Avesta

Adventure Ten: Dance of Acamar
Part Two: Chains of Calmachia

Leaping down into the hidden well beneath the city’s fountain, Gavri’el leads the group through a dank tunnel, following the soft tinkles of Sinihs’ ankle-bells and towards the soft glow of light ahead. Strafing around a bend in the underground passage, they discover the beaten and battered dervish.

Cursing you with bloody lips and haggard breaths, he pulls himself across the ground, nails digging into the stones of his secret basement, crawling to the opposite side. A quick glance around the room finds it covered in shelves, random minuitae, and painted murals across the floor and ceiling. Sinihs struggles to his feet, pulling himself into a circular design encapsulating a pattern of thirteen stars, mirrored by the image of a looming full moon above.

“We will all be welcomed into the arms of Acamar soon,” Sinihs spits as the party funnel into the dingy room “But while you will be ripped and torn apart, devoured by the Corpse Star… I shall stride triumphant, blessed and anointed, gifted with a deathless body.” The dervish springs into dance, his injuries causing obvious discomfort, but the dancer pushe sthrough the pain, desperate to complete whatever the terpsichorean ritual is. His feet deftly step between each stellar motif, bells singing to the heavens.

Two bolts fly out, the ranger’s enchanted bowstrings singing in the darkness, but they are deflected by unseen walls of force that emit from the magical dance Sinihs performs. Growling in anger, the elf hurls himself into the ritual circle, ducking and rolling, spinning acrobatically to avoid the force shields that Sinihs’ dance throws out, before sending a crunching blow with his clenched fist, flinging the dervish out of the painted circle, crumbling to the ground.

Alheck steps over the dancer, and with surprise, notes that Sinihs is dead; his body simply shutting down from the shock and exhaustion of trying to perform such a difficult dance solo. A small slug, the colour of blood, slithers out of the dervish’s slack mouth, and crawls away.

Searching the basement comes up with no clues of note, but the elves heightened awareness spot a secret wall that leads to a set of steps, leading up. Pushing forward, they discover an entrance into the back of a merchant’s shop. Alarmed shouts can be heard outside, as the party realise they are in one of the residences bordering the fountain square, and no doubt people are jsut now discovering the slain bodies of the dervishes who attacked them.

Gavri’el slinks upstairs to the bedrooms, intending on questioning the owner of the house they’re in; suspicious activity holding a secret basement that harbours an evil dancer! Joined by his peers, they execute an impromptu plan: Sebastian grabs the sleeping wife, restraining her as Gavri’el crossbow smashes into the merchant’s chest, cracking a rib. “We have a great many questions for you, so you better start answering them real quick. If you lie to us, we’ll kill you. If I think you’re lying to us, we’ll kill you. If you tell us something, then we find out later that you were lying, we’ll kill you.” the ranger threatens, to the backdrop of screaming children from the other room. As the merchant splutters and denies any knowledge of the secret basement, having just moved into the shop months before, Aych grows bored and suggests they merely just kill them all, starting with the kids. Dharzon counters the suggestion with his own; maybe the merchant should be shown the basement to jog his memory, or see if he can identfiy Sinihs.

The merchant recognises Sinihs, but only as a dervish who frequented the northern shores of the oasis. Frustrated, the party head back up to the shop, where the commotion outside is increasing. The city watch have arrived, and suddenly there is a thundering knock at the door. While bickering about what to do, the party are suddenly caught in a compromising position as the door is bashed down by the guards. Surrendering their weapons, they agree to be taken to the guardhouse to sort out the matter.

A grizzled detective, cloaked in a heavy coat and wide-brimmed hat, grills each of the party. Despite their claims of self-defence against the assailing dervishes, there remains a merchant with a set of broken ribs, a terrorised wife and conspiracy of murder against two minors. The group petition the detective to seek out the dervishes near the prayer obelisk, giving him the steel earring of the moon-baying hound.

It isn’t until the late morning that the detective returns. He merely glares at each of the party, before flicking the earring back into their cell. “You best talk to those dancers, then.” he grumbles, before walking off. Waiting a few minutes, theg roup realise the guardhouse is completely empty. A push on the cell’s door finds it swinging open. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the party get the hell out of there and head to the oasis shore.

Finding the dervishes, they are ushered aside quickly, away from the rest of the group and the praying citizens of Avesta. It seems you have stumbled upon a secret that the dervishes wish kept that way, and information spills from the dancer as he speaks to you, answering your questions, if only so that, once armed and informed with this knowledge, you won’t go about asking questions and alerting the whole world of the dervish’s secret.

Apologising for not being more upfront, the dervishes concede that there may be some trouble with the dancers of Ahura Vairya, and that Sienna may somehow be involved. The Dance of Acamar is explained: it is an ancient ritual that is performed to transport the blessed and chosen of Ahura Vairya to the plane of Acamar, where they might join the Shadar-Kai and better serve the Creator.

The Shadar-Kai reside within the City of the Dead in Acamar’s realm of evernight. They are warriors against the deception, corruption and destruction of Angra Mainyu. To protect themselves against the eternal war over mortal souls that Angra and Ahura battle for, the Kai destroy their living essences through devotion, ritual and ceremony. Armed with no fear of death, for nothing awaits for them beyond, they can hurl themselves against the powers of He Who Sleeps Beyond the Stars, empowered by their zealousness.

The dervishes normally gather together to perform the difficult Dance of Acamar, as a celebration of their faith. If Sienna is missing however, and given the events of the past few days, it appears Sinihs has been sending people to Acamar without the dervish’s knowledge. For what purpose, they cannot fathom. The party are asked to assist the dancers, to travel to Acamar and discover Sinihs’ ambitions.

Giving their equipment back, the dervishes allow the party a period of rest. The Dance of Acamar must be performed at night, under the moon, in paradox to their worship to the sun. The dance will be both physically and mentally exhausting, and there is no telling what dangers await them in Acamar. After taking sojourn and restocking supplies, the group make their way to the towering shrines of Ahura in the middle of the dark night, stepping up to the roof of a small temple where a small band of dancers await.

Carved into the shrine’s rooftop is the increasingly familiar pattern of a thirteen star constellation. Dervishes take their positions upon the cosmic markers, and begin to dance. Surrounded by the whirling forms of the zealous and pious, the mystical energies of the Dance of Acamar begin to take their toll on the party, and the dancers. Waves of nauseating pain sap the body of mental and physical strength, causing many the falter and lose balance. A dancer topples, exhausted, and one of the dervishes cries out for someone to take his place. Gavri’el steps into the circle, and attempts to match the intricate movements of the dervishes, but he cannot emulate them well enough, as more dancers falter, their vitality strained. As the dervishes continue to fall, and the group cry out in anguish as the cosmic and planar energies tear at their bodies, ripping them in two, it seems as if this is the end…

You open your eyes and see the inky blackness of a sunless sky, studded with silver specks of stellar fragments. Stretching out across the night’s shroud are thirteen stars, shining prominently against a backdrop of alien galaxies. In the distance, across a great plain of waste and glassy sand, bracken and bleak rock, a soft illumination extends its beacon of civilisation. The shadow of a metropolis is cast beneath the distant light, of which must lie the home of the Shadar-Kai, the City of the Dead.

Between the city and the group lies a jagged escarpment, a sheer barrier of stone and slate that blocks the way. A depressed pathway flows down into the rock, cutting into it, a corridor of darkness. Not wanting to hazard the perilous cliff with the less athletic arcanists, the ranger guides everyone down.

After an hour or so of spelunking, steering clear of unseen chasms and avoiding the pungent sprays of unidentified moulds, mosses and mushrooms, the party descends into a great cavern. A streak of platinum light pierces the dark from above, a slit through the rock’s ceiling, peering cautiously out to the night. The walls are peppered with alcoves and openings, the chamber echoing with their footsteps as they edge forward. As the light of the sunrod creeps around the chamber, it slowly and partially begins to discover an outline of a great beast before them.

The echo of thundering metal and screech of sundered iron cries out, deafening the party. A large dragon, all metal, rivets and spikes struggles ahead, bound and contained within four great black chains that wrap and encase the flailing wyrm. The chains pin the captured beast to the rock, behind it the cavern funnels out into a further, smaller path.

The party speak with the dragon, who defines himself as Calmachia, an adamantium wyrm bound and trapped by the chains of the Kai. Centuries he has spent so restrained, and release is all he demands. He is irritable, and insulted by the mundane words and questions the party task upon him. Almost as much as he furies over the injustices brought upon his noble form by the flocking Kenku who tease and bully him, always remaining out of reach from his chained claws.

Bellowing moans from the tunnels beyond, increasing in volume and intensity. Calmachia glares at the group. “The Kenku come now. Pray you are competent to meet them.”

The deafening and terrible cries erupt into the cavern, held aloft by winged ravenmen, three foot tall and weilding blades and chains, their beaks uttering mimicked bestial roars. Dark feathers blow in summoned winds as they ambush the party, attempting to surround and overwhelm. The biting bolts and chains of Gavri’el and Sebastian draw them close, and dispatch of the brawlers quickly. Dharzon and Alheck pepper the Kenku rays of light, both eldritch and radiant, while Aych attempts to lure them close to the dragon’s claws, but falters, unknowing of whether the claws will distinguish between Sarosh and Kenku. In brief moments, the Kenku are scattered, and the group victorious. Calmachia sighs, unimpressed, but acknowledging.

On the promise of a favour, the party agree to free the wyrm. Inspecting the chains, they appear magnetised and sealed with binding rituals. Breaking the enchantment, and removing the magnetic blocks releases the chains, and they fall limp to the ground like soggy pasta.

