Cauldron

Episode Index

The Company of Seekers first set out for Cauldron in episode 9. Everything before that took place in Azuria.

Episode

9 – From Blue to the Lucky Monkey

10 – Arrival in Cauldron

11 – Investigating the Kidnappings

12 – Jzadirune

13 – Malachite Fortress, part 1

14 – Malachite Fortress, part 2

15 – Malachite Fortress, clean-up

16 – Rest & Recognition

17 – Flood Festival

18-19 – Death at the Lucky Monkey

20 – Kopru Ruins, death of Triel (and Baker)

21 – Kopru Ruins, death of Skaven (and Rashid)

22 – Kopru Ruins, death of Tarkilar, recover last of wands

23 – Demonskar Ball

24-26 – Winter Activities

27-29 – Journey to Bhal-Hamatugn

30-31 – Bhal-Hamatugn

32 – Cauldron Tax Riot

33 – Fire at Minuta’s Board, Redgorge and the Chisel

34 – Journey to Vaprak’s Voice

35 – Vaprak’s Voice

36 – Vaprak’s Voice to the Starry Mirror, find Alek Tercival

37 – Death of Alek, travel to Blue

38 – The Siege of Redgorge

39 – Arrival on Occipitus

40 – Journey to the Cathedral of Feathers

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Episode 40

2 Planting [9 April]

The Company of Seekers sleeps fitfully underneath the arterial glow of Occipitus’ sky, their dreams troubled by shadowy images. If they were not so exhausted by their travels and battles they might not sleep at all. But they rest sufficiently well, and with some of Baker’s warm dwarven bread to sustain them, they are ready to begin their third day on the Abyss.

The party is still within one of the strange furrows that run across the plane’s surface. Despite its restrictive dimensions, Kaurophon was right in that it has so far kept them all safe from further encounters. The monotony of the travel here is a welcome relief, and the group continues for several more hours undisturbed.

Arithil’s familiar Hu is flying just above the rim of the furrow, keeping an eye out for any potential trouble. Just before the party is thinking of stopping for lunch, the raven comes down and tells Arithil that there is a small herd of bison coming directly towards them. And indeed, only a moment later everyone can feel a vibration under their feet. They hasten forward.

The furrow makes a wide bend at this point. As the group runs, the vibrations increase. There is a chorus of howls which is mostly silenced as the beasts plunge to their deaths over the lip of the furrow. Kaurophon says: “This is no time for gawking – keep moving!”

The party is quickly around the bend and out of sight of the creatures. But Enzo’s curiosity gets the better of him. He turns Arithil and himself invisible and they creep back to have a look. The two of them see a vrock swoop down and attack the struggling survivors of the herd, seeming to delight in their pains. Satisfied, the two return to the party and the trek continues.

But for this one diversion, the adventurers proceed for the rest of the day without issue. They have spent the entire time within the same strange wrinkle creasing its way across the surface of Occipitus. There is little variation to the fleshy, greyish-red trench. They do however find a slight divot in the sidewall that offers a meagre bit of protection as they settle down for another restless sleep.

3 Planting [10 April]

The party continues its long march through the furrow. Only a few hours pass when it comes to an abrupt end. Kaurophon pauses to consider. “Furrows often appear in groups – there may be one running roughly parallel nearby.” Hu takes to the air to have a look. Kaurophon is correct – there are two furrows relatively close. One is a half mile away in the direction of the mountain-skull. The other lies two miles away in the direction of Occipitus’ mountainous rim. The group opts for the closer one and soon reaches its edge. They must climb down to the bottom, but this isn’t a problem.

The decision to stay in the furrow proves well-founded. After an hour or so Hu reports that there is a herd of five thunder beasts not too far away on the flats. They surely would have spotted the party had it stayed on the open ground.

The remainder of the day passes uneventfully, and the group covers a good amount of ground. They again make camp in the furrow, trying to find some small amount of shelter. Once more they are left undisturbed by any living thing. But again they sleep fitfully, finding it hard to feel any real sense of ease here in this place of chaos and evil.

4 Planting [11 April]

Baker wakes feeling unusually fatigued, though his sleep was no worse than everyone else’s. The great strength he has felt ever since imbibing the Amaranth Elixir from the Spell Weaver’s magic pool in Vaprak’s Voice has left him. Even a close shave and some wholesome baked bread aren’t enough to fully restore his usual vigour. It will be a long, tiring day for the paladin. Thomas however is still benefiting from the effects of the Elixir, and also continues to suffer the penalty to his Wisdom.

The party breaks camp and continues along the furrow. Gradually, the floor of the chasm widens and the adventurers can see the furrow coming to an end. Kaurophon looks upward. “We must be near the edge of the flats now. Let’s get out of here and see…”

Suddenly, Kaurophon is interrupted. From nowhere, multitudes of vrock appear, writhing with menace. There are twenty or so of the demons in a tight group, about sixty feet in front of the adventurers. That many couldn’t possibly all fit in so tight a space. Looking closer, it seems that many of them are moving exactly like each other. “Mirror image” says Enzo. It appears as though the vrocks are all doing a kind of bizarre, chaotic dance of some sort.

Kaurophon casts a spell and suddenly most of the demons disappear – now there are only three of them. He then warns: “We must either kill one of them or get away before they finish their dance or it will be disastrous!”

There is no thought of running, except to charge the closest vrock. The party tries its best to kill the monster before it is too late. They come close, but the demon’s resistance to spells and unblessed weapons are enough to protect it. The vrock’s dance reaches a frenzied climax, and there is a wave of crackling energy that flashes out from the group, engulfing all within a hundred feet. Though badly injured by the blast, nobody is dead, so they continue to press the fight.

Fortuna climbs up the side of furrow and takes a quick look around. She sees that near the edge there is a house-sized mass of tangles, looking like fleshy, rope-like plants. Within the strange forest she thinks she sees humanoid shapes lurking. The next thing she knows she is surrounded by darkness. She retreats down the side of the furrow and comes out below the sphere of inky blackness above.

Meanwhile the fight with the vrocks continues. Now that they are done with their dance, the demons are dishing out tremendous damage with their claws and beaks. But eventually one falls, and then another. Fortuna, Arithil, and Daisy are positioned back from the melee, and they suddenly find themselves engulfed in darkness. As the final vrock is killed, Enzo dispels the darkness and reveals several babau demons preparing to attack Daisy.

This part of the battle is tense, as the babau keep casting darkness spells and targeting the spell casters with their melee attacks. They are also adept at setting up flanking for each other, allowing them to do sneak attack damage. Kaurophon, who is invisible, manages to reach Daisy and cast displacement on her, which saves her from several lethal strikes. Despite the difficulties, these demons are not nearly as hardy as the vrocks, and they soon lie dead.

The heroes immediately set about healing themselves. It was an incredible battle, and as they look around them they are amazed at their accomplishment. The demons are searched, and Enzo sets about collecting samples of body parts for the folks back in Blue.

Note: I completely forgot that the vrocks were all wearing bits of jewellery – I will properly credit you next time we play.

Once they are healed and rested, the adventurers hoist their backpacks and continue their journey. From the edge of the furrow they look towards their destination and see an outcropping several hundred feet to the right. “The Ossaic Forest,” Kaurophon informs. “Not a forest as you are familiar. More a tangled growth of calcified columns that penetrate the surface of Occipitus.”

Scanning the forest the party can see curving pillars, some resembling twisted bones, others as calcified trees. Kaurophon says: “We can travel fastest by staying in the flats and avoiding the forest for now.”

Bloodied but unbowed, the Seekers continue their mission.

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Episode 39
Arrival on Occipitus

6 Growfest [7 April]

The Company of Seekers is in Redgorge, having successfully thwarted the attack on the town by the forces of Cauldron. After a good night’s rest, they are prepared at last to travel to the Abyss in the company of Kaurophon.

Rashid has received word via the group’s sending stone that he is needed in Blue on an important matter, and changes his preparations accordingly. Enzo carefully wraps up the head of Zarn Kyass and asks Rashid if he will safely deliver it to Sabian in Blue. He says he will see to it.

The party says their goodbyes to everyone and gathers around Kaurophon. He unfurls a scroll and says a few words to active a plane shift spell. Their surroundings fade from view. A new scene takes shape before them, one in stark contrast with the world they have just left, and their senses are engulfed by an alien experience.

It is hot – at least 30 degrees, and there is no breeze. The sky seems to be made of flame, bathing everything in a reddish glow. Off in the distance looms a massive skull: a white monolith the size of a small mountain. Clouds of flame stream from the skull’s single exposed eye socket and up into the sky. About a half-mile ahead stands a cluster of gently curving white pillars, almost as if giant rib bones had been stuck in the ground. Close behind the party, a steep mountain ridge thrusts up, its top seeming to touch the fiery sky. The mountains stretch across the entire horizon – it’s as if the adventurers were standing near the rim of a vast bowl with a fiery lid. The ground is spongy and wrinkled. It’s more like skin than dirt.

Kaurophon turns around with a sense of urgency on his face. He quickly finds his bearings. “Quick – this way.” He points in a direction angling away from the looming cliffs and towards the rib-like pillars. “These mountain walls are rife with slaadi. Move before they are upon us!” The party heeds his advice and falls in behind him. Between breaths, Kaurophon provides more information…

“We are about… 100 miles from the site… of the first test. We must pass through… the flats first. When we reach… the celestial rubble… we are close to the… the Cathedral of Feathers. Keep moving!”

As they walk, the group can feel warmth emanating from Occipitus’ fleshy surface. Their feet spring off of the spongy, greyish-red matter. The landscape seems desolate.

Despite Kaurophon’s attempt to hasten the party away from the mountains, they have only walked for about three minutes before they encounter their first welcome to Occipitus. From behind them, a lightning bolt streaks their way, catching half the party in its sizzling line. About 100 feet away is a human-sized figure with grey, scale-like skin. Before they can react, the creature unleashes another lighting bolt down the line of the other half of the party. It then takes to the air.

The creature proves to be a challenge, but it isn’t long before the heroes are able to prevail. Kaurophon tells them that it was a grey slaad, one of the more dangerous slaadi they are likely to find here. The grey’s are adept at creating their own magic items, and indeed this one proves to be wearing both a magical ring and a cloak.

It’s not long before Kaurophon is urging the party to continue on. They are still too close to the mountains for comfort. “There are more slaad nearby. They seldom work together but many on their own can be deadly.”

In minutes, the adventurers reach the pillars observed upon their arrival. They appear as the gigantic remains of a skeletal rib cage, exposed to the blood-red sky and thrusting out of Occipitus’ skin. They are easily 20 feet thick, arching to a height of 90 feet. But as the group passes close enough to touch the pillars, what appears to be bone turns out to be a chalky white rock, some of which crumbles on contact.

Past the skeletal cage, the flats continue unbroken as far as the eye can see. There are sporadic variations – long stretches where thick, hair-like fibres spring from the ground; patches of earth reminiscent of scales; and undulating stretches that resemble wrinkles. The group travels for what must be hours, but with no sun to rise or set on Occipitus it’s hard to gauge time accurately. Occasionally they see flashes of light in the distance, and far off, dark shapes moving across the terrain.

“These are the flats,” Kaurophon says. “Herds of fiendish creatures and thunder beasts roam here. Make no mistake, while fierce, they are tame compared to the hunters.”

After leading the party across Occipitus for twelve hours, Kaurophon calls for them to make camp and get some rest. There is no good place to shelter here, and the group feels very exposed. But with little choice, they do what they can to make themselves safe. With Baker and Fortuna taking the first watch, the others lie down on the strange alien surface and try and get some sleep.

The group has been resting for only about two hours. From over a gentle rise not too far away, a figure comes into view. It appears human, dressed in a ragged cloak, and is running towards the campsite. As he comes near he yells in broken Common: “Help! Help! I am pursued!” Immediately upon arriving in the camp, he slumps to the ground, exhausted. Baker and Fortuna kick awake a few nearby people. The fleeing figure is good to his word, as behind him suddenly appears two bizarre creatures.

These monsters have no set form, apparently drawing their shapes from every nightmare that has every plagued humanoidkind. One will chaotically shift through a dozen monstrous forms before shaping itself into a bulbous thing with ten eyes, swimming in a viscous sac at the top of a body that’s surrounded by a ring of smacking mouths. A moment later it forms into something else equally hideous.

Though terrible to look at, the creatures prove physically weak, and it isn’t long before they both lie dead. They only managed to actually hit anyone once, and fortunately for Fortuna she resisted the strange supernatural force that tried to take hold and cause her own form to start shifting uncontrollably. Kaurophon calls them chaos beasts.

