The Astral Gale

Towers of Ionah

After studying new spells, the group readied itself to return to the giant ruins, although a few events in Hest took precedence.

Haile discovered two new formulae and asked for Styg or Ariel to examine them. Ariel noted that one was for Oil of Slipperiness; she already knew the formula but lacked the ingredients. The other was for Oil of Acid Resistance. This seemed useful given Andra’s new spell, the mighty Death Fog. Ariel also demonstrated novel abilities: She was able to turn a block of stone into something thinner than paper, and then shatter it using one of her fractal blades. van Rijn pondered the possibilities, though she indicated that it was extremely difficult to maintain the necessary focus to push an object into a lower dimension.

Borat approached van Rijn with a problem: It seems that Tkalec had bitten his tongue off through the ball gag. Being trapped in a gimp suit had driven him mad as he decided that his tongue tasted better than pablum. Haile was consulted and discussed with the rest of the Council of Hest the fate of the ill-begotten pair. After some deliberation, it was decided to execute them and then dissolve them using Death Fog cast by Andra to ensure that only the most powerful of magics could revive them. This wad done, with Borat relishing his new role as executioner.

Eventually, though, it was time to leave. Plane Shift took Ariel, Wendeam, van Rijn, Andra, and Zell back to the giant ruins. Wendeam spoke with Thanu, the leader of the aaracokcra, who was interested in finding out about the new world, though the scouts had not yet been contacted.

Everyone descended to the giant ruins, studying what appeared to be a door with a puzzle lock sized for a massive giant. It contained three massive glass pillars. The one furthest from the door had four disks, each copper clad around a precious metal: silver, electrum, gold, and platinum, in order. After a substantial amount of work and some Auguries by Ariel, who seemed to have an affinity for such things, the disks were properly moved to the pillar closest to the door. Nothing happened until Andra discharged lightning bolts into the device, which opened the door and banished the disks back to their starting point.

Inside was a massive giant ruin with various statues. At the far end there appeared to be a much smaller hole leading to an irregular cavern. Wendeam summoned a dust devil and proceeded in further, revealing a cavern with strange looking monoliths that had bodies impaled upon them.

To be continued….

Debate with a Brain in a Jar

After dealing with Ape Romney and the gnomes, the group left to try to deal with Yakupinyage’s offer. Checking out the giant ruins the aaracockra lived on was of interest, but it was decided to return to Hest to try to get some suitable gift for Yakupinyage and to check up on happenings there. As it happened, eight giff had arrived in Hest, which soothed van Rijn’s nerves. van Rijn gave Phantine the magical tetsubo that had been captured from the oni as the loxo captain drilled the troops under his new command.

While Devin d’Ascoli indicated she wanted to return to her home, van Rijn suggested she be an agent for the Company in Hest, a role she agreed to, although she was concerned with her safety given that Master Lupo presumably knew her location. Clockwork van Rijn seemed very taken by her. She also started studying spells from Ariel’s old spellbooks.

Mercane Prime delivered the goods that had been bargained for, including several powerful spells that Andra began studying, as well as a large collection of books requested by Zell, more doses of Elixir, and a sizable chest of gold that the githzerai removed. The minotaur guard made eyes at Ariel, who was bemused at the attention she seemed to draw from randy minotaurs.

Styg used some of the Elixir to revive the Brain in a Jar, Captain Timeresh. After some initially philosophical questions about the experience of being a brain in a jar from Styg, he proved to be somewhat hostile but a font of information about the previous expedition to follow the trail of Zerthimon and the aftermath, when failure and frustration set in and the expedition was unable to proceed, leaving the githyanki among them to return to their old ways, turning some of the githzerai and enslaving or killing the rest along with the ee’ar who were part of the expedition, who uniformly refused to join. He laid out a breathtakingly nihilistic view held by the pirates, who he had said had returned to the path laid out by the founder of the githyanki race, Gith, as a predator.

However, once he got into a debate with Zell, it became apparent that Timeresh’s nihilism was born of desperation and despair and the githyanki unwillingness to return to the slavery of which the dual gith races emerged. Eventually he spoke to Zell in the gith tongue and said that he preferred oblivion or death to being a brain in a jar, in part answering Styg’s philosophical question about how being a brain in a jar was: The answer was truly horrifying, although so, it appeared, was staying in the Astral for too long. Zell was unsure how she would have reacted when he told her the state of the expedition, though she didn’t think she would have turned to piracy and would have chosen death instead.

