Adventure Date: August 26, 2006
Last Updated: January 7, 2009
Day 53 - 2:30pm
The odour of burnt blood and parboiled flesh permeated throughout the room. Acrid white vapours vied with choking black smoke to cause the most discomfort. Two small figures stood by a raised altar upon which lay a dead, naked human female; the sacrifice used to summon a demon.
"That was a very brave thing you did, Pennyweight" stated the taller of the two wiping the last clinging smears of blood from his hookhammer "charging out like that by yourself with no possible means of aid."
The shorter one staring down at an attractive cloaked but bound and gagged human female replied "I thought the one on the altar was Tamara. It seemed like the only chance to save her. Who would have thought that the real Tamara would be aiding the cult? That was a serious backstab wound she gave you, Henry."
"Serves me right! Last time I turn my back on an opponent even if it is to save your life (gnomish chuckle) But Xana patched me up." Both the gnome paladin and the halfling rogue looked to the other side of the room. There the lovely winsome elfess was busy tending Ebreck’s wounds. The dwarven ranger had suffered greatly in the assault, blindly shooting arrows out of the darkness with no visible target. The war cleric, Agrona, was just finishing manacling and gagging the evil cult priest and the one remaining cult warrior. He was not being gentle. The red-haired, freckled-skin sorceress Nuria was busy collecting all the items that radiated magic. (One for us, one for me, one for us, one for me)
Both small folk turned back to regarding the unconscious female. PW spoke first "So, Triple H that’s the real Tamara. I hope that the Duke will be extremely grateful and reward us well. How can such beauty be so evil?"
"Beauty may disguise evil, my friend. Just ask Agrona about that truly pretty young choir boy that he was ‘instructing’. The one who turned out to be an ogress mage in disguise. To this day he has this thing regarding choir boys and ogres. But Tamara is not inheritably evil. If she was, she would be dead now. My last smite would have slain her. Nuria thinks she may have been ensorcelled into helping the cult, but she couldn’t detect any magical residue."
"You show true wisdom, my paladin friend"
At this point, they were joined by the rest of the heroes.
"They are all bound and gagged" reported Agrona. "What next?"
Suddenly, Tamara began to thrash and turn. Her eyes opened and she began to mutter into her gag. PW bent down and pulled the gag from her mouth. "Thank the Gods you arrived. They threatened me and used magic on me." With another gasp she once again lost consciousness.
"Out of this stench" ordered Nuria. Ascertaining that Tamara still lived "Let us move to the tapestry room and decide the next plan of action." The rest quickly agreed. Ebreck and Rhodesia entered the hallway to scout ahead, while Agrona guarded the doorway. Receiving the all clear signal, the group exited the altar room.
Agrona and Xana prodded the 2 prisoners while HHH and PW carried Tamara. Nuria managed to take along all the magical items. Reaching the tapestry room, they secured the door, placed the prisoners in a far corner, and gently laid out Tamara’s body. The group was physically tired and spell exhausted. "We need to rest and report what happened here" declared Nuria. "Yes but rest where and report when?" responded Xana. "Any suggestions?"
After some discussion, it was decided that HHH and Agrona being the two most truthful, would report to Lord Bearagone and Regent Grant. They would relate all that had happened and request help. The rest of the group would await their return and guard against any further cult incursions.
Agrona climbed up the chute leading to the warehouse floor. HHH was so exhausted from being in the forefront of the combat that attempting to pull himself up; he slipped and fell, slighting spraining his foot and causing him to utter oaths of damnation... This sharpened his focus and his second attempt succeeded. The pair exited the warehouse into bright sunlight and a busy street. More than one citizen halted their business to stare at the odd couple: a handsome silver-haired gnome muttering oaths limping beside tall crew-cut, brown-haired human just muttering.
Upon reaching the office of Lord Bearagone, they waited ½ hr. before being admitted. Neither objected strenuously as it gave them time to rest and recuperate and catch up on some reading. Upon explaining the latest events, Bearagone expressed gladness, satisfaction and a sense of relief. He congratulated them for a job well done and promised to send guards to the warehouse entrances and to notify the proper authorities regarding the disposal of the bodies and other items. For some unknown reason (divine intervention?) no mention was made of Tamara or the prisoners.
