Scaled Down Scales

The Eve of Destruction
Maxim Takes it to the Limit...

…One More Time

Chance Runner awoke to find himself alone in the room at the posh hotel where Telicanthus had set them up. The River Jewel or some such.

“I guess they went on ahead without me,” he thought. “I’d better hurry and catch up.”

Luckily, he had paid attention earlier when Delis had explained how to get into the secret lair of the beggars. Beneath the city in Riverdown as he recalled. Just the other side of the Low Bridge to the University district.

He headed down that way, gave a gold piece to a very happy beggar kid named Whoolayo and found the first trap door propped open. He dropped another coin into the slot by the second trap door and made his way down to the lower level — supposedly part of an ancient city, buried beneath Sayre.

“Hmmm, I thought Delis said there was a Gluttonous Cube here,” he said. “I guess that explains all the acid on the floor. I wonder who set off the ambush.”

Once he got through the door he found the rest of the Golden Scales preparing to raid a temple. Chance could tell it was once dedicated to Ioun, but the symbols of that Goddess had all been stripped away. Inside the vestibule, it became apparent the temple had been re-dedicated to Tiamat. Which seemed to enrage Maxim for some reason.

The pews inside were filled with beggars, all facing Garen who volunteered to go through the door first. A filthy and bedraggled priest across the room stood before the altar. “Get them!” he hissed.

The Filth King was just starting his sermon when Whoolayo rang the bell. He sent some of the Laughing Shadows to set up the ambush with the Gluttonous Cube. “Don’t forget to pull all the planks off the upper floors,” he reminded them.

The battle was already joined by the time Valhalla roused himself from bed and made his way to the temple.

“I better start handing out the slaying,” the half-orc decided as he concentrated on the Beggar King. Maggie had already laid down some serious damage on the raggedy priest, but some groveling no-account was convincing the fake beggars (the ones with chainmail under their rags) to mark the other members of the party.

He had never fully realized the value of his executioner’s axe before, but it was clearly the perfect weapon for a slayer like himself. It didn’t take long before the Filth King was bloodied and looking to switch sides.

“Your boss doesn’t pay me enough for this,” the priest told the groveler and he started to attack the false beggars.

“Your boss doesn’t pay me enough for this!” the king of the beggars snarled at the Laughing Shadows. The intruders were targeting him before he switched sides, but they quickly decided the Groveler was the real boss. They quickly finished off the Shadows, making the Beggar King especially glad he had switched to the winning side. “At least I still have my insurance policy,” he thought to himself.

Magdalene made sure the Filth King did not sneak off when the battle was over. She wanted to know more about whoever it was who wasn’t paying him enough.

The king of the beggars readily identified the guys in chainmail as Laughing Shadows, a band of mercenaries. He swore he did not have enough money to hire them himself.

“A few weeks back, I was approached by a stranger in a cloak. I did not see his face, but he offered to pay substantially if my beggars would harass the Githzerai at every opportunity. Now I knew no Gith would be easy marks and I told him so.”

Maggie could see the problem and told him so.

“That’s when he offered me the services of some mercenaries he had in his employ. Turned out to be these Laughing Shadows guys. But they did not protect me as well as I expected. But they did allow me to collect some of the bounties he offered.”

Maggie assumed this meant the bounties on the Githzerai. And it sounded like the Filth King was telling the truth.

“Yeah, he was not just willing to pay for harassment. He actually paid us a bounty for dead Githzerai. Even when it was his own men doing most of the killing.”

Just then, Maxim jumped to the other side of a pit which protected a pile of treasure beneath a statue of Tiamat. When the treasure turned into a golem — shaped like a dragon — Maggie knew they were in trouble.

“Not even time for a short rest,” she thought as the Treasure Golem reared up over Maxim.

After the fight, the ninja girl started interrogating him. He told her all he knew, even though she seemed more gullible than the rest of the intruders. When he saw the hobgoblin messing with the pile of tribute, he shouted, “Don’t touch the tribute. You don’t want to try to betray the Queen of Treachery!” But the hobgoblin went ahead and grabbed for the gold. King Filth watched in horror as the mound of treasure began to shift of its own accord.

“Where are you guys?” asked Grigore Goldforge as he found himself once again on the lawn outside the Mother’s Care Home for Invalids. The old man in in the wheelchair was still there, but he saw no sign of the rest of the Golden Scales.

“Oh, yeah,” he realized that this was a new dream. He was once again his uncle. The rest of the Golden Scales were lost in their own dreams. Jerath had given them a quick rest this time, not a rest together. For the rest together did not refresh.

“I guess in order to ‘knit the raveled sleeve of care’ I have to face a dream alone,” he said — a little embarrassed he was quoting Jerath. And he turned to talk to the old man and see what he said about his fiance.

As he turned, he realized he was now wearing the scimitar which Garen had found in a previous dream. He thought remembered Garen Bladerun calling it “Clarity.”

“That’s crazy,” he said to himself as he drew the blade. “In this dream, I am my uncle. And he would never carry a scimitar.”

But he felt a calm presence as he pulled it from its sheath, almost as if Clarity was a living being of extreme empathy.

Trying to reassure him.

He remembered his uncle telling him that he always believed his halberd was sentient, just unable to to speak, communicating only through an empathetic connection with him which grew stronger the more bravely he fought against evil.

“That’s what he called it!” he said, startling the old man in the wheelchair. “Clarity. My uncle called his halberd ‘Clarity’!”

As he looked down at the scimitar in amazement, he realized it was no longer a scimitar, but a polearm. His uncle’s halberd.

View
Covet House Infiltration
WWABD (What Would a Beggar Do?)

Give and you shall be given to

Delis Erinthal carefully pointed out the beggar-child after she told the rest of them about the warehouse and sign — Give and you shall be given to.

She was convinced this kid (or another like him) was always posted outside the abandoned warehouse. Delis was explaining this as the boy wandered over and asked for coins. She promptly gave the beggar a copper piece.

Maxim followed suit, but Sam and Garen refused. The beggar looked a little confused, but wandered away.

A little irked at the failure to understand her suggestions, Delis walked over to the boarded-up doorway. “Ridolfi and Sons, Spice Merchants,” the faded sign over it said. Telling herself to be more careful the next time she gave instructions to the other Golden Scales, Delis undid the latch which allowed the boards to swing out with the door.

Inside it was dark. The light which had filtered in during the day was no longer there. Soon, her eyes were glowing and her darkvision was fully active. The Unselie agent made her way easily over to the trap door. It was trapped. She had forgotten that from her earlier visit. Delis decided to wait.

Once Maxim was inside, she saw that waiting was a good idea. With no darkvision power, Maxim was having difficulty seeing the path through the debris. He was trying to feel his way, but not making good progress. As Delis made her way over to help him, she decided to wait there until everyone was inside. Then Sam could disarm the trapped trap door.

Garen came through next and then Sam arrived, breathless. “I think we’ve been spotted!” the hobbit said. “The alarm has been sounded. I think we should expect trouble.”

Whoolayo saw the four dressed in rags before they saw him. Beggars, surely, but no one he recognized. These were the kind of people he was supposed to check out: Probably Covet House material, but not necessarily cleared to enter yet.

Cursing the narrow passageway they found themselves in, Garen Bladerun, was crawling on his hands and knees. As were the rest of them, except the halfling. After Sam had removed the trap on the trap door, he had gone down and pronounced the passage under the warehouse to be “fine.”

“Fine for a halfling, maybe,” thought Garen. But he was pretty sure it was too small for him to unfurl his wings and fly. At the end of the passage, they found another trap door, leading further down.

He recognized this trap door as the one Delis had told them about. A crudely carved sign said, “Give and you shall be given to.” Delis said it could be opened easily by slipping a coin into the slot next to it.

When they opened it, they quickly spotted the ambush that had been set there. Delis told them she got past the Gluttonous Cube here with no problem, but she did not mention anything about an ambush. As they sat there in line before the trap door, debating tactics, shurikens began flying out of the opening. So the others began leaping in.

When his turn came, Garen decided to unfurl his wings. What better venue for gliding wings than a three-story drop into the undercity. Delis had blocked the opening with one of her globes of darkness, but he was pretty sure he could get past that before he hit the floor three stories down.