In the end, after much discussion and debate with van Rijn and later Zell, Timeresh, in a fit of both guilt and pique combined, decided to take revenge on his former Lieutenant, now Captain Sitirthra, by giving the way he knew to the Star Leviathan corpse that made up the Gith Pirate base. van Rijn and Andra felt that with the information Voy was now gathering to update the charts, it would be likely to be able to find the pirate base.

Impassively but also somewhat disappointed, Styg indicated that van Rijn should power the treadmill that activated the van de Graaf generator after he removed the vaporized elixir keeping Timeresh alive. Zell discharged the voltage into Timeresh, who was destroyed and freed. Styg seemed at loose ends, but Ariel gave him the collection of captured alchemical samples (oni, stone trolls, etc.) and he brightened, turning his attention to such matters.

The issue of a suitably impressive gift for Yakupinyage was a vexing one and generated much debate. The mechanical crossbows captured from Yakupinyage’s apemen were repurposed into a ballista-sized mechanical crossbow as a gift for Yakupinyage at Ariel’s suggestion by the mechanical in Hest. It was felt that he would gain relatively little from it in terms of power but likely be very pleased. A few Trobriand gears were incorporated into the crossbow for added allure.

In addition, everyone who had been active recently seemed to be a bit… stronger.

Bargains with a Giant, a Mystery in Hest

The conflict with the Cloud Giant sorcerer Yakupinyage was brought to a pause when a surgically altered aaracokcra with a voicebox escorted by several apes appeared. The voicebox spoke with a tinny voice of what everyone supposed was the voice of Yakupinyage. van Rijn negotiated the return of the captive aaracokra three days hence and also indicated that more mechanical components might be available. Yakupinyage agreed and suggested that these components be sold three days hence.

Zell was put on the trail of the lizardfolk in Ambartzumian, who, it was later determined, had been recruited by Adrienne the Fire Witch, for some unknown purpose. The aaracokra scouts and Mhyrryn followed them as they scouted Ambartzumian for a new homeland for the aaracokra.

Everyone else returned to Hest, finding that Orixia, Clockwork van RIjn, and Borat the Bugbear were holding off an angry crowd who had insisted on voiding two humans. The ringleader of the crowd was the tiefling butcher Meerk. The two fellows proved to be the hapless but horribly destructive rogues Tkalec and Korban. They had followed Nicholas van Rijn, their onetime business partner, whom they’d stranded, looking for revenge on him. van Rijn, who was nowhere to be seen but was now selling art objects from a world called Balaton in Hest through a now-deceased agent named Sumegh.

When the crowd was dispersed, van Rijn noticed a figure wearing a moon amulet with the symbol of Selune. A search was mounted, and the group found that the figure had gone through the 8-sided gate. Inside they found an obviously Feebleminded half elf that van Rijn recognized, the famous courtesan Devin d’Ascoli, a half elf who ran Selune’s Kiss in the city of Lion’s Bridge in his homeworld.

After capturing Devin d’Ascoli, Andra used an Antimagic Shell to suppress the Feeblemind. This proved to have been likely cast by a Master of the Festrilan Mage Guild named Lupo de Lucarello, who is a Guild ambassador. He was one of her clients but “not one she enjoyed.” She remembered very little of her experience, just going to Lupo’s home. Andra realized that Feeblemind would likely block out memories so it was unclear if any were there to be investigated.. After some more discussion it was revealed that she was an agent for the Countess and had been an agent for the Count before that. It seemed that the Guild ambassador sold her to someone, with Tkalec and Korban—-now safely imprisoned in Borat’s special creation he called “gimp suits” and subject to ever-increasing but carefully nonlethal humiliation and “punishment” by the creepily sadistic bugbear. It was decided they should wait the judgment of the God Machine. Devin preferred to be restored and was rilling to risk the Rod of Law to avoid being Feebleminded. It worked but she seemed to age slightly after it. She stayed in the tower in Hest, feeling safe there for the moment, but was eager to return home as soon as she could. Around this time, Orixia was called to the scene of Meerk’s murder. He’d had his throat cut neatly with his own killing blade. No clear culprit was in the offing, however, even after thoroughly searching. Zell was called back from Ambartzumian and then searched for clues but none were to be found. van Rijn gave the description of his ne’er do well cousin Nicholas van Rijn.

