Wild Abandon

Character Assassination
Chapter 67

Rorik awakens in a crypt, alone, except for his raven familiar, Enrico, who takes off out the front door of the tomb and into the dark forest beyond.

The eldritch knight gives chase, but loses sight of his avian friend amid the deep shadows between the trees. He stops to catch his breath beside the faceless statue of a woman, surrounded by baubles and candles that melted down long-ago. Rorik recognizes this as a shrine to the Raven Queen, a goddess said to judge the souls of the dead. He sits down in front of the statue and focuses, seeing through his familiar's eyes.

Enrico flaps forward, out of the forest and over a vast plain of blue-gray grass hundreds of feet below. Rivers of light wend across the plain, converging upon a towering castle made of black ice. From the tallest spire of this palace, a dozen or more astral conduits shoot off into a starless sky. Enrico flies ever closer to this glacial edifice.

Rorik snaps back to his senses and follows the arcane "footprints" to the edge of the forest, where a staircase cut into a cliff descends to the plain far below. He spots someone else on the stairs as he makes his way down them—it's Osana Greentide! Rorik asks her where the others have gone off to, but she doesn't know; in fact, the last thing Osana remembers is facing off against Ygorl and the dragon, Shkiv. As they reach the bottom of the winding staircase, Rorik gets a clearer look at the "rivers of light" in the fields before them, and realizes that they are actually miles-long lines of spirits. Rorik's jaw drops,

"We're dead."

Meanwhile, at the Archlight, the castle of the The Black Antlers, there is a knock on the door. Jermlaine Jancer goes to answer it and returns to the great hall with a covered basket. He gives Mye-kuhl Jancer a knowing pelvic thrust and says, "A gift from another one of your admirers, bro?"

"Oh, you know I have so many~!"

Jimothy pulls the cover off the basket, revealing within a flower arrangement that includes a coil of lifeless snakes, wrapped around the severed head of Rorik Law. A note falls out as Elspeth lets out a scream, which reads: "WARM WISHES TO MY FAVORITE TRAITORS," stamped with the six-fingered hand of Graz'zt.

"Huh, well, in was nice of him to send the head, that means we can bring old Rorik back to life! To the dance floor~!"

While wandering the halls of the castle, Brublind hears someone crying. He looks out onto the balcony and finds Torutori, who shoos away a seagull as she mimics the sound of sobbing. Brublind asks what's up, and Torutori tells him that it's her fault that Osana is dead. The kenku is a seasoned pirate, and the young half-elf looked up to her, always asking her stories about the voyages she went on and the things she had seen out at sea with child-like wonder. Torutori shows Brublind her cloak, with its many rows of colored feathers, each representing a different ship she served upon, each one (save for the Wave Dancer and Back-up Dancer) the victim of a grim fate. The kenku are a cursed people, yet Torutori always survives, while everyone else "goes down with the ship." Brublind puts a hand on the kenku's shoulder,

"If you don't want the heartbreak, then don't go off and do dangerous things. Life's not all about adventures."

Torutori looks at the slaad for a long while, then unclasps her feather cloak and lets it go over the side of the balcony. It drifts off, growing smaller and smaller as the sea wind carries it away. Torutori turns and starts to leave, but turns her head back to Brublind and simply says, "Thanks."

Back in the Shadowfell, Rorik and Osana reach the foot of the icy palace and are welcomed inside by a pair of shadar-kai at the gate, who claim that the Raven Queen is expecting them. Rorik looks around for Enrico, but doesn't see him among the hundreds of ravens perched all around, watching with their black eyes. As the duo head through the castle, Rorik begins experiencing visions:

Suddenly, Rorik is standing in a great throne room beside Osana. Both of them are teary eyed. Before them is a tall throne, atop which sits a woman with skin like porcelain, a black dress decorated in feathers, and an emotionless, almost mask-like face. Sitting on her finger is Enrico. Rorik calls his familiar to him, and the raven flies from the woman's finger to land on his arm, rubbing lovingly against the eldritch knight's face. Rorik looks up to stare into the eyes of the Raven Queen.

Then he awakens to the sound of thumping music. Undead bump and grind around him on the dance floor in the hips of the Archlight. Saladesh tells everyone to give him some room, because he's about to get freaky. Rorik tries to ignore all of this and keep his eyes tightly shut, until he hears Sporp's voice, at which point he sits up and gives the myconid a hug! Jancer cast 'Wish' to replicate a 'Resurrection' spell and brought the eldritch knight back to life. Jimothy asks how he died in the first place, but Rorik is not entirely sure, though it seems Graz'zt was involved, if the "gift basket" is any indication.

Rorik has lost most of his magic items, it seems, but Enrico barfs up several things, including his journal and the reagents for his demon-slaying sword. He swears to get back at the demon prince for this.

Later, Elspeth and Pleedleploplina ask Rorik to weigh in on a discussion they've been having about their experiences in Pandemonium. Elspeth points out that she has always been a little claustrophobic, as she grew up in a cramped bunkhouse filled to the brim with other dwarves, and Pandemonium seems to have exaggerated that fact to its extreme, making her… do the things she did. Blocking out the mental images of a naked Elspeth as best he can, Rorik nods. Pleedle adds that maybe Ra'deem became such a hypochondriac is because her father was infected with the chaos phage and became a slaad. Rorik says that Dal'zin already had his doubts about gith society as a member of the Sha'sal Khou, so the cynicism was, again, that taken to its extreme. Elspeth and Pleedle both look at Rorik expectantly,

"So why did you have hallucinations then?"

Rorik thinks about it for a moment, but isn't entirely sure what to conclude.

Morghadam the wraith visits Jancer, telling him that he's fascinated by the architecture of the Archlight, "it's almost as good as the tombs that I made for master Acererak. Almost." Morghadam points out that he even found a secret room and asks Jancer if he knew about it. The necrodancer heads down there and learns that there is a warded area that even the wraith cannot enter, and that there is a dwarven handprint that he recognizes as a magical lock imbued with divination and necromantic power that would allow only a scion of Clan Kofir to enter.

Jancer sends Morghadam to fetch Brublind, who agrees to come along if the wraith leads the way and doesn't look back at him. Upon seeing the handprint, the transmuter realizes what it is, polymorphs into his dwarf form, and places his hand in the imprint. Red light spreads across the wall, which starts to rumble open. Jancer's eyes widen with wonder. The wall closes again as Brublind removes his hand. Jancer looks at him. Brublind puts his hand back on the wall and it starts opening once more. He takes his hand off, puts it back on, off, on, off, on. He chuckles to himself as he allows the wall to open all the way, revealing the secret chamber beyond.

Five stone seats are in the chamber, with a "window" that looks at the blank stone wall behind it in front of the seats. The red light from the wall dances up the walls of the chamber and along four adamantine struts, in the middle of which floats a massive heart made of stone. Massive rubies in the stone heart glow as the red light reaches them, and a rhythmic pulse thrums through the chamber. Jimothy and Rorik arrive to investigate the tremor that went through the statue and find Jancer and Brublind within the heart chamber. When they sit in the seats, the "window" shows a view out the eyes of the Archlight.

Jancer realizes that their castle is an ancient dwarven mecha, powered by a mighty elemental bound within the stone heart.

Naturally, the Black Antlers decide to immediately go out and get tacky bumper stickers to put onto the Archlight's stone ass.

Rorik pays a visit to Gerald Law, his treant son and former arm, in the coral garden outside the Archlight. The treant is experiencing autumn for the first time, and he and Rorik have a discussion about life and death. Gerald warns his "father" to be careful, as a big wolf peed on him and then walked away on two legs a few days before the party got back. "It seems like all of Mother Nature is suffering."

One evening, Brublind awakens to a brain tickle. It's Iggwilv. She tells him that she has a job for him to do. Brublind asks what will happen if he refuses, and he feels a sharp, psychic pinch in his forehead,

"I hold your control gem—the very essence of your being—if you disobey me, I can destroy you. But I really don't want to do that, Brublind, because I think that you and I could work very well together. All I want from you is to get the Rod of Seven Parts from that meddlesome Mye-kuhl Jancer and bring it… to me."

Brublind robotically gets out of bed, walks past his clothing, and out the door, "Guess I'm not wearing any pants today."

Mye-kuhl Jancer is busy using 'Contact Other Plane' to communicate with the Nine Hells. Someone from the Hell Hotline picks up and says that he can answer up to five questions Jancer might have. Jancer asks about Tiamat and the best way to get some of her flames, and learns that he would probably have to ask an archdevil about acquiring something like that, as Tiamat has a pact with Asmodeus to dwell in Baator. When the phone operator learns that this caller is THE Mye-kuhl Jancer, he looks something up and tells him that it looks like he actually ALREADY has a meeting scheduled with an archduke to discuss the Rod of Seven Parts. Jancer knows nothing about this, but says he looks forward to it.

When he comes out of it, he turns to see his window open. The wind tickles his fancy as he begins to dance, unconsciously assuming 'Gaseous Form' as he does. Just then, two magic-infused, six-fingered claws pierce into the necrodancer, nearly killing him. A pale-skinned woman with short black hair, cat-like eyes, and a black and red monk's outfit stands behind him, her razor-sharp nails covered in misty blood.

Jancer flees out under the crack of the door, making his way towards the dance hall downstairs. The assassin gives chase, running into Brublind at the top of the stairs. The transmuter hears Iggwilv say, "Thraxxia?! Of course Graz'zt would send one of his mongrel daughters after you guys. Hm… her presence might be useful."

Brublind casts 'Time Stop', and decides to play a little prank on Thraxxia over the next four round:

  1. Takes all the books out of his bag and stacks them up on the stairs, right in front of her foot.
  2. Slips one of her shoes off and puts it on her hand.
  3. Puts a bag over her head and pulls the drawstring tight.
  4. Says "Iggwilv smells" as many times as he can in his head while doing all of this (134 times!).

Time starts flowing again, and Thraxxia goes tumbling down the stairs as she blindly slips on the books. 134 simultaneous "Iggwilv smells" hit the Witch-Queen all at once, nearly deafening her, and she gives Brublind another psychic pinch in response. Rorik wakes up to this commotion and goes out to see what happened, finding Brublind at the top of the stairs. Jimothy also awakens and makes his way to the stairs. At the bottom, he finds a discarded bag and several books. The slaad says, "I dropped my books."

Rorik and Jimothy start asking Brublind questions, and the transmuter tells them that he thinks Mye-kuhl Jancer has been possessed. They need to get the Rod of Seven Parts away from him. Rorik knows Jancer has been contacting extraplanar entities for information and believes it's possible. Jimothy, ever the fighter of evil, also comes along as the trio head for the dance hall.

Meanwhile, Jancer arrives to find his undead servants all partying the night away, and orders them to blockade the chamber. He uses his Sending Stone to call up Sporp, telling the myconid to warn everyone that there's an assassin afoot. One of the chamber doors buckle as someone slams in it, but the undead keep it shut. He casts 'Greater Invisibility' on himself. The opposite door buckles, but when Jancer hears that it's his companions, he tells his servants to let them in.

Brublind accuses Jancer of being possessed and tells the others they need to get the Rod from him (rolls two nat 1s on Deception with advantage). Meanwhile, Jancer accuses Brublind of being the one who is possessed. They aren't sure who to believe, but Jimothy says that he should be able to banish any demon. Jancer submits to a 'Dispel Good and Evil', and Jimothy says that if he was possessed then he should be fine now. The necrodancer warns them all that there's an assassin who attacked him. Brublind changes shape into a naked Jancer and says that he can serve as a distraction, but Jancer needs to give him the Rod and anything else that would make him identifiable.

Just then, the door behind them bursts open as Thraxxia strong arms her way inside the dance hall and charges Brublind (who looks like Jancer, while the real Jancer is invisible). She tears into him with her claws and nearly kills him too, but then the undead close in around her and Jancer hits her with 'Otto's Irresistible Dance'.

"You didn't think you could come into my domain without dancin', did ya', baby~?"

Thraxxia growls, confused as to why she's dancing, but Jancer's undead fall on her and start hacking. Shoalhydris swoops down from her perch and bites one of the assassin's arms off (NAT 20!). Thraxxia kicks wildly with her dancing feet, and hits her assailants. Jimothy tosses his new Peridot Wyvern and the gemstone drake stings the assassin. Brublind fades with 'Etherealness', and tells Iggwilv that their chance might have passed, Iggwilv says that Brublind did well enough, but warns him not to fail her NEXT time. Jancer reappears and hits Thraxxia with a 'Finger of Death', while Shoalhydris takes another mighty bite and tears off the fiendling's OTHER arm (SECOND NAT 20)!!!

Thraxxia feebly tries to use her unarmed (HA) strikes with other body parts, but is overwhelmed by Jancer's undead servants and hacked to bits. The necrodancer spins over and grabs Thraxxia's decapitated head and tosses it to Rorik, "How 'bout we send Graz'zt this pretty little thing as a thank you?"

Just then, Sporp flies in on a spore servant bat and says, "GUYS, THERE'S AN ASSASSIN!"

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Skullduggery
Chapter 66

Seeking the mighty lich, Acererak, the Black Antlers descend deeper into the Tomb of Horrors…

They find themselves within the Chapel of Evil! Pews fill this subterranean temple, which has a bloodstained altar set at the far end of the room, beneath a fresco of Orcus, the fallen Demon Prince of Undeath. The party notice three robed figures sitting on a few of the pews. Brublind is drawn to the fresco, and pulls out the magic paint given to him by Renbuu. The slaad begins copying the fresco onto a big piece of paper.