Once the immediate threat is past, the heroes turn their attention to their exhausted visitor. He claims that he has been wandering the plains for days, evading pursuit, and is now out of spells. Asked what he’s doing here to begin with, he says: “I was arrogant. I sought to enhance my prestige and power by visiting the other planes. Instead, I am trapped.” The group isn’t really buying his story. He says that he is very tired and must rest. The party insists that he allow them to bind his hands and feet, and he agrees.

The adventurers settle back in and try to get back to sleep. But less than hour later they are awoken once more, and in very rude fashion. Fortuna sees a large creature approaching, dragging some sort of travois behind it. She steps over to warn Baker, just at the creature spots the camp. Without hesitating it launches a fireball into the middle of everyone.

It’s bad enough to be awoken by one fireball, but as the party attempts to take in what is happening, a second fireball hurtles in and explodes. Several of them are seriously injured now. But undaunted, some of party begins charging towards the creature – a large green beast that can only be another type of slaad.

Meanwhile the group’s tightly bound guest makes a move of his own: he suddenly becomes the size of a halfling and wriggles free of his bindings. He stands up and begins to move away from the camp. Ruphus sees this and moves towards him, weapon at the ready, followed closely by Thomas. The creature casts a fear spell and Thomas drops his swords and runs. Seeing that Ruphus is unaffected, the “halfling” suddenly grows and changes shape until he looks disturbingly like the green slaad on the other side of the camp.

With everyone now fully engaging the slaadi, neither one can stand up to the attacks. Both are soon lying dead. Thomas returns unharmed as well. The first green slaad that attacked was dragging the slightly burnt carcass of a fiendish bison on the travois. The meat smells foul and looks entirely unappealing.

Surrounded now by various sorts of dead bodies, the party wisely decides to move camp. They do so in the nick of time too – just before losing sight of the battlefield, they see two lion-like beasts descend on the bison carcass and begin feeding.

After a short walk the group finds a shallow depression that gives them a slight bit of cover. Based on their first hours in Occipitus, the Seekers could be forgiven for feeling unwelcome. It is hard to sleep under the crimson blisters that pool and congeal in the alien sky, burning with an arterial glow. But somehow, they are given a reprieve. They rest undisturbed, even if the absence of attention creates a building tension of its own.

1 Planting [8 April]

Kaurophon is eager to resume the journey once everyone has rested.

“Today we traverse the flat lands, the food basket of Occipitus. Our goal is to find a furrow that will allow us to travel unnoticed.”

He explains that furrows are features consistent with the skin-like characteristics of Occipitus – entrenched, wrinkle-like crevasses that can extend for miles through the plane’s fleshy ground. It is often safer to travel through them as it provides cover from anything hunting in the flats.

As Kaurophon takes the lead, the group can see the occasional black mass wandering in the distance. “Bison herds,” Kaurophon explains. “Fiendish bison.” Not long after, they see a half-eaten bison carcass, its visceral cavity exposed. The cadaver is being swallowed up by Occipitus, its head and torso half-submerged in the amorphous ground. Kaurophon keeps up the pace.

The party travels for several hours undisturbed. Eventually though, they have a first-hand encounter with the bison. From the direction of the mountains, they notice a herd approaching. “They are being chased,” Kaurophon says. “We don’t want to find out by what.”

The adventurers pick up their pace. Even so, the cloud of bison gets closer, until they can see individual beasts, and then the spikes that thrust from their fiendish backs. Arithil casts haste on everyone to help speed them along. The ground shakes and vibrates as the pounding hooves bear down on the party. The extra speed is helping, but it is clear that they still won’t be able to avoid the stampede entirely. Daisy calls for the group to stop a moment. She quickly encants a spell and creates the illusion of a large green slaad directly between the group and the oncoming herd. The sudden appearance of another feared predator does the trick, as the herd veers away from the party and passes them by, but it is still a close thing.

Charging behind the herd, the group can now see the source of their terror. They are immense nightmarish creatures, appearing part hippopotamus, but on the scale of a dinosaur – eighteen feet tall, with six legs and a tremendous mouth with massive tusks, their yellow-brown flesh mottled with sickly green warty growths. Two of them bound over the spongy ground. The party can feel their thunderous impact through their bodies. The beasts turn their focus away from the herd. With an ear piercing howl they turn towards the group.

Now it is Enzo’s turn to flex his bardic muscles. He steps up and begins to play a haunting melody on his lyre as he sings a soothing tune. The monsters suddenly stop in their tracks and appear entranced by Enzo’s performance. Wasting no time, the party moves quickly away while the bard continues his playing. Arithil stands next to him. When the others have gotten well away, Arithil casts a dimension door and takes Enzo and herself several hundred feet distant from the beasts. Everyone is now far enough away that the creatures do not pursue.

The Seekers push on through the flats. Their view is unimpeded, allowing them to manoeuvre away from herds and other evidence of movement. Occasionally they see flighted creatures far in the distance, but their features are indiscernible. After some time, Kaurophon draws the group’s attention to a feature close by: the start of a large rut or wrinkle in Occipitus’ ground.

“A furrow,” Kaurophon explains. “There are several traversing these flats, and they continue for miles. This one leads towards where we are going. It will provide us much needed cover.”

Entering the furrow, the party gradually descends until they are engulfed by a fleshy trench, approximately ten feet wide, with sixty-foot walls on either side, steeply angled at about 75 degrees. They are uncomfortable being enclosed in this way, but Kaurophon assures them that it is safer than travelling in the open. He is true to his word. The party avoids the watchful eyes of hunters on the flats. Aside from scrambling over another half-buried bison carcass, they notice nothing of consequence on their travels through the trench before resting. Their sleep is undisturbed, and they have survived another day in the Abyss.

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Episode 38
The Siege of Redgorge

4 Growfest [5 April]

The Company of Seekers is in Redgorge, having just parlayed with Terseon Skellerang. They discuss their options: A sneak attack on Skellerang and/or the Blue Duke, sabotage of the catapults, or hope that Skellerang will see the sense in their words and call off the attack. In the interest of diplomacy they begin to feel like they should not do anything provocative.

While they sit in the Redhead Miner’s and ponder, two things happen. First, Daisy suddenly pops in beside Ruphus, looking around a bit bewildered. They begin to fill her in on what she’s missed. Secondly, they are paid a visit by two acquaintances: Fario and Fellian are there, and greet the party warmly. They explain that they were asked by Tyro Amberhelm (whom Fellian at one point calls Meerthan) to come to Redgorge and help with its defence. They offer to help the Seekers in whatever way they can.

Once the immediate subject of the impending attack has been discussed thoroughly, the two Striders ask if the party has any information about something else. They tell of another group of adventurers known as the Red Riders who were ambushed on the road to Cauldron by a bunch calling themselves the Necrocants. This group was lead by a handsome man with yellow eyes who wielded a skull capped mace and a shield adorned with a white skull. Only one member of the Red Riders survived the attack. Do the Seekers happen to know anything more about either this incident or the Necrocants? They tell the Striders that this is the first they have heard of either.

Before most of the group goes to bed – hoping for a little rest before what promises to be a busy day – a guard comes rushing into the inn. A blunt-tipped arrow was fired over the wall and discovered by a guardsman. There was a note attached, addressed to the Seekers:

To the Seekers –

I am here, though not because I wish to be, and I will not spill innocent blood. Many of us in the guard feel the same way. But hopefully your meeting earlier today may stop all this. Rumour around the camp is that Skellerang is troubled by the news about Alek. He apparently was overheard saying that if it is confirmed he may have to call off this whole thing. He and Zarn Kyass (the Blue Duke) were heard arguing about it – Kyass wants to push the attack regardless. Let’s hope sanity prevails.

SK

The party surmise that “SK” is their friend Skylar Krewis. If what he says is true, it is encouraging news. They feel a bit better about taking some rest and waiting to see what the dawn will bring.

5 Growfest [6 April]

Shortly before dawn another message is shot over the wall and brought to the Seekers:

To the Seekers –

There was commotion in Skellerang’s tent late last night. When the guards entered they saw the captain lying on the floor with 2 orc axes in his back just before he disappeared (it’s assumed his protected body returned to Cauldron). Kyass is now claiming he’s in charge of the army and we attack at 2 hours after sunrise. I’m hopeful that our lieutenant may order the town guard troops to retreat as she’s now in charge of us. But Kyass and his half-orcs are still dangerous – be careful!

SK

The heroes prepare themselves, not sure now what will happen. Once ready they make their way to the walls and split up. As the sun rises over the distant side of the small mountain upon which Cauldron sits, Enzo steps up on the battlements. Projecting his voice as only a bard can, he addresses the forces arrayed some 500 feet away. He speaks directly to the human troops, urging them to abandon this dishonourable pursuit. He then turns his attention to the half-orcs, imploring them to not follow the alien-looking Blue Duke. His speech is inspiring, but it is difficult to tell from such a distance just what effect it has. A few arrows are shot his way from the half-orcs, and more than a few jeer at his words.

Between losing their captain and Enzo’s speech, something has clearly turned within the Cauldron guard troops. It becomes obvious that they are breaking their camp, and they begin to move back from the walls. At the same time the half-orc forces begin to advance. They start pushing the catapults forward to get them into a better firing range.

The Seekers have waited long enough. Arithil lets loose with a fireball aimed directly at one of the mangonels. The ball of flame erupts around the siege machine, and many of the half-orcs around it are burned to death. The catapult sustains some damage, but it’s hard to tell just how much. Arithil shoots a second fireball into the trebuchet and troops surrounding it. Kaurophon casts his own fireball directly at Zarn Kyass and those around him. That gets the Blue Duke’s attention in a big way.

Kyass and several others around him suddenly disappear, and the next thing the heroes know he is standing right on top of the tower where Kaurophon shot his fireball from. Kaurophon himself is invisible, but Baker is standing beside him, along with two Redgorge militia. The rest of the Seekers are strung out along the battlements, anywhere from 100 to 300 feet away. They begin to close in on the action. Arithil casts haste on those around her to help. Enzo uses his pipes of the sewers to call up a swarm of rats and starts directing them towards the fight.

The Blue Duke is accompanied by two fighters and a cleric. One of the fighters is a large half-orc in half-plate, wielding an orcish double-axe. He lays into Baker while the other fighter attacks one of the town guardsmen. As soon as Kyass is able to act, he moves to one side and casts a blistering cone of cold at Baker, Kaurophon and one of the guards. Baker is sorely injured by the blast, but he remains stalwart.

Note: No one realized it at the time, but Kyass’ cleric cast a Prayer spell which remained in effect for the rest of the battle.

Kyass takes to the air, while the double-axe fighter does his best to take down Baker. Kaurophon remains behind the paladin, hidden by his greater invisibility, and casts various spells on Baker to buff and protect him. Rashid remains on the next tower over, firing away with his flaming bow. Arithil reaches Mott and grabs him and Ruphus and uses dimension door to get up to the battle. They are just in time for the Blue Duke to cast an ice storm on them, but the damage isn’t too bad. Daisy is on the wall just below the tower now, and she casts bless.

It is an intense battle, and the Blue Duke’s spell resistance and regeneration make it difficult to hurt him. But Rashid’s flaming bow is doing steady damage, and a fireball from Kaurophon does manage to burn Kyass badly. In fact, he is considering various escape options when Daisy casts a very timely silence spell in the area around him. Unable to turn invisible or even go gaseous now, Kyass begins to fly away. Two more arrows from Rashid stop him cold however. The Blue Duke begins to fall from the sky, and as he does so his form changes to that of a ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned ogre mage. His body hits the side of the canyon below the town walls, then tumbles into the river.

Fortuna immediately begins making her way down the walls and rocks to retrieve the body. She manages to grab it and secure herself and it to the steep river bank until help can arrive to haul it out. She also manages to snag Kyass’ magic staff before it floats away.

Meanwhile the Blue Duke’s fighter and cleric bodyguard are on their last legs, and it isn’t long before they too lie dead. During this time the town’s militia has been firing arrows and ballista bolts at the half-orcs outside the walls. Arithil sends another fireball towards one of the catapults for good measure. Without the strong leadership of Kyass and many of them lying dead on the field – not to mention any assurance of getting paid properly at this point – the half-orc mercenaries think better of the whole situation and call a retreat. Redgorge has been saved.

As the Seekers descend from the tower, they are greeted by the Foreman of the Chisel, Maavu, and the mayor of the town, who all praise them for their efforts. Once again the party has saved the day and lived up their role as true heroes.

