Kolos Jamorda

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 6
Confrontation with The Warlord

20th of Hollow, Just after dawn

Ignax, Cotter, and Gorg-nik pursued the escaping goblins towards the lower levels to find hobgoblins already in the tower and a makeshift barricade at the base of the stairs. Gorg-nik returned to the top of the tower while Cotter and Ignax trapped the middle levels. Up top Theadras and Hannah used the catapult to attack hobgoblin groups across the camp.

With their help, the war golem was able to escape from the trap the hobgoblins had set for it. A group of hobgoblins riding fiery horses, nightmares, dashed in and out of its range, keeping it occupied as more hobgoblins retreated for the tower. The group leader rode a worg that seemed to be made of smoke and all of them vanished and reappeared as they moved about the battlefield.

When a flare rose into the sky over the original assembly point, the nightmare riders broke off their attack on the war golem and bolted for the camp where the generals, the observers, and the war golem pilot watched over the battlefield. Hannah and Ignax descended the outside of the tower where she summoned her elk steed and he transformed into a dire wolf to pursue the hobgoblin riders. Behind them Cotter, Gorg-nik, and Theadras dumped the catapult over the edge of the parapet onto the mass of hobgoblins below and then made their own escape from the tower.

It soon became clear that the hobgoblins were as intent on baiting the war golem away from the camp as they were on actually damaging the attackers’ headquarters. They succeeded at the former but the delay gave Hannah and Ignax enough time to catch up before the hobgoblins could do major damage to the latter.

Their arrival at the camp has already become legend. This is the scene:
Hobgoblins on fiendish beasts of fire and smoke raise havoc amongst the Kolos Jamordans, splitting the defenders into two huddled groups. The guards hold their own for the moment but these riders appear and disappear at will and the situation is precarious. Then, over the hill, a vision appears. An enormous wolf surges into view, dark against the fiery backdrop of autumn trees. Then a warrior-woman riding an elk crests the ridge. Her armor blinds with the reflected dawn. The sword in her hand glows with its own light. Immediately, this lady, her elk, and her wolf charge one of the attacking nightmares, rolling it. The hobgoblin rider is thrown from his mount to be savaged by the wolf who knocks him down again and again. The warrior woman loses her mount but dispatches the fiery horse from on foot. The hobgoblin strikes the wolf hard enough to break the spell on it, transforming the beast into a devilish creature, a tiefling who blows a poisonous breath into the hobgoblin’s face. The hobgoblin breaks; he runs. His compatriots pick him up but the attack has been disrupted. The war golem arrives, the hobgoblins flee, and no more Jamordans will die on this hill today.

This is just one of the stories the soldiers from this battle are already telling…
how the wizard calmly called down fire to obliterate watchtowers and gates
how the dragonborn’s fiery breath melted hobgoblin defenders and how lightning, arrows, and moonbeams fell from the sky to shatter the rest
how the group drove an enemy caster from the field before he could unleash his own power
how they captured a tower, turned the hobs’ own catapult against them, and then dropped it on the hobs for good measure
and how the Lady of the Blazing Forest and her devil-beast broke the hobgoblin counter-attack

The hobgoblins were prepared for a war golem. They had a pit, a catapult, and a retreat plan to clear the field once the war golem arrived. They were not prepared for the party. The group was unable to contain Detrian but thanks to their actions, fewer than half of the assembled hobgoblins escaped. The attackers were even able to capture some alive and while most of these were killed by clay golems following the letter of their last order, a few remain to question. The party has the thanks of the home guard general, the grudging respect of the war golem pilot, and the gratitude and awe of the soldiers by whose side they fought. Now they are going home.

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 5
The battle in the hobgoblin tower

20th of Hollow, Just after dawn

Steadily the group worked their way up the tower, clearing opponents as they encountered them. At the top of the tower, they found a hobgoblin captain directing the trebuchet. Enormous stones from the catapult kept the war golem below pinned in a pit while the other hobgoblins continued to gather around the tower. The hobgoblins on the roof heard them coming and had a welcome prepared but the party pushed through it. The group cleared the opposition with the exception of two goblins that escaped downstairs.

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 4
Assaulting the hobgoblni tower

20th of Hollow, Just after dawn

The group had a quick conversation and decided they could help the attackers best by neutralizing the trebuchet on the top of the stone tower anchoring the northern corner of the camp.

The hobgoblins formed a defensive line in front of the tower while wounded hobgoblins steadily passed inside. Theadras blew a hole in this defense with a well-placed fireball while Hannah used her moonbeam spell to singe the group approaching the doors. Gorg-nik rushed into the tower, to be met with hails of arrows from defenders behind murder holes. Theadras used fog to obscure the group’s entrance and they were able to hack their way into the tower

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 3
Detrian's Tent

20th of Hollow, Just after dawn

The party moved carefully among the tents and arrived at Detrian’s pavilion without encountering any resistance. The silk pavilion stood on its own in an open space, apart from the rows of hobgoblin tents. Several wooden benches, a cold fire pit, and a small raised platform occupied the rest of the open area.

The area was quiet and they found the tent empty. Theadras and Gorg-nik examined the interior while Cotter, Hannah, and Ignax searched the grounds around the pavilion for hints to Detrian’s current location.

Detrian, however, solved that mystery for them by approaching at a trot with a pack of bodyguards. The two groups faced off and although the adventurers were able to down all of Detrian’s protectors and Detrian’s familiar, they were not able to stop the half-elf himself from vanishing into thin air again.

The sounds of battle, and an increasing amount of smoke, continued to drift across the rows of hobgoblin tents. The group spent several minutes digging into Detrian’s gear and were rewarded for their diligence with the discovery of a false front on his clothes chest. With some tinkering, they got it open and found several small keys, a collection of smoke beads like those Ignax observed during his captivity, and a set of forger’s tools. Elsewhere in the tent, they picked up a map of a theater called The Breksta Celeston, covered with Detrian’s scene planning notes, and a small journal able to send and receive messages. Its pages still contained a letter from someone named Gabellard Rencia.

Satisfied that they had gathered everything they could from the tent, the group turned their attention once more to the camp around them, intending to give what aid they could to the soldiers still engaged with the hobgoblin troops.