More searching in Trobriand’s laboratory commenced, looking for parts to trade to Yakupinyage, without giving him anything of great importance.

Styg approached the party with an update on his research on restoring the Brain in a Jar. He noted that the torpedo fish he’d tried had revived it for a while but that magical electricity would be too damaging. He also had to soak it in a solution of void salts and palm sugar. Voy indicated she needed to take observations and decided to join Captain Yna Emet’s crew, now made up of former courtesans rescued from Sitirthra’s Pleasure Palace. Styg was reluctant but Andra felt that it was time for Voy to travel. Phantine had returned with a large crew of giff, and took over as city captain, freeing Orixia—-frustrated at dealing with squabbles among merchants—-to travel with Voy.

Andra, Ariel, Zell, van Rijn, and Wendeam returned to the aaracokra and briefly explored the giantish ruins on which the aaracokra dwelled. A strange electrical construct was found but left for later. Soon the group departed for the rendezvous with Yakupinyage to deal with gears and such. A distinguished appearing apeman with silvering hair and a robe, one Ape Romney, was waiting along with some apemen soldiers and an “expert” who proved to be a gnome working for Gnelam Skoradinssen… an unwelcome name, given that Skoradin, the gnomish priest of Talos was an old (though vanquished and deceased enemy) who had build many horrifying gadgets. However, the gnome identified the gears as being “Trobriand work”. Zell eavesdropped on his conversation with the distinguished apeman and realized that the gnome insisted on buying everything. The apeman’s bargaining position thereby undermined, van Rijn took him for nearly all the money he had, but left a bit back. Eventually this led to an invitation to visit “Prince Yakupinyage of Cloud Castle”, but only if a proper gift was proffered.

The Stone Trolls

To stave off recruitment of trolls to Yakupinyage’s nascent army—-as well as to feed their insatiable desire for alchemical components—-the group decided to attack a group of trolls found on the road. The fight was pretty brutal as the trolls appeared to be elementally-touched and were very good at hiding in the rocks. They ambushed the group with thrown boulders. However, after a nasty fight they were finished off and harvested. Off in the distance, Yakupinyage’s castle could be seen, floating.

Meeting Theodorus

The aaracockra scouts returned with Myhrynn, having been attacked by some apemen in the service of Yakupinyage. More of the aaracockra had fallen and Myhrynn was sorely wounded by the accurate shooting of the apemen, who were guarding a caravan of some sort.

Wendeam and Ariel went ahead to try to use the portal to summon van Rijn, Andra, and Zell, avoiding a long mountain journey. The caravan was moving down a switchback in the road where it went down a steep slope, which seemed like an ideal ambush location. The apemen were riding bird mounts and seemed alert. The caravan itself had a massive wagon drawn by a grunting and straining ettin. A wizard riding a chestnut stallion and another human rider on a bird completed it.

Wendeam summoned the dust devil, preparing to send it across the stream. Zell tried climbing down the ravine to cross it, hoping to ambush the outrider across the stream. Unfortunately the githezerai rogue fell when a rock broke, and the ambush was broken.

The apemen reacted with coordinated ferocity, using whirring mechanical crossbows to pepper any target they could see with bolts. Ariel and Wendeam warded off their bolts while van Rijn and Andra used destructive magics. The wizard and the other human disappeared from view while the ettin advanced, throwing boulders. Unfortunately at this point the wizard rallied, throwing a fireball—-warded off by Andra’s sagacious Minor Globe of Invulnerability—-but the apemen seemed to draw bead and peppered Ariel with bolts. She retreated behind a boulder to avoid t hem. The wizard was clearly using Improved Invisibility because while he appeared after the spell, he rapidly disappeared again.

The other human proved to be a polymorphed ogre of some sort, dressed in outlandish clothes carrying a massive iron-bound club. Having Andra, Ariel, and Zell packed up with Wendeam in the way was a big temptation. The ogre breathed forth a massive cloud of cold, which Zell managed to avoid, Ariel being just out of the range. However, Andra and Wendeam took it, leaving both quite hurt. van Rijn was simply not nearby, having engaged in a magic and missile duel with one of the apemen.

At this point, Ariel used the fractal blades to bisect the obviously incredibly deadly ogre, killing the erin in the process. Zell chased after the invisible wizard, realizing that he was a threat that needed to be dealt with. However, with the rest of his troops dead he struck his colors and surrendered to Andra.