The favour asked of Calmachia is information on gaining entrance into the City of the Dead. The dragon grunts, and concedes he knows little, having never been inside, nor wanting to, the walls of the Shadar-Kai. He informs the group however that passage is only through the gates, which are surely protected.

A little annoyed by the lack of information, the party press on with extra questions, which raises Calmachia’s ire. He tires of the pesky chirpings of the humanoids, and whips his tail around and utters a frightening roar, stunning and shaking the group. “Centuries long I have been contained in chains, but now my hoard of treasures shall begin anew.”

Cracking booms of thunderous power spew from his metallic throat, shocking and deafening all around. Tremorous aftershocks echo and shake the room as Calmachia begins his rampage.

Between dodging thundering roars and raking claws, the party quickly run to the chains, and begin to renew the binding enchantments on the chains in an attempt to immobilise and imprison the dragon once more. This proves a difficult task, as Calmachia smashes one of the chains, but before long, the other three chains are re-bound and the enraged wyrm yields, conceding the group’s strength.

Upon promise that no harm by its claws will come upon the group, and an offer of a gift, the party cautiously free Calmachia again. Tearing off the metallic scales around its eyes, the adamantium beast presents Gavri’el with a wearable visor. Ignoring further questions and requests from the party, he beats his powerful wings, and breaks through the cavern’s roof, spiralling into the evernight sky.

The party stroll further through the tunnels underneath the wasteland of Acamar, and before long find the surface once more, welcomed by the sight of the City of Dead.

Group XP: +650 xp (10,962 total)

Gold: +800 gp (5450 total)

Treasure: Calmachia’s Visor (function as Goggles of the Bone Collector), Battle Standard of Healing and Honour (upgrade)

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Adventure Ten: Dance of Acamar
Part One: Chasing Sienna

Aych is taking an evening stroll, stepping slowly over land beneath a deep, dark night. She feels as though something is watching her, hairs standing up on the back of her neck. Turning her head upwards, she recoils when she spies a skull, larger than the moon, gazing down from the night sky. Its cold gaze chills the sorcerer to the bone but the Sarosh arcanist isn’t frightened… until a bloody sluglike creature that must be the size of a mountain pushes its way out a gap between the skull’s clenched teeth.

More and more of these slugs crawl out of the skull and make bloody trails over its face. Soon it seems like the skull will burst from all the slugs struggling to escape, and just as that thought crosses the Aych’s mind, it explodes, erupting into the heavens a cascade of bloody slug things. As the masses of blood slugs begin to rain down upon the world like a million falling meteorites, obscuring the night sky with fire, Aych can barely make out the shimmering of an unfamiliar constellation of thirteen stars above. She only has a brief moment to contemplate the star cluster, before a slug-meteor comes hurling down through the atmos, crashing towards her, bringing with it inevitable doom.

Once again, the sorcerer snaps bolt upright in bed, slick with cold sweat, and burning afterimages of the destruction echoing with each blink. When Hidnaan and Sebastian knock on the door, inviting her out for a drink, she happily accepts.

The adventuring business has been quiet as of late, with the excitement of Luca’s lizard tribes, blackstone temples, Scathebeasts, corrupted daeva and soul eating infiltrators almost a distant memory. Life has become possibly dull over the last month, as the wondrous experiences you’ve had make what once seemed interesting now dull and trivial. So it is to the pub that you find yourselves coming back to, in an effort to rub shoulders with other mercenaries of note, with the secret hope, deep down, that trouble will come and find you.

The group meet up at the tavern Khavaar, a fixture of Bokhtaar, a haven that allows men and women of the blade to indulge in the hedonistic pleasures of drinking, wagering and other activities not suitable or accepted on the streets, or across the road at the Sattar Mu’izz. The namby-pambies in robes are given a few raised eyebrows, but any opinions are kept to themselves.

Drinks are served promptly as the party settle into their seats, letting out heavy sighs of boredom. As Dharzon raises his cup, he looks down at his coaster and notices a familiar design. Three stars and an image of a snake, the calling card of the Stars of Shilavahr. Without a thought, the warlock picks up the coaster and crams it down his throat.

A second later, Dharzon wonders if there might have been a message inscribed on the underside of the coaster. A few attempts at regurgitating the coaster later, Dharzon produces a withered, crumbled piece of card, almost fully dissolved by the acidic bile in his draconic throat. Going straight to Plan B, the warlock wanders over to the bar, locating one of the waitresses, Gabbi, noting a red ribbon she wears around her ankle. After a brief exchange where the dragonborn solicits her staff, books a function and invites himself to a meeting that doesn’t exist, he settles for the wench’s suggestion that another round might just have to do.

Meanwhile, Sebastian has wandered upstairs to befriend the local militia, regaling them stories of ‘That was me!’ and ‘Are my exploits awesome, or brilliant?’ while patrons play Quill-Ball, a variation on pool, but using a live quillrat and spears. Gavri’el enters a ‘friendly’ card game, and quickly flushes a jumpy halfling of all his cash. He engages an elderly barfly, attempting to extract a story or two. The ranger and warlord both hear of the preparations for the upcoming Sattar Mu’izz arena fights, noting it down as something they’ll have to sign up for.

A second round of drinks are served, and as the waitress Mindy places a cup for Dharzon, she whispers softly in his ear. “This was taken from the House of Sufi.” As Dharzon cautiously sips at his mulled wine, he finds at the bottom of his empty cup, a drowned scarab. After conferring with his friends, the group agree to find out who or where the House of Sufi is, and why the Stars have directed you to them. Gavri’el takes them to visit his friend Japal, a well-connected merchant.

Japal welcomes you into her home, and informs the group that the House of Sufi is a wealthy family who reside in Varoon. The matriarch, Lady Sufi, is a widow with one daughter, a rebellious hedonistic thrill seeking teenager if the rumours are anything to go by. She confirms your suspicions that the Stars obviously have something for your group to accomplish, and probably already have a reward set aside.

Picking your way through the streets of the affluent northern ward of Varoon, the group ignores the sidelong glances, and find the fenced and gated estate of Sufi. Deftly picking the lock, you enter the manor’s grounds and as Aych and Sebastian stroll up to the door, Hidnaan and Gavri’el skulk into the shadows of the garden. Banging on the large door, it is a while before Lady Sufi answers, and gives the sorcerer and warlord a scowl, which quickly turns to anger as she looks behind them to see the unlocked gate.

Sebastian defused her rage quickly, calming her a little, but Aych nimbly steps into the delicate situation. “Ignore my friend, Lady,” the Sarosh silver tongue speaks “We are here at the request of an associate you may or may not know, about a problem you may have, and we can help.” Breathing a sigh of relief, Lady Sufi relaxes. “Now, I know this is a delicate matter, so we best talk inside. If you will allow me to call in my men, who were hiding in strategic positions, for you never know who is watching…” Aych continues, voice dripping with honey. “Yes, yes, of course, come on in” the noble ushers you all in “I was hoping you would come soon.”

Sitting in one of the manor’s parlors, the sorcerer continues to eke out information with ambiguity. Sufi responds immediately, telling the group of her daughter Sienna, who has been missing since yesterday. The girl had been sneaking out often at night despite her mother’s forbiddance. She’s worried Sienna might have been kidnapped, or led astray by the unsavory elements of the city she may have been hanging around. Sebastian requests to look at Sienna’s rooms to hunt for clues, and Hidnaan nods in agreement, as he swipes a gold-plated candelabra and shoves it down his pants.

As you climb the stairs to Sienna’s room, you can hear crashing sounds. Rushing forward, Sebastian pushes through the door and is met with an unexpected sight. Rummaging through the sitting room of Sienna’s chambers are two pale skinned humanoids, with eyes like lustrous black orbs. Clad in strips of black leather and dark chainmail, iron studs and piercings adorn their body, while the shadows seem to darken around them.

The shadow warriors leap at the warlord, pinning him in place and keeping the rest of the party trapped behind the doorway. Aych conjures up icy teeth from the ground, striking the dark fighters, as Sebastian pushes past, letting Hidnaan slip through to attack with a flurry of piercing stabs. Dharzon steps through fey portals and appears on the steps to the next room… just as the door opens and another warrior emerges, slashing at the warlock with its katar blades. A witch clad in swirling shadows sends blinding rays at the party as Hidnaan falls under a rain of heavy blows, Sebastian’s armour too, not enough to defend the precise strikes of the shadow warriors. Focusing their fire, the ranged heroes break apart the lines, and create an opening to push the witch back into the other room as Dharzon attemps to run down the corridor, dismissing Nebrakazool… only to find the other door locked.

Dashing into the bedroom, the party are amazed to see no trace of the shadow fiends, onlny the dissipating wisps of thick shadows. Dharzon detects the magical residue of teleportation magic, a planar rift having just been created. The only evidence of the shadow’s presence is an iron earring, ripped off by a tearing slash from Hidnaan’s dagger, which is etched with a peculiar design: a four-eyed hound baying to a crescent moon.

Ignoring the mystery of the creatures they just battled, the party set about searching Sienna’s rooms, through her wardrobe, cabinets, make up and under her bed, pocketing anything that’s smaller than a pygmy. Sebastian is sad he can’t take the pygmy.

Gavri’el discovers a false drawer, and finds Sienna’s diary. Flicking through it, he reads a tale of a misunderstood girl, angry at her mother for being so out of touch, sad that her father is no longer around, and joyous for the friends she has made, who must truly love her for who she really is. It reads much like a self-centered collection of emo poetry, but the ranger notices a few key points.

