Some Flare Out

Session 19
The Final Assault: Part 2

The Pain of the One

Left in deafening silence after their confrontation with Rahin, the party rests briefly to recompose themselves before continuing through the only exit. They make their way to a four-way intersection, and begin to ask Grant for directions and specifics on where they are in the compound. As he begins to describe their choices, a ghostly apparition passes through one of the doors and flies past them towards another. Though most of the party is simply confused, Lawrence vividly recalls the figure as Arturus, exactly as he appeared in the crystal chamber on their first visit to the compound. The door from which Arturus entered violently swings open as wave after wave of orc and human soldiers charge, tight on Arturus’s ethereal heels. The markings on the orcs brand them as members of the Halfleaf tribe, and both Kag’gar and Archibald energetically lead the charge against their foe. They follow Arturus through the central exit, which Grant explains leads to the primary laboratories. Trusting in their allies to hold their own for the time being, the party chooses the door leading to what was previously Cassandra’s tertiary lab, where she housed her private and most sensitive tests.

They pass first through a chamber that reeks of rotting flesh and the entrails of a score of beasts. The test subjects they can see appear to be different animals with strange grafts; some have limbs which their bodies would be unable to support, others have clearly incompatible body parts sewn on in strange locations. All of them appear dead, though some bodies are still noticeably warm.

Continuing into the next chamber, the experiments become at once more of an affront to the senses. The beasts in this chamber have been mutilated in ways too gruesome for a normal person to fathom; several of them have been turned inside out, or had their internal organs replaced with parts of another creature, or simply removed and not replaced at all. The expressions on the faces that are still intact enough to reveal such information point to the fact that these creatures endured terrible agony before their lives finally, mercifully, ended.

The third chamber continues the trend. The creatures therein have been so horribly altered, hacked, sewn, and burned that most of them are indistinguishable from a mass of flesh composed of organs of a dozen different animals from a dozen different planes of existence. The smell is overwhelmingly foul, and it is a strain on each member of the party to simply resist the urge to retch. Though they are all affected by the scene, Petra seems the most perturbed; whether this is due to the clear misuse of the most holy gift from her god or the brazen disregard for the natural order, none can say.

In the fourth chamber the party finds not an experiment room, but something resembling a dumping ground for unneeded creatures and body parts. The design of the room resembles a large descending cone, with caked-on blood and limbs crusting the sides. Deep scratches line the walls and the cone itself, evidence to the escape efforts of all manner of creatures from whatever fate awaited them through the tunnel at the bottom. They skirt the cone itself and make their way, as quickly as they can, to the door on the opposite side.

Upon opening the door, they are met with a welcome breath of clean air. The chamber beyond marks the end of those experiments, and the party gladly shuts the door behind them, sealing the wretched stench once more. They light the torches in the room, revealing three large steel cages; two of them are empty, the protective runes around them dispelled, and the bars bent by some mighty force in one smooth motion. The third cage, however, still has active runes around it, is sealed, and is far enough away from the torches as to be still not clearly visible. The party can make out a small girl, seated on the floor with straw-colored hair completely shielding her from view. Barely audible above the sound of their own breath is the sound of her soft sobs. Though normally the only member of the party to cope well with stressful situations, Loren is unusually on edge once he hears her sobs.

They make their way around the runes to where they can see her more clearly, and set up an ambush in case she is yet another insane experiment. They call “Cassandra,” as a guess, but she does not respond. Lawrence uses his magic to call out to her in Arturus’s voice; she responds to this by shivering slightly and attempting to hold back her sobs, but does not say anything, and returns to her sobbing within moments. The party decides to leave the girl there and continue out of the tertiary labs through the portal in the room, which Grant explains leads back to the primary labs.

Beyond the portal they find an enormous and bloody battle: the mercenaries and orcs have clashed head-to-head with a horde of aberrations, devils, demons, and experiments; they are presumably the creatures Arturus had been summoning and using. Though they are fearsome foes, the party’s allies seem to be holding their own ground, and trying to cut their way through the masses to a set of double doors beyond.

Her patience with Arturus and his experiments depleted, Petra uses her druidic powers to take on the form of a bulette, the fearsome and mighty land shark. With the party dispatching enemies around her, she makes a thunderous charge towards the spearhead of their allied forces, towards Archibald and Kag’gar. Together, they all cleave their way through the creatures and burst through the door. Lawrence calls out to the Green Scale clerics and tower shieldsmen to form a wall to block the demons from assaulting their rear, and Petra shapes the earth in the wake of her burrowing to force the demons into a bottleneck.

They emerge into one final chamber: here they see three greater devils, all standing bloodthirsty and ready to engage the party. From behind a glass wall they see Arturus, slightly out of breath but with a smug grin gracing his visage. Overtaken by rage, Petra continues her charge through the earth under the devils’ feet and bursts through on the other side of the glass; Grant, Archibald, Kag’gar, and their soldiers all remain to face off with the three devils.

The party stands face-to-face, not with Arturus but with a glass cylinder. Inside the cylinder, suspended in some kind of fluid, is a porcelain-skinned, straw-haired girl of breathtaking beauty. She is clearly alive and unconscious. From beyond the cylinder a door opens, and Arturus steps forward, panting. He slams a chair down in front of him, puts a dagger to the neck of the old, silver and straw-haired woman seated in it, and yells sternly, “Make one move and she dies.”

Though they have never seen her before, all members present except Loren realize that she is Cassandra and make no move towards her. Loren begins to run towards his mother, but Khaber holds out his arm and grasps the boy solidly. The party begins to inch around the cylinder to get a better view of the scene; Arturus presses the dagger’s tip against Cassandra’s neck in response.

Sim attempts to throw Arturus off guard with a few taunts, to no avail. Lawrence slowly nocks an arrow, but does not pull the string taut, eyes fixed firmly on Arturus’s hand for the slightest motion. With no desire to preserve the life of a woman as guilty as Arturus himself, Petra begins another charge. Seeing this, Loren charges after her, somehow fading from sight as though under the effects of magic. Making good on his promise, Arturus stabs Cassandra in the neck, but responding to the tensing of his arm muscles, Lawrence fires one clean and precise shot. The arrow catches Arturus’s hand just as the dagger begins to break the skin, and pins it to his chest. The dagger clangs to the ground, and Cassandra bleeds slightly, but remains alive.

The party descends on Arturus from all sides with a fury none of them have ever exhibited before. Loren, his body recalling the forgotten powers of Markham Ovren, tears into Arturus with mindblades. Petra strikes with the continued rage of her new form. Sim strikes carefully but vehemently, aimed solely at striking true once with the Gith silver sword. Lawrence fires arrows as though he were fighting to take down an army, not one weak and tired man. Khaber, however, waits for Lawrence to give him the final cue.

Though physically frail and clearly sleep-deprived, Arturus’s mental powers still afford him a great measure of strength. He lashes out psionically twice at the party, screaming at them from inside their own minds before attempting to directly stop Sim’s heartbeat; with great focus, Sim is able to keep himself from cardiac arrest and continue fighting.

When Arturus begins to weaken, Lawrence signals Khaber for the final blow. Woolf charges up into the air, under the effects of Petra’s magic, while Lawrence fires another volley down on Arturus. The final arrow, imbued with the power of benign transposition, puts Khaber in his place 40 feet up into the air; he crashes down on Arturus, opening him from shoulder to thigh. As he lays dying, Sim brandishes the silver sword and severs Arturus’s head from his body.

No sooner does Arturus fall than the room begins to fill with a familiar soft Elven lullaby. Turning towards the caged girl, the party now sees that she has opened her eyes and is singing. Instantly, Sim, Khaber, Lawrence, and Petra find themselves in a sea of blackness not unlike the astral plane, but clearly different as well. The lullaby still sounds strongly in their ears, but no other sounds can be heard, and both Loren and Cassandra are nowhere to be seen. Each member of the party save Sim now finds themself facing off against Markham Ovren, Rakhoum, and Arturus, fresh and ready for battle. Sim sees his friends staring angrily at each other, and the girl from the cylinder now flying free, singing her song.

As they begin to battle each other, strange realizations fall upon them one by one; Petra realizes that Rakhoum must be dead, for she wields his spiked chain; Lawrence yells and begins to see himself yelling before him, and he couldn’t possibly exist in two places at once; Khaber sees Arturus using arcane magics, and realizes that based on their research his talents lied only in psionics. While the three of them fight with their own sanity, Sim attempts to land a blow against the girl. All of his attacks fall short of her, deflected by some invisible barrier.

