The fallen crusader stands up and a sinuous creature emerges like a bowel movement from Halved’s engorged crimson sphincter. I call to the thing that it’s just entered the last 12 seconds of its life. It becomes shaken and nauseated in fear.
Kostner plugs it with a couple arrows. Neva finishes it off. We hear chanting from a nearby cave where we’d heard the warning from before. Susannae steps around the corner and sees what looks like a crusader with an evil expression. He continues to chant. Halved goes dashing around the corner and steps onto some explosive runes surrounding the guy but dodges the damage. I join him and dodge some myself.
The cultist reaches out to grab Halved and gashes appear on the barbarian, seeping blood. Susannae charges up and slashes the guy badly through a gap in his armor. Halved tries to flip over the guy but stumbles, crashing into Susannae and impales himself on the cultist’s scimitar. I fail at cutting at him with Sphex and put my Arcane Mark on him. Good armor. He ripostes at me but misses. Kostner pings him with an arrow and Neva approaches and terrifies him by waving her severed eye around. Susannae stabs him again, Halved slashes him, and I miss again.
The foul cleric seems to panic and summons black fluid to explode out through him. It burns through me. Kostner shoots him twice, the second going through his trachea. After some argument, Susannae heals my diseased wound from the goatmen.
Kostner sees tracks going into the cave. There are eight corpses here in various versions of black armor and evening garb. They appear to have been celebrating but were burned and cut up to death. It’s hard to tell if they did it themselves purposefully or not. Kostner sees some singed hoofprints… brimraks, three of them. We discuss what we know about them… tough, aggressive, with boiling blood. We think we can take them.
I notice among the corpses a half-drow, like the one I’d been looking for that absconded with Auciell. We see the sky outside darkening quickly along with a howling wind and lightning flashes and falling ash. I dismiss the horses back to wherever they came from. Kostner points out that Abyssal rifts may open in such weather. Great.
I sneak ahead, keeping out of the others’ light. I come to a widening in the cave with a sheer drop off of one side of the cavern. I detect magic on a metal vase lying in the center of the cave. After a heartbeat, I feel a call upon me as I sense the necromancy on it, but I resist it.
I bring the others up and Susannae feels the darkness come over her too but she also resists. So does Neva. Susannae picks up the urn. As she carries it to throw it over the edge, Halved feels himself pulled into the urn and looks out of it at Susannae.
Physically, Neva sees Halved’s eyes have turned black. I urge Neva to disarm him. She says she’ll deal with it if he attacks her. He turns and attacks Kostner with a vicious blow but the ranger deftly dodged it.
I tell Susannae to throw the urn over the edge thinking that distance from it will help Halved. She does so and Halved feels himself fall into the abyss. Oh well. It was worth a shot.
Neva disarms Halved with her ranseur as I cast a Shield spell and try to draw his attacks. He reaches for his sword and I knock him over. Susannae tries to cast Protection from Evil on him but the magic consuming him resists it. Kostner steps in to try to grab him and takes a wound for his trouble. I get out a scroll of Dispel Magic and struggle to read the words right but I manage to succeed in removing the enchantment from him and the darkness leaves his eyes.
Before we can breathe a sigh of relief, Susannae and I suddenly feel the ground open beneath us. I dodge away but she tumbles into the pit onto some spikes.
“I’m ok,” she calls. Neva sees that Halved seems to be alert and throws her levitation dragon scale down to Susannae who throws her protection one up to Neva. Halved stands up and steps into the cavern.
Thinking for a second, I believe the “pit” could be the work of a shadow demon, a spellcaster that uses shadow illusions that seem so real they actually can damage you. The demons are notoriously hard to spot. I drink my elixir of vision and spot the thing hovering above the crevasse. I pretend not to see it.
Then I feel black flames explode everywhere. I can tell it is a shadow magic fireball engulfing all of us. I’m burned pretty badly even though I know it’s not wholly real. I hear its voice in my head. “Don’t pretend you can’t see me,” it says in Abyssal. “I’m going to kill you.”
“Can you hear me?” I ask back, telepathically. “Yes.” “Then, can you see this?” I ask, grabbing my crotch.
Halved throws a torch onto the ground. Susannae levitates out of the hole. “Kostner,” I call, “I’ll light him up so you can light him up!” I surround the thing with dancing lights and Kostner sends some arrows right at its head. But they go right through it.
It blasts out another illusory fireball at the others. I’d gotten some distance. It burns Kostner pretty badly. “Use magic against it!” I say.
Neva pulls out a magic heavy crossbow and begins loading it. Halved runs over to stand next to me, just asking for another fireball. Susannae shoots it with a demonbane arrow and damages it some.
I pull out a wand of magic missiles to blast it if I see it casting again as Kostner hurriedly drinks a potion to heal himself. The shadow demon floats over closer to use and tries to cast a spell but I interrupt it with the missiles.
Halved steps up and slashes it badly. Bad move, demon. Susannae shoots it again. Kostner hits it with a pair of bane arrows.
I step around to flank it and use my arcane pool to pump up Sphex but I miss again. Come on, sword. It screams in pain from its wounds and teleports away and we only hear the sound of the wind.