Jimothy approaches one of the robed figures and it turns up towards him as he speaks. Beneath the hood… is a skeleton! It reaches out a bony hand, touches the goliath, and causes him to disappear into thin air! The other two crypt things stand and try to touch Brublind and Jancer, but the wizards dodge out of the way.

Brublind puts the Orcus painting up over his face and throws his voice, causing the crypt thing to prostrate before what it believes is its master. Jancer uses 'Command Undead' to assume control over the other, ordering it to high five the skeleton that touched Jimothy. They do so, and both disappear! Brublind tells his "disciple" to rise and teaches it the ancient technique of "too slow". Jancer hits it with his Wand of Wonder, causing it to 'Enlarge', and the giant crypt thing then turns and holds up a hand towards Jancer, giving him an expectant grin.

Meanwhile, Jimothy appears… somewhere else. Corpsebane doesn't seem to be giving off light, and Jimothy feels as if it has no magic. The only light comes from a blue candle held in the hands of a merfolk skeleton, set into the wall of this cramped cell, which is covered in grime-covered bas reliefs depicting tidal waves washing over cities and swallowing ships. Snails and oysters seem to have begun living in this dank place. Before Jimothy can do anything else, water begins pouring from holes in the ceiling!

Jim begins trying to look for a secret latch or button on the walls, but isn't able to find anything as the water creeps up towards his waist. He grabs the blue candle and climbs up onto the merfolk skeleton's hands to try and get out of the rising flood, but slips due to growing moisture on the bones, backwards into the water. He hears the crunch of snails under his armored form, and then the candle falls into the water and everything goes dark.

Then everything is bathed in red light. Jimothy is in another cell, heat filling it as if he were inside of a stove. A human skeleton holds a red candle from its place in a wall decorated with depictions of volcanoes burying cities under flows of lava. Holes cover the ceiling and floor. Jimothy sees these and begins to panic.

Jimothy runs up and EATS THE FUCKING CANDLE. JUST TAKES A BIG BITE OUT OF THE TOP.

Jancer just stares at the waiting crypt thing's hand.

Brublind says, "Just wait for it, it'll be worth it."

Jancer raises his hand and begins moving it towards the crypt thing's. In slow motion, the crypt thing begins going in for the "too slow", but then Jancer thrusts his hand forward, firing his sphere of annihilation through its head. The giant skeleton falls to the floor… annihilated. Jancer scoffs and walks over to the fresco of Orcus.

"This dude is old hat, baby, I'm the new Prince of Undeath!"

Using his sphere, the necrodancer wipes away the fresco, destroying the painted layer of the wall. A black form emerges, its eyes flashing red, enraged that Jancer has desecrated "my creation! Do you have any idea how long this project took?!" The wraith slashes at Jancer, who slides out of the way and casts 'Otto's Irresistible Dance' on the spirit. Brublind puts up his Orcus painting and orders the wraith to count every brick in this chamber and name each one.

It does so.

Back in the elemental cells, Jimothy appears in a cell much like the other two, this one covered in reliefs of tornadoes tearing cities apart and with an aarakocra skeleton holding a yellow candle. There's also someone else here—Jancer's crypt thing—and the whole room is filled with poisonous gas. Jimothy begins choking, but runs over and pinches the candle out.

He reappears in a fourth and final cell, with reliefs of the desert sands swallowing the ruins of civilization and a medusa statue wearing an obsidian pendant holding a green candle. Sand begins pouring from the ceiling, covering the floor around Jim and the crypt thing. Jimothy figures out that the obsidian pendant is some kind of button, but before he can press it, the floor gives way beneath the weight, revealing a pit below with crushing grinders! Jim presses the button, but as he does, the medusa statue falls out of the wall with him on it, sending both into the grinders. Jim casts 'Death Ward' on himself as he falls into the crusher.

He just barely survives, falling on a grate beneath. Meanwhile, a piece of the wall in the Chapel of Evil falls away, revealing the earth cell to Jancer and Brublind, who are greeted by Jancer's crypt thing. The grinders stop and they go through with the crypt thing and the wraith, who has now accepted Jancer as the new Prince of Undeath after Orcus/Brublind commanded him to. There's a secret door on the wall beneath these grinders, which the party find leads to the throne room they visited before!

They realize that there are more secrets here than they first realized! Touching the scepter they found here to a silver plate on the throne, the floor before the seat drops into a set of stairs! Jancer goes down into the web-covered corridor beyond and tosses a 'Fireball'. The centuries-long work of thousands of spiders is destroyed in an instant, the burnt bodies of arachnids falling as their tiny screams fill the air. The necrodancer moonwalks to a golden door at the far end of the hall, and kicks it open, revealing a crypt filled with decaying furniture.

A couch made of solid gold sits at the center of this crypt, and rising from it is a rotting humanoid, covered in tattered robes and wearing a golden crown. A booming voice fills the chamber,

"Who dares disturb the rest of Acererak?! You came looking for treasure, but it is your death you have found!"

Jancer uses 'Command Undead', and… he takes over the undead creature. This isn't a lich. It's just a fancy zombie. Jancer pulls out his Bag of Holding and starts stuffing the golden couch into it as Brublind and Jimothy come downstairs. Underneath the couch, they realize that there is a trapdoor!

It leads into what is basically a broom closet. Dust-covered treasure covers the floor around a metal vault in the corner, a bejeweled skull sitting atop it. As they take in the hoard, glimmering in the light of Corpsebane, the dust suddenly swirls! Jancer is blinded by what he realizes… is corpse dust!

Jimothy watches as the skull rises from its resting place, the gems that are its eyes and teeth flaring with inner light! It speaks with nasally rage,

"Who daaaaaares disturb my venture across infinite planes?"

"I'm Mye-kuhl Jancer, the new Prince of Undeath, and I'm here for your souls, baby!"

"Well fuck off!"

Just then, the demilich is yanked upwards by Brublind's 'Telekinesis', and held against the ceiling. Acererak lets out a bloodcurdling howl that fills the party with fear, but they are hardened adventurers and none of them die instantly (with Jancer only surviving because the Rod of Seven Parts pushes against the chaos of this magic). Acererak warns them that they're all doomed when he gets around to using his legendary actions.

Jimothy isn't giving him that chance though and whacks the restrained demilich! A CRITICAL HIT! Jim deals 162 damage, but the demilich is resistant to the damage, only taking 81… Acererak only has 80 HP. The demilich gets slam dunked onto the ground, his gemstone teeth broken.

"Uh… I seem to have miscalculated here… truce?"

Jancer laughs, "Truce? No, these are terms of surrender!"

Acererak starts spilling his guts, telling the party about his daddy issues, his astral wanderings, and his grand plan to become one with the Negative Energy Plane and basically take command over all undead in existence by sacrificing all the souls that he's gathered over the centuries in a demiplane that he discovered, created long ago by Orcus Moil, the City That Waits. But he has all eternity for that, so Jancer can take the souls he has, whatever! He tells them that he barely spends any time in his actual physical remains anymore (which is why they're just a skull at this point), so whatever, just leave him alone. They agree, and Jancer throws the demilich into his fanny pack for safekeeping.

The wraith, who reveals that he is the architect of the Tomb— Morghadam—wants to give the party a tour of the rest of the dungeon, as they are pretty much in charge around here now.

He shows them another secret door in the throne room, which leads through a green devil face fireplace into a library, where an old man in horn-rimmed glasses is sitting. He introduces himself as Mr. Fox, and tells them that they can read any book here, but if they try to take anything, he'll have to kill them, so please don't.

They continue to a door on the far side, which leads into a room, empty save for a lectern with a children's book on it. Jim tries to read it, but can't. Jancer pushes him over and realizes its written in Infernal. Jimothy notes that this place is rather unimpressive compared to the rest of the Tomb, and Morghadam points out they had used most of their fund before reaching this room. The wraith leans in and tells them that he should read the book though, they'll love it, but they should just pretend he's not there. He watches intently. Jimothy sits crosslegged on the ground like a kindergartner as Jancer begins to read the rhyme,

Backward, backward, eight to one
Speak the rhyme until it's done
Keep the spider locked away
See the lever, clear as day
Spin, spin, iron spider
Turn their flesh and bones to cider
Speak the rhyme and meet your fate
Forward, forward, one to eight

As he speaks the last line, gravity suddenly reverses. Jancer grabs onto the lectern, while Jimothy goes plummeting towards the ceiling, which gives way underneath him, revealing a huge, spider-shaped fan! Its blades chop into Jimothy. Jancer reads the rhyme backwards, and the gravity reverses again! Jimothy plummets back towards the ground and onto Jancer.

"Thanks for breaking my fall."

"Thanks for breaking my legs."

They continue forwards, into a chamber with papers swirling all around it. Jimothy catches one—it's a spell scroll! Brublind notices a ghostly lever in the center of the room and turns ethereal to pull it, unlocking a door on the far side. Catching three of the spell scrolls, the rest suddenly turn to dust, and the dust begins to coalesce above the lever, taking the form of a dust mephit!

The creature begins going through its "you intruders have made a mistake" spiel, but then it notices Morghadam. They get into a chat, and Morghadam points out that the party are new owners and that he's giving a tour. The dust mephit awkwardly sinks back to the ground.

Despite Morghadam's urging, the party decide that they've had their fill of tombs and depart.

Outside, they find a disheveled Pleedleploplina, Elspeth, and Torutori. The githzerai, Ra'deem and Dal'zin left, to try and save their people where the party has abandoned them. Osana is also conspicuously absent. Without the githzerai to stem the advance of her affliction, the instability of her form overwhelmed her. Osana turned into a monster and attacked them, they tried to calm her down, but she didn't seem to recognize them. Torutori cut the creature down and they sold it to a researcher who noticed the battle.

The party head into Skull City and track down this researcher, Basilius, who turns out to be a vampire. Within his darkened lab, they see that he has a glass cylinder set up with a rainbow-colored blob of writhing, bubbling flesh within it.

"We've come to talk to you about that blob, baby."

"The BLAHb?!"

They learn that the vampire is trying to learn about afflictions of the body, such as this corporeal instability, and hopes to one day find out how exactly they work. What's more, they realize that Osana's soul is not within this blob—it's gone. For all intents and purposes, she is dead. Jancer gives the vampire a 500 gp research grant to fund his experiments, and takes a sample of the chaos beast for his own research. The vampire thanks the party, telling them that the Bleak Academy pays very little, but this gold will make sure he can buy gifts for his spawn next Ilmatermas.

With that, the party return to Kalfsgate for some much needed rest. Unfortunately, shit has hit the fan.

All the troubles they heard about after getting out of the Underdark have reached a head, as Undren Freeman, who has named himself 'Regent' in the party's absence, explains. The Veshan fleet is hunting pirates in Corpsepickers' Lagoon almost completely unopposed, and now all kinds of strange sea monsters are roaming the waters as well. What's more, the war between lycanthropes and eladrin to the north has been complicated by the opening of planar rifts, bringing all manner of opportunistic outsiders pouring through.

A ship full of soldiers from House Leopold arrived a few days ago, on the way to join the fight themselves, but are currently causing trouble around town. Jancer's ears perk up at the name 'Leopold', and Pleedle gets all teary remembering their departed monk friend, Roland Leopold. Jancer asks Pleedle to go and speak with the soldiers, and she does so gladly, taking her yuan-ti girlfriend, Salida, along with her.

Sporp is amazed as the party starts taking stock of all the treasure they took from the Tomb. Undren is gobsmacked, as the royal treasury has practically multiplied tenfold with these new additions! The treasure hoard includes:

  • A Ring of Shooting Stars
  • A Figurine of Wondrous Power (Peridot Wyvern)
  • A Sword of Life Stealing
  • A Daern's Instant Fortress

Henrietta Fairwind informs Jancer that she's heard that Yeenoghu is among the outsiders coming to take part in the war to the north. She reminds Jancer that he said he'd help free her king, Doresain, from enslavement under the demon lord of gnolls, and also says that she's been speaking with her contacts in Vesh, or rather… a shadow of Vesh, who may be able to help with that. Jancer tells the maurezhi to stop calling itself "Henrietta".

Piper is happy to see Jimothy back and the flying monkey gives the goliath a big hug. Elspeth brings Jim a letter that arrived while they were away, from the Knights of the Bloody Hand, the paladin order to which they both belong. The Knights have heard about trouble, and offer to come and aid their famous brother-in-arms in whatever fight against evil might be going down. He tells Elspeth to write back that the Knights should reinforce Brentil Keep.

Saladesh approaches Jancer, who finds himself becoming affected more and more by the Rod as they add pieces to it. The mummy has had a revelation that is horrifying to him, and asks that Jancer, as his new master, to pass judgment upon him:

Saladesh explains that he was a soldier at the Battle of Pesh eons ago, the final battle between the Wind Dukes of Aaqa and the demons under the command of Miska the Wolf-Spider, the Prince of Demons. Saladesh's commander was Graz'zt, but when the Wind Dukes needed their legion most, Graz'zt ordered them to fall back and abandon their posts. Saladesh did not even question the orders, and in so doing, allowed thousands to die. Perhaps if he and his brothers had been there, the Rod would never have shattered and his race might not now be extinct.

Jancer absolves Saladesh of blame, as he was doing what any soldier would, following the rightful authority of those above him. That was the lawful thing to do, for better or worse. Even the necrodancer is a little surprised by these words, though they seem to ease Saladesh's mind for the time being. The mummy swears to serve his new master better than the old.