Sure enough, when he got past the region of darkness, he was able to see a groundfloor lurker who could be pinned against the wall. Unable to maintain his hover and fly away without a reposte from the Streetfighter (obviously one of the gang who were posing as beggars by wearing rags over their chainmail). So he dropped to the floor and pinned the fighter against the wall.

The cube had retreated to block the door which seemed the only way out. But, as soon as it saw him on its level, it slammed into him and immobilized him. The Streetfighter’s follow-up might have slowed him, but being immobilized was all the paladin could manage at one time.

Once he was mobile again, the cube tried another slam that the cube began to vibrate badly. Obviously frustrated by this failure, the cube kept on trying. But all it got for its efforts was a shaking so violent it split itself in two. While this made each cube easier to kill, the resulting blobs were able to gang up on him.

First one would immobilize him, then the other would engulf him. He spent much of the rest of the battle fighting his way out from inside ever-diminished cubelets.

Whoolayo walked over to the small group of beggars and asked them for a coin. That was the secret. Give and you shall be given to. If these beggars had already been recruited, they would know about the passcoin. The elf-woman quickly gave him a coin and so did the hobgoblin. But the halfling kept his money, and so did the dragon-guy. Strange, maybe the others don’t trust them yet.

Maxim Shalion was in the perfect position: The floors had long since rotted out of this three-story buried building, but the remnants of the floors (basically boards sticking out of the walls every 10 feet or so), offered the perfect perch for a ranged attacker like himself or Delis.

Even Sam did some ranged fighting before leaping to the “ground” level to help Garen battle the cubes. But Maxim could fight just fine from up on the ledges. And he had the perfect spell to be-devil the cubes. When he placed a Hunger of Hadar in the middle of the bottom story, the cubes could not fit in the space around the edges without leaving some portion of their blobbiness. inside the globe of darkness, hungry shadows were constantly nibbling at their very life energies.

Even once the cubes were whittled down — or divided down (one of them split in two when one of his Eldritch Blasts did some major curse damage on it) — far enough to fit on the edges, they could still be forced into the globe of shadowy knives. Engulfing the engulfers, what better way to fight fire with fire? Sure he could only use this spell once a day, but Maxim knew he was unlikely to have a more perfect place to use it.

Garen seemed to dislike being engulfed so often, but Delis kept telling him he was doing his job by keeping them busy. Maxim guessed that he paladin just did like having acidic goop all over his shiny armor.

Whoolayo decided he better keep a close eye on the beggars. The elf went over to the warehouse and walked inside, acting every bit like she knew what she was doing. The hobgoblin likewise showed that he knew what the Covet House protocols were all about. Whoolayo lost track of the hobbit. But when the dragonborn went to the “Ridolfi and Sons” and through the boarded up doorway. The lookout decided this was the kind of thing he was supposed be on the lookout for: suspicious intruders. Maybe the dragonborn was legit, but that was not Whoolayo’s call to make. The young beggar quickly made his way over to a rope hidden by the foundation of a nearby building and gave it three quick pulls. If the dragon man was a new recruit, he could explain it to the welcoming committee…. Whoolayo chuckled, “From the inside of a gluttonous cube.”

Sam the Foresworn was able to help Garen with his Gluttonous Cube problem, once all the Streetfighters were finished off. Even with both Delis and Maggie working on the Scrabblers, the minions lasted much longer than Sam would have preferred.

Before the battle was over, even Sam was able to enjoy the view from inside of a cube, but he was finally able finish off the last cube.

Which was engulfing Garen in a last-ditch effort.

“How do you carve a statue of a dragonborn paladin?” asked the hobbit, flourishing the dagger he just bought. “You just cut off everything that doesn’t look like Garen.”

A fruitless search for loot later, Sam came up with another riddle: How do find the pockets on a Gluttonous Cube of semi-gelled acid?

When it came time to explore the rest of the Covet House underground complex, he volunteered. He found a partially-dug-out street, complete with palettes and sleeping gear for the beggars who made their home down here. But the street was obviously a remnant of the city of Augur, which had apparently been buried here in ages past.

Sam had heard from some of the historian in the party that was some kind of punishment for wizardly wrongdoings, but what else can you expect from wizards? “Sooner or later, they get too powerful for their own good.”

He also found an abandoned building from the ancient city, but no own had ever bothered to clear it out.

Across the “street,” however, was a temple which had obviously been restored. The original decorations (maybe commemorating Ioun or some such god) had been torn down, but not replaced.

Sam decided it was time to return to the others and tell them what he had found.

View
Pandemonium III
This time with real daemons...

…even if they’re only in someone’s head.

Maxim Shalion was the first to notice it: Not everybody seemed to have the same idea as to who the enemy was.

Mind-control and doppelgangers. Keeping track of who was who not longer seemed totally possible inside Grigore’s dream.

Maxim figured out a simple rule: If it attacked the demons, it must be a friend; if it attacked a friend, it was suspect and its advice could safely be ignored.

pan·de·mo·ni·um wild uproar or unrestrained disorder
“This time it was the daemons’ goal: create confusion and disorder.”
— Ambassador TIen

Valhalla was really in his element. Not only could he hack and slash with his axe inside this dream, but he could let his mind run free as he debated the existential meaning of identity within a dream with Magdalene.

Let the daemons figure out his deepest desires and use them to trick him into attacking the others. He saw it happen to Sam. He saw it happen to Maxim.

They were in a dream. His favorite dream. A dream of slaying where a friend could turn and attack at any moment.

Perfect place for an executioner’s axe. And Valhalla had the best.

pan·de·mo·ni·um tumult or chaos
“Yeah. Can’t blame it on the Golden Scales this time. The daemons were trying for utter chaos. This time it was the daemons. In his head.”
— Alen the Quasit

Chance Runner was pretty sure letting the Dark Slayers suck the life out of the patients in this nursing home was a bad idea as soon as Delis suggested it. And his book confirmed it: As soon they had sucked the last life out of a victim, these demons would become more powerful.

That was the way Delis seemed to think. Chance figured that was why she became an archer. But Valhalla and Maxim seemed to have other ideas. They were dealing damage at a ferocious rate. And Sam and Maggie were living up to their usual standards.

Thinking that his best powers could not be used up in someone else’s dream, Chance turned himself into a spark and tried to match the damage the others were laying down.

When the fight was over and all the Dark Slayers dead, Grigore led the Golden Scales to a room where an elderly cleric lay. Chance could tell that Grigore already knew where this room was. He even seemed to know who the priest was. And he wanted to get him to speak.

But the man on the bed was unable to talk until Maggie identified the Indigo Dreams poison the Dark Slayers had been administering to him in the guise of nursing-home administrators. Once identified, Grigore was able to heal the cleric enough that he could speak.

The cleric sputtered for a few seconds, working his dry mouth and choking out a rasping cough.

“There’s no time,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “Taergan Flinn keeps me here. He plans to murder Crandel and Tulles. Don’t let them go into the woods. Fiends and nightmares lurk there.”

pan·de·mo·ni·um a place or scene of riotous uproar or utter chaos
“All inside his head. Dreams. That guy’s got some weird stuff going on in there.”
— Ambassador Tien

The elderly priest then began to struggle visibly, as if forcing memories to the surface of his mind. His eyes widened momentarily.

“A house in the Hollow.” Grigore Goldforge was sure that his uncle’s friend was referring to the town of Hope’s Hollow. “My strong box. My old treasures, and my piece of the watch. Take them to Tulles. She will know you speak for me.” He breathed heavily for a few seconds, struggling find strength in his weakened body, then continued:

“Find Flinn. Make him confess. And tell the town about this place so these families can save their own.”

Dern Fosimuth closed his eyes, exhausted by the effort. His breathing slowed, but Grigore could tell that it was even.

After the Golden Scales told the townspeople about the evil that Taergan Flinn had arranged in the Mother’s Care Home for Invalids, they explained where Dern’s house could be found.

In the strong box, they found a talking scimitar which took an immediate liking to Garen, whose name seemed to be Garen Deve in the dream. Or maybe Ged. Grigore wasn’t sure. They also found scroll of consecrate. Dern’s fragment of the Weirding Watch was found, mounted on a copper bracelet.