Theorodus proved to be a wizard and claimed to be a peer of the slain Gurwulf. He expressed surprise at the fact that Andra was a man and not dressed in the garb of the swamp, which seemed odd. His story proved to be this. He had been hired by Yakupinyage at a tavern—-the story was a bit bizarre, though strangely compelling to Andra—-to escort a caravan of goods. He indicated that Yakupinyage was “a fell master” and that he was not sorry to have been defeated so he could return to the tavern.. As he had been defeated, he surrendered the caravan contents, which proved to be a large collection of various mechanical and clockwork parts, including a mysterious gold tube and a strange black rod with a glass sphere on the end. These latter seemed ominously reminiscent of the mechanical parts that had been found in Trobirand’s laboratory and later incorporated into the God-Machine of Hest. Ariel shrunk the entire wagon down and van Rijn stored it in his Bag of Holding, along with the crossbows, the club of the ogre, and other items. Ariel also harvested the ettin and ogre for alchemical components, using a large syringe. The corpses of the apemen were left for the scavengers.

Theodorus indicated that Yakupinyage was building some kind of magical device in his castle and that the parts were for it. The clockwork parts had been purchased from a merchant named Kubetonn who was from a city known as Karadur. Kubetonn proved to be a goblin of some sort. He drew a picture of it, which proved to vaguely resemble a Master Gate, one that would allow entrance to the Vale of Aqaa. However, it seemed oddly malformed and containing other protuberances. Andra and van Rijn argued about negotiating with Yakupinyage, with van Rijn seeming to favor negotiating, but the tentative word was to attack him.

Andra accepted Theodorus’ parole and Theodorus indicated that he wanted to return to the tavern, which he said was only a few days away. van Rijn pondered going there but Andra thought that that would be… very dangerous to him in particular. As a battlefield seemed a poor place to camp, some searching turned up a better spot where one of Blaise Radlock’s sphere spells was employed to provide shelter.

Later on, the group came across a group of odd looking goblins wearing identical blue robes and bearing small blunderbusses. After some bizarre discussion they proved amenable to joining Andra. More travel ensued, and a war band of obviously chaotic gnolls was avoided. However, after more journeying and nearing the location of Yakupinyage’s castle a band of war trolls seemed to be wandering. Not sure whether they were working for the cloud giant, the group decided to ambush them.

Honoring the Pact

After departing the vault that contained a part of the Rod, the group—-somewhat beat up—-returned to the Lizardfolk town to rest. Andra needed a long time to recover. Wendeam and van Rijn spoke with Myhrryn, the Ee’ar survivor of the Vault. She seemed… off. Once she was outside she seemed better, but refused to go into any building with enclosed walls and to fear even roofs.

More scouting revealed a Beast of Chaos—-their trails not being subtle it was easy to follow—-and Wendeam, van Rijn, and Myhrryn killed it using arrows and crossbow bolts from the sky. The beast proved to be tough and hard to hit but did not require magical ammunition. Upon approaching it with the Rod it appeared to change back to a mundane animal.

As Andra recovered, he worked on many cosmological calculations of the location of Ambartzumian. He also spoke with the lizardfolk but felt alienated from them. Ariel studied their herb lore.

Wendeam continued scouting and, strangely, heard a voice in his mind: “We call on a Lawgiver. Honor the pact! We need aid!” He ignored it but over time the voice grew louder. Eventually he asked what to do and felt a strong pull, and knew how to get there to the askers, though he knew it was not in this plane. He answered the call and appeared, floating above a strange temple of massive proportions with a flock of birdmen—-the aaracokra—-doing an elaborate dance in the sky. An older one, the shaman who led the dance, approached, and invoked the old pacts. Wendeam realized that these pacts were true and saw that the aaracokra were pressed by massive winged apes, who were approaching in the distance. The shaman, Thanu, spoke in Auran about how the grahluks were in the service of a cloud giant sorcerer named Yakupiniyage, who enslaved the aaracokra in his cloud fortress a day’s flight away.

At van Rijn’s behest, Ariel determined the location that Wendeam had traveled to and began opening the portal. Andra and van Rijn chose to go, and Myhrryn, somewhat savagely, picked up her bow to go with. Both were prepared with flight.