The holy duo took their leave to report to Regent Grant. At the ducal manor house, again after another ½ hr. wait, they were granted an audience. Agrona became suspicious that news of the recovery of the Duke’s daughter did not take precedence over more mundane matters whereas HHH just assumed it was the way officious humans did things. In the office Grant listened carefully to what they had to say.
"So, Tamara is safe. Good. As soon as she is ready to be moved, return her here and I will uhmm ... take care of everything." This was said in such a flat unemotional voice that the two heroes stared at each other. "As a reward for a job well done, I will be sending a wizard to help identify those magic items you came across. Now, if would excuse me, I have a city to run"
"Is Grant evil?" inquired Agrona as the two made their way back.
"The Holy IronHand only grants me the power to detect the evil nature of creatures and objects, not the evil intentions or schemes of men. But my instincts tell me, no. There is something else at play here. But at the moment we have no energy or time to further inquire into the matter." By now HHH was really wishing that his prestidigitation ability was not used up. A nice bulls eye on Agrona’s back would do wonders to improve his colour coordination.
Arriving back at the warehouse they were hailed by city guards and handlers hauling out sheet covered bodies.
"Ah, Lord Bearagone is true to his word." The two then entered to rejoin their companions.
THE FOLLOWING EVENTS OCCURRED IN THE TAPESTRY ROOM BETWEEN THE DEPARTURE OF TRIPLE H AND AGRONA AND THEIR RETURN
Just as PW finished securing and gagging the two prisoners in a far corner of the room, Ebreck returned.
"Well, they’re both on their way. HHH had a little fall, nothing too serious though. He’s one tough little guy." This from someone who was both 4 1/2 ft. high and wide, made entirely of muscle with the density of lead.
"Rhodesia and I will keep watch in the corridor. Let us know if our sleeping beauty duchess decides to say anything important. Heel Rho!" Rhodesia responded "Arff" As he left, Tamara’s eyes began to flutter and she began to regain awareness one more time. Kneeling by the young lass and more closely examining her wounds (mostly inflicted by HHH) Xana exclaimed "She cannot help us if she is in constant pain." Imploring the gift of Ehlonna, she cast a spell on Tamara which began to close her wounds and ease her pain. "Please, release me" implored Tamara.
"Not until we have more information regarding your loyalties" responded Nuria.
"Let me try something" asserted PW Looking Tamara in the face, he began "One day a barbarian and a donkey walk into a bar ... (insert rest of joke here) ... rectum and the donkey said, (punch line) No No!, MyAss is the barbarian’s name!" Tamara looked at him as if he was crazed.
PW looked up to find the other two females staring at him incredulously, both blushing with mouths agape. "What by the Great Weave was all that about?" inquired Nuria. Xana’s only remark was, "That’s halfling humour?"
PW responded "People hear a crude joke, whereas rogues hear a message. I asked her if she belonged to my guild. She did not respond which means she is not a rogue or she is faking it which we all know females become quite adept at. We need something more definite, a spell or some such."
"Please, free me" again beseeched Tamara. As there was no reply she became indignant. "Release me at once. I command you. I am the Duke’s daughter. You will be punished if you continue to keep me prisoner."
"Not until we have more information, as I have already mentioned," retorted Nuria. "Now hush up" and regagged the prone captive.
At this point, out in the corridor, Rhodesia issued a low growl. "Grrr" Ebreck blended into the shadows and heard the sound of footsteps and voices. Approaching were four chain mailed humans. He waited until they were almost upon him and leaped out, bow already cocked. "Halt! Identify yourselves!" So abrupt was his appearance that the men reeled back in surprise. One managed to stammer out "We are city guards, sent here by Lord Bearagone to meet with an adventuring party and to dispose of dead bodies, which ever came first." Seeing now that the men wore the insignia of city guards and that his ranger skills suggested that they were being truthful, he relaxed his bow. "Follow me then. I will take you to where everything is. Be warned, it is not a sight for the faint-hearted. And watch your step, that last pit is a bummer"
As the clean up progressed, HHH and Agrona returned to the tapestry room. Upon seeing them, Tamara began to struggle and mew into her gag. HHH bend down and removed her gag with the drawing out his water flask and offering her some. After several gulps, she gasped out "You are a paladin, Order of the Phoenix I see. Please sir, I implore you, free me!"
"Not much. It’s all blurry with vague impressions" Suddenly she looked over at HHH’ surprise in her voice. "You! You really hurt me! HHH sighed deeply, refusing to meet her eyes. "What about any future plans of the cult?" Nuria demanded "I do not any of any."