Daazima Aleval visits Jancer one evening, and says that she thinks that Kalfsgate needs an official ambassador, and she wants the job! Jancer is happy to have her as their diplomat, and asks how she's been settling in. She says that she doesn't know if it's just the new body, but she has been walking a bit lighter these past few days.

"I suppose it's… it's easier without the past or family obligations to weigh me down. You're a wonderful necromancer, Mye-kuhl Jancer, but I hope you never forget, you don't have to raise someone as a zombie to give them back their life."

Her beholder familiar lovingly rubs against Jancer's cheek, and Daazima leans in and gives the necrodancer a kiss on the forehead before leaving.

One morning, Artorias refuses to eat his breakfast. The slaad is sitting, arms folded, in his highchair. He doesn't want sausage and waffles, he wants FIRE BEETLES! So, Jimothy must venture to the Pirate Grocery Store to get his red slaad son some beetles. But when he arrives, there are tons of pirates trying to push their way through the front door.

Uh-oh, it's the Black Firesday Rush!

Jimothy crashes through the crowd and into the store, sending peg legs and pirate hooks going everywhere. He looks up at the signs to find the right aisle, but when he turns down the one he thinks said 'Fire Beetles', it turns out to have said 'Firearms'! A cannonball comes flying towards him, but the paladin jumps out of the way. The ball hits the shelves and sends them dominoing. That's when Jimothy spots the Fire Beetle display… about to be crushed by the shelves!!! He runs full-speed and holds up the shelves with his goliath strength! He collects the fire beetles in his basket, drops the shelves, and heads towards the register.

The girl checks out his beetles (having to rescan one because it didn't scan properly), and Jimothy endures some awkward smalltalk before paying and heading out. Before he can get back to the Archlight however, a woman in rages comes up to him. She says her hungry children's favorite food is fire beetles, can't he spare some for her poor kids. Two "kids" (clearly just full-grown pirates in children's clothing) come out, their lower lips quivering. Jimothy hands a beetle to each.

"We've got 'em, boys, let's skeddadle!"

Jimothy gets back home to find Artorias still sitting in his highchair (despite the dining hall now being otherwise empty), and uses the good old 'here comes the airplane' technique to feed his grumpy slaad son, who eventually smiles, giving his dad a hug.

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Death Wish
Chapter 65

The next day, Mye-kuhl Jancer convinces the party that they should use the shrine to Acererak he discovered to pay the mighty lich a house call.

Despite some objections (mostly from Rorik and the githzerai), Jancer wins over the majority of the party by arguing that the lich has likely trapped hundreds of thousands of souls, and freeing them would look really good on their resumes.

"But what if we can't free them?"

"Then I guess we'll just have to eat them! Can't let all that energy go to waste~!"

Speaking the word 'Tarnhem', the Black Antlers are teleported to a dismal place known as Skull City—an abode for necromancers and dark magicians that has grown up around the hill of grim and foreboding countenance that houses Acererak's most infamous lair:

THE TOMB OF HORRORS!

People crowd around the party as they approach the Tomb, sizing them up (literally in the case of people with measuring tapes, who claim to be fitting them for the coffins they'll need in the near future). Some of the onlookers take bets on how long the party will last in the Tomb, others pick out choice items they plan on looting from their corpses, and one necromancer even offers to buy the party's corpses so that they can serve her as zombies in unlife.

Pleedleploplina warns the party that the Tomb is a place of devious craftsmanship, always trying to kill those within it, while testing their wits and pushing their drive to survive to its limits. With this warning from their fishy friend, the Black Antlers enter into the wide maw of the skull-shaped hill ("it only kind of, sort of looks like a skull if you squint and see it in the corner of your eye, but the name stuck").

The entrance corridor is lined with hieroglyphs of animal-human hybrids engaged in all manner of gruesome acts. On the floor, three paths—one gold, one purple, one red—wind to archways set into the walls. A charred skeleton lays splayed out on the floor, still pointing towards the red archway. By the light of Corpsebane, the party can just make out a hideous green devil face at the end of the corridor, its mouth wide and filled with an impenetrable darkness that even Jimothy's mace cannot illuminate.

Jancer decides to lead the way along the purple path, and pushes into the brick-filled archway at its end, the bricks seeming to have the consistency of mud. As he's stepping through to the other side, the necrodancer feels that there is no floor on the far side, he leaps and rolls over a pit filled with poison needles! He casts 'Wall of Force' over the mouth of the pit, allowing Jimothy, Rorik, and Brublind to follow without worrying about the trap.

- Dead Man's Chests -

They find themselves in a crypt with a sarcophagus raised atop a tall dais at its heart, and three chests on the far wall—one made of silver and covered in frost, one made of rusty iron, and one made of polished onyx. Jimothy pops open one of the chests and finds a golden key on the inside of the lid, held in place within a lock by adamantium clamps. Rorik shuts the chest and hears a click—the clamps unlatching! They find that the other two chests have the same setup.

Jancer investigates the sarcophagus and discovers reliefs on it depicting each of the three chests. Brublind realizes that when the chests are closed, these reliefs are able to be pressed like buttons. However, there is something missing in the mechanism. Using his 'Mage Hand' to turn the key inside the silver chest after closing it and pressing the button, Jancer sees that the button sticks and begins to glow for a moment. The chest rattles and Rorik feels an unearthly chill come off it. A moment later, the button resets.

Jancer chops a hand off his newest zombie, turns it into a crawling claw, and sends it into the onyx chest, while Rorik sends Enrico into the rusty chest. They each turn their key, Jancer presses the buttons (and feels his connection with the crawling claw immediately end), and with all three glowing, the sarcophagus suddenly transforms from stone to transparent crystal! Within, Jancer and Brublind see that there's a trapdoor!

Rorik uses his macuahuitl of sharpness to slice open the sarcophagus, but the crystal amplifies the sound of the slash, causing it to fill the chamber with its thunderous intensity. He then cuts the trapdoor, which falls apart, its trapped lock completely ineffectual against the blade. The party descend into the darkness below…

- Abandon All Slope -

They descend to the top end of a sloped hallway, at the bottom of which is a gargoyle with three arms, its hands facing up, with a gem-shaped indentation on each palm. A fourth arm lies on the floor. Jancer threateningly moves his sphere of annihilation in the direction of the gargoyle, but it doesn't budge. It does begin to speak however: "Your sacrifice will not be in vain, look to the fourth to find your gain!"

Jimothy tries to give the gargoyle a low five, but it takes it without reaction. Jancer sacrifices a diamond to one of the hands, which crushes it and turns its hand so the palm is facing down. The party decide to come back later, but first, Jancer fires a 'Lightning Bolt' out of his wand of wonder, revealing that the wall at the top of the sloped hallway was just a cheap plaster facade! Behind it, there is a massive statue that looks like an elephant with its two front legs reared up onto a cement roller. Jancer assumes 'Gaseous Form' and fits himself behind the statue, claiming a deep red Ioun Stone of Agility from a shelf on the far side.

The party return to the entrance hallway and decide to follow the gold path, hoping it'll lead them to some gems they can sacrifice to the gargoyle. Jimothy at the end of this path fills with mist as he passes through, only to reemerge from the archway a moment later—now a female goliath of chaotic evil alignment!

"THIS AGAIN?"

Jim runs back into the misty archway and doesn't come back out again.

- Mist Connection -

Jimothy (returned to his normal self) materializes in a chamber full of cloying silver mist after being subjected to psychic damage. He spots three oval holes at human head height in a stone door, and watches as the heads of zombies emerge from each, snapping their jaws hungrily. He gets closer and sees that these zombies have collars on, with chains attaching these to the far side of the door. He decides to give the zombies the bonk. The first two he destroys with Corpsebane, and the third he decides to slice the head off of with his boot knife. The head bites down onto his forearm and stays there.

Rorik suddenly teleports in behind his Armor Bro. Rorik feels the mist here cloud his mind, charges blindly forward, and smashes into the south wall. Jim walks over to help Rorik up, but the eldritch knight is limp as a potato sack. Jancer's zombie appears a moment later and Rorik comes back to his senses. The three of them lift the stone door with their combined strength and duck under, into the room beyond.

- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot -

Atop a glittering pile of treasure is an ornate chariot, decorated with pictures of warriors fighting demons. A sarcophagus with an artistic depiction of the Abyss on its lid stands iin the seat of the chariot. Three cauldrons filled to the brim with humanoid bones stand to either side of the hoard, and at the rear of the chamber, four bronze statues stand (one a swordsman, two spearmen, and the final with no face), guarding a shield hung on the wall. Beneath the shield is a plaque, which reads: "Bow before no one."

Jimothy bows as soon as he reads this, but nothing seems to happen. The paladin then reaches up and takes the shield down from the wall. The two spearmen turn their attention to him immediately, their bronze eyebrows furrowing angrily. They brandish their spears, and begin chucking bolts of force at the goliath, who eventually destroys the two statues with Rorik's help. They also destroy the swordsman statue, fearing it might attack next.

Meanwhile, Jancer and Brublind arrive and are let into the chamber. The necrodancer pops open the sarcophagus on the back of the chariot, and old bones tumble out. Blue light begins to emanate out of the six cauldrons around the room, and three skeletal warriors leap from each!

The skeletons surround the Black Antlers. Jimothy 'Channels Divinity' to turn the unholy, sending most of the skeletons running behind the cauldrons they popped out of, where they cower in fear. Jancer lines up six of these skeletons and fries them with a 'Lightning Bolt'. Brublind casts 'Haste' on Rorik, who takes care of the two skeletons who Jim did not turn with ease. Before they can celebrate however, another skeleton leaps from each cauldron!

Jim and Rorik are surrounded and unable to get to Jancer as he is cut down by the skeletons, who then turn on Brublind. The transmuter casts 'Etherealness' on himself and the undead's attacks go right through him. However, Brublind smells a familiar, horrid stench—he is not alone on the Ethereal Plane (he rolled an 18; there's only a demon on a result of 17-20). A hezrou demon, seemingly as surprised as the slaad is at the other's presence here, stands, and begins making its way towards him.

As more skeletons emerge from the cauldrons, Jim realizes that even all the divine smiting in the world might not stem this flow of the undead, and instead, the Armor Bros begin flipping the cauldrons over. Back on the Ethereal, the hezrou attacks Brublind and nearly kills him. The slaad phases back to the material plane as Jim and Rorik wipe up the final skeletons.

Jim heals Jancer, and the party decide to rest here as they avail themselves of their newly-gained treasures. They find that this hoard alone is worth thousands of gold pieces—any adventurer's wildest dream come true! Acererak's insidious lure to bring new victims to his Tomb. The party move this wealth into Jancer's bag of holding and the necrodancer bows to the faceless statue, causing the wall where the shield once hung to rumble aside, revealing a staircase.

- Blood from Stone -

Jancer notices that the walls of this passage, as well as the stairs themselves, are stained brown. At the top of the staircase is a metal door with a lock in the shape of a green devil face upon it. An inscription of the door reads: "If bloodshed is your one true goal, then this feeble door must not be whole."

Trying to pull or pry the door open doesn't seem to accomplish anything, so Jimothy tries smashing through instead! As he slams his mace again and again into the metal, the places he strikes begin to turn red and spurt blood! The doorway the party entered through slams shut, almost crushing Jancer, and blood begins to fill the passage, step-by-step. Rorik attempts to use 'Mending' to fix the "wounds", but it doesn't work; it's as if the door were organic!

Jimothy heals the wounds, halting the crimson torrent. Instead of busting through with Corpsebane, Jancer inserts his sphere of annihilation into the mouth of the green devil face lock instead, and the door opens.

- The Scepter of Death -

A shadowy colonnade opens up past the bleeding door, at the far end of which the party find a dusty throne with a crown and scepter resting upon its seat. Jimothy puts on the crown, and when he turns around, the chamber isn't as empty as it was when they were making their way through it…

Hundreds of ghosts linger in the great hall, adventurers all. Based on what Jimothy describes, Jancer realizes that this place must be a vault of sorts for Acererak's soul collection—the spirits held here until the lich has need of them. He doesn't sense any way of freeing them (as Rorik suggests) in this room, and suspects that Acererak would keep such a "release valve" very close to his chest.

Jimothy attempts to take off the crown and finds that he can't, but he has a thought that is not his own: "The crown can only be taken off if I touch the scepter to it." Jim touches the golden end of the scepter to the crown and takes it off.

The party decide to return to the sloped hallway with the gargoyle to see if they can't solve its riddle with the treasure they got from the chariot room.

- Abandon All Slope (Cont.) -

The party hand the gargoyle more gems to fill its other two hands, and they mirror the first, crushing the gem and facing their palms down. It says again, "Your sacrifice will not be in vain, look to the fourth to find your gain!" before breathing a gout of paralysis gas that causes Jancer to fall to the ground, unable to move! The eyes of the stone juggernaut at the top of the slope flash red and it lets out a trumpet blast as it begins rolling fullspeed down at the party!

Jim charges forward and GRABS the crushing roller of the stone juggernaut, and though it pushes him back, he actually stops the construct! Rorik charges forward and slices into the juggernaut, which continues to push forward. Jimothy pushes the juggernaut and slams Corpsebane into it with a 'Thunderous Smite' to sends the juggernaut back up the slope! The juggernaut rolls forward again, but Rorik slices—one, two, three! The massive construct falls to pieces as Rorik slides through and behind it.