Once the members of the party identify their own paradoxes, the invisible barrier surrounding the girl starts to appear and crack. By the time they have all snapped to their senses and can see her, it has shattered fully. However, no sooner does the barrier fall than they see white tendrils flowing forth from her body, connecting her to spirit forms resembling all manner of creatures, from the beasts of the forest to the humanoid races to the Aboleth, Illithid, and Beholder aberrations. With each blow that they land on her form, the tendrils shorten and the forms begin to converge on her. Though they can barely make sense of the situation, they know instinctively two things: they must kill her, but they must not allow her to merge with the creatures.

Sim notices a small green cone piercing her neck, which buries itself deeper with each blow they land. As it passes further and further into her, it seems to trigger the surges that shorten the tendrils. Even using his psionic powers, he is unable to directly influence the green cone itself, though he does sense a psionic resonance from it. Ignoring this fact, solely intent on ending the girl’s existence, Petra lunges forward, wraps her flaming chains around the girl, and erupts into an inferno.

Watching this unfold before him, Lawrence fights his instincts and decides upon his goal: he will sever the merging, and he will save the girl. He attempts to call upon psionic powers himself, but is unable to do so even in this place, where the power of the mind can change reality. Left with no alternative, he pulls two of the four blood needles they recovered from Markham’s laboratory so long ago, and stabs himself in each leg.

Within an instant, he feels the surge of two consciousnesses flowing into his body, each fighting for dominance. On the left, with a mindblade drawn, is Markham Ovren. On the right, the power of the arcane ready and waiting, is Cassandra. They both force his body to lunge forward and bring him into striking distance of the girl, but with an inhuman exertion of will, he calls both of them under his command, and grasps the girl by the skull.

Time slows to a crawl as he melds psionically with her; he now has three different consciousnesses occupying his body simultaneously, all of whom are unable to wrest control from him. However, they still exert their own will, and he is unable to force them to do precisely as he wishes. He pleads with Cassandra to help him, and she expels the cone from the girl’s neck, stopping the tendrils a mere inch away from the girl, and halting the merging process. With no idea how to proceed, he asks Cassandra what her wish is; she replies that the girl must die. Markham Ovren chimes his agreement. Lawrence refuses to accept this, and demands their help to implant Cassandra’s consciousness into the body of the girl, forcing the will that wants to merge with the nexus of creatures out. Cassandra agrees, but Markham remains obstinate; no words or offers seem to be able to sway him. Lawrence begins to grasp why: with no body of his own remaining, Markham Ovren only exists so long as the needle remains implanted into someone.

With his options exhausted and time wearing thin, Lawrence offers Markham the only thing he can: residence within his body in exchange for his aid. Markham forces him to swear an oath, but does grant his powers to Lawrence temporarily, enabling him to accomplish his goal. With Cassandra’s consciousness now occupying the body of the girl, the great illusion shatters, and they all return to reality, where a similar scene greets them. Lawrence holds the girl by the skull, and the rest of them stand poised to strike.

With no hesitation, Petra pulls tight on her chains, opening the neck of the girl completely, and ending her life. Taking this as a hostile action, Markham Ovren seizes control of Lawrence and brandishes a mindblade against the party. Sim dives and rips out one of the needles, but with no knowledge of which needle was which, he pulls out the one which previously housed the consciousness of Cassandra. Lawrence fights with Ovren inside his own mind before finally tearing the needle out himself to prevent further harm to the party; the incredible strain of severing his own consciousness takes its toll on his mental faculties permanently.

The danger entirely past, the party offers their aid to the true Cassandra, who remains impossibly alive, to the joy of her son. Together, they all make their way back to the silent cage chamber, where Cassandra effortlessly dispels the protective runes, opens the cage, and embraces her true son and daughter.

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Session 18
The Final Assault: Part 1

Infiltration

.Kah and his Thuul Company Mercenaries stand before the party, barring their path to the ruins beyond. He offers no explanation beyond that he and Arturus have a “deal,” and the party is unable to sway him with words. Assuming that he has the superior company as well as the element of surprise, .Kah commands his troops to attack while he uses psionics to bolster himself and increase his size to huge proportions. However, the party initiates the tactics they had planned the night before with Archibald, and with a cruel pincer attack and a heavy rain of arrows and bolts, they begin to cleave into Thuul Company on two sides. Before long, .Kah is battered enough to consider offering them a truce and an explanation, but no sooner do the words “Let’s talk” escape his lips than Sim buries his silver sword deep into .Kah’s skull. With their leader dead, the Thuul Company Mercenaries choose to fight to the last man; they manage to take a few Green Scale men to the grave with them.

As the party cleans up from the battle, gathers what they can from the dead, and tends to the living, an unfamiliar man approaches them. He introduces himself as Grant, and this claim is verified by Loren, who cannot contain his happiness at a reunion with his mother’s former right-hand man. Grant is shocked to find Cassandra’s son in the thick of the battle, but as he quickly states there is little time to discuss or pause. He asks the party to accompany him, saying that the mercenaries ought to stay behind; there are friends on the way to assist them.

Grant leads the party to a familiar hole in the ground, and they make haste through the underground cavern. Before long they start to hear a ringing in their minds that borders on painful. Sim feels this ringing and the subsequent pain more acutely than his companions, but they all press on through the caverns and the underwater tunnels that link them. They emerge into a large chamber with a perfectly smooth shining crystal cone ascending from the floor in the center to just barely touch the ceiling. Grant forms a mindblade and stabs the crystal, commanding Sim to do the same. Upon doing so, Sim is assaulted with a familiar psionic pain, but it soon subsides. Grant explains that Arturus has erected a null psionics zone and that contact with the crystal will allow one to ignore the effects of the zone temporarily.

With their first task complete, they continue into the ruins, finally coming to a two-way split in the path. Grant urges them to split up into two teams in order to better maximize their chances of at least some of them avoiding traps and cutting off Arturus before he can retreat further into the complex. They agree, and split: Grant, Lawrence and Loren take the left path while Khaber, Sim, and Petra take the right.

Grant’s team faces a coatl, but unlike the ones Lawrence had battled with on their first trip to the complex, this one appears to have been modified into a more keen weapon: it lacks the strong skin that Cassandra’s models had had, but its offensive capabilities are much more formidable. They make short work of it and continue onward.

Khaber’s team presses on until Petra spots a strange area where the walls appear to be melting like a liquid. She bids them to stop and attempts to discern the magics used; unsurprisingly she discovers that the magic is of the illusion school. She warns Khaber and Sim that this is an illusionary trap, and the three of them see tentacles flare out from the wall. Petra sees clearly that all but two of them are illusionary, and follows the two that are not to their origin. They originate from a spot in the floor below where she stands, and she determines that they need to run as fast as they can to avoid whatever the real trap is; the tentacles are obviously meant to hold them until it can be sprung. The three of them begin to sprint away and as they look back, they see the walls folding in on themselves, forcing the space where they used to be into a horrifying toothy mouth in the floor below, before returning to normal walls.

Meanwhile, Lawrence spots an open door ahead on the other side. Attempting to rush past it, they hurry on, but the light emanating from the door encompasses Lawrence as he and Woolf speed past. The rain falls heavy on his face despite the brightness in the sky, and the throbbing pain from the wounds he received in the scuffle with the bandits on his way today flares from the cold of the wind. The road stretches forward off into the horizon and a small hut is visible off to one side of it. In the doorway stands a beautiful woman who beckons him into the warmth, out of the rain. He calls out to her, but her response is drowned in the crack of thunder. Lawrence is soon overcome by a sense of unease, as he reaches for supplies he doesn’t have and companions who aren’t there. His trusty dog is beside him, like always, but he is unable to ride him towards the safety of the hut; his bow is with him but all his skill with it seems a dream. As he approaches the hut, the woman’s voice becomes audible, and she calls out to him as “Lawrence.” The utterance of the name resonates so violently with him: there is no way that any stranger would ever know him by that name. As the world slowly starts to fade, the woman throws a single dagger at him, wounding him violently. In turn, he fires an arrow which strikes true, shattering the illusion and returning him to reality, where Grant and Loren have been frantically trying to rouse him. Without time to explain, they press onward.