Sienna has been sneaking out for some time now, to revel in the night with a man named Sinihs and his friends, dancing under the moon and to candlelight. She yearns to ‘get away from it all’, and Sinihs has promised her that one day she will, that he has a way. The last entry in the journal is a hurried gushing of excitement, Sienna’s overjoyed proclamation that Sinihs has finally agreed to teach her the Dance of Acamar and grant her freedom from this world that she feels so trapped in.

It is obvious that Sienna has been consorting with Dervishes, and as the sun slowly sets, the group head to the Prayer Obelisk where the homeless fanatics of the Sun God rest for the night. Attempting to talk with the dervish’s ‘leader’ is useless, as the dancers extol that all men and women are equal under the eyes of the creator. Looking at the dervish’s hounds, and their painted four eyes, Sebastian quizzes the dancers about images of the hound aspect of Vairya and the moon. The dervishes are tight-lipped, speaking only of their worship of the sun, and fealty to the Creator. They do however, learn that Sinihs and his troupe of dervishes often take rest on the northern shores of Avesta.

Through the dim streets, the party eventually find a smaller group of dancers taking refuge in an unoccupied stable. A lone dancer twirls slowly around a small fire, soft sounds of bells ringing from the baubles around her ankles and wrists. When asking after Sinihs, a young handsome, sandy-haired man steps forward with practiced grace.

Bickering amongst themselves, the party slowly decide on their angle of questioning. Sebastian and Gavri’el drill the serene dervish on his relationship with Sienna, his allegiance with the dervishes and his knowledge of the Dance of Acamar. Sinihs calmly deflects the hammering queries, admitting openly that he considers Sienna a friend with the talent and potential to dance with the dervishes, but he has not seen her in days. He concedes that he knows the Dance of Acamar, but informs the group that it is not a one-man show, that it requires many dancers all in synchronized synergy to execute, and requires the most skilled dancers as it drains the body and the mind of vitality. Finding Sinihs to be a dead end, Dharzon suggests they speak with the diviners at the Dias of Sarosh for direction.

The dark streets lead the party south-west around the oasis, but it is through this dim light that you can spot a figure ahead. Stepping out of the gloom, you hear the faint tinkling of bells with each footstep, and Sinish appears in the flickering torchlight at the edge of a small town square you just entered.

Sinihs’ innocent smile has a more sinister touch to it now, as he approaches. “Too close you are, so your death beckons.” he sighs, as dervishes from behind food stalls and around corners leap out and attack. Surprised, the party scatter, and find themselves isolated from each other. Whirling dervishes spin violently, hurling waves of force and befuddling the mind, making you reel with aftershocks of psychic bedazzlement.

Sinihs strides confidently into the fray, and entrances Alheck and Sebastian with a burst of confusing twists and twirls, sending their minds into unconsciousness. Trying to gain the advantage of height, Gavri’el leaps onto the roof of a merchant house, attempting to snipe the dancers from the tiled canopy, but the nimble dancers dodge all incoming bolts. Their healers compromised, and Sinihs’ long, arcing waves of forceful movements press the ranged heroes back as Aych and Dharzon struggle to find a safe distance from which they can retaliate.

The sandy-haired dervish attacks relentlessly, pinning and pushing, echoing proclamations of the party’s doom under a starry sky that burns with your blood. Finally, Sebastian leaps up, and holds Sinihs still, providing brief respite for the arcane artillery. They do not waste the opportunity, quickly combining their firepower to blast away the skulking dervishes down the dim streets, and leaving Sinihs all alone. Focussed attacks wither the young dancer’s defenses, who is forced to pull back a moment. With a flurry of motion, Sinihs spins so rapidly that he becomes a blur, almost impossible to make out. The wheeling acrobat retreats onto the statue d fountain, before seemingly disappearing into the ether, leaving behind only a lingering whisper of his now-ragged voice. “Your souls will be forfeit soon enough, by Acamar you shall be engulfed.”

In the dark light, it seems that Sinihs has somehow eluded you, but the ranger’s keen eyes have cut through the illusion. The terpsichorean gambit made the party’s eyes flutter and dizzy, to make them fail to realise the true movements of the dancer. Gavri’el steps forward to the fountain, and after a moment of investigation, finds a sliding panel at the base of the statue that leads below the square.

Group XP: +650 xp (10,312 total) Prepare level 7 character sheets!

Gold: +1650 gp (4650 total)

Treasure: Boots of Free Movement (Aych), Boots of Quickness (Seb).

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Adventure Nine: Danger at the Arkane Akademy
Lost Secrets and Forgotten Pages

An official invitation has been delivered to your doors. The scholarly praise of the Arcane Akademy has selected you, petitioning your group to attend a lecture and forum to discuss the anatomy, behaviours and combat techniques of the Scathebeast. It seems news of your triumph in the dune sea has travelled fast, and many are interested in your encounter with the mythical monstrosity.

Keen to share your tales of heroism, hopeful in your ability to exchange such knowledge for money, or power, or an impressionable sorcerous student from the sorority, you all gather together to recount your memories at the Akademy.

An instructor, Tevors, meets you at the revolving gates of the Abu Ma’shar, ushering you within its rumbling walls. Polite and friendly, he takes you about a brief tour of the grounds, showing you areas you did not wander through during your last visit to Sahireen the Warder. The arboretum, the dormitories, the astrolabe and the Headmaster’s Hall are shown by your guide. You are introduced to a dozing headmaster, who cuts Tevors short with an angry bellow, sending you skittering out. It seems that the headmaster is not yet ready to participate in the forum, so Tevors instead directs you to an arcane duel some students are starting, to pass the time.

As a young swordmage adept squares off against an apprentice warlock, something stirs amongst the magical energies in the training fields. Sounds of whirring cogs and spinning metal drown out the clashes of dulled practice blades, as the practice mannequins suddenly burst to life, shaking off their binding schema and tearing themselves from their supports. Lunging violently at the students, the dummies knock a few to the ground before Elika and Sebastian can leap into the front line.

The animated machinations of the programmed warriors are no match for the battle-hardened combat experience of the heroes, as they are quickly smashed into the ground, battered and shattered. Tevors and a Tir wizard, Obrak, come rushing to protect the students and attend to the wounded.

Anger flares when Tevors confirms your suspicions, that this sort of malfunction has never happened before. Aych’s growing paranoia is barely kept in check as Tevors pontificates on a solution. The instructor informs you of a tome, Holman’s Treatise on the Imbuement and Maintenance of Armed Conflict Training Mannequins, deep within the Lost Secrets Library, that will shed some light on the original enchantments placed upon the practice mannequins. Tevors implores the party to seek the tome out while he attends to his students, and gives them a small crystal shard that will guide them to the Library to their destination.

Through sensations of warmth and chill, the guiding crystal leads you quickly through the first floor, which is a well-lit warren of book-filled nooks and crannies thoroughly seeded with comfortable chairs and desks. Once you reach the back stairwell, the journey becomes more surreal. The crystal guides you down several flights, then leads you out onto a floor that appears identical to the first floor but has no windows or students. It glides up a flight of stairs, into a small corridor that opens into another flight of stairs, and then down another two levels to a door.

Elika opens the door, as the rest of the group cautiously wander into the library. A large sphere set in the ceiling gives off a flameless glow, and the dry smells of cracked leather and ancient paper from the shelving in the walla nd the freestanding wooden cabinets hang in the air. The door slams shut behind Aych as she enters, and the room falls into complete darkness before the sphere in the ceiling flickers back to life, though it does not shine as brightly as before. A pair of luminescent eyes watches you through the gaps in the freestanding bookcases, and a chorus of whispered voices sounds in your ears, “I was never allowed to leave. Neither shall you be.”

Phasing through the walls and shelves, ethereal poltergesits hurl bolts of kinetic energy at you, smashing into the tall bookcases and toppling them over, covering Gavri’el in a shower of scattered parchments and chapters. The lithe elf leaps out from the mound of tomes, like a trapdoor spider, and joins with the Sarosh sorcerer in an artillery war, exchanging missiles with the ghosts. Sebastian and Elika struggle with the skirmishing spirits, pushing the other shelves to the ground to get a clear line of sight at the phasing assailers, and to protect themselves from the toppling tomes. As the last poltergeist is defeated, its insubstantial body collapses inward and manifests a thin book, which drops to the floor. Rejoicing, you move to pick it up, but are disappointed when it’s title does not match Holman’s tome that you seek.

Gavri’el’s keen eyes skim the book titles and spines, disqualifying any with titles too short or not correct, and finds the book in good time. Turning to leave, Aych finds the door sealed shut. Quickly identifying the magical aura around the door, the sorcerer skillfully unweaves the minor spell of binding that was used to seal the group inside the chamber; presumably until they starved and joined the poltergeists in death.

Stepping back out into the halls of the Lost Secrets Library, the group soon get lost and disoriented in the maze. Walking down flights of stairs brings them back into previously visited rooms, and corridors double back upon themselves. There are no windows to help guide their way, and the party are untrained in the ways to combat such dungeons. After a number of twists and turns, the group realises that the library is reacting to what the party says and does, such as putting them in a room with comfortable chairs when Sebastian complains of weariness. After some thought, you surmise that there must be some sort of guiding mind, one that can be fooled or dealt with perhaps.

Relying on her naturally deceptive mind, Aych bluffs the library, moving to open one door then dashing to another. After a few such tricks, the party finds a window through which they can climb to escape. Tumbling out of the library into the open air, you look up to find Obrak, the Tir wizard, standing above you, informing you that Tevors awaits the party at the arboretum, by the sundial.

