face it before the tunnel opened back up wide again. By stopping it in the tunnel where it couldn't turn around, Jarrus and Luapan were able to attack it from behind without worrying about its gaze or breath attacks. Shan-Ju, on the other hand, was vulnerable, but still invisible (he uses a psionic form of improved visibility, so the duration is limited, but he is able to fight). He was able to avoid the gaze while fighting, so the creature decided to use its breath weapon instead. Fortunately, Jarrus was able to deliver the killing blow before the breath weapon went off.
The party then went back to the Dracolisk cave to search for treasure, and found some clerical scrolls that Luapan was happy to have. They then headed down to the Fire Node Portal where Sarril and Sir Gerard had just stepped through. After some introductions, the tired, hungry, thirsty, wounded and spelless party recognized they needed to rest, so Sir Gerard took them back through the Fire Node portal and led them to his secure room, where the party held up for two full days.
During this time, Sarril identified many magical items, Luapan healed everyone, and Sir Gerard and Jarrus got to know each other very well. It seems Sir Gerard recognized the breastplate that Jarrus was wearing - the breastplate from his father that signifies both House Sunleaf and the Order of the Knights of Luna. Much discussion was had about how each felt about knighthood, with Sir Gerard making it his personal mission to show Jarrus the way. Jarrus was wondering if he could stand two whole days locked in a room with a paladin, or if he should take his chances outside with the red dragons.
After a long rest and recovery, the party knew what they needed to do. Sarril had recovered books about elemental grues from each of the elemental temples and after the party fought the Chagrin Grues in the earth node to find one of the power gems, Sarril deduced that somewhere in the fire node would be Hargin Grues protecting another gem. He described the Hargin Grues to Sir Gerard who confirmed that he has, indeed seen such creatures in one of the rooms, which he avoids for good reason. But with a well-prepared party, they should easily prevail. On what they guessed to be the morning of the 12th day of Flocktime, the party prepared for action by first having Luapan cast protection from fire on everyone, then Sarril putting a strength spell on Jarrus. Just before entering the grue room, Sir Gerard drank a potion of Fire Giant Strength.
There were eight grues in the room, and although their fire-based attacks normally would do double damage while in the fire-node, the fire protection spells negated that, making them due just normal damage. Being 4+4 HD creatures, they really couldn't hit well. Since the fire protection spells allowed the party to put their armor back on, their ACs ranged from -2 to +2. With Sir Gerard's protection from evil, the grues pretty much needed to roll 20s to hit them. It was a very easy fight, but the credit goes to the party for being so well prepared.
In the center of the room was a chest that contained the object they were looking for. The rest of the party argued that Sarril should insert the fire node gem into the Golden Skull before doing anything else. Since it required touching the gem, which doesn't teleport you if you are already in the node. Sarril was very nervous to touch the skull, as each time he had done so in the past, Iuz could tell where he was. But he went ahead and did it anyway, and the gems popped right into place. As soon as the gem was placed, Sarril became aware of its powers, which were pretty significant. He told the party what those powers were, which included "Teleport without error" anywhere within the fire node. Sir Gerard warned Sarril not to be tempted to use the skull for any reason. This prompted the party to wonder what Athan would have done at this point, and they all agreed it might be best that he is dead. The good news for Sarril is that, whether it is because of the strange place they are in or something else, when he touched the gem, he did not feel the presence of Iuz or Zuggtmoy watching him. He felt something else, though. Something much stranger. If it was an intelligence, it was very alien and not recognizable in any way.
The party decided to all hold hands as Sarril picked up the next gem, which instantly teleported the entire group the air node. The air node is considered the most dangerous of the four nodes by those who have visited. It is full of narrow ledges and hurricane force winds. Large masses of rocks float high up in the air - the home to cloud giants and the dreaded blue dragons that dominate the sky. The winds pelt unprotected adventurers with continuous debris. Storm clouds constantly swirl overhead, causing lightning to strike all around (10% chance per person of being hit by a bolt of lightning each turn). Sir Gerard knows that a bandit named Grank lives here with some of his men, as does the former priest of the air temple, Ashrem, who wants revenge on his brother Allrem and Kelno, the current (now deceased) air priest. How these men survive here is a mystery, as Sir Gerard never tried to venture very far. This means that while the party had a general lay of the land, they didn't know where they should go first.
The party appeared at the peak of a small mountain with a narrow spiral ledge circling down. Jarrus used the 50' of rope in the coil dispenser he bought from the gnome that took over Rannos Davil's shop (the poor gnome was the same one the party rescued from the moathouse, but he is probably dead now). It was put to good use tying around each of the party members waists so they stay together. It worked well. Even though the wind gusts would occasionally blow a party member off the ledge, they were always able to pull the person back with the rope. After an hour, the party emerged on solid ground below, just as Sir Gerard was hit by a lightning bolt. They realized they needed to get to shelter quickly, and started running toward a cavern they saw at a distance to the south.
As they ran, they occasionally looked up to see if there were dragons overhead. They think they saw some dragons in the distance, but they weren't spotted in return. While looking up, there was an occasional break in the clouds, through which the party was able to see that this place curved around a massive black and purple swirling orb, which had random tendrils appearing and disappearing throughout. A strange sight indeed.
The inside the cavern, the party made their way (using the rope and spikes) up a steep incline to a shelf above where they fought several vapor rats. They were easy to kill, but let off a noxious gas when they died that incapacitated Jarrus and Luapan. The party was able to drive off most of them without killing them, which is probably a good thing. The party then climbed another steep incline to another shelf, whereupon they were hit by several Vortexes. One grabbed Jarrus and began spinning him to death. Another grabbed Sarril and began to do the same. The party was able to figure out that a grapefruit sized mass inside each vortex could be struck with a weapon and they freed Jarrus and Sarril, allowed Jarrus to do what he does best and finish the others.
Not necessarily a cliff-hanger, but this is where we left off until next week.