Wrath of the Righteous

Session 12: 4718AR, Arodus 20
Reunited and it Feels So Good?

Dusk here…

I catch up to them as they enter the Tower of Estrod. They’ve fucked things up and are separated and their cover is blown. Faxon, the leader, taunts Susannae and she hurls my fucking shingle away. They all start yelling at one another. So I start climbing. Susannae hit Faxon with a good shot. He then rushes up and burns her. I climb over the wall and leap down, calling for my fucking shingle. Kostner and Susannae are fighting alone. Neva shows up and takes out one of his mooks.

I risk a blow from the other mook who slashes me hard and I pin Faxon against the wall, avoiding his burning touch. Then Susannae finishes him off, then shoots the last one. She heals me as we argue. Then we talk about what we’ve learned.

We hear that Drezen is the next city to be attacked and I tell them how the dragon corpse was taken to the Worldwound. We find a bunch of gear and some papers detailing the movements of the cult of the Ivory Labyrinth. There is a note from a Minagho about Vorlesh and some other plans.

We go down below to the room Halved had gotten himself locked in. I realize the minotaur head on the wall is a Brazen Head, blessing evil creatures. I ask Halved to smash the altar and head.

Kostner and I stalk ahead and espy two more abrikandilu. I sneak back to tell the others. They decide to take them on. I plug one with a bolt. Halved catches up to him and slashes him well. The abrikandilu terrifies Halved and shakes Neva.

I drop the crossbow and go charging all the way up and slay it as Halved runs away in fear. Neva slashes up the other and Susannae shoots it. Then I flank it and Neva finishes it.

After Halved returns to his senses, we travel on again and come along a group of mercenaries surrounding someone kneeling on the ground. I make myself look like the dickhead witch hunter and ask what is happening. They say they are going to sacrifice a virgin to make a demon-killing weapon. I signal to Kostner to get the others.

I try to intimidate them to get them to stop their stupid plan. Instead they turn on me as well. One slashes me with a sword. I Color Spray another and he falls.

They seem to be well-armed and armored and they put up a tough fight. Halved finally takes one down as they strike us many blows. Susannae takes another down. I daze one and strike the leader. Neva steps up and hits him too. Kostner takes out another, then he finishes the leader.

They others try to run. Halved cuts one in half. Sphex and I decide the last one does not escape and I cut him down. We then heal up with potions.

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Sessions 10 & 11: 4718AR, Arodus 20
Split Ends

After arguing over the ethics of deception, Dusk concedes and gives his silver scale over to Susannae.

“It’s best that I maintain my reputation, rather than pretend to be captive. With all of the betrayal about the crusader orders, my apparent cooperation with cultists, although forced, could cause a mistrust of us in the future, if we are seen by anyone on our side. Besides, you are best equipped to watch our backs in case demons or cultists try to flank us.” Susannae explains, summarily.

Dusk agrees begrudgingly and slinks off into the shadows of a nearby alley to keep watch. Topaz Solutions has a carving of a bundle of herbs and a bubbling potion. The windows are shuttered but the door hangs open.

After about twenty minutes, by Dusk’s estimate, a group of soldiers files out of the building through the front door. They look worse for wear, dirt on their faces and ill-maintained armor. On each shoulder they sport a badge- a black raven, with feathers turning to ashes. The expression on their faces look more worried than defeated and they haul a few bags of clanking loot with them. They do not see Dusk and make to leave down the street.

“Hmph. ‘Maintain my reputation.’ You got that right, sister Susa,” muttered the demon. “Only, it was a different reputation she’s worried about. She must have caught the gleam in my eye when I was about to bind her wrists. Women… always spinning it around. Yeah, she’s probably worried she might like it.” He chuckled and started letting his imagination drift.

“Stop your incessant grumblings, Dusk,” answered a voice in his head. “Do you think I was forged to listen to your adolescent lust? Why are you not wreaking vengeance?”

Dusk frowned down at the sword on his belt. “Sphex, this isn’t how things are going to go down. You are not going to be my nanny. You’ll get your vengeance. You’re getting it now, in fact. It’s just that my part of this particular piece of vengeance involves me sitting in a dark alley mouth watching the door and their backs. In the meantime, let me have a little fun. Calistria’s the goddess of carnal thoughts, too. Pretend I’m praying.”

“You have not been praying. I do not pretend or feint. I strike and strike true and taste the blood of my foes!”

“Settle down, already. I’m surprised no one else can hear you. And anyway, you might get your chance soon. It’s been almost twenty minutes. That’s several lifetimes in a fight. I don’t trust those guys to talk their way too far so the arrows and swords and mayhem should have been in high gear already.”

The door opened and he crouched down to watch the soldiers begin to leave.

“Well… that’s no good at all. So, those schmucks either just finished off our friends, Sphex, and are off to deliver their gear to some boss or are up to no good. That look on their faces might mean they’re concerned their password is out and they might warn the other locations. What the hell are those icons?”

Dusk can’t quite place the patch, but thinks that based on the look of the group- their practical armor and rough appearance -they may have be part of one of the many mercenary companies brought to Kenebres to assist the crusaders. It is not the wing of the dried Vrock wing that represents the Blackwing on their shoulders. None of their loot is immediately recognizable, but the bags are large and would require closer inspection in order to confirm that they have not robbed Susannae, Halved, Kostner and Neva. They’re headed down the road, so Dusk is forced to leave his post in order to do so.

“-somewhere new to hide out.” One of them, a tall and thin, tawny male finishes. “There’s got to be a lot of loot out there to re-purpose. Between all the rich traders and the crusaders that fell in the attack, I can only imagine what got left behind.”

“Maybe we should just go,” Says another, a short and stocky woman with a slight lisp. “First we’ve got demons to deal with, now there are survivor do-gooders heading about. We’re lucky we got out of Topaz Solutions without that big fella back there cutting our heads off. He looked like he was itchin’ for a fight and only didn’t cause of that follower of Iomedae.”

A third chimes in: “On my way to meet with you, I saw demons carrying that big silver dragon out of the city. That big demon that killed it was ordering his peons to carry it west, back to the Worldwound. There’s things at work here much bigger than us and we’re lucky to be alive, I think. If we ain’t careful, we’ll get stepped on.”