The arboretum welcomes you with exotic foreign trees and bushes that exude several scents, some sharp and some soothing, and they are engaging to the eye. Even the small landscaped fen is pleasant to walk past. A short stone-and-brass sundial stands at a widening of the path ahead, and a bench stands near it, but there is no sign of Instructor tevors. Standing close to the sundial, you marvel at how time seems to slow down, but you do not have long to ponder this before Gavri’el shouts out an alarming warning.

Bark-skinned humanoids camouflaged against the bark of nearby trees and writhing masses of vines rise from the nearby swampy ground. From the fen erupts a shambling mound, flanked by vine horrors that send out shocking orbs of crackling energy. Elika engages with the plantoid brute, and suffers greatly from a heavy rain of blows, becoming enveloped within the beast countless times. Blades of grass shift, and the faintest ripple in the air precludes the lurking arborean reaper, who shifts in and out of visibility to harry the arcane heroes, stopping them from aiding their frontline fighters. The fight is tooth and nail, as the party struggle, but ultimately succeed agaisnt the surprise attack from the swamp.

It is obvious that something is not right, and you go searching for answers. The true perpetrator is unknown, as you consider two suspects. Is it Tevors that is trying to dispose of you, or is it the Obrak, who has directed you to danger ever since you met him? Asking a student at the administrative hall, you are told that Obrak is currently lecturing, and Tevors was last seen heading to an audience with Headmaster Marovic.

Choosing to question Tevors first, you dash towards the headmaster’s residence. Through the magister’s wrought-iron fence, you see a person in a heavy sky-blue robe standing over the headmaster, where a moment and a few steps ago you saw nothing. Though you can’t make out the details, something about the person looks askew. Moving about outside of the fence, the illusory effect comes and goes. Sending Nebrakazool forward, Dharzon uses his familiar to break through the threshold of the magical veil. Pushing forward past the gate, you can see now what bothered you about the person standing over the headmaster. Six thin, blue-skinned arms emerge from beneath the robe, two of which are tracing patterns in the air towards Marovic. The creature’s head looks completely alien as it turns toward you.

Fingers flash forward, signalling binding arts and evoking elemental forces. With deft strikes, the spell weaver touches Elika, banishing her to a mirrored plane. Sebastian hurls himself at the alien, but is promptly hurled aside by esoteric force, the blue-skinned controller blasting the warlord through the glass double-doors and skidding along the ground into the house.

Gavri’el skulks in the shadows as the weaver teleports up onto a balcony overlooking the courtyard, but is knocked off by an accidental, uncontrolled burst of wild chaos magic unleashed by Aych. Returning from her planar prison, Elika pushes through the house to the stairwell, joining with Sebastian in an effort to trap the alien inside the house. The surrounding wall of steel and iron poses little threat for the weaver, who continues to banish the fighters with binding signs.

Clearly targeting the arcane heroes, the spell weaver attempts to collect and harvest Dharzon’s arcane soul, but the eccentric Kshathran warlock’s mind is a puzzle the alien cannot fathom. Cornered and surrounded, the weaver fights back with repulsing blasts of force, flametrap invocations and chilling runes of arctic frost. Combining arcane and martial might, the party cleave through the alien’s six-arms, carving red slashes through its sky-blue robe, until it crumples to the ground. The fallen body of the weaver shimmers with chromatic light, as bright twinkling orbs spill out, pockets of extracted arcane energy returning to their original souls.

Marovic stands now by his own power, if only barely, and thanks the party. The magical veil now dropped, students and teachers rush to the residence to see what’s happening. Obrak is among the crowd, but Tevors is not. Examining the crumpled body of the weaver, Marovic finds a crumpled page, torn from Holman’s Treatise on the Imbuement and Maintenance of Armed Conflict Training Mannequins.

It seems the spell weaver had infiltrated the Abu Ma’shar, in an attempt to lurk within its feeding grounds, and collect arcane souls for its voracious appetite. Marovic had discovered the alien’s presence, but was caught off-guard by its strength and had been unprepared to fight off the weaver’s attacks while simultaneously trying to protect the students.

Once rested, the headmaster is able to hold the forum dsicussion on the Scathebeast as planned. The party hold an entire lecture hall entranced by their stories of battling the mythical beast amongst the shifting sands of the dune sea. You are rewarded with magical trinkets, training in many rituals and enchanted armour. The members of the Abu Ma’shar will not soon forget your deeds within the akademy’s walls.

Group XP: +1120 (9662 total)

Gold: +870 gp (3000 total)

Treasure: Summoned Hide Armour +2, Bracers of Archery, Gloves of Eldritch Admixture, Map of Orienteering

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Adventure Eight: The Catacomb of Koptila
Dark Sunrise

Shimmering strands of sunlight welcome you back home to Avesta, as you trek down from the eastern escarpment and stroll through the palm-lined streets. Hadaad the Ironfist, surrogate father of Sebastian, grasps his charge in a bearhug, and offers to set up the members of the adventuring group until such time as they can organize lodgings for themselves.

It only takes until the next morning, before you can wipe the last blurry smears of sleep from your eyes, for correspondence to arrive from the Sacred Flame, requesting the party to report on the Luca mission. Once again, you find yourself waiting at the sandstone steps of the holy Cathedral until a pair of robed acolytes gathers you into the glass church.

Ahead of you appears a nimbus of light, reflecting brilliantly through the mirrored hallways, growing in intensity until it is like an approaching inferno. From around the corner, a figure strides before you, tall and beautiful, a cascade of flaming hair trailing behind her that dances in the gloom, creating a playful performance of silhouettes against the walls. Sharp eyes regard you, as the girl steps over, clad in a uniform of pristine white shirt and jacket, with contrasting sections and designs of stitched black fabric. A bejeweled hilt sits within a silver scabbard slung casually at her hip, leather-gloved hands resting softly on the belt.

The acolytes escorting you through the Cathedral prostrate themselves immediately upon sighting the woman, uttering a short word of prayer.

The red-haired lady extends an arm, and speaks, her voice wry yet intense, friendly yet stern, “Please, rise from the floor. You can conduct great many works in the service of the Creator on two feet, rather than on your knees.” She nods to you each in turn. “Elika, Dharzon, Alheck, Sebastian and Hidnaan…” Upon spying the two latest additions to your adventuring party, she pauses briefly. “And for you two, who were not called here today, but I must thank equally for your aid in our mission, and its successful outcomes.” She steps past the group, and heads down the hallway in the direction you have just come from. You feel compelled to follow. “That will have to do for a show of gratitude for now, as pressing matters demand attention. Matters I think a group of individuals such as you are suited for.”

You find yourself descending the steps and exiting the Cathedral’s cloisters, as the lady leads you on, briefing you on a task upon your acceptance is already assumed. The blaze of her hair continues to leap behind her, like a burning rope. “Invokers from a small shrine of our Lord Ahura Vairya have attempted to augur a communion with a lesser Yazata, Koptila. Through deception and deceit, Koptila has hid its corruption from the priests, and now it attempts to piece together an existence within the shrine’s walls from which is can spread its malicious corruption.”

You have been walking through the streets of Jamaga Ward, surrounded by the monolithic constructions of the temples to the Amesha Spenta, and each space in between filled with bustling hawkers, doomsayers and philosophers. There is a cluster of robed clerics outside one of the smaller shrines, observing a few of their members attend to a warding glyph that covers the barricaded entrance. The facade is dominated by images of the rising sun, flaming orbs and the forever extending horizon.

“The people of Avesta are lucky to count amongst their number such daring heroes that have experience in fighting the unwanted minions of the corrupt Daeva. I trust you shall not disappoint them with failure.” There is a flash of a cheeky smirk on the flame-haired woman, so brief, you are not sure if it was just your imagination. The sealed doors lie before you, and the clerics huddle around the group, pressing you all closer to the barred entrance. The sound of chanting stops as the glyph is dispelled, and the doors swing outwards. The press of bodies pushes behind you, ushering you into the shrine.

The girl calls out to you just as the heavy doors slam shut, sealing you inside the temple. “The love of Avesta is earned through trial and fire. Trust in the Flame of the Church and the Flame Within, and it shall be returned.”

Aych grumbles in the darkness of the shrine’s antechamber, “Who in the Nine Hells is that bitch?” Elika’s reply confirms the suspicions of many. “Ignis. The Executor of the Sacred Flame.”

Feeling your way through the darkness of the chamber, Dharzon strikes a sunrod, and lowers it to the ground. For a moment, it seems like the rod moves by itself, squeaking intermittently, before you realize it is being carried by a enigmatic rat; the warlock’s new familiar, Nebrakazool.

Sliding open the chamber doors, the party enter a prayer room. The stone walls are patterned and engraved with images and aspects of the yazata, lesser deities of the sun and day, yet still resplendent and powerful, worthy of worship. As Elika pushes forward to the door leading further into the shrine, otherworldly whispers stop her in her tracks. What once appeared as flickering shadows, ghostly wisps shape and take form. Confused and surprised, glorious figures of astral beauty flourish into existence. Without the guiding knowledge of their divine companion, the group stay their weapons in caution. The beasts mean them harm however, and cry out, leaping at them with feathered arms that end in large, club-like fists, and hurl barbed, steel wings.

The warrior-lady engages and holds up the larger aspects, suffering a brunt of powerful blows, as the ranged fighters hurl bolts of martial and arcane fire from behind, ducking and dodging the dagger-like feathers flung at them. It is only mere minutes before the group triumph, and begin to delve further into the shrine. Scouting ahead, Hidnaan returns with news of the room beyond: more astral beings lie ahead, deep in prayer, chanting over a religious glyph.