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 2
The battle moves inside the hobgoblin walls.

20th of Hollow, Dawn

Two groups of hobgoblins met the city soldiers streaming into the camp. Both groups were arranged in two lines, one of shields and spears and the other of archers. Theadras, Hannah, and Ignax called upon their divine and arcane talents to blast at the enemy lines while Gorg-nik rushed forward to break the hobgoblin formation and keep their attention away from his more fragile colleagues.

The group kept up their onslaught while more and more of the city soldiers rushed through the open gate. The hobgoblins continued to hold, however, standing firm while their own archers loosed flight after flight of arrows into the attackers. Cotter attempted to slip around the side to get a better position but was confronted by a hobgoblin unit on a similar maneuver.

The group knew they could break the enemy formation completely but it would cost them resources they might need to subdue Detrian. Instead they focused on disrupting the hobgoblins until enough soldiers could get through the gate to take over. Then the war golem arrived.

On the far side of the camp a massive metal figure burst into the camp through one of the watch-towers, shattering the tower and a section of wall around it. The giant golem had the head of an eagle and the claws of a lion which it immediately used to begin slashing and crushing the hobgoblins around it. Arrows and stones clanged off the dented breastplates and cracked shields that formed its carapace.

Immediately, the hobgoblins at the adventurer’s gate changed tactics. The archers withdrew. The shield line dissolved into pairs and quads of hobgoblins who, with a steadily rising chant, charged into the midst of the city forces.

The party found the opening they needed and slipped further into the camp, headed for Detrian’s silk pavilion, just visible up the hill.

The Smell of Arcanite, Part 1
The assault on the Warlord's camp begins

20th of Hollow, well before dawn

The party rose early, while it was still dark, and set off into the woods north of Kolos Jamorda, following the instructions Kon-Thok provided.

Gradually the way grew clearer as the pre-dawn light began filtering through the trees, giving the party just enough light to see a hobgoblin patrol about the same time the patrol spotted them. The hobgoblins reacted slightly faster, forming a shield wall while one of their number prepared a fire arrow. Theadras, however, demonstrated the inherent flaw in this approach by dropping a fireball in the center of the patrol and cooking all of them at once. After the party put out the myriad small fires this kicked up, they resumed their trek.

The adventurers found Kon-Thok camped just below a ridge overlooking the hobgoblin compound. The dragonborn was working with his counterpart in the Homeguard to issue the final deployment of troops. They were glad to hear that the party had eliminated the last patrol they had been unable to locate.

Nearby, the Anzani ambassador and his bodyguard waited with Lord Tremonta. The ambassador stole Kon-thok’s thunder by greeting teh adventurers warmly and expressing his pleasure at seeing them again. The Anzani were present today, at Lord Tremonta’s insistence, to see the capabilities of a wargolem first hand. When the group questioned this, the ambassador wryly admitted that he had already seen wargolems in action, although never from this side of the line.

The wargolem pilot, for her part, came to work and grew more and more insulting every time Lord Tremonta tried to encourage her to mingle with his guests. She did talk to them, she and the ambassador apparently shared the same taste in local crab eateries, but continued to push Tremonta away when he tried to join.

Theadras attempted to approach her to talk about the golems but she gave him a similar, although less obscene, brush-off as she gave to Lord Tremonta. Theadras conjured a miniature golem for her by way of demonstrating that he, at least, was not lying about his capabilities just to talk to her. She admitted that this was more impressive than most efforts to get her attention but by then the others were moving towards their positions.

Soldiers headed north to grab the hobgoblins’ attention while the golems and their support took position in the south. The party joined up with the northern group to give them protection, ensure the biggest bang for the distraction, and, most importantly, to get to the fort at the point closest to Detrian’s likeliest positions.

At the party’s suggestion, the soldiers with them split into two groups, a heavy team to hit the northwest gate and a lighter, mobile team to clear hobgoblins in the field and pre-empt a flank attack from those caught outside during the assault.

Theadras struck the western corner tower with a fireball, killing the hobgoblin team manning the ballista there. The party then cleared the amphitheater, with no sign of Detrian. The southernmost tower lobbed a ballista bolt towards them but could not hit at that extreme range. Satisfied they had proven a significant distraction, the group returned to the gate assault in progress. Ignax and Hannah worked to restore the wounded while Cotter kept the hobgoblins from poking their heads over the wall, Gorg-nik fended off stragglers from the outer fields, and Theadras aided the efforts to bring the gate down.

The gate collapsed with a crash that caused the ground to shudder and soldiers poured through the opening to the camp beyond. A second shudder followed the first, then another and another and another. The wargolem had taken the field. The party could not see it yet, but they could see hobgoblins inside the gate lining up to greet them and beyond them a silk pennant flying in the breeze over Detrian’s pavilion.

Home Again
The group recuperates and researches

16th to the 20th of Hollow
In the morning, the group headed to the watchhouse to speak with Kon-Thok. He gave them the welcome news that his team had located the Warlord and Detrian with him. The hobgoblins had taken over one of the many abandoned watchtowers that lined the rivers feeding the Em and built a camp around it. It was a hobgoblin camp which meant, to most others, it was a fort. Cracking into it would require significant resources; the Watch and the Guard were coordinating an assault in four days. Kon-Thok thought the party would be an ideal group to operate independently and quickly enough to lock-down Detrian before he could slip away again. The group agreed and Kon-Thok gave them instructions for how to find the assembly point.

The group then spent the next few days tracking down leads, researching some of the discoveries they had made, and training.

On the way to the meeting with Kon-Thok, Cotter had left a note in the Slave Run room requesting a meeting with the people who had been using it. She spent the next three days in the North Market at the designated location but no one showed.

Gorg-nik used his time to train his arm and hone his weapons.

Theadras finally had a chance to investigate the silver nails the group had recovered from Byron’s body. In the light of day and well rested, it took very little time for the wizard to find what he was looking for. The nails did not carry any specific ritual significance themselves but indicated Byron was a devotee of the patron saint of the self-made, those who elevated themselves from nothing to something through will and effort.