“You’re a bunch of cowards. Look at what we already made, there’s got to be more to be had. Let’s search around ’fore dark.” Says the first.

“Let’s find somewhere new to hold up before dark, at least. I swear the sun is rising later and setting earlier each passing day. Soon it’ll be forever night…”

Remaining undetected, Dusk uses Detect Magic to scan their loot. He detects three individual magic auras, one of which is an amalgamation of three smaller versions of the same aura. However, before he can try and identify the schools of magic involved, they walk out into a square, necessitating that he reveal himself in order to continue his spell on what they have.

“Well, Sphex, sounds like the others are alive at least.”

Dusk dropped back, letting the looters gain some distance on him, but he continued to follow, sneakily with wand in hand.

“Now, we just need to find a nice place where I’ve got some clearance and then we’ll see if we can settle this without bloodshed.”

“Don’t be weak, vessel of my will. Blood shall be spilled.”

“Well, let’s a least make sure it’s more of theirs than ours, sword.”

After following them for a short while, waiting for the opportunity to strike, Dusk sees another group making their way down the street. As they near the mercenaries, Dusk can make out their heavy armor and talbards- most likely crusaders. The mercenaries are startled by the approach of the crusaders and look about frantically as if to make to find somewhere to hide or make their escape.

“I don’t wanna deal with crusaders, they might be just as desperate as we are. Let’s split up. Meet at the North entrance to New Kenebres.” Says one of the mercenaries. The rest nod and they split off into three groups of two, two of the pairs towing a loot bag each. Each group darts into smaller roads on opposite sides of their current path.

The crusaders continue their way down the street. There are four of them in total, three in armor and a fourth in a robe. They are all human, the robed one is a frail looking male.

“Weeeelll… this is interesting, isn’t it, Sphex? Now, I could go ahead and alert these crusaders about the looters.. but chances are they’ll believe me less by telling the truth than those jerks can get scared. And in any case, they’ve done us the favor of splitting them up. Let’s see if can divide and conquer.”

“Finally, blood will feed my taste for vengeance!”

“I might just use my crossbow.”

“Insolence!”

Dusk attempts to hide from the real crusaders and takes after the pair carrying the bag of loot that he detected the magic auras from.

Dusk follows a pair with a loot bag down a side street and around a corner. In the sky, Dusk can seem some vultures circling over an area to the south. He hears the far away droning of some strange beast, a noise that, if Dusk didn’t know better, would say was a sort of calling from a beast not quite demonic.

“Stop day dreaming!”

The pair of mercenaries slip into an abandoned house at the end of the street where it meets the wall separating New Kenebres and the Gate District. Dusk calculates that he is still somewhere south and east of the entrance to New Kenebres of which the mercenaries spoke.

Dusk creeps closer to the house, checking if there is more than one entrance and seeing if there are any windows.

It’s a small, unassuming house with a single front door and a single window. No light is coming out through the window and the place seems to be abandoned, other than the mercenaries that just went inside. A large hole has been torn in the roof, revealing part of a short storage attic. The front door is closed and the house is flanked tightly on both sides by neighboring houses.

“Aw, they’ve got a comfy little hidey hole, Sphex. That’s damn cute.”

Dusk lit a cigar and crept to beneath the window. Sliding the black blade out of its scabbard, he touched a finger to its tip and said a brief word in the tongue of the Abyss. Darkness spread, then, twenty feet in every direction.

He stood and gazed through the window under cover of dark and intoned, in a threatening voice, "Listen up, scum. You were paid to defend this city. Instead you’ve looted its fallen guardians. Now, I know humans are weak. I’m half human myself. So I’m going to give you one chance. You have six seconds to drop that loot which will be returned to those still fighting the demons and who will rebuild, come out of there, and get the fuck out of my city. Your friends are being dealt with as well so don’t bother waiting for them at the gate. Get. The Fuck. Out.

“Or, you can stay in there and Sphex and I will kill both of you. He wants to drink your blood. Me, I’m just gonna watch you die. Then, since I’m half-demon too, I’ll probably get to feast on your cowardly, worthless souls in the Abyss some day.”

Then, he watched.

Dusk sees them drop the bag of loot and hears a loud clanking thud and then some hurried whispering. Among incomprehensible words Dusk makes out “ain’t worth it, you fool.”

“Well if you go, I’m out.” Then there is a silent pause. Suddenly, the front door bursts open and the looters shoot out of the house and take off sprinting down the street.

“Let’s get the hell out of here!” one shouts. As they reach another road they turn down it and out of sight. Dusk still sees the Vultures circling in the distance, but the bestial droning cannot be heard any longer.

After they leave the house sounds empty. The darkness hangs in the air, like a cloud of underwater squid ink, but insubstantial.

Dusk slips inside and inspects the bag of loot, casting a Detect Magic cantrip.

“OK, Sphex. Let’s find somewhere else to hide the rest of this junk before returning it to the Defender’s Heart and let’s see what’s going on over there by those vultures.”

He slammed the blade back into the scabbard, extinguishing the darkness and headed south over the blade’s protestations.

The trove consists of 122 gp, 418 sp, a set of silver cutlery worth 125 gp, a brass goblet worth 15 gp, a portrait of a young man in fancy dress cut from its frame and rolled up worth 55 gp, a flask of acid, a flask of alchemist’s fire, two vials of antitoxins, three vials of holy water, three magic bolts, a magic elixer, and a magic potion of Barkskin.

As Dusk heads south towards the place above which the vultures are circling, he begins to hear the bestial drone again. The weather remains a dull and stark color with a faint red from the west lingering in the openings in the clouds. The noise increases in volume as he makes his way carefully down the street, until it becomes unnerving. It’s not clear from where or what the noise is coming.

Dusk shrugs off the effects of the droning. Keeping to the shadows, Dusk continued south.

Dusk follows the wall between him and New Kenebres until it suddenly ends, having had a hole blow through it, by some rampaging demon no doubt. The hole spans some forty feet wide, lowering the road on which Dusk currently walks about ten feet down into a rubble filled gully that leads east clear through the city and west towards Clydewell Plaza.