"What do you know of the busts and statues located here?" asked Agrona
"I know naught of them"
"We will have to ascertain the truth of these statements" stated Nuria. "I suggest magical means which means we spend the night here, rest, sleep and regain our magical abilities. Ebreck, are they almost done with the clean up? Yes? Good. According to HHH and Agrona, the guards do not know of our captives, only Regent Grant does, and he does not seem to be in a hurry to receive them. We keep them here overnight and interrogate them in the morning"
"I can request a spell which may prove useful" Agrona states. "It creates a zone which compels one to be truthful"
"Good, since we have 3 to quiz, may I suggest more than one of those spells. Are we agreed? Good! As soon as Ebreck gives us the all clear, we rest, dine on our rations(I know, I know), feed the captives, set up watches and recover our spells."
And so it passed as Nuria suggested.
As the heroes were finally settling down to a time of quiet contemplation and spell recovery, Xana gave out a loud gasp and collapsed like a string less puppet. Both HHH and Agrona quickly rushed over to determine what happened. "There is a pulse still present" cried out the gnome, fingers on the side of her neck. "Yes, and a heartbeat as well" shouted the cleric. half his hand placed on her breast. "There is no sign of injury. What could have caused this?"
"Rats!" exclaimed Nuria... She fought the rats. It might be the onslaught of a disease. Did anyone see if she got bitten?" All said no. "Regardless" stated the paladin, "let us not take any chances." With that, he placed his hands on either side of her cheeks cupping her head and intoned a prayer to his god. The tattooed silver Iron Band god symbol on his forehead flashed white and his hands radiated white holy light into Xana’s body. When the light faded away, there was no noticeable change in Xana. "Well?" asked PW.
"I do not know," replied HHH. "Any possible disease she has contacted should have been removed. All we can do now is wait." And so they kept a close and watchful eye on her. Within 15 minutes. Xana came to and gave out with gasping sobs as inconsolable tears streamed down her face. "It feels like I have lost my mother. There is a hole in my heart," she sobbed. The rest of the party looked at each other. "Well whatever it is, it won’t be something good" gruffed Ebreck, foreshadowing events to come. "Since we can do nothing now, then we should set up our watches and get our sleep"; stated the ever pragmatic dwarf. And it was so. The rest of the night passed quickly and quietly. The silence broken only by Xana’s occasional sobs until she too fell into a reverie.
After a brief breakfast and feeding of the prisoners, Agrona states that he is ready. "Heironeous has granted me a useful spell, called the Zone of Truth... Inside the zone, one is compelled to tell the truth." Just as they were about to start, Ebreck gave a shout "Come back here you!" they observed a fairly large white rat with one of Ebreck’s dark gems in his mouth, scampering around the room, being chased by the red faced dwarf. HHH gave chase as well. The sight of the two chasing the rat awkwardly all around the room caused smiles and chuckles to break out. Finally the rat dropped the gem and bolted down a hole in the floor. "That will teach you to keep your gems in a more secure place" giggled Xana. It was nice that she now seemed to have recovered from the grief of the last night. Her mirth changed to a sound of anger as she discovered that the same rat had been nibbling at the stopper of her water bottle. They finally got started. Agrona cast his spell and they brought Tamara into the area of the spell’s influence. Then the questions began.
"Were you really kidnapped by the evil cult?"
"Yes I was."
The others looked towards Agrona who signaled that she was being truthful. And so the questioning continued.
"Why were you kidnapped?"
"I do not know"
"Were you enchanted and if so by whom?"
"Yes, by the cult mage that was slain in the altar room."
"Where is the cult headquarters?"
"I do not know but I suspect they have more locations in the city"
"What transpired during your enchantment?"
"The major thing was the summoning of the demon"
"What do you know about the busts and the statue?"
"What is your opinion regarding Lord Bearagone and Regent Grant?"
"They are both old ‘sticks in the mud’. Grant does not like my father, but I do not know why."
"If you are a rogue, what thieves' guild do you belong to?"
"To the Dark Bane"
They all recognize this guild as the one which runs the spice warehouse on the south side of Greyhawk.