Late in the afternoon, the Seekers are sitting in the Redhead Miner’s discussing the events of the morning. A guard comes rushing in and tells them something else is happening outside the walls. As they arrive on the battlements, the party sees a lone figure standing some distance away. It is a large minotaur, a female by the looks of it. She bellows a challenge:

“Murderers of my Apprentice, the Blue Duke. Come face me on the battlefield or I will tear down its walls and feed upon its helpless people!”

A troop of mounted soldiers, already outside the walls securing the area, begin to form up in order to confront the single Minotaur, while from the gate towers two ballista bolts are fired. The party watches as one massive ballista bolt narrowly sails over the minotaur’s head while the other strikes her directly in the chest, causing her to stumble slightly backwards but otherwise leaving her completely unhurt. The soldiers thunder towards the minotaur with lances poised when the massive minotaur roars, lowers her head and charges directly towards the surprised riders.

The formidable creature plows through the riders sending three soldiers and mounts spinning through the air to land in bloodied heaps up to twenty feet away. Seemingly unfazed, the remaining riders circle the minotaur, flanking her and attempting to hack her to pieces with their swords. Unhindered, the minotaur pulls out an enormous glowing falchion and destroys the troop in a single round, sending horses and riders hurtling through the air in all directions.

With the party now on the walls, along with the Chisel, the Striders and a mass of town troops, the minotaur can see she is vastly outnumbered. She suddenly takes to the air and says: “Next time we meet I will be leading my army which will turn this town to dust after I feast upon your dead flesh!” With that she disappears as suddenly as she came.

Everyone is left to ponder what just happened as they head back down off the walls. For the Seekers there will be little time for investigation or discussion, as they begin an even more mysterious mission in the morning. The Abyss awaits.

.

TREASURE

[I don’t remember exactly what you identified and what you didn’t, so I’m leaving out the particulars of most things unless I’m sure you know what it is. Note also there are some gems and cash I didn’t mention previously]

Zarn Kyass –

Staff of frost, 13 charges

Large chain shirt, magical

Large greatsword, magical

Large composite longbow, non-magical

Amulet, magical

Cloak, magical

Half-orc Cleric –

Flail, magical

Half-plate, magical

Ring, magical

Pearl of Power 2nd level

Wand of CMW (2d8+4), 26 charges

Cloak, magical

Purse with 50gp, gems worth 50gp, 100gp, and 150gp

Half-orc Fighter –

Orc double-axe, magical

Composite longbow, non-magical

5 magical arrows

Full plate armor, magical

Cloak, magical

Purse with 40pp, topaz worth 100gp

The other half-orc fighter was a grunt with no noteworthy items

Staff of Frost – Tipped on either end with a glistening diamond, this rune-covered staff allows use of the following spells:

- Ice storm (1 charge)

- Wall of ice (1 charge)

- Cone of cold (2 charges)

Caster level 10th (Wielder uses their caster level if it’s higher).

DCs for saves is 10 + level of spell (4 or 5) + wielder’s ability modifier + any appropriate feats that might apply (Spell Penetration for instance).

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Episode 37

2 Growfest [3 April]

The Company of Seekers are in the small room where Alek Tercival has been trapped for the last few days. He does not appear to have suffered from lack of food or water during that time. Fortuna examines the door: it is locked, and appears to have been so for decades. Nevertheless she applies her consummate skills and with some effort is able to open it. Beyond is a hallway with some stairs going up. Moving carefully, the party leaves the room. As they climb the stairs they can feel the air getting warmer.

The hall ends in a 50-foot-square room, the ceiling supported by four pillars. Daylight streams in from an open door frame opposite the hall. The opening is partially blocked by what appears to be black sand that has spread into the room, covering part of the floor. A human skeleton juts out of the heap of sand in the middle of the room, an iron pickaxe lying on the ground near its outstretched arm. Moving forward cautiously, the party begins to examine the room. Rashid and Ruphus stay close to Alek, not trusting that he is entirely well, and are prepared to try and grab him should he decide to do something rash.

Suddenly some of the light is cut off from the outside, as an enormous shape appears just beyond the frame. It roars and bellows: “You shall not save your friend, mortals! This time of peace is at an end!”

The 15-foot-tall creature standing outside has a muscular body with four arms – two end in claws, two in powerful pincers. Its doglike head is topped with horns and sharp fangs fill its mouth. It looks unsettlingly like the Lord of the Demonskar himself, Nabthatoron. Baker does not hesitate for a moment however. Using his charging smite ability, he rushes forward, headless of the demon’s viscous, reaching attacks as he tries to close the gap. The dwarf lands a mighty blow to the demon’s midsection, and black ichor gushes from the penetrating wound.

Seeing the demon, Alek is filled with rage. He draws his weapon and leaps forward with a cry. Rashid and Ruphus attempt to grab him, but he violently shrugs off their attempts and charges. The demon now turns his full wrath on Alek. Clawing and slashing with great limbs, he cuts down the paladin in a matter of seconds. Alek drops to the ground with great bloody wounds across his body.

The other Seekers all attack as best they can, but the demon’s tough hide proves nearly impossible to breach. Only Baker’s attacks are getting through – twice more he slashes into the demon with his dwarven axe. Arithil use the dimension door scroll found in the hag lair to take Thomas and Mott behind the monster. Though no one but Baker has hit him yet, Nabthatoron is now surrounded. He’s done what he came to do, and Baker is proving to be a serious threat. He glares down at the clean-shaven dwarf and growls: “You and I will meet again, little one.” He then teleports away.

Ruphus immediately goes over to Alek to check on his condition. His wounds are horrific and he seems quite clearly dead. However, just as Ruphus reaches him, Alek suddenly reaches up and grabs hold of his arm. Looking deep into Ruphus’ eyes, Alek suddenly grows calm and strange aura of peace settles over the scene. Alek’s mouth opens and a voice, not his own, issues from his gapping jaw. The others recognize it as the voice of Nidrama, the movanic deva:

There is naught left for you in Cauldron at this time heroes – do not linger there! Your way must be forward, looking beyond the city. To do otherwise is to enter your own graves and to bring doom upon all you love! Trust the sign of the Smoking Eye if you wish to save them all!

Alek then slumps back to the ground and ceases to move. Ruphus confirms that he is indeed dead.

The heroes discuss what just happened, and what it all means. They also make some effort to determine where they are. Arithil sends her raven Hugh up to have a look, while Rashid uses his survival skills and Enzo draws on his vast pool of obscure knowledge. Other than a few rocky outcropping like the one containing the rooms they have just emerged from, there is nothing else around them but black ash and sand. Enzo has heard of such a place: The Sea of Dust, a nation-sized realm that was the heart of the ancient Suel empire. Their lands were destroyed in a great cataclysm know as the Rain of Colorless Fire. The result was a land covered by black ash. If this is truly where the party now is, it puts them some 1500 miles southwest of Cauldron.

As their predicament begins to sink in, several of the adventurers spot some movement in the rocks right next to them. Three gaunt humanoids suddenly leap down and attack. Reeking of decay, these creatures are covered in black, leathery skin. Behind their pointed ears, a large, curved horn rises out of the back of their skull. A mouth of jagged teeth takes up half the foul creature’s heads.

As the battle ensues, another figure appears from around the rocks in the opposite direction – this one appears as a human dressed in long robes. He shouts “I’m here to help!” and unleashes a string of magic missiles from a wand in his hand. The battle is over quickly. As each demon dies, its body disappears as though summoned, or perhaps just returning to the Abyss.

The human figure introduces himself as Kaurophon. The robe he wears is bears the stylized symbol of a smoking eye. He says that he was sent “by the power of the Smoking Eye” to guide the heroes to the outer plane of Occipitus. If the party can pass the Test of the Smoking Eye they can cleanse Occipitus of evil and win a great victory for the forces of good.

Note: A summary of information about Occipitus, Kaurophon and other things follows this narrative.

After some detailed questioning, the party decides that they will go to Occipitus, but first they must try and stop the attack on Redgorge if they can. Kaurophon agrees to this, but cautions the heroes to not take too long, as he believes that there may be evil rivals attempting to pass the test as well.

As a gesture of good faith in their new alliance, and as a way to show that he is not planning on stranding the party on the Abyss, Kaurophon gives them one arcane and one clerical scroll of plane shift (caster levels 14 and 9, respectively).

The party has another problem: how to get out here. They have no means to teleport, and Kaurophon can only offer them the ability to plane shift, which is far too inaccurate to get back to Cauldron. Enzo has already used the sending stone, so any message to Blue will have to wait until the next day.

3 Growfest [4 April]

Enzo does a sending spell in the morning: “In the Sea of Dust, need to debrief. Can you come and get us?” The answer is: “Yes, but will take some time to arrange. Sit tight and we’ll be there soon, hopefully before nightfall.”

The party spends the day resting, without much to do. They know they must stay close to where they are so that whoever is coming to get them can scry the area and get a good fix on the location in order to do a teleport spell. They also know that although the area beyond looks flat, they have heard that the layer of ash hides the terrain underneath, and a false step could sink them into the ash where they might never be found.

In the late afternoon a figure appears. Some of the party recognizes him as Sir Ralph, loyal bodyguard to Andarra the mage. They greet him and the invisible figure beside him. Once it’s clear there is no danger, Andarra appears. She gets everyone into bags of holding and teleports them all to Blue.

It’s been awhile since the Seekers were in town. They can see some of the progress that has been made in the intervening months, but have little time to admire it, or to enjoy any of the festivities of Growfest, the annual festival days of spring. Fadal offers to take Kaurophon to a comfortable lodging to wait, and spends some time questioning and examining him. The party sits down with Sabian and Andarra and does a full debrief of everything they have learned. Andarra then takes Ruphus and Alek’s body to Beachie Cove where it is left in the care of the temple of St. Cuthbert that has been established there. The party are given rooms in the embassy complex, and take some time to eat, wash-up, and get a good night’s sleep.

4 Growfest [5 April]

The Seekers meet again with Sabian in the morning and discuss things further. They are given some additional information about their situation, as well as a few gifts (see below). After a light lunch, they all pile into bags of holding again and Andarra teleports them to Redgorge. Despite only studying the place via scrying, she lands them spot-on in the back room of the Redhead Miner’s. She wishes them luck and heads back to Blue.

The party goes in search of Maavu and the other members of the Chisel. They eventually find the Foreman and Maavu surveying the scene outside the walls. The forces from Cauldron have already arrived and set up camp north of the walls. They are in the process of assembling three pieces of siege machinery: two mangonels and a trebuchet. After some discussion, the group decides to try the diplomatic approach first.

Four members of the group borrow horses and exit the main gate under a banner of truce, signalling their desire for a parlay. Eventually, four figures are seen riding out from the camp beyond. They stop a bit less than halfway from the walls, and the Seekers ride out to meet them. In the other group are Terseon Skellerang and another unknown human guard, along with Zarn Kyass (the “Blue Duke”) and a half-orc bodyguard.

The party informs Skellerang that Alek is dead, his challenge is no longer valid, and that the impending battle should therefore be called off. Terseon is reluctant to believe them at first. He says that in order for Redgorge to save itself it must surrender the members of the Chisel. “They are a treacherous group that have sought to undermine our city, its people, and its leaders. They have desired our government’s fall leaving us defenceless and ripe for conquest.” He seems adamant that the Chisel is the cause of all the recent troubles, and resolute to see them destroyed.

Even so, some in the party can sense some doubt behind the words. Skellerang certainly isn’t good, but he is lawful. His entire justification for this invasion was Alek’s challenge, and his belief that Tercival was being manipulated by the Chisel. Now here they are, on the cusp of war, and the base upon which the whole argument was built is being challenged. Despite this his words remain firm, and he tells the group that Redgorge has until dawn to surrender the Chisel or face the consequences.

Skellerang and the others turn their horses and ride back to camp. The Seekers head back to the city and tell the Foreman and others what has happened. The Foreman considers their report carefully, but still holds out little hope that Skellerang will have a sudden change of heart, given that he’s come this far. It is going to be a long night.

.

Gifts from Blue

Before leaving Blue, the Seekers are given some items to help them along on their journey.

Arithil – Bracers of Armor +4

Baker – Ring of Protection +2

Enzo – Bracers of Armor +4 (trades in his +2 bracers)

Fortuna – Ring of Resistance +2 (as a Cloak of Resistance, +2 to all saves), and a Ring of Protection +1

Mott – Ring of Feather Falling

Rashid – Ring of Protection +2; (trades in his +1); and three exploding arrows.

Ruphus – Large steel shield +3 (originally from Keoland, it bears the figure of a black
lion embossed over a red background).

Thomas – Chain shirt +2 (trades in +1).