Checking the gargoyle's fallen fourth hand, Rorik discovers an invisible key! Jim picks up Jancer, who begins to regain his senses a few minutes later. At the top of the slope, where the juggernaut once rested, they find another trapdoor, with a lock that this key fits! They pop it open and find a ladder going further down.

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Can't Tap Two Feet to One Beat
Chapter 64

With the Spawning Stone destroyed, seemingly by the illithid, the Black Antlers consider their next steps as they try to prevent a fight between the evacuating githzerai and a githyanki fleet waiting to ambush them.

  • Pleedleploplina suggests that the party do their best to protect the githzerai, either by escorting them along their route, or by going ahead and trying to disrupt the githyanki before they can spring their trap.
  • Elspeth points out that it seems like the mind flayers are the real issue here, having caused all of this suffering with their actions, and believes they should track the squid-faced bastards down and end them.
  • Torutori is having none of this though, and says that they should get back to doing what they came out here to do, instead of getting involved in other people's business, pointing at the ailing Osana for emphasis.

As the party weigh their options, a familiar face comes into the room—Rule-of-Three! He throws an arm around Rorik's shoulder and offers him some fekk—githzerai hard liquor. Rorik shrugs and drinks the whole rest of the bottle in one gulp (NAT 20 Con. save—a 30!). Rule-of-Three is impressed. He tells the party that he heard about how his "mother, matron, birthgiver's people" were ailing, and came to check up on them. He also points out that it wasn't very nice of the party to go and ruin the alliance between Graz'zt and Lolth, as he and Felynnida had been working on it for well over a year. Rorik points out that it was a shame it only took a few days to fall apart.

"Such is Abyssal, demonic, tanar'ri politics, I suppose. Ah well…"

Rule-of-Three says he has no hard feelings about it himself, as all he cares about is himself, strong drinks, and beautiful women, but that his dad definitely does. He hopes that the party will reconsider this war that they've got going on with Graz'zt now, as it will only end badly for them. The Black Antlers don't seem like they're giving up though, and so Rule-of-Three sighs, wishes them well, and heads out to find some more fekk.

The party decide that trying to find evidence of the illithid's involvement seems like the best course of action here, as it might spur both the githzerai and the githyanki to reconsider the current state of affairs. Before they can continue however, a cadre of zerths enter the chamber and order the party to come along with them.

They are taken to the chamber of Zaerith Menyar-Ag Gith, the great guru of the githzerai. Ra'deem and Dal'zin are here, though Dal'zin is on his knees before the perpetually meditating guru, guards beside him. The Black Antlers are put on their knees alongside the monk. The githzerai have discovered Dal'zin's ties to the Sha'sal Khou, as well as the party's presence at the Spawning Stone when it exploded, and believe that THEY are responsible for what occurred—outsider saboteurs sent by the githyanki, who have always been too cowardly to enter Limbo for themselves.

Mye-kuhl Jancer tells them that they've got it all wrong, and that the Black Antlers are actually their best hope of surviving this ordeal, because they know what really happened, and Ra'deem only strengthens his argument by vouching for them due to her past interactions with the party. Menyar-Ag refuses to hear any suggestion of reunification between the githzerai and githyanki, but agrees to allow the party the chance to seek out proof of their claim that the mind flayers are responsible for what happened, with Ra'deem serving as their chaperone. Dal'zin, however, is not so lucky. The guru orders the "traitor"'s immediate execution, which his guards carry out before anyone can even try to stop them.

As the party are escorted from the room, Jancer uses 'Suggestion' to get the guards to hand over Dal'zin's body to him instead of tossing it into the chaos-matter to dissolve. They depart the ark after collecting their belongings and after a brief encounter with "King Grunthor Rockcrusher", who Jancer sent to Limbo! The dwarf appears to have been taken in by the githzerai, though she doesn't recognize the party (since Jancer was disguised as a dwarf when they met). She mentions that Pandemonium is where she suspects the illithid who "commanded" the Chorus of Minds are hiding out, and the party decide that they should begin their hunt there.

They are led to a suitable portal by a mysterious white stag who seems to create forest under its hooves as it moves through the chaos-matter. Everyone heads through the portal (though Brublind is suspicious until Torutori heads through, because "she's pretty smart"), appearing in utter darkness on the other side.

Jancer uses his jacket of scintillating colors to become a walking beacon for the party, and the necrodancer takes this opportunity to raise Dal'zin from the dead. The newly-returned githzerai is surprised at this turn of events, and swears a debt to Jancer, with Rorik talking him down from "until death" to "until this mission is over". Jancer agrees to it, since "until death is so boring!" They point out how much of a shame it is that Menyar-Ag refuses to accept the idea of reunification, even if the githyanki's lich-queen is removed from power and a new leader who supports the idea is installed (a sort of "banan republic" situation), but Jancer sighs and says,

"I guess you just can't tap two feet to one beat, baby."

Ra'deem nods thoughtfully, "There cannot be two skies."

As the Black Antlers make their way through the oppressive shadows of Pandemonium, they are buffeted by the maddening winds of the plane. After several hours, paranoia starts to set in for Rorik as he swears he sees eyes and hears distant voices. Ra'deem covers her mouth with her clothes, terrified that she'll catch something from the damp cavern air. Elspeth mentions that this place is completely unlike any mine she has scouted in the past—it's enormous, yet she still feels claustrophobic here.

Eventually, there is another light ahead of them, and the murmur of conversations carried to them on the wind—they have stumbled upon the city of Bedlam!

As they enter the town's outskirts, a disheveled bugbear pops out from behind a rock and warns them to get down as a rat scurries towards them! He says his name is Old Jagg, and these rats have been spying on him. He tells the party that he knows what's really going on here in town—the whole government has been taken over, and the rats and bats are spies sent out of the Black Sewers by a foul godling who's trying to stop him from blowing the lid off this whole thing! Old Jagg tells them to watch their backs and runs off.

Ra'deem worries that the rat gave him lycanthropy, and starts itching like she has fleas. Dal'zin takes a more openly cynical stance than the party has ever heard him take before, talking about how governments are awful and tyrannical without needing to be influenced by evil gods. During the conversation, Rorik sees what looks like the glint of a sword disappearing down a tunnel and follows after it.

A huge dude in red armor that writhes with green serpents stomps by out of a nearby tunnel, and pushes his way into a tavern called The Scaly Dog Inn. Jancer laughs and says, "Wow, Rorik, that dude is like you, but cooler," but turns and notices Rorik has disappeared!

Outside of the inn is a drunk armanite who is gently mooing to itself. Ra'deem says that the demon's given her mad cow disease, and clutches onto Brublind's arm. Brublind tells the zerth that if she wants to get rid of the illnesses that she's gotten, they can play rock, paper, scissors. The winner gets rid of the disease, and the loser gets the illness. Ra'deem starts running around to play with everyone.

Rorik chases the gleaming sword into the darkness, through winding tunnels and vast caverns that could hold the Archlight with room to spare. He swears that it is Breezy! Long-lost Breezy! That scent in the air, the sound of her movements, that sword—her scimitar?! Yes, yes! Isabella Locke!

Rorik wades through a river, up to his chest, heedlessly pushing through the frigid water towards her. He hears, "Wow, Rorik, that dude is like you, but cooler," whispered on the wind. He reaches the far shore and continues, then, after a few minutes groping through the shadows, a voice in his head, this one more real than his own thoughts:

"Halt! Who approaches the Well of Mimir?"

Rorik snaps out of his chase. The Well of Mimir—perhaps the greatest font of wisdom and knowledge in the multiverse. Even gods have come to drink of its waters…

"Rorik Law."

Jancer casts 'Locate Object' on Rorik's glasses and the party pursue their companion before he gets himself hurt. Along the way, Elspeth starts complaining that she can't breath, and that her armor is too constricting. The dwarf starts stripping off her armor and dropping them behind her. Pleedle picks up what she's dropped and Jancer convinces her that it is her duty as a paladin of Ilmater to endure this suffering. That argument works for a bit, before she starts up again.

They come upon a river and begin making preparations to ford it, but before they can, Jancer's half-elven ears pick up a metallic jingling on the wind, getting closer. His jacket of scintillating colors flares with light, revealing two scraggly-looking redcaps with scythes, who are stunned by the sudden flash! In the tunnel behind them, a pack of howlers prowl—a pale rider astride on of the creatures.

"Thgif ot sreferp taht yerp, ha!"

The rider charges into battle as the other two howlers circle around the tunnel (thanks to the subjective gravity of the plane) to flank the party. Jancer's skeletons leap from his fanny pack to serve as a forward line, bones flying as the rider slams into them! One of the howlers lets out a mind-breaking howl onto the party, sending both Elspeth and Pleedle into fetal positions. Its pack-mate runs in and takes a big bite out of the horrified, dressed-down Elspeth. Brublind hits Jancer with 'Haste', while Ra'deem jumps into the fray against the stunned redcaps.

Meanwhile, Rorik is led into the chamber of the Well. He cannot see in the pitch black cavern, but he can feel that there are others in here with him—the stewards of this place. He engages in conversation with a great telepathic voice that reminds him of the Chorus of Minds, which asks him what wisdom he seeks from the Well, and what he shall sacrifice in return.

As the voice extols the fact that the Well bears the combined knowledge of generations, Rorik has a realization:

"This sounds like Maanzecorian."

The entire chamber goes quiet as he speaks these words, with not even his own echo in reply.

Back in the Well chamber, Rorik's deduction is confirmed—the Well of Mimir is actually the pool of an illithid elder brain! The elder brain compliments his insightfulness, and invites him to "experience eternity" and become a "building block for the golden age that shall return from this dearth of civilization" by joining their collective. Rorik politely declines the offer, saying that his individuality means too much to him for that.

"A shame that such selfishness is endemic to your kind. If not for us, the barbarity left in the wake of the Wind Dukes and their war would still reign over all of reality. But no matter, soon all of that will be relegated to the dustbin of history, as the githzerai shall be, and the githyanki not long after…"

Rorik decides to give up his left eye in exchange for a vial of the Well's water, saving the many pressing questions he has—Where is Breezy? How do I save Riverslee? Is there a way to repair my soul?—for later. Turning his Githyanki Silver Sword into a melon-baller, Rorik pops out his eyeball and offers it up to the elder brain.

Meanwhile, outside, Ra'deem is sliced across the belly by a redcap's scythe, and the necrotic energy pulsing through the weapon causes her wound to begin uncontrollably spurting blood. Brublind donks the vicious fey with his 'Shillelagh', while Jancer uses 'Remove Curse' to magically halt the unnatural bleeding. Ra'deem worries that she might be allergic to magic, or have contracted hypoglycemia from the scythe.

Pleedle gives Elspeth her warhammer and shield, and the otherwise nude dwarf defeats the howlers. Jancer heals her with 'Life Transference' before engaging the mounted widdershins again. Brublind turns the stone beneath the fey's mount to mud, and Jancer uses 'Finger of Death' to turn the rider into a zombie. While the newly-minted zombie eats its mount, they turn their attention the last howler in the pack. After an 'Enlarge' spell from a 'Wand of Wonder' turns it HUGE, the Black Antlers slay the beast.

Brublind parts the water of the river so that the party may get to the far shore, and Jancer sends his skeletons (and his new zombie) out to find Rorik. Eventually, they do, as the eldritch knight emerges from the tunnel, holding the hand of one of the skeletons. The other skeleton returns, having found something else. It leads the party to a chamber of worked stone, where there is a stalagmite that has been carved into the shape of a skull with gemstones for eyes and for teeth.

Jancer casts 'Identify' and learns that this is a shrine to Acererak! Pleedle notes that Acererak is the lich that she fought while she was away, having explored his "Tomb of Annihilation" with her other friends before going toe-to-toe with the lich himself! Jancer also remembers that Orcus had told him to seek out Acererak because he was a collector of souls—souls that could be used to bring the Prince of Undeath back to life. Jancer realizes that this shrine could be used to teleport to Acererak's lair, and makes note of where it is before the party return to Bedlam.

They head to the Scaly Dog Inn, where Torutori, Osana, Dal'zin, and Jimothy have gotten several rooms for the party to stay in. As soon as they enter, the dwarf behind the bar says,

"Welcome to the Scaly Dog Inn, when're ya' leavin'?"

"Right now."

Rorik turns and leaves. Everyone else goes upstairs. The eldritch knight comes back in after getting tired of the wind outside.

"Welcome to the Scaly Dog Inn, when're ya' leavin'?

"Right no—later."

Rorik sighs and goes upstairs, exhausted.

View
Slaad to the Stone
Chapter 63

In the heart of Limbo, a shadowy slaad swoops in on a dragon to confront the Black Antlers as they approach the Spawning Stone.

The brass dragon opens wide its maw, sending ripples through the chaos matter towards the party, causing their minds to quake with psychic pain. Osana falls unconscious from the attack and Torutori lets out a shriek, her feathers ruffling in anger. Rorik is confused and intrigued why the creature didn't breath flame, as one might expect. The beast swoops closer and its rider jumps down in front of the party, swinging its scythe menacingly.

"The Spawning Stone is NOT for mortals, I say! No more of you non-slaad shall pass!"

"Wait! We've brought our slaad friend here to see Renbuu!"

At the mention of Renbuu's name, the shadowy slaad's eyes flare and it lets out a wail,

"NEVER SPEAK TO ME THAT NAME AGAIN, I SAY!"

