An Empress Betrayed, Episode 7

“I’m sending this mouse into the Citadel, to seek rumors and hearsay. Perhaps more can be learned about the comings and goings of the council members.” And with that, Afton lifted the tiny varmint to her lips and whispered into its ear. It began to wag its tail excitedly. She set it on the ground, and it immediately scurried down the hallway.

This week’s session starts with the party visiting with their hired scholars. The librarians provide the information that the ceremony involving two steps with the left foot refers to a crowning ceremony. Specifically, it is a rite of passage for the King of Sarpadia. Unfortunately, they also find out that this ceremony is happening tomarrow!

Ambassador Cedric meets with the group at the hideout. A knock can be heard at the door. Delsior opens it, and before him is the Brown Fox, who is hastily putting on his right glove. Just for an instant, the Satyr sees a signet ring with a rose emblem. The Brown Fox enters, and they discuss the clues so far.The party also gives the Brown Fox the needed gargoyle dust, and the Brown Fox says that he will begin the re-animation ritual on the Empress immidiately. It will take exactly 24 hours to complete…

The group travels through the magic circle and arrives early. After passing some Stealth checks (and Diplomacy for Valcora) the group manages to get “back stage”, and goes down a staircase to the basement of the grand hall. Here, they find ladders that take them inside the giant statues lining the parade grounds. Two of the statues have been trapped with mechanical devices. Upon inspecting them more closely, the party can tell that these machines are meant to trigger giant bows that will fire arrows directly at the throne. Unable to disarm them, the party waits in hiding.

Out of the darkness comes General Guren. His eyes are rolled back in his head, and he is walking very stiffly. The PCs manage to tackle him, and hold him down. For about 10 minutes he is completely unresponsive. A successful Arcana check reveals that he is being dominated. He soon comes around, and says that he can remember nothing. But he also reveals that his black out periods began when he started wearing a yellow pendant – a gift from Kaylee, the Elven Wizard. The heroes turn to each other in recognition of this final clue, and agree that Kaylee must indeed be the perpetrator.

The PCs emerge onto the parade grounds after the ceremony. The crowd is milling around and beginning to head for the exits. Each PC tries to follow one of the council members secretly, but all three fail their streetwise roll. The party regroups and heads back to the capitol, and walks to the citadel. At the entrance, they happen to run in to the Court Bard, Xonnith. Delsior notices the signet ring with the rose emblem on his right hand. “My, that is an attractive ring. Are there any others that are like that, or is it one of a kind?”

The Bard wrinkles his brow. “Well, there is only one like this. Why do you ask?”

“Because the Brown Fox wears a ring exactly like that. And since there is only one ring like that, you must be the Brown Fox.”Delsior says.

The Bard smiles, and looks to each of the companions in turn. “I am afraid you have discovered my secret identity. I trust that you will never reveal this information to anyone…”

And with that, the party enters the throne room, to see a magical light coming from the statue of the Empress. Her skin turns from a rocky grey to rosy pink, and she tumbles to the floor unconcious. And then… DUN DUN DUUUUN! Next week, the conclusion…

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An Empress Betrayed, Episode 6

A tiny, high pitched voice made Afton and Delsior turn. “Did you hear something?” the Satyr asked. Valcora turned. “I hear nothing. Focus on the battle at hand!”

A tiny mouse emerged from between two boulders, a miniature scroll fixed to its collar. “Hello? Hey You! Over here! I’ve got a message from Allbright for you…” Afton quickly whispered in the language of magic, and a ghostly mage hand coalesced out of thin air. It swooped up the tiny mouse and carried it to her. Stuffing the mouse into her pocket, the Elf unfurled the small scroll, which suddenly expanded to full size. She looked down at a letter from her mentor, a hand-drawn map of the magic circles criss-crossing the world, and a dozen rituals that Allbright gifted to her.

This week’s episode starts where we left off last time. The party has just defeated the Ooze, and has donned the magic items found in the treasure hoard. Now they explore the cavern, and uncover a dark staircase that descends into the darkness. Afton lights the end of her staff, shedding light on the dismal stairs. The light is warm, like a hearth fire, and lets off an almost inaudible hum. The party then passes a check to recall Allbright’s description of the stairs to the Cathedral. “I’m sure it’s this way…” Afton says, as the PCs head down the stairs.

Then more stairs. And more. Exhausted, the party is forced to pass an Endurance Check, or be forced to stop and rest. Valcora rolls a “1” and plops down on the stairs. “I can’t go any further!” Lose a healing surge, DragonBorn.