Potions: 4 CMW (2d8+5), 2 CSW (3d8+8)

.

Information

Occipitus & the Test of the Smoking Eye

Occipitus is the 507th layer of the Abyss. During a demon invasion of Celestia, a chunk of the upper plane was broken off and sacrificed during the great battle between demons and angels. It fell into Occipitus, changing the nature of the plane forever.

Few creatures live there. Even demons regard it as haunted, because the light of good still shines there. Yet the evil is so strong that the angels of Celestia count it as lost forever. Some demons and other creatures have moved there, trying to pass the Test of the Smoking Eye and expunge what good remains there.

The Test of the Smoking Eye was created by the former ruler of the plane, who disappeared over 50 years ago. Whoever passes the Test becomes the new rightful ruler of Occipitus. If the right person passes the Test, he or she could in theory separate it from the Lower Planes. Perhaps it would become a demiplane, or perhaps it would again become a part of Celestia.

The former ruler of Occipitus was a demon lord named Adimarchus. The brief time the party had to research this while in Blue indicates that Adimarchus may have once actually been an angel who was cast out of heaven and later became the ruler of Occipitus.

How all of this connects to Cauldron and what is going on there is not yet clear. But it is clearly important enough that a being such as Nidrama has been moved to communicate with you about it. For a movanic deva to intercede in mortal affairs in this way is exceedingly rare, and she has now done so twice.

Kaurophon

Kaurophon describes himself as “a traveller, and I’ve wandered the planes for many decades. Because I was born of an illicit dalliance between fiend and human, I’m welcome nowhere. Perhaps my heritage is the reason I want to help someone pass the Test of the Smoking Eye and purify Occipitus. But I’m not one for introspection. I want to see a new direction for Occipitus, and I sense that it has a crucial role to play in the battle between good and evil.”

When asked how he got to where the party is, he says: “Much to my surprise, I found myself here just moments after I heard the prophet’s words inside my head. I suppose that I’m the ‘sign of the Smoking Eye’ he talked about.” The ‘prophet’ and ‘he’ refer to Alek, whom Kaurophon does not know by name.

Baker detects evil from Kaurophon, who explains “You’re detecting my unfortunate heritage – the fiendish blood that flows through my veins. Just as I’m trying to purify my own soul, so too am I trying to end the battle between good and evil on Occipitus. I hope that someday my aura will be as pure as yours. In any event, the evil that taints my soul is a pale shadow to those who have risen against you in Cauldron.”

What Kaurophon knows about Cauldron and the enemies there –

“I know precious little, I’m afraid. The group that has been orchestrating the troubles in your town from behind the scenes is known as the Cagewrights. They are the source of the unrest in your city. Their agents were involved in the kidnappings and thefts that plagued Cauldron. Yet I fear their true goals for the region are much more sinister. Alas, I’m not sure what those goals are. It has something to do with a planar ritual, but beyond that, I cannot say.”

When asked how he knows so much about the Cagewrights, he responds: “My research into the nature of Occipitus drew their attention, and for a time they tried to convince me to join their organization. I went along with them for a time, hoping to use them to further my own goals. Yet soon, I came to realize the simple fact that they were all mad, and I left them to their lunacies.”

The Seekers friends and allies in Blue do a little research of their own, wary of sending the group off to the Abyss in the care of this tiefling. Their advice to the group is basically to be wary – Kaurophon is an ally for now, but he will likely look to betray the group at some point. But beyond the trap lies the Seekers destiny and Cauldron’s salvation.

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Episode 36

1 Growfest [2 April]

The Company of Seekers takes a moment to discuss what just happened. The three hags have just fled down a hallway, and all agree that they should be pursued with haste. The group is naturally wary of traps however, especially considering the hags were all flying, so they proceed with some amount of caution.

A twenty-foot-wide, twenty-foot-high hall leads to the west out of the great circular chamber. After forty feet it enters a rectangular room. Four white pillars with capitals shaped like slender hands support the ceiling. A three-foot-diameter crystal globe is embedded ten feet up on each pillar. These hollow globes are half-filled with bubbling, transparent liquid that seems to replenish itself as quickly as it drains out of a hole in each globe’s base. At the base of each pillar, a silver spigot allows this liquid to drain out of the pillar and down a narrow channel to collect in a basin in the floor in the room’s centre. There, the liquid turns a deep purple colour. There are doors in the centre of both the north and south walls.

Rashid checks for tracks and determines that all the traffic goes towards the north door. The party moves ahead – they will examine the chamber in more detail later. Beyond the door is a ten-foot-wide hallway running sixty feet straight north to another door. Checking for traps as they go, the party approaches the door, knowing it will open automatically once they are close enough. Once prepared, they step forward.

There is a fifty-foot-square chamber beyond the door. The north portion contains a seven-foot-high platform connected to an L-shaped ramp. A strip of bas-reliefs depicting gaunt, magic-wielding six-armed creatures decorates the base of the platform. Each creature holds a disk in its lowest set of arms, which is represented like a shining sun, the rays emanating from the disks, engraved in the stone as straight lines, form the background of the composition. A white marble throne with triple armrests sits on the platform itself. Standing on the platform are the three hags, ready for battle.

This fight is a bit more of a challenge for the heroes. The hags wield some potent magic – casting confusion and multiple dominate persons during the battle – and their mere touch causes weakness. But despite these powers two of the hags soon lie dead. The third flies south towards the door the group entered, and shoots off down the hall. Several of the party pursue, but the hag’s speed is too much and they soon realize they won’t catch her.

Two more doors lead from the room, but the party decides that some rest is order before they continue as they have used nearly all their spells. They backtrack to the hill giants overlook above the great portcullis at the entrance and set up a watch. It is difficult to sleep as the rising and falling wail from the great pipes outside can clearly be heard here, and the stench of the acidic, sulphurous pool fills the nostrils. But they are hardened adventurers now, and are used to roughing it in places like this. The night passes slowly, and eventually the group is ready to resume their search.

2 Growfest [3 April]

The Seekers return to large circular meeting chamber first and carefully examine the strange stone and metal construction in the centre. This is a bizarre, thirty-foot-wide, seven-foot-tall sculpture made of truncated pillars, short ramps, suspended slabs of stone, and a total of twenty chairs with triple arm-rests. It appears that some of the parts once moved, but centuries of disuse have frozen everything in place. After some time and discussion, the best guess of the party is that this was perhaps some kind of elaborate meeting table of sorts.

The group moves on to the fountain room next. The dark liquid in the pool in the room’s centre radiates strong Transmutation magic. No other clues as to its purpose can be discovered however. Eventually Baker and Thomas each decide to try some. They immediately feel their muscles swell with power, and they feel immensely strong.

The party turns their attention to the door in the southern wall of the fountain room. Finding nothing untoward, it is approached and opens to reveal a 30-foot hallway running south to another door. Fortuna carefully examines this from a safe distance. She is suspicious – it appears that the seams around the door’s edge have been filled with some kind of resin. Everyone else clears out of the hall and she attempts to disarm the trap, but is unsuccessful. Eventually she decides to simply trust in her amazing dodging abilities and steps forward to open the door. As it slides upwards, a shower of sparks is created along the edges of the door, and a terrific explosion ensues. Fortuna dives and rolls under the fireball, escaping with only a few singed hairs.

As the smoke clears, the party can see that the area beyond the door consists only of a small pocket of space, the rest having collapsed long ago. After some investigation, they think they can detect a tiny crack that allows flammable gas to seep through. Examining the door frame, they can see that it was sealed with an alchemical resin mixed with tiny bits of flint and steel. When the door opened, this mixture generated a cascade of sparks that instantly ignited the built-up gas behind it. The resin mixture is similar to the half-full pot of hardened resin found in Dugobras’ lair. He was clearly a clever and devious fire giant.

Back in the throne room, the party first examines the western door. It leads to a 20 foot hallway and another door, which in turn opens into what can only be the hag covey’s lair. Three large beds can be seen. Along the west wall hangs a set of golden wolf masks. The smooth stone walls and the floor are covered by colourful and bizarre tapestries and carpets. An elaborate weaver’s loom occupies the southwest corner. Various skeins of wool of many different colours are piled near the loom, next to a basket of sewing tools. A wooden chest sits in the southeast corner.

Standing guard in the room are four tall skeletons, each with six arms. Each holds a strange chromatic disk in its lower set of arms. The skeletons immediately animate and attack, but they are no match for the heroes and are quickly dispatched. The disks they were holding are examined: each is a 6-inch-diameter device that glows with colours that slowly shift through the spectrum, made of some kind of light-weight metal. It radiates strong transmutation magic. The skeletons did not appear to be employing the devices in anyway, merely holding them.

The rest of the room is searched very thoroughly. The five wolf masks on the wall are gold-plated and are certainly valuable. Enzo takes these. The carpets on the walls and floor are probably worth quite a bit, but given their size and weight they are left. The skeins of wool are high quality, well-dyed material. There are 15 bales each weighing about 10 pounds, so these are taken. The chest is unlocked and not trapped, and contains the following: 130 gold pieces in a large purse, 12 pieces of assorted silverware (jugs, plates, bowls), a golden armband, a magical sack containing four potions, three scrolls, and a magical necklace.

The party takes their time searching the room, and their thoroughness pays off. Fortuna finds that a small square of stone behind one of the wolf masks pushes in, and this release a catch on a long, shallow drawer built into the stonework beneath it. Wrapped in purple silk is a 6-foot-long staff fashioned of pale, almost white wood. This is Alakast, the legendary staff of Surabar Spellmason. It is decided that Mott should carry it, given his connection to the long-dead icon.

Returning to the throne room, the group opens the door on the north wall. A long corridor stretches out over 80 feet before ending at a cave-in. Near the far end is a door on the western wall.

The party carefully moves forward and opens the door. Beyond is a 30-foot-square room. The ceiling forms a four-sided dome. The apex of the dome is thirty feet off the ground. An odd, ten-foot-wide pentagonal mirror is affixed to the west wall, from where it casts a dark reflection of the room. This reflection is distorted in an unsettling way, and dotted with shimmering, star-like pinpoints of white light. A single chair of white stone with triple armrests sits in the middle of the room, facing the mirror. A colourful hexagonal diagram is engraved in the floor surrounding the mirror.

A figure is seated on the throne, and appears to be startled awake as the group enters. It looks just like Alek Tercival and says “Oh, you’ve arrived, thank goodness!” The party is immediately suspicious, and begins to question the figure. He claims that he was put to sleep magically by some strange symbols on the back of the door the group just came through, a door that is currently raised and can’t be seen. He urges someone to step inside and allow the door to close so the symbols can be seen. The heroes aren’t buying it however, and are being very cautious. At this moment several creatures seem to step out of the mirror. These new creatures are large humanoids (slightly taller and bulkier than a human), but their entire surface – skin and armour – is like a mirror, reflecting everything around them. The dual weapons they wield look like shards of mirrors as well. The Alek impostor’s form shifts now as well, and he too has mirror-like skin. He is not as tall as the others, and wields a shard-like longsword and dagger.

Despite their alien and unsettling appearance, these creatures are no match for Seekers. They are quickly taken down until only one remains, and that one flees back through the mirror. As each one dies, it shatters into hundreds of glass-like shards, which then seem to melt like ice and quickly evaporate, leaving no trace.

Side note: Upon returning to Blue and reporting on these creatures, the characters can learn a little bit about them. They are called nerra, and are native to a strange realm called the Plane of Mirrors. They have the ability to use mirrors to travel, in a similar way someone would use shadow walk. They are thankfully quite rare. Given the strange nature of the Starry Mirror, it’s not surprising they seem to have an interest in it.

The party now turns its attention to the Starry Mirror itself. Looking intently into it, they can see five pentagonal windows floating under its dark surface. Four of them show nothing but dull white light. The fifth shows an indistinct image of Alek sitting next to a large metal door in a stone wall, his expression filled with despair. They try shouting to Alek, but he appears not to hear.

Enzo touches the mirror and finds that it is actually a vertical surface of cold, reflective liquid, which his hand sinks into. Seeing no alternative, the party steps through one by one. They each find themselves in a separate pentagonal room. The ambient light is one of six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple. On each of the five walls is a mirror/portal with a different hue – whatever the colour of the room the person is in, the other five colours are reflected in the mirrors. Passing through a mirror with a certain colour takes the person into a new pentagonal room with that colour ambient light. But no matter what, each person always finds him or herself alone. However, the party finds that they can call to each other, their voices sounding like a metallic echo. After some trial and error, the heroes begin to piece together how the portals work. They refer to the hegemonic plate they purchased from Tygot back in Cauldron. Under the etching of the Starry Mirror were six rectangles with a series of dots underneath. The dots are grouped 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3. Putting this together with the colour wheel in the first room, they eventually figure out the path they must take.