Armed with this knowledge, the party surprise the maul-winged aspects. As they trade blows with the astral warriors, divine energies curse the group. Your feet feel heavy, and your physical and mental constitution is taxed. The longer you fight, more and more of your comrades are afflicted by the curse. Gavri’el keenly observes the flaming braziers at the back of the room, noticing that they flare each time one of the party receive the cursing weakness. The party fight through the pain, and focus their attentions on defeating the hulking maul-wings, pushing away the spinning flail attacks of the commanding chain-demon. The effects of Angra Mainyu’s corruption are more evident in these fallen beings, and it brings peace to your soul when you defeat their debased forms.

Triumphant, but still weakened from the curse, Gavri’el tries to step past the burning braziers, only to be smitten by astral fire. Together, the ranger and rogue deactivate the smouldering pyres, and discover compartments beneath containing healing salves. Runes inscribed upon the steps between the braziers are incomprehensible to the group, none of them trained in the divine histories and alphabets enough to decipher its meaning. The curse remains on them, as they slowly trudge forward past the extinguished braziers.

Stepping into the private chambers of the now-corrupted shrine, you stand before a crackling portal of blue energy. Two faceless giants stand guard, and assail you with meaty fists. From beyond the swirling monolith of energy appears a hollowed suit of armour, a cackling, fanged maw in the place where a normal creature’s stomach would be. The beast spews forth insults from its twisted mouth, inviting you to enjoy your demise at the hands of Koptila the Accursed. Still cursed and weakened, you now must fight an aspect of divine power, a corrupted yazata, a lesser daeva.

With a beckoning claw, the demon sends members of the party into the realm of shadow for a brief moment, long enough only to glimpse a tiny second of the horrors and nightmares of the place beyond, before transporting them back, into the center of the raging monolith, stripping them of their life force.

Cutting down the corrupted sentinels is wasted energy, as the hulks rise again from the energies of the crackling portal whenever they are cut down. Dharzon notices at the back of the chamber, a glowing sun icon, that shares the same arcane properties as the monolith. Sending his loyal servant forward, Nebrakazool darts ahead to dislodge the icon from its berth. Shifting through the fey portals, the warlock grasps the icon and hurls it into the maelstrom of corrupted magic. In an instant, the portal disappears, leaving the gloating Koptila now frothing with anger and rage.

Without caution or thought, the Accursed swings wildly, attempting to destroy the party, but without the monolith, its hold on the material plane becomes tenuous, as it begins to weaken. Pushing Koptila into a corner, the party launches their last vestiges of strength against the corrupted yazata. With a final, unhallowed howl, Koptila’s body becomes insubstantial, and swirls into its maw, like an imploding vortex.

Rummaging through the quarters of the shrine’s clerics, you take whatever spoils you deem valuable before slowly moving back to the entrance. The locked shrine doors now open for you, and you are welcomed by the soft evening light of Avesta. Ignis stands amongst a throng of priests, albeit a smaller group than what was gathered outside the temple when you entered. You later learn that the priests responsible for the failed communion that led Koptila into this realm have been disciplined through holy fire. Such is the penalty for those not vigilant against the deceptions of Mainyu.

Ignis acknowledges you with a nod, and turns to leave. You wonder if this had merely been a test of your skills, to see if you are worthy of the rewards of the Sacred Flame. The lack of any monetary compensation so far, makes you wonder even more.

Group XP: +975 (8542 total)

Gold: +750 gp (2130 total after equipment purchases)

Treasure: Crown of Infernal Legacy, Potions of Healing x2

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Adventure Seven: Clearing the Way
They see me Gnollin, they hatin... Patrolling, they tryin to catch me ridin dirty

The pangs of homesickness become unbearable as you spend more time in Luca. Amongst the cool sea breezes and the river-streets, you long for the harsh sun and the dry sand of Avesta. Not wanting to wait and see what new jobs might be offered should you hang around the water-city, you strap saddlebags to your steeds and head back out west, into the dune sea.

The sun begins to dip towards the horizon as you approach the first waystation along the highway, but something seems amiss. Only traffic leading out is seen, and the streets are hardly populated. Catching a civilian for a moment, Elika asks if anything is amiss. It appears that a protective ward has been stolen by raiding gnolls, and the people of the small waystation are keen to evacuate before the horrible roaming beasts of Navarre come to destroy the now-defenceless town. Not wanting to continue travelling after a full day, and never one to shy from an opportunity to fight and profit, you seek out the town’s leader.

Captain of the City Watch, Huhtamaki, explains the events of the past two days. A magical artefact, the Thurible of Proksha, had been gifted to the town generations ago by the Church of the Sacred Flame. It’s sweet scent had protected the waystation from a Scathebeast, a legendary destroyer that shifts through the sands. The other night, raiding gnolls had stormed the belltower and stolen the Thurible. With the implication that many merchants and townsfolk would shower gifts upon any saviours of the day, Gavri’el goes about tracking down the gnoll’s direction of attack and leads the party off into the desert to find their lair.

Spying cuts in the rocky cliffs in the distance, the group approaches a weathered entrance into the earth. The stinging sound of approaching missile-fire brings you to attention, as you call a charge upon the gnoll’s guards, spurring forward under a hail of arrows. Elika wades in, Hidnaan nimbly following, tearing into the mottle-furred fiends with vicious slices. Aych lays down suppressing bolts of chaos magic, as Gavri’el dashes towards the cliff face, hurling himself against the sandstone walls. Dharzon weaves veils of illusion about him, disappearing from view before striking out at the assailing archers as Gavri’el spies a precariously positioned boulder. Slamming into the stone with full force, the big rock tumbles down, smashing into the marauding gnolls below.

With a maniacal cackle, Aych overreaches into the primordial chaos, and draws too much power, sending a dazzling burst of magic that sends a gnoll hunter twirling through the air. As the archer struggles to get to its feet, an elven ranger leans over, and staples its head to the rocky ground. Dharzon disappears from view for a second, then reappears, bleeding. There are more gnolls inside, obviously, but now they are ready.

The protective metal-encased form of Elika strides into the dim caverns, and is soon beset upon by ravenous claw fighters and a howling gnoll fighter, frothing at the mouth and striking with demonic strength. Elika falters, falling to the ground from the focussed attacks, and the group hurry to return fire. A bloody skirmish plays out amongst the murky darkness, as clashes of steel ring out and echo deep into the caves. Haggard and tired, you prevail, and take a moment to wipe your blades and explore.

Stepping up a natural staircase, you find the gnoll’s cache of victuals and treasure. No doubt, stolen items from the waystation, and of significant monetary worth, the Thurible of Proksha is no where to be found. The artefact, and more gnolls, must lay further within the cavern.

The path twists and turns, splitting up. The stealthier members scout ahead, and find a hyena pit, filled with prowling dogs and the bloody corpses of human victims. Hurling ranged attacks at the hyenas causes them to bark furiously and scamper out of sight. The fight, it seems, needs to be brought to them.

Leaping down, Sebastian and Elika take point, manoeuvring around to aid the rogue’s eviscerating cuts. A deep growl trembles from a dark corner, as a huge hyena pads towards you, acidic gas emanating from its patchy fur, crinkling your nose with its foul odour. A decorated packmaster whips the hyenas on, whirling a terrible three-headed flail about its head before pouncing into battle.

The ranger sends off a wickedly barbed bolt at the large hyena, snaring its hindlegs with a paralytic poison. Dharzon makes a pact with the stars, bringing forth cosmic energies to create a swirling vortex of negative energy, cutting off the cacklefiend hyena from the rest of the pack. Split off from his pets, the packmaster strikes left and right, Elika keeping his attention with well-time strikes and taunts. Sebastian wraps his spiked chain around the hyena’s necks like a barbed collar, as Hidnaan slices away at the packmaster’s unprotected hide. It isn’t long before the gnoll falls, leaving you to pick your way through the corners of the pit and find the Thurible.

Triumphant, you head back to the waystation, but yet again you are greeted by unwelcome signs. Smoke and dust rise up in swirling plumes as the ground shakes beneath you. Ahead, you catch a glimpse of a scaled behemoth bursting from the sand, smashing into the side of a building. Artefact or not, the town will get destroyed before the Thurible’s incense can effect the Scathebeast.

Grabbing the burner, Dharzon dashes off to place it in the waystation’s belltower receptacle, as the rest of the group stride forward to engage the monster. Rising from the shifting sands, the Scathebeast slams two gigantic claws upon the party, splitting them up. Elika engages the beast’s head, keeping it in place long enough to leap into its maw and sunder a long, jagged tooth off.

As more and more blows are traded, the abominable scale hide of the beast appears to resist your attacks with greater and greater effectiveness. The variability is soon solved by the astute minds of the battle-hardened party, as they split their fire. Aych reaches into the wild aether and adjusts the spell source linked to his form, resonating with psychic power before hurling a brilliant burst of concentrated power into the beast’s gnashing muzzle. Reeling back in pain, the Scathebeast submerges it’s face, and it isn’t long before you wound the raking claws that the fell-beast withdraws completely, retreating off below the shifting dune seas.

Huhtamaki praises you for your work and urges all the returning merchants who are now safe to stay within the waystation to gift the party with a token of appreciation. Already, you are starting to feel better, and you’re not even all the way home yet.

Group XP: +750 xp (7567 total)

Gold: +1000 gp (3560 total)

Treasure: Deathcut Leather +1, Ironskin Belt, Scathebeast Fang

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Adventure Six: Under Luca
Tomb Raiding

With the lizardfolk tribes scattering, the party leaves the southern swamplands a little safer and calmer. Returning to the water city of Luca, Gavri’el requests a brief moment to conclude some business. Mystic totem retrieved, the ranger sends word to his employer, Octavio ‘Otto’ Mezzini, a rich merchant with a collector’s eye and a passion for the ancient.