Then the heroes continue down the seemingly endless flight of stairs. Three more Endurance Checks later, every PC in the party has lost at least one healing surge. And Delsior goes down to ZERO surges. Seeing an orange glowing light ahead, the party is relieved as they approach the end of the stair. The PCs emerge into a huge cavern with rivers of molten lava. Ahead can be seen a dais, containing Gargoyles.

“There they are!” Afton spots them first. The party approaches cautiously, sneaking ahead. When they get up to the gargoyle statues, shimmering figures appear. These are the spirits of the creatures that have been turned to stone. They immediately attack the PCs. Valcora soon learns that her Holy Smite works wonders against creatures that are vulnerable to radiant damage. Her dragon breath wipes out several minions in one shot. Then she dazes the leader using her SpellScar ability. In the middle of the battle, the party sees a small mouse. This tiny creature is talking to them! It claims to have a message from Allbright. Afton sweeps up the mouse and puts it in her pocket as the battle continues.

The PCs make short work of the wights. As the last ghost sputters out like a candle in the wind, a soft “ting ting ting” can be heard. The party searches the floor for a metallic object, but fails to find anything. Pulling out the mouse, the heroes command it to look in all the crooks and crannies to find any small metal objects. It emerges five minutes later, a gold ring in it’s mouth. Valcora puts on the ring, and her eyes roll back in her head. Sweeping visions of the past roll through her mind, as the ring shows her its origins. It was made by the Cult of the Dragon Egg, a secretive group that believes that this planet is actually a huge dragon egg. They also believe that some day it will hatch, destroying the world. Members of the Cult attempt to usher in this new age in any way possible, viewing it as the beginning of the world, not the end.

As Valcora returns to her waking state, she finds that her shield arm feels more lithe. She swings her shield around, and VIOLA! she knows that as long as she wears the ring, she can use the Shield Bash power once per encounter.

After making short work of the monsters in this encounter, the heroes carefully gather the required Gargoyle Dust, and head for the exit. Since the Magic Circle that will take them back to Allbright’s castle is at the TOP of the staircase, the PCs figure that they will have to go all the way up the stairs. That means climbing back to where they were, PLUS going that much further as well. In no mood for more stairs, Afton flips through the Rituals gifted to her by Allbright. She finds one in particular that allows the party to travel at an increased rate. The heroes patiently wait a few hours for her to study and learn the ritual. Then she completes it, allowing the PCs to climb the entire staircase in an hour, without tiring.

At the top of the stairs, the party finds the top of a mountain that has been sheered off in a perfectly flat plane, by some divine force. Here awaits their magic circle. Stepping into it, they are instantly whisked back to Allbright’s house.

And there, the heroes see a table with a note addressed to them. This sits right next to the front door. Apparently, this is the only exit, because the rest of Allbright’s tower is surrounded by a glimmering magic shield. This must be protecting his belongings while he is away…

The group approaches the table. Afton picks up the note and reads it aloud. “Dear Valcora, Afton, and Delsior, please place the jar on the table, and speak aloud its contents. Your reward will appear. Thanks. Allbright.” After reading the note, they pull out the jar given to them by Allbright. Setting it on the table, the group intones the words “Gargoyle Dust”, and 500gp magically solidifies in front of them. Just when the party is divvying up the loot, there is a knock at the door. “Allbright, are you home?” speaks a male voice from the other side of the closed door. The party elects to hold perfectly still, until the guest goes away.

Back at the hideout, the heroes meet with the scholars that were hired to look up information at the library. One scholar found that the General of the Army is indeed the next in line to the throne. If something were to happen to him, then the council would elect one of its own members to rule. The party also finds out that the feather is Elven (again). And, they find that the godess Melora has been known to take human form, and intercede in the affairs of mortals, in order to defeat evil.

The party is much closer than they think to uncovering the mystery. Won’t you tune in to next week’s Episode: Unmasking the Brown Fox…

An Empress Betrayed, Episode 5.

“Hey! Get back here! Stop doing that! You little menace! No – awww, that was my favorite vase. Let GOOOOO!

The party burst through the door. Allbright was in his pajamas. The old grey wizard’s hair was swinging wildly as he waved his hands around, swatting. A hundred or so furry creatures swarmed about him like a cloud, picking up every small object they could find and dropping it on him. A crowbar lay next to an open barrel marked “Flying MonkeyBats”. A cuddly animal picked up the crowbar.

“Hep. Need some Hep! A littlehp. Ow, that’s gonna leave a mark.

