The Shard of Astaroth V

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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Kemian » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:38 am

Dev sighed heavily and spoke up. "Val, relax. Nobody is pointing fingers at anyone in particular and truth be told, You did what you normally do what you have always done. But going up into the air, leaving others on the ground to fend for themselves is not normally something that I do and it isn't normally what others in this group normally do. Rhyl's fundamental point, is that we need to have a better awareness of what is going on with everyone else in a fight, not just remain focued on what we are doing but to be aware of the big picture. Simply put, we can and will do better next time."
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Jiriki » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:53 am

"I would think the key is to fill in blank spots. Those who can cover those who can't. For example flight. Or range. Or direct melee?" she frowns.

"I'm good with my bow & maps, Dev can fly & is amazing with his swords. Val has his magic & lightning, Berenind, his healing. Fios his spells & Rhyl his sneaking with the sword that knows more than we do. So we need to fill in the weak spots. This isn't about who's more important, we all are. So teamwork means if you see trouble sing out. If you see a weak spot with us, defend it. Sound good? I need to replace some healing potions."
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby J.C. » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:33 am

:::shrugs:::Fair enough, since I am unable to dispel other magic, I will continue to seek out the threats and deal with them as best as I can. If we are once again placed in the same situation, I can not say that I would not try to drag others from harm, but I would say it would be secondary to eliminating the threat to the whole party. The sooner the attacking is eliminated the quicker the others stop taking damage.

I am troubled that the Wind Wall that I cast upon the storm did not do as I expected, and I lost an attack on the beasts, which might have helped diminish their damage done to the others, but I can not say I may make that mistake again, given the situation. It was what I thought best at the time.

:::glances around at all the others:::As you all know, I was not invited here because of my healing prowess, I do one thing, and I do it very well, I am a cold calculating killer.

Thank you for not expecting anything else of me.
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Keith » Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:09 pm

Berenind looks around and waits for a brief lull in the discussion to speak. He stands and looks to each of the group settling his gaze on Rhyl as he begins.

"I take the brunt of the blame here for the lack of preparation, but it's something I can rectify before we move on. There are some preparation spells that will remain on us until needed, and I'll only need one day to prepare them all tomorrow. Also in the future," he hands Rhyl a ring "Wear that, and I'll cast a spell upon you that will allow me to take some of the wounds upon which you are inflicted. You used that ring when we fought the demon god and it was of great help. That should leave us in better condition than this past time, and will allow us to better focus on the situation at hand rather than our own survival from the start." he smiles and seats himself next to Jiriki again as he listens to further discussion.
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Jiriki » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:57 am

There's a sigh, "I'm just going to have to get used to seeing you get hurt aren't I Berenind?" She nods in quiet agreement to her own answer of her question.
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:13 pm

[Getting caught up on the summary of our ongoing adventure in preparation for our next scene. More will follow.]

The party having come to peace with itself, Avarisa led them further into the night until several were teetering on the brink of exhaustion. One could certainly say Avarisa's tribe had learned to isolate itself, as she brought the group into a tight, narrow ravine of sharp rocks and scraggly, gnarled little trees--which helpfully concealed the labyrinthine network of caves in which the remains of her once-nomadic people had holed up to await either their end or their salvation.

The party received its share of wide-eyed stares, especially the more obvious magicians among their number, though Avarisa managed to whip enough of them into remembering the tribe’s customs of hospitality to overcome its instinctive fear and loathing of magic. Around the ensuing meal, Avarisa explained that fear of magic as she discussed the area’s history: how the humans of the realm were once enslaved, in a time when rain still fell and the desert was swamp and sea, and how they were freed by the efforts of At’ar, whom they came to worship as a god, and who encouraged them not to embrace the follies of their former lords.

Discussion then resumed on the current situation, as the Bedine woman revealed the remainder of what she knew of the Palankasha--which was unfortunately little, aside from that it was now actively hunting the remains of her tribe, having enslaved many of the rest to work in his mines, digging for something or other. With no remaining warriors past their seventeenth summer, they would soon be forced to decide whether to leave their ancestral territory for good, or whether to throw themselves in one last desperate assault at their enemy’s stronghold above Kanche Rasatala for either victory or honorable death.

It was at this point that the party committed to assisting Avarisa in dealing with the threat posed by the Banites and their mage-lord master, in return for her assistance afterwards in their own search, and they made plans to investigate further come morning.

~o~o~o~

Morning came far too soon for the bedraggled party, though with the assistance of the Ra'ah al-Sedah's generous hospitality, they nonetheless managed to refresh themselves and prepare for another day of charging heedlessly into danger.

Under layers of protection from the devastating heat of even the morning sun, the party moved north with as much haste as they could muster, keeping under what little cover the broad, mostly flat plain allowed, and amazed at some of the bizarre rock formations and metalworks they passed on their route. Astaroth recognized some of the structures as free-standing astrolabes, and other Mechanisms designed for harnessing the power and arrangements of the stars, already ancient and in similar condition when he walked this land in life. The party was definitely on the right track.