Now that they are so close, Rorik recognizes this being as Ygorl, lord of entropy and bringer of ends, and his brass dragon compatriot, Shkiv. He says that perhaps they should flee, but Jimothy strikes at the slaad lord with a no-retreat mentality. Pleedle happily steps up to fight beside the goliath. In the direct presence of this being, they all feel the gnaw of entropy on their forms, calling them to destroy.

While the front-line fighters battle Ygorl, Jancer notices that Osana's body is distorting and morphing, as if the invisible forces of Limbo were trying to mold her form. Things aren't going well for Jim, Rorik, and Pleedle up front either though, as Ygorl slashes into them with his entropic scythe. Outmatched by this slaad lord and his ancient dragon mount, the party disengage and begin advancing towards the entrance to the Spawning Stone. Shkiv swoops in to try and stop them, but with the help of some 'Haste' and 'Enlarge' spells, they turbo piggyback ride their way into the safety of the rune-covered edifice.

The inside of the stone reminds Jimothy uncomfortably of his time within his diamond prison. The party see that they are not alone within this little slice of law amid the utter chaos of Limbo: at the heart of the chamber float several figures, who seem to be conducting some kind of ritual upon a smaller diamond floating at the Spawning Stone's core. Rorik approaches and notices that these figures all have tentacles coming out of their robes—they are mind flayers!

"Who are you?"

One of the illithid turns, "We… are the solution."

Suddenly, the smaller diamond EXPLODES, and the Black Antlers are blown back. The last thing they see before darkness engulfs them is the illithid being engulfed in the explosion, and the walls of the Spawning Stone disintegrating around them.

Brublind awakens, his cheek pressed against a cold marble floor. He sits up, shakes his head clear, and croaks. Nearby, he sees a sculpture of a man throwing up a rainbow that arches over his head and disappears into his butt. Beside that, there is a painting of what looks like a regal feast, but the table has been overturned, the food spilled out onto the floor. Across from him, he also spies what looks like an enormous white slaad, but upon closer inspection, it is actually constructed out of thousands of tiny frog skeletons. He is in some kind of… art gallery.

He turns just as Rorik, Jancer, and Pleedleploplina begin to rouse themselves to consciousness next to him. As they do, a voice fills the gallery, echoing as if from everywhere:

"Ah, Brublind! You really did keep me waiting, didn't you? FINALLY, you come—I might have been mad, but then, it looks like you couldn't have arrived at a more opportune time!"

The transmuter recognizes the voiceit's Renbuu!

Rorik looks around for the source of the voice, and finds that it is the statue vomiting rainbows, who appears to be talking despite its, uh… condition. Before his eyes however, the voice seems to jump as it continues to speak, now coming from the painting of the overturned feast, more specifically, from the gaping hole in between the legs of a roast turkey. The sight is almost enough to make him barf himself. Life imitates art.

Renbuu tells Brublind that he summoned him here because he can change the colors of many things, and that includes other slaad. Reds and blues come to him all the time, bowing and scraping in the hopes that he'll turn them into something stronger, but its the rare slaad that actually catches his attention. Brublind has definitely done that with his actions up to this point, especially freeing so many of his fellow green slaad from the chains placed upon them by "that accursed HACK, Nolzur."

The Hierarch of Hues, Shaper of Shades, Tyrant of Tint had originally planned on a task that might have seen Brublind transformed into a gray slaad, but circumstances have changed since then, most notably—the destruction of the Spawning Stone. NOW, Renbuu has a better idea. Brublind, who is bereft of his "control gem" ( a shard of the Spawning Stone that appears in the forehead of all newborn slaad) thanks to Iggwilv, is in a unique position, and Renbuu wants to sponsor him.

"Sponsor? For what?"

"For a position as the newest slaad lord."

Renbuu explains that the Spawning Stone was placed in Limbo eons ago by Primus, the head of the modron hierarchy, in an attempt to bring the order of Mechanus to the plane of pure chaos. It succeeded only in giving some of the beings who dwelled in Limbo more permanent forms, creating the first slaad. This is why common slaad all look so similar, despite being embodiments of pure individuality. Only the slaad lords—Ygorl, Ssendam, and Renbuu himself—have slipped the bonds of the Spawning Stone and returned themselves to a state more like that of their forebears. Renbuu believes that, if Brublind is able to retrieve his control gem, he too might be able to undergo this process, which, as befits their kind's nature, is unique to each slaad.

Just then, Pleedleploplina notices that the gallery is beginning to flood with water! A pillar of water suddenly rises from the growing pool and takes on a vaguely humanoid form,

"Hey, Ren, we're all out of PopCoral, so… you should probably go to the store and get pick up some more or something."

Renbuu lets out an exasperated sigh and introduces the new guy as Ben-Hadar, Prince of the Emerald Tide and Lord of Coral, who, until recently, dwelled on the Elemental Plane of Water. He's crashing on Renbuu's couch for the time being because he was driven out of his home by a legion of devils about a month ago. Evidently, the devils undertook some kind of huge expedition to the elemental planes, and, from what Renbuu and Ben-Hadar understand, it was incredibly successful for them. "Not that you can put too much stock into their lawful propaganda, of course."

Meanwhile, Jimothy awakens elsewhere. He is in a bubble, floating through the chaos-matter. Osana and Torutori are here with him, both unconscious, as is a familiar face that the paladin hasn't seen in a long time: Ra'deem! The zerth tells Jim that she found him and his companions drifting through the chaos just in time, a few more moments and they might have dissolved into nothingness, especially poor Osana, who Ra'deem says is suffering from something called "The Flux". Jim asks about his other friends, but the zerth knows nothing of their current whereabouts, and asks the paladin if he will aid her in what, at the moment, is a more pressing matter: saving her people.

The explosion that destroyed the Spawning Stone sent shockwaves through Limbo that are causing the carefully-constructed sanctuaries of the githzerai to fall apart, sinking back into the undifferentiated chaos-matter of the plane. Only skilled anarchs, such as Ra'deem, are able to maintain stable areas right now, and she is rushing back to the great city of Shrak'kt'lor, where she fears the damage might be at its worst. Jimothy agrees to help her.

The city comes into view, the raw chaos of Limbo flooding through the streets like a tsunami, causing the buildings to morph and melt at its touch. Jim notices three nearby buildings with githzerai trapped in them! One is an orphanage that is turning into a hollow ice cube, the orphans within shivering; the second is a tall tower, where an elderly man is hanging from a balcony, which is beginning to droop around his hand; the third is a tavern that has caught fire as its roof transmutes into molten lava, an anarch barely able to stop it from collapsing onto the people within!

Jim heads to the tavern with Ra'deem, and together with the anarch, they lift the doorway and bring the patrons into their bubble of safety, which is reinforced by the other minds.

Next, Jim bolts towards the old man, who's hand falls through the balcony as the stone turns into water. The paladin wouldn't be able to reach the old man in time, and he shouts for him to imagine something soft! The old man concentrates, and is able to create a trampoline that bounces him back up, allowing Jim to swoop in and grab him.

As they return to the bubble, the githzerai watch in horror as the orphanage turns into molten metal, the screaming faces of those within writ upon the iron as it sinks into the churning chaos.

Ra'deem wills the bubble up towards a massive pyramidal arc floating over the city, which she tells Jim is the home of the great guru who's wisdom has led her people for ages. The refugees will be safe there. About that time, the rest of the Black Antlers arrive, carried on a rainbow road painted by Renbuu. They are allowed into the ark and, after being vouched for by Ra'deem, are taken to quarters.

They learn that "The Flux" that Osana is suffering from is corporeal instability—she is completely unable to maintain her own form anymore; "her will is weak" as the githzerai tell the party. Only a 'Greater Restoration' spell or similar magic could cure her, but no one here has access to such magic. Torutori takes off her hat and kneels beside her crewmate, cooing with concern.

Just then, Dal'zin comes in, having heard of their arrival! The monk's face is pale. He tells the party that the githzerai shall use this ark to depart Limbo en masse, but that no sanctuary shall await them. He confides in them that he is a member of a group known as the Sha'sal Khou, a group working towards the reunification of the gith race, and that his friends among the githyanki have warned him that their fleet is mobilizing around portals from Limbo, and that they plan on ambushing their fleeing cousins when they emerge onto the Astral Plane!

Rorik asks how the githyanki could possibly already be mobilizing if these events only just transpired. Dal'zin is not sure, but when he hears that the party believes the mind flayers are responsible for the Spawning Stone's destruction, he excuses himself, telling them that he needs to relay this information immediately. As the door slams shut, the Black Antlers are left alone with all that has happened.

View
How Low Can You Go?
Chapter 62

Collecting themselves after their battle against Eclavdra Eilservs and the Bad Boys, the Black Antlers get a call on Jancer's sending stone… from Felynnida Kron'tis.

The drow priestess has borrowed Sporp's sending stone and asks the party to come downstairs and have a chat with her outside the main gate of the temple (now that the flooding has receded). The party join their allies, including Pleedleploplina and Sporp, who are standing across the way from Fel (who Rorik now recognizes from Sigil) and a group of other drow, among them Erectus Orgasmo.

Felynnida explains that the yochlol that Jancer freed from the headmaster's office in Kabal Koribesh informed Lolth about the duplicity of Graz'zt and House Eilservs. Any hopes of an alliance between the Dark Prince and the Queen of Spiders is dead. The party notice Erectus Orgasmo tap his foot, frustrated at these words. Since it turns out that High Priestess Eclavdra was a lackey of Graz'zt all along, and that the Eilservs's obsession with collecting the Rod of Seven Parts was fueled by Eclavdra's deal with the demon prince, Felynnida is willing to let the party walk away with the abjuration and divination segments without a fight.

However, representatives of House Aleval, House Kron'tis, and House Vae argue that the Black Antlers should be punished for their actions against the slave trade— outlawing slavery in Kalfsgate, closing the drow embassy, and then brazenly starting a rebellion in the fields owned by these houses. Though Fel hates to admit it, they have a point, and she tells the party that there will have to be some kind of reparations here. Tobin Shanks and Josephus Jones step forward and say that they don't owe the drow anything, and if they want to try and take something from the party, they will have a fight on their hands.

That's when Quagmiran Stumple Esq. steps forward.

Quagmiran identifies himself as an expert ambassador on a diplomatic mission (at least, so he believes) at the behest of the Chorus of Minds, rightful rulers of Zakkencrag. He volunteers to negotiate on behalf of the Black Antlers, who have proven themselves capable allies of the Chorus. After an hour or two, things are ironed out, and Quagmiran explains that the party and the slaves they freed will be allowed to leave Urvae Ch'lloth under escort by the forces of House Despana. The only thing Felynnida wants in return is for the party to never return and never meddle in the affairs of the drow ever again—there's been enough of that for one year, thank you.

So, the party begin the march back to the secret entrance they first used to get here (now not so secret, because they lead the drow right to it). Along the way, they stop by and say farewell to the scions of House Torixaxos, which seems like it has a bright future ahead of it now that the Mother of Flesh has been returned. As they usher their army into the drider caves, Jancer notices one of the half-spider creatures watching from a distance. Floating beside the drider is a tiny beholder.

"D-Daazima?"

Having been noticed, the drider scurries away, and Jancer gives chase, finding her in one of the caves. It is indeed, Daazima Aleval, former ambassador to Kalfsgate. It seems her fears that her failure to get the Black Antlers to play ball with her people were not unfounded, and she was punished by being fleshwarped into a drider. Jancer offers to help her, and explains that he can give her back her original body—no, a body better than her original body! He convinces Daazima that now she is free from her obligations, and she can give life another chance, instead of accepting this "punishment" and giving up. The drider agrees to accompany Jancer.

When the necrodancer emerges, Tobin Shanks, already prickly at just walking away when the drow were already so weakened, isn't happy to see that they're bringing along a drider too, but Jancer intimidates him and Sporp commands the human to mind his own business! Tobin growls and does so, spitting on the ground in disgust. Rorik assures Tobin that once he gets back to Brentil Keep, he won't have to deal with the drow ever again if he doesn't want, but the archer finds little comfort in this, knowing that the dark elves still lurk beneath the earth.

Josephus Jones asks Jimothy what the goliaths can expect on the surface world after so many years, and Jim explains that they can live freely in the realm of the Hurricane Kings. Jimothy also tells them that he is working to become the King of the Giants, and that their support in that matter would be greatly appreciated. Josephus pledges the undying loyalty of the tribe to its savior and bravest son.

Along the way, the party ask Sporp about his birthplace, the Grove, and if he wants to try and seek it out now that they aren't on a time-crunch trying to stop the drow, but the myconid says that he's been away for so long that it's just a distant memory for him now. He always dreamed of leaving, and seeing the world beyond it, and now he's gotten that chance! The Grove is not home anymore, being with the Black Antlers is. Everyone is killed by how wholesome this is.

Eventually, the party reach Zakkencrag, where the Back-up Dancer has been relocated for their convenience. The Chorus of Minds thank the party for all their help, and gift them something that was found inside the Prismatic Percolator—a spirit from the heart of Mechanus, twisted by its time bathed in the chaotic energies of Limbo. Rorik realizes that this is one of the ingredients for his demon-slaying sword! Brublind is also suddenly reminded that Renbuu wants to see him, and now seems as good a time as any to travel to Limbo and try and meet with the slaad lord.