They are invited to Otto’s palatial estate, where the collector thanks them for their hard work and offers a second task, should they like. Agreeing, the group follow Otto’s entourage along the twisting canals and waterstreets of Luca, entering a locked off yard surrounded by crumbling, derelict remnants of the old town. Descending into a flooded basement, they are lead through a freshly excavated cavern to an unexpected sight: a looming blackstone vault, guarded by draconic statues and scribbled with ancient writ. Otto deciphers what words he can upon the portal, explaining that entombed inside is possibly a member of the mysterious and unknown race that constructed these ancient buildings. All he wishes is to add the remains of whatever creature lays inside; anything else of value he rewards to the party.

Discovering that the magical essence within the lizard shaman’s totem resonates with the arcane wards upon the vault, Sebastian, Alheck and Dharzon solve the coloured code and open the entrance. As the vault’s slab grinds slowly open, the guardian statues spring to life, whipping and smashing the group with their blackstone tails. Disposing of the sentinel behemoths, the party slowly, and cautiously, move into the vault under directions of Otto.

Through the twisting tunnels, glowing softly with eternal azure light, the elves scout ahead, ambushing a room full of vipers and adders. The snakes counterattack, the deathrattles on their tails striking fear into the frontline, as before unseen vipers slither up from behind from unexplored corridors. Retreating, Dharzon summons a void of cosmic energy, creating a bottleneck that the snakes are destroyed within. When no more sounds of ripping reptile flesh are heard, they charge onwards, clearing the rest of the level of fork-tongued beasts, with Gavrie’el stapling the serpentine bodies to the ground with his swift crossbow shots. Littered along the blackstone floors are bones and skeltons of an old race, draconic but humanoid in form, but more reptilian and larger than those of the Kshathra bloodline. Strangely, each skull is punctured by a hole near the temple, as if something from within the head has exploded outwards.

Only one pair of stairs lead downwards, and the elves once more step softly ahead. Thick, sticky webs begin to rope across the passages, hampering progress. Sebastian hurls a scorching burst of magical fire into a corridor of silk. As it catches alight and burns away slowly, the group take an alternate route, finding a locked stone door. Listening, there is only silence, and Elika smashes through.

Sitting silently in the center of the room, in front of a large sarcophagus, is a reptilian figure, grey scales covering its bare torso, it wears a pair of tattered purple trousers. Two long claws protrude from each of its forearms, as golden eyes gape open widely, unblinking, a tiny pinprick of a pupil dancing maddeningly around in each eye. Now and then, the figure blinks out of existence, before reappearing an instant later.

Hands resting on hilts, they hesitantly speak to the creature. The grey thing speaks like an infant, childlike and erratic in its deperation and frustration at it’s situation, continually phasing in and out of view. In third person, Tad explains his plight, having been born in this tomb, created by its enemies, and being too weak to take on the ‘eight-legs’ to the south, where Tad is certain he can leave this place. The group agree to clear away the spiders, in return for the sarcophagus and it’s contents, which Tad refers to as its ‘cradle’.

Striding south, the confuscating webs now burnt back, a sunrod is thrown down the hallway to illuminate the spider’s den. Chittering swarms of bloodweb arachnids surge across the floor, as Elika and Sebastian press forward to block the hallway. Unseen deathjump spiders come out from behind the pillars, and leap over the heads of the frontline fighters, bring death from above as they constantly pounce on the arcane and divine heroes, pushing them to the floor and raking them with venomous barbs. Elika holds back the swarms, as the strikers focus their attacks on the larger deathjumps, eliminating them one at a time. Alheck and Dharzon struggle under the blows of the eight-legs, as Aych lends a helping hand, transferring poison resistance to the cleric as he consecrates the ground with divine energies. Sebastian regals the troops with inspiring cries, as Gavri’el’s enchanted gauntlets hums with violent power, cutting through the swarms of spiders. With the arachnid menace disposed of, the party take a swatch of spider silk for selling later, and return to Tad to report their success.

Tad grins gleefully, and phases towards the door. With a knowing tap to the temple as it exits, Tad looks forward to seeing them later. Opening the sarcophagus, the party find the remains of another draconic skeleton, covered by an enchanted cloth, also sporting the same cranial fractures exhibited on the other reamins found throughout the tomb. Their misson accomplished, the group haul the coffin up to Otto. As they ascend back up to the canal roads of Luca, many of you can’t help but wonder how Tad exited the tomb, as Otto saw no-one come through the vault, and where and what exactly the ‘homeland’ that Tad spoke of is.

With extra coins in their purses and a healthy haul of treasure, Luca holds nothing more for the group to do at this time; and it would be best if they trekked back home to Avesta to report and be debriefed by the Sacred Flame on their triumph in the marshlands with Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf.

Group XP: +800 xp (6817 total) Treasure: Flamesnake Scale (Fireflower Pendant +1), Death Rattle , Battle Standard of Healing Gold: 510 gp (2560 gp in total)

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Adventure Five: Saving Private Rylaaf
A Tromp in the Swamp

As heroes, and purifiers of the Via Purifica, the party are summoned to the Cathedral of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes usher the group through the reflective, mirrored halls and cloisters of the Order, leading them to an audience with Justicar Rahim, a dark, rotund warrior of the pen. He outlies the next task for the group, a command rather than a question. You are to travel east to the marshlands of southern Luca and find the lost scouts of the Order, and retrieve their report.

Only a brief stopover at Luca is allowed, the city will have to welcome your exploration another time, as you delve into the damp mangrove swamps of the Luca shoreline, in search of the Sacred Flame reconnaisance team of Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf. The terrain hampers and impedes the party, as they get disoriented and lost, tripping and tumbling down a slope, right into an ambushing party of lizardfolk drakeriders. Shamanistic rituals bog the ground, grasping with roots and toxic clouds, whilst greenscaled soldiers dart and attack the group. Sebastian drags a rider to the ground, mounting its steed, and enjoys a ferocious romp around the countryside whilst Dharzon is entangled by a patch of daggerthorn, its fey tendrils ripping the dragonborn’s reptilian hide.

Battered and bruised, the party disaptch the lizardfolk patrol, and examine the ancient blasted stone ruin they have been fighting amongst. Hidnaan avoids a pit trap, whilst Elika is almost entangled by a lightning lure… both traps set up by two mysterious figures that have just appeared. Quick words from both sides reveal that the group have finally met up with the scouts, Jessef and Emma. The third, Rylaaf, seems to be in a spot of trouble, having been captured by lizardfolk whilst spying on their tribal activities.

Rylaaf has been kept in an ocean cage, left to die as the tide drowns the shore. Jessef and Emma lead the party quickly to the watery tomb, and they find it luckily unguarded. Thin threads of life still cling to Rylaaf’s body as they retrieve him, but your presence has been noticed by the scavenging beasts of the marshes, as wave after wave of predators try to feast upon the ragged troupe. Visejaw crocodiles and tangler beetles attempt to grab and maul, while a shambling mound envelopes with its twisting tendrils as vine horrors blast the party with barbed thorns. Elika’s shield and Hidnaan’s flashing rapier are joined by Jessef’s striking spellsword, Alheck’s divine lances of faith are outshone by Emma’s volley of arrows, and Dharzon amazingly tags an enemy, sending them both into the sky on arcane wings, before teleporting back to safety and watching the poor vine horror take the more natural, and deadly, way back to earth.

A brief sojourn inbetween the waves of assailants brings a small respite, as Sebastian cheers the group on with inspiring words, a dark cloud tears across the sky and crashes into the water. A swarm of drakes and pseudodragons distract the party while the shadowy orb lurks and attacks from within its cage of darkness. Emma and Jessef combine their skills to trap, and pull the black beast from its zone of darkness, revealing horrific form of a young black dragon. With the very last vestiges of their strength, the group are able to dig their magic and blades into the winged terror, and much to the relief of all, no more beasts are forthcoming from the shadows of the marshes.

Retreating back to their camp, the party tend to Rylaaf’s wounds until he is stable. A few whispered words escape the scout’s lips before falling back into unconsciousness. Jessef purses his lips, and relays the message to the rest of you. ‘They’re summoning something.’ It looks like the mission isn’t quite over yet.

Under the cover of darkness, the party set off to observe the gathering of the lizardfolk tribes. Rising from the marshland, a blackstone temple stands sentinel amidst the makeshift camps of the scaled clans, its ancient walls glowing in the night’s gloom as green magical energies spiral around its zenith. Whatever the lizardfolk are doing, it’s being done in the temple. Still weak from their time and trials in the swamps, the Sacred Flame scouts are not suited to a blitz on the black ruins, instead leaving to lay a perimeter of traps and hazards that will ensure a safe exit for the group when, or if, they stop whatever is being summoned.

Through stealth, perception and intuition of the camp’s layout, the party are able to reach the foot of the temple with minimal trouble. They are discovered by a dark figure, an elven ranger who’s business luckily complements the party’s. Together, Gavri’el assists the party to break into the blackstone tabernacle, storming through a legion of redscaled warriors.

A central chamber sits, blockaded and blocked, until Elika and Sebastian hurl aside the debris and smash through what remains of the door. The darkness within suddenly bursts into flame, as a horned demon assails them with sorcerous fires. Blows are traded, until there is an overwhelming sense that something is not quite right, and a brief ceasefire is called; the horned creature is infact a member of the Sarosh bloodline, trapped by the lizardfolk just days before. Acknowledging their common enemy, and the need to stop whatever rituals are being performed by the marsh mystics above, Aych tags along as the group presses through the blackstone halls, dispatching a group of blackscaled brutes and mystic sentinels in a holy hall, before sliding the room’s parts around to open the portal leading outside to the roof. Taking weapons from the hands of heroic statues lining the walls, they sprint upwards to stumble upon the summoning ritual.