This was confirmed as the party clambered to the top of a narrow, high cliff, more a ramp than any sort of natural construction, that gave them a wider view of the valley...and of the southernmost reaches of the mountains at Azirrhat, the closest of which was shrouded at its summit with a thick, roiling cloud of opaque black smoke clearly produced by no natural phenomenon. Avarisa explained that this was where the Palankasha had set up its lair.

Just then, Val and Fios noticed a far-off glint in the sky; the Palankasha’s little metal familiar, the Juravis, was back on the hunt, scouting for the party and Avarisa’s people!

Before the rest of the party could respond, Val was off, ready to wreak some havoc. As he approached, he discovered the metal raptor wasn’t alone this time, instead accompanied by a pair of men, clad in black robes and green velvet miters bearing the symbol of Bane, and mounted on enormous, spined, red-maned lions with barding and disturbingly human faces: manticores. The tiefling decided to follow for a bit, then settled on the group’s six and cut loose--as one of the two riders found himself and his mount trapped in a cage of pure force, falling quickly to the earth!

Val and the other wizard squared off then, darting and firing their dreadful bolts of magic as the rest of the party struggled to catch up. The two casters were fairly evenly matched when it came to battle-magic, exchanging spells of devastating power and brutality, and Val was nearly broken before finally managing to dispatch his foe. Unfortunately, the wizard had done his job--the Juravis had escaped, and while the shattered remains of the forcecaged manticore were neatly boxed on the desert floor, there was no sign of the second mage.

Knowing the element of surprise was now beyond them, the party moved swiftly in their approach to Azirrhat, ignoring all about them in the interests of speed. And though they approached with stealth, upon seeing an apparently open courtyard, they advanced onward, Devdan leading the way--only for the snow elf to be ambushed by nearly a dozen black-clad men whose very fists tore flesh like wicked knives!

Obviously not as experienced as Devdan, each of the men alone fell quickly beneath the party’s blades, but their deep, bleeding wounds left lasting damage, forcing Berenind to quickly expend healing magic beyond what he would have expected for such a preliminary skirmish. It was, perhaps, not a good omen.

The open gate beyond beckoned...
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:15 pm

What followed the battle in the courtyard was a maze of catacombs carved straight into the mountainside. In parts eminently practical, stocked with provisions, stables, and quarters, in others twisting systems of crap laden with fiendish traps, both equipped throughout with strange silver mirrors in every corner that apparently served as looking-glasses.

Alas, not too far into the tunnels, the party wound up trapped. In repeated skirmishes with more of the Banite ninjas that occupied the courtyard, one group attempted to block passage by setting off a series of smokepowder charges, and while the party managed to evade the subsequent cave-in, it left them with no choice but to keep moving forward.

Shortly after, the party found a lift that would have taken them further into the mines, where Avarisa’s people--among other Bedine tribesmen taken for similar purpose--were being held. After some furtive discussion, the party decided that not only would the base of the elevator make a great ambush point for their enemies and put them at the mercy of being trapped by those above, but attacking the mines first would deprive them of resources possibly needed for battle later with the lord of this stronghold. With a heavy heart, Avarisa agreed, and Fios sealed the lift with a wall of stone to cover their flank until they could return and free the prisoners.

Further on, disaster struck: Fios was skilled enough to spot the clumsy razored portcullis trap, as any eight-year-old street urchin would have, but it wasn’t until too late that he spotted the sepia snake sigil instribed on the mechanism, which simultaneously paralyzed him and triggered the falling blade! Thankfully, Berenind was close enough to quickly revive the fallen wizard (once Val and Rhyl removed two feet of steel from his head and chest), sealing his soul back within his body before it could depart for whatever hereafter awaited him...but more of the cleric’s powerful blessings were thus expended, and Fios’s favored helm was cloven in twain for his trouble.

The lesson in caution proved useful, however. More traps and twists awaited, but none inflicted so much harm as the simple blade at the start, though close calls were numerous. Opposition likewise waned, as their foes apparently waited to see if the traps would do their work for them. The party was more annoyed than anything as they realized the laughter that must be coming from those on the other end of the looking-glasses, watching them stumble repeatedly to their near-deaths.

A Digression wrote:Rhyl: They had a lot of time on their hands to put this sort of thing together.
Astaroth: Not necessarily. Given sufficient numbers of casters with both sufficient skill in stone-shaping and sufficient...deviousness, one could put this sort of thing together in perhaps a couple of months. Too many wizards focus merely on magical obstacles--sometimes, the old ways work just fine.
A pause ensues.
Astaroth: ...this was one of those moments where a simple "Yes" would have sufficed, isn't it?
Rhyl: Yeah, and either way, I don't know if I'd prefer the old fashioned way, or the magic in this case.
Astaroth: If that's your concern, Illaer, just look at it this way: they're probably layering the traps by threat level. First they give us glittery auras and acid locks. Then we beat that, so they give us razored portcullises, fire traps, and pits. We beat that, and next we'll get magic. So cheer up--you'll answer that question soon enough!
Rhyl: Oh, yeah - that makes me really cheery. I'll just put a smile on my face and hum a tune while giant poisoned saw blades come flying up from the floor.
Astaroth: See, now you're getting into the spirit of the thing!