The vultures circle above, but beneath them, suspended in the air on a column of clouds is Neva with her ranseur brandished. She descends towards the rest of the group, who brace to defend themselves against a quilled beast, which darts out from beneath some of the wreckage. From his vantage on the upper road, Dusk is about one hundred feet away from them.

“It’s hungry for your friends. Those vultures will join in, too,” says Sphex.

Suddenly, Dusk feels a pain explode on the back of his head. He wheels to see a hulking man standing behind him, wearing a black robe trimmed with orange flames and a symbol of Iomedae shining brightly on the front of it, his face obscured by a drawn up hood. In his hand is a sap, no doubt the source of the pain. “Surrender, fiend-blood!” he says in a aggressive tone.

Behind him, standing further down the road Dusk had just traversed, stands another figure clad in the same robes. His hood is down, revealing his bald pate and he is gesturing with his hands, speaking strange syllables that echo like metallic chimes in the wind: “अभी भी रहो । आप एक दिव्य नौकर के फैसले में खड़े हो जाओ।.”

A third man stands beside the second, dressed the same the first, holding a crossbow trained in Dusk’s direction.

The demon put his hands up in his most non-threatening way. “Whoa, whoa there, asswipes. I’m sure you think Iomedae at least owes you a handjob for that sucker punch with 3-on-1 odds, shit-for-brains, but I’m on your side. Those are my friends over there that need help.”

“Friends. Hah! I be- shit! We got ourselves a slippery one.” Says the one with the sap as Dusk Vanishes. He looks around, surprised.

The hunter with the sap takes a step forward and swings blindly at where Dusk was when he disappeared. Although the strike is in the vicinity, Dusk dodges it easily on his guard.

The hunter with the crossbow dashes over to a single story house to his left, across the street from the houses beneath the wall, and begins to scale it, crossbow slung over his back.

The third spell casting hunter jogs forward to about thirty feet from Dusk, holding out a steel holy symbol of Iomedae and casts an incantation on it, which causes the symbol to glow a bright blue color.

“Calistria’s cuddlies, Sphex, these motherfuckers are seriously into it,” thought Dusk. “When there are actual demons attacking people just a hundred feet away. Wait a minute, that gives me an idea.”

He turned his head and yelled out, invisibly, in Abyssal to the spined Howler menacing his friends below the cliff, “Hey boy! Fresh humans up here! Delicious unarmored humans! Come and get it! Here boy!!”

Then he drank the healing potion held in his tail and stepped silently fifteen feet away, trying to gain cover from the rooftop sniper and distance from the spell-user, drawing another potion bottle, of Invisibility.

“He’s on the move,” shouts the bald hunter holding the holy symbol. He catches up to the sap wielding hunter. “Be careful. If he is one of the so called Ivory Labyrinth Templars, he will have assistance nearby. That howler below notwithstanding.”

The hunter with the sap turns and walks slowly down the street. “C’mon out, demon spawn. We just want to talk. Back in our place where it’s comfortable for you. And where you can’t slip out on us!”

The third hunter finishes his climb to the roof, out of Dusk’s field of vision. Dusk hears the howl of the Howler rise up again, but he recalls that Howler’s use their drone to disorient prey before a fight. Meaning, there might be another nearby. Dusk watches as the hunters in pursuit shake their heads at the sound and try to focus on searching for him. The sound grows louder, until it feels inescapable.

The road running south along the wall ends where it meets the rubble slope down into the gully. A east-west running road dead ends into the north-south road, making nearly a right angle intersection. Houses and other buildings run along the streets here, leaving only a few ally ways. Dusk steps onto the east-west road and up against a building, about fifteen feet down. Above him, perhaps a building or two to the north, the hunter with the crossbow has climbed to the roofs. The other two hunters make their way south on the north-south road and have reached the intersection. They are looking around vigilantly, favoring the western direction, but having no sense of where Dusk is, except for what their intuition allows.

“No point in dicking around here, Sphex. There’s no gain in fighting these turds. Win or lose, it’ll turn out bad for us.”

“Thanks but no thanks for the invite, Numbnuts!” he cried aloud, taking off down the street. “I guess the prison and mentally-infirm asylum must have gotten wrecked in the attack if Hulrun has press gangs out for us heroes of Kenebres to join up. Just bring an application by the Defender’s Heart — well, I guess you guys wouldn’t have a written portion, would you? — and ask for Cuddlewith, first name Amanto.”

Abandoning all strategies, Dusk bolted at full speed west down the side street, potion still clutched in his tail.

“Fucking humans. I’m sick of them. Looters and bullies all. I need my fucking magic dragon shingle back. Let’s find Susannae.”

Frustrated, the hunters scramble about trying to find Dusk before he escapes, but they fail.

Dusk makes his way down into the gully to find that his “companions” have begun their climb up the other side of the gully.

In the gully he finds the corpses of a single howler and four vultures. The vultures look to have fiendish influence, with carrion caked on their beaks and odd spines and scales jutting from their twisted bodies. They are filled with arrows and dismembered by the cuts of blades.

By the time Dusk catches up with the others, they’ve reached the Tower of Estarod, which rests within sight of the gully. They are speaking with someone at the door, Susannae disguised as Hosilla using the magic scale.

“Wasting our time! I doubt any demon wretches call that structure home.”

Dusks waits to see how it plays out, deciding against bringing his bad impressions into the conversation. For now.

Hiding across the street, he can hear Susannae, disguised as Hosilla, use the passphrase “We have new materials for the archives.” The group is let inside by a cultist at the door, who looks about on the street after them, then closes the door.

The tower is round and some 50 feet wide with the top cleared away, likely by some rampaging demon. Although Dusk can see from here, he suspects the first floor is exposed to the sky. The stones constituting the tower are well made but in the older half of buildings in the city, meaning at one time it was an outlying structure. It might be possible to scale it, due to some of the stones being dislocated.

Nothing stirs on the streets nearby. The sky remains a dull red and grey overcast.

“Back to our original business, I guess, Sphex.”

Dusk finds a place to hide in good sight and hearing of the building in case his companions need assistance.

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Session 9: 4718AR, Arodus 19-20
Time to Clean Up

Dusk here…

We rest up for more than a full day. I sell gear and I forge Sphex. Neva helps with defenses and Halved sings a song that makes everyone deal with their sorrow. Susannae hears rumors of Baphomet and Deskari cultists in the city. Some crusaders have joined them. There is fighting and paranoid crusading groups. We buy some new equipment.