Grigore awoke, surrounded by those who had participated in the ritual with him. He had one thing on his mind: What were the names of the people he was supposed warn?

It was a question which had haunted him in the dream, even before he woke up. But it was not the question Jerath asked him.

“You wanted me do do another ritual?” the bard wanted to know. “Was that the Song of Restfulness?”

View
Welcome to My Hope's Hollow
A small town in the Shadowfell...

…where Grigore’s family…

…would visit when he was a child. Later his mother set her hopes on the idea that he would settle down there as a healer and cleric.

But, no…

…he had not go out and try to become some hotshot adventurer, like his uncle: his dead uncle.

It was a dark and stormy night. A vague and inchoate idea strikes down the weak.
Chance Runner

Once he had helped some of his teammates to divvy up the loot and make a few purchases, Grigore Goldforge decided to concentrate on getting some ritual books for Rinoa. The sorceress had recently begun to see her ritual studies pay off, but she was definitely short of rituals she knew well enough to perform. Since they were in a town renowned for its magickal markets and flush with cash, the ardent decided now would be a good time to pick us some rituals.

University District near where they were staying seemed a logical place to shop. Sure enough, they found a street which seemed to be dedicated to selling scrolls and rituals. Grigore wasn’t sure why competitors would all set up shop in such close proximity to those they were competing against, but it seemed to be the rule in many cities, even in the Shadowfell.

It certainly made it easier to shop.

They soon found three shops which piqued their interest:

  • The Demon’s Binding, which seemed to use a bound demon for advertising (or maybe it was a “sign”) as well as for security;
  • Nature’s Way, which specialized in rituals connected with nature, and was run by (of all people) a half-orc priest; and
  • unNatural Rites, which turned out to be another nature specialist, despite the assumptions of necromancy which the party started out with.

But it was from a professor at the university they bought most of their rituals for Rinoa. Although they later learned he had shop called The Heart of the Matter they found him at his office.

A psychic vampire, another vague and inchoate idea that strikes down the weak.
Sam the Foresworn

Garen was concerned about Grigore. The leader of the Golden Scales was sleeping only fitfully the past few nights. Some he seemed to get some rest; others were so dream-wracked that Grigore actually seemed less rested in the morning than when he had collapsed into his bedroll.

Garen doubted that even the posh accommodations at the River Jewel would break the cycle of bad dreams. Then he had an idea: ritual healing.

When he came back from the dead, Raven told him it was like waking from a good night’s sleep. The shaman said he felt completely refreshed. He took the proposal to Grigore.

“You want to kill me so you can resurrect me?” the healer exploded. "I’m not willing to undergo death just so I can feel rested.

But Garen was undetered. If Grigore was dead, he couldn’t very well complain that they were using a ritual to return him to life. And Garen was convinced that, if they kept fighting with Grigore this tired, sooner or later someone was going to have to resurrect him.

Jerath had a ritual book. Perhaps he could teach the resurrect ritual to Rinoa and she could use it on Grigore…

…should Grigore happen to die.

So, Garen went back to the River Jewel and found Jerath, who gladly loaned the paladin his ritual book.

Garen was disappointed to find this book was mostly bardic rituals, to be performed at taverns and misty camps in the hope that they might turn up some useful information or prepare a cast for a particularly difficult performance.

No Resurrection rituals. No back-from-the-dead rituals. Not even re-incarnation.

Song of Restfulness sounded promising, but when he took the idea to Grigore the ardent shot down the idea. “It doesn’t say you don’t dream,” he pointed out. “But we could use this tonight to get a good rest and still have time to hit the Covet House in the middle of the night. That might get us the advantage of surprise.”

As Garen and Grigore continued to peruse the book, they found several other useful rituals: Apparently Jerath did a lot of historical research for his plays; he seemed to favor rituals which would help him glean interesting facts, like Chorus of Truth, Aria of Revelation, History Revealed, Consult Mystic Sages, and Spirit Idol.

Then it hit him.

Garen found a ritual called Dream Concordance. Not what he was looking for, but it might be just the thing to help his friend.

If he was reading this right, the Dream Concordance allowed other people to enter Grigore’s bad dreams. And help him. Help him defeat whatever it was that was sapping his energies there.

When he explained this to Grigore, Garen saw Sam nodding intently.

A pseudodragon, a temptation for the weak.
Garen Bladerun

As Jerath began his ritual, he asked them all to concentrate on what they wanted find in the dream. At first Sam could not imagine what he should look for. Then he had a sudden inspiration. What was pursuing Grigore in his dreams? Almost a mental version of the thing which the ardent feared most.

A psychic vampire.

So that was what Sam concentrated on: A vampire which preyed upon the fears and desires of those around it. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he wanted to hunt it down in Grigore’s dream. Then he found himself in that very dream. On a dark and stormy night, the Golden Scales were all there, including Jerath, on a winding road. Up ahead, a graffitied signpost pointed the way to Hope’s Hollow.

The small town was laid out before them in regular squares as they looked down into the valley where it lay. To Sam it almost seemed like a chessboard. Grigore led them to a nursing home: “Mother’s Care Home for Invalids” reads the sign outside, but the Golden Scales ignored the pleading of a woman outside and entered anyway.

Inside, they followed Grigore to a room where bloodstains transformed into a strange haunt which admitted to patricide. “I fell in love with a beautiful woman, but she was betrothed to another. She said that unless I could repay the dowry given by her suitor, we could never be together. I asked my father for the money, but he said it would deplete my inheritance. Then I got really angry. He said, ‘Why don’t you just kill me then?’ I don’t know what came over me. All I could think about was my love. She was perfect for me — everything I ever dreamed about, and almost more perfect than I could bear.”

“Welcome to my nightmare,” Grigore told them then. “I think you’re gonna like it,” he said with a trace of irony. Garen stabbed and burned the bloody bedclothes. Then the whole group returned to the entry and social hall so they could explore the main office.

In that office, they found two middle-aged administrators, a man and a woman.

The man stood, looking down his nose at the adventurers, and said nothing.

Ar’jun, the grandmaster who trained me, who would never strike down the weak.
Duilin Silverfang

View
Pandemonium II
...Another Round...

…with Tein and Alen still denying any involvement.

Maxim Shalion was confused about Grigore’s leadership.

Everything seemed to be going fine: The paladin had revived one of their attackers, and Grigore had asked Maxim to help him with the interrogation. Maxim was going to play the “good cop” in what Grigore called a good-cop-bad-cop system, which he gathered was something like the good-drow-bad-goblin routine sometimes employed where he came from. Standard torturer’s tactics in the Great Gark’s dungeons.

He started with his bad-goblin routine, and Grigore took over with the good-cop stuff. When Grigore’s stuff got a little weak, it looked like a good time to alternate back into the bad-goblin part. So Maxim started to threaten some serious mayhem, like feeding the gangster’s brains to his demons or something like that.

At first, he thought Grigore was playing along with the script: The good-drow was supposed to pretend he was having trouble restraining the bad-goblin. But when Grigore told him not to interfere, it was the ardent who seemed to be losing control. Maybe the good-cop-bad-cop routine was different, but in the good-drow-bad-goblin technique it was the bad goblin who was supposed to seem out of control.

First, Grigore hit him. Didn’t hurt much and Maxim guessed it could be taken as a crude form of restraint. But, when Maxim tried to continue the charade, Grigore ordered Garen to punch him. Instead of scaring the prisoner, this seemed to please the gangster. Then Grigore stabbed Maxim and removed all doubt from Maxim’s mind.

Grigore wasn’t just acting it. He really was out of control.

As they pinned him to the ground, Maxim whispered some quick words to the air.

pandemonium, n. wild and noisy disorder or confusion; uproar. “I’ve been thinking about doing comedy by that name,” Jerath admitted. “But that doesn’t go with the elvish theme.”

Garen Bladerun realized that his leader had displayed some very un-leader-like qualities this day. But at least they had talked to Jerath and gone through his Ritual Book.

