Friday, May 14, 2010

Episode 22: 11/14/09

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/4-3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4
Sarek, human wizard 7

We burn Akasha on the cart she rode in on. Mossad takes one last look at her garlic-stuffed, disembodied head before tossing it on the pyre. That evening, Mossad mostly keeps to himself as Arrad pals around with the Legionnaires. We camp for the night in the relative safety of our fortifications.

In the morning, Mossad pokes through the ashes and fishes out a ring, which he tosses to Sarek. He puts the ashes in some urns, and then gives us each one. We scatter Akasha's remains to the four winds while Mossad says a prayer for the departed foe. Afterwards we break camp and head back to the Cabal; a journey of about a week. Along the way, we gain from our experiences and receive some special training from Arrad! As we travel, we finally get around to giving Mossad and Arrad our full report on the Blackwall Keep mission.

We settle in to life at the Cabal, but rumors of trouble in Diamond Lake pique our interest. We soon decide that the time is right for us to go after 31E. We remember that we'll need a Repair spell to attach the new leg to 31E, but those are hard to come by. After a bit of research we learn of a shop, called Stonebones, which might sell such a thing.

We make our way to the Cogs, a bustling foreigner's marketplace that is out of the way and off the radar for most of Istivin's inhabitants. We locate the curio shop and are somewhat surprised to find it is run by Stonebones, a Xorn. He is hesitant to deal with us at first, and things get off to a rocky start when Sarek spots a suspicious-looking amalgam of body parts in the Xorn's workshop. Officially, this is something we should definitely investigate, but it's clear that Stonebones won't deal with us if we give him any trouble. Things get a little heated, but we decide to turn a blind eye here for the sake of rescuing 31E. Stonebones is still uncertain about us, but the "irresistible aroma" of our gems gets the better of him and he agrees to sell us some Repair scrolls. While Stonebones is rummaging around for the scrolls, I spot a disembodied troll hand in a small cage among the jumbled piles of trinkets and treasures. I've been casually looking for just such a thing, in the hopes of combining it with my troll gut rope to make a troll hand grappling hook! I must have it. It costs me a few "delicious" rubies from my personal stash, but I eventually convince Stonebones to let me have it. Thrilled, I attach the hand to the rope and it flips me off immediately. I love it!

That evening, back at the Cabal, we are stunned to be summoned to meet with the Canoness. None of us has met with her since we were inducted as Greycloaks. No one meets with her!

Canoness Embiril Ilustani receives us in her large and richly appointed office. A cheery blaze in the hearth casts dancing shadows about the chamber. Draped in luxuriously embroidered silks and velvets, the elderly Canoness is still more graceful and charming than most women half her age (whatever that may be). Her eyes seem to shift color constantly. She chats with us in a relaxed manner that speaks of her absolute supremacy.

She informs us that since Ironbriar's imprisonment, Marten has been appointed as an Interim Justice for the district. This doesn't surprise me at all, since I've always thought Marten was a power-hungry snake. However, his appointment has elevated the Cabal's status and influence somewhat. Canoness Ilustani goes on to say that due to Marten's new post, the Ruby Temple has a more direct influence over Ironbriar's fate. She asks us to submit a recommendation on this matter. This type of thing is quite a bit above our pay grade, and we're all rather stunned, but of course we agree. After a few more minutes of small talk, she replaces our Greycloaks with Traveling Greycloaks, in recognition of our service to the Cabal. We are deeply honored to be rewarded by the Canoness herself, but we leave her chambers uneasy with the weight of our task to provide a recommendation.

Legally, Ironbriar has earned death as a punishment for his crimes ten times over. However, it seems evident that he was under Akasha's direct control for many months, and was merely carrying out her wishes when he committed his crimes. On the other hand, as Sarek repeatedly points out, it was Ironbriar who actually, physically performed these acts. But if a person is not in control of their own mind, if their will is not their own, can they be held completely and solely responsible for their actions? We weighed the arguments and it was obvious that we were getting nowhere. We decided to seek out help.

We approach Hezzrak and ask him to cast Commune. In the end, though, we decide we can't trust Hezzrak's Commune because we don't know who he's communing with! It doesn't help that when asked, the imp becomes evasive on that point... We ask him to cast Augury for us as well, but both courses of action (leniency and death) return a divination of "Weal and Woe". Those damned Divination spells never clear anything up! Desperate, we consult with Advocat and find there are some precedents for leniency in these types of cases. At length, we turn in our well-written missive to Mossad recommending leniency for Ironbriar based on evidence, the circumstances surrounding this case, and the historical precedents.

As we prepare to leave for Diamond Lake, we find Tamklar ready to depart with us. No caravans have come from the Diamond Lake area in weeks, and he is anxious to see for himself what has happened in his home region. We're happy to have him along.

A day or two into our journey by carriage, Zolara appears and offers us a reading:

The Choosing:

Nineve - The Avalanche
Sarek - The Juggler
Ashe - The Crows
Xicar - The Cricket

The Spread:

The Paladin The Keep The Dance
The Beating The Avalanche The Joke
The Juggler The Tyrant The Tangled Brier

"Regarding the past, The Paladin is strength through adversity - he does not back down under any circumstances, much like you all. The Beating shows an attack from all sides. You may have survived, but something was lost, perhaps trust. Misaligned, The Juggler has faltered in the past, and a great disaster followed.