It wasn’t entirely a bad deal, as the party managed to loot a well-stocked alchemical store full of all manner of the strange and unusual. But after even more traps--including a “humorous” pit trap and a boulder trap, reeking of ozone and set up much like what Oerth-dwellers might call a particle accelerator (only defeated once Val took the brute force approach of disintegrate), the party was nearly spent.

Eventually the traps ran out, and the party found themselves in the security center for this part of the facility--confronted by a pair of wizards much like those confronting Val earlier, and a pair of what appeared to be chitin-clad warriors! Nothing exposed of the creature beneath, it was uncertain whether they were men or not, but they wielded the emerald bale-fire of their master Bane. The party’s attacks were at first blocked by a planar screen that redirected incoming effects (much, Rhyl reflected, like old Kaeldrith Wands’s prismatic veils), but once those were circumvented by Sehanine’s might, a fierce battle at close-quarters was joined: the casters flinging incendiary clouds, death magic, and empowered sprays of acid, the warriors revealing themselves capable of deflecting magic with their fists and punching hard enough to stop a man’s heart.

After brief but savage fighting, the party stood victorious but uncertain of their ability to press onward: Val’s most powerful magics were now totally used up, Rhyl and Dev were both weakened, and while Berenind and Fios were still well-stocked, their current selections seemed ill-targeted to the dangers they were facing. Further, Number Eight had examined the security panels in the room, and determined that a general alert was already sounded to the summit.

With what they believed to be little choice, Fios convinced the others to retreat to what he called The Cabin: a slow-time demiplane assembled by himself, Berenind, and Altair Hadarmas, where they could rest and prepare for a day while only a few seconds passed on the Prime, ideally before reinforcements arrived. And so they departed...
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:07 pm

On their return, the party’s path became clear: to move on, the party would have to go up. A long, narrow and somewhat treacherous stairwell spiraling all around a central shaft led them to the very summit of the mountain--where, to their dismay, they found the entire upper complex to be protected by a spell Fios called guards and wards. A quick visit to a parapet the party was lucky enough to stumble across gave them just enough of a view through the choking mists to reveal a tower off to the north, and Val’s hearing was just good enough to let them know that they would have to stay within the stronghold to get there--lest they be forced to deal with the multitude of mounted wizards waiting for them outside.

More labyrinthine corridors threw the party repeatedly for a loop, especially once Fios realized that there was a strange confusion effect in place, continually directing them down the same corridors and making them believe it was a new passage. Expending some of his most powerful magic, Fios countered by magically blanking his mind from all external influence, which left him with a bog-standard maze to muddle through.

A bog-standard maze, that is, fiercely defended by more of the Palankasha’s fiend-armored warriors, who were furtively setting up ambushes for the party right at the mouths of web-strewn stairwells!

Cutting A Nightmarish Figure... wrote:The figure before Rhyl seems humanoid, standing nearly seven feet high, though nothing of the creature itself is visible beneath its grotesque armor. It wears chitinous black plates over layers of silk mesh and chain, the breastplate sculpted to look like the face of a snarling demon. A high-crested kabuto-style helmet surrounds a similarly horrific fullmask, and its gorget bears a gold medallion with the now-familiar symbol of the Zhentarim. Its wicked, bone-plated gauntlets end in hooked claws.

The Palankasha’s warriors proved incredibly tough, and Fios just narrowly managed to keep the odds even by bringing up a wall of force over a skylight above, which served to keep out the manticore-mounted casters itching to reinforce their fellow Banites. Avarisa proved her skills at stealth were Dev’s equal, as she surprised two of the warriors in the ward-mist and disemboweled them both, while Rhyl--pretty much kept alive at this point only by Berenind’s volunteering to cast shield other--and Number Eight teamed to take out two more with hammer-fists and a lightning-charged blade that could only leave spectators inventing new words like “disintexplode.” Val and Fios unleashed potent blasts of lightning and ice, and though the warriors proved themselves adept at flinging bale-fire of their own, they were in the end outclassed.

There was no time to waste--the casters outside were now burning their way through the walls and ceiling themselves with bolts of acid, the party was confronted with one last tightly-spiraling stairwell choked with thick, sticky webs, and the fire Fios had set at the base to clear their path simply wasn’t burning through the webbing fast enough. Val and Number Eight prepared to stay behind to cover the party’s advance, but Berenind finally remembered the lesson Astaroth imparted previously: Sometimes, the old ways are still best.

In this case, walking forward bearing a flaming brand of wood worked far better than waiting for the magical flames to spread and do their trick, and the party narrowly managed to beat their retreat up the stairs in time to avoid being swarmed over--which Val helped ensure by conjuring a pair of cloudkills to float smoky death down the stairs behind them.