Wendeam began a crossbow duel with the grahluks, who proved to be able shots themselves. The aaracokra began flying around wildly and two with bows returned fire themselves. At this point van Rijn, Andra, and Myhrryn appeared. van Rijn moved up to interpose to prevent the grahluks from entering melee, calling one out to duel. Andra used Chromatic Orb to paralyze one, which fell to the ground. Archery fire brought down a third, which continued its cruel barrage of crossbow bolts. The battle went on for a bit. van Rijn began a duel with the one remaining grahluk but nobody seemed to accept it, most notably the aaracokra, who began to barrage it with javelins and arrows. Eventually all the grahluk were killed.

After more cosmological calculation, Andra determined that this plane was yet distinct from any other place he had been but determined its location. He used Sending to have Ariel open the gate again, but assured Thanu that, after the chimera in Ambartzumian was defeated, the group would return to deal with the cloud giant.

A Fight with Corrupted Followers of Zerthimon

Ariel miniaturized the incapacitated Andra and put him in her pocket. When the Rod of Law approached the githzerai wizard, he disintegrated, seemingly undone by the Disjunction he had been casting.

Not knowing what to do, Zell proceeded back through the doors, hoping to scout out the passage out and wondering what had happened. Unfortunately she was attacked by her former compatriots. The ee’ar captain, an elf lightly armored but well-muscled to support her wings, had a mad look in her eye and turned on Zell, joined by the two githzerai warriors, who appeared to be even worse, possibly drained of life by whatever had held them in stasis for so long. Meanwhile, van Rijn began skirmishing with the two elven warriors, who also betrayed signs of madness. They shot at him with arrows through the bars.

Zell was distraught and attempted to reason with them. The four warriors, two githzerai and two elves, proved to have become some sort of wraith but the captain managed to maintain a tenuous hold on sanity. However, the warriors were more than challenge enough, managing to knock Zell out of the fight. When that happened the ee’ar captain, who had been quelled and only parrying, turned on her former soldiers, who were tough opponents whose attacks drained strength.

Ariel’s fractal blades, however, proved to be their undoing, along with Wendeam’s dancing spear and summoned Dust Devil and van Rijn’s use of everybody’s favorite Magic Missile.

The Rod of Law

The hidden vault of the vaati was opened.

Wendeam and Zell scouted ahead, revealing a fork in the road. van Rijn and Andra checked the door behind but realized the door was not openable… ominous. Each way revealed a substantial room with figures in it that appeared to be… frozen in time? It was hard to say. The northerly route had two githzerai and an ee’ar. The southerly route had two elves. Zell recognized all of the figures as having been on her expedition.

Each ended in a portcullis blocking the way forward. The northerly route also proved to have an open door that led to some constructs that Wendeam identified as being of the bledrudeam caste, the abjurers. However, what they did was unknown.

After much deliberation and careful exploration, Wendeam summoned the dust devil, which scouted past the portcullises, though it lacked the intelligence to provide much information. It did identify a large room further in. It failed to identify any mechanism to open the portcullises, though.

Zell decided, perhaps impulsively, to teleport through the grating and Wendeam used his tracking power to follow her. Ariel decided to do so as well. Andra and van Rijn readied to Dimension Door if things got hot, though they didn’t.

Zell searched for a mechanism but didn’t find one. Wendeam called her over to the remaining room, which contained yet another figure, frozen in time, this time a githzerai casting a spell. Zell knew him as well. He was an archmage and one of the leaders of Zerthimon expedition. Ariel, however, did find a mechanism and the portcullis was opened.

van Rijn noticed that the spell the gilhzerai was casting was the mighty Disjunction… however, he appeared to be caught in the ultimate moment of the spell. In the same room as the githzerai wizard was another bledrudeam construct, clearly very powerful. It appeared to be a vault.

Once again, after some deliberation Wendeam decided to enter the vault. He went in disappeared, being trapped in a bizarre maze he needed to find his way through.

Outside, however, two bizarre entities emerged, hostile to those in the room, perhaps explaining why the githzerai was casting a potent spell.

The entities seemed to be strange distortions in space.

The fight was dire without Wendeam. Everyone but Zell was surprised. She interposed herself to protect Ariel. The other entity attacked Andra, damaging him. The entities proved to be extremely damaging and difficult to attack, given that they were only in the sync of time part of the time. Coordination was clearly needed. It turned out the entities were also able to resist Ariel’s non-magical attacks. However, they did take damage from mundane weapons and were slowly whittled down. However, at some point when they appeared to be nearer to dissipation, there was a… gap in reality and both Zell and Andra ended up sorely wounded. Once again Andra was knocked down by damage. However, when van Rijn killed one, his time appeared to be shifted into a higher speed. This helped him, and he whittled the other down, though Zell killed it and was similarly affected.