That Object Reading ritual (which some of them said they had seen before, when Elyas had used it to see General Zithiruun riding his dragon) sure worked out well. When the drow bard used it on the jewel which Grigore had seized from one of the mercenaries who had disguised themselves as beggars and attacked them in the Plaza of Vision, it revealed five images:

  • A room filled with books. Lord Telecanthus is handing the jewel to a filthy beggar.
  • The same beggar in a tall, narrow room. He is handing the gem to a well-dressed mercenary who stands beside a Gluttonous Cube. Partway up the inside of the room’s walls, Jerath showed Garen the remnants of rotted floors, as if this was once a multi-storied building. Now boards have been placed across the room between the remnants, but it really doesn’t form a complete floor. The mercenary is wearing chainmail and doesn’t seem to have disguised himself as a beggar yet, but it could well be the gang-member who held the gem during the ambush.
  • A section of street serving as a sleeping place and shelter to beggars. Stopped up by silt and soil on either end, this 50-foot-long section of roadway is lined with ancient cobblestones and filled with sleeping pallets and the meager possessions of dozens of people.
  • An old temple. Garen could tell it was once sacred to Ioun, but those days are long past. The pews are filled with beggars, all with their backs to you, and a filthy and bedraggled priest across the room stands before an altar. Behind the altar is a pile of treasure.
  • Another view of the treasure behind the altar. A gap is apparent between the altar and the treasure and the gem sits on the altar, separated from the treasure. From this angle, it is clear the priest is the same filthy beggar who took the jewel from Lord Telecanthus and gave it to the mercenary.

pandemonium, n. a condition or scene of noisy confusion. “Maybe you should call it ‘A Midsummer Night’s Party’ or something like that,” Belinda suggested after Jerath explained what the play would be about.

Delis Erinthal was a little annoyed at Garen’s clumsy attempt to follow her. “Just like a paladin: trying to stalk someone while wearing full plate armor,” she thought. When she got to the Market District, she ducked down a alley, found some shadows, and turned herself invisible. The dragonborn clanked in after her desperately searching for some secret passage that she might have disappeared into.

As she quietly exited the alley, Delis heard him threatening to go get the fairy to search out her passage.

Delis quickly determined that the beggars in this area were acting quite differently than they had been around Low Bridge, so she headed for that section of Riverdown, where she quickly found some beggars acting out of character. She disguised herself as one of them and began to mimic their behavior.

It didn’t take long to notice some of them head toward a building marked “Ridolfi and Sons, Spice Merchants.” She followed one of them in and found a trail leading to a trap door with a message carved into it: “Give, and you will be given to.” Hiding in the shadows, Delis watched another beggar enter the abandoned spice house, make their way to the trap door and slip a coin into the slot next to the door.

Once the beggar had disappeared down the hole beneath the trap door, Delis followed and slipped her own coins into the slot. It didn’t take much to notice the sound of a daggerspring trap being deactivated.

Peering down into the darkness, Delis saw a narrow passageway. Lowering herself down into the shadows, the unseelie agent made her way along narrow tunnel which ended in another trap door, going further down. Opening the trapdoor, she found herself looking down into the room with the Gluttonous Cube.

The room that Jerath had revealed with his Object Reading ritual.

“Hmm,” thought the ranger. “I had rather imagined such a tall building somewhere above ground, not hidden beneath the earth.”

She lowered herself down onto the planks that made it possible to stand above the Cube and made sure she climbed down from there a safe distance from the almost-invisible creature. Then she hid in the shadows while another beggar made her way down to the bottom level and passed through a door on the other side of the room.

At this point Delis decided to report her findings back to the rest of the Golden Scales rather than exploring further on her own.

pandemonium, n. the Windswept Depths of Pandemonium are one of the Outer planes. “Well, yeah. I’ve been planning a raid there. Some kind of spoiling action. It’s not good to let any evil think they have a sanctuary,” Storm Johnson said, glancing at Tein.

Chance Runner found little to interest him in the bickering of his teammates so he headed off to do a little more research into the activities of Lord Telecanthus. Scouting the area where the Telecanthus mansion was located, he found little hint of the lord’s activities at the local bars and taverns.

In fact, the Githyanki seemed to be very visible when he was out in public, but almost invisible the rest of the time. Chance even noticed that the area around the mansion was curiously devoid of patrols, even though the rest of Prospect Hill was teeming with security.

A brief interview with the butler at the mansion turned up no clues, so the Revenant decided to sneak around the back of the house. A hedge blocked much of that approach to the grounds, but Chance was able to worm his way in to find that two out-buildings stood apart from the main house, almost up against the hedge itself:

  • A stable which held Telicanthus’s carriages and horses.

and

  • A single building which appeared to actually be two houses shoved up against each other to provide shared lodging for the mansion’s staff. Between cooks, maids, and butlers, Telicanthus employs eight servants.

But Chance’s heightened hearing was able to detect one thing more: The sound of digging, which seemed to emanate from below the servants’ quarters.

View
Beggars Wearing Chainmail
An Ambush in the Plaza of Vision...

…Reveals Some of the Beggars in Sayre…

…are only pretending to be poor.

Maxim Shalion saw his chance as soon as the beggars got the jump on the Golden Scales. Pouring out of nearby alleyways, the ambushers crowded into the opening, blocking the way to the plaza.

And that was what Maxim was looking for: a place to fill with a black void of shadowy death.

Pretty soon Delis and Maggie were up on the rooftops, followed by Sam and Jett and Rinoa.

Down here in the alley, there was little to do but blast away at the ambushers trying to push their way out of the blackness to fight Garen Bladerun. It gave Grigore plenty to complain about, since nobody needed healing back here in the alley.

Eventually, he took down the zone of shadow and let Grigore out to do some healing.

Elyas was pleased to Amyria show up at the Temple of Erathis. His collaboration with Magdalene to get the young deva onto the High Council was going well. “They want to test me first,” Amyria told her. “They are sending me out to round up support for a Coalition to fight back against the Githyanki.”

Rinoa realized her mistake as soon as the beggars came running out of the blackness.

Facepalm: “If only I had block them in with Ice Stalagmites,” she told herself. “They would have been trapped in there, taking damage from the shadows as well as the cold.”

Rinoa resolved to coordinate better with Maxim next time. This time, she had tried to use her Dragonfrost to set up another spell. By the time she realized her mistake, she had been pulled down into the plaza by some mysterious gem being held up by one of the ambushers.

Several of the Golden Scales spellcasters had been lured by the gem’s pull. Sam was battling in a nearby alley, but it took a while to get the paladin and the healer into the part of the fight where they were needed.

Amyria told Elyas her mission was a mixed success. “Almost everybody is anxious to fight back,” she said. “But they are all weakened. The attacks came at the worst possible moment for each of them. Only Sayre and Overlook have been spared. And I have been having disturbing dreams about Sayre.”

Grigore Goldforge tried to rescue the mysterious gem which had dragged him into the Plaza of Vision, but it crumbled in his fingers.

The only thing he got out of staring into the gem’s interior was a brief vision: A pile of garbage with a crown on top.

After Amyria told Elyas that she was arranging a meeting of the Coalition in Sayre, Elyas remembered someone else who was going to Sayre. Jerath had a road company whose play, Roland and Juliette, was a big hit in the university town. He told Amyria to seek out the bard and make the journey to Sayre with the company that Jerath was sending there.

Chance Runner was disappointed by the loot. Sure they got a lot of swords and chainmail off the corpses of the mercenaries who were posing as beggars. But there were no magickal items at all. It was almost as if the attackers were so intent on appearing poor that they had no items of value at all.

They even went so far as to rub mud into the rags they used to cover their armor.

Mud! That gave Chance an idea. He inspected the mud more closely and recognized it as looking like the mud near the Low Bridge that connected Riverdown with the University District.

A clue: That might be more useful than a magic item.

View
The Return of Amyria
...And Also Jerath..

…As Both of Them Make to it Sayre…

…before the Golden Scales themselves.

Garen Bladerun marveled at the city spread out before them. One minute he had been mesmerized by the spectacular waterfall; the next, he was staring at the gleaming spires of the University of Sayre as The Conqueror crested the top of the waterfall.

The three rivers which joined to make the waterfall spread out to become the canals of Sayre’s secondary transportation system. Secondary, that is, to the broad avenues and great plazas of a thoroughly modern city.

Garen had heard that Sayre was built on the ruins of an ancient town (his Dragonborn history classes being what they were), but no sign of the ancient ruins remained. The town he saw before him was very much up-to-date in its architecture. As Grigore directed Tokk’it to skirt the city north of road which lay north of Sayre’s north wall and land in the beautiful reservoir east of the city, Garen could only admire the halls of the University of Sayre, the glistening shops of the Glassworks, and the monuments of Prospect Hill.