Atop the stairs, the part found but a single pair of double doors, which Fios opened with a key taken from one of the warriors below. The door creaked as it swung slowly open...
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:40 pm

Uh-oh. wrote:Through the crack from the room beyond, the party caught a glimpse of pale torchlight, flickering in unnatural shades of green, silver, and gold, as well as the warm scent of incense. A smooth, rolling male voice called out, its tone almost a purr--but with a hint of menace. "Oh, do come in. You've torn up the rest of my palace, there’s no reason to be hesitant now."

Within, they came upon a dome-shaped...fest-hall isn't quite the right word, but throne room seemed inadequate. Though that was the room's function, obviously--down the center of the room, a velvet carpet of dark green led to a few stairs and a platform with a large, well-padded iron throne. From a steel stand behind it hung two symbols: the lower that of the Zhentarim, the higher that of Bane. The entire room was bathed in unnatural light, cast by multicolored lanterns hanging from the wall all around the room, as well as a massive chandelier in the center of the room. Unfortunately for Devdan, the room’s owner was apparently a man prepared for assassination from the shadows.

Along the walls were several sets of narrow windows, currently shut. Along the base of each side wall laid piles of glittering sand, as if it were incongruously allowed to drift in through the open windows. From the ceiling were draped many gauzy, silky curtains of green, gold, and black, and ornate columns of green marble stood along the center carpet. Along the columns, there stood two more warriors, even larger than those fought below, as well as a pair of apparent arcanists, swathed in robes of green and gold, each bearing a staff and a tall black mitre.

And to the rear, sitting on the throne, was the man who spoke--and who most of the party saw as a wizened old man, with hawkish features and eyes like polished gold gemstones, and a crystal-bladed scimitar laying across his lap. Avarisa snarled.

"There we go, isn't that better? Come on in, and partake of my hospitality like civilized people. I see you've brought my old friend Avarisa along with you. Isn't that nice? Care for a drink? Relax, and tell me what it is you've come for. I'm sure we can treat reasonably with one another."

The party was, to say the least, startled by the lack of immediate violence. While his men had attacked immediately, with the party now in his presence the Palankasha himself--for it was obviously he atop the iron throne--seemed more than ready to talk terms.

Berenind’s mask pierced the old man’s illusion, however, and Fios alertly noted the one aspect of the illusion the man had apparently found impossible to conceal--the hands, situated backwards upon his wrists. Confronted with this information in the crudest fashion by Fios, the man readily confessed: yes, he was one of the Rakshasa, “the sorcerer-kings of Ravanna,” and a follower of Bane, but he had merely attempted to follow the commands given him with the tools at his disposal. Seeing an opportunity to learn more, Fios and Rhyl extended the conversation, and while the Palankasha was wise to attempts to Fios’s game in wheedling out his plot (though Fios continued doing his best to goad the creature with taunts), he nonetheless spoke of his goals as what he called a good-faith effort to show them how they wanted the same thing.

First, the tiger-fiend had a warrior bring out the body of one of the Banite ninjas, tossing it unceremoniously to the party. Alas, Rhyl’s look of surprise betrayed the party’s mission, as the corpse had a message carved into its chest with wicked claws, addressed to the half-drow himself: “ABOUT TIME, ILLAER. COME FIND ME, FOR I HUNGER.”

The Palankasha revealed that the man had been killed just a few nights ago by a creature that then went down into Kanche Rasatala--a place now properly translated as “the Glass Abyss,” a dreadful valley within Azirrhat from which none of the men the Palankasha sent had returned. The Palankasha, for his part, likewise seeks passage into that realm...or more specifically to the complex supposedly beneath it, which houses a treasure highly desired by his Lord.

Avarisa’s initial assumption had been correct: the Palankasha was enslaving men and making them mine not for any sort of mineral or item, but to make a path around the Glass Abyss into the tunnels he so sought, looking for a strange portal he knew nothing about but its appearance. With the party here now, and clearly capable in a way his men were not, he proposed a truce; the party’s ultimate goal was obviously past Kanche Rasatala, as was his, and if they would take but a gemstone into the Abyss with them, the Palankasha would release his prisoners (having no further need of them) and seek his prize on his own time.

Avarisa was appalled that the party seemed to even consider this plan, and Berenind was incensed at the very idea of helping further a Banite’s goals, though the Palankasha said himself: “You'll be doing the same thing you plan to do already. In the process, you free a tribe of innocents, and increase your chances of succeeding in your ultimate task. Banite, rakshasa, these are but trivialites to your goals. I obviously cannot assuage your concerns completely, for I am what I am, but I bargain in good faith.”

Rhyl urged the party to consider the deal--while an uneasy thing, he was eager to avoid yet another potential enemy with a knife pointed at his back, of which he already had many. The remainder of the party (save Val, who abstained from the discussion) believed that the Palankasha’s evils were already too great to go unpunished, and with the rest so resolved, Rhyl likewise drew his blade and prepared for battle.
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:52 pm

The fight that followed was brutal on both sides, and ultimately inconclusive.