One by one each adventurer steps through the final mirror in their sequence. They all find themselves in a small square room with a pentagonal, five-foot-wide mirror set into one of the walls. Twelve seven-foot-tall clay urns stand against the walls to either side, though some of them are broken (these all prove to be empty). An iron door, its face covered with countless scratches and chips, blocks an eight-foot-tall archway in the wall opposite the mirror. Slumped next to the door is Alek, his glowing morningstar lying beside him.

The paladin does not seem to notice the group’s arrival. His red eyes show that he has been weeping for awhile, and the bleeding blisters on his hands testify to his frantic attempts to escape the chamber. The party does its best to try and interact with Alek. Ruphus comes up close to try and speak with him. As he draws near, he can hear Alek muttering under his breath: “When the final cage is shackled the burning doom shall rise.”

It takes a bit of doing – speaking to Alek, a cure spell from Ruphus, gentle coaxing and patience – but eventually the paladin seems to come out of his stupor and acknowledge the group’s presence. He is willing to relate some of his past events, but he still believes that the fey hags were trumpet archons and that he has somehow failed the cause of good. The party does its best to explain to him that this is not the case, and relates how they revealed the hags for what they really were. Alek doesn’t want to believe it at first, but eventually realizes the truth, and he becomes very ashamed and very angry. He asks the party a lot of questions to learn as much as possible about what he missed. He agrees that his challenge to Terseon Skellerang must be withdrawn publicly to avoid what would be a disastrous conflict between Cauldron and Redgorge.

Treasure

Golden chalice (dwarven manufacture), worth 350 gp – left in the large circular room when the hags fled.

Hag Covey’s Lair

5 gold-plated, darkwood wolf masks, each worth 350 gp

4 chromatic disks held by the spell weaver skeletons

130 gp in a large purse

12 pieces of assorted silverware (jugs, plates, bowls) worth 450 gp in total

a golden armband worth 120 gp

Bag of Holding type II (weighs 25#, holds 500#, 70 cu. ft.)

4 potions of CMW (2d8+5)

Arcane scroll with greater dispel magic and sequester (caster level 14)

Arcane scroll with dimension door (caster level 8)

Divine scroll with raise dead (caster level 9)

Necklace of fireballs (type III, with just one 5d6 and two 3d6 spheres left)

Alakast

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Episode 35
Vaprak's Voice

1 Growfest [2 April]

The Company of Seekers has stepped through the giant-sized portcullis between the outside and inside of Vaprak’s Voice. They are in a rough-hewn hallway that curves down and to the right. Fortuna sneaks ahead to scout things out. The hall opens up into a larger area. Five nasty-looking piles of animal skins occupy the chamber. Several sacks, clay lamps and vases, cookware, and crude tools are scattered here and there. Six torches have been jammed into cracks in the walls, three of which are currently lit. There are two other exits from the cave.

The tunnel to the left opens out into a long hallway of an entirely different construction from the rough tunnels the group has been in. A very long and straight, twenty-foot-wide, twenty-five-foot-high corridor stretches out to the left and right. Square plates on the ceiling fill the corridor with a soft, grey light. To the left there is a pair of large, ironbound wooden doors, while to the right the corridor is eventually blocked by a cave-in. The party decides to leave this tunnel for later.

The other tunnel goes a short distance to the north before opening into another chamber. Fortuna and Enzo think they can see some movement there. Enzo turns himself invisible and scouts ahead. He sees another large, rough chamber that reeks of sweaty, unwashed brutes and scorched meat. Four twelve-foot-long stone beds covered with filthy animal skins lie near the walls. A huge fire pit dominates the middle of the cave, under a chimney hole in the forty-foot-high ceiling above. The charred, dismembered skeleton of some sort of deer or elk lies over the bed of ashes. A pile of one-foot-diameter polished rock spheres is stacked neatly against the far wall, with a hammer and a chisel nearby. Sitting on a large stool next to these is a hill giant, who is polishing one of the stones with an emory. Another giant sits next to the fire pit, poking at the animal bones with a stick. A third giant sits on the edge of one of the beds. Three other exits lead from this cave.

Enzo retreats and the adventurers form a plan. Enzo lays down some oil in the hallway, while Fortuna positions herself up near the ceiling. A challenge is shouted, and the giants come to investigate. In the ensuing battle they manage to get in a few blows, but the might of the heroes is far too much. Enzo also takes one out of the battle early on with a Tasha’s Hideous Laughter spell. The giants are quickly dispatched.

The party moves up one of the tunnels leading from this chamber, over to where the giant that Enzo put to sleep lies. Baker insists on letting the giant stand up and arm himself before attacking so that he may die honourably, but no one else is listening to him and the brute is dead within two rounds.

Moving back to the hill giant cave, the group takes a quick look at the other two exits. To the northeast, a tunnel runs a short distance to a crude wall of logs and boards bound together with rope and huge iron nails. Bits of yellowish daylight can be seen around the edges and cracks, so this appears to be another way to the outside. The barrier could probably be hefted aside by a giant without too much trouble, but makes for an effective barrier against most would-be intruders.

The last tunnel is also short and ends in a set of double doors made of iron-bound wood. The party does a thorough search of the hill giant lair before proceeding. There are four burlap sacs containing the personal belongings of the hill giants. Aside from the usual mundane items, they contain a total of 2,100 silver pieces, 950 gold pieces, a silver ring worth 400 gp, and a gold-plated halfling skull, worth perhaps 250 gp.

The group moves over to the double doors and Fortuna picks the lock. Baker and Mott swing them open. Before them is a large rectangular room with a prism-shaped, fifty-foot-high ceiling. A shiny, metal furnace stands against the north wall, with rumbling, vertical blue flames inside. A large mound of broken anvils is stacked against one side of the furnace, and several more anvil fragments lie heaped inside the furnace, glowing red-hot. An enormous smithing hammer lies on a big iron anvil in the middle of the room, and several more anvil are stacked in another corner near the furnace. A great chair sits in the southwestern corner astride a huge metal chest. A seven-foot-wide cubic cage of silver and platinum, its bars etched with mystical symbols, lies nearby, next to a pile of metal scrap. Standing next to the furnace is a twelve-foot-tall, nine-foot-wide fire giant holding an enormous warhammer in one hand and a wand in the other.

The heroes waste no time in negotiation and wade right into battle. The giant uses his wand to cast displacement on himself, which makes for a frustrating battle. He hits extremely hard with his warhammer: In one round, with Mott near to full hit points, the giant uses his three attacks to take Mott to -6 (over 70 hits points of damage). But the Seekers have grown impressively powerful of late, and even despite frequent misses due to the displacement effect, they are able to do tremendous damage themselves. Enzo then gets to cast dispel magic for the first time ever, and he succeeds in dispelling the displacement. Things are quickly looking grim for the giant, and in desperation he uses another wand to cast a cure spell on himself. But it is too little too late, and before he can act again he is dead.

The party takes a breather and gets everyone cured, then does a thorough search of the room. The giant himself is carrying three wands, and his warhammer and chainshirt are magical, though sized for a large creature of course. He also carries a key. Fortuna takes a look at the iron chest under the giant chair. It has a combination lock on it. She doesn’t detect any traps, so sets to work on the lock. It takes her a couple of minutes, but she soon has it figured out. As she lifts the lid there is a tremendous explosion of fire. Her reflexes kick in and she deftly rolls out of the way, taking no damage. Inside the chest is another chest – the space in-between had been filled with alchemist’s fire, a trap which Fortuna hadn’t perceived. Opening the second chest reveals several nice magic items and some cash (listed at the end of this narrative). There is also a note in the chest:

Dugobras –

Just because the cages are finished and Grehlia left, you think there’s nothing more for you here and you can just waltz out? Fine then, go ahead you big bastard, and good riddance! But when I’m head of the Cauldron town guard someday you may find you have to answer to Captain Triel Eldurast, and you may regret your actions!

Triel of course was the leader of the group that stole the wands of control water several months ago, and was hiding out in the Kopru ruins below Cauldron.
Excerpt from Episode 18-19 notes:

She is none other than the notorious Triel Eldurast, a one-time town guard who escaped punishment after murdering several of her fellow guards while on duty. This took place nearly ten years ago, so the specifics have grown hazy in people’s memories. Triel escaped the city, and nothing was ever heard from her again. Everyone just assumed she was killed by orcs once she left.

The strange cage of silver and platinum is examined. It does not radiate magic, but those with knowledge of the arcane who study it can tell that conjuration, abjuration, and necromancy magic were part of its creation. This information sparks another remembrance for several members of the party: While exploring the Kopru Ruins, they found a large, mostly empty workroom. Upon examining the bits of metal and tools lying about, Enzo was able to determine that the room was used to build some sort of magic device, most likely something connected to the schools of conjuration, abjuration, and necromancy. The cage is not magical however, so what the connection might be, if any, remains a mystery.

The party debates what to do with the cage. It is obviously valuable, but it weighs over 300 pounds and is clearly bulky. They finally decide to shove it into the roaring furnace and let it melt down. Perhaps if they return they can fish out the valuable metals later.

Finally, while searching through the pile of metal scrap, Fortuna uncovers a small unlocked metal crate. Inside are two crystal jugs filled with ten doses of alchemist’s fire apiece. Near the metal crate sits a half-full pot of hardened, sticky resin – it’s unclear what it is for.

A wide hallway leads out of the room and into the long, smooth corridor that Enzo saw earlier, up near the north end where it is collapsed. The party moves down the hallway. On the right-hand side is a smooth stone door set into the wall. As Fortuna moves up to examine it, it suddenly slides up of its own accord, revealing a ten-foot-wide hallway that goes about twenty feet before ending in another cave-in. The group tests out the door a bit – it seems to open when one of them steps within about five feet of it, and remains open as long as anyone is within that range, and for a minute after everyone steps away.

The adventurers move down to the set of iron-bound wooden doors at the far end of the corridor. These doors are obviously not part of the original construction. The key taken from Dugobras fits the lock, and Baker and Mott push them open. The hall continues another twenty feet before opening up into sixty-foot-wide circular, domed chamber. The walls are carved and polished with exceptional precision and skill to look like cascades of petrified liquid. Several metal disks on the ceiling sixty feet above provide a pearly illumination as bright as torchlight. The centre of the room is occupied by a bizarre, thirty-foot-wide, seven-foot-tall metal and stone sculpture made of truncated pillars, short ramps, suspended slabs of stone, and a total of twenty chairs with triple arm-rests. Two more twenty-foot-wide hallways exit the chamber to the west and south. Also in the room are five ettins, two of whom toss javelins at Baker and Mott as soon as the doors open.

This is another short fight, as the Seeker’s once again flex their muscles and show just how formidable they have become. Five dead ettins soon lie on the stone floor. The group examines the bodies, and then begins to have a look at the strange construction in the centre of the room. But barely a minute goes by when something else happens. From the western hallway there is the sound of a heavenly choir, and three trumpet archons approach, accompanied by pleasing floral scents. They smile beatifically, and thank the heroes for “cleansing this ancient and sacred site from the taint of those terrible giants.” One of the archons carries a golden chalice, and she holds it out towards Arithil, saying that her heroism against the giants has earned her the right to drink the nectar of the Gods. Naturally suspicious, and remembering the words of Nidrama that the Lord of the Demonskar’s minions would use deceit and treachery against the party, as well as mentioning her “false sisters,” the group begins to ask the three figures several questions in rapid succession. The archons continue to smile and proffer the chalice, offering it now to Enzo, who has stepped forward to speak. When he and Arithil both refuse, the figures recoil in horror and exclaim, “Only one who has been tainted with evil would refuse the nectar of the gods! Quickly, you must destroy these hidden agents of evil at once!” The group isn’t buying it however, and Ruphus instead casts order’s wrath on the trio. Arithil follows this up by casting a dispel magic. Suddenly the archons aren’t so appealing anymore – they instead look like withered hags on top with hairy cricket legs below. Before they can do anything, Enzo casts glitterdust on them. The hags now turn and unfold pairs of elongated, sickly-brown moth-like wings and fly away down the hall they came, where they quickly disappear from sight.