One task down, he turned his attention to the spikes the group had been gathering, first as spoils from their battle in the Bottle & Blade and second from the discarded remains of Marabara’s experiments. Here he had to struggle. Marabara taught the people who taught Theadras and apparently she had not stopped learning new things since he had left the Lithos Group. Creating these was well beyond Theadras’s current abilities but slowly he began to tease apart how they worked.

Ignax spent some time seeking information about the Shrine of Sorrows, where he had been told his father hid, but made no headway in the limited time he had available.

Hannah approached The Dawnlight Brotherhood to see if they would be willing to assist in her efforts to clear the dragon out of the Swamp Wold. They agreed to help, although they have limited resources and cannot afford to abandon their progress in the catacombs thus far. They will not be able to field an army for her but when Hannah asks, they will send what help they can and work with her to combat this new threat. Many of their most recent gains have come with Hannah’s assistance. It’s a favor they are more than willing to return if they are able.

After three days, frustrated by her fruitless wait, Cotter decided to attempt something more direct. She gathered Hannah and Gorg-nik and decided to make a spectacle in the original Sperethiel where she had first been mistaken for someone else.

It worked almost immediately. An elf lord, Eckerd Lynguallia apparently, there with his entourage recognized her immediately but was infuriatingly vague about it when she confronted him. Finally, he agreed to a private conversation. Once they isolated themselves he named her, “It IS Madilyn I’m talking to, not Wendolyn,” and berated her for the risk she was taking appearing here as herself. Cotter demanded answers and when Eckerd realized how little she knew, he reconsidered and agreed to meet with her in two weeks and explain what he could, it being too dangerous to discuss here. Cotter contemplated shooting him right there but relented and agreed to the meeting. As they parted, Eckerd tossed her a bag of coins and made a quip that made his entourage laugh and then returned to his drinking.

The group rested a final night and then set out before dawn on the 20th of Hollow to make their meeting with Kon-Thok.

Like a House On Fire, Part 3
Getting Ignax and Getting Out

15th of Hollow, Night

Two cultists entered the shaft; the first brandished a crossbow at the group and demanded they emerge slowly. Cotter ignored the order and tried to get onto the catwalk so a second cultist began tossing bottles of alchemist fire into the shaft. Theadras killed that cultist and then bluffed the first one by quoting from the religious tract he had found in the cult safe house. The confused man allowed the group to finish their climb and emerge from the shaft into a large open chamber surrounded by balconies.

Several other cultists watched from the balconies and from behind a makeshift barricade that circled and protected a hole in the center of the chamber. Theadras attempted to convince their suspicious leader that the party was sent by other members of the cult to test security.

Ignax, meanwhile, emerged from his long confinement to see flame cultists pointing weapons at his friends. He summoned a pack of wolves and destroyed the cultists gathered on his side of the room.

Theadra’s attempts at deception thus interrupted, the party took the fight to the cultists and obliterated them quickly. But others soon began arriving from elsewhere in the tower. The original leader fled down the opening in the floor. Theadras followed, discovering that what looked like an open shaft of air was protected by a feather fall spell. Theadras and the cultist drifted slowly to the floor of the tower. The cultist arrived as a corpse to the alarm of an additional group of cultists waiting below. Theadras turned himself invisible and moved off to hide and wait for his companions.

Meanwhile, a man with four arms of flame and wearing a burning mask entered the chamber where the others were mopping up the last group of cultists. Ignax recognized him, naming him Kuchoma, and warning the others to stay back. When Cotter sped several arrows his way, Kuchoma caught one and returned it at the elf. When Gorg-nik tried to block him, he battered the dragonborn with his hands of flame. The barbarian withstood the onslaught but the group decided this was an enemy they were not ready to fight. Ignax sent his wolves to block Kuchoma while the rest of the party descended into the same shaft Theadras had used. The last Hannah saw of Kuchoma, the fire warrior was turning one of Ignax’s wolves against the others.

Theadras cast a fog cloud to hide his friends from the cultists at the base. The adventurers, watching the fog form from above, were able to move quickly out of it, but the cultists were confused enough they were unable to follow. The party then strolled nonchalantly out into the main courtyard and through the gate. One guard held Theadras aside to offer an escort home, concerned about the intentions of the group behind him, but Theadras reassured him they were fine and the group left Stagbriar without further trouble.

They made it almost to the bottom of the hill when they spotted flames pouring from the windows of the tower they had abandoned.

Like a House On Fire, Ignax
Ignax's adventure, summoned away from the rest of the party

This is a transcript of the Play-by-email sessions for Ignax’s experience between when he was summoned away from the party and when he returned to them

Beyond the silver circle, your captors finally raise their heads from the tome and begin to remove their hoods. The first, a young human male, is laughing. The elf beside him is much more reserved than the human, but a small smile tugs at the edge of his lips as he watches his counterpart. Both are making a show of not actually looking at the summoning circle, as if the contents are of no particular importance to them.

The third summoner has no such reservation. He stares at you and slowly draws his hood back. You find yourself meeting the gaze of an old tiefling with short sharp horns sweeping forward from his forehead. His goatee is neat and silver but his head is bald. “Osmodax?” he whispers in confusion, then blinks in recognition. “No. The younger.” This is inexplicably funny to him but his laughter is sharp and without mirth. “Oh you are the schemer and deceiver, my lord. Would that it had not cost your servant so much but I play my part.”

Behind him the other two turn at this strange statement from their master. The human startles when he sees you and the elf’s subtle smile washes away under a look of growing horror. The human cannot find his voice, only gasps and sputters for a moment. The elf looks to the tiefling and back to you and asks his master, “But Kuchoma?”

“Is almost certainly traveling a different path to get here than the one we prepared for him. Our lord has deceived us all. Make ready. His will is yet unknown.”

The human begins muttering to himself. “We’re dead. We’re dead. We’re dead.” He cannot say anything else and cannot take his eyes off you.

The elf wails to his master, “We did everything right! The ritual should have worked!”

“I rather think it did.” The old tiefling laughs again as he removes the ceremonial robe. His clothing underneath is practical but well-made. He straightens his right arm down to his side and a thin black rod, tipped in ruby, falls out of his sleeve into his grip. “Stay where you are, please. I’m going to need the extra time.”