Once Wendeam found his way to the center of the maze he saw an artifact covered with runes of law. He took hold of it and was deposited outside the vault, holding a fragment of the Rod of Law.

With deep certainty, Wendeam felt that he’d done the right thing… and yet Lord Steiner was pleased with the outcome.

Ascend to the Temple and Fight with Spyder Fiends

The group returned to the first village by way of Dimensional Folding.

van Rijn (assisted by Zell) and Joliffe negotiated before Joliffe found a hidden jeweled bracelet which she used to open a portal much like the one the Mercane

The negotiation was over the group staying in Ambartzumian to deal with leftover problems. Zell pointed out that it is unlikely the Mercane will consider this too favorably given that they would expect the group to clean out the yuan ti for their own reasons.

Dimensional Folding was used to return to the lizard folk village. More elven villagers had escaped from the lightly guarded temple the yuan ti dwelled in. They thought there might be more captives but didn’t know.

Phantom Steeds used to climb the stairs with a shrunken Ariel carried by Wendeam. Along the way there was broken terrain with the signs of a legendary monster, the chimera, along with some other bizarre beats. One was found dead—-signs it once was a histachii—-surrounded by dead vultures and no insects. Its flesh appeared poisonous.

Eventually the ruins of the temple were entered. There were many, and clearly the complex had been built on many times by many different people. Near the main temple there was a penned-up Beast of Chaos, which Wendeam identified as being created from ordinary creatures mutated when the Queen of Chaos’ attention focused on a world. However, it seemed to be staked out like a domestic animal. When approached it charged and attacked, and was put down, though it appeared to be quite dangerous and likely to pass its instability onto those attacked.

There appeared to be no sign of the yuan ti.

Inside the temple there was a statue showing a vaati of the haikjadeam caste, the paladins. Other statues were copies in the style. As Wendeam advanced, several horrible wolf-headed and spider-bodies demons, the dreaded spyder-fiends that are the degenerated offspring of the Queen of Chaos and Miska the Wolf Spider, dropped down from hiding in the ceiling. There were several smaller ones—-kaaku and spithraku—-led by a larger one, the dreaded phirasazu, which was festooned with weapons, including a mechanical crossbow and some double sized scimitars.

The always sharp-eyed Zell was the only one not surprised. The spyder-fiends attempted to use their webs to trap the group, but were foiled by good dodging or by Rings of Free Action. Zell, not being able to make use of sneak attack, threw adamantine spheres at one of the lesser fiends, injuring it. The sypder-fiends also began changing blasphemous statements which shifted odds in their favor. In addition, some of them began summoning others of their kind and the greater fiend used Mirror Image on itself and took shots with the crossbow.

Recognizing how great a threat fiend summons were, Andra used fireball, though not to nearly as strong an effect as he’d hoped, as the spyder-fiends proved to be resistant. However, they were not resistant to Wendeam’s spear or Ariel’s fractal blades, and many of the lesser ones were dispatched before they could summon more. Zell picked off some, and van Rijn, using Oil of Impact, enchanted some bullets to attack the greater one. He later used Magic Missile to strip the phirasazu of its images to help his companions attack it. Andra used a Chromatic Orb to attempt to paralyze it, but it resisted.

The phirasazu proved to be a mighty combatant, however, and managed to knock Wendeam down, nearly slaying the vaati. However, Ariel’s fractal blade once again bisected it, sending it back to whence it came.

Rest was in order and the Dimensional Folding was once again employed to return to the elven village, but not before Zell found several more villagers who had been hiding and ascertained that the vaati statue in the temple hid a secret door. After receiving some healing from the grateful villagers and Ariel’s spells, Dimensional Folding was used to return to the temple, making haste in the event that someone else—-Lord Steiner being a prime suspect—-arrived first.

Zell puzzled out the lock and opened the door. All felt that something momentous was about to occur.