In Zakkencrag, Jimothy runs into the Ilmater-worshipping blacksmith who lent him a shield long ago, and learns that, while things are tough as the city adjusts, the blacksmith and his family weather them as Ilmater would want. He knows that it'll all have been worth it in the end. Jim and Elspeth have dinner with the blacksmith and his family that evening, sharing tales of their adventures with the commonfolk. The blacksmith admires the blink dog painted on Elspeth's shield, as well as Jim's adamantine armor.

Brublind finds Undren visiting the abandoned headquarters of the Forgestewards. The enchanter points out that he devoted his entire life to gaining and maintaining the power he held in the now-defunct organization, and that it was all for naught in the end. Brublind tells him that though things change, you find a way to adapt. The transmuter had devoted himself to the traditions of Clan Kofir for years, but when the clan fell apart because of their financial troubles, he found a way to overcome those hardships. Now look at him— he's not even a dwarf anymore! Pleedle backs this up, noting that one needs only trust in the Sea Mother's plan, trust that she will always be there to guide you, and her currents will take you to where you are meant to be. Undren is sure that he'll find such a calling, but the uncertainty of the future is… deafening, to say the least.

The Chorus of Minds agree to see to it that the freed slaves are given access to the surface through Zakkencrag, while the Black Antlers retrace their path through the Underdark back to Kalfsgate.

Along the way, Jancer uses the power of the necromancy segment of the Rod of Seven Parts to create Daazima a new body. He transfers her soul from the drider form to this brand spanking new drow form, and she is overjoyed, as is her gazer familiar. She removes her ring from the drider body, and Jim kicks it over the side, where it sinks into the dark waters. Daazima isn't sure how to repay the party for their kindness, but looks forward to trying to live life for herself, rather than for her family.

After several weeks, they finally reach Kalfsgate.

The town is on edge due to events that have played out since the party departed. As Henrietta Fairwind (who only Jancer knows is actually a ghoul servant of King Doresain) informs them, there have been some less-than-welcome developments while they were in the Underdark:

  • The war between lycanthropes and eladrin in the Vale of Aldur is spreading. Queen Cora of Brentil Keep has still yet to declare for a side, but brutal attacks have disrupted trade and spread fear through the hearts of the citizenry.
  • Drenchport has been wiped out, seemingly by a powerful storm. The Master of Gales, long brooding since the party handed Euroclydon over to Graz'zt, is nowhere to be found, and his castle has toppled into the sea.
  • Veshan ships have dealt a terrible blow against Orogamos, nearly killing the dragon turtle in an engagement where they used powerful magic to hold him. Orogamos survived, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to protect their waters alone.

Luckily, it seems the Black Antlers swimsuit calendar is selling well, so there's that.

Undren, who became a consummate politician during his time as leader of the Forgestewards, wants to be involved in the politics of Kalfsgate, and shape up this pirate haven into a functional port, as it seems the party have been lax in most of their actual administrative duties. The party agree to this, but the dwarf will be under Sporp's supervision.

Instead of attending to any of these troubles, the rest of the party decide to head to Limbo as soon as possible. They call up their old pal, Dal'zin, who sends some of his fellow monks to plane shift the party back to the plane with them. Dal'zin welcomes them, though he seems preoccupied with other matters. He does not share details of that with the party, but is happy to show off the progress that has been made by the children they saved from the slaad several months ago. Rorik notices something small, but interesting during these interactions—the individuals here only ever refer to themselves as "gith", rather than "githzerai".

The Black Antlers strike out into the chaos-matter afterwards, using the divination segment of the Rod to point their way to the Spawning Stone. After several hours, pushing through the chaos-matter, which churns against the cookie safe zone being maintained by Jimothy, threatening to engulf the party time and time again, the Stone comes into view.

Dozens of unmoving slaad float in the chaos-matter around the Stone, as if in some kind of magical torpor. The party begin winding their way through the field of slaad, closer and closer to their destination, but then Jancer sees something emerging from the chaos and careening directly towards the party:

Riding atop an ancient brass dragon is a giant, howling slaad, who's shadowy skin peels away from its skeleton, only to reappear and peel away again. The slaad brandishes a scythe that has a blade that looks like a tear in space and time. It points in the party's direction, eyes flashing red, and the dragon dives…!

View
Breaking Bad Boys
Chapter 61

Returning the Mother of Flesh to Maxiref Torixaxos, the Black Antlers prepare for the assault on the Temple of Lolth the following day while the fleshcrafter creates monstrosities to aid in their battle.

Brublind, Jancer, and Rorik go down to see how things are going in the lab. As it turns out, Liriel is also a member of House Torixaxos, and is helping Maxiref in his experiments. Maxiref asks Rorik, who is afflicted with the strange death curse that has overcome him, if he'd like to be augmented by the Mother, but the eldritch knight declines. Jancer says he's up for it though, and does as Maxiref says, offering himself up to the tumorous creature and allowing it to swallow him.

Several hours pass before Jancer emerges, touched by the fleshwarping creature's "gift":

  • His already thin form is skeletal, skin stretched over bare bone
  • Legs are now incredibly long and springy
  • Arms have become flexible tentacles with fingers at the ends
  • Skin is a scabarous shell, granting protection but making him quite hideous
  • Fingers have grown into sharpened daggers

Meanwhile, Rorik and Brublind go upstairs and consult with the lieutenants of their army of former slaves. Tobin wonders aloud what is in the basement, but they reassure him that, while it is a boon to their cause, it is best left alone. After coming up with a plan of attack, Rorik looks through the books taken from Kabal Koribesh and finds that among them is the entire detailed process of becoming a lich, as well as several powerful spells. He is concerned that there doesn't appear to be any phylactery among the artifacts. Pleedleploplina tells him that if the lich returns, they'll kick his teeth in again, she's sure!

In his diamond prison, Jimothy Jones contemplates his fate. He doesn't know how long he's been in here, as the place seems timeless. Minutes could be years for all he knows. But, he receives a few calls while so contained:

  • The first comes from Pazuzu, who's whiny, mocking voice once more tells Jim that he's been left unable to fulfill any of his so-called "duties" to his companions, leaving them to fend for themselves. What's worse, the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance with Graz'zt and Lolth working to pull their world into the Abyss, and Jimothy is completely helpless to stop it. Pazuzu offers a way out of the diamond however, IF Jim renounces his oath.
  • The second is from Maxiref's goddess, Kiaransalee, the cold mistress of revenge! She knows of Jim's past with the drow loyal to Lolth—how they enslaved and butchered his kin, betrayed him and his friends, and countless other acts—acts crying out for REVENGE. She will free the paladin from his imprisonment if he swears an oath of vengeance on both her behalf and his own.
  • The third comes from a servant of Zariel, the Angel of Zeal and archduke of Avernus. Their master has taken an interest in Jimothy, as he has proven to be an unyielding force for law, just as Zariel has always been, taking the fight to the demonic hordes when most angels are content to simply sit in Heaven and watch from afar as chaos tries to take over the multiverse. They want HIM to swear and oath to Zariel's cause and turn the tide of the Blood War in law's favor!

The paladin flatly refuses all three, but is told to consider his options as he sits, imprisoned in his gemstone jail cell, for potentially the rest of time.

Eventually, the time comes for the attack on the Temple of Lolth. If the Black Antlers don't stop the ritual and retrieve the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts from within, their entire world will meet a similar fate to Riverslee—consumed by the nightmarish Abyss.

Heading towards the temple aboard their folding boat, Brublind channels the power of his 'Control Water' spell through the transmutation segment of the Rod, and the water level of the lake beneath them rises and rises. The lower terrace of the vault of Urvae Ch'lloth, including the farms and waterfront of the city proper, is completely flooded, with the first floor of the temple itself going along with it.

A massive, serpentine wastrilith and a gang of hezrou burst from the water in retaliation, as the wastrilith claims that it is the "lord of these waters". As it prepares to attack, Pleedleploplina 'Jump's out of the boat and brings her trident down into the top of the demon's head. The party's army advances aboard mushroom cap rafts and engages the other water demons as Pleedle shouts,

"Get to the temple, my friends! I will show this… pretender the power of the Sea Mother."

With the temple growing closer and closer, the flock of vrocks, chasmes, and nycaloths spiraling around the edifice begin to swarm towards the party. The vile spores of the vrock rain down on the party, but Sporp blocks them out with his own spores. The myconid fires off 'Eldritch Blast's at the fiends and leaps onto a low-flying demon's back atop his spider spore servant as, suddenly, dozens of fleshwarped creatures emerge from the Torixaxos Estate, meeting the aerial guards in battle. Sporp relays a single message back to his friends via his rapport spores,

"I COMMAND you to save the world!"

The party disembark onto the second story roof of Lolth's temple and try to burst through one of the windows, but the window seems to absorb the blow, revealing to Rorik's shock that the "glass" was an undead shadow in magical stasis! It attacks, but Jancer takes control of it using his necromantic mastery. Rorik slices through the wall with his macuahuitl of sharpness instead, entering a vast chamber beyond.

Stalls and booths covered in all manner of goods fill the convention hall on the second floor of the temple—the heart of LolthCon 668. Twelve drow guards engage the party as they enter the hall "without passes"! Jancer's back-up dancers hold off a majority of them. Brublind animates a horde of stuffed animals that smother one guard to death, while an animated pair of tables crush another. Rorik gets into a one-on-one duel with a guard, each of them grabbing foam swords off of a table as they battle on the stairs leading up. Jancer blinds many of the guards using his jacket of scintillating colors, sending one thrashing blindly into an inflatable ballpit full of tiny beholders.

After dealing with these foes, more guards emerge from the flooded first floor and begin making their way towards the convention hall. Elspeth volunteers to stay behind and hold them off, but Jancer throws up a 'Wall of Force' and halts the enemy advance. The party continue upwards, past the third floor, to the pinnacle of the temple.

A twenty-by-twenty chamber welcomes them, filled with the dazzling light of a 'Prismatic Sphere' that has been erected around the two floating fragments of the Rod of Seven Parts held by the drow. In each corner, a statue of a bent male drow holds the ceiling up upon its back, while the battle raging outside is visible through the tall windows.

All being spellcasters, Brublind, Jancer, and Rorik are able to discern that the protective spell around the Rod pieces is made up of seven layers, each of which must be dispersed in a different manner—that, or someone must go through all seven layers in, and then back out, exposing themselves to the effects of each one. The Black Antlers wisely choose the former and get to work, freezing away the fiery red layer, and dispersing the acidic vapors of the orange layer with a magical gale.

Before they can get to work on the yellow layer, there is suddenly a point of light that zooms towards them from outside, a flash, and an explosion as a 'Fireball' lands in the room! Jimothy, from inside his gem-jail, watches in horror, helpless to protect his comrades. The windows shatter, but before the party can recover, a plague of biting insects swarms through the new openings, bade enter by an all-too-familiar voice.

Jancer uses his staff of power to produce a 'Cone of Cold' that freezes the insects, sending their frozen husks clacking to the floor. Now the party sees who their attackers are…

THE BAD BOYS!

Jorlan Despana levitates towards them from outside, his hand still licked by fire, while the arm that once ended in a gnarled stump is now a limb of adamantine. Shaela Vae glowers from her perch upside-down on the roof, her lower body now that of a bloated spider, not unlike Ilvara before her. Honemmeth leaps through one of the broken windows with a roll and a grin. Undren Well-Lanned Fightingman Stonehand Drakebrand turns visible on the roof opposite Shaela, scowling as much as she is.

Jorlan smirks, "How predictable. Did you really think we didn't plan for when the Black Antlers inevitably came running along to spoil the fun once again? Shame this will be the last time—I always found you rather amusing, but… c'est la vie."

Rorik charges forward and meets Jorlan in battle on the rooftop. He admires Jorlan's new arm, while the drow scoffs at Rorik's own. Rorik begins singing the praises of its maker, Jaraltanth Kalparanius as they fight. Honemmeth begins harrying Brublind and Elspeth, creating clouds of shadow that he bursts from with his daggers. Jancer starts throwing out 'Counterspell's to stop Undren and Shaela from using their magic, but isn't able to stop both of them, let alone Jorlan. Brublind uses 'Haste' on Jancer to make his job a little easier. Shaela inflicts Rorik with a disease called Fleshrot that only serves to exacerbate his current predicament, making him vulnerable to each blow of Jorlan's that hits. Honemmeth knocks Jancer into unconsciousness to stop his helping hand.

Realizing that he's not going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Jorlan like this, and the rest of his party is getting pretty thoroughly wrecked inside, Rorik grapples Jorlan with his mechanical arm. The drow tries crushing the prosthetic with his own adamantine one, but isn't able to before Rorik shoves him INTO the 'Prismatic Sphere'!

Electricity courses up Rorik's metal arm as he pushes Jorlan through the yellow layer (now on the outside), causing him quite a bit of damage, but eventually leaving his drow opponent TRAPPED within the sphere, unless he wants to try his luck climbing back out.

"Now be a good boy and stay in there."

Elspeth is able to get Jancer back up with her healing hands, and together, they knock Honemmeth down to size. The shadowblade crumples, unable to hurt Jancer nearly enough with the necrotic energy from his shadows (thank you, necromancer resistance). He laughs, spitting up blood,

"I only wish… I had seen the day when… males and females were equal… heh, oogh… Vhaeraun fuck me."