The door to the chamber bursts inward in a gout of flame and light. A long burning splinter impales the human who falls to the ground gurgling. The elf whirls and flicks two daggers towards the smoldering opening. They are batted aside. The elf roars a challenge and brings a glow of magic to his fingers. A tall human strides into the room, naked save for a grass kilt and a burning mask. He carries a curved sword in one hand but has not drawn it. Embers glow above his head and six arms of flame sprout from his back.

One of these arms lashes out to grab the elf’s face, lifting him from the ground. The elf’s skin blackens and smolders and then bursts into flame while the elf screams. After a moment the being shakes the elf’s corpse and tosses it aside.

“Magus! You die today.”

“Kuchoma, you exaggerate as always.” The Magus does not look up at the newcomer but pulls a ring off his finger and exchanges it for another. He starts rifling through an arrangement of trinkets and figurines, looking for something.

“I interrupted your little ritual.”

“No, no you didn’t.” The old tiefling waves an arm towards you. The other still holds the rod down by his leg and out of view.

Kuchoma regards you for the first time. You cannot see his face, only a single glowing red eye shows through the mask, but you can see from the tilt of his head that he is examining the ritual circle and you in turn. “Who is this, old man?” He faces you directly.

The old tiefling laughs again, and this time there is genuine amusement in the sound, “He’s the answer to the ritual, Kuchoma. Looks like we were both wrong.”

“No. No, you have the tome.”

“Yes. That’s the tome.” The magus sounds amiable now, friendly.

“No. That’s not right, Magus. This isn’t right.” Kuchoma clenches all eight of his fists and takes a long step closer to the circle. “Who are you? What are you doing in there?” He steps forward and searches the invisible barrier of the summoning circle with his fiery hands while his human fists remain clenched. “Get out of there. That is not your place.” He places long fingers against the invisible barrier and begins to press. You can see the magic peel away from his fingertips as they slowly move into the circle. He strains his muscles and something starts to tear, but the Magus has had the time he needed.

The old tiefling speaks a command word and points his rod at the floor. Wooden planks erupt with a shattering thunder in a line straight towards the fire warrior. The force hurls Kuchoma backwards and away. The floor drops and the elf’s smoldering corpse slides out of sight into the room below. The lectern holding the tome tips and the book follows the elf through the tear in the floor. At the end of the rip you can see daylight through the far wall where the force of the spell blasted bricks away from the tower.

The blast also interrupted the summoning circle. You feel your ears pop as the pressure changes. You are free.

Ok so three beings summoned me – human, elf, tief. The tief was the leader, Magus. They did not mean to summon me, they were apparently trying to get this human fire warrior, Kuchoma. Instead, he surprised them by bursting through the door and immediately killing the two underlings. Discussion ensued about a Tome, it was clear that Kuchoma does not know who I am, but Magus knows both my father and I.

I want two things: To talk to the Magus, and to get that Tome. I can either join the fight and try to kill this fire warrior dude, or go for the Tome through the floor. If I kill Kuchoma, there sure isn’t any guarantee that the Magus will be cooperative OR friendly, and then I will have to kill him to take a look at that tome.

ACTION: I am going to escape from becoming collateral damage in a magic fight, and go for the Tome. Also maybe there is something on that elf’s body that I will want as well, or could help clue me in. Then maybe see how the fight turns out and take it from there. Can I jump down through the floor? What do I see through that hole?

Staying low, you dive for the crack in the floor, following the path taken by the tome and the dead elf. Kuchoma and the Magus are both clearly interested in where you’re going but neither is willing to divert their attention from the other to deal with you just yet.

You clatter over the edge of the rift and [roll: 8+0: 8 Acrobatics] misjudge the opening. You snag your shirt on a ragged joist and get tangled as you fall hard to the floor below [3 pts of bludgeoning dmg].

The light is dim but no hindrance to you. You spot the fallen tome easily. The book is warm to the touch when you pick it up. It is sheathed in rich red leather and edged in brass. In the center, a medallion of brass contains an etched symbol of a burning brand crossed with a sword of flame over a pentagram. The metal of the medallion and along the spine and at the clasp show rainbow tints of heat damage. The inner pages are almost completely blank. Here and there, you catch a glimpse of ink fading into the pages but it vanishes before you can make sense of its meaning.

You cannot tell from this quick study whether the book has somehow been used up or if its contents are protected or hidden in some manner. A thump and a howl of outrage from above remind you that you may not have the time now to study it in detail.

The elf’s body lies crumpled a few steps away, one arm mercifully covering his blackened face. You sift through his pouches quickly [roll 15 + 2: 17 investigation] and find a miserable handful of coins, two more simple daggers, and a clay rod six inches in length. The rod has a narrow groove at its middle and a single arcane word. It’s a device to cast a single spell; crack the rod and speak the word to cast it, then toss the pieces towards the location you want the spell to manifest. [roll 8+2: 10 Arcana] It’s likely an offensive area effect, but you cannot decipher much more than that about what will happen when it’s cast.
One more detail catches your eye, there is a small tattoo on the elf’s upflung arm. It depicts a burning brand lying across a pentagram. The flame and pentagram are common symbols for worshippers of Asmodeus but the branch addition has only ever been used by the Asmodai cult of your father as far as you know.

Beyond the damage from above, the room you are in is unremarkable, a sitting room or parlor of some nature. Dusty goblets cover an end table, some still crusted with the dregs of whatever drink they last held. A single door leads deeper into the tower. Opposite the door, the exterior wall holds a small shuttered window.

Peeking carefully out the door into the middle of a long hallway with a sumptuous carpet. Someone shouts from your left and a wounded tiefling man runs into view from around a corner, pursued by a laughing human woman with a bloody spear. The chase passes the door you’re hidden behind and around the corner to your right. To the left, from where they emerged, you hear other sounds of battle.

Mechanics & loot
3 bludgeoning dmg
Brass-bound Tome
23 copper coins
2 daggers
1 spell rod for a single-use casting of an unknown offensive area effect spell

Ok, I want to follow the laughing woman and tiefling with the intent of killing the woman and capturing/interrogating the tiefling. Id like to see what kind of damage I can do with a surprise attack on her, maybe a javelin to the back. Then a low level spell, like my poison cantrip to follow up. If she turns out to be tougher than I think, or starts using heavy magic on me, I may have to use a Lev 1 or 2 spell but I don’t want to burn my last Lev 3 yet on summoning any animals or changing shape, unless she is a real bad ass mage, then I will probably want to enlist some. I want to know what the tiefling knows about other tieflings, the fire cult, why this internal rebellion seems to be happening, and where my father is, if he knows him.