Treasure List

Hill Giants

2,100 sp, 950 gp, silver ring worth 400 gp, gold-plated halfling skull worth perhaps 250 gp

Dugobras the fire giant

4,350 sp, 280 gp, Pouch with 12 pieces of amber (100 gp each), Golden water boiler (worth 120 gp)

+1 warhammer (large sized)

+3 chainshirt (large sized)

Wand of displacement (13 charges)

Wand of dispel magic (18 charges)

Wand of CSW (3d8+5, 21 charges)

Wand of lightning bolt (caster level 7, 17 charges)

+1 arrow deflection light metal shield (emblazoned with the face of a wolf biting the shaft of an arrow)

3 potions of cat’s grace

3 potions of protection from elements (electricity)

Divine scroll with magic fang, hold animal, remove disease

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Episode 34

28 Coldeven [1 April]

The Company of Seekers has spent the night in Redgorge, after having met with the Chisel. They have learned that there is a headless statue many miles downstream from the town, along the Red River. Once again making use of their trusty folding boat, the party sets out. The day is overcast, with occasional drizzle, but it is relatively warm.

After about four hours of steady travel, the group sees a large beach running along the northern bank of the river. A badly weathered stone statue is visible, its head resting next to it on the ground. The boat is still some 300 feet from the shore when arrows fly out at it from the dense foliage on both sides of the statue. A group of gnolls can just be made out hiding there. Most of the party takes to the oars, trying to get to the shore as quickly as possible, while Fortuna and Rashid begin returning fire with their bows. Arithil contributes a few timely magic missiles as well. The gnoll arrows are poisoned, but those hit all resist the toxin. By the time the boat makes it to the shore, two of the gnolls are down and another has staggered off, barely alive. The remaining three gnolls, also injured at this point, all flee before the party can get any closer.

The heroes search the dead gnolls and examine the statue. It is crudely carved, but is clearly some sort of humanoid. Its expressive canine head lies in the sand a few feet away. Patches of mould and moss grow on the statue, but the vegetation around it seems to have been cleared away recently. Upon examining the statue, Enzo comes to the conclusion that it depicts a glabrezu. This is the same type of demon he dressed as in performing the final dance at the Demonskar Ball, where he was depicting Nabthatoron, lord of the Demonskar.

A narrow trail next to the statue winds off to the northwest into the foliage. It appears to be travelled mostly by gnolls, but there are signs of smaller animals using it as well. The rain has let up, but it remains overcast.

The trail makes its way through the hilly terrain, winding through bits of thick forest and more open territory. After about an hour and a half of travel, Arithil’s familiar Hugin reports seeing a large cave a few hundred feet off the main trail. It soon comes into sight for all. Enzo turns himself and Fortuna invisible and they sneak up ahead, while the rest of the party moves up more slowly. All is quiet around the cave entrance, but even from over 60 feet away Enzo can pick up foul smells, a mixture of animal and carrion.

Enzo creates a ghost sound of a squealing pig, hoping to lure out whatever may be inside the cave. It works to perfection: a moment later a sinewy, eight foot tall beast emerges, sniffing around. Its tremendous jaws support a row of oversized, needle-sharp front teeth. Each of its limbs ends in three toes tipped with, huge, curved claws. It is turned at first towards the sounds Enzo is producing off to the left of the cave, but then it spots some of the party down the trail a bit, and it lets out a challenging roar as a warning. This is enough for Baker, and he shouts out a challenge and charges forward. A short, intense battle ensues. The beast is agile, and its claws and teeth do tremendous damage. Nevertheless the combined might of the party quickly brings it down. Rashid is able to identify the beast as a forest sloth – a bit of a misnomer given how quickly it was able to move.

A search is made of the cave. It appears that perhaps the sloth is a recent resident. There are the remains of a large ogre in the back of the cave, killed in the not-too-distant past. A thorough search is made of the lair, which yields only one interesting item: a wand, out of charges and no longer magical, which bears the symbol of St. Cuthbert on its butt. This gives the group some hope that perhaps they’re on the right track to finding Alek.

The adventurers return to the gnoll path and continue to the northwest. They walk for the rest of the afternoon, carefully keeping an eye out for gnolls and anything else that may be hostile. Hu spends most of the day flying overhead as a lookout. But there are no other encounters, and by late afternoon the party begins searching for a secure place to camp for the night. They eventually find a spot they like on a hill, giving them some sight lines around the area.

Just as it is getting dark, several members of the party hear a flutter of large wings, and all the wildlife nearby falls suddenly silent. A moment later a beautiful woman emerges from the foliage and stands at the edge of the encampment. She has perfectly white skin and sparkling eyes of silver. A pair of feathered wings spread out behind her and she raises a flaming sword, which emits myriad flickering beams of light. She looks at the party intently for a moment, and then speaks:

“I am Nidrama, and I am here to personally thank you for all your heroic deeds in these past several months. Your rescue of the kidnapped townsfolk of Cauldron, saving the city from the winter floods, battling the rampaging umber hulk, saving Skylar Krewis from the mobs, and stopping the raging fire elementals: all these things are to be commended.

“Powerful forces of chaos and evil are afoot. I dare not remain here long lest my presence attract the attention of those forces. Yet I could not sit by and watch you march into danger without warning you. The Lord of the Demonskar knows of your approach, and even now his minions prepare for your arrival. They shall use deceit and treachery against you, just as they have done with Alek Tercival before you. You must remain resolute; Alek Tercival must be saved.

“I have no aid to offer you but knowledge. In ages past, I provided to Surabar Spellmason a powerful weapon to assist him in his conflict with the Lord of the Demonskar. This was Alakast, a staff infused with an undying hatred of the fiends of the outer rifts. Unfortunately, Alakast was lost to the forces of evil many years ago. Yet do not despair, for it is fated that Alakast should be wielded again against the Lord of the Demonskar. It was my hope that Alek might have recovered it and be the one to wield it, but that has not come to pass. The opportunity has now found its way to you, and all that needs be done is for you to claim it. Seek Alakast in the lair of my false sisters, beyond the watchful eyes of the north. That is all I am at liberty to say… I wish you well in your travails, heroes, and never lose sight of your goals.”

Nidrama then takes a step back and disappears. The group discusses what just happened, unsure of what it all means, but they have just had a brush with history.

1 Growfest [2 April]

The adventurers wake to a partly sunny, warm day. They pack up their gear and head back to the gnoll trail to continue their journey. After about two hours they are passing over an area of open hills, with only the occasional tree or shrub about. Hu is high above on lookout duty. Several of them are suddenly aware of the ground rumbling beneath them, and the earth begins to heave and buckle. A huge creature bursts out right at their feet. Several of them have heard tales of such a beast – the bulette, or land shark, a fearsome monster with a voracious appetite. Unfortunately for this particular bulette, it has bitten off more than it can chew today, and though it inflicts a few wounds of its own, it is quickly killed.

The group continues on for several more hours. After passing through some thicker forest, the hunting trail ends abruptly and the trees thin out considerably, granting a clear view of the sky. To the north, roiling yellow and brown clouds boil above a rough, barren horizon. The jagged line of the Demonskar’s rim broods at the base of these clouds. The ground itself between here and the rim is strewn with razor-sharp ridges of volcanic glass and jagged stone. Ruined strips of what can only be the metal framework of ancient structures protrude from the ground like broken fingers from a shallow grave. One particularly large structure juts from the ground only twenty feet from the end of the trail. The ruin appears like nothing more than a massive pipe protruding from the ground, its twenty-foot-wide, two-foot-thick frame sloping down into the ground at a gentle slope.

Rashid can pick up signs of hill giants coming and going from the strange tunnel, but little evidence of gnolls at this point. The party begins making their way carefully down the sloping tunnel. There are holes here and there where bits of light come through, but for the most part it is dark. At several points it branches off, and the adventurers are careful to follow the map scratched into the hegemonic plate. They follow these tunnels for nearly five miles. The last mile is dark and almost completely intact. As they proceed, the group becomes aware of a rhythmic rumbling moan that rises and falls.

When the party finally emerges from the tunnel into the open air, the assault on their senses is all but overwhelming. The noise at its height is nearly deafening. Out of the dark passage, sharp and jagged rocks hang over a small ledge in the southeast part of a wide pit. The pit, roughly one hundred and fifty feet in diameter, is set at the bottom of a large fissure among the arid, crystalline hills that border the Demonskar. Puffs of eye-watering smoke seep from a pool at the bottom of the chasm, about fifty feet below. On the other side of the chasm, a pair of gigantic metal tubes protrudes from the rock, extending nearly fifty feet and out of the fissure. The burning stink of sulphur and acid is everywhere, and the ground and walls are wet with foul-smelling condensation. A ramp of roughly hewn stone steps winds down into the pit. As the wind rises and sweeps through the fissure, the two looming metal chimneys issue a thundering, deep bellow that echoes across the landscape.

The heroes begin to make their way down the stone ramp. Baker pauses to look over the pool below and detect for evil. The water in the shallow pool bubbles constantly, stirred by acrid vapours escaping from below. A whistling puff of smoke erupts sporadically from the water’s surface, spraying the surrounding rocks with warm, whitish droplets. As Baker is looking at the pool, he sees a small shape moving in it, but is in turn himself spotted. The creature flies out of the pool and heads for an opening in the western side of the fissure. Baker and Fortuna take shots at the target with their bows, but it quickly disappears around a corner. Rashid thinks it may have been a mephit of some sort.

The party moves quickly now down to the bottom of the pit. The air here is foul with sulphuric, acrid vapours, and several members of the group feel sickened by it. They can see to the west the pit extends back a little bit. At its end there is a twenty-foot-tall, massive iron gate blocking a tunnel entrance. Over the passage, a second cave mouth opens on the rocky wall, much like the balcony of a giant gatehouse. The group starts making their way towards this. They can see that the portcullis is spiked and made of iron, and nearly fifteen feet wide. The smaller cave mouth is barely two feet in diameter.

Enzo turns himself invisible and climbs up the walls using his slippers. He makes his way above the smaller entrance, then hanging upside-down peers in. He sees a hill giant, watching the party below. He sits on a giant-sized wooden stool, and nearby is a pile of spherical rocks. There is also an enormous winch system connected to a pair of chains and pulleys.

This is the chance Enzo has been waiting for: an opponent not already engaged in battle with the rest of the party. He pulls out his lyre and begins strumming a soothing melody. The giant seems enraptured by the performance, and visibly relaxes as he listens to the bard’s playing. Enzo then attempts to implant a suggestion into his music, urging the giant to open the portcullis. It works, and the beast moves over to the winch and begins turning the large iron wheel that operates the gate below. The rest of the group quickly scurries inside. Enzo then begins a second performace to re-fascinate the giant, and this time suggests to him that he is very sleepy. The giant lies down on the floor and falls asleep.

So far, so good.

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Episode 33

25 Coldeven [28 March]

The Company of Seekers is sitting at Oriel House around 10 o’clock on the same evening as the Cauldron tax riot took place. They have had a late dinner, and Ruphus is thinking of heading back to the temple. Daisy says she’s about ready to head home too, but then she suddenly disappears into thin air.

There is the sudden sound of bells ringing in the city hall tower, and Ruphus immediately recognizes the pattern of ringing as a warning that there is a fire somewhere in town. Several people get up and go outside to look. Below them, at the edge of the lake, they can see the orange glow of a burning building. The heroes quickly grab their gear and hustle down to the scene.

As they approach, the party can see that it is Minuta’s Board that is on fire. This is a cheap inn that rumour has it is or was the headquarters for the largely defunct Alleybashers thieve’s guild. It is also currently housing many of the half-orc mercenaries who couldn’t find space in the town guard barracks.

There is already a bucket-line formed down to the lake, composed of both half-orcs and townsfolk. There are also quite a few gawkers, a few of which are actually hurling insults at the half-orcs as they toil to put out the flames (“Go back to the hell you come from, mongrels!”, “Let’s burn away the rot from your human half, freak!”).

There are a few half-orcs who are wielding their big double-axes, chopping down the front porch of the inn where it is closest to another building, in an attempt to prevent the fire from spreading.

In front of the flaming inn, the innkeeper and a mercenary argue. The innkeeper pulls at his hair, crying and yelling to the big half-orc. “Your thugs are demolishing my inn! Stop them!” The half-orc ignores the innkeeper, and turns away to tell his axemen in Orc to continue. The innkeeper grabs at the half-orc’s arm in an attempt to get his attention. Bewildered, sweaty, and visibly scorched by fire, the mercenary loses his temper and throws the innkeeper to the ground. He grabs the human’s neck with a single hand, puts his mouth at just an inch from the man’s face, and yells, “You tiny idiot! You don’t get it! Flame-demon inside kill us! Fire unstoppable! Blades useless!” As the innkeeper whines incoherently, the half-orc puts his scimitar before the innkeeper’s face, showing its twisted and apparently melted blade. He releases the human and turns away in disgust.