Before anyone can celebrate however, a portal opens, and two figures step out: a regally-appointed drow priestess, and a draegloth. She clicks her tongue disappointedly at Jorlan, who's omnipresent smirk fades at the sight of her. The party notices that Shaela's face goes pale (as pale as a drow's can) at this woman's arrival, and Undren's scowl somehow gets even bigger. She introduces herself as high priestess of Lolth, Eclavdra Eilservs.

"The Rod of Seven Parts… is mine. Nice of you mewling males to bring the rest of it to me."

The draegloth—Zinera Eilservs—runs forward to engage Rorik, and Eclavdra orders Undren to aid her daughter. The dwarf doesn't seem willing, but the eldritch knight watches as blood begins to pour from his nose. It's just as he read in Selvatarm's notes: Undren is under a 'Geas' spell, forced to serve the drow until the Rod of Seven Parts is remade, or someone removes the curse from him. Undren grumpily casts 'Haste' on Zinera.

Meanwhile, Eclavdra tears open the weakened fabric between the planes, calling forth a glabrezu known as Bezilak the Silken Fang. Bezilak takes in the battlefield with appraising eyes. "I see you do still have my number, Eclavdra. I take it you called me for business rather than pleasure this time? A shame." That's when the glabrezu notices Shaela Vae, "Ah, one of your young wards. She has grown into quite a succulent woman, hasn't she? Perhaps if you are lucky, I shall gift you with a draegloth instead, little priestess." Shaela visibly shivers with fear.

Jancer calls forth his back-up dancers once again to hold off the demon, but they are quickly outmatched by the four-armed creature. It bares down on the fragile wizards and Elspeth throws herself in front of them, her shield up. The glabrezu laughs and swats her aside.

There is suddenly a loud cracking noise, another flash of light, and then… Jimothy Jones is standing side-by-side with Rorik. The paladin doesn't know how he was freed from his diamond prison, but he has a suspicion—his heart filled with Ilmater's love once again. The Armor Bros fist bump as Jim enters the fray beside his friends!

Brublind, seeing the tome that Eclavdra used to open the Abyssal 'Gate', hears Iggwilv's voice in his head. She growls in anger—that is HER book, and Graz'zt gave it to "that dark elf hussy!" Brublind uses 'Telekinesis' and throws Eclavdra like a rag doll out a window and into the lake. Zinera the draegloth lets out a howl and lopes towards the transmuter, but Jimothy grabs her by the tail and Rorik slays her with his sword.

Shaela skitters out of view as Jim and Rorik run up to engage Bezilak alongside Elspeth. Brublind and Jancer follow after Shaela, who has healed herself of any wounds. A grueling battle against Bezilak the glabrezu ends as Jimothy and Elspeth dual divine smite the fiend, sending him back to his own plane of existence.

Shaela is cornered just as Eclavdra climbs out of the water and back onto the roof, angrily ordering the junior priestess to slay them all. Shaela attacks with her death lance, but Jancer resists the necrotic energy coursing through it. The drider is grabbed by Jimothy and sliced in half by Rorik with his macuahuitl of sharpness. The eldritch knights looks down at her as she dies and says,

"It didn't have to be like this."

"… no… no, it didn't."

Eclavdra tries to call a 'Flame Strike' to castigate the Black Antlers, but is hit with a 'Counterspell', an 'Enlarge' from a Wand of Wonder, and shoulder-checked off the roof once again by Jimothy. The party hear her hit every overhang on the way down.

The party approach Undren and Jim uses 'Remove Curse' to get rid of the 'Geas' that has held him in bondage to the drow for the past eight months. Undren stares down at his hands, shaking, and then up to Jim, saying,

"I never thought my suffering would ever come to an end… or that you lot would be the ones to end it. My prayers to Ilmater have actually been answered."

Rorik walks over and puts a hand on Undren's shoulder, "I would never leave anyone in chains, Undren Freeman Stonehand Drakebrand."

Jorlan claps condescendingly from within the 'Prismatic Sphere'. "Very touching, but can we get a move on here?"

"Oh, don't worry, baby, we haven't forgotten about you~"

The Black Antlers proceed to bring down the remaining layers of the 'Prismatic Sphere' and engage Jorlan Despana. Though they far outnumber him, the entire party is worn down from the battle, while Jorlan is still relatively fresh. He drops Jim, Jancer, and Elspeth into unconsciousness, while Rorik provides a challenge that the drow seems to be enjoying.

"You are a fine swordsman… for an iblith. Maybe someday you might even be good enough to defeat me, but for today, you can take the Rod—I've already won."

Rorik slashes at the drow as he steps backwards through a 'Dimension Door' and is gone. Humming in the air just behind where Jorlan was: two segments of the Rod of Seven Parts.

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Hidden Jim
Chapter 60

Looking to infiltrate the mage academy of Kabal Koribesh in order to retrieve the Mother of Flesh for Maxiref Torixaxos, the Black Antlers land at docks of Urvae Ch'lloth.

Rorik is disguised as Jorlan Despana, Jimothy as Shaela, Jancer as Ilvara (for the second time!), and Brublind isn't disguised at all, because he's a slaad.

As soon as they get off the folding boat, Rorik and Jancer notice some drow and half-drow punks giving them nasty looks as they lean against a wall. Jancer and Jimothy approach and start telling the "filth" to keep their eyes to themselves—they have no right to look upon priestesses of Lolth in such a way. They learn that these punks are "rakes", outcasts and non-conformists of drow society. Jancer notices that one of the half-drow are wearing a 'Night of the Long Knife Ears' shirt—Jancer's old band! He starts mentioning loudly to his companion as the rakes mosey off that there are rumors that Mye-kuhl Jancer is going to be putting on a performance in the city square, in front of the gates of Kabal Koribesh. Jancer is glad to see the rakes exchange knowing looks with each other.

As Rorik disembarks, he sees a mind flayer wordlessly commanding several mentally-dominated slaves on a nearby dock, and is hard-pressed not to intervene. Meanwhile, a hezrou demon emerges from the water and the crowd parts, putting handkerchiefs and bandanas over their noses as it passes. Only Brublind stands his ground, not realizing the hezrou is there until it's right behind him. He turns to face this similarly frog-like being, which lets out a croak. Brublind croaks back.

They wander up into the city from the lakeside, and see all sorts of awful things, finally reaching the main square, where sits a fountain with a statue of a drow priestess standing on slaves at its center. They see from a plaque that this is the high priestess of Lolth, Eclavdra Eilservs. Brublind uses his magic to mess with the plaque so that she is now "Eclovdra Eilservs". He chuckles to himself.

Jancer notices more and more rakes gathering in the square as the party hang out. Rorik notices something too—a cadre of guards making their way through the crowd with a riding lizard between them, atop which sits a familiar dwarven face—Undren! Rorik, still disguised as Jorlan, approaches and Undren instantly starts grumbling. He says that he thought Jorlan was on the island and berates the drow for sending so many guards, since he doesn't have much choice in following orders, "As you well know."

Just then, there's a thumping bass that rises in the main square. Jancer drops his disguise and teleports on top of the 'Eclovdra' statue's head, his skeletal back-up dancers taking up position around the perimeter of the fountain. The necrodancer starts doing his thing, and the rakes begin cheering and shouting. All but two of Undren's guards break off to quell this, but are soon caught up in a full-scale riot as the rakes turn the main square into a mosh pit. Amid the chaos, Undren takes off on his riding lizard and into the gates of Kabal Koribesh, which shut behind him.

The Black Antlers are able to slip use the riot as cover and slip inside themselves a few minutes later, eluding the watchmen and using Jancer's magic to protect themselves from the 'Guards and Wards' spell placed over the academy.

They start making their way through the academy's halls, Jancer using 'Disguise Self' to appear as a drow mage as he goes around, listening intently at doors. On one, he hears what sounds like someone struggling. He opens the door to find a bathroom, the struggling coming from one of the stalls. Brublind is amazed the drow have a handicap-accessible stall. Jancer knocks loudly on the occupied stall and asks if the drow inside needs any help. The belabored mage refuses any help, saying he has "the situation well in hand" between grunts.

As the party leave, Brublind casts 'Control Water' to cause the toilets to overflow, then Jancer orders his back-up dancers to hold the door shut. Water quickly begins seeping out from under the door as Jancer and the slaad hurry after their companions.

Rorik hears Undren's voice down a hall, and follows it to where a set of stairs marked 'Headmaster's Office' is guarded by armed guards. Rorik believes this is the place the Mother of Flesh is at, but Jancer advises everyone that they should continue searching before taking on any guards. Rorik stumbles across another set of stairs marked 'Library', and goes up with Brublind in tow, while Jancer and Jimothy go down another hall.

Rorik and Brublind realize that this library has no books, only humanoids standing in alcoves in the circular chambers that this staircase connects. Beside each alcove is a jar filled with fluid that a brain is floating in. They meet a mind flayer librarian who identifies themself as Ecliption, and Rorik asks Ecliption about something he's heard about called "Maanzecorian". Ecliption explains that Maanzecorian is a transcendental state of being where one is able to comprehend all knowledge. It is heretical for a singular being to seek to achieve Maanzecorian, and mind flayers can only achieve it by joining with the elder brain at the end of their life, when their brain is given to the brain pool and joins the collective knowledge of their race.

Meanwhile, Jim and Jancer find a set of double doors behind which they hear bubbling and the clink of glass, almost as if a laboratory lies beyond. Jimothy fetches Rorik and Brublind, and Jancer hears something as Jim leaves, almost like something small is scurrying after the goliath, though he sees nothing.

The Black Antlers throw open the double doors and enter a large laboratory beyond. They find themselves on a balcony with tubes and tables covered with alchemy supplies, which overlooks a muddy expanse covered in multiple pools of colorful ooze, which are being tended to by skeletons with brooms. On the far side of the chamber, a fleshy mass pulsates, its vertical slit of a mouth whistling with… snores?

A single drow female in a lab coat questions these newcomers, and is aghast at the audacity when they tell her they were sent by the headmaster to check-up on the Mother of Flesh. She claims to be the Mother's caretaker, and tells them just not to mess with any of her other experiments.

Everyone except for Brublind begin climbing down and making their way across the muddy lower level, carefully walking between the ooze pits. Jimothy, though he appears to be the skimpily-clad Shaela, isn't nimble enough in his heavy armor, and splashes into the acidic ooze, which burns at his flesh. The drow, Liriel, lets out a screech—"WHAT DID I JUST FINISH SAYING?!"

The Mother of Flesh stirs, but doesn't awaken. Rorik lassos Jim and pulls him out of the ooze. Brublind looks into the murky fluid-filled tubes on the balcony and sees small humanoid shapes floating in suspension. Meanwhile, Jancer dances between the pools, but there's suddenly a POP!

Five levitating drow wizards appear overhead. Four float in a line and appear to be apprentices to the gaunt, older figure in the front, who looks down at Jancer and smiles. He says, "STUDENTS! 'Magic Missiles'!" Seven missiles of magical force dart towards each party member, with Jancer and Rorik throwing up 'Shield' spells to block them, while Jim and Brublind are both hit square!

"Well done, students, well done. Seems we have some spellcasters of our own. Show them the might of Kabal Koribesh."

As the wizards begin to chant again, Jancer 'Misty Step's into mid-air so all four of the apprentices are in a line in front of him and uses 'Lightning Bolt', frying two and causing them to fall as they lose concentration on 'Levitate' and die!

The male apprentice who survived, Xorran Eilservs, scoffs and says, "So you like lightning, daarthir? Then let me show you, LIGHTNING!" A ball of lightning hits Jancer, then bounces to Rorik, then to Jim as he casts 'Chain Lightning'. Jancer tries to 'Counterspell', but the female apprentice, Setzia Vae, 'Counterspell's his 'Counterspell'!

The headmaster, Selvatarm Eilservs, says well done to Xorran, and is then hit as Brublind sends four large animated lab tubes flying into him, which burst on impact! Glass shards tear at the drow's flesh and fluid explodes out as the limp bodies of quicklings in fetal positions fall from the tubes to the ground. One of the four falls into the ooze and is swallowed. Selvatarm himself however, seems relatively UNPHASED by the attack and stares towards Brublind!

Before anything else can happen, the Mother of Flesh shudders from the noise! It's guttural yawn turns into a roar and Brublind freezes up and feigns a heart attack as he falls onto his back. The Mother begins firing off eggs from its mouth—one hits Brublind, another hits Rorik, another hits Xorran. A dead quickling lands on top of Brublind, while a living quickling bursts from the egg and begins attacking Rorik. Xorran is engulfed by explosive gas!

The tube quicklings stir and attack! One runs over the ooze like a water-running lizard and stabs Brublind, another goes after Jancer, and the third attacks Rorik.

Meanwhile, Jim is engaged by Setzia, who believes that the goliath is her cousin, Shaela! Setzia is the sister of Relonor from the Kaetal'sir Outpost! According to the apprentice, Shaela's branch of House Vae was butchered by Setzia's so they could seize control of the house! She tries to frighten Jim, but to no avail!

Liriel attempts to 'Polymorph' Brublind as he comes back to and throws the dead quickling off of himself, but when the slaad transforms back and laughs, she ducks under a desk. Another volley of eggs goes firing across the room as the Mother continues to thrash and roar.

Jancer casts 'Finger of Death', causing Selvatarm's 'Levitate' spell to drop, but as the drow headmaster recovers and stands again, the necrodancer sees that he RESISTED the necrotic energy of the finger! His dark skin flakes off, and his cheeks become ever more hollow as he stares at Jancer. Rorik charges in with his 'Shadow Blade' and action surges, striking a few times, including a critical blow, but Selvatarm is IMMUNE to the psychic damage due to a 'Mind Blank' spell!