You slip a javelin out of your quiver, ready your shield, and dash after the fleeing pair. [Roll 3+0: 3 Stealth]. You knock the javelin on the wall as you round the corner and the woman whirls to face you, spear raised. You let your javelin fly first [Roll 6+4: 10 attack] but you’re still disoriented by the quick turn and the javelin flies wide to stick in the wall behind her. She dashes forward and uses both hands to drive her spear into your side. You turn at the last second but are unable to completely avoid the blow [2 piercing damage]. She has forgotten the other tiefling, however, and he steps forward now to drive a wavy dagger into her back. You call forth a puff of poison gas and, choking, she collapses.

Cursing under his breath, the tiefling immediately drops to his knees beside the body and begins pawing through her pouches with one hand while clutching the wound in his side with the other. It is a simple matter to bring your shield down hard on his head.

You drag the unconscious tiefling further down the hall until you find another room. This appears to be a trophy and game room. The heads of several large and exotic animals peer down from the wall while a gaming table of inscrutable elven design fills the center of the space.

You tear strips of fabric from the curtains and bind the tiefling’s wounds [Roll 17+6: 23 heal] until he is no longer in danger of bleeding out. You use the remaining cloth to tie his wrists together and secure him to one of the overstuffed chairs set around the gaming table.

You have a moment before he wakes. Is there anything you would like to do before then? What questions do you want to ask when he regains consciousness?

Ooh la la. What a battle.

Ok I want to go finish rifling through the ladies pockets and pouches and try to figure out what the tiefling was so excited about.

This is my interview approach: I want to come off as having rescued him and knocked him out/tied him up because I didn’t know if I could trust him. I want to find out why he was running from her, why she was chasing him, and what he is doing here. Use whatever was in the ladies pouch as an incentive to get information, but if it is really nifty and useful, and he is not nice, don’t give it to him. Basically, I want to assess if he is a bad guy caught up in a civil war or a good guy being used by the cult. I want to find out what his role is in the cult and what the cult is doing in KJ. I also want to learn more about the Magus and about the structure I am in – where there may be treasure, where there may be guards, where there may be an exit. What are the Magus’ powers, goals, other major players in the cult. Also, any info he has on an old tiefling named Osmodax – WITHOUT revealing that he is my father. Don’t reveal too many details about my past, and reveal none if he is a bad guy.

Any indication that he is a bad guy in a civil war and the interview can get physical to get the information I want. If he convinces me he is being used like I was, then he may go free if he promises to help me, but I still won’t trust him completely.

Leaving the tiefling tied to the chair, you step quickly into the hall. No one has followed the pair or come to investigate the sounds of battle here so you sift through the lady’s pockets quickly. [Roll 2+ 2: 4 investigation] She carries little of value. The only thing worth taking for yourself is a well-used leather pouch containing several bandages, salves, and other tools for dealing with combat trauma. [Healer’s Kit, 4 uses remaining]

The tiefling is just beginning to stir when you return. You turn on the charm [roll 20+0: 20 persuasion] and easily convince the wounded man that you had no choice but to tie him up. He is very earnest in his attempts to convince you that you can trust him. He answers whatever you ask.

Carefully, you extract clues from him under the guise of testing him about what he knows. You start with names, “Prove you’re who you claim to be: Tell me which of the following are members of the Asmodai…” and the tiefling identifies Osmodax and a variant on Lament that you invented “It’s Lamentia not Lamentine.” “Very good,” you say. He tells you Osmodax is with the other half of the cult in the Shrine of Sorrow beneath the city. Seizing on that, you convince him you’ve been sent from outside and begin questioning him about what has happened here.

The Church of the Relentless Flame and the Asmodai came to this place together, working towards a common cause, or so they thought. They both wanted access to the Ruby Chamber built here by the elves a century ago. The Asmodai had it, having co-opted the current owners of the building. The Church, one of whose members included the former owner of the building, had a tome that told how to use it, and more. They offered the tome in exchange for access to the chamber.

There were differences however, in interpretation of the scripture that brought them both here, in the goals they pursued. Both wanted to kindle the final flame but the Asmodai, and here it becomes apparent that this member at least is a fervent believer, wished to scourge the world with it.

“Do you know what people will do to each other when confronted with a fiery death? The atrocities they will commit to avoid that fate?”

The Church, however, worships the Flame it wishes to call forth and seeks to assist it in achieving dominion over the world. Obviously, this is not a result Asmodeus would tolerate.

They played nice until two days ago, although the tiefling does not know how it got started, just that suddenly they were at each other’s throats. It’s not going well for the Asmodai, mostly because Kuchoma is unstoppable. The Relentless Flame has secured the entirety of the first prime floor, the entrance to the main section of tower from the ascension shafts, and barricaded it to prevent any of the Asmodai from descending and leaving the tower. Since then they had been pushing upwards, driving the Asmodai further and further into the tower.

You get what he thinks is the likely safest route to the Ruby Chamber, to the ritual circle on the floor above, and what he knows of the passages back to the Church’s barricade near the exit to the lowest levels, but now he is getting wary. His wound is paining him again, and you still have not untied him.

[further questioning will require another roll]

Ok, if I read that right, this tiefling is a solid supporter of his cult, an Asmodai through and through, who wants to bring about the end of the world with fire. I believe I have all of the necessary information I need from him. Now I want to reveal who I am, and be real. Tell him about how I was to be sacrificed. Get angry. Provoke a response. Perhaps he knows something about why they stopped hunting me? Maybe it’s just because they got access to this ruby room and the tome and didn’t need me, maybe it is something else. Get all the info he will tell me about my father, and what they are doing in the Shrine of Sorrow, and where that is. Rough him up a bit. And kill him when I have got as much out of him as I can. A druid wants balance in the world and he represents the stripping of all balance with his fiery Armageddon plan.