In the present, The Keep represents all of you, your quiet strength that cannot by shaken by any force. The Avalanche shows me the chaos and suffering that arises from an unthinking crowd, though it may be averted. The Tyrant is a blight on those ruled. In this case, I see a true dragon, though his rule is felt through the actions of another - one you are familiar with, I think.

The Dance represents the rich and delicate framework in which we all exist. Knowing your place and seeing the patterns will allow you to remain in perfect step. The Joke shows us a terror overcome through trickery or wit - not force. The Tangled Brier is a card of past deeds - it tells of a lost object or person who may still influence the present day."

In a few days we arrive at the outskirts of town. We are "greeted" by a gang of thugs in tattered red cloaks who try to extort us for a "toll". Nineve convinces them that they should look elsewhere if it's easy money they're after.

We round a corner and gasp as we catch sight of what used to be Diamond Lake. It's been largely leveled. We interrupt a town gathering of sorts that appears to be some kind of lottery. Officiating it all is Balabar Smenk. Dressed in faded, tatty finery with a tin crown on his head, he is a far cry from the smooth and powerful crime boss he once was. The town is crawling with his lackeys - the thugs in the tattered red cloaks. After some quick inquiries, we find out what happened.

A huge red dragon attacked Diamond Lake. (We deduce that it was probably the same dragon that leveled Blackwall Keep). The dragon still holds the town. In the wake of the destruction, Balabar stepped in to fill the power vacuum, acting as the dragon's envoy. He and his lackeys hang out on the Harkness, and collect what valuables can be had from the scavenging survivors. About once a week Balabar sends an "offering" of goods and people to the dragon, as payment/incentive for not continuing to raze the town. The people who are to be fed to the dragon are selected through a lottery, which is currently in progress.

Some of the citizens of Diamond Lake recognize us, and beg us to save them once again from their cruel fate. However, our presence is enough to distract Balabar for the moment. He focuses on us and leaves the lottery unsettled for the time being. An excited and desperate-sounding Balabar invites us to dine with him that evening. We wearily accept. Balabar rushes off to make preparations, and in the meantime, we make some inquiries. We are looking for Lazare. We determine that he left town a few days before the dragon attack, and may have been heading to the Whispering Cairn...

A few hours later, we meet Balabar for dinner on board the Harkness. Smenk goes on and on about the fine spread he has assembled for this repast, and from the state of the town, it must have been hard to come by indeed. We enjoy the relative delicacies he has prepared and discuss the Diamond Lake situation. Balabar approached the dragon immediately after the attack and proposed their current arrangement. The dragon's demands were that no one may leave Diamond Lake, and offerings of beautiful maidens and precious objects must be made to it at regular intervals to appease its hunger and increase its hoard. Balabar was able to keep the definitions for "beautiful maidens" and "precious objects" vague enough to satisfy these requirements with what is actually left in Diamond Lake - scraggy peasants and twisted scrap metal. Balabar is aware that he can't keep up this arrangement forever - eventually he'll run out of townsfolk - and the strain of this knowledge has taken a toll on his sanity. From atop a makeshift throne surrounded by piles of junk, he chats glibly about living like a king surrounded by finery, all without a hint of sarcasm.

Balabar talks and talks and we realize he is stalling. It soon becomes evident that he has poisoned us. He really must be crazy! We start to feel foggy and drowsy, but we manage to shake off the effects. By this time Balabar has become increasingly nervous. He realizes the poison has failed and jumps up suddenly. Before we can react, he fires a loaded crossbow at Sarek, pinning him to his chair!
Nineve fires back with a blast from her pew-pew gauntlets and the battle is on!

My old friend Kullen, the albino half-orc with a grudge against elves appears from the shadows. He calls me "Pinky" and cuts into me with his axe! Fortunately, I immediately answer with a cut of Searing Light from Captain Lorring's sword. Xicar throws down Order's Wrath, which dazes Balabar (who turns out to be BalaBARD!) Enemies pour in as the dinner party suddenly becomes a pitched battle. Balabard recovers, turns invisible, and flees.

We take a few seconds to heal up and collect ourselves and then give chase. We run around on the lashed-together decks of various boats that serve as a makeshift village on the water, fighting our way through thugs and pirates. Balabar hits me with a spell and I become confused. The rest of the battle is a blur as I alternate between staring off into space singing the Hamster Dance song and accidentally attacking my dog. My companions finish off the thugs and we continue on our chase, which has now progressed to the docks. Xicar gets shoved off the dock and narrowly avoids falling into the gar-infested waters.

We have a very tough slog through Balabar's minions - thugs, pirates and the like, before we finally manage to catch up with him at the end of the dock. He is standing next to a large, violently shaking container, looking smug. As we approach, he says "Oh, now you've made him angry. You won't like him when he's angry!" and unleashes his trained dire ape, ManBearPig, on us!

Nineve and I are on that monkey like a rat on a Cheeto. The men keep Balabard occupied while we hack ManBearPig to pieces before it can become a problem. Without his meat-shield, the mighty Balabar Smenk is easy pickings. Killing him is so easy it almost feels like an accident. Looks like we solved his dragon problem after all...


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,