This week’s session was heavy with role play, in conversations between the PC’s and Abott Pelthanis of the Brotherhood of light, Allbright the Mentor of Afton, General G’uren, and an Acid Spitting Irridescent Ooze (and its BudLings)… Pelthanis tells the PCs that there are brethren within his clergy that are scholars, and these would be the best candidates to hire for searching the Great Library for information. So the party ponies up the gold pieces, and five trusted sages head off to the library, each one searching for a different topic. Just in case they are spied upon, two of the five are given ‘red herring’ subjects to look up. The other three are looking for information about the feather piece found at the crime scene, gargoyle dust and its uses, and who would legally be the next in line to the throne. We should have an answer in about three days. (Whoops, the party forgot to research the ceremony with two left-footed steps. Oh well, maybe next time…)

Meanwhile, back at the hideout, the group discusses the fact that General G’uren admitted to blacking out for 15 minutes the night of the crime. He does not remember where he went or what he did. Hmm… Perhaps interviewing the guards that were on duty that night would reveal more clues. The party talks about this as they install the new security system in their lair. A flaming jet trap, poison needles, and a false door.

Then the group travels outside the city to the tower of the infamous Allbright, elder human wizard. He is Afton’s Mentor. Upon arriving, the group knocks on the wooden door. Inside, they hear yelling. They burst through the door just in time to grab their 20 siders and start a skill challenge: put the monkeybats back into the barrel. Unfortunately, Dear Reader, the Dice Gods frowned on the PCs that dark night, and the group only succeeded in wrangling about 50 of the 100 little critters. Drat.

Allbright was chipper and daft as ever, as he explained to the heroes that the feather was definitely of Elvin origin. Then he sold the group a Pool of Scrying for their secret hideout, so that they could keep tabs on it while they are away. Next, the PCs explain that they are on a quest to acquire gargoyle dust. The old wizard totters over to his shelves, brushes the dust off some of the labels on the cork-topped bottles, and pulls one off the shelf. “Fresh Out!” he exclaims, as he pops the top off a container marked ‘Gargoyle Dust‘. “I’ll give you 500 gold if you can manage to fill this container and bring it back to me. The stuff comes in handy every hundred years or so.” The group then decides that teleporting closer to their destination through a ‘Ladder’ (aka Magic Circle) would be easier than a week on horseback (each way). Allbright shows them his own personal magic circle, and away they go…

Coin Pile

Coin Pile

The PCs find themselves in a forest, within sight of a beautiful waterfall. A successful Nature check from Delsior reveals three sets of humanoid tracks leading from the forest into the waterfall. The heroes plunge through the wall of falling water, and step through the secret entrance to a forgotten lair…

As the heroes peered around the corner, they gasped in delight. In front of them was a treasure pile, filled with gleaming weapons, glowing armor, and golden coins. Smiling to each other, they stepped forward. Afton held her staff aloft, whispering the keyword that would cause the crystal to glow brightly. A gruesome scene causes them to look away in horror. The bodies of two kobolds lay half eaten – no, half digested in the corner of the room. Rats were nibbling on what was left. (Each character needed to have a minimum CON score or lose their lunch.)

“Wait. Wasn’t there three sets of tracks?” Delsior mumbled aloud. Just then he looks up, darting to the side, then rolling in to a graceful tumble. “Guys, look ooooouuuuuuut!”

Valcora and Afton watched the nimble Satyr, their jaws slack. “What the-” was all that could be heard as a gigantic Irridescant Ooze detached itself from the ceiling and fell, smothering the pair. The glistening skull of a kobold stuck out of it, heckling the party with its silent grin. Delsior sighed. “The Dice Gods are quite unkind to us tonight, aren’t they?”

“Mrph!”

Mrph!

Mrph!

Long story made short, the party hacked the ooze to pieces – literally. Each time the ooze was reduced to three-quarters hit points, then half hit points, then a quarter hit points, a budling minion emerged. Valcora stood right in the creature’s face (does an ooze have a face???) and hacked away at it visciously. She also took the most damage and had to use Delsior’s healing aura twice. She also used her spellscar ability to Daze the enemy, then move away, giving the party a moment to regroup. Afton blasted the minions with a lightning bolt and killed both of them in one shot. After the battle, the party managed to loot 81 gold each, plus a Magic Sword, Magic Cloak, and a Magic Shield. That should come in handy.

Next week, the party will move forward through the catacombs, and enter the Forgotten Cathedral, looking for a few teaspoons of Gargoyle Dust. All this trouble, just to save the petrified Brelia, Empress of Sarpadia…

I made these out of sculpting clay.

I made these out of sculpting clay.