As the party takes in the scene, a gout of fire suddenly explodes through the doorway of the inn, enveloping and incinerating a screaming half-orc. An enormous, 30-foot tall fire elemental has burst out of the inn and into the street. Without any hesitation the heroes move up to engage the creature. Meanwhile Fortuna is climbing up the adjacent building and taking in the scene from there. Her sharp elven ears picks up a cry for help from somewhere inside the burning building. Wasting no time, she uses her spool of endless rope to make a loop around a chimney and deftly leaps across the gap between the buildings and into an open window, headless of the smoke pouring through it.

On the ground the others are doing all they can to battle the elemental, but it is a fast, powerful foe capable of doing tremendous damage itself. Tommy is struck down by two flaming blows, and it is only Baker’s swift response with his lay on hands ability that saves the young cohort’s life. Arithil castes haste on the party to try and add some speed to their side. After using his inspire courage ability, Enzo also climbs up on the neighbouring roof to have a look around. Inside, Fortuna stays low and looks up the hallway. She can see a teenage boy who has been trapped under a heavy wooden beam that is burning at its far end. Knowing she probably doesn’t have the strength to lift the beam herself, she employs her roguish skills for all they’re worth and manages to wriggle the boy out from where he is pinned. She quickly retreats, fighting off the tremendous heat and blinding smoke, and gets back to the window. She lowers herself to the ground while holding the boy, then tells him to go find help out front.

The battle against the fire elemental continues – as a creature of pure fire, it is not taking all the physical damage it should be from the group’s attacks. Ruphus and Arithil use what magic they have to add to the damage. Suddenly though a second fire elemental bursts through the corner of the building, taking part of a wall with it. Things are looking grim. But it isn’t long after when the first elemental finally goes down, disappearing in shower of sparks and embers. Enzo has made his way onto the rooftop of the inn, despite the dangers of smoke and flames shooting through the tiles in several places. He sees the second elemental and tries to use his bardic ability to fascinate creatures. It seems to be working for a moment, but then Arithil directs her persistent blade effect to attack the creature and the fascination is broken. The elemental turns and attacks Enzo, nearly killing him with two mighty blows. The others move to engage the new target.

Meanwhile Fortuna is doing her best to look for someone who may have summoned these elementals, but she isn’t seeing anyone suspicious. The second elemental is finally brought down as well, and the heroes can catch their breath. Ruphus uses his wands to cure Mott and Baker, who have taken the brunt of the creatures’ attacks.

A few moments after the last elemental is killed, a new figure arrives on the scene: he is an enormously tall human at nearly seven feet, with long blue hair and dressed in blue robes. He quickly takes in the scene. He asks Enzo to move away from the burning building, and making sure no one else is in the way, he casts a cone of cold spell onto the flames. He then proceeds to move around the burning structure, casting multiple cones of cold until the flames are all put out.

Kristof Jurgensen, the local cleric of Pelor, has arrived to aid the wounded and those intoxicated by the smoke. When all is finished, and quiet falls again on the streets, he screams out at no one in particular: “Fools! The flames of discord will raise hell in our town!”

The blue-haired human speaks to the lead half-orc on the scene, a Sergeant Rokewko, in orcish, asking what happened. He tells the sergeant to gather up the surviving mercenaries and to meet him at town hall. He gruffly thanks the Seekers for their aid in saving his men, then says he wants to return to the town hall to complain and demand restitution.

The party learns from Sergeant Rokewko that the blue-haired human is named Zarn Kyass, but is otherwise also known as the Blue Duke. This is a name they have heard before. It was mentioned in an article in the Cauldron Herald a few months back, in relation to a foray the Stormblades made into some caverns below the city. This Blue Duke was supposedly involved then in smuggling mercenaries into the city. This was before Terseon Skellerang announced that extra troops were going to be hired for the town guard. The group also learns that Kyass is staying at the town hall guard barracks.

It’s been a very long day at this point, so the heroes make their way home.

26 Coldeven [29 March]

The next morning, several town criers announce that order has been restored in Cauldron. The lord mayor pardons all citizens involved in the riot, and most of those who were arrested are freed before sunset. There is no pardon, however, for the “evil merchant” Maavu. His properties have been seized and he is sentenced to death in absentia. The criers also publicize Alek Tercival’s letter of challenge, but also cite reliable sources that the paladin of St. Cuthbert has been possessed by demons. Thus, the lord mayor declares the challenge null and void. The government offers a reward of 5,000 gold pieces to whoever finds and saves the possessed paladin. Finally, the criers also announce that after the destruction of Minuta’s Board, all half-orc mercenaries in the lord mayor’s service are to be transferred to an encampment outside the city walls.

The Seekers head over to the temple to speak with Jenya about Alek. She has grown increasingly worried about the paladin. She tells them that she and Alek have been friends since childhood. He is heir to one of the city’s noble families, but he became a paladin after his father’s death left him destitute. With Jenya’s assistance Alek joined the church of St. Cuthbert, and his devotion has always remained strong.

Jenya says that she supports Alek’s challenge to Skellerang since she suspects that he is the primary source of the corruption in the government. But she greatly fears this rumour about Alek being the victim of demonic possession. The party asks her about his strange behaviour over the past few months, but she’s unable to add much to what they already know. She does tell them about one encounter she had with him, the day after the Demonskar Ball: “The day after the Ball, Alek told me that he’d had quite enough of this “preening and gesturing” of the nobles, and that he had more important things to do. When I asked what those things are, he said only “Big things, important things, but that’s all I can say right now. Don’t worry Jenya, I will tell you soon, but for now you must trust me.” With that he left town for over a month. I’ve seen him once or twice since, but not at all for the last two months. But he has apparently been seen in areas to the west, including Redgorge.

Jenya gives the party one other important piece of information about Alek. He often sold art objects he found in his adventures to Tygot Mispas, the proprietor of the antiquity shop on Lava Avenue. He sold these objects to accumulate the necessary money to buy back his ancestral manor, which his father sold to pay off some debts. Perhaps an investigation of his latest sales to Tygot might provide some clues as to where he’s been spending his time over the last few months. At the very least, Tygot himself might have some more information on Alek.

Finally, Jenya shares with group the divination she cast about Alek’s current activities. The results were as follows:

Late on the path of justice, trapped between glass and stone, he weeps where many can see him, but he can see only himself.

No one is quite sure what to make of this, but the party thanks Jenya for all the information. They decide to head over to Tygot’s Old Things to see if they can find out anything more.

When they arrive, Tygot greets them warmly. His dog Lepook wags his tail, and then suddenly disappears and reappears instantly right next to Enzo, who is holding some tasty treats in his hand. The party chit-chats briefly, but soon gets to their reason for coming. Tygot says that Alek is an interesting supplier of his shop, and a good friend to boot. Whenever he found art objects on his journeys, he invariably came here to sell them. The shop-keeper keeps meticulous records, and goes to get his ledger so he can tell the party about the most recent items Alek sold to him.

There are several items that Tygot purchased from Alek over the last few months, all of which are still in the shop. He shows the party each one as he describes it. There is the Volcanic Gosling, a small goose carved over 700 years ago by the heroine Tlimida; the Knight in Brown, a 250-year-old painting of a knight from Gradsul; the God of the Lake, a bust of a fish-like monster’s head in pink marble, which resembles some of the paintings seen in the Drunken Morkoth Inn. Finally, Tygot shows the group what he calls the Hegemonic Plate: A rectangular plate of silver etched with odd figures and ciphers. A crude map and a few notes in Giant are scratched into the opposite side of the plate, which would be smooth otherwise. These scratched notes seem to be quite recent, but the plate itself has a definite aura of ancient weight about it.

The party takes a close look at the silver plate, and Enzo casts a tongues spell so he can read the strange writings on the front of it. This reveals that the strange six-armed figures seen in the etching are an ancient society known as the spell weavers. The other figures on the plate appear to be ogres. The spell weavers’ leader is depicted on the right side of the plate; he holds something referred to as the “Starry Mirror” above his head. On the left side of the plate, three scenes are depicted and are read from bottom to top. The bottom scene depicts the ogre slaves of the spell weavers toiling to build some great work. The next scene up depicts the same ogres, but now empowered by something called “Amaranth Elixir,” which grants them great strength to aid in their work. The topmost scene shows the great structure in its completed glory. This is apparently some kind of planar travel installation.

The group knows only pieces of the history of the spell weavers. They were apparently a race that inhabited this region some 2,000 years ago, before humans came here. There was some great catastrophe, possibly with this very planar travel installation, and the resulting cataclysm created what is today referred to as the Demonskar.

The party asks Tygot how much he wants for the hegemonic plate. He says 600 gold pieces, but Lepook howls loudly at this. Tygot then says 500 gold pieces, but Lepook again howls. Tygot looks embarrassed, smiles, and lowers his price to 400 gold pieces, at which point Lepook goes quite. The party pays the 400 gold from the group pot. Enzo gives Lepook another treat and they say their goodbyes.

The group purchases some horses and a carriage, making sure to mention a trip they are making to the Lucky Monkey to see how the rebuilding efforts are proceeding. They spend the rest of the day getting ready for their journey.

27 Coldeven [30 March]

The Seekers head out the South Gate early in the morning, making sure to let anyone who may be listening know that they are headed south to the Lucky Monkey. Once at the bottom of the mountain, they circle around the outer wall until they reach the road headed west towards Redgorge. They have a carriage pulled by two horses, along with two more horses as outriders, one of which is Rashid’s animal companion. The journey is uneventful, and they reach Redgorge before sunset.

The party heads to the Redhead Miner’s Inn. This is a two-story building and contains a large shop full of adventuring gear. The inn has a large common room where villagers often come to have a drink before sunset. The innkeeper is a big, smiling man who keeps his long red hair tied in a ponytail. As the group enters the common room, he is just putting out several bowls of free snacks on the bar, saying to his tipsy customers “Come on over, beggars! You won’t starve as long as Mikimax lives!”

There is a handsome man in his mid-thirties quietly plucking the strings of a lute in one corner of the common room, paying no heed to Mikimax’s call. He is dark-haired and rather short, wearing a fine blue robe and polished knee-high boots. When he sees the group heading towards the bar he calls out a riddle to them: “What can bind with water, sand, and lime?” Several members of the party answer back “Mortar!” The fellow laughs at their enthusiastic response, and invites them over. He introduces himself as Honest Minstrel. He plays a ballad that tells some of the history of Redgorge. After some small talk he invites the party to a meeting with some of his colleagues, which is scheduled to begin soon. He says that Maavu will be there, and that Alek Tercival has also been invited.

The Seekers are lead into a back room, then down a staircase and through a secure door. They enter a comfortable, six-sided room with a great oak table in the middle. On the chamber’s walls, beautiful frescoes depict the glorious moments of Surabar Spellmason’s life, which Honest Minstrel explains to the party:

- Surabar’s arrival near the foot of an extinct volcano, recognizable as Cauldron.

- An encounter between Surabar and a sword-wielding angel, in which the angel gives Surabar a glowing quarterstaff. Honest Minstrel explains that the angel is called Nidrama, a movanic deva said to watch over the region. The glowing quarterstaff is Alakast, a magic weapon said to be particularly potent against evil outsiders.

- The foundation of Redgorge.

- Surabar’s magical construction of the Basalt Bastions that protect Redgorge (which the party learned during Honest Minstrel’s ballad were raised up in only seven day’s time).

- The battle of Redgorge against the demonic denizens of the Demonskar; Surabar leads Redgorge’s forces and a towering hyena-headed glabrezu leads the Demonskar forces.

- The transformation of Surabar into a mountain, symbolizing his death.

When the group arrives in the room there is already someone sitting at the table’s head. He is introduced as Oliron Masht, the Foreman of the group. He greets the heroes and offers them a drink from a cask of vintage wine. At first, he asks a few questions about the Seeker’s interests and goals. After a few minutes Mikimax enters the room, followed by Maavu. Maavu smiles when he sees the party, and greets them warmly.

The party notices that the others are all wearing robes or tabards that have the same symbol on them. Maavu explains that they are all part of an organization called the Chisel, a group that has existed in this region for hundreds of years. (Rashid recalls having been asked what he knew about the Chisel when he was tortured by the Last Laugh. At the time he had never heard of them).

The Foreman observes that Alek Tercival has not shown up. This worries him, but he admits that he did not necessarily expect the paladin to come, so he starts the meeting without him.

He begins by explaining that the philosophy of the Chisel is to protect the region and support artisans and craftsmen. He says that he needs to raise a point of contention with the organization’s current situation. The selfish interests of many of its members have violated this philosophy. Most of the violators are Cauldronites who have shifted towards neutrality and no longer care about the wellness of society as a whole.