A guy asks Kostner to go destroy a winged demon with one eye. It is in Warehouse Square. He says bring him a wing from it. Kostner and I have Filth Fever, we discover. Altimus, Susannae’s father, removes it from us both.

We learn the closest of the safehouses is the Tower of Estrod. Nyserian Manor is in the same district of New Kenabres. Topaz Solutions is close too, in the Gate District. Irabeth is interested in finding more information. Kostner tells me about the demon. It is a Hala, greedy and possessive and likes wind. We leave for Topaz Solutions.

Kostner and I see around a corner, some rubble cleared away and some people have made a pentagram. Three men with halberds and purple tabards. There is a kneeling person in the middle.

I signal to Kostner to head back. Then I make the sound of a weeping child. One of them disappears around the corner to investigate. Halved is seen as he goes to look. “You! Come out from behind the building!” “You come from out your building!” replies Halved.

Susannae lets fly with an arrow as I charge, striking one near the pentagram. The two close on me while Neva and Halved attack the one on her own. Halved cleaves her.

The two on me attack with their halberds. One hurts me badly. Susannae shoots him. I try to daze the other who resists and strike the one close to me. He falls to Kostner’s arrow. The last one chants a spell in Abyssal as a burst of light comes out of the ground. Kostner shoots him with a couple arrows but he survives and cuts at Halved. Susannae finishes him.

I investigate and see that the pentagram is not dangerous if disturbed. But there is magic on the cultists. Susannae heals the hostage. The cultists had cure potions and scrolls of Cause Fear and Comprehend Languages.

We decide to dress in their uniforms. Neva, Halved, and Kostner put on the cloaks and helmets. That leaves Susannae and me. I suggest I will make myself look like Hosilla and Susannae will be my prisoner. I would tie her up but make it so she can easily escape. She does not like this plan and we argue.

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Dusktales II
Electric Abrikandilu

The demon looked around The Defender’s Heart. Each refugee who met his gaze, hardened their eyes. Their world was burned and shattered. They had no way to strike back. Most of the invaders were gone now. He was alone here, insultingly alive and “safe.” He felt each look like a slap, like the slaps from the adults who were ashamed of having to feed or teach him alongside human children, hoping a little pain would frighten him away so they wouldn’t have to look at him again. It didn’t work then and it didn’t work now. He took each blow and raised his head to take another.

He could have used the dragon scale, made himself look like one of them, made the bubbling, disfiguring scars from the abrikandilu disappear. But he didn’t. He was proud of those scars, marks of his rescue of the priestess of Calistria, Eloise, who’d been left to die. Her rape and torture had been at the hands of a creature with whom he’d shared half his bloodline, true. But her abandonment from protection had been committed by creatures with whom his blood shared the other half.

“Go ahead and stare, you bastards,” he thought. “At least I have the guts to accept my own culpability.”

“Now!” came the voice in his head, the screeching demand drowning out the ambient muttering of the huddled masses, the clumsy plucking of plaintive strings. “Do it now, Dusk! What are you waiting for? Revenge. We must have it.”

He knew he needed to rest but he shared the desire of the black cold iron, the hexagonally-patterned lump beneath his cloak. He knew there was something there, something to make him complete, to be needed. He lifted the whiskey bottle to his lips with his tail and felt a vague kind of burning as the liquid slid through his wounded throat. He smiled and rose up, looking at Kostner, who sat across from him whittling an arrow shaft.

“Hey,” the demon grunted. “It’s time. I don’t want to be interrupted, unless it’s Eloise.”

The mustached ranger shrugged. “I’ll do what I can. Not like anyone knows me around here. Don’t forget I just got into town.” He chuckled, rising and taking a long swig of his ale. “Technically, I’ve probably spent more time beneath it than in it.”

“There’s your gold,” Dusk replied, gesturing to a good month’s wages stacked on the table. “Do what you have to do. Get Neva and Halved. Maybe his singing will do all the work for you.”

Kostner emptied his mug, and then swept the fifty gold into it. “Right away, ‘Boss’,” he scoffed. “How long is this supposed to take, anyway? We have things to do.”

“Why do you waste time!?” burst the voice in Dusk’s mind and he shook his head as if he could free himself of it. “My birth will only take a length of night. Then… vengeance will be ours!”

“All right!” growled Dusk to no one present. He turned as Kostner looked at him, lips pursed, and skeptical. “Er.. maybe nine hours.”

The ranger shrugged. “I’d better take a piss now, then. See you over there.”

The demon bought two more bottles of dwarven whiskey from one-armed Otai. “People are gonna ask you what the fuck I’m doing over there,” he said, gesturing to the anvil near one of the great hearths in the middle of Otai’s tavern-cum-redoubt. “Just tell them we’re fighting back.”

“I’ll tell them,” came a trained, sultry voice from behind him. Dusk turned to see Eloise there, composed once again, fresh makeup hiding the half-elf’s bruises and cuts, the smile upon her lips not quite reaching her eyes which glittered still with an unquenched rage. “I’m good at convincing people.”

The idea of her cozying up to men who’d known her and had not thought to check on the temple on their way here, though it was merely blocks away, made his vision blur with waves of rage. He felt it from the iron as well. Cold, black vengeance emanated from it. He could not look at her, ashamed he had not arrived sooner, thinking of the younger priestesses and priests who had not survived, whose bodies covered the floor of the chambers of beauty and pleasure. He strode to the anvil and began to lay out his tools.

Neva dutifully was the first to arrive. She’d been helping to shore up the defenses of the Heart. After collecting her pay, she said. “Thanks. So, what are we doing here?”

Dusk stoked the fire, leaning in so far as to let the open flame relight his cigar. “Forging a blade. A demon-killing blade.”

“Cool,” she replied, finding a tactical position to stand in the way of the most obvious approach to the jury-rigged forge. “You going to make me one too?”

The demon turned, firelight flickering in his inhuman eyes, his elongated canines clamped in a grin around his cigar. “Nope,” he said, pulling the hivelike black ingot from his cloak and dropping it into the heart of the hearth. “Just enough for one.”