Nearing the end of their route, Khaber, Sim, and Petra pause briefly as a swarm of beetles rushes forward out of the darkness at them, covering the floor, walls, and ceiling in a writhing, surging mass of blackness. With little option but to charge, Petra wreathes herself in the flames of her god and begins a mad dash, dragging her spiked chains against the walls to clear the path for Sim and Khaber. They continue their charge until they come to a gorge, from which the beetles seem to be coming. The three of them leap across and find safety on the other side; the beetles are unable to cross the span.

No more traps lie in wait for either of the two teams, but due to Lawrence’s time spent trapped in the illusion, the other team arrives at the opposite side first. They find a set of double doors leading into an enormous round chamber. The chamber has two exist, and inside, at the center, wait two Al’Rashid agents. They are the blindfolded monk and the bard that the party met on their first trip into the facility; Khaber freezes with anxiety at the sight of them. The bard begins to play a beautiful battle song, and the monk charges forward to engage them. They sustain a brutal assault from the monk and despite their best efforts, they are unable to land any significant blows on him, or even to lay so much as a finger on the bard. After a few agonizing attacks, the doors on the opposite end of the chamber swing open to reveal Lawrence, Loren, and Grant.

Seeing the battle already underway, Grant screams out “Rahin!” in a tone that conveys surprise, recognition, and dismay all at once. The bard acknowledges this but continues his song. Unable to fight them directly, Lawrence, Loren, and Petra coordinate their efforts towards interfering with the bard’s song, while Sim attempts to push the monk out of balance with the rhythm, hoping to interrupt his battle dance. They succeed in this and soon Petra is face to face with Rahin, who points to the lute he gave her long ago and, without a word, challenges her to play it. In response, Petra places the lute on the ground, and gives Rahin a cold stare. He sighs, clearly disappointed, but he does not resume his battle song, and the monk’s dance grinds to a halt. He comments that it is strange to see Petra choose the path of peace.

Though he does not intend to fight the party any longer, Rahin calls Khaber before him to pass judgement for the murder of Rakhoum. Khaber is unable to speak, and Rahin offers the party one chance to speak on his behalf: as they are all one cell, like Rahin’s group was, they may select one member among them to defend the actions of Khaber. As Sim searches for a solution, and Lawrence fights to keep his emotions in check, Petra steps forward and offers her voice in Khaber’s defense.

Rahin begins to question Khaber’s actions since he joined the party, and asks her to demonstrate the ways in which he has protected them, taught them, and guided them. Petra responds succinctly that it was Khaber who taught her to set aside her lute. Rahin is clearly taken aback by the sublime answer, and now on the defensive, demands proof that Khaber is innocent. Petra invokes Rahin’s pre-existing friendship with Grant, and has Grant probe Khaber’s mind to find out if Khaber truly did not strike down Rakhoum. Watching this, Lawrence fights his own will to scream out in defense of his friend, and take the blame that is rightfully his. But Grant chooses to not reveal the true killer, merely stating that it was not Khaber. Rahin is satisfied, both at learning that Khaber did not break his oath to the Al’Rashid, and at not knowing the true identity of the killer: this way, he is not forced to raise his hand in vengeance. He absolves Khaber of guilt and allows the party to pass, telling them that what they seek lies beyond the final door of the chamber. Without another word, the two Al’Rashid agents depart, leaving the party a brief moment to recover before they begin their final push into Arturus’s compound.

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Sessions 16 and 17
Engulfed by Threats

Inevitable Foes

Concluding their business in Waterdeep, the party distributes all the acquired supplies to Lenara and Archibald and outfits themselves in preparation for the joint assault on Arturus’s forest compound. They arrange a meeting point with Archibald, and Lenara says she will contact them the following day to prepare the teleportation arrival point for .Kah’s mercenaries.

As the party leaves, they inform Loren that they plan to find where his mother is being held and free her. Loren decides to join them to put his newfound sorcery to good use in the fight to rescue his mother. They set out early from Waterdeep and remain slightly east of the road as they travel.

It is not long before they encounter a strange phenomenon in the woods. A large, very intense gray cloud appears before them, shifting and expanding. They detect Conjuration magic and set up a perimeter, waiting for the magic to reveal itself fully. The cloud continues to stretch and contract until it resembles a thin plate, standing vertically, hovering several feet off the ground. The sound of magical electricity permeates the air and without warning, the bow of a ship bursts through the grey. The ship stops as suddenly as it appeared, and with less than a moment’s pause, three strange creatures, which the party will later recognize as Gith, throw nets at Lawrence, Petra, and Sim, despite their hidden positions. The nets aimed at Lawrence and Sim fly awry, but the one aimed at Petra strikes home and the five Gith on the ship begin to all pull her in towards them.

Wasting not a moment’s time, Petra invokes the power of Kossuth and envelops the area around her in flames, attempting to break free of the net. The net is much stronger than it first appears, and this does not allow her to escape, but the Gith pull her onboard despite the flames, incurring heavy damage. The rest of the party springs into action in an attempt to get Petra off the ship. They succeed, but Sim and Khaber both find themselves now caught on the ship as it begins to recede into the portal. Disregarding the danger, the entire party rushes through the portal into the unknown realm beyond.

No sooner have all members of the party passed through than the portal dissipates behind them, leaving them stranded in a strange region which resembles space more than any place they have ever seen. Fortunately for the party members not aboard the ship, the laws of physics are tenuous at best here, and so they are able to reassemble and face the threat of the Gith.

Aboard the ship there are a total of ten Gith soldiers, some of whom wield similar silver swords to the one that the party procured from Loren when he was possessed by Markham Ovren. Using his psionic powers, Sim is able to read that the intentions of the Gith are to “kill them and take the sword.” He attempts diplomacy, and even throws the sword down at their feet, but they seem unaffected and their goal remains the same.

With some effort the party is able to overtake the ship and kill all the Gith aboard the vessel. They begin to examine the strange technology; they quickly realize that they have no idea where they are, no idea how the vessel propels itself, and no idea how to return to their own plane of existence. They find a few blue glowing spheres which respond to psionics and arcane magics, but not divine magic, as well as cannons that seem to have no holes for gunpowder. Further examination of the captain’s quarters reveals a psionic comm link, which becomes active once the party places four of the silver greatswords held by the crew into four crests nearby. Sim is able to tap into various messages, but unable to communicate with or understand the voices; in addition, a few of them appear to be repeating the same words in a loop.

As they examine the deck, Sim and Lawrence find that they can summon controls for the ship and, with heavy concentration, manipulate its trajectory. Unlike ships in their plane, which require wind or rowing, once they set a trajectory and give the ship an impulse it continues until halted. Sim spends a few minutes acclimating himself to the controls before engaging the ship towards one of three small islands within eyeshot.

While the ship travels, Sim uses his own silver sword on each of the crests in turn and attempts to use the communication sphere again. The messages change, and he attempts to call out to each in turn, receiving a response from two of them. The voices speak in very fluent draconic, demanding that he identify himself and how he came into possession of the ship. He gives no answer.

On the island, the party discovers abandoned ruins which appear to have been untouched for quite some time. Off in the distance, they see intermittent, irregular flashes of gray resembling the portal through which they traveled. They leave that island assuming that the flashes are more ships coming to assault them, and head towards a different one. The second island they find is similar to the first, except for a few recently-added artillery towers. The flashes continue off in the distance.

Deciding to face the threat head-on rather than plan an ambush, the party sets course for the area of the gray flashes at maximum speed. As they near it, they see that the flashes are not in fact more vessels, but seem to be caused by an enormous creature somewhat reminiscent of a colossal djinn. They do see a few Gith vessels, including one that is significantly larger than their own, as well as debris matching the construction of a ship not unlike their own. Sim continues his straight-on path towards the creature, dodging debris with impossible precision.

Seeing that the other vessels are firing on the behemoth, Petra and Khaber man one cannon while Lawrence and Loren man a second, loading and shooting bolts at the creature as best they can; they quickly realize that the bolts do not travel as normal, but that their own mental efforts can influence its trajectory. They manage to score two quick hits on it and Sim continues to dodge debris. The behemoth focuses one of his gray portals at their vessel and manages to clip the left wing; the handling of the ship suffers, and Sim begins to compensate. Soon, the behemoth begins to ignore the other Gith vessels and focus its attention solely on the party.