"I have been a member for a few years now and yes my father does know of my affiliation"
Agrona stated that the spell was about to run out. They decided that they would stop with Tamara and start on the other two prisoners. They took Tamara to a far corner and returned with the corrupt priest. Agrona cast a second Zone of Truth. As soon as they removed his gag, they knew that this was not going to work.
"Pious fools, you are all going to die! Havoc and chaos will reign! He is coming ... You cannot stop his return and he will eat out your hearts! Mwhaaa Hahaha hahaha." Ebreck stepped forward. "Enough!" and slapped down the priest, replaced the gag, hauled him out of earshot and returned with the cult warrior. Removing the gag the questioning recommenced.
"Yes the cult’s job was to release the demon into the city. To this end we kidnapped the duke’s daughter. No this was the main cell of the cult in Leukish, though there might be still half a dozen cult members still on the loose. I do not know anything else."
Seeing as no more information was forthcoming, without intense torture, the heroes decided to take all the prisoners to Lord Bearagone. As it was still fairly early in the morning there were not too many people around and the band quickly made their way to the City Guard headquarters. As the guards recognized Tamara, there was no half hour wait this time and the whole group was ushered immediately into Lord Bearagone’s office whereupon they related all they knew and surrendered all their prisoners. Lord Bearagone was gracious and thankful. He send for a wizard to identify the magical items that the group had collected.
The results were as follows:
The company agreed to conduct personal affairs and regroup at the Inn of the Whispering Ghost for a good supper.
Near lunch time HHH decided to visit and pay his respects to the local paladins, the Order of the Star, to inform them of the loosed demons , the works of the evil cult and hopefully get a free meal. He arrived at their lodge, was taken to the mess hall and over food and drink related all. They themselves did not have much new information to relate but promised to be on the alert. After lunch, time was spent story telling, having a few ales and demonstrating their combat abilities. All were most impressed by the skilled way HHH handled his hookhammer.
Agrona had departed for the Church of St. Cuthbert, the main church of Leukish to also inform the clerics there. Upon returning he did not relate exactly what had transpired just that he had passed the information along and that they would be watchful.
PW decided to pray at a temple of his god Olidamara and left with a fond farewell.
The rest of the group decided to stay at the inn, rest and enjoy the comforts of a real bed.
The group had all returned to the inn and was gathering for a fine supper except for PW who had not yet returned. During the meal, they discussed, provisioning themselves on the morrow for their return to Greyhawk. Since there were demons on the loose Nuria recommended that they all should invest in cold iron weapons of some type.
Near the end of the meal, PW returned, all smiles and joy. He did not seem particularly hungry or thirsty which was odd for PW. After greeting the group he stunned them all by stating that he had had personal contact with his patron deity. But he kept mispronouncing Olidamara’s name. This aroused the suspicions of the group. Something was wrong!
"Ah, yes I went to Oliada Mrara’s temple and as I began to pray, I had a vision and felt, contentment, bliss and ecstasy. There were coloured blue, purple, and orange lights and I felt like I was floating. It was like a long, extended orgasm without the physical exertion. I think Ollie Rama must have taken me to his home plane."
Both HHH and Agrona could not match this with anything they knew as the worship of Olidamara. PW’s description also did not match any other plane of existence that Agrona could identify. As PW became even stranger than usual, Xana forced him to be still by forcing him to sit and be still. Using her knowledge of healing, she was able to determine that is behaviour had a physical cause, some kind of pharmaceutical substance. At this point, HHH also joined in the examination of his friend. By close observation of PW’s nostrils (paladins are apt to do courageous deeds) and by using his extensive alchemical knowledge he determined that PW had recently inhaled some hallucinatory material.
"The problem is that some of them are highly and dangerously addictive." he stated.
"Such as?" inquired Xana with a professional interest.
"Oh, three of the worse culprits are angel kiss, dream mist, and easy fan. If it was one of those, given the time interval, he must have somehow inhaled it on his way to the temple. If it was a non-additive he will be fine, otherwise by tomorrow night he will start to show withdrawal symptoms and we will have a problem."
"Either way, there is nothing that can be done now. We must get ready for our departure. Take him to his room, make him comfortable and get him to sleep. Let us all get some rest." ordered Nuria, taking charge.
"Wait," cried Xana, "just in case!" She called upon her deity and cast spell on PW to remove any chance of a disease. "Done! Now you can take him." Throughout all of this PW kept a big grin on his face, and continued to tell all how good he felt and how much he loved them. HHH and Ebreck each took an arm and guided the stoned halfling to their sleeping quarters.