She quirked an eyebrow, looking at the alien metal. “Better not screw up, then.” She turned her back to the anvil and crossed her arms, looking left and right as if daring someone to mess with the veteran mercenary fighter.

“What’s crackin’, little dude?” accompanied the mingling scents of ale, roasted meat, and sweat-soaked furs. Dusk stared into the hearth watching for signs of the ingot softening. Halved-in-Twain, the barbarian skald, towered above him, an enormous turkey leg in his hand, dripping with juice.

“Not hot enough,” Dusk muttered, staring into the fire in frustration.

“It’s not hot enough!” cried the voice in his head. “Fool! I will never be birthed here!”

“Whassat?” asked Halved bemusedly. “Hey… I wanted to show you something.” He raised the drumstick up. “Witness.” Then he began forcibly shoving it wholly into his mouth. After almost gagging, he pulled the bone free mostly rid of the meat. “Ihgn twghn!!” he cried proudly, holding the bone aloft, barely masticated flecks flying out from his still-stuffed mouth.

Ignoring him, Dusk reached both hands into the fire to grasp the ingot.

“Whgh, Dhd!” Halved cried in alarm, instinctively grasping the demon’s shoulder to pull him back. But Dusk instead focused his will and a brighter, more intense flame erupted from his palms. He felt the ingot become almost instantly malleable in his grip and he hurriedly carried it to the anvil. A sigh of pleasure came from the ingot.

“You can do that? What was that, some kind of magic, right?” said the barbarian, after swallowing, following him.

“Yeah, big guy. Magic.” Dusk held the ingot against the anvil with his tongs and raised his hammer for the first strike.

“Thought so,” replied Halved, happily. Then he looked up to see Kostner had returned and took up a position to Neva’s left. He sat down cross-legged on the floor to Neva’s right and took out his giant stringed instrument and began to pluck at it, in time to the hammer blows of iron against iron.

For hours the demon worked, his years of experience forging hundreds of blades working alongside instructions only he could hear. He felt feverish. Was it the heat? Had the rat bites finally festered? Was he drunk? Was he even awake any more?

He was only vaguely aware of his surroundings, of Halved, Kostner, and Neva earning their gold, keeping away suspicious and angry Kenabresians. He only knew the fire and the iron, the heat and the metal, the forge and the hammer. Until a soft touch at his shoulder spun him around, hammer raised in anger. “No interruptions, I said!” he yelled.

The young paladin Susannae stood before him, her frown making her no less beautiful, her eyes determined and purposeful. They had barely spoken since their latest argument in the streets of the Gate District. Her refusal to go with him to the Temple of Calistria yawned like an unbridgeable rift before him, despite her understandable desire to find her own family as quickly as possible and her offer of healing from herself and her father.

“Get out of here, girl,” he snarled. “You’re out of your element. I don’t have time to answer your stupid questions and I don’t care if you don’t like what I’m doing.”

She barely blinked and merely pushed her palm against his chest. He immediately felt a rush of energy as his open wounds healed and his fatigue vanished. “I could see you were getting exhausted.” She finished the gesture with a slight shove which pushed him back to the anvil, as she turned to leave. “Iomedae bless your labor with speed. We have to find my mother.”

Invigorated, he returned to the task, hammering the length expertly into a light, narrow point.

“It’s too thin!” he growled, his tail tossing the second empty bottle and reaching for a third. “You’ll shatter.”

“I will never break so long as I hold power,” answered the voice, which had grown more confident and less frantic as the blade took shape.

“So you say,” muttered Dusk, realizing at this point Kostner, Neva, and Halved were ignoring his one-sided conversation. “What the hell am I supposed to do for a handle, hilt, and crossguard?”

“You will not sully me with lesser materials,” it replied. “Shape me as you need it… as I will shape you.” The black blade added that with a chuckle.

The demon did as he was instructed. The blade began to take shape. It was longer than he thought it should be and without embellishment, more like the stinger of an insect than what he would call a rapier. But he felt the weight and it was perfect, a masterpiece suited exactly for the strength of his arm. The handle and guard he forged exactly to his own grip, like an extension of his own limb. Trusting in the blade’s promise of being unbreakable, he delicately hammered a doubled quad hilt, eight extending miniature versions of the sharpened blade to surround his fist and allow him an unpleasant close-quartered strike to an enemy. He had to admit, it was a ridiculous-looking weapon that looked like it would shatter on first impact. But he knew it was right. He knew he was done.

Then, as if also knowing, Eloise was before him. He swore he could hear the faint buzzing of wasps and she stood, not as a victim, but in the full power of a High Priestess of Calistria, implacable goddess of vengeance. Her eyes were an icy fury and fearlessly ignoring the pain, she grasped the still-hot black blade with both hands.

“I name this blade Sphex, after the black wasp that lies deep in the ground until ready to rise and strike. The weapon is ready,” she pronounced, her voice echoing.

“It is,” said the demon, Dusk.

“He is,” said the black blade, Sphex.

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Session 8: 4718AR, Arodus 18
How Many Friends Have I Really Got?

Dusk here…

Susannae goes running out the door yelling at Halved. Anevia looks around for her wife “Where is she?” “Probably at the Defender’s Heart,” I suggest. She continues to look.

The half-orc had a magic ranseur, a couple potions, and a wand of magic missiles which I claim. The ranseur is a Ranseur of the Gargoyle. Neva takes it. Anevia finds something in a secret compartment. She reads a note that Irabeth is at the Defender’s Heart.

We then argue again about where to go next. Unwilling to join me to check on the Temple of Calistria and Eloise, I depart from the others who head the other way to Defender’s Heart, even though the Temple is close. Why should those humans care?

Kostner leads them through the streets, sneaking ahead. He gives the all clear and then three large rats come scrambling out. Neva spears one of them. Kostner shoots another. Susannae and Anevia finish one and Halved kills the last.

Meanwhile I slip down the street and hear a loud buzzing noise. I look up and see two giant deformed demonic flies with curved horns, dripping acid. As they fly overhead I make a Ghost Sound of a cry for help behind them to make them turn and fly in the other direction from the others’ path.

The front door of the Temple is open. I sneak along the wall and hear cursing and muttering in Abyssal. “Destroy this! None of this!”