After that dirty deed is done, I want to investigate the Ruby Chamber. Lets head that way, trying to avoid detection. Any battle that arises, if it is simple one on one, use the same javelin/poison cloud tactic as before. If I run into a more serious party I may need to summon some wolves, but I want to avoid that if possible. For example, if I find the Ruby Chamber is heavily guarded, beat a quiet retreat and head for the barricade. For this I will use mouse form to slip through and escape the tower.

“I apologize,” you say. “I see now that you really have been honest with me.” His worried look turns into a relieved smile as you reach for the knots keeping him in place. You check that they are holding and then pull his dagger from its sheath on his hip. “But I have not been honest with you.”

You lay the dagger on the gaming table in front of him, tapping it with one finger while you tell your story. You talk slowly and calmly. You talk about your father, about the sacrifice attempt on a four year old child, about a life of running and hiding, and how very much you want someone to pay for that. You open your pack and pull out one of the daggers you collected from the dead elf and place it beside the tiefling’s dagger on the table.

“Now,” you tell him, “if I am to direct my anger … appropriately … I need more information from you. If you are not helpful, however,” You place the second of the elf’s daggers on the table. “This will take a lot longer.”

He blanks his face and raises his eyes, bolstering himself with the strength of his fanaticism.

[Roll 19 +0: 19 Intimidate vs 15/15 (advantage) +1: 16 charisma save]

You speak again, “Before you decide, I should mention that I was in a room with both the Magus and Kuchoma and I am the one who left with the tome.” You pull the book out of your pack and drop it on the table with a bang. The daggers jump at the impact. The tiefling startles and then withers.

The conversation after that is one sided. You ask simple questions and he answers.

The Shrine of Sorrows is a secret complex built by the Asmodai centuries ago, deep within the catacombs under the city. Osmodax and the others await the Magus’s return, some in the Shrine of Sorrows others to their normal lives. He does not know how many. “A lot,” he says defiantly, and you do not think he is lying. He does not know how to get to the shrine. Nor does he know what they would do next. The warlocks will consult the will of Asmodeus, he thinks. “Perhaps our lord’s minions will lead my brothers to you.”

The Flame needs a spark to start and fuel to spread. The scriptures claim a child of flame and forest will be the Firestarter. But there is more than one way to start a fire. The Ruby Chamber could amplify a spark and a sacrifice there will spread the flame further even if their spark is weak.

Kuchoma and the Church of the Relentless Flame think it is a doorway and Kuchoma believes he has the key to unlock it. The Asmodai think it is a firestorm to be unleashed. With the chamber in the right place, a flame started amongst the right fuel and fed by Asmodeus’s blessing would be unquenchable.

With you, the tiefling tells you, the Magus did not need the Chamber. With the Chamber, he does not need you.

You press for details about the Shrine of Sorrow. When he balks, you drive a dagger into his hand. This is a mistake. He begins to scream and does not stop. Even when he has the pain under control, he keeps screaming. He has remembered the battle and the dead human woman in the hall, and how much you need his silence to stay hidden from the armed parties attempting to purge this level of Asmodai survivors. He has nothing to lose from discovery anymore, and he knows it. But he has underestimated your anger and your determination.

You grab the next blade from the table and slash his throat. The screams turn to gurgles; a spray of blood [Roll 8+0: 8 Dex save] splashes onto your arm before you can pull it aside.

You leave the two bloody daggers, take the clean one and the tome, and retreat from the room before anyone can come investigate the noise.

The hallways is quiet. The battle at the other end is over. You move away from that area, deeper into the tower. The tiefling knew his way around better than the Church, or they have not yet extended their lockdown this far. You follow his directions safely to the Ruby Chamber, or rather to the place it used to be.

You sneak into one of the antechambers and peer through a fine metal screen. You have seen its like before in confessionals but here it seems designed to hide those who would watch a ritual in the inner chamber, both from those who would perform it and from other watchers. You notice several identical alcoves across the way, each with a screen your gaze cannot penetrate. This one serves your needs perfectly.

Whatever the ritual chamber once looked like, it has been stripped. Junction points show where something used to be attached but it is now missing. You see a handful of large crates scattered throughout the room. Blood speckles several of them and it’s clear the fighting here ended only just recently. A dozen or more cultists loiter at the edge of the space. In the center of the room an older elf oversees the dismantling of the remaining pieces of a ruby altar. The elf is deeply familiar to you although you are certain you have never seen him before. He is arguing with a dwarf dressed in black, a dwarf with three claw marks across his cheek.

The dwarf is politely but firmly refusing to do something the elf very much wants him to do. “No, Lord Daemerries, they’re sealed now, can’t be breached after we close ‘em. Protection, see? For your benefit, o’ course, means you can trust me not to open ‘em along the way, and no one else can make me, neither. They gotta go to the Vault until the Asmodai, ah … our clients are ready.”

Lord Daemerries catches the correction, “I see, and how do you identify a ‘client’? Money, I assume?”

The dwarf grins, “Ah, now you’re asking the right questions. And to be blunt, we got a client, but if you pay more, then you can be the client. We’re not shy about that, either. Makes sure our clients are really paying us what our services are worth.” He tilts his head from side to side. “The Asmodai were pretty generous. Money? No, but I bet you could think up a service we’d be willing to consider.”

The elf nods his head, “Yes, I think we can at that. Come, friend, let us negotiate.”

Two humans enter the chamber, dressed in the same black as the dwarf. Their boots and the lower portion of their pants are dripping; they leave wet footprints across the floor as they come. They each grab a rope handle on the side of a sealed crate and haul the box back the way they arrived.

What would you like to do next? Keep in mind that there are probably too many cultists in the chamber for direct action there.

So I am looking at a group of cultists? Not the Church folk? And there is a dwarf from the Black Claw performing an errand for the Asmodai cults involving carting these cases to the “Vault” but the elf (Lord Daemerries) wants him to open the case. The dwarf can not do that, but they are about to negotiate further about what may end up happening to these crates. I would like to stick around and attempt to hear what the Elf wants. I also want to know where those crates are going – I am guessing they have found some kind of route through the sewers and that is why their pants are wet. My plan is to stick around here and try to glean any more good info from these two chatting, but if they move away, my priorities are to follow at least one of those crates in mouse form. If I change shape then later when I unchange shape I have all of my things with me right? If so, then stick around until those two stop giving me useful info, and/or there are only 2-3 trips left for those carrying the goods – and follow them out as a stealthy mouse (whichever comes first).