Most of the bolts fired by the party strike true to the creature’s neck, and before long it begins to show signs of weakening. The larger Gith vessel begins to move on an intercept course with the behemoth, which charges the party’s vessel, firing off more gray spheres at them. Though the maneuvers are challenging, Sim’s quick thinking and analysis skills ensure that the party stays one step ahead of the creature, finally placing them in a perfect position to ram its neck with the ship directly. As he begins accelerating, a huge chunk of debris flies towards the ship, threatening to destroy the party. Lawrence and Petra abandon ship at Sim’s order, but Khaber heroically leaps and uses his scythe to redirect the path of the rock, taking him with it. The ships strike true and the behemoth seems to die.

The party reassembles on their ship unscathed as the large Gith flagship pulls up next to them. An ornately-armored Gith, likely a general, calls out to them in draconic and demands that they explain how they came into possession of their vessel. Sim explains the events, reminding the general that many more Gith lives would have been sacrificed to destroy the creature had the party not intervened. Though the general is clearly hostile towards them, he does acknowledge both their valor and the end result they achieved; as such, he agrees to come aboard their ship to speak to Sim in private.

In the captain’s quarters, he tells Sim briefly about the silver sword that he holds; how it was given as a peace offering to the humans, and how the silver swords themselves represent the souls of the Gith people. He returns the sword to Sim, telling him to make use of it against Arturus, but warning him that should Gith blood ever be drawn with it, there will be no such forgiveness. Sim vows that as no Gith blood has yet touched its blade, no blood ever shall. Finally, the general tells Sim to hold not the Gith responsible for the attack on their party, but rather the deceit of “their own human allies.” Sim notices that the Gith refer to all members of the party as human, and can not discern which of their allies might be the traitor from this comment alone.

The general returns to his ship and commands his mages to create a portal back to the material plane for the party to use. They bid farewell to the Gith and return, finding themselves in the forest but on the far northwest side of Arturus’s compound. After sending a status update to Lenara, they circle around towards the meeting point on the southwest side, making double time the entire way to ensure that they reach the site with ample time to sleep and prepare for the day. They hear no word back from her.

As they approach, they remember the words of the Gith general. At the site they find Archibald’s men; a cursory scan of their thoughts reveals that they are uneasy; the general pervading thought is “they should have been here by now, something is wrong.” Lawrence cautiously approaches, with an escape plan ready, but the mercenaries seem to not be hostile, so the entire party comes out of hiding. Archibald explains to them that they have not heard any word from Lenara concerning the appointed meeting spot or the status of the party.

Worried, Petra uses her magic to scry on Lenara. She finds Lenara still in Waterdeep, preparing a magical site with the help of some mages from the Order of Magisters and Protectors. The party sends a message to Lenara again to hear her response, but she gives no indication that she has heard anything. Petra attempts to scry more closely, to hear what is being said, but the spell becomes hazy and unclear the closer she attempts to get. Given no answers, the party prepares for the next day, wary of a trap.

They awaken before dawn and travel with Archibald as a group towards the meeting site, still having heard no word from Lenara. Upon reaching the site, they watch as a portal forms and .Kah and his men appear before them.

With a harpoon taller than Lawrence brandished at them, through a toothy smile, .Kah says, “Hello friends.”

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Session 15
Mission: Chaos

A Primer on Misdirection and Acquisition

The party awakens early in the morning, intent on securing the early spice shipment before infiltrating House Ulbrinter, the noble family which Gregory suggested as a potential target. Knowing that the shipment will approach Waterdeep from the north and will sail down the coast to the docks, the party makes ready to ambush them at sea. They plan to frame House Amkathra for the ambush by dressing in their uniforms, hoping that the sailors will raise a suit against the House when they are not paid for their shipment. Since they will need to bring the ship into dock, they bring along Loren, who through observation of the Percival’s crew has managed to achieve a rudimentary knowledge of sailing.

Their assault on the boat is flawless: the crew is hardly able to make a sound before they are all incapacitated and sealed below deck. Though the captain is tight-lipped concerning their destination dock and the trade procedures, Khaber’s short temper persuades him to release the relevant information. Once they acquire the knowledge, Sim allows the captain to strike him once before sealing him below deck with the others.

Though Loren is significantly more capable than any of the rest of the party, his sheer nervousness causes the docking to be noticeably shaky. The party plays this off as drunkenness, and uses it to their advantage as they craft a tale of a pirate raid at sea which took the lives of two of their crew members. Leveraging that story, they are able to convince the Amkathran representatives to give them an additional 550 gold pieces, bringing the total to 3000 for the entire shipment. They distribute slightly more than half of the money to Lenara and Archibald, retaining close to 1000 gold pieces for their own use.

When night falls, they begin their infiltration of the Ulbrinter estate. They devise a plan to utilize Petra’s shapeshifting and Lawrence’s sorcery: Petra will sneak into the master bedroom through an open window on the second floor, and Lawrence will use sorcery to transport the party members inside, one by one, swapping them in turn for Petra, who will return via the same route two more times. This gets them inside with little trouble, yet despite their silent infiltration, the master of the house rouses and sees three intruders standing in his dark bedroom. As he opens his mouth to scream for help, Sim, in a superhuman reaction, uses his wand of silence on the bed. The master’s screams go muffled, but the draconic incantation does reach the ears of the hall guards. One of them knocks on the bedroom door and calls for Ulbrinter. Sim tries his best to mimic the voice of the man, pretending to be sleeptalking, but since he has never heard the voice of Ulbrinter the guard remains understandably unconvinced. Hearing the guard call for backup, Lawrence uses his sorcery to create the noise of Ulbrinter and his wife in the throes of passion. This does convince the guards to back away, and the party relievedly hears the sound of footsteps retreating and doors closing.

Without wasting time, they sap Ulbrinter and his still-sleeping wife, for good measure. The pilfer a few of the more valuable-looking pieces of jewelry that they can find, at which point Lawrence and Petra decide to withdraw from the mansion. Sim, on the other hand, decides to seek out some more valuables, and sets up an exit plan that mirrors their entrance method. He crosses the second-floor hall and arrives in a den-like room wherein there are displayed many weapons. His eye determines that most of the weapons are worthless replicas, but one greatsword catches his eye. Displayed prominently above a fireplace and engraved with dwarven runes, it is clearly the pride of House Ulbrinter. The runes spell out a thanks from the dwarves for deeds done in their service. Sim reaches out to touch the blade, but something strikes him as being suspicious, and he instead gives the surrounding area a quick glance for any traps. He discovers one arcane trap, which he methodically disassembles, before taking the sword. He also is careful to drop a single note, written on a scrap of Amkathran uniform cloth, pinning the crime on the house of his father.

The party flawlessly executes their escape plan, and brings their pilfered goods to the docks district. They load everything on to the spice traders’ boat, where they set up a night watch.

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Session 14
Common Enemy

The Price of Allies

Warily, the party enters the Land Dweller at the appointed hour for their meetings. Lenara waves to them from a table on the second floor, and they make their way up to meet her.

Seated at the table with Lenara are .Kah, Sarkesh, and Archibald of the Green Scale Mercenaries. Sim and Lawrence greet Archibald happily, while Petra is clear to greet everyone except him. Lenara begins to explain that all the parties present have the aligned goals of taking down Arturus, and as such suggests that they begin working in tandem. .Kah hastily informs the party of his previously-mentioned offer: he will provide his mercenaries as the cavalry, of sorts, so long as they party brings to him the brains of the test subjects and Arturus. Further, if any of his mercenaries should die in this mission, the party must provide for him two replacements, fully-equipped with weapons and armor matching the quality of the rest of his troop. The party nervously tries to negotiate, but Lenara signals for them to agree now and work out the details later; they do so.

Archibald and Lenara explain that they will provide their own support, but that they require either funding or supplies in order to help. Archibald’s mercenaries require armaments while Lenara requires magical reagants. Not able to foot the bill with their funds, the party agrees to provide some gold and do their part to acquire the remainder through whatever means they can.