The Palankasha quickly revealed himself to be every bit the "Desert Mage-Lord" his name indicated, casting separate spells with each hand: one layering himself in several simultaneous spells of protection, and the other banishing Fios to an extraplanar maze! Two could play that game, of course, as the arch-mage Fios re-appeared almost immediately by rending the barrier between planes and stepping back through with total nonchalance.

The battle quickly descended into a bloody free-for-all. Devdan, Rhyl, and Avarisa entered the fray with blades flying, their charge breaking against the Palankasha's massive metal-clad Enforcers. Devdan and Avarisa's blades flashed like steel cobras, hacking great rents in their foes' armor and causing ripping, gushing wounds, and the floor quickly went slick with geysers of blood. The Palankasha's Enforcers traded shots well, however, using their monstrous steel fists--wreathed in their lord's unholy green flame--to shatter bones, rupture organs, and sear off flesh with incredible speed.

The Palankasha's sorcerous lieutenants complicated matters by enveloping nearly the entire party in a solid fog, then wrapping the Enforcers and themselves in twin shields of cerulean fire. Berenind was hard-pressed to keep his allies on their feet, though he quietly turned the tide of battle by finding time to shroud them all in a layer of magical resistance--greatly reducing his enemies' options. Val attempted to distract his foes the best he could by repeatedly tossing bursts of chain lightning into their midst, weakening the Palankasha's viziers but likewise revealing their unnatural vitality.

The Palankasha continued his assault...dousing the party in a torrential storm of acid rain that nearly melted the flesh outright from Val's bones, he then took Berenind out of the fight with a single Great Word of Power made possible by a simul-cast shriveling of the cleric's magical defenses, and revealed a symbol--identified by Grunt as an ideograph of the Dark Speech--that wracked several of the party with convulsions of unending pain! As Fios expended a greater dispel to remove the thick, watery fog surrounding the party, the nearly-broken Avarisa charged her blood foe, only to find her weakened blows could not even scratch the untouched witch-king in the seat of his power. (Interestingly, Grunt noted later, more than one of the magical auras surrounding the Palankasha shattered under Avarisa’s attack, though it had no noticeable effect on the creature itself.)

Then the battle suddenly turned. The wizards expended their options capable of ignoring Berenind’s protections and turned to removing the shield itself, which gave the heroes an unexpected opening. Rhyl and Devdan teamed up to finish off the Enforcers, Rhyl vaporizing the upper half of one with a spell channeled through the sword Astaroth, and Devdan decapitating the other in a furious assault. Fios missed an opportunity to seal the powers of the Palankasha with an antimagic ray, the furious Avarisa’s attacks blocking his shot, but Number Eight managed to squeeze through the newly-cleared doorway, and laid suppressing fire with its plasma cannon. That quickly enabled Rhyl to sneak in behind one of the wizards and cut his throat from ear to ear!

At this point, though untouched and engaged in a running conversation with Fios regarding the latter's knowledge of the Dark Speech and possession of a book of same, the Palankasha realized his situation was deteriorating. Batting the wounded Avarisa aside and casting one final spell to distract the party--one which spontaneously turned all the blood in Devdan's veins to salt, and would have killed him if not for Sehanine's blessing of his fate before the battle--the sorcerer then fled into a concealed passage. Val's subsequent disintegration of the wall revealed the presence of the adventurer's greatest enemy and the villain's greatest ally: a phase door! Avarisa's enraged assault on the remaining wizard quickly ended the skirmish.

The party took a few moments in the quiet to steady themselves, and then the sound of a massive horn rang through the complex, likely loud enough to be heard from even the mines below--one long note, followed by four short ones...
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:45 pm

[Alas, this is the same adventure as the high-level "Caravan" thread--this is just the "IC thread" where I provide summaries and encourage roleplay between sessions. So no, again, Anauroch and average party level 16-ish. Sorry!]

The party prepared itself quickly, healing as best they could and bracing for a potential ambush after hearing the blast of the stronghold's great horn. No renewed attack came, however, and after a few quiet moments the party considered that perhaps the horn had sounded a signal to retreat.

Berenind restored the nearly-exsanguinated Avarisa to perfect health, and bestowed great vigor on the rest of the party to heal the bulk of their remaining wounds. Val examined the room thoroughly, still looking for potential signs, and disrupting the great piles of sand he suspected the Palankasha had prepared for some sort of ritual or spell. Avarisa herself retrieved the Palankasha's sword, dropped and not retrieved in his haste to beat a spell-flinging retreat, and handed it over to Fios saying, "My enemy yet lives, I have earned no trophy here. Do with this what you will."

The Palankasha's Blade wrote:The slim blade of this scimitar is made of pale violet crystal that gleams like a torch. Its hilt is a lush flower of silver, one large petal draping forward to guard the hand wielding its vine-wrapped handle, and on its pommel grows a smaller flower of the same translucent crystal as the blade. The pommel itself looks like it can be picked, much like a real flower. The sword's plum-colored scabbard is mostly unadorned, save for a broad silversilk sash used to wear it. It radiates a strong aura of conjuration magic, with some additional hints of abjurative powers.