A magical circle surrounded by chanting shamans, encouraged on by a hulking lizard chieftan, Alheck can see that the energies within the ritual’s ward are barely being contained. The group target the shamans, attempting to interrupt the ritual through copious slaughter. Panicking, the chieftain hurls himself into the volatile energies in the summoning circle, where his form absorbs the corrupted power of a summoned daeva. However, the ritual is incomplete, as the final shamans are cut down, and the waystones that feed energy to the circle crumble beneath the crushing blows and precision shooting of the party’s strikers. As the summoning fails, the unholy energies tear apart the chieftain’s fell-form, and drag it down within the void, destroying the summoning circle.

The ritual stopped, the combined lizardfolk tribes leaderless, they begin to panic and fight amongst themselves once more; any fleeing scaed beasts getting caught within the traps laid by Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf. Picking up a marsh mystic’s totem for an assured reward back in Luca, the party make a hasty retreat to rendezvous with the scouts. Whatever infernal avatar of destruction the mystics were trying to summon, its corruption won’t be felt in this land for now.

Group XP: +1392 xp (6017 total). Ding level 5!

Treasure: Horned Helm, Inspiring Spike Chain +2, Luckbender Gloves, Medic’s Bow +2, Determined Javelin +2

Gold: +770 gp from salvaged equipment off lizardfolk (2050 gp in total)

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Adventure Four: Via Purifica
Descent into Crisis

A drunken sighting of the undead spurs the adventurers in a hunt for answers. Searching for the source of the reanimated dead, they find a hidden entrance to the Via Purifica, a network of waterways beneath northern Avesta.

The stoneworked channels are infested with danger. The party combat festering zombies above an underground lake and assault a swarm of lycanthropic rats while temporary rivers burst forth at the turn of a switch as they search for the missing lever parts to repair the central sluice-gate control so they can fully explore the waterways and locate the truth behind the undead’s creation.

Their progress is halted after a skirmish with a skeleton host, needing to retreat briefly to recover their energies after being immolated by blazing skeletons and weakened by exploding bursts of boneshard. Closing the sluice gates behind them, with the lever mechanism still incomplete, the party rest up for another foray into the descrated Via Purifica.

Ambushed by ochre antagonists, the party find a third level in the spattered fluids of their victory. The sluice gate rumbles open, allowing further discovery of the waterways. Following the path of the flowing waters, once again the group find themselves locked in combat with the undead. Alheck commands and rebukes the abominations of life, while Elika and Sebastian methodically clip the wings of the rotwinged zombies. A well placed push by Hidnaan collapses a damaged pillar, sending it crushing down, almost destroying the corrupted artillery corpse that had been perched upon it.

Unlocking an iron door, the party move through the service ways of the Purifica now, and stumble upon a gigantic well, a deep pit that streams with sheets of water that heap pile upon pile of refuse within a shallow pool. As bones clatter to unlife, a slavering Otyugh almost seperates the party, but not before the group rallies and dispatches the tentacled threat.

One gate stands in the party’s way now, blocking them from the truth of the undead source. Powerful energies shield the gate from entry, and the party are forced to seek help and advice from the Abu Ma’shar, the Arcane Akademy. The raven haired abjurer, Sahireen, points the group towards Crisis Energy, an unfinished theory that combines the three power sources of martial, divine and arcane in a volatile manner. The only wizard who had any success in attempts to control the energies created through pushing them beyond crisis, has long been banished from the streets of Avesta, Sahireen explains.

The banished wizard, Kalarel, and his studies on Unified Field Theory and Crisis Energy are the best bet for the group if they are to dispel the protective ward placed within the Via Purifica.

The party wander the Gha’yit Plains and find a crumbling hovel amongst the dune sea. A quirky magical lock barrs entry, but with some ingenious reworking Hidnaan’s nimble fingers are able to redirect the magical energies to allow safe passage.

Inside they discover Kalarel’s last residence, full of scattered writings, magical implements, and his Crisis Engine. The Engine requires a specific method to imbuing it with the powers necessary to engage crisis energy, however the layout of the hovel makes it seemingly impossible to do. After searching the rooms thoroughly, the group discover a hidden passageway leading out of Kalarel’s bedroom.

While Sebastian enjoys a casual spliff outside, the rest of the party venture downwards into a basement filled with statues which suddenly come to life. While Hidnaan unlocks the door behind them to secure an escape route, Dharzon realises that Elika has been possessed by a ghostly warrior. Avoiding the sweeping arcs of the large statue in the centre of the room, Alheck and Dharzon hinder and combat the ghost with their arcane and divine magiks. The warlock knowingly wanders staright into another trap, comfortable in the knowledge he might just teleport back out. Sebastian finally arrives to aid the party in dismantling the last of the traps, and the remnants of the phantom assailant prove useful for the rogue’s stealthy arts.

With the secret passage discovered, the orbs of energy necessary to power the Crisis Engine are now able to be moved around in the proper order. With the device now powered up, the party have something they can dispel the ward barring their way in the Via Purifica.

Upon returning to Avesta, it seems as though word of the undead menace in the waterways has gotten out, and the inquisitors of the Order of the Sacred Flame have begun to make accusations of House Kshatrath. The group hurry back into the Via Purifica, knowing that finding the true source of the necrotic beasts will stop any outbreak between the two factions.

Placing the Crisis Engine in front of the ward, the grroup stand back as it expells a burst of unified energy, breaking the limits on the ward. What lays beyond the massive gate seems to be a cathedral, constructed perhaps as a place of worship for the artisans and stonemasons who constructed the waterways. The holy ground of the World Dragon has been desecrated however by the workings of unseen magics, as the group are beset by vampire spawn, phantom warriors, the blinding darkness of a creeper and a gaunt, shadowy figure.

The party’s assumptions that the robed wight is the creator of all this unhallowed power are proven wrong when it falls all too easily to their blades. All that remains is the gaping pit before them, the only way down to slide on blood-slick chains.

Some slide down more gracefully than others, as they descend into a into a phantasmal nightmare. The very air seems insubstantial, as if the energies swirling around are trying to change the form of every one and every thing within it.

Kalarel introduces himself to the party in a friendly, if eccentric, manner. His form shifts and phases in and out of existence, his words sometime sprouting as flowers, his steps echoing as bells, his fingers turning into slugs, or knives, or a trumpet.

‘It’s been a difficult road.. it’s not easy to CREATE crisis energy, let alone HARNESS it. I’m close though, I can feel it! Imagine the possibilities, being able to control the potential of our own forms, our own energies! Man could fly, sand could taste like chocolate, rivers could be scultped to our design, mountains created to shield us from desert storms… But there have been accidents. Miscalculations.’

He indicates to his own body as an example. ‘I can’t continue examining crisis control like this, so I need a new body.’

In a matter-of-fact manner, he explains his experiments and attempts with biothaumaturgy, remaking his body, and vampirism, and how his form was too insubstantial to simply recreate, or for the curse of vampirism to take a hold upon him. ‘This lead me to soul transfer! But necromancy isn’t exactly the most written about subject of interest, so I had to start from scratch. I’d heard tales of arcane tomb guardians, the lichs, containing their souls within phylacteries, protecting their essences while maintaining a separate body with which to interact with the world. Worth a shot, don’t you think?’

While some members toy with the idea of helping Kalarel for suitable rewards, others are steadfast in their ideals, and condemn his actions. Getting increasingly agitated with the party’s inability to share his vision, Kalarel screams at them and begins to hurl crisis energy around. Ghouls and wights materialise from the shifting vortexes of insubstantial energy filling the room, and Kalarel retreats into a swirling portal of pure crisis, feeding off it’s energies, making him stronger but more uncontrolled as his potential forms continue to attack his existence.

The fight goes down to the wire, as Elika falls, to be brought back by the inspiring words and divine glow of Sebastian and Alheck. The ghouls assail the group, gnawing on flesh, but once the party are able to focus their attentions fully upon the twisting, shifting, phasing form of Kalarel, they tear apart his body until all that remains is crisis. With a howling surge, the energies filling the room begin to twist and bend reality. Smartly, the party run like buggery, flinging themselves up the chains to escape Kalarel’s laboratory as the volatile energies fold inwards on themselves, imploding until all that remains is what existed before: a cathedral catacomb.

The party ascend from the Via Purifica as heroes, Alheck’s warning letter having reached the Sacred Flame in time to stop matters before they got out of hand. All food, drink and entertainment is spread before the group, as the revelry continues well into the next morning. Sebastian stumbles home, a little paranoid, being careful not to fall into any more ditches lest he find another undead ghoul.

Group XP: +1700 (4625 total) Treasure: Amulet of Health +1, Boneshard (necrotic Crafting Material), Potions of Healing x2, Ghost Shroud (acts as Elven Cloak +2), Deathlock Wightblade (Lifedrinker Rapier +1) Rituals: Gentle Repose, Secret Page, Eye of Alarm, Knock, Magic Circle, Raise Dead. Crafting: Martial Orb, Arcane Orb, Divine Orb. Gold: +800 gp reward from the Sacred Flame (1180 gp in total, no more debt)

Note: The orbs are from the crisis engine, and as such are quite powerful but very volatile. You do not know any crafters with the skill to work these items at the current time, nor do you know what properties they might imbue.

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Side Quest One: Stars
Somewhat similar to Assassin's Creed

Celebrating the success of their recent exploits, the group enjoy a night on the piss. Unable to stagger all the way home, Elika and Dharzon elect to crash in the spare room at Hadaad’s.