Towards the end of the meeting, Lawrence presents the journal containing Arturus’s entries to Sarkesh, in an effort to entice him to translate it for them. The journal seems to pique his interest, and he asks the party to return to the underground facility with him. On the way, he explains how unusual it is to see the Illithid’s script written by any human hand, much less written properly. He translates the journal into Common as best as is feasible and reads it to the party before giving them a copy. They discover several gruesome details concerning Arturus’s experiments, but among the entries they find three key pieces of information: firstly, that the Order of Al-Rashid has been with Arturus since his coup; secondly, that Cassandra is still alive but is being held against her will; finally, that Cassandra has borne for Arturus a daughter, who has grown at an alarming rate for a human.

As the party prepares to return to the inn for the night, Sim breaks away to meet with Gregory again. He questions Gregory on some of the shipments due in over the next few days, particularly those carrying armaments, and asks Gregory to provide the name and location of a noble house which might deserve a lightening of its coffers. Gregory offers to look into the matter, and tells Sim of three shipments, two on the morrow and one on the following day. The first shipment is of weapons and armor of above-average quality and will be heavily guarded, the second shipment is of various spices and will be lightly guarded if at all, and the third is of exceptional armor that will be moderately guarded. Sim returns to the inn with these opportunities in mind.

Conflicted over what role he ought to play in this, Sim turns to Khaber and Lawrence for advice. He explains fully to them the details of his past and their options regarding the shipments and Amkathra. Khaber tells Sim that it is unwise to not pursue the support of Amkathra due to spite since their position is so disadvantageous already. Lawrence claims that they will be more than capable of handling Arturus without the aid of merchants, and based on his own knowledge of Amkathra from his childhood, says that it is unlikely that they will help anyway unless they stand to profit from the venture. Both of them agree that the choice is ultimately Sim’s, and that no matter what he chooses they will stand behind him.

The party decides together that they ought to forgo the first shipment due to its heavy guard, target the spice shipment with more than a heavy dose of subtlety so as not to alert Amkathra to their presence, and then do whatever is necessary to procure the third shipment with no regard to being caught, since they will be leaving Waterdeep less than a day after.

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Session 13
Sins of the Past

Aftermath

The party awakens the following day, eager to wrap up their business with Magister Starseer as well as bring Loren to see Lenara. They travel quickly to the Temple of Mystra to deliver the ashes to a clerk, hand the staff of disease removal to the tribesman, and send him back on his way to Anteos. For their efforts in the service of Mystra, they are presented with one of her holy icons.

Together, they take Loren to Skullport. On the way to Lenara’s they notice an Illithid with one cauterized wound indicating a missing tentacle staring intently at them; they make a willful effort to ignore him and hastily enter the shop.

Lenara seems quite relieved to see Loren, and begins to divulge to them more of what she knows concerning Cassandra and her research. Cassandra had developed a method of combining alchemy and arcane magic, and the physical proof of her research was the blood needle. According to Lenara, Cassandra mentioned that the needles could only be used on a blank mind; the party shares the details of their discovery and removal of the needle in Loren, and the encounter with Markham Ovren. From her shock, concern, and clear respect for Cassandra, it quickly becomes clear to the party that Lenara was quite a bit more than just a friend to Cassandra.

Lenara asks for some time to compose herself and send word to her contacts, and sets up a meeting time with the party at the Land Dweller later. As they prepare to leave the shop, they see Loren attempting to sell nautical supplies to a customer; though the customer’s subtle hints at dirty business are well beyond Loren’s understanding, the party begins to realize that from his time on the ship, Loren picked up an encyclopedic knowledge of nautical methods and terms.

On their way out of Skullport, they pass by the same Illithid, who gives them the same attention as before. They stop and return the stare; Sim attempts to read the Illithid’s mind to no avail, but the Illithid, sensing a psionic presence, opens a telepathic link and speaks directly into Sim’s mind. He introduces himself as Sarkesh, and says that his master would have words with the party. He repeats this out loud for the benefit of Lawrence and Petra, who have become increasingly more uneasy at his presence. With no confidence in putting up resistance, the party begins to follow Sarkesh further underground to his master’s lair.

They soon enter through a massive set of double doors into a training ground for what appaers to be a mercenary group. The mercenaries each are significantly better-outfitted than any member of the party, and a few of them salute Sarkesh as he continues his march. They enter a throne room, of sorts, and come face to face with a creature who can only be described as half-orca whale, half-human.

After eying Khaber up and down several times, and making a few offhanded comments about how delicious he appears, the man introduces himself properly as .Kah..Kah’T’Likki...Likki’Likki..Malimali’Maloo, or *Kah for short. He welcomes them to “his” city and says that he is most displeased at the trouble they have caused over the death of Rakhoum. In order to make amends, he explains, they will accept an offer that he will make to them later, at his restaurant, the Land Dweller. They are quickly shown out through a passageway leading up; the mouth of the passage opens into an exquisitely-stocked kitchen in a clearly first-rate restaurant.

With some time to themselves, the party splits up to take care of personal matters. Sim and Lawrence head back to the Temple of Mystra to do some research while Petra and Khaber relax and discuss some of the details of Al-Rashid; with a newfound respect for Khaber, Petra finds herself more interested in hearing about him and in allowing him to make peace with what he has done.

Arriving at the Temple once more, Sim and Lawrence split up to begin unraveling some of the mysteries regarding Arturus. Sim heads to the library where he is all but thrown out by the librarian, who seems shocked that he would come to the temple of Mystra seeking information on psions and psionics in general. She nevertheless points him towards what little information they do have, and he discovers that of the various types of psionics users there are, Markham Ovren was a Soulblade, as is Sim himself, while Arturus is most likely a pure psion; of what specialization, he is unable to deduce. He also reads that most psions pose as wizards owing to the fact that they have little to no defense against the arcane.

Lawrence speaks with a few clerks, seeking a translation of Arturus’s portion of the journal. They usher him into a side room and inspect the journal more closely, but despite their artifacts remain unable to read the text. This surprises them, as the artifacts have been enchanted with the power to read and understand all written and spoken languages; the clerks ask Lawrence to wait while they seek out someone with greater knowledge of linguistics. An older man returns with them to the room where he identifies the script as the Illithid language of telepaths. The text is not a collection of words which are meant to have a meaning, but rather a simultaneous combination of three streams of thought, written out and meant to be read as one. He advises Lawrence that the only way this text could ever be translated is by the hand of an Illithid.

Together, Sim and Lawrence leave the Temple in order to restock supplies.

As the men wander the markets, Sim nearly knocks over an old man who quickly turns a corner in front of them. The man’s eyes go wide when he sees Sim’s face and he calls out “Denovo, is that you?” At hearing that name, a flood of memories washes over Sim and he begins to recall, bit by bit, events from his past. Deciding that the outside is unsafe, the man, Gregory, asks Sim to meet him in a nearby bar in half an hour where they will discuss matters further. Sim gives Gregory the location of the party’s predetermined rendezvous point, but asks the party to leave once they assemble so that he can be alone with Gregory.

The party obliges, planning to meet up at the Land Dweller for their two appointments there.

Gregory sits down and immediately begs Sim’s forgiveness for not being able to help him all these years. Sim demands a clear explanation so he can find out what is true and what isn’t about his past. Gregory explains that he is a bastard son of the lord of House Amkathra, a noble merchant family of Waterdeep. His mother was an adept in the employ of the lord of the House, and as such Sim was allowed to live with them, though not as one of his true children. Problems began to arise when Sim first manifested psionic potential, as this provided a clear link between him and his true father. When the lord of the House caught wind of a blackmail plot, he took preemptive steps to cover himself. He used his own psionic potential to wipe Sim’s memory, and hired mages to teleport him to an undisclosed location so that he would be unable to be found and used to the detriment of the House. Sim’s mother was told that he was dead, and only the lord and Gregory yet live that know the truth.

Gregory offers his aid, such as it is, to Sim, even going so far as to offer his help with reinstatement into the House. Sim staunchly refuses, but says that he might call on Gregory in the future to help with his current quest; he is clear to say that as far as he is concerned, he has no father and thus neither connection nor duty to House Amkathra.

Sim spends a few long hours in the bar before making his way to meet the party at the Land Dweller.

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Session 12
Waterdeep: City of Possibility

We Only Wished to do Good…

The party continues their journey towards Waterdeep aboard Percival’s ship. As they travel, Lawrence begins to teach Loren the ways of sorcerery; his mental condition is almost a blessing for this kind of lesson, and he is quick to pick up the basic concept. Anteos sends word that Arturus remains, or has returned to, the ruins in the forest, but is unable to provide specific information as to what he is doing.