The Foreman reveals his fears that some great force of chaos and evil is at work in Cauldron’s government, and that the lord mayor may be under its influence. What sources of divination are available indicate some great disaster is on the horizon, though Oliron says some of his sources are not available at the moment (he does not elaborate on what those sources are).

At this point the Foreman mentions Maavu and notes that although his actions were well-intended, they nonetheless caused more harm than good. He now fears that the Chisel is becoming a scapegoat for the current troubles, and that forces from Cauldron may soon take drastic measures against the organization. Maavu justifies himself by claiming he meant to organize a peaceful demonstration, but that “some villain stirred up the riot to discredit any opposition.” Honest Minstrel suspects the Last Laugh, and chides Maavu: “They suckered you, nothing else!” At this point, a squabble breaks out between Maavu and Honest Minstrel (Maavu: “Better dead than slaves! A wandering strummer like you should know!” Honest Minstrel: “Peddler! You count lives like money! No difference to you, eh?”). The Foreman grows tired of the argument and demands silence.

Honest Minstrel notes that his informants in Cauldron warn him that Terseon Skellerang plans to invade and search Redgorge, using the half-orc mercenaries now encamped outside the city walls. The members agree that their inner sanctum would survive the invasion intact (this room is not that place), but such an event would be disastrous nonetheless. The villagers would oppose such actions and would fight against the invaders. The Foreman muses that Skellerang must be persuaded to cancel this plan. Alek Tercival’s public renouncement of his challenge should do just the thing, but unfortunately, no one knows where he is.

The party tells the members of the Chisel that they have already begun their search for Alek, for which the Foreman commends them. They tell the group what it has learned, and shares Jenya’s divination with them. They also ask if anyone knows of a place where there is a headless demon statue along a river near here. Honest Minstrel says that indeed, there is such a statue several miles downstream to the southwest, on the Red River.

The Foreman concludes the meeting by leading the entire group on a short night walk along the Basalt Bastions. He looks intently west towards the Demonskar at one point, then sighs and says philosophically, “Surabar’s spells raised this wall in seven days, but his guidance has failed to build a righteous society in as many centuries.”

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Episode 32
The Cauldron Tax Riot

14-24 Coldeven [17-27 March]

After their return from Bhal-Hamatugn, the Company of Seekers spends a few days resting and catching up on the news around town. They divide up their loot, and Rashid goes to get his fancy new bow adjusted so he can use it properly. Arithil works on enchanting a few weapons and making some potions. The group pays a visit to Skie’s Treasury and buys a few things. Skie has been forced to raise her prices due to the new taxes.

Fortuna takes a few days and goes to try and find out what sort of news and rumours are floating around in the back alleys and pubs. Some of the rumours seem more credible than others of course. There is one story that she finds particularly interesting and relates to the party: Several weeks ago, Alek Tercival apparently met with the Stormblades while they were playing a game of dice at the Drunken Morkoth Inn. The paladin did not join in the game (“an immoral pursuit” were his words), but he amazed everyone by pulverizing a bone die with his bare hand.

Despite the onset of spring, unrest has spread through Cauldron. Taxes have been raised numerous times to help the city cope with damage caused by recent emergencies and to take precautions against further accidents during an eventful year.

Protests and tax evasion are spreading. Visible benefits of the high taxes have yet to appear, and many Cauldronites grumble that the taxes are simply lining the pockets of the nobility. Now, dour tax collectors walk the city streets, invariably accompanied by patrols of heavily armed and ruthless half-orc mercenaries. Rumors circulate of special squads of the town guard that break into private houses, workshops, and stores to search for hidden goods, money, or other valuables.

The captain of the town guard, Terseon Skellerang, recently announced special security measures against a sect of dangerous anarchists believed to be plotting to overthrow the city government.

The latest issue of the Cauldron Herald appears. Even the price for this has gone up, and for the first time ever it is soliciting advertising. Enzo and a few other group members pay a visit to Red and Enzo pays for an ad promoting the new play he is working on.

25 Coldeven [28 March]

Notices appear posted to all the messageboards in town:

~ NOTICE ~

CITIZENS OF CAULDRON! LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

Come one, come all to City Hall this evening! Those in power must learn that we do not welcome their indulgences! Their vices shall be borne by our pockets no more! The tax collectors are the lapdogs of their greed – let not their shadows besmirch our stoops! Speak your will! Voice your pains!

HELP US RETURN CAULDRON TO HER CHILDREN!

Jenya has heard that Alek Tercival may be there, and has specifically asked Ruphus to go and look for him.

Later that afternoon, the party makes its way over to City Hall. The streets are packed tight with loud citizens rallying against the recent tax increases. Several guards stand in a ring around the building and use the hafts of their halberds to keep people out. The Seekers take up a position near some buildings where they can get a good look at the scene and still have some cover. Fortuna climbs up on a rooftop for an even better view. Rashid stands on the step next to the statue of Surabar Spellmason, which also gives him a little height to survey things.

Presently, a small group of dignitaries, easily recognizable as the town tax collectors, make their way to the entrance of City Hall. The citizens boo and scream insults as they scuttle inside the building. After they have gone inside, Maavu Arintal climbs a prominent dais to speak. The merchant raises a hand and the demonstrators calm down a bit. After a moment of silence, Maavu addresses the audience resolutely:

“Fellow citizens, hear me! Hear me, for I speak for all of us! I am Maavu Arlintal, and I call Cauldron my home!

“Hard times have fallen upon this city. But we have not lain down, for we know how to get through hard times. We have been blessed by the actions of brave citizens who have put their lives on the line to defend the defenceless. And others who should have answered that call have done nothing!

“Alas, I misspeak, for actions have been taken. The leaders of Cauldron have spoken through the voice of the tax collectors! They offer promises with each outstretched palm, with each coin they take! For the good of Cauldron, they say! To repair the damage, they claim! To help those in need, they promise.

“But what have they done with your hard earned coin? Hired thugs and mercenaries who now roam our streets intimidating us! Paid tax collectors to worm their way into our homes and businesses and pry loose any wealth they might find!

“But I am not one to complain without a plan of recourse! I am here to say that Cauldron needs new leadership, a new protector who is not corrupt on power or gold. I am here to tell you that a challenge has been issued for the removal of Terseon Skellerang as Captain of the Town Guard.

“I have here in my hand the formal written challenge, which has been presented to Skellerang and the Lord Mayor. This challenge invokes one of Cauldron’s oldest laws, the Law of Peers. Under this law, the five founding families of Cauldron have the right to challenge the office of the Captain of the Town Guard if one of them should feel that he is unworthy, immoral, or incapable of seeing to his duties, which is the protection of the people. This law, laid down with the founding stones of our city, has never been needed – until now.

“By the Law of Peers, only one of the five founding noble families has the right to challenge the Captain of the Guard. This does not leave much hope that one with the interests of the common citizen – of you and I – will be represented. But I am here to tell you that the one who has issued the challenge is such a person. They herald from one of the founding lineages, but their life has not been one of pampered luxury. They know what it means to suffer, as you do, and to rise above it, as you have before. The challenger is indeed one of the brave, heroic citizens who I have spoken of, who is willing to risk death to protect and help our city.

“I am speaking of Sir Alek Tercival.

“Sir Alek, a paladin of St. Cuthbert, has issued this challenge in accordance with the old ways, and the Laws of our city. But so far no response has been made. By law, the issued challenge should be made public by the Lord Mayor, but Navalant hopes to protect his puppet Skellerang by keeping the challenge secret! No doubt that he hopes to send his new army of half-orc thugs – an army feeding off of your bread! – to deal with the challenger with a crossbow bolt in the back! By the Law… But look, citizens! Another puppet of corruption, with his thugs to protect him! Sent, no doubt, to silence the will of the people!”

At this moment, wading through the crowd of people comes none other than Skylar Krewis, the friendly town guardsman the party has dealt with on several occasions. Behind him follow a troop of five half-orc mercenaries. Skylar does not look happy to be here. He approaches the dais and addresses Maavu: “In the name of Terseon Skellerang, Captain of the Town Guard, I must arrest you!”

Suddenly, an unassuming youth screams out, “Let’s kill these half-orc brigands!” Thomas sees him pull out a dagger. There is a roar from the crowd, and in seconds the mob erupts into a full-fledged riot. The half-orc mercenaries are all dropped in a matter of seconds, and their attackers quickly melt into the surging throng.

Skylar tries to drink a potion, but several people in the crowd knock it from his hand and it breaks on the cobblestones. Other rioters attack him, punching and kicking the guardsman as they let loose their frustrations.

The Seekers are close to Skylar and the speaker’s dais, and they begin to take actions to try and save him and calm the crowd. Enzo climbs the dais and in a booming voice attempts to reason with the mob, imploring them to use reason and sense. Those close to him who can hear seem to take heed of his words, and the ones surrounding Sklyar cease their attacks. Meanwhile Maavu has cast a couple of defensive spells on himself (shield and expeditious retreat) and has retrieved a potion from his pocket. The rest of the mob is moving about haphazardly, some breaking storefront windows, while others surge towards the town hall. The guards there begin to retreat up the stairs to the porch and back towards the doorway. Other guards with bows take up positions on the tower balcony overlooking the square.

A creature suddenly appears next to Maavu – a semi-translucent figure looking vaguely like the merchant. Everyone nearby is overcome with a supernatural fear, and several of the Seekers find themselves paralyzed by it. The crowd nearby screams and begins to run away in a panic. Those in the party who are not paralysed attack the creature. From his position across the square, Rashid has a good, clear view and begins launching arrows from his new flaming bow. The creature is hit several times before it disappears again. Enzo immediately casts a glitterdust spell into the area, which outlines the flying attacker. Rashid looses more arrows, and Arithil fires off a magic missile which destroys the monster. Maavu drinks a potion and turns gaseous.

The heroes move Skylar into an alleyway where he will be safe. While some of them remain there, Enzo climbs on an enlarged Baker’s shoulders and they move toward the town hall, where a group of rioters has begun throwing rocks and pounding on the doors. Enzo again uses his bardic and diplomatic skills to sway the crowd into ceasing their destruction, and they begin to move off. It is about this time that a security platoon arrives on the scene. It wastes no time in attempts to talk the crowd down and begins firing arrows into the mob. The citizens, however, still greatly outnumber the soldiers and they drive them off with an intense barrage of rocks, lit torches and coins. The party immediately goes over and manages to save several people from bleeding to death.

The rioters begin to disperse somewhat, moving off in random directions in their rampaging. Maavu reappears next to the group. He thanks them and says he wishes to speak with them. With chaos still reigning in the area, the party takes Maavu and Skylar back to Oriel House where they can talk in safety.

Maavu is wracked with guilt and worry about the riot, and thinks it was largely his fault that things got so out of hand. The group tries to assure him that wasn’t the case. The merchant pointedly asks them if they believe that some evil is at work within the government and if they want to help to expose and defeat it. The heroes answer yes to both parts of the question.

Maavu wants to leave town before some other enemy or law enforcer takes notice of him. Before he does though, he invites the party to a meeting in Redgorge in two days time. He tells them that he has certain allies who may wish to speak with them, and also that Alek Tercival should be there to answer questions as well. The group agrees to the visit. Maavu informs them that they must go the Redhead Miner’s Inn in Redgorge and answer “mortar” to the appropriate question. He then imbibes another potion of gaseous form in order to make his escape from Cauldron.

Skylar thanks the group for saving his life, for he surely would have been dead in short order had they not intervened. He is not happy with what’s going on in the town guard. The last thing he wanted to be doing was leading a group of half-orc mercenaries into a mob of his fellow citizens to arrest Maavu. He is clearly torn though between his own feelings of right and wrong and his duties as an officer. The party is sympathetic, but they emphasize to Skylar that something is going on with the government that isn’t right, and he must try and do his part to help fix it if he can. He agrees, but still feels at a loss as to what to do.. They ask him to let them know if he hears anything useful – not to be an informant so much, but just a responsible, concerned citizen and soldier. He says he will do what he can.

Not long after the riot begins, the entire town guard begins to break up the primary mob and restore order around City Hall by arresting and beating many citizens. Isolated pockets of rioters and looters continue to plague the city until Lord Vhalantru and the Lord Mayor appear on the City Hall steps as it is getting dark, where they promise that taxes will not be levied for three full months. Criers move quickly through the streets to spread the word, and by early evening the chaos has ended. Squads of the town watch – sans half-orcs – again patrol the streets, but tensions remain high.

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