A burst of necrotic energy pulses out of the headmaster, causing everyone nearby to quake as their life forces are drained. Two quicklings wither and die. Rorik feels his splintered soul scream and his flesh begin to peel as he sees a flash of the stone visage of Orcus.

Selvatarm uses 'Disintegration' on Rorik, Xorran using 'Counterspell' to foil Jancer's attempt to cancel the spell. The eldritch knight tanks the force damage, but Enrico gives a concerned squawk as his human friend struggles to remain standing.

Seeing his Armor Bro under assault, Jimothy lets out a battle cry and charges Selvatarm. Setzia attempts to push him back with a 'Bigby's Hand', but he dodges, swinging Corpsebane with all of his might. The mace strikes true TWICE! There is a BURST of blinding radiance and Selvatarm's flesh melts as he screams, and the form of the drow lich disintegrates in the glorious light of Ilmater (TWO NAT 20s—136 damage!).

Setzia, Liriel, and Xorran are blinded by this light, and the two remaining apprentices begin trying to flee, though the blind Xorran isn't able to find his way to the exit. Jancer points at him and uses 'Finger of Death' to off him, turning the drow apprentice into a zombie as his body falls to the ground. Jim pulls the remaining quickling off of Rorik and kill it as it continues to stab him (knocking him from 8hp to 1hp with its last attack!)

Setzia and Xorran's quasit levitate out of room and into the hallway. Liriel hides under a table,. Rorik walks over and sits cross-legged in front of her. "So… tell me the secret of the ooze." Liriel, blinking as her vision comes back, reaches up and gets her notepad off the table, and begins to tell Rorik that she had been trying to instill sentience into oozes by casting various spells on them and feeding sentient beings to them. Rorik is intrigued, though a little disturbed by the means.

Jancer says they should go and rob the headmaster's office now that Jim has blown him up. Liriel leads the way, unlocking the door for them. Rorik is immediately amazed by the lich's personal library, which contains a variety of incredibly rare tomes. They discover a secret door behind a tapestry depicting Lolth dominating her enemies, and Jim leaps in. Jancer follows after him, appearing in a maze. With the help of his back-up dancers, he finds the way out relatively quickly, and emerges into Selvatarm's private sanctum.

Amid the necromantic decorations, a drow woman stands in a magic circle in the room across from a desk, where a bronzed vrock talon clutches a diamond. A pitch-black orb floats beside the desk—a sphere of annihilation. Jancer looks into the diamond and sees… Jimothy. The paladin has been the victim of a Minimus Containment 'Imprisonment' spell!

Jancer gives the tiny paladin a grin—the necrodancer is honestly kind of happy to see the goliath brought down a peg. He shoves the gem in his pocket when the drow in the circle tells him to release her. He quickly realizes this is no drow, as the magic circle is meant to bind fiends. The woman's form liquefies and she becomes a golden blog with a large red eye. She identifies herself as one of the yochlol, the handmaidens of Lolth. Headmaster Selvatarm trapped her here so that she couldn't warn Lolth about the treachery that House Eilservs is committing.

Despite being high priestess of the Spider Queen, Eclavdra has aligned herself with Graz'zt, and, while the ritual will yank this mortal world into the Abyss, it won't be going to the Demonweb, as agreed, but Graz'zt's realm of Azzagrat instead!

Jancer releases the yochlol by smudging the circle, and the demon teleports away. Before leaving the headmaster's sanctum, the necrodancer asserts his will over the sphere of annihilation and takes it with him.

Filling their remaining bag of holding with Selvatarm's collection, the party book it out of Kabal Koribesh, passing the bathroom door, where water has begun to spill out into the hallway. They wind their way back to the waterfront of Urvae Ch'lloth, passing the scene of a street massacre left by the riot, which appears to have become a feasting ground for ghouls. They make it back to the Torixaxos Estate with little incident.

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Off the Chain
Chapter 59

Having made a pact with the drow outcast, Maxiref Torixaxos, the Black Antlers explore the surrounding fungus forests, and stumble upon a slave plantation on the outskirts of Urvae Ch'lloth

The party convene to put together a plan for freeing the slaves, not content to let them rot under the boot of the drow. Plus, a mass revolt will provide a lot of needed chaos to allow the party to slip under the radar practically unnoticed.

They split, surrounding the mushroom farms around the Kron'tis Estate, with Rorik, Pleedleploplina, and Sporp taking one side, and Jancer, Jimothy, and Elspeth taking the other. Rorik tells Quagmiran that he has the most important job of all—to stay in the forest to "oversee the whole operation". Rorik, Jancer, and Sporp all use 'Disguise Self' to appear as drow, with Rorik looking like a discount Jorlan Despana he calls "my original character, Borelan Despana" and Sporp appearing as a short dark elf with a sombrero.

The Black Antlers charge in on either side, past a line of mushrooms that start shrieking through pores in their caps, drawing all eyes to these attackers as they begin cutting down quaggoth ch'zat-tong and breaking the chains off of slaves. It is easy for Rorik with his macuahuitl of sharpness, and Sporp commands the newly liberated folk to rise up and fight for their right to party. The slaves seem inspired by the words, but cower as drow on riding lizards begin moving towards them.

Suddenly, a sky blue tyrannosaurus rex with flowing red hair bursts from the forest and picks up one of the overseers in its jaws, and the slaves cheer and begin fighting back!

Jancer is inspired by Sporp's words too, and fires off a 'Vitriolic Sphere' at a charging squad of quaggoth led by a drow. The acid orb crashes into them, leaving half-melted casualties that are beaten as Jimothy and Elspeth break the chains off of slaves and get them to join in on the uprising. The gates of the Kron'tis Estate fly open and more guards begin surging forward!

Jimothy and Rorik begin moving to meet them, while Jancer pulls out a flask and tosses it onto the ground in front of the charging troops. It smashes and the oil of slipperiness within splashes everywhere, sending the quaggoth and both drow commanders falling onto their backs. An armored troll makes it through however, and the Armor Bros join it in battle. Rorik has horrible flashbacks of their last encounter with one of these beasts as he reaches for a blade, and instead chooses to use his 'Shadow Blade', which slashes at the enemy's psyche rather than its body.

As they beat into the troll and the guards begin standing back up, Jancer lobs a 'Fireball' on top of them, igniting the oil beneath their feet into an inferno! Jimothy throws up his shield and is blasted back, while Rorik casts 'Absorb Elements' to infuse his blade with flame, finishing the troll. With sixty-nine slaves freed, the party lead them forward to the neighboring plantation, where hundreds more labor in bondage.

Rorik takes the western fields, riding in atop Pleedleplopasaurus and holding off the guards as the liberated begin freeing their comrades from their chains. Jancer uses his Wand of Polymorph on his lead skeleton and it becomes a skeletal viking T-Rex that he and Sporp teleport on top of as they move into the central fields, firing off magic attacks left and right at their foes, the most dramatic being a 'Finger of Death' that turns a troll into a zombie. Jimothy and Elspeth share a fist bump before calling forth their paladin steeds (September the Elephant for Jim, and Blinky, now a celestial spirit, for Elspeth) and running down the drow in the eastern fields with gusto!

Dozens of slaves die fighting for their freedom, but the drow forces are scattered, giving the Black Antlers the time to rally the liberated forces and lead them into the cover of the fungal forests. The party pick off the few enemies that choose to pursue and eventually take their army back to the ruined Torixaxos Estate.

Jimothy and Elspeth cast 'Create Food and Water' to create food to try and feed this new 240-odd man army. Maxiref fumes at the party bringing such a noticeable and easily-tracked thing as an army to his secret hideout, but is placated when Jancer points out all of the fresh corpses in the wake of the uprising and all of the corpses to come as the fight continues.

Three leaders come forward from the slave army to thank the party and offer the service of they and their fellows:

  • Josephus Jones, a humble goliath hunter who hails from the same clan as Jimothy, having been brought down here over twenty years ago after the attack that left the young Jim orphaned (and eventually led to his adoption by the Knights of the Bloody Hand). Josephus offers to help gather food for the army and track the movements of the drow in the surrounding area.
  • Artor Anvilrage, a well-bred dwarf illusionist who claims that he was kidnaped from his home and forced into servitude in the Underdark. Artor says he will help the party however he can, as well as cover up the existence of the army as best he can with his illusions.
  • Tobin Shanks, a grizzled human veteran who Rorik recognizes from Brentil Keep, as he was the man who hated drow and tried to kill Shaela Vae. Tobin says he led an expedition to try and help free slaves himself, but now that he's free, he'll be happy to continue a guerilla campaign against the dark elves.

Jimothy and Elspeth help take care of the sick and wounded. Jimothy comes upon a very bad-off half-drow, half-orc woman among them, who everyone else seems to be avoiding. The woman tells the paladin to stay back, as she contracted the terrible pox carried by the beggars in the city, but Jimothy is not dissuaded, as he is immune to disease.

"Do not worry, I carry light of god."

"There is no light down here."

"But is light in here."

Jimothy touches her heart and takes her disease with 'Martyrdom of Ilmater' (which he learned from Cripple Talth). The woman looks at her hands and tears stream down her face as she watches the lesions on them begin to close. She thanks Jimothy and hugs him.

Rorik and Tobin bond over their shared upbringing as simple farmboys. Tobin says he was trained in the bow by the eladrin after being freed from the drow the first time by Grekas and the Sixteen Rapiers, and helped defend Brentil Keep from the Kibbelese army afterwards, though he was sad to hear his hometown of Kelver's Crossing had been destroyed in the process. Rorik says he left his hometown of Riverslee himself, to pursue things that the village could never have provided, and wonders what has become of his town, which, when last he saw it, had been sucked into the Abyss, just as the whole Material Plane now threatens to be…

Artor and Jancer exchange spells, and Jancer learns that the illusionist could mask them in a mass illusion that could make it very easy for them to sail across the treacherous lake at the heart of the Vault of the Drow, circumventing the gates of Urvae Ch'lloth as they try and reach Kabal Koribesh on their mission to reacquire the Mother of Flesh for Maxiref.

Getting into their folding boat, the party pass under the notice of the demons and yugoloths swarming around the sacred island where Lolth's temple sits with the help of Artor's 'Seeming' spell (enhanced by the illusion segment of the Rod of Seven Parts). As they pass the island, Jancer feels the incomplete Rod in his pocket pointing to the temple at its heart like a magnet, almost drawing the half-elf towards the place where the drow are holding their pieces of the Rod.

Their journey over the dark waters ends, and the neon glow of Urvae Ch'lloth, stinking den of depavity that it is, welcomes them into its disingenuous embrace.

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Drow Your Sorrows
Chapter 58

The Black Antlers enter the Vault of the Drow, where they plan on stopping the dark elves from enacting their vile ritual to draw the Material Plane into the Abyss.

Driders, Brublind gets on mushroom while Jim and friends climb down cliff

Hop on bridge, breaks, drider and 2 giant spiders sneak out and attack Elspeth + Sporp while Jancer + Pleedle leap into river to save Jim

Drider runs back up cliff and escapes

Jimothy follows after cadaver collector headed through fungus forest, follows it to the ruined Torixaxos estate

"This looks like a haunted house—maybe if I kill the ghosts here, Ilmater will love me again."

Jancer: This is my new place, baby, we gotta go collect some rent!

Rorik: "Ghosts aren't even real."

"Rorik, we have literally MET ghosts."

"Nope, was clearly just Old Man McCarthy trying to scare folks away so he could build his new amusement park."

While Brublind stays outside and disarms trip wires, and spots dark shape watching him before darting away, party enter house. Jimothy punches through wall and hits something hairy, grabs clump of reddish hair. "The walls are full of Elspeths!"

"Wot?"

Rorik and Jancer go down hall while Jim and Elspeth walk into that room with their lights out. Rorik is mauled by a chwidencha, but knocks it off, and Jancer blasts it with magic missiles. It scurries away. Jim sets fire to the ruined furniture. Jancer watches a ghost come down the stairs, "Where's my money?" ghost goes through him (he takes necrotic damage, but resists some as a necromancer), the ghost goes into room where smoke billows from doorway. "BEGONE FROM THIS PLACE" in Elvish. Jimothy strikes ghost and destroys it with Corpsebane. Jancer runs in,

"Jimmy, you can't just kill my tenants! I didn't even get her money yet!"

"Ghosts do not have money."

"Actually…!"

"Rorik, you do not believe in ghost."

"That's right, but I believe in ghost money."

Pleedle puts out fire for Jancer, and they learn from Brublind that there's a big hole in the ground. They go down and find a secret laboratory in the basement! The cadaver collector is depositing bodies in front of a drow necromancer!

The necromancer introduces himself as Maxiref Torixaxos. He wants revenge against those who saw to the devastation of his house and loss of his power as favored consort of the house's matron. He believes that Lolth had manipulated his house using a shapeshifting demon to see to their destruction. Maxiref wants the party to fetch a creature that was stolen from House Torixaxos when their compound was attacked—THE MOTHER OF FLESH—which he has heard has been taken to the mage academy of Kabal Koribesh.

Party head out, see slaves in the fields below. Jimothy notices a lot of them are goliaths. Jimothy is outraged, but Rorik holds him back. They can't just go running in there. They notice one of the slaves is looking up at the party, Jimothy raises his finger in front of his helmet.

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