Deja Vu All Over Again

After a nice rest in the lizard man village, Andra was questioned by the lizard men. They expected that he would be better at their ways. Andra pondered what he’d lost. They also said that they’d heard Adrienne the Fire Witch of Tatalia was nearby. Andra remembered her from his time in Vorion, when she’d aided him, van Rijn, and Ariel when they were fighting with Lords Quick and Steiner. Setting out on the mission, the group was led by one eerily named Korbac to the site of an ambush. There they found a discarded and partially disassembled ballista along with mostly eaten human remains… and a pennon of the hapless Gerwulf… what happened here with the rakshasa was anyone’s guess. Andra suggested that Korbac should attempt to tame the serpent flies.

At this point at the crossroads there waited an armored figure on the back of a great black-coated destrier. The figure had the eightfold arrows of Chaos emblazoned on his chest, but a flag of truce flying. He indicated that his master, a Lord Steiner, desired to parlay. He demanded oaths “in the name of The Gray Lords, in the old fashion” but nobody knew who they were. Ariel wondered if The Reiga—-the mysterious artist that was on Hest, who had reappeared more than once—-was one.

After some deliberation, the Warrior led the group towards a camp containing a massive pavilion. There were two hill giants tending an ogre roasting over a firepit. In addition there were several uncomfortable looking yuan ti waiting outside.

Waiting inside were yet more yuan ti, including the hapless yuan ti sorceress who had escaped from several fights, and the corpulent Lord Steiner, unwelcome and seemingly none the worse for wear despite last being seen torn apart by the Adamantine Golem of Law in Vorion, a world away. Steiner was accompanied by a pale looking woman he introduced as Nostalia. In addition, the hapless Joliffe, agent of the Mercane, was chained up to his chair. Lord Steiner happily greeted the group, offering food and drink, which were refused. He also inquired whether “the lovely Ariel” would have sex with him and Nostalia, but that too was refused. He mused about having met Andra in a different incarnation as Kong Ming. He wanted them to swear by “the Dead God Darnizhaan”… who was possibly the Gargantuan Gorilla. Steiner was, whatever else, consistent as a source of information, albeit often unwelcome information. Steiner also indicated that van Rijn would come to a “greater understanding” and come to join him in his acknowledgment of Gaurak the Glutton, the Lord of Chaos that Steiner served.

He seemed to want the group to take Joliffe and promise to depart this world. Knowing that no deal of Steiner’s was a particularly good one, this was refused. Haggling went back and forth about the exact meaning of it, until Andra, tiring of the discussion, decided to cut the Gordian knot and take Joliffe, hoping that he’d found a loophole in the truce, although he realized he’d need to move mundanely as the entire pavilion was under a Teleportation Ward.

Alas, the yuan ti, ever treacherous, attacked first, an invisible assassin stabbing van Rijn, poisoning the Freiporter. She then leapt over to be adjacent to Ariel, hoping to damage her and preventing spellcasting. The battle was joined, with the quick-witted Zell aggressively attacking the assassin, cutting her and getting into a flanking position with Ariel.

Steiner was unsurprised and backed away with Nostalia, fingering his cane, carved with many devouring insects with the head of a gaping maw. He indicated that the yuan ti were fools and seemed to indicate that he would not participate in the fight. Nobody wanted to attack him lest he join the fight, unleashing his deadly Creeping Doom. He held off for now.

The yuan ti were nearly enough, however. There were two large yuan ti abominations there, the sorceress, and the ones outside, along with the assassin.

The assassin tried to kill Ariel, thinking she was vulnerable, but not reckoning with displacement. The abominations meleed Andra, who had the freed Joliffe and Wendeam, trying to block their escape. The sorceress tried to attack Andra with Magic Missiles but was foiled by his Minor Globe of Invulnerability which protected him and Joliffe. Ariel’s fractal blade sliced into them, and killed several of the lesser histachii along with damaging the abomination and halfbreed. Andra fireballed the north half of the pavilion. Steiner winced but did nothing. van Rijn used some of the herbal remedies given by the villagers to stave off the poison and leapt over towards the assassin.

The battle continued, with Ariel continuing to cut them down with the fractal blade after the pureblood assassin and sorceress were both killed, using it to block out the halfbreed and remaining histachii. However, the abomination meleeing Andra hit hard, and in a series of blows, felled Andra, who was near death. Some timely elixir from Wendeam saved him. Eventually the last yuan ti were dispatched, though the fight was up close and desperately bloody.

The group parted from Steiner, who, true to his word, allowed them to depart….


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