As it became apparent no attack was incoming, the party decided first to head back to the caves from whence they'd come, freeing Avarisa's people and mopping up any stragglers. With Fios still immune to the effects of the active guards and wards, following the path back was easy. Along the way, they discovered that Val's flanking cloudkill had felled one of the great manticore mounts of the wizards pursuing them earlier, but no other bodies were to be found. Val was disappointed, having hoped for a higher body count.

Moving on, they soon ran into a small obstacle--the aforementioned cloudkill was still chugging along towards the caves, both blocking the party's path and heading inexorably towards the very people they were heading down to save. Val was unable to dispel his own magic, but through judicious use of a wind wall, he was able to rip the cloud of deathly gasses apart before it became a danger.

Proceeding on down to the caves, Val disintegrated the wall of stone used by Fios to block the entry lift into the Palankasha's mine. The party paused to debate how to make the most tactically sound entrance into the mines, until Rhyl moved to take the lift himself--judging that the longer the party debated, the more risk the prisoners faced should the horn's call have been an order to slaughter them before retreating. This encouraged more haste, as those incapable of flight all took to the lift, while those that were (including Eight, thanks to a spell from Berenind) floated down behind.

The party needn't have worried, it seemed, as they were confronted at the base of the lift not by the Palankasha's warriors, but by a batch of frightened prisoners. Through Avarisa and Fios, who respectively knew and understood the captives' Bedine tongue, the party determined that the Palankasha's gaolers had all fled through a back passage--but not before blowing up the lift leading to the tunnels below. The men speaking to the party now had been on one of the uppermost levels, and reached the top layer with impromptu grappling hooks, but many dozens more prisoners were trapped on lower levels. Further, there was no sign at all of those prisoners typically kept on the top layer to perform repairs and other menial tasks.

The party briefly considered pursuing the Palankasha's men, but decided that coming up with a way of freeing the remaining prisoners was a higher priority. The scale of the task was beyond the party's prepared flight magic to endure, and the tunnels too deep for the miners to climb out via ropes, but after some scouting of the area, Val and Rhyl realized they had the parts to make a replacement lift on the spot! In part with prisoner help and in part with their own magic, they assembled the new lift in only a few minutes, and utilized the indefatigable strength of Number Eight to raise and lower it as needed in freeing the prisoners below.

In so doing, the party also discovered the unfortunate fate of the prisoners that had been stationed on the top level--while those below survived the Banites' retreat, those above had been callously tossed down the shaft by the Palankasha's men while they bombed out the lift. The number of casualties was relatively low, however, and the sorrow of the shell-shocked prisoners at the deaths was countered in large part by gratitude at being released from their servitude.

At this point, the day is more or less won: the party has the run of the Palankasha's stronghold, the rakshasa himself has fled, and Avarisa's people--along with those of other tribes likewise imprisoned--are free. Mysteries yet await, however, as does the party's nemesis Galamoth...
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:43 pm

[The remainder of the summary will hopefully go up sometime this week, but I wanted to get this bit up now so you guys could decide if you want to use the thing or let it sit in Fios's pack awaiting sale.]

Having found an opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet for a bit, Fios casts a divination over the sword left behind by the Palankasha in the haste of the rakshasa's escape, wanting to ensure that it's not some evil monstrosity that will do the party harm. The archmage concentrates deeply, the magic of his spell enabling him to commune with the blade, and in but a few minutes he relives nearly its entire history through the sword's own metaphorical eye...

And the sword is a... wrote:Heliotrope
Market Price: 29,715 gp
Caster Level: 10th
Aura: Moderate; (DC 20) conjuration and abjuration
Activation: Varies; see text
Weight: 4 lb.

The slim blade of this scimitar is made of pale, shimmering violet crystal. Its hilt is a lush flower of silver, one large petal draping forward to guard the hand wielding its vine-wrapped handle, and its pommel is a smaller flower of the same translucent crystal as the blade. The pommel itself looks like it can be picked, much like a real flower. The sword's plum-colored scabbard is mostly unadorned, save for a broad silversilk sash used to wear it.

This +1 spellblade scimitar is made of deep crystal. As a free action, you may channel a spell into the blade; your next successful attack, if made within 1 minute, deals an additional 2d6 points of damage per level of the channeled spell, which is not affected by any damage reduction the target has.

The sword has a basket hilt, granting you a +2 bonus to resist disarm attempts, and sheds lavender light as a torch. If damaged, it heals 1 hit point per hour so long as it is not toally destroyed. Its spellblade enhancement affects the targeted version of the spell greater dispel magic.

Heliotrope's pommel can be picked off and thrown up to 60 feet with no range penalties. Treat this as a touch attack with a grenade-like weapon. At the point of impact, the pommel explosively envelops the area in a crystalline resilient sphere (DC 19) with a 5-foot radius. Once picked, the pommel loses its magic within 1 round, and a similarly-charged pommel grows back onto the sword over the next 24 hours.