The vessel pulls into the port of Waterdeep as the party looks on the great city, awestruck. As they prepare to part ways with Percival and Heglin, they ask the names of a few locations in the city, including the Temple of Mystra, where they intend to ask for aid in combatting the aboleth’s disease.

Lawrence, Sim, Khaber, and the tribesman all begin to head toward the temple. Petra, not wishing to be involved, wanders around the Fishtown district in the meantime. They arrive about a half-hour later at the steps of the temple, which is an imposing structure whose architecture conveys very clearly that it is a House of Magic. They state their business to the guards, who allow them passage.

Inside, they find no identifiable clerics – all the people milling about are dressed in rich robes that, while beautiful, do not give any indication of rank or purpose. They stop one red-haired woman as she heads for a grand spiral staircase and reiterate their purpose. She listens carefully to their story, then asks them to follow her to a waiting room. Inside the room they see a multitude of books of magic shelved neatly, as well as several objects around the room which also appear to be magical. She casts a spell and asks them to repeat their tale, which they do. She tells them that the temple can provide them with what they require but that it will require over six thousand gold as well as two weeks of time. When they admit that they have not the gold nor more than two days to spare, she says that she must speak with the High Priest, and leaves them.

They pass they time admiring the objects and books in the room, but are careful not to touch anything out of fear. Loren and Lawrence especially find their surroundings fascinating. After several minutes, the woman returns, and says “Magister Starseer will see you now.” No sooner does the word “now” escape her lips than the party finds themselves instantaneously transported to a strange, spherical room, which appears to be an audience room.

Seated on a chair floating a few inches above a dais in front of them, reading two tomes simultaneoulsy, is a man with grayish hair. He greets them and offers introductions, naming himself Magister Starseer, High Priest of the Temple of Mystra, the Goddess of the Silver Flame. The party introduces themselves and Sim and Lawrence begin to explain their purpose. Starseer fills in information in their story as if he were helping them to tell it, and has a few choice words about the life path that Anteos has chosen.

As they continue speaking, Starseer coaxes more information out of the party than they intended to give in the first place. They admit that the disease they seek to cure was caused by an aboleth that they freed, and that the aboleth was being held by a man named Arturus in the ruins of the forest to the northeast of Waterdeep. With nothing other than the mention of the name Arturus, Starseer identifies him as a psion, which intimidates the party further. For all his mind games, Starseer does finally admit that he is willing to offer the aid of the Temple in curing the villagers, but that unless the party can front the payment, they will have to perform a service for Mystra. There is a man who arrived recently in Waterdeep who has managed to ruffle a few feathers, and Starseer says that if the party can silence him and offer proof of this, that he will weigh their deeds against the cost of the wand. Though they prod him for more information as to who this man is and why the Temple wants him silenced, he remains tight-lipped, offering only a place that they might find him, and a single identifying feature: a dragon tattoo from his neck to his left ear. He returns them back to the temple proper, providing them with a talisman that allows them to detect the true nature of a person, so that they might be certain of the task with which they have been charged. They exit the temple, book a room, drop off their belongings as well as the tribesman and Loren, and head out to rendezvous with Petra.

While wandering Fishtown, Petra is shocked when a manhole cover pops up from the ground, and a crocodile pops up from the hole. A second manhole cover pops up and a second crocodile emerges, but this crocodile shapeshifts into a boyish woman. She greets Petra in druidic and offers some information about the city. It becomes apparent to Petra that she has heard of this woman, Temera, before, when she first encountered the wind serpents in the forest. Temera seems very knowledgeable about Waterdeep and offers to accompany Petra back to the docks, where she will rendezvous with Sim, Lawrence, and Khaber.

The party meets up and Petra introduces the men to Temera. Though they attempt to withhold information from her, Temera seems so genuinely helpful that they inform her of their goal: to meet with a woman named Lenara in Skullport. Temera recognizes the woman by name, tells them where she can be found, and offers a few rules of etiquette when dealing with the residents of Skullport. They also inform her that they are to meet with a man on behalf of the Temple of Mistra, but do not state their exact business – again, she knows the man by his description, and tells them that he has caused the Magisters some angst since arriving. He is a preacher, of sorts, and they do not seem to like his message.

Temera escorts the party to Skullport, stopping along the way to forage through some garbage for dinner. Used to life in the wild, the party unquestioningly joins her. As they enter Skullport, Temera bids them good luck and leaves.

The party first locates the establishment where they are to find the tattooed man, a tavern called the Temple of the Third Hand. Since it is still early, they find the establishment mostly empty, and decide to pay a visit to Lenara in the meantime.

They enter Lenara’s shop and make a veiled nautical reference to a boat named Cassandra. Lenara’s eyes widen at hearing that name, and she beckons them into a back room. The party explains to Lenara all that has happened, and Lenara offers up what she knows. After her last meeting with Cassandra, Lenara began to see Arturus himself come to her shop, claiming that he was acting on Cassandra’s behalf. Doubtful, Lenara refused to sell him anything at first. He returned with more thugs, but evidently even Arturus fears the retribution one would face for attacking a resident of Skullport, and left without incident. Lenara goes on to say that she thinks of herself as Cassandra’s friend, and demands that the party bring Loren to her so that she can verify his safety. When the party mentions that Cassandra is dead, Lenara is instantly indignant, stating in no uncertain terms that that is impossible. When pressed, she admits that she had tried to have Cassandra raised with divine magic, but that the clerics were simply unable to cast the spell – Lenara took this to mean that Cassandra has yet to die, and is still being detained somewhere. They thank Lenara for her time and promise to bring Loren back tomorrow.

They return to the Temple of the Third Hand and wait patiently for the man to arrive. Not long thereafter, a man dressed in the white robes of the Al-Rashid steps into the tavern, and they see very clearly the dragon tattoo. A feeling of dread falls over Sim and Lawrence, but it is Khaber who reacts most strongly to seeing this man. His eyes go wide and his skin pales a few shades as he watches the man furiously argue with a Waterdeep native.

After the argument dies down, Khaber approaches the man and they converse in the Al-Rashid’s native tongue; the man appears to speak down to Khaber, but this does not seem to bother him. Khaber returns to the party shortly and says that they should leave without causing an incident, but Lawrence steps forward and begins to talk to the man. The Al-Rashidi is very argumentative and accusatory, and Lawrence meets his tone with a few light threats, even invoking some of his sorcerery to make himself seem more imposing. Using the necklace given to him by Magister Starseer, Lawrence learns that the man is perfectly neutral, as would be expected from an agent of Al-Rashid. The conversation seems to rile the Al-Rashidi, who Khaber names as Rakhoum, to the point of violence, and he brandishes an imposing spiked chain. As it clangs against the floor, the sound instantly registers in Petra’s mind as the sound of the chain from their battle with the orcs and the mercenaries in the underground ruins.

Khaber rushes forward, pushing Lawrence out of the way, and demanding that his blood be used to sate the weapon. Unable to stop the scene, the party watches in horror as the man cleaves into Khaber’s shoulder, then spits full at Khaber’s face. The man puts his weapon away, offers a few threats, and leaves the tavern. Though they offer healing to Khaber, he refuses it, and says that they should leave immediately.

Outside, the party discusses the facts. Based on Petra’s identification, they determine that he is working in the service of Arturus, and Khaber’s unwillingness to admit that to them is all the confirmation they need. Though it pains them to try to pit Khaber against a member of his own order, they remind him of his mission to prevent them from dying, and they say that they must fight and kill that man. With little time to waste, they begin to track Rakhoum, leaving Khaber at the tavern to think on what he will do.

They catch up to him soon thereafter and a bloody battle ensues. With no real strategy planned out and the enemy’s capabilities unknown, they find themselves fighting without their usual advantages; furthermore, Rakhoum is a seasoned warrior, and one who can bring a man to his knees should he merely be able to catch his target. Beyond the difference in capability, Rakhoum also harbors a personal grudge against the party for insulting him, so he fights furiously – but the party is fighting not only for themselves, but also the lives of the sixteen thrall villagers. As the tide of the battle begins to turn slowly in the party’s favor, Khaber rushes to their aid, uncharacteristically violent and fiery, and cleaves Rakhoum with his scythe. This attack catches him unaware, and creates an opening for Lawrence, who calls upon his force of will to infuse an arrow with flame. The arrow pierces Rakhoum in the eye, and fires consume the Al-Rashidi from within, reducing his entire body to ash in the blink of an eye.