With The Conqueror tied up to some trees along the side of the lake, the Golden Scales came down the gangplank well ahead of the refugees from Akma’ad. Garen noticed a number of carriages arrayed around the lake.

A servant came cautiously over from one of them and asked: “Excuse me, but by any chance are you the Heroes of Elsir Vale?”

When Garen said, “Why, yes, we are.” the servant smiled widely.

“My master will be so pleased! You’re quite famous; he was just talking about you today at tea. Would you do me the honor of allowing me to introduce you?”

Grigore barged right in to accept the invitation and the servant looked even happier and led them through the throng to a dark-doored wooden carriage with remarkable stained glass windows. The servant knocked once and opened the door. “My Lord Telicanthus, may I please introduce the famous Heroes of Elsir Vale.”

When the tall, spindly man stepped out into the sunlight. Garen was shocked to note that Lord Telicanthus is a Githyanki.

But he quickly showed he’s quite unlike any Githyanki that the PCs have seen before, however. Lord Telicanthus has a warm, quick smile and eyes that make it clear he’s very interested in whomever is speaking. He wears very fashionable, expensive clothing and has no Githyanki jewelry or weaponry whatsoever.

Garen was able to detect only the faintest trace of an accent when he addressed the heroes: “It’s such a pleasure to meet you. We’ve received some news of our friends to the north, but I never expected to meet the heroes in person! Some travelers have brought word of your many battles. It’s very rare to meet living heroes, so this is quite a moment for me. Are you just arriving here in Sayre?”

“Y-y-y-yes,” stammered Garen, unable to hide his surprise at seeing a non-hostile member of this race.

“Well, allow me to provide you with some most humble shelter! The finest inn in the city is the River Jewel, right by the bridge in our Glassworks District. Pennel?”

He turned to his secretary, just exiting the carriage. “Run ahead to the Jewel and book . . .” He looks at the Golden Scales and counts. “Rooms for each of them. Put it on my account there, meals included. Let them know that their guests are people of honor, and are to be treated as such.”

The secretary nodded and hurried off.

“It’s so rare to get people of the world here, artists and playwrights aside.”

The Githyanki paused to consider. “Would you do me the honor of coming to tea tomorrow? All the elite in the city, from the mayor on down, would doubtlessly be honored to meet you. You’ll be the toast of the town. Tomorrow, at my estate — I’ll have Pennel leave details for you in the morning, and I’ll send a carriage.”

Once they were headed up the road to the city gate they had passed earlier, Garen decided to take a shortcut. He sprouted his wings and flew over the river and the low city wall, into the district of Sayre known as Prospect Hill.

It didn’t take Garen long to figure out that this residential neighborhood holds the majority of the city’s grand estates and mansions. Flanked by rivers on either side, the low hill rises gradually over the rest of Sayre. All the richest citizens of Sayre live here. Garen was pretty sure the private mercenary units who quickly challenged him (and kept an eye on him until he was off the hill) could ensure that the neighborhood stays safe and free of crime. He was glad he had not timed his “invasion” after dark.

Soon he came to the The Pillar of Hope Reborn, an ostentatious memorial consisting of a 60-foot-tall pillar with an eternal, magical flame atop it.

According to the plaque this marks the spot of “Auglos the Wise’s tower in Auger, first founder of the city that became Sayre,” confirming what Garen remembered about the city’s history. It’s a good meeting spot for young couples on Prospect Hill who wish to go courting.

Moving off the Hill, Garen came first to the Glassworks then to the University of Sayre, where he found the River Jewel

…and he also found Jerath!

The Bard looked up at The Orb Theatre’s marquee. The workmen were taking down his carefully crafted Roland and Juliette sign and replacing it with Titus Androwdicus. Not the original Titus sign, but a new one. A little classier. Now the sign-smiths of Overlook competed for his business. Back when Titus first debuted, he had to make do.

Grigore Goldforge did a face-palm as he watched the paladin sprout wings and fly south over the low city walls.

He continued toward the main gates of the city, thinking that would be less likely to arouse the citizenry than flying over their walls. When he got to the gates, however, the guards were already aroused, telling the Githzerai “their kind were not welcome in this part of town.” Odos was aroused himself, from his usual curtness into anger.

Once they were turned away to make their way to Riverdown, Grigore decided to accompany them and the rest of the Golden Scales followed. At the next bridge they made their way into Riverdown. The quality of the buildings begins to degrade quickly once they got past the tail end of the university district, and Grigore noticed an oily mildew covering the stone walls. Constant mist from the nearby waterfall filled the air. The streets boasted less wealthy individuals running errands, packs of unsupervised children, stray dogs, and people of questionable repute.

Grigore saw a large number of beggars living in Riverdown, and Grigore was certain his obvious wealth alone was enough to be watched carefully.

The Plaza of Vision was where Odos had been told the Githzerai refugees from other areas are living. An open area in Riverdown only accessible by winding through back alleys that branch off of tertiary streets, the plaza is an isolated and dark plaza surrounded by abandoned and rotting warehouses.

A corroding statue of a skyward-staring wizard stands in an empty fountain in the middle of the square. Odo was able to find the red building alongside the plaza, and he led the group there directly.

Odos tried to hide it from his people, but Grigore could tell he was appalled that the Githzerai aren’t living somewhere better. Riverdown is extremely poor, particularly when compared to the university district they walked through earlier, and Grigore couldn’t help feeling that Odos is right in believing that this area is beneath the dignity of the Githzerai.

Grigore noticed raised voices coming from deeper inside the building. The words were unintelligible, but it sounded to him like Githzerai voices raised in anger.

Eventually, Grigore figured out that the Githzerai have splintered into two groups who believe they should proceed in very different ways. One of the leaders, Aziff, urges patience and caution. She is convinced that the locals’ feelings are temporary.

Grigore got the impression she has lived in Sayre for many years, and the recent change in public opinion about the city’s Githzerai citizens has distressed her a great deal (although she didn’t reveal anything but a stoic demeanor openly).

Aziff has the backing of the other local Githzerai, and also of Amyria who came out of a back room shortly after the Golden Scales arrived with Odos.

The other leader, an atypically fiery Githzerai named Gal’ott, has been urging action. Young and angry, he wants to take the fight to the streets, organizing what amounts to a Githzerai gang. Gal’ott and several other Githzerai are refugees from cities and monasteries from elsewhere in the world. Many told Grigore they had traveled several hundred miles to get to Sayre after seeing Githyanki destroy their homes, and they’re appalled that nothing is being done here to combat the threat.

Grigore noticed these Githzerai wear red armbands and never travel alone He quickly became convinced that such gang-like behavior would only add to the local residents’ fears of exactly what Gal’ott is asking his fellows to do.

But Jerath would never have to “make do” again — an idea came to him: “Much Ado about Making Do”? he asked himself; no, that wasn’t it; he would just have to come up with another title for his new comedy — he was a success, having taken Roland and Juliette on the road. And he had found a new home for it.

Rinoa was surprised and pleased to see Amyria, whom she hadn’t seen since they parted in Overlook. Amyria is overjoyed to see the Golden Scales and Rinoa in particular.

Amyria explained to Rinoa that she has spent a great deal of time in the days since she parted traveling outside Elsir Vale. After Magdalene and Elyas pushed her to work with the Council in Overlook, the councilors sent her on an important mission: seeking out the extent of the Githyanki invasion.

“In the process, I have established connections in most of the cities nearby.” She also admitted to Rinoa that she has learned that Githyanki attacks have come at the worst times for the defenses of every region.

“Only Elsir Vale has been spared — at least thus far — thanks to the Golden Scales’ defeat of General Zithiruun. I know it is only a matter of time until the Githyanki try again.”

Rinoa heard Amyria admit to Grigore that she has an agent in the household of Lord Torrance and is suspicious of his connection (as well as that of other prominent citizens) to Lord Telicanthus. An even more surprising admission: Amyria went out of her way to meet the Githyanki Lord at a social event the week before, but she found him genuine.