Clarification : the church is a cult, but they don’t call THEMSELVES that. You’re looking at members of the Church of the Relentless Flame in a room recently, but no longer, controlled by the Asmodai. The elf is trying to take control of crates packed on behalf of the Asmodai. The Black Claw agent can’t give them to him now that they’re prepped for transport, only the people at the other end can do that. But he’s let the Church, through the elf, know that they can outbid the Asmodai if they try hard enough.

Ok, that makes more sense. Ill stick with the same strategy. Listen for a bit longer, than follow the crates. That will be my way out as well as potentially locating the Vault for future reference.

Lord Daemerries and the Black Claw dwarf talk in quiet voices for several minutes. It quickly becomes clear that, while money will be part of the transaction, the Black Claw is more interested in services the Church can offer. The Asmodai have bound hellhounds and the like into the Black Claw’s service. The dwarf wonders what the Church could do to improve upon that. Lord Daemerries expresses the opinion that, while fiends have their uses certainly, they make poor servants and allies, not as manageable as, say, elementals.

“You hold that excellent thought. You’ll get your chance to bid at the Undermarket.” He hands Lord Daemerries a small glass bead. You can just see gray smoke swirling within it. The elf studies the bead for a moment. He speaks a few words over it and studies it carefully. His eyes take on the telltale glow you’ve seen from Theadras when he’s identifying the properties of a magic item.

“Clever.” The elf taps it on one of the crates cracking it and then holds it up again. The smoke swirls around his face, into his nostrils, and mouth, and ears, and eyes. He inhales deeply and the smoke vanishes.

The dwarf nods, “You’ll know where to go when the time comes. But be ready. Market sits too long and the Blue drops on us. So we don’t dawdle, right?”

Meanwhile the other Black Claw soldiers continue carting crates back and forth. When it looks like they only have two trips left, you follow.

The hall is open but ornate. Once you take mouse form you are easily able to scamper up a door frame and along the decorative moulding as you follow. You are glad you took this approach when the dwarf excuses himself from the elf and follows the porters.

The crate is heavy and even with the dwarf helping, the men move slowly enough that you keep pace with them without trouble. The men haul their box across the tower, out of the sanctuary and into a set of living quarters where they enter a lavish bath chamber. Tiled floors and walls surround a wading pool wider than the common room of The Sleeping Mermaid. The men descend a short set of stairs into the pool. The crate sinks almost all the way into the water before it finally begins to float. Soon they are pushing it rather than carrying it. They guide the crate towards the back of the pool and into a narrow tunnel in the wall. The grill that previously blocked the entry is hanging open to the side. The two men watch it vanish then wade back out of the pool.

The three head back for the last crate. What would you like to do? There’s a narrow ledge along the side of the tunnel. Would you like to follow the floating crate into the tunnel, follow the Black Claw members, or do something else?

Follow! That! Crate! :)

You dart into the tunnel, scrabbling to keep your purchase on the curved tile ledge that runs along its edge. As the ledge runs out, you hop across the small gap to land on the top of the crate. The box sits low in the water but supports your weight in mouse form easily. The crate drifts for a moment, moving with a slow current until it bumps gently into another crate. You scamper about in the gloom, inspecting the other boxes. They vary in size and buoyancy but are all made from the same materials. You examine the crates as carefully as you can. They are well sealed to keep out water and, incidentally, mice. You can feel the faintest tingle of magic as you pad across the straps binding them closed. A quick nibble to test just confirms that you are not getting into these boxes as a mouse.

There were gaps in the wall around the shrine where the dwarf and the elf negotiated. A lot of gaps. The boxes here account for maybe a third of those missing sections. There are a few longer and a few shorter crates, but no box extends more than two feet in cross section.

There’s another gentle bump. The last crate has arrived. You can hear indistinct voices and then a small clang. A much larger clang echoes through the pipe. You hear grinding for a moment, and then silence again. A low breeze stirs the fur on your back, getting stronger and stronger until you realize that it is not the air that’s moving, it’s you. The crates are now sliding through the darkness, picking up speed. The gentle bobbing soon becomes a jostling. The pipe turns ahead, and where it does, the box ahead of you in line rolls. That warning is all you get. [Roll 18+0: 18 Mouse Dex]. As your own crate begins to roll, you scramble around the corner and manage to keep yourself out of the water.

The box is wet all around now. Spray from the front of the box begins to batter at you but your claws are sharp and you are able to cling to the surface. The air of your passage and the cold spray soon sets you shivering. The pipe walls are smooth enough that even with your darkvision, it’s difficult to tell how fast you are traveling. Fast.

At last the crate shoots from an open pipe and splashes into a large cistern. [Roll: 14-4: 10 mouse strength]. The shock when it hits the water below is too much and you are thrown from the crate. There’s a frantic moment of splashes and struggles and then you find air. Slowly, you paddle your way to the edge of the cistern. Here is brick instead of metal. Most of it has a slick glaze but you find a chipped section you can get your claws into and climb up to a ledge several feet above the water’s surface.

Below you the crates bob and swirl together near the center of the cistern. The ledge is wide and dry and, you realize, probably the first safe place you’ve been since the summoning. Without really meaning to, you release the mouse body and slide back into tiefling shape. Somewhere outside it is deep night and you have had a long day from the Swamp Wold to this tower. You just about manage a small cantrip to dry yourself, twist off your pack, and curl up beside it before you let exhaustion pull you into unconsciousness.

[Roll: 10 + 2: 12 Constitution check] The sleep is not exactly refreshing but it is actually more comfortable on this brick ledge than it was inside the remains of the wight tower where you slept last. And it smells better. You awake with aches and pains but clearer of mind. The bruises and cuts from yesterday’s throb but will not hinder you today. [You gain the benefits of an 8 hour Long Rest, including full hp recovery]

A quick glance around the cistern confirms your initial impressions from the night before. The view is clearer in tiefling form but not much more encouraging. Three pipes enter about twenty feet above you. One contributes a low trickle to the pool beneath you but the others are dry. The walls are glazed and slick. The pool swirls gently and the boxes you saw last night continue to bump against each other near the center.