Lawrence and Sim offers thanks and what healing they can to Khaber, who says nothing, not even his usual Al-Rashidi prayer for the dead. They quickly gather Rakhoum’s belongings and clear the alley, returning to the inn.

It is not long after they return to the inn that Khaber stands and leaves without a word. Sim follows him alone through the streets of Waterdeep. Khaber seems lost in thought, but he also walks fervently; his focus makes him especially unaware of the man trailing him. Sim follows him all the way back to the Temple of Mystra, where Khaber attempts to enter. When the guards bar his path, he grabs them and declares, “I wish to see Magister Starseer.” Sim rushes over to defuse the situation, and is able to talk their way into the Temple.

They meet the same red-haired clerk as before, and Khaber again insists on seeing Magister Starseer. The clerk informs them that he is asleep, but is so afraid at seeing Khaber’s barely-restrained fury that she agrees to wake him. She returns quickly, and tries to say that he is ready to see them, but they are transported before she can get the words out of her mouth.

Starseer sits before them clothed as before, though he does not flip through any tomes. He tells them that he already knows that they have completed their mission successfully and subtly hints to Sim that he selected this target specifically for them because of their quest. Khaber mutters angrily that Rakhoum was a great man, which does not seem to change Starseer’s mood or treatment of the situation in the slightest. Starseer’s manner of speech and his nonchalance towards the death of a superior Al-Rashid officer causes Khaber to furiously charge him. Starseer unaffactedly uses his magic to halt Khaber in his tracks, and states calmly that Khaber will pay gravely for attempting to harm the High Priest of Mystra.

Sim quickly brings to bear the fact that Starseer must know the punishment within Al-Rashid for attempting to kill another member; he admits that he knows full well that the punishments are excommunication from the Order and death, and based on that allows Khaber to be forgiven for his outburst this one time. He is sure to tell Khaber that if it happens again there will be no such lenience before he teleports him out of the chamber. He adds to Sim that proof of the deed can be shown at the temple tomorrow, at which point the clerics will hand over a staff with the promised powers. He returns Sim to the inn.

Beaten, Khaber mutters that a cleric of Al-Rashid was fond of saying that no man should sleep with the anger of the day upon him, and yet he must get rest to face the day ahead. He removes his armor solemnly and lies down to rest. The rest of the party books a separate room for all of them, and quietly leave Khaber in peace. Before closing the door, Petra says to him that he did what is right, and that no man will be fit to judge the actions he took today.

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Session 11
Causality

Do Not Bite the Hand that Frees You

Slowly, the old man descends from the rooftop, and as soon as he stops chanting the storm begins to abate. The tribesmen raise a plank and the old man walks towards the ship. Percival and the crew draw arms, and the party readies themselves to fight the man off, but he calmly extends his hand to Percival and pushes his weapon down. He gestures for them to step off the ship towards the village; Percival and the party follow, and Percival commands Heglin and the crew to fight at the first sign of danger, but not before. The man leads them into the house he had previously been atop.

Inside there is a small fire crackling, and the man gestures for all to be seated. Minutes pass in silence before the man opens his eyes, which are milky white, and greets them. He introduces himself as Anteos, and apologizes for bringing them here. He goes on to explain that the village has been terrorized for several days by a creature of the deep, possessing powerful magic, which has been stealing members of the village out of their homes in the middle of the night. He tells the party that this is their fault, and details specifically that they have freed this aboleth and allowed it to come here. Based on the specificity of his information, the party knows he is not bluffing or trying to trick them. He requests that the party set to rights what they have allowed to happen, admitting that if they do not help then he will not be powerful enough by himself to protect the village.

Sim, Lawrence, and Khaber all immediately agree with the man, but Petra is less than convinced. She refuses to take blame for what has happened, but does say that she will kill the aboleth for its assault on her. The party uses the remainder of the day to set up an elaborate nightfall trap for the aboleth, with very specific orders for each member of the party and the villagers, to ensure that they will have a chance against its powerful magics.

At nightfall, they spot the aboleth near the village. Rather than use the same head-on attack strategy, he elects to use magics from a distance, focusing mostly on Sim, who had insulted him earlier. His powers are insufficient, so he is forced to show himself; this triggers the party’s strategy. Using all the tools at their disposal, including Lawrence’s new sorcerery, Petra’s shapeshifting and spells, Sim’s tools and the silver sword from Markham’s mansion, Khaber’s strength and fighting prowess, as well as the cannons from the ship and the tools of the village, the party quickly subdues the aboleth. Sensing his impending death, the aboleth miraculously manages to cast a teleport spell, but the simultaneous full assault of blows from Sim, Khaber, and Lawrence causes him to die all the same.

The victory against the beast is short-lived. Based on their research of aboleth anatomy and behavioral patterns, they know that the villagers who were taken previously are all physically altered by the aboleth’s slime. Though his death freed them from their thralldom, they still require divine aid in order to have their bodies fully cleansed so that they can return to their normal lives. Since she feels no blame for this situation, Petra does not immediately offer her help, but since it is the work of an aberration, she also feels that its taint must be removed. She prays to Kossuth for guidance, and her god refuses to grant her the powers to remove their diseases on the spot. Taking this as her moral compass, Petra says that she cannot afford to spend the amount of time it would take for her to remove all their disease, and instead offers to purify the taken villagers with fire. Anteos strongly refuses, and uses his storm magic to incapacitate the former thralls so that they can be detained at the piers.

The party brainstorms alternate ways to cleanse the villagers, finally deciding that the only achievable method would be to find a temple in Waterdeep, and purchase a wand of remove disease to send back to the village. Anteos thanks the party for their concern and says that he will send a villager with them on the ship to Waterdeep.

The party spends one more day on the island to make preparations to sail and to give last rites to the crew members who died in the fight with the aboleth. Lawrence uses the time to forage for herbs and hunt with Woolf, while Sim and Petra seek out the aboleth’s lair. There they find a multitude of human bones as well as another blue portal like the one in the underground ruins. Remembering its healing powers, they inform Anteos of it upon returning to the village.

They make ready to leave the island, and say their farewells to Anteos. He presents them all with handcarved talismans of the goddess Mistra, and wishes them luck in Waterdeep. They ask him to use his magics, if possible, to locate Arturus and find out what he is doing; he says he will do that for them and send the message as soon as he is able.

With Waterdeep a mere three days’ journey away, they pull anchor and set sail.

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Session 10
Stormy Seas and Souls

Last Call for Luskan

The party awakes in the morning, almost surprised to have slept peacefully through the night. Wasting no time, they begin another interrogation of Loren to discover just how susceptible he might be to losing control of himself. They broach the subject of Markham, and Sim blurts out that Markham is dead. Eerily, Loren informs them in a calm voice that Markham is most certainly not dead, and the familiar mindblades form from his arms again. Using the silver sword they recovered from Markham’s mansion, they subdue him once more and knock him unconscious, but in the scuffle Sim and Lawrence notice a small red mark on the underside of his right bicep. Stabbing Loren again, Sim feels the cut of metal-on-metal, and the party tries together to extract the metallic object from his arm. They succeed in only bringing him closer to bleeding out. With little time to spare, Lawrence, Sim, and Khaber rush Loren to the nearest Temple of Oghma for healing. Petra elects to stay behind.

They find the temple bustling with activity, and most of the clerics and medics seem to be otherwise engaged and unable to help. With some urgent words they are able to gain audience with one of the higher-ranking priests, who they convince to perform surgery on Loren. He begins to attempt an extraction of the object, but Loren regains consciousness and loses control of himself. The party pins him down and urges the priest to continue; the extraction goes smoothly and the moment the metallic object is removed, Loren falls back unconscious and his mindblades vanish. The recovered metallic object is another one of the metal blood needles that the party had found in Markham’s mansion. The priest, shaken, offers a quick healing spell and then quickly demands that the party leave the temple. They oblige.

While the rest of the party tends to Loren’s treatment, Petra is approached at the inn’s bar by a man who offers her a drink. Though she refuses, he buys her a mug of elven wine, but she notices as he hands it to her that he slipped some sort of powder smoothly into the mug. She waits for him to leave before handing the wine mug over to the barkeep and telling him to dispose of it; she then follows the man out of the tavern and through the city.