“But a Githyanki operating so openly just seems wrong.” Rinoa could tell that Amyria is ashamed of her feelings about Telicanthus. She wants to believe that not all Githyanki are evil ravagers intent on conquest, but she is suspicious nonetheless. She was too quick to deflect questions about Telicanthus, his motives, and his possible operations. Her own self doubt was getting in the way of her instincts about the Githyanki, which is why she cautions the Githzerai of acting too hastily.

Amyria told the party that she has learned that two leaders in other nearby cities are seeking out allies. She feels that forming a more concrete alliance — she calls this group the Coalition — between all the besieged communities, city-states, and regions will help them all, so she has been spending a great deal of time fostering this idea.

She has been marginally successful in putting together the war council, which holds its first meeting in Sayre in the morning. "But I myself have little more than a voice in the proceedings. I have no home community and represents only myself and my god, Bahamut. I am being allowed in the proceedings because I organized the event and chose Sayre as the site of the meeting.

Amyria then told Rinoa the people she expects at the Coalition meeting:

  • Kalad
  • Fariex the Scalehammer
  • Caliandra of the Stagrunners
  • Lord Divian Torrance
  • Quelenna Entromiel
  • Inogo Dravitch
  • Odos
  • and Amyria herself

Still The Bard couldn’t help feeling a little sad. He had hoped his second tragedy would have been as popular as the first, but it somehow wasn’t in step with the dwarves. Now, the academics in Sayre loved it. That was why he had moved the primary company to that enlightened city — swapping out a few of the standouts from the traveling company, of course, since they were so well received in Sayre — and left the best dwarvish actors here in Overlook to handle the revival of Titus Androwdicus. “I don’t get it. The drow dies in both of them. Why do they like Titus so much better?”

Magdalene felt a certain amount of satisfaction that her efforts to manipulate the politics of Overlook were finally bearing fruit. Perhaps if this assignment to help form the Coalition worked out for Amyria, the council would consider her as replacement for the dead Councilor Mountainhome.

Amyria then told Maggie she chose for the Coalition to meet in Sayre because, she suspects that the Githyanki have some means of communication that surpasses any sort of magic that she is aware of. “They seem to be able to react almost instantaneously to threats that marshal to meet them, and they strike when their enemies are at their most vulnerable.”

When Odos seemed to agree with this, several members of the Golden Scales began talking about how difficult it is to deal with a race which could use doppelgangers and even take over the bodies of real people to insinuate their way into the politics of any group trying to defend themselves against an attack.

But Maggie saw something more: the importance of subtlety in the response to Githyanki attacks in the Githzerai’s own history. This proved crucial later in convincing Odos to side with Aziff.

“Only regions such as Elsir Vale are having luck defending against the attacks,” Amyria told them. She also told them that she tried to get to the island nation of Nefelus, off the coast past Akma’ad, but found some sort of blockade preventing any ships from sailing there.

“The knowledge of magic possessed by the sages of Nefelus is said to be nearly unsurpassed,” she said. “But the University of Sayre is a worthy rival.” Maggie got the impression she hopes to convince the war council that they should ask the scholars of the university to turn all their efforts toward uncovering the nature of the Githyanki’s communication network.

Amyria’s big bombshell came when she told them about a dream she had:

“In my dream I was standing in the midst of raw elements. Waves crashed around me and fires flared, and I was looking down through clouds onto a dark blue night’s sky. Stretching across the sky was a giant spider’s web that was woven between planes. It was silver and sparkled with stars, and at the end of each web line was a Githyanki.

“As each Githyanki spoke, the web sparkled, and a fat spider in the middle listened to everything that anyone said. The spider was beautiful, but you could tell it was evil, just like the people talking through it. It scuttled around, fixing frayed lines and tossing out new lines to new people. Most were Githyanki, but some were not. One of the lines went to a Githzerai.” Amyria looked troubled as she paused.

“I looked harder at the spider, and I knew it was here in Sayre. I could see the city around it. So I came here. I think someone in Sayre is helping the Githyanki, but we don’t know for sure who it is, although we have our suspicions. And we don’t have an easy answer about what to do about it.”

Gal’ott interrupted, “Of course we do. We find your spider. We find him and kill him. We kill him and return to our homes.”

“You think that’s going to solve the problem, Gal’ott?" Amyria asked in reply. "We know of whom you speak. And he’s politically connected to everyone who could help the Githzerai! Kill him and get executed as murderers and traitors. I say we need to prove what he’s up to, and then discredit him. It’s the only way to help the Githzerai.”

At this point, Magdalene decided to step in and help Amyria persuade the brash Githzerai to show some restraint. When she did, Gal’ott could see that she was having an impact on Odos.

He bowed his head and said, “I will comply with the majority. For one week. After that time, my people will take matters into their own hands.”

He stood, nodded to Odos and Azitt, and left.

Once Jerath got to the River Jewel he put his worries about the popularity of Titus Androwdicus behind him. Here he was the toast of the city, almost as popular as the Githyanki turncoat everyone was fawning over. Here they appreciated the nuance of Roland and Juliette. The Bard was not sure he would ever bring Titus to Sayre. They needed something more sophisticated here. Jerath was even thinking of trying his hand at comedy. Suddenly, he thought he recognized the paladin at the front desk. One of his patron’s friends. Yes, it was. “Garen!” he called out.

Sam could tell it was time to convince Odos to go along with the plan Azitt and Amyria were putting forward.

“I see no reason why the Githzerai should not just leave the mortals to their own devices," Odos told Sam. "And perhaps we can attack the Githyanki once they are weakened from your conquest. I fail to see how you can convince me otherwise, but I am willing to listen to arguments.”

Grigore knew it as well. After observing Odos closely to gain insight into his motives, he came over to Sam and told him: “Now that he has had time to calm down after the siege of Akma’ad, Odos remains neutral as to what the Githzerai should do. He personally favors killing Telicanthus and then abandoning the plane.” But Grigore is convinced that Odos was being honest when he said he was willing to listen.

So Sam decided to emphasize the importance of the Githzerai in fighting an opponent like Telicanthus with his Githyanki mental powers. His bluff worked.

Magdalene pushed forward with this argument, trying to show that a victory for the Githyanki would be a victory for Chaos over Order. Sam realized at once that this went to the heart of Odos’s religious beliefs and moved him further toward the kind of action that Azitt was advocating. Hard to see murdering Telicanthus as anything but chaotic. Chance followed up successfully on the religious angle.

Garen took a different approach. His diplomatic approach: Stressing the importance of standing together. Sam was proud for the paladin, and equally proud when Rinoa tried to intimidate Odos by demanding that he look at what might happen should the Githyanki win. But Odos is hard to intimidate and that approach was quickly abandoned.

Grigore came by with further advice about his insights into Odos’s character. “He knows that Amyria wants him to join her Coalition, but is not sure that he wants anything to do with the mortal world and its defense against the Githyanki threat.” So Sam decided to follow up with Garen’s diplomatic approach.

Maggie reverted to the bluff Sam recalled making earlier, painting an excessively grim picture of the Githyanki and the importance of the Githzerai in defeating them. Sam was again impressed when Chance followed this up with a historical account of what had really happened and how the Githzerai commitment to mental discipline had been crucial.

“I have been convinced to stay and investigate Telicanthus,” he told the hobbit. “I think proper use of the right rituals might be just the way to do it. And this city is certainly a good place to learn such rituals. You must take your baggage on and enjoy your rooms at this fancy establishment Telicanthus has reserved for you. Especially if you want to get close enough to investigate him.”

So Sam led the Golden Scales to The River Jewel, scouting ahead and noticing that the beggars (who seemed to congregate around the bridge between Riverdown and the university district on the Riverdown side) did not really bother them until they were near the University itself.

View
A Githyanki Gish
...Named Brann'ot...

…Tries to Ambush…

…the Golden Scales as they make their way toward Sayre.

Chance Runner’s soul felt a strange sense of deja vu, rended by the icy winds of Letherna as it spiraled down toward the gates of the palace of black ice below. Although he could not actually remember previous lives ending in death (as opposed to those which ended in re-incarncation), the book he clutched told him in great detail about the times he had done this before. The abode of the Queen of Death had strange gates indeed, opening on the sky to allow the maelstrom of death to carry the shattered souls of the dead to be judged by the Raven Queen herself: “After all these years, still you play with Death,” she began when he was brought before her.