I cast Vanish upon myself and see an abrikandilu smashing things. There are two bodies spread out. I see a figure bound and hung from the ceiling on a chain. I create a Shock Shield.

I make the Ghost Sound of angry wasps at the altar, wasps being the symbol of Calistria and move toward him. He turns to investigate the altar but I blow my sneak attack. He squeals and turns around. I try to daze it and fail and miss again with my sword. He begins to summon another one but I run him through well with my blade interrupting his concentration. “Get lost ugly!”

He says, “I’ll make you ugly!” and bites me, causing horrible welts to appear on my neck and cheek. I strike him again and try to tumble away. Then he bites me again and splits my boot. Then he misses and gets angry, striking a pillar. In trouble, I pull out the wand of magic missiles and dash away, pretty wounded. I blast him with the wand and then run around a corner. He follows me and I see the disgustingness of him increase. I resist his attempt to Cause Fear and then finish him with the wand. Whew. I release the Shock Shield and get back in the Temple. I close the door and block it. I see the chained figure is Eloise.

The others reach the Defender’s Heart. Kostner sees figures in the window. A window in the door slides open. “Identify yourself.” “Kostner Lotran.” “Where are you from?” “Shutterwood.” “Are you alone?” The others approach and Anevia gives the word “Silverstrong” and they are let in.

The guard says that Susannae’s father is there. There are many beds and bedrolls around four hearths. Irabeth, a resplendent half-orc, Anevia’s wife, runs out and hugs her.

“Susannae! Thank Saranrae!” calls her father. They embrace. He does not know where her mother is. He says most of the demons left are stragglers. He also says that there are cultists helping them. He speaks of the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. They believe some large demons are underground. Halved asks if there is ale.

I check the bodies on the floor. They are dead. I try to untie the heavy chain, after making a soft landing below. I lower her slowly. She begins to stir as I unchain her. She is bruised and cut up. I lift her gently and try to Detect Magic to find a potion to heal her. In her bedroom, underneath a destroyed idol of Calistria, I find a secret cache with a couple of cure light wounds. I wake her up with one and then she heals me a bit.

Before we leave, I give her my dagger. She swears revenge on that demon, blessing her fallen followers. She says a portal opened near the wardstone and that it is expanding. As we travel we see some dretches but double back to avoid them.

As we travel we speak. She says, “Men come here in times of need but in our time of need, none came.” I show her my ingot and she points out that it looks like a wasp nest. I tell her how it seems like it wants me to forge it into a sword and she agrees that I should.

We reach the Defender’s Heart. “Maybe you should do that talking,” I suggest. She does so and we are let in.

Susannae’s father insists on healing all of us. I don’t want to associate with them but Halved grabs me. Eloise is healed as well so I accept the offer. Irabeth says that Vagorg was the half-orc who particularly wanted revenge on Anevia.

Halved and Neva tease me about my festering wounds from the abrikandilu. Irabeth is interested in the mongrelmen. She says she will dispatch some Knights to gain their help. She calls them the first descendants. She says she hopes an army comes soon. Another city nearby, Nerocyam also suffers but ours has the only wardstone that was destroyed.

We discuss what we might want to do next. Irabeth says she is in charge of the Eaglewatch now. Neva and Susannae want to tell her about the note. I don’t trust anyone but they do so. I ask if there is an anvil here. She says to ask Kimroth Otai.

Eloise asks me for something. She says she knows the name of the demon who attacked her: Sokothbenoth. She wants me to kill him. He raped her and the others. She describes him: He makes himself look tall and thin, has many piercings, and has ebony eyes but he can change his shape. She says Calistria would look kindly on her avenger.

Kimroth says there might be an anvil nearby at this guy Braggoth’s. He says we could use a cart and bring it into the Heart.

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Session 7: 4718AR, Arodus 17
Home Sweet Home

Dusk, here…

Susannae realizes we are in the southern Gate District. Gwerm wants to return home. Aravashnial wants to go to the library, instead. We decide to head to Gwerm’s. Kostner and I sneak ahead. We climb through a break in the wall into New Kenabres. A decorative garden has been wrecked. There are ratmen there, tearing things up. Demons. Abrikandilu. They hate artifice and beauty.

We double-back to drop Aravashnial at the library, the Blackwing Library, since we are passing it. It seems to be still standing. The doors are shut. There is a decrepit black wing of a vrock demon nailed above the doors. We hear a voice that says, “Stack those books better! Faster!” I get the fighters and have them go to the door. There are four people inside all tied up with piles of books around them. There is an armored man ordering another to stack the books. There are also two tieflings. The man has a symbol of Iomedae.

“What’s going on here?” I ask in Infernal as I stride in confidently, returning to my natural appearance. The human asks me to speak in Common. Instead I ask the tieflings who this clown is. “His name is Chayleb,” the tiefling replies. “Who are you?”

“I’m asking the questions here!” I yell. They say he has betrayed his people and wants to join the demons. I turn to him and say in Common, “I got to tell you something about demons, Chayleb. We don’t stack shit. We destroy it.”

Seeing that his back is turned to the door now, I try to daze him. I draw my sword. Still on his guard, unsurprised, he swats me down. “Just kill them!” he yells and the tieflings start to kill the hostages. Kostner and Halved take him out. The tieflings still attack the hostages. Halved slaughters one of them. The other runs. Susannae saves one hostage from dying. Neva catches the last one as he slips through a crack, with her glaive.

Halved brings the body back inside. Susannae unties the hostages. One is past saving. Another librarian, Ferna, says Chayleb, a possessed crusader was going to burn them and their books. He’d kept talking about how Kenabres was lost and he wanted to make good with the conquerors.

Aravashinal asks her where the other books are. Ferna says they took things, led by a man made of worms. Susannae wakes me up with potions. Ferna says the Defender’s Heart is the only safe place left.

The fallen paladin had a couple of potions. Susannae and Kostner heal up a little. We decide to barricade ourselves and rest. Ferna says she will keep watch. We rest and I look through a spellbook and scroll I found. I can only use one of the spells. As I sleep I have a dream of forging and hear the voice again. “Dusk…” says the ingot. “I’m no good to you this way.”