Moments before dawn, their repose is disturbed, as a shadowly figure steals out of the room. Leaping into action, the pair realise there gear is missing, or rather, taken. Leaping (or teleporting) from the balcony, the warrior and warlock give chase. The thief darts over a city wall, leaving the pair to scrabble at the stone walls until they smash through the sturdy wooden gates to continue the pursuit. Elika’s athleticism keeps her up to speed with the fleeing rogue, with Dharzon not far behind as they enter a stone quarry in the Shemesh Ward just as the sun begins to rise.

Leaping and bounding across the scaffolding, the nimble thief was about to get away when a well-aimed eldritch blast disintegrates the supports of a scaffold, sending the thief tumbling to the ground. Gaining some ground, the pair almost catch up with their target, but they stumble into a marketplace and lose sight of the assailant. Jumping on top of a food stall, Dharzon attempts to get a better view of the environs, but only succeeds and scaring the bejeezus out of the simple farmers. The scattering merchants has the unintended benefit of dispersing the crowd, allowing them to pinpoint their quarry again. As the thief leaps onto a departing ferry, Elika rushes the long way around across the oasis bridges, but the thief is gone, disappeared through a magical portal through a wall.

Falling back on their rough-housing ways, the pair terrorise an innocent housewife and are almost arrested by the city watch. Using their wits, they approach their contacts in the mercantile world, Herzog and Jhaarkin, in an attempt to explain who might have stolen their equipment, why, and where they could be found. All the clues point to one organisation: the Stars of Shilavahr.

Dharzon enlists the services of House Sarosh, and gleans a cryptic clue from the tiefling diviner Archarazeel, that a red ribbon will lead them to their possessions. With their eyes firmly on the look out for such an item, after almost a full day’s fruitless searching, they find a tapestry and cloth merchant who wears a red ribbon around his neck, almost completely hidden by his large, bushy beard. Elika bluffs a password, and they are welcomed to see the ‘back room’.

What they enter is no ordinary place, but an illusory meeting place in between dimensions. They are approached by a changeling, who congratulates them on finding the Stars, and explains the way things work around here. For the Stars to give something, they must first take: Dharzon and Elika must prove their worthiness or receiving their gear back through a trial.

A magical riddle door, a timed flame trap, and a raging drake encounter later, the pair reclaim their weapons and armour, and find themselves on the streets of Avesta once more. The doppleganger appears for a moment to welcomes them as members of the Stars, before disappearing once more.

Group XP: +550 (2985 total) Treasure: -1000 gp to be paid back to Herzog in full, least you incur outrageous compunding interest increases.

Affiliation with the Stars of Shilahvar: basically the Stars are your side quest providers. They might give you tasks, such as hunts, escorts, assassinations, item retrieval, and will reward items of worth for the party in accordance to the difficulty of the tasks performed. This effectively opens up any item for ‘purchase’ to the party, but only if you can complete the task required for whatever items or services you may want.

If you want anything that is out of reach through normal means (too rare/difficult for normal Avesta merchants, or other NPCs, to provide) then send me a msg and I’ll devise a quest for you guys to earn it. Likewise, if you feel like hunting a specific type of monster, I can set it up through the Stars also.

The way I’m thinking adventures might go now are regular adventures are mainly aimed at gaining XP, gold and reputation, whereas side quests from the Stars are for trophies, services and specific equipment.

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Adventure Three: Ruby in the Rough
Banditos!

Elika presents the group with an interesting task, to respond to the bandits that have been harrowing merchants on the roads to Avesta. Asking the right questions unravels some rumours how the merchant who posted the bill, Herzog, is a jewel trader who knows a few was to avoid the trade tariffs.

A meeting with Herzog reveals that part of his secret to success lies in hidden paths and unknown treks that allow some caravans to travel unnoticed from the highway waystations. The group concludes that it is on one of these paths that the bandits likely assailed Herzog’s caravan, and agree to ‘look into it’ for the merchant, and retrieve his cargo, specifically a large ruby of some personal significance.

Posing as a caravan, the group set off into the dune sea, following the decriptions given by Herzog to find one of the secret paths. The bandits spring an ambush upon the group, and after a hard fight, the party is routs the bandits and claim a captive. Through interrogation, they find the location and rough layout of the bandit camp.

Stealthily, the group enter the bandit’s hideout, and rush the guards posted there (not before Elika takes a dip in a kiddy pool full of reptiles). Continuing the raid on the encampment, they bust through a torture room and dispense of a frothing berserker and his halfling thieves. Sebastian drunkenly dons the torturer’s armour and asks if it makes his butt look big.

In one of the cells they find Abdullah, who was the driver of Herzog’s last caravan. Thankful to be released, Abdullah warns the group from entering the last cell, as the bandits often threatened to throw him to the beast that lurked there. While not sure, he believes the leader of the bandits is a magic weilder of some sort, who keeps the others in line through threats of summoning his ‘pet’.

The party is hurting badly from their encounters with the bandits, and decide to get Abdullah to safety, and perhaps rest up before assaulting the final leg of the base. Hopefully, there are not more warriors on the way, or the bandits don’t clear everything out before the party can regroup to mount a second assualt. Time will tell!

After nursing some wounds and catching their breaths, the party snuck back into the bandit’s camp… only to find it near deserted, the bandits seemingly retreated with the majority of their stolen stash. Happy to explore the empty encampment, the party delved into a natural cavern below the jail cells, and awoke a large blue slime. Despite it’s stench, Elika drew it’s attentions and defended against the barrage of slimy tentacles, shielding the party from harm as they took it down.

Wanting to check out the warehouse that had been built up atop the rock, the group climbed through the stronghold, up to the wooden walkway leading to the main hall. Bursting through, unfortunately not all members were able to avoid an enchanted sigil that cursed their hearts with the cold grip of terror. While some fled, others held their ground against the last remaining bandits, commonded by a mage, his summoned Evistro demon ‘pet’, and an apprentice caster. In a hard slog, Dharzon was able to magically lure the summoner from his perch, into the waiting blades of Sebastian, Hidnaan and Elika.

Searching the last remains of the bandit’s stash, the party found a peculiar hint: many crates being rebranded with the name ‘Jhaarkin’. Returning to Avesta and speaking with Herzog, they learnt that Jhaarkin was another merchant trader, also operating in Avesta. Discretion being the key, lest the city watch or the inquisitors of the Silver Flame learn of the untaxed goods being moved around and confiscate them, Herzog encourages the party to find a way to enter Jhaarkin’s holdings and liberate his prize jewel.

Tailing a suspicious caravan through the back streets near Jhaarkin’s main housing bays, Hidnaan and Dharzon botch a casual diplomatic attempt of pick-pocketing, and as always, the party reverts to the effectiveness of violence. Clearing out the halfway house, a thorough search leads to the discovery of a trapdoor. Opening it, the party gaze into the darkness of an underground tunnel. Does it lead to a back entrance of Jhaarkin’s warehouses, or do traps and guards await the foolish?

Descending into the darkness beneath the trap door, lighting a sunrod, Dharzon leads the group through the excavated smuggler’s trail until they notice a wooden plank slipped into the ceiling. Cautiously, Alheck climbs out and, with keen elven perception, surveys the large, cluttered warehouse they have arrived at.

A few elven mercenaries guard the stockpiles, but their casual attentions are eluded by the party as they stealthily pick through the piled up crates, boxes and sacks. Unfortunately Alheck tests his luck, and stumbles too close, alerting the guards. A brief skirmish between the aisles and impromptu crated laneways is no difficulty for the party, but it may have created difficulty down the line, with the alarm now raised.

Moving through the storehouse, they ignore the locked holding cells and safes in adjoining hangers, but make their way up the stairs to a heavy set of mahogany double-doors… and are greeted by a pleasant voice coming from inside.

The merchant Jhaarkin welcomes the party into his opulent den; a tapestried alcove of treasures, drapery, sweet incense and mechanical toys. Two iron defenders, metallic homonculus hounds, stir at his feet while he offers the party employ, admiring the abilities and tenacity that have allowed the group to make such trouble for the businessman’s operations. The group reject Jhaarkin’s proposition, not on any moral grounds, but holding to their strong work ethic of honouring the current contract with Herzog. Jhaarkin, realising the adventurers can be written off as a bad debt now, concedes that he might just have to kill them all.

Jhaarkin surprises the party, throwing back his hood to reveal the curled horns of a member of the Sarosh bloodline, and attacks them with eldritch incantations and infernal power. Small homunculi harrow the party as they attempt to advance on the warlock-merchant, who releases balefire on the group. Without reinforcements however, Jhaarkin is unable to hold out forever, and is eventually cornered and forced to surrender.

Bartering for his life, Jhaarkin relinquishes the ruby he ‘acquired’ from Herzog. As an offer of good faith, to ensure that he holds no grudge in business, Jhaarkin strikes a deal with the party, allowing them to call on his resources to acquire items that are not readily available in the common marketplace.

Herzog rewards the party handsomly for the return of his items, and is doubly pleased to learn that by leaving Jhaarkin alive, they have hidden the events and dealings of the tax-avoiding merchants from the eyes of the inquisitors and judges of the Sacred Flame. Trade will continue, and items of worth may flow into the city untaxed, and discounted for the party now that the group ensured the authorities remain in the dark.

Group XP: +1,190 (2,435 total… congratulations level 3!) Treasure: Amulet of Protection +2, ‘Kalifah’ (Rod of Corruption and Witchfire), Swatch of Darkleaf, Bracers of Mighty Striking, Bag of Holding, Potions of Healing x2

Party Gold: 600 gp (after purchases)

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