You try everything you can think of to leave that cistern. You transform into an alligator like the ones you saw in the Swamp Wold and explore the cistern itself. A single large valve closes the bottom of the tank. It does not react to your efforts to move it. You transform yourself into a cloud with Gaseous Form and float up to the pipes above but each is now closed with a sluice gate. Two are sealed too tightly even for the cloud and even though the third has gaps, you cannot push yourself against the water flow coming out of them. You transform into a bear halfway along one of the pipes and attempt to push it apart but even summoning other bears to help (who do NOT enjoy the experience) does not budge the metal pipes or the valves locking them closed. You even attempt Thunderwave but all it does in the confined space is deafen you for an hour afterwards. No one comes to investigate the noise.

One day passes. Two days. Your spells keep you fed and watered and sane. You cast daylight when you get tired of the darkness. You turn yourself into an alligator when you get bored of sitting on the ledge and slowly become more practiced at using its powerful form. Three days pass. Four. The water from the leaking pipe above steadily raises the level of the cistern until it is almost lapping over the ledge where you are camping.

The thing that keeps you from panicking is the knowledge that the crates still gently bumping against each other in the middle of the pool are very important to people outside the cistern. Those crates are leaving soon and you’re going to follow when they do.

On the fifth day, at least you think it’s the fifth day, something changes. You feel it first as a pop in your ears as the pressure in the tank drops. Then an enormous bubble bursts in the center of the tank, sending the crates bouncing wildly and launching waves to slide onto the ledge. The water retreats, vanishing in a sudden whirlpool that drags the crates with it. You do not hesitate, sliding into the water in alligator form immediately.

The water moves too fast for you, even as an alligator, bumping and banging you into the sides of the pipe but eventually the pipe widens and the flow slows. The pipe walls above the water level retreat and you see a railing. You lunge for it and hump yourself up onto a catwalk over the rushing water. Ahead of you the rush of water turns to a roar and you are suddenly very glad you took the first opportunity to get out of the stream instead of waiting for something better. You rise on two legs as a tiefling and start walking.

The crates disappear over a lip in the distance while more water rushes in from other sources. It’s a good time not to be in the channel but the crates are getting away from you quickly. You jog forward until the catwalk ends at a small service door.

The noise behind you means anyone on the other side is going to be alerted the moment the door is opened but you do not have a choice. You draw a javelin in one hand and yank the door open with the other. A heavy curtain blocks your view but you push it aside and launch yourself into the room beyond.

The first thing you notice is that you are still in the damn tower. This room has the same deep carpet, same lush furnishings you saw before. The second thing you notice is the shouting. There is another door across the room, this one of finely carved oak, and on the far side of it, the cultists are getting angry.

[You should be at full HP, with all spell slots available. You have goodberry prepared (so you could eat if today wasn’t the day) but have not cast it yet. Figure out what other spells you have prepared, considering Ignax has had a few days to think about what would be most useful for breaking out of the tower. You have used one instance of animal transformation so far today.]

Like a House On Fire, Part 2
Getting into Stagbriar

15th of Hollow, evening

Theadras observed the cult for a while, attempting to get a read on their organization and defining features. On his way out he was able to steal one of the religious tracts several of the members have been handling. The little book was called “The Relentless Flame” and contained passages copied from a variety of other religious texts, all dealing with fire or flame.

When Theadras returned, the group compared notes. They felt they needed to get into the tower but were not sure when to go. Theadras had used up most of his spells for the day and Ignax had already been missing for five days which reduced the sense of urgency. It meant he was likely already dead or being held alive for some other purpose. On the other hand, the daytime workers, including a number of cultists, were absent and the group did not know when Cotter’s double would return or if the person causing trouble for the double might not be able to cause trouble for Cotter if she stuck around too long.

Ultimately, they decided they needed more information. Hannah found a flock of ravens and, with a speak to animals spell and a conjured bauble from Theadras, was able to convince one to scout for them. Even better, it brought back Poe, Ignax’s pet, who confirmed that Ignax was in the tower but many “horned ones” like him had been killed there recently. Poe had not seen Ignax through a window in several days. That pushed the urgency level back up for the group and they decided to go in immediately. Poe chose to come along, too, riding on Gorg-nik’s shoulder.

They followed the route marked on the map from the Slave Run to a junction in the storm drains where three pipes came together over an open shaft above rushing water. Theadras used spiderclimb to get around the shaft and into the pipe that would lead to the Stagbriar tower they needed. Inside, the floor of the pipe was slick with slime and he had to brace himself across it. The group then set up a rope and Cotter practically danced across. The two elves then braced for Gorg-nik who, in turn, braced for Hannah. One of the elves started to slide but Gorg-nik was able to catch them before they went any further and Hannah kept her grip on the rope and scrambled to safety in the pipe.

They tied themselves together and continued their climb up the slippery tunnel. Theadras spotted the gate they needed with a scowling face carved into it. He kept his rope tied to his waist and slowly edged closer. When he was about ten yards away, the mouth started muttering and whispering terrible noises. The others could not hear it but the sounds broke Theadras and he turned and ran, knocking over Cotter in the process. Gorg-nik arrested the elf’s flight and Hannah called upon her goddess to heal the damage inflicted by the spell.

Cotter drew her bow and shot arrows at the face in the wood until it was a chipped mess, no longer able to affect them. Gorg-nik and Hannah lifted the gate and all held their ground as a rush of water cascaded through the pipe. Once the surge was past, they crossed through the opening and into the basement of the tower.

They could see a doorway into the tower proper but decided to remain in the pipe plenum chamber. This meant climbing. It was a long trip, but with numerous large pipes and a rough brick outer wall the group did not have any trouble. When they reached the first true floor of the tower, they found further progress blocked by a large net strong across the open space. Above it they could see a catwalk around the plenum chamber and a single door in the inner wall. Cotter slashed the net to open a path. Almost immediately someone on the other side of the wall began to shout and the group soon heard running feet approaching their position.


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