The group arose early, breakfasted and finished up their preparations for the return to Greyhawk. PW seemed to be suffering no ill effects, but the rest tried indiscreetly to keep him in sight at all times. Finally all was ready and they departed out the main gate of Leukish. The ride proceeded uneventfully. Midday they stopped for lunch. PW still seemed fine. On the road again, they traveled for a short time when suddenly a distance in front of them four bugbear raiders leaped into view. Armed with axes and loaded crossbows they began to ‘bear’ down on the companions.
The heroes react quickly. Arrows from Ebreck’s bow are quickly fired, several striking the brutes. PW managed to release a bolt, which struck another of the beasts while both Nuria and Agrona missed. By this time the bugbears returned fire and four bolts headed towards the company. Two missed their marks but one grazed PW’s ribs and the last one hit Nuria hard in her thigh.
"They’ll pay for that", she cried out with a groan of pain and began an incantation. Xana and HHH returned fire but both missed. Sensing wounded prey and roaring and growling, the brutes rushed towards the party. With roars and growls to match, Ebreck rushed to meet them firing more arrows as he did so. With Agrona attempting to staunch her thigh Nuria ended her spell casting. A fiery meteor streaked from her fingers. Passing by the still advancing Ebreck it reached a space between the bugbears and exploded into a large fireball. One bugbear, near the edge of the blast managed to veer away in time but his three buddies were not so fortunate. Their screams of pain were short-lived as the tremendous heat turned their bodies into lumps of charcoalized meat. The lone survivor turned around and began to run away quickly. He was not fast enough. HHH fired his crossbow, followed a heartbeat later by the twang of Xana’s bow. The bolt sunk deep the shoulder of the retreating goblinoid. As he staggered, Xana’s arrow bore into his heart from the back. He collapsed to the ground and lay motionless. The group approached cautiously, the smell of crisped flesh strong in the air.
"Wow, Nuria, what did you do?" asked more than one companion.
"That", she answered proudly, "was my first Fireball spell."
"Nothing much here", exclaimed Ebreck as both he and PW examined the corpses.
"Anything the burnt ones had is all burned away and the raw one only has six cp."
Leaving the bodies for the scavengers, the group mount up and continue their journey. At night fall, they stop. A fire is built, supper is eaten and watches are set up. By the second watch PW starts to shake, slowly at first and then more frequently and with more vigor. He demands to be died down and gagged for his own good. The company find out that the culprit drug is Mordayn Vapour commonly know as dream mist. It is determined that while not a cure, the ill effects of the drug may be held off with lesser restoration spells freely administered by both Agrona and Xana.
These days pass uneventfully other than PW’s Restorations and HHH calling down Henrietta to give her time to get used to the group members and visa versa.
Finally reaching Greyhawk, the company entered through the Druid’s Gate only to find city militia and clean up crews attending to what was once the Druid’s Grove...In mouth opening shock and horror they discovered that the grove has been destroyed by fire caused what was reported as deadly monsters. There is total devastation. Only the burned out corpses of trees and blankets of ash remained of what was once a soothing , calming holy place. Worse they were told that the druids were all slain in defense of their Grove. The group quickly decided to go to met with Benedict the Elder in order to obtain more specific information. He told them that yes demons have been released and were rampaging in and around Greyhawk. The demons destroyed the grove, murdered the druids and cut out the heart of the head druidess Aquilla. This apparently happened at the same time as Xana’s fainting back in Leukish. Benedict also reports that many of the paladins have left to track the demons and come back with information.
Hurrying to the Dukes palace they are ushered in immediately as it seems that their arrival was expected. By now PW showed great withdrawal stress and bled his wrists by attempting to escape the manacles. PW’s addiction was explained and the duke sent for a high powered mage to cure PW As PW was taken to a ‘cure room, the rest are told that the city council is attempting to locate the other pieces of the rod. The rod is the only device which can reverse this trend of growing evil. He would reconvene the company as soon as there was any information regarding the other rod pieces. They should now get some rest and recover themselves.
A very despondent group left. HHH was tired in soul and body.
"Well," he thought to himself, "things are so bad now that within a few days, they will have no choice but to get better." He was wrong. Dead wrong!
This ends the 8th log. Soon the adventure of all your favourite characters will continue in the upcoming ninth log.
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