Finally, twice per day Heliotrope can be commanded as a standard action to emit a 30-foot cone of prismatic pollen. This brightly-colored cloud acts like glitterdust (DC 17), save that if an affected creature fails its save, it is also confused for 1 round. If you are a druid or ranger, you may sacrifice a spell of 2nd level or higher to use this power again, even if its daily uses are already expended.

Lore: The name of this weapon's creator is lost to history, but it is known that the sword was not forged, but actually grown in a bizarre cultivation process using crystal harvested by a priestess of Eilistraee and strange metal seedlings taken from the Positive Energy Plane.

Heliotrope's history is fairly mundane for an item with such an odd origin. Though it has been wielded by several hands over the century-plus of its existence, it was last known to be in the hands of Mariska Jhaeilir, a Harper scout and ranger of Rillifane Rallathil who often walked the Wood of Sharp Teeth. The sword played a prominent role in the Battle of Sharptooth Ford in 1367, when a band of adventurers led by Jhaeilir cleaned out a large pack of werewolves threatening nearby villages and river traffic.

The sword has not been since since 1368, and it is commonly believed that Jhaeilir ran afoul of some of the lycanthropes or other strange creatures dwelling within the haunted wood. It is a mystery how the Palankasha came to possess it.

[FYI, I didn't earmark this for anyone in particular. If someone wants to use it, cool. If not, toss it in the 'sell for loot later' pile. If someone even just wants to use it for the adventure and sell it after, go for it. No skin off my nose either way.]
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:44 pm

After completing its extraction of the Bedine prisoners, the party quickly went about securing their new gains and ensuring no opposition remained. Val patrolled the skies for signs of returning (or overly slow-to-flee) Banites. Devdan swept through the caves, finding only the Banites' pet otyugh left behind in the garbage heap--and the elf decided to leave the relatively harmless creature be.

The rest of the party spoke to Avarisa, pondering the future of the stronghold and her tribe. The Ra'ah al-Sedah, she said, will be setting up camp here just long enough for those weakened by their servitude or the travails of their pursuit to regain their strength, and then they would be off, resuming their previously nomadic lifestyle. As for the stronghold, she expressed a strong desire to see the place destroyed once the Bedine leave, as none who would call her people ally were the sort that would take refuge in it--an idea none in the party objected to.

Avarisa then agreed to accompany the party on the remainder of their quest--she owes them that much for their service to her people, she says, and even the chance to potentially get one more shot at her blood enemy is far too much to pass up.

The party pondered its next course of action, and initiated dialogue with the sword Astaroth. The sword reminded them of the Palankasha's claim that their original quarry, Galamoth, had found some path through the infamous Kanche Rasatala, and that their next course of action would appear to be following him down through it. To the party's chagrin, though they recognized the likely trap inherent in that course, and agreed that a much better alternative would be to lure the beast out, none could figure out a good way of doing so. Astaroth then suggested that they return to the summit of the mountain, and have Berenind or Fios attempt to dispel the rakshasa's guards and wards spell so they could see their destination for themselves.

The cleric of Sehanine Moonbow did precisely that, leaving the party to marvel and despair: Kanche Rasatala, as it turns out, is a great canyon-like scar carved deeply into the valley between Azirrhat's peaks, over a mile in length, made of fused glass, obsidian, and even diamond. Rents, fissures, and ragged passages riddle the formation, their edges gleaming blindingly in the sun, forming a most bizarre natural labyrinth.

Astaroth vaguely remembered the presence of the structure from his last living trip to this realm, though he remembered not how he circumvented it (or if he even did), while the historian Narsingel pondered whether this truly was what the ancients meant when they called this region "At'ar's Looking Glass." Rhyl wondered how such a thing is even made, a question for which nobody had even an uneducated guess. The party resignedly made their preparations: Berenind took a planar trip to The Cabin to prepare a few new items, while the rest of the party enjoyed the hospitality of their grateful Bedine hosts, who appropriated the Banites' belongings to craft a feast in their honor. A restful night of slumber later, and the party was ready to make its trek into the Glass Abyss.

Scaling the backside of the mountain to approach the place was the easy part--the slope was gentle, and aided by the lumbering Eight's approach of merely rolling down the hillside, leaving a nicely-flattened divot in his wake. Berenind attempted to use find the path, hoping that focusing on Astaroth's closest laboratory would give them some sort of clue--and though he could tell the spell was hazy and unreliable after a distance, Berenind did get enough information to begin leading the party down into the ravine of glass.

From there, however, the party was quickly confronted with just how blasted and inhospitable Kanche Rasatala is, and how it got its hellish, life-blasting reputation. A temperature-controlling spell from Fios was all that kept the party's metal armor from being instantly rendered red-hot, and special goggles from the same were all that kept the party from being near-blinded. (Even then, focusing too long or in the wrong spot might still leave someone blinded, they mused.) The walls and ceiling were razor-sharp, the floor riddled with crumbled and broken shards of glass, and even the relatively open (or open enough, at least, for a man to walk erect) spaces near their point of entry were death traps in their own right, as Berenind and Val both wound up with shredded hands and wings after a nasty slide. Berenind himself narrowly missed sliding over a thin spot in the floor, covering a massive bubble in the glass, and it looked like the going was only going to get tougher.