The young woman named Magdalene looked down from her perch in the crow’s nest of The Conqueror and saw the Gish assassin try to creep unnoticed from the hold.

She could not help critiquing the assassin’s style: “Everyone else has noticed her as well.” The assassin was immediately assailed from all sides by the Golden Scales, but the Gish did not seem to mind.

Eschewing the kind of telekinetic leap favored by so many of the Githyanki, the Gish teleported to yardarm below Maggie. The teleport avoided the ropes and sails so easily that Magdalene was sure it was the kind of phasing teleport she had only heard about. It was rumored to leave the assassins who used it insubstantial and difficult to damage.

Before Maggie was able to attempt such damage, however, the Gish raised her arms and telekinetically untied 8 ropes from the ship’s rigging. She let 4 droop over each side of the ship. It wasn’t hard to notice the assassin’s confederates below leaping to the ropes and clamoring upward.

Dancing along the ropes, Maggie whirled out her kasuri-gama and leaped to the yardarm, knocked the Gish prone. Draped over the yardarm, the assassin did not look so formidable as Spruce Tree flew up to attack her before she teleported back to the deck.

Ignoring the smirk on Chance’s face, the Queen of Death offered her opinion: “Not a good idea, playing with Death.”

Sam the Foresworn managed to get all his allies to concentrate their attacks on the first of the Githyanki warriors to take major damage and that enemy quickly died. But the little hobbit saw the warrior’s spirit rise from its body and he could sense the fear this caused in his allies who quickly shifted their attacks to the assassin who had just teleported back to the main deck.

Sam watched as Maggie plunged from the yardarm to launch a devastating strike at the Gish. The Master Thief noticed a certain level of professional respect in the assassin’s eyes as Magdalene was able to inflict enormous damage even with the assassin in some kind of insubstantial state.

The assassin still had little respect for the tiny fairy assaulting her feet with his miniature staff, but Spruce was able to knock the assassin to the ground, somehow forcing the Gish to come out of her insubstantial state.

As soon as the Githyanki assassin was bloodied, she was able to absorb the spirit of the dead warrior. it almost seemed to Sam that she grew in stature as she absorbed it.

But Sam’s little heart swelled with pride as he saw the rest of the Golden Scales pile on the damage before the assassin was able to phase to insubstantial again. While they didn’t kill her outright before she teleported and became less vulnerable, she was close enough to death that even with their blades slipping easily through her insubstantial body, they were able to finish her off quickly.

But Sam’s heart shrank when he realized his compatriots had gone back to their standard tactics once the warriors’ boss was down: Spreading the damage around so that no one warrior went down too quickly.

As Chance’s soul exploded into mist and light before her, the sorcerer heard the Raven Queen’s final words to him: “Playing with Death has consequences.”

Maxim Shalion saw that Zumos was using his big spells, so when the warriors lined themselves along the the edge of the upper deck, he let loose an enormous spell of his own: The Hunger of Hadar, which leaves behind a globe of impenetrable darkness filled with fanged shadows. He knew that as long as his allies could force their opponents into the blackness the fluttering, flying creatures would find purchase for their fangs.

Sam kept reminding him to use his curses and eventually their enemies started to fall.

When he thought Chance was about to fall as well, the revenant’s eyes started to spark with lightning and he continued to fight like a zombie until he fell over dead.

Chance awoke in the crew deck of the ship where he died. The old, blind sage was finishing the ritual he used to bring the sorcerer back to life. “We had to use the last of the ritual materials stored in the hold, but we were able to bring you back.”

GrigoreGoldforge saw Chance go down and began to wonder. Every other revenant he had ever dealt with — OK, there was mainly one — had the ability to keep fighting if he wanted to. Chance hadn’t even called for healing before he went down.

With all of the Githyanki warriors finally dead (once Sam got his allies to concentrate their fire one last time), Grigore went over to Chance’s prostrate form and tried to heal him. He was well and truly dead, not just unconcious.

When the other party members realized this as well, some were ready to loot the revenant’s corpse. But Grigore refused to let them and carried the body down to the hold. He left it in the safekeeping of blind Odos and his followers.

Once the sun was up and the city of Sayre hove into view, Grigore saw a groggy Chance Runner being led up from below by the Most Exalted Odos.

View
Faery Ninja Pixie Politics
OK, Spruce Is Really a Monk...

…Not a Ninja…

…but the idea is the same.

Even after Garen Bladerun noticed that blind Odos was more favorably disposed toward the Golden Scales when they told him Maggie and Sam had participated in the killing of General Zithiruun and the destruction of the Githyanki allied with Sarshan, he was still surprised at the reaction of the elderly Githzerai to Grigore’s offer to ferry his people to Sayre. The leader of the Cenobites did not look like he often offered up that much trust to outsiders.

But Garen could tell that even their new pixie friend (as well as Chance and Rinoa) could see Odos was concerned greatly about his people and their future. Glancing at Grigore, he saw in his leader’s eyes that Grigore could tell that Odos was worried: worried that Sayre is only a temporary solution.

“Probably understands the blind guy doesn’t know if there’s anyone he or his people can trust other than themselves, even if he’s beginning to like us,” Garen thought to himself. “Sam seems willing to accept that Odos is a good and just leader. But I wonder if he can tell that his taciturn nature is a reflection of the hardships his race has endured, exacerbated by the recent attacks.”

“Try not to share your thoughts, or your madness,” the Summer Queen asked. “Even your most innocuous comments can bring me pain.” The tiny pixie nodded. Not the first time someone had told him this. Sometimes the rhythm of the Feywilde, which no one else seemed to be able to hear, told him this.

Once Tokk’it had proved Gallia was possessed by a Githyanki spirit and killed her, Maggie had little trouble convincing Odos to tell them about the attack. The Githyanki had attacked without warning, and they sent strike teams to the personal chambers of all the Githzerai leaders, as if they knew exactly where they were staying.

“I hope you’re convinced that Gallia was the one who fed them information on the layout of Akma’ad,” Garen said.

Maggie watched the old man nod as Tokk’it explained that the drawings of the Githzerai leader the Golden Scales had found in the Gith assassin’s cabin on the ship Tokk’it had commandeered were all drawn in Gallia’s distinctive style. “I imagine she told them our names as well,” Odos admitted.

After Chance pressed him further, Odos told them he was only spared because he stepped outside for a walk and heard the team of assassins in my room. “One of them was talking to a strange device.”

Then Grigore took over the questioning.

“I was able to surprise them all. Mr. Lee and I were about to defeat them by ourselves. Otherwise, I might have been assassinated as well. We killed all but one…who got away in the confusion of the main attack.”

“I have need of your assistance,” Tiandra told him, although Spruce knew she would never have invited a pixie to her palace in the middle of the silver trees of Senaliesse if this had not been so. “The Winter Court has taken an interest in the affairs of the mortal realm,” she continued. “And would have an agent there, keeping an eye on those particular affairs…the affairs of the Golden Scales.”

Grigore Goldforge was not surprised when Odos told Garen that attacks of this sort had been happening to Githzerai enclaves all over the mortal realm.

But he pressed for more. And so did Sam. But it wasn’t until threw in a desperate bluff that the old Githzerai offered up the real truth:

“Most of the Githzerai around the material plane of existence have fled to a refuge in Sayre, a nearby city. I want to take my people there now.” This left Grigore pleased that he had already offered to take them there in the ship Tokk’it had stolen.

Grigore had asked Tokk’t to help, but he knew the young Githzerai really wanted to stay with the Golden Scales. A taste of adventure and the kid was hooked.

“Before you ask, I will tell you what manner of creatures the Golden Scales are: A band of adventurers, currently allied with those seeking to draw the Githzerai into an alliance against ancient enemies,” the queen explained. “Aid them in their endeavors and even the Unseelie agents among them — an elf and a hobgoblin — may come to trust you.”

Showing the piece of stained glass to Rinoa, Sam the Foresworn asked her what it was. She told him it was magic, but others had been able to tell him that.

“Seems to be a communication device of some sort,” the sorceress told him. “But one-way only. I think it can only send messages, not receive them.” Sam was able to confirm this when he talked to the pixie about it. Seems that Spruce was following the assassins between each attack and heard the Gish talking into the device. But he told Sam he never heard it talk back. Nor did he see the assassin listen to it.