The rest of the party brings Loren back to the inn and finds the barkeep on the floor of the tavern, dead, with spilled Elven wine soaking into his clothes. Determining that Petra is probably involved, Sim and Khaber take Woolf and begin to track her path. Lawrence stays at the inn to watch over Loren until he awakens.

Petra follows the man to the docks district, where he enters a wooden building which looks like a tavern. She suspects danger, so she does not follow him inside, but instead sets up a watch from the rooftops. It is not long before Sim and Khaber catch up to her, and shortly thereafter they see the man leave the establishment and head onto a ship emblazoned with the symbol of a hawk clutching a snake in its talons. Sim is able to find out that the ship is a pirate ship, and the establishment Petra was camped out watching is a brothel. He suggests that they book passage out of town as soon as possible, and Khaber sets out to find Halib for that purpose. Returning to the inn, Sim attempts to make Petra realize that it was her own mishandling of the situation at the bar which resulted in the barkeep’s death.

Back at the inn, Loren wakes up calmly. Lawrence hesitantly attempts to ascertain his condition, but Loren happily informs him that “Markham is gone.” In addition to that, Loren’s echophasia has also been cured. Loren still thinks that it is a decade prior, but Lawrence is able to convey to him that time has indeed passed. Loren says that he wants to see his mother, or Morgan, but says that he will stay with the party until he is able to see them.

The party reconvenes at the inn and Khaber tells them that he has booked passage on a small vessel leaving that night. They make one final, quick trip to the marketplace before returning to the dock district to locate their ship.

The vessel they find is captained by an impossibly dashing man by the name of Percival, with a bizarre gnome first mate who introduces himself as “The Most Magnificent Meddling Mage from the middle of the Moving Magma Mountain, Heglin.” They set sail within the hour, bound for Waterdeep.

Having never been on a ship of any kind, the party takes some time to acclimate to life on the open seas. A few nausea-ridden days later, they are finally able to venture above deck and speak with the crew members. Percival remains impossibly charming, but Heglin soon causes a great deal of strife. He is a sorcerer of fire – this simultaneously intrigues Lawrence, who has never seen magic wielded through nothing more than force of will, and infuriates Petra, who views the flames as sacred and not the plaything of a demented gnome. No real trouble comes of this, but Lawrence does install himself as Heglin’s pupil. While they travel, he trains to learn the ways of sorcery, Petra meditates, and Sim attempts to gain greater control over his newfound psionic powers.

Roughly two-thirds of the way to Waterdeep, in the middle of the day, the vessel finds itself in a sudden squall. Violent waves churn and the skies turn black and roil. The storm begins to change the vessel’s heading from due south to due west, towards a small island further out from the coast. As all hands attempt to brace themselves against the storm and right their heading, Sim hears a strange voice echo in his head. Though he does not understand the language it speaks, the inflections are familiar, and he calls out psionically in common. The voice responds in a very forced but proper common, and addresses Sim by name. Suddenly Sim recognized the voice as the aboleth that the party freed weeks ago from the underground ruins. No sooner do they greet each other than the boat is slammed by a huge creature, and tentacles rise to port and starboard, slapping furiously against the deck.

Through the storm they fight the aboleth, quickly injuring him severely. Sim fires a final shot from the ship’s ballista, piercing the giant creature and dragging it down to the depths. After the fight, it dawns on the party based on their research that aboleths typically do not grow from the size of a human to the size of a marine vessel in a span of weeks; nevertheless, they are certain that this is the selfsame aboleth that they freed when it was no larger than any of them.

The storm continues, bringing the ship further and further out towards the island, and despite his considerable skill behind the wheel, Percival is unable to bring the ship around. They pull quietly into an inhabited cove, where they see tribesmen armed with all manner of armor and weaponry from loincloths to chainmail, and one lone old man standing on a rooftop, chanting and waving his arms.

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Session 9
The Innocent and the Accused

Minds, Faiths, and Loyalties

Immediately following the battle with Markham Ovren, Lawrence leaves the cleanup in the hands of Imogene and rushes to the east wing to help his companions. He passes through the animal chambers, a room filled with rune circles on the floor, and the hall before reaching the library. He manages to slip through the first magical door before it shuts, and rushes to the second, inputting “Loren” as the code. The door slides open.

The entire party is faced with a dire battle: the man who snuffed out the light from the room seems to be able to see clearly in the dark, and is striking them periodically with psionic weapons before fleeing back into the shadows. They begin to light all the torches again, and Sim sets fire to the bed to give them a central light source. In the clear light they see that this man is younger than Markham Ovren, but has similar features; when asked for his identity, he says “They call me Markham.”

As the battle drags on, the party begins to take attrition. The shadow-man focuses many of his blows on Sim and Khaber, Lawrence finds himself unable to strike the man even when he is clearly visible, and Petra, after hearing the voice of Kossuth, flings herself onto the burning mattress and is consumed by the fire. This act, at least, seems to startle the shadow-man long enough to give them a moment’s rest, but no more than that. As Sim glares incredulously into the flames, he is stabbed in the sides by the shadow-man’s mindblades. This gives them both a perfect vantage point to witness Petra’s rebirth: she rises from the crackling fire as a creature made of lava, wielding a massive, flaming spiked chain.

As the shadow-man strikes Sim once more with the mindblades, he is shocked to witness the blade become corporeal while impaled through the half-elf. Despite his best efforts, the shadow-man is unable to recall the blades to his own body before taking a savage blow from Sim. Sim begins to hear the man’s voice resonate inside his own mind: it sounds confused and unsure.

The battle quickly begins to turn in the party’s favor, and they bring the shadow-man to his knees. He clutches his head with one hand and fixes his blade on Sim with the other, before he is knocked unconscious by the final blow. Tired, the party makes a quick recovery and binds the man, beginning his interrogation.

At first, they are all put off by this shadow-man. He is afflicted by the condition echophasia, and repeats anything directed at him before actually responding to it. Despite the cocky tone he adopted in the battle, the man seems quite childlike, and is clearly afflicted with some form of mental deficiency. As a guess, they address him as Loren, and he responds to that name. He is unaware of the current date, but does know that he was trying to kill the party. He is also aware of the fact that there is a second consciousness in his body, that of Markham Ovren, and that that consciousness wants to fight the party; through sheer force of will, he is able to maintain his own personality through the interrogation. The party quickly pockets some of the documents from the desk and heads into the room Loren identifies as his bedroom.

Inside, they find a single cot, a small desk with several children’s fiction books on it, and a poem scrawled in blood on the wall. The poem is written across the entire room, and reads:

For I am this body,

As I am the whole-stitched cloth.

And blood runs through this needle,

As threads across the folds.

As Lawrence begins to explain to the rest of the party his meeting with Markham Ovren in the west wing, Khaber becomes immediately uneasy at the mention of the Al-Rashid. He says that he was not informed of their presence here, and tells the party that there is little time to waste. They hurry back to the animal cages, but find only Ovren lying in a pool of his own blood, and several blood trails leading to the room with the runic circles. The trails end at a single circle in the southwest corner.

With little time to waste before they are found out, the party quickly heads to Ovren’s private chambers. They find no one there, but continuing deeper past his bedroom they discover an alchemy lab with vivisected animals sprawled on the countertops, as well as strange blood-holding needles made of metal. They take some of the tools for closer inspection before setting fire to the lab. Returning to Loren’s rooms once more, they find that all the remaining documents from the desk are missing. Hoping to catch the culprit they rush back to the west wing again, but find no one there. With nothing left to do, they euthanize the animals and set fire to the west wing of the second floor. On their way out, they inform some of the servants that there is a fire and advise them to escape; bringing Loren with them, they return to Luskan, weary from their exhausting heist.

As they ponder their next move, they consider the threat that Loren poses. They suspect that at any time he could snap, reverting to his Markham personality. Should this happen at an inopportune time, it could mean their deaths. Sim, still trying to sort out the events of the battle in his own mind, is unsure of what action to take. Petra, viewing him as a flawed existence and a burden, suggests that he be freed from his suffering. Lawrence, however, adamantly refuses to allow this. With no agreement reached, but Markham’s personality in check for the time being, the party sets up a watch on Loren, and sleeps through the night.

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