We leave again to make our way to the Defender’s Heart. A house has items being thrown out of it. There are more abrikandilu. We argue a little bit. I’m the only one who wanted to make sure people are not there. Then we make our way around it to Gwerm’s manor. It hardly looks damaged but it is vacant-looking. Gwerm’s house has a back entrance and we head towards there. The gardens are a little bit wrecked. We get a key from Gwerm and things look untouched inside. He is annoyed that there are no guards.

We travel through the manor. I use Ghost Sounds ahead of us to draw out any ambushes. He takes us down into the basement, to his vault. He has paintings and valuables. “I’m sure you must have realized my importance when you saw me. You did an above-average job in bringing me here.” We get paid 2000gp. We see his vault has a safe room. He will stay there.

We can stop by Anevia’s house, then the Temple of Calistria, on the way to the Defender’s Heart. Kostner and I come across a group of lightly armored figures, with horned helmets and glaives, and red sashes.

I make the sound of an alarmed person running away into a secondary alley. Four of them go down the alley. Two stay behind to watch the street. Kostner and I sneak back to the others and find a different street to take. We cross a giant gash in the ground covered in rubble and arrive at Anevia’s house.

Upon entering, I recognize a summoning spell being cast and then an eagle appears and attacks Neva. Neva smacks it and Kostner finishes it.

I coach the hitters into the bedroom and start detecting magic. Susannae tries to detect evil but finds none. Kostner checks the kitchen and grabs a bag of grain. Halved chops Anevia and Irabeth’s bed in half. Another eagle gets summoned and we hear the voice coming from the corner of the front room. I dash over as Neva attacks the eagle. I can tell there is a person in the corner. Kostner hits it with a bag of flour.

As Halved approaches, the figure reveals himself to be a half-orc in crimson armor and a horned helmet, holding a ranseur. Anevia shoots the eagle. The half-orc starts yelling in Orc. Then he causes fear in Halved. Neva steps up to fight him but misses. I strike him with a Shocking Grasp through my rapier. Kostner shoots him. Anevia takes out the eagle as Halved runs out into the street. The half-orc attacks Susannae. She hits him as does Kostner, twice. He tries to vault the table to escape but I run him through.

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Session 6: 4718AR, Arodus 17
Heading Towards the Light

Dusk here…

Halved climbs up the ladder. Susannae creates some light. Halved says the illusion stopped working so I end the spell and send some light up. An arrow then flies at Halved. I knew it! It is Wenduag. Halved launches himself out of he hole. The rats bite him up. Another bites Kostner as he climbs. I tell Wenduag to give up, that Hosilla is dead and she’ll be dead too. She says, “I won’t be bullied by you surfacers again,” and hits me with an arrow.

Halved, Kostner and I get bit up by rats as we finish them off. Halved then charges down the hall towards Wenduag and steps into an ambush. Two cultists damage and flank him. I daze one of them. Wenduag shoots Susannae. Halved takes out the non-dazed foe and then vaults over the wall giving Wenduag cover. We try to close the distance. She resists my Daze and Halved hits her. Susannae steps up too. Wenduag has good armor, though.

The other cultist claims, “I am a chitinous finger of Descari,” then squeezes a bright red blast and we feel our energy somewhat taken away. We slowly advance. The cultist priest causes Susannae to drop her bow. I step up and run Wenduag through the heart. Susannae comes charging up and after missing the cultist badly, smites him down.

Susannae heals Halved to consciousness. We sort through some gear. Susannae fetches the others. Gwerm seems to be lightening up a bit.

I sneak ahead again. There seems to be a built-up hallway of cut stone blocks. It seems great for another ambush. I warn the others to follow carefully. It is a bit of a maze. I then see some dretch demons. They start grunting and squealing, begging for help. Kostner and Halved drink potions. I daze one dretch which is trying to summon another and strike the other with my rapier. That one spews out green gas. It makes Halved and Neva nauseated but I resist it. I stab that one again. Susannae finishes it.

Another dretch is summoned from the Abyss and I stab it through as it arrives. It terrifies Susannae in her mind. Kostner risks the poison and dashes into the cloud. Susannae runs away. The dretches move up to attack. One bites me. Kostner steps away. Neva comes back in and crushes one’s skull. Its companion tries to frighten her and she resists. Kostner hits the last one and then his arrows spill all over. I drink a potion and step back to stab the demon again. Kostner slays it. I find the end of the maze. It opens into a sewer.

When the others catch up, Gwerm says, “I was too hasty before. You did well. I can pay you more.” He offers to put Neva on retainer.

I call back to the others when I hear my name. I look at a cave-in. I see a hole in the wall and find some cold iron ore. I take the piece of black iron shaped like an acorn or a hive. “Dusk…” I hear.

The others are inquiring what it is. I say nothing. We climb up and we see Kenabres is ruined. Deep chasms riddle the city. Above, the skyline is forever changed. Smoke rises, buzzards wheel, and red fires burn.

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Session 5: 4718AR, Arodus 17
Religious Disputes

Dusk here…

We talk about what to do. I suggest letting Wenduag go, and we focus on Hosilla. I lead the way to try to take out the two guards at the next checkpoint. “Hey,” they say. “I heard noise up there.” I tell them Wenduag was knocking around an intruder. We laugh. Then I suggest I heard something and hit them with a color spray as their attention turns. One of them resists, however. Susannae arrives down the ladder. I daze him and then stab him with my rapier and the others start to arrive. Susannae shoots him too. Then I stab him again and Kostner finishes him. After Halved, Neva, and Susannae fail to knock out the other one, I do so. I ask them to drag the bodies behind the barrier and crouch.

I open the door and see a room with two mongrelmen and a human woman in chainmail with a glaive and a book. There is also a lanky tiefling with horns and hooves. She asks what’s going on. I bluff that Wenduag is with them up at the campfire. Hosilla sends two out to look and they see the others and cry out. I watch Hosilla cast Shield of Faith on herself.

Halved takes one of the guards out. I pretend to be frightened. Neva comes and strikes the other who steps away from the door, wounded. Hosilla waves a wand and a ghostly glaive appears. It cuts Neva down and she falls. Halved steps up and takes out the tiefling. I cry out to Hosilla to protect me and move to stand next to her.