Fios and Val made an interesting find not too long after: in a corner, they found what looked like an ancient crumpled suit of scale armor and a pack full of untouched equipment. Of its owner, however, there was no sign--neither of remains nor of further passage. Val, squinting closely, noticed that the edges of the leather lining in the armor were frayed, as if by tiny teeth...but what sort of life subsists in this environment?
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Re: The Shard of Astaroth V

Postby Ian » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:40 pm

As the party proceeded onward, their trek through the Glass Abyss quickly turned into a bloody comedy of errors.

Forced to lead by dint of being the only one to perceive the results of his own find the path spell, Berenind quickly showed that the old Monk's wisdom about "knowing the path" and "walking the path" being two different things was apropos. Every time he slipped on the treacherous terrain, slashing himself open repeatedly on razor-sharp beds of broken glass and forests of crystal stalagmites, the slick pools of blood he left behind proved too much for at least one of the party members following him to keep their balance, leading to multiple falls and near-pileups in the tunnels seemingly made of crystallized pain.

Several more piles of remains littered the party's path as they moved along, all of them in the same condition as the set found earlier: armor and gear only, no sign of even skeletal remains left behind, but with the edges of everything frayed slightly as if marred by sets of teeth. The party had no guesses as to what might be leaving these remains save a reminiscing thought from Fios of "bone vampires," but stood on their guard nonetheless in case whatever did make them was still about. Val found a few valuables among the remains, at least enough to indicate that the dead were not likely the victims of robbery (either pre- or post-mortem).

The party nearly came to loggerheads at one point: having descended to the base of a fairly ominous-looking cavern with a weak-looking ceiling, the party found that the only apparent passage forward was a seam in the wall through which air flowed, and which apparently opened after several feet into a passage of human-passable width. Despite some misgivings from Rhyl and an offer from Fios to attempt passage the old-fashioned way (via greataxe), Val attempted to gain entry by tossing spells at the problem--first a battering ram, followed by a burst of magic missiles!

While he succeeded, the first spell elicited a warning groan from the ceiling above, and the second sent several flaky sheets of solid glass falling from the ceiling--and while others managed to get out of the way in time, Rhyl was crushed under the crystal hail! Deciding to avoid further injury by simply waiting quietly for his rescue (and seething), Rhyl found himself flashing back to his encounter with the Eldritch Scorpions (and the accompanying hip-deep submersion in melted glass) only a couple of days prior. Upon excavation, he had naught but icy glares for the others--especially Val, who offered little beyond, "Next time, you come up with an idea."

Maintaining peace for now, if not outright civility, the party moved on. It was becoming clearer that Number Eight was unlikely to be able to keep up forever in the increasingly tight quarters of the tunnels, but as they came upon the point at which we've left them, the party realized that wasn't their primary concern:

The Light Maze wrote:The ceiling here is fairly high, arched like that of a cathedral, though the corridor itself is perhaps ten feet wide, less in spots. The temperature is stuffy, even stifling, even through the effects of Fios's control temperature spell, which might make you wonder for a moment just how hot this room would be without it.

The glass that makes up the ceiling here is cut oddly, much like a diamond, in a series of complex facets. It seems too perfect to be naturally occurring, and each tiny angled face is like a magnifying glass that reflects a beam of light at a certain angle when struck by the sun just so. The room is difficult to observe fully even through the sun goggles Fios provided; the play of blinding, surprisingly coherent beams of sunlight are being refracted throughout the room from the ceiling, the beams shifting and sometimes jumping as the sun moves.

This layout might also have something to do with the first actual corpse the party has found in this place: about thirty feet from the entrance to the room, in the midst of several beams, a semi-molten suit of mail is occupied by a charred, blackened corpse, burned nearly to ash, its flesh naught but flaky bits of black tissue peeling from the cracking twigs beneath.

Berenind pauses, concentrating as if trying to follow the map only he can see. "We need to get through this room. But the spell tries to give me a safe path through obstacles, and the path it's giving me...I'm not sure it can be done. It's certainly not a straight path through the room."

Fios suggested whether magical darkness would do the trick, and Berenind replied, "That might work. The spell doesn't assume access to certain spells, it just tells me what to do based on what's there."

From there, the party debated a bit as to the room's possible purpose. Rhyl pondered if it was some sort of elaborate trap, while Fios and Astaroth speculated that it might be used for magical studies, perhaps even as a form of augury, or simply for decoration for those creatures that could survive the show. Fios also suggested that, while the light was not inherently magical, its effects might be similar to those of a sunbeam--that is, both potentially deadly and permanently blinding.

Would magical darkness be sufficient to blot out such powerful and tightly-focused light, even if it is mundane? Val offered to find out, being the only member of the group with any access to such magic at hand, while Devdan concentrated and tried to determine if there was a direct path to dance through the beams themselves...
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