Once they had all that put together, everybody got together for one final diplomatic push.

A successful push: Odos told them that he and the other githzerai had planned this meeting at Akma’ad to discuss whether or not to accept an invitation in Sayre to meet with a newly formed coalition of leaders from other regions of the world concerned with the extent of the githyanki invasion.

“Each member of this coalition comes from a homeland ravaged by the githyanki, and they’re all looking for aid and support from their regions,” the old blind Cenobite told them.

Sam could see that Odos is bitter that the “humans” sound divided over political issues when there’s so much at stake. The hobbit noticed that Odos tends to call all non-Githzerai except Githyanki “human” and couldn’t help laughing about what Belinda’s parents would think of that.

“I was against going to the meeting,” Odos said. “But now Sayre is the only choice my people have.”

View
Hobgoblin to the Rescue
The Prophesy of the Imp...

…Proves to be Accurate…

…to a degree, at least. No one has seen the hobgoblin eat any brains yet.

With Kath’ik and Wellik dead, Blind Odos knew he must lead the battle. As he hurried through the corridors, a squad of cenobites came rushing towards him. “We must hold out defensively as long as possible. Surely, we will be overwhelmed eventually, but it may come to pass that someone will come to our aid.”

Maxim Shalion decided he liked using his curses. They made even his Eldritch Blasts and Hellish Rebukes a thing to fear. The Golden Scales had decided to climb on top of the fortress and surprise the Githyanki from above, rather than attack them from behind.

They were surprised themselves when another group of the mind-bending pirates from the Astral Plane came down from still higher roofs. The Hands of Gith attacked suddenly and died just as suddenly when their immobilizing telekinetic Cold Hands were overcome by Garen’s Divine Mettle.

Maxim used his blasts and rebukes — fortified by lots of curses — to work his way over to the edge of the roof. From there he could see the edge of the main battle.

And lots of targets.

He knew then what he had been saving the Hunger of Hadar for. Raising the Deathbone Rod of Dark Reward over his head, he conjured a globe of impenetrable darkness filled with fanged, flying shadows. Everything in the zone was blinded and their life forces rended. Then it was simply a matter of maintaining the globe and convinced his allies to force their enemies into the blackness.

Taken aback by the optimism of the usually stoic Odos, the cenobite captain stopped in his tracks. “Have you not heard? Someone has triggered the rockslide we use to defend this place.”

Grigore Goldforge decided he might have to remind Chance to pay closer attention to the battle. Almost as soon as Maxim lowered his globe of fanged shadows, Chance forced two Githyanki off the roof into the very place where Maxim had created the zone.

“Bet Maxim coulda used a heads-up on that,” the ardent thought. “He mighta left the globe up a little longer.” He couldn’t help thinking about how his uncle might have handled that. “Probably woulda managed better co-operation between his men.”

But Grigore was soon too busy to worry too much about better co-ordination. The Golden Scales were dropping all around him. Icy fingers gripped their hearts, immobilizing them and making them easy prey to greater damage from the silver swords the Githyanki wielded. His Skauld’s Aura was soon depleted and he had to muster all the healing he had available.

Even for Maggie, who usually stayed out of the main fray…

“I thought the assassins who killed Kath’ik and Wellik had somehow neutralized the rockslide.” Odos was confused as the captain reported the rumors that someone had landed on the roof of the monastery and was attacking the Githyanki besiegers. “Isn’t that where Gallia was last seen?”

Magdalene decided that climbing to the highest roofs of the monastery was the best way to avoid the clouds of dust sent up by their rockslide. Sure enough, the view was unobstructed up under the overhang.

Not that Maggie could see the entire battlefield, but she was able to see her way clear to the doorway where the Githzerai were being pressed by the attackers.

The attacking Githyanki were trying to force the Cenobites back inside the fortress. Seeing that success in that endeavor would allow the Githyanki the chance to fight from the protection of the doorway, just as the beleaguered Githzerai were doing now, Maggie threw caution to the wind.

Maggie used her Ninja-to Rush to leap into the dust cloud from above, following up with an Assassin’s Strike. Realizing immediately why the Githzerai were being pressed so hard, Maggie found herself surrounded by enemies. Out came the Whirling Kusari-gama, which was able to knock many of her opponents to the ground and force them into the black globe Maxim was still maintaining.

Maggie went down, but Grigore was not about to let the Githzerai be attacked again. First, the ardent healed Magdalene, then started healing the Githzerai themselves, and leaped down into the cauldron of death himself.

Then Maggie saw Grigore do something with his Wormhole Plunge that she had never seen him do before: First, he plunged his target into Maxim’s globe of blackness and shadow, then he stepped into the wormhole himself plunging himself back to the roof, then he sucked a Warrior of Gith into the wormhole and urged Maggie to pin him there. When she did that, Grigore was able to plunge the warrior through the wormhole and into the middle of Maxim’s globe.

“Yes, I believe that was where Gallia was captured by the Githyanki. Now, the Eastern Door has been breached by a Githyanki Passwall ritual,” the captain reported. “But the Western Door still holds. We suspect the attackers from above — probably the same ones who released the landslide — disrupted the other ritual we heard being attempted there. No time to investigate, though. We must hold the Eastern Door.”

“I think I might learn to like this Divine Challenge thing,” Garen Bladerun told himself. Sure, it brought him repeatedly to the brink of death, but wasn’t that were a true dragonborn paladin was at his best?

Almost made him feel like Bahamut himself, willing to sacrifice everything to fight for that which is right.

He had started out the battle Channeling Divinity from Bahamut into a crucial Divine Mettle blast which saved one of his allies from the devastating effects of the Cold Hand immobilization the Warriors of Gith liked to use to maximize the damage they dealt.

With all of his friends dropping like flies around him, Garen was glad he could draw so much attention to himself with his Divine Challenges. He wished he could use those challenges to increase his damage as well, like so many of the heroic paladins of old. Perhaps he could do some retraining before his next fight.

Shouting that Maggie needed him, Grigore disappeared into the clouds of dust. Nothing left to do but lay about with his sword. It felt good to swing the blade two-handed. His new shield at least gave him that luxury…

Almost made him feel like Bahamut himself!

What was he thinking? If he used Bahamut’s voice, demanding surrender in the language of the gods, which of these Githyankis could resist?

“Yield to the power of Bahamut,” he demanded of the two remaining Warriors of Gith. The bloodied one surrendered, but the other tried to run away.

Oh, yeah. Probably shoulda waited until they were both bloodied. Garen made a mental note to make sure his enemies were bloodied before he tried to intimidate them. “Some of ’em just go into a rage when you do it too soon,” he remembered.

Blind Odos rushed toward the Eastern Door shouting, “If a hobgoblin rescues us, I shall be very concerned, indeed.” He kept a second thought to himself: “Especially if he eats brains.”

Finishing off the last of the Githyanki warriors was no problem for Sam the Foresworn. Nor was liberating the gloves worn by the miscreant. But identifying the use to which he could put the gloves was a different story.

For that, he would need to show them to his friend Zumos.

Several other members of the Golden Scales turned up their noses at the gloves, although somebody said they were magic. But Sam knew better than to trust such a judgment. Magic could mean “cursed” as well.

He would wait for Zumos to take a look before he actually put the gloves on.

The wizard from the Order of the Septarchs was searching the bodies himself: A lot of bodies — between the rockslide and the fighting, hundreds of Githyanki had been dispatched.

Three troopships full of Githyanki, from all the evidence Sam had seen.

But Zumos abandoned his search when Sam brought him the gloves. The halfling could tell from the look in his eyes that Zumos had seldom seen such a powerful magic item. Which was saying something for a member of the order.

“You seem to have found a pair of Gloves of Dimensional Grasp,” the wizard told him after a careful examination.

Gloves of Dimensional Grasp! Sam’s heart sang. Many adventurers knew about the party trick such gloves could perform: opening a lock from across a room.

But Sam knew much more he could do with them. Sure, reaching through a dimensional portal could extend his reach, but it could also allow him to reach inside a lock and get to parts which might need to be jiggered just so…

…to open a lock which might not otherwise be within his powers.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.