She steps away from me angrily ordering me to defend her and waves her wand to attack Halved with the ghostly glaive. I throw a Daze on her and it works. Then Halved steps up and whacks her really hard. Susannae heals Neva and guards her body. I step around to flank Hosilla and stab her through.

We find two potions on her, the wand, two vials of alchemist’s fire, a tanglefoot bag, a masterwork glaive, and an antitoxin. Susannae looks and sees the book is a prayer book to Baphomet. There is also a note on her corpse. It warns her of the attack on Kenabres and speaks of the salvage of Yaniel’s sword. There are also three safehouses in Kenabres. It mentions the city of Drezen, a city in the Worldwound. There are references to Vorlesh and Lord Deskari demonlords. I argue with Susannae about the prayer book.

The three safehouses in Kenabres are the Tower of Estrod a library, Nyserian Manor a noble house headed by Kandro Nyserian, and Topaz Solutions, an alchemist store. I glance through the prayer book and decide I don’t need anything from it. I give it to Susannae to destroy and she does so, while praying.

Halved finds a room of soft pelts as a bed, plus a lockbox. I feel there is magic in it. Halved opens it. There is a nice sword case, a small pouch, and some scrolls. In the case is an elaborately made blade of a faded yellow color. It can not tell its enchantment. Susannae has heard of Yaniel. It was a paladin’s sword. Yaniel had disappeared into the Worldwound and rescued a bunch of crusaders. It glows when Susannae holds it.

There is a scroll of Cure Disease. I give it to Kostner. There are some gems in the bag: lapis lazuli, bloodstones, a citrine, and a pearl. I ask Halved to behead Hosilla so we can show it to her minions and make them surrender.

Halved kicks a door in and we see a kitchen. Butchered meat of giant rats, giant vermin, and mongrelmen and human remains too. There is a masterwork dagger in the kitchen. We exit, carrying the unconscious mongrelman to leave with the others.

Neva starts speaking to the charges who have been waiting for us while Halved leaves to open all the doors. I catch up to him. Susannae shows them the magic sword. Halved and I find a shaft going down. There are no mongrelmen.

Following where Wenduag had gone. I create a Silent Image of Crell to climb up the ladder to see if it gets shot full of arrows. I don’t see anything but I see giant rats snapping at my illusion. I tell the others to go up and attack them while they are distracted.

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Session 4: 4718AR, Arodus 17
Tricks in the Dark

Dusk, here…

We discuss plans. Susannae dislikes the idea of trickery. I convince the others that letting me infiltrate the traitors is the best way to avoid bloodshed and perhaps reunite the mongrelmen. We depart Neathholme and I give my instructions. We proceed to another dock and I make myself look like Crell after testing his voice. We take two rafts across the lake and exit the large cavern. We follow a passage southeast. I sneak ahead.

I spy some large cockroaches, five of them. I sneak back towards the others and plan to light them up with light blue dancing lights for us to shoot them. Halved does not appreciate being asked to hang back. Susannae kills one. Kostner kills another. I strike another. Susannae strikes another. Kostner wounds another. I miss one. Two fly up to Halved who blew the plan by rushing ahead. Susannae and Halved take them down. Halved takes another out as Neva moves up, and takes a bite from it. The last survives strangely, until Kostner finishes it.

We travel another ten minutes, then I turn a bend to see a light ahead. As the batwing-headed Crell, I approach. I see two figures behind a barrier. One carries a torch. It thins to about five feet, and I sent back a warning light to the others. When I get close enough I see the sentries in detail: One is tusked, the other is scaly.

They tell me, after hearing my tale of bringing news from Neathholme about outsiders, they say I need to see Hosilla. They lead me to a door. There is a bunk room on the other side with two more sleeping there. One then leads me to another room. There, there is a kitchen with a mongrelwoman with extra insect arms and extra eyes sitting there. She has a bow and arrows. She argues with the guards and says that she should be the one to take me. I try to delay them for a while, but she sends them off eventually and loses patience with me. Where are the others?

They are beginning to catch up. When they reach the guard post they begin to argue with one another over what to do. Halved wants to kick in the door. Kostner wants to wait and see. Neva wants to guard Gwerm. Susannae wants to knock politely.

The ant-face woman, whose name I learn is Wenduag wants me to give her all the information but I withhold some. She leads me downward. It’s more moist here. I hear and see a lot of water collecting in a pool. Hosilla is from the surface, she says, and is powerful. She says she follows here because she’s powerful and will kill her if she doesn’t. I say what would you do if Hosilla wasn’t here? Would you go back? She says she doesn’t think that she’d be welcomed back. I tell her that Chief Sull is soft. She agrees.

Meanwhile, the others meet the guards at the door.

I try to convince Wenduag that she’s going to die if she goes back up there. She seems to hesitate. I say they (the surfacers working for Sull) are going to kill all of you. But there’s so many of us, she counters. I say doesn’t matter. They’ll kill Hosilla. She says we have to see her. We pass by some more guards. They say Hosilla is in a rare mood.

The others take out the guards. Then they try to hold off the groggy ones waking up.

Wenduag takes me further into a common area with stains on the table. Our old leader was killed here, she says, and there, his wives were killed. I warn her again that the others will kill ALL of them, including her. She says that she just wanted to show me what Hosilla was capable of and we should leave. I tell her I could tell she was smarter than the rest of them.

Kostner and Neva take out the ones waking up. I return with Wenduag and argue with the others to bind the wounds of the guards. They do.

Wenduag tells us what we can expect. She explains where the guards are and how to get to Hosilla. Then she asks if she can leave but she needs to get something first.

She opens a door and a giant lizard falls outward. She runs through another door. I draw my rapier and step to one side of the lizard and strike it. But it grasps me in its jaws and knocks me flat and bleeding. Neva steps over me to strike it. Halved pours a potion down my throat. Kostner and Susannae shoot it, taking it out.

I yell at them to quickly catch Wenduag. Neva follows her and is ambushed by a couple of mongrelmen. Kostner fires through the door and strikes one and then Halved finishes him. I heal myself up with my own potion as Neva is wounded by the remaining one, who also wounds Halved. I dash into the room and look at the remaining mongrelman. I give him the finger and change to look like him. Then Halved halves him.

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