Realm Runners

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE: Tower of Mysteries

After their defeat of Akiah, the Keeper of Secrets, Aces, Krushi, Megilwath, Mentathenis, The Maven and Modreg begin to make their way back to the Halfmoon Inn. Orontar, the Mage of Saruun notices that Krushi is carrying his Staff of Fiery Might, and asks the Halfling if she would be so kind as to return it to him. Instead of handing it over outright, Krushi makes a deal with the mage to give it back only on the condition that he make himself available for any and all questions and summons that the party requests of him. He agrees to her demands, and also offers to give the halfling something more appropriate in addition. He reaches into his bag of holding and extends a very large shining gold staff with a amber orb perched on it’s top. A Thunderwave Staff +3.

Continuing back to the Inn, The Maven voices her concern for Megilwath and about killing a celestial being. She feels very dirty about the whole thing and though she is worried that pursuing the power of the Wraith Blade may not be the best course for them, she will follow the drow because of how much she cares for him.

When they round the corner of the Inn Brugg is repairing the front door and Rendil is overseeing. Aces joins to help and the others enter to grab a drink and trail mix. Once the door is mostly repaired, the party heads into their respective rooms for the night to rest up for the Tower of Mysteries, and perhaps, a showdown with Paldemar himself.

The next morning they head back into the Labyrinth under Aces’ lead followng her silver key and with Terrlen in tow so he can map the way to the secret tower.

The silver key eventually leads them out of the twisting tunnels and into a large and seemingly empty cavern. As Aces nears the center of the cavern she notices a bright golden rune beginning to appear spinning in front of her. As she moves closer it becomes more and more visible until it looks like it’s almost a physical object. She nods to the others and touches her hand to the rune and is instantly teleported. The others touch the rune and follow her. Terrlen stays behind to polish his new map, set up camp and explore the area.

The party finds themselves standing in a 20 by 20 foot room upon square rune carved into the floor and two exits into hallways. A loud howling sound can be heard spewing out two deep notes that reverberate the walls. Megilwath can hear something coming down one of the hallways. The party backs up to a defensive position and waits. A goblinoid type creature appears around the corner wondering who is at the door. The Norker stands there slightly dumbfounded when it sees the heroes and casually turns back the way it came to jump into a run and starts screaming about intruders. Aces and Megilwath chase it down before it can get to where it’s going and lay it out. Another Norker hears the commotion and steps out of a side room to charge the attackers. Eight more of the creatures teleport onto the floor near another spinning gold rune. Mentathenis, Krushi and The Maven notice something strange with the two pillars they can see and spells begin to cast from each one, also against the heroes. Modreg stays back per Aces’ request. After working together to dispatch the Norkers, they retreat back into the room they came in through to avoid getting memory ripped by the pillars. More Norkers can be heard pouring onto the floor from the teleportation rune. They wait for the creatures to come to them and take them out as they appear, then they head straight for the next teleportation rune to get off the floor and away from the spell conduits.

On the second floor, the party encounters a couple more Norkers, four Enigmas of Cyric, who rip off their own skin and attack in a bloody rage, and a familiar enemy, a Bronze Warder. After an extremely bloody battle and a few near deaths, the 6 friends manage to get themselves bandaged up and decide to continue through the next rune to the third floor.

Again they find themselves in a 20 by 20 foot room with a floor inscribed rune. Three doors stand to the West, North and East. Krushi can hear the unmistakable clanking of another Bronze Warder through the door to the East. Only silence from the West door and through the north door can be heard voices and a loud magical hum. They listen in on the conversation between four voices. Two male and two female, and discover that they are nearing the completion of a ritual that will put all the Bronze Warders within the labyrinth under the control of something called “Shade.” The female with the child-like voice sounds annoyed and impatient, pushing for the others to hurry up.

Aces looks to her friends to make sure they are ready. Megilwath draws his blades. Mentathenis, holds his wand and sword crossed and at the ready. The Maven tunes her lute. Modreg, visibly shaking holds his dagger in two hands. Krushi twirls her over-sized staff around and catches it. “Let’s fry these guys up!” She exclaims.

They burst through the door to find a large room. It’s floor is inset with a large symbol of Cyric, a skull wreathed in purple flame. A few Norkers can be seen. Strange arcane energy swirls about from the left side of the room where many figures stand nearby a strange contraption.

The party can see two Enigmas of Cyric channel energy into the arcane device under the watch of a mage dressed in the robes of the Saruun, Paldemar. A scantily clad succubus also watches along with a rogue in dark leather, a man that Mentathenis recognizes as Shalimar. The fourth figure is a young girl, no more than 13 years of age who’s eyes are blackened orbs and hair of flowing black mist. She turns toward the interruption and says "Oh for fell’s sake, I told you! The succubus looks over and starts screeching “Stop them! Do not allow them to disrupt the ritual!”

Shalimar eyes the heroes and points out that the Dwarf and Cleric are missing, only recognizing Mentathenis. He turns to the young girl to ask is she killed them. She replies that there was no Dwarf or Cleric with their group, visibly annoyed with the man. The succubus motions to a small malformed Norker holding a large orb and hisses “Take the control orb to Shade! We will finish them here.” The Norker hobbles away towards a glowing blue portal and steps through. The young girl and Shalimar start to follow the Norker out but are stopped by the succubus clearing her throat. “Where are you two going? You will fight and die this time if you have to, your combined failings against these…heroes is already unforgivable!”

The young girl rolls her blackened eyes in disgust and lets out a sigh. Black shadowy wings emerge from her back ripping to extension with a snap, she bursts into shadow and reforms into what the party recognizes as Myst.

Shalimar draws his daggers and says ’Very well then, I WILL have vengeance for the murder of Ninaran."

Paldemar yells out “Just a few more moments, destroy the casters first!” and whistles, causing the Bronze Warder in the next room to clank to attention.

The succubus licks her claws with a snake-like tongue, and in a dripping tone says “I will lock down the elf, she would make a wonderful gift to Shar I think. I am Varyl, Nightbringer of the dark goddess, and your deaths will be quick.”

Myst looks towards the heroes, flaps her wings once, lifting into the air and curling her claws. She takes a deep breath…

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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO: The Wraith Blade

Throughout the night and into the next morning Megilwath is whispered to by the Blade. It warns him that if he does not take the blade into his hand it will find someone who will, and evil is easy to come by. He refuses and in effort keep the blade silent he offers up alternatives and attempts to strike a deal with it.

The heroes notice that Delphina Moongem has returned to the Seven Pillared Hall, and is now sitting at the Halfmoon Inn’s bar drinking ale, looking ragged and tired. They ask her how she is doing, and she tells them that Winterhaven was destroyed 5 days ago by the dracolich Aurgloroasa. Many of the townsfolk were killed, including Lord Ernest Padraig and Valthrun the Prescient. The survivors fled into the sewers and were offered food and aid by an unlikely friend in the form of Twitch the wererat. Delphina continues, and tells the party that the undead dragon was searching for them, and when no one would reveal your whereabouts, she went on a rampage and then returned to the Thunder Peaks. The party does their best to comfort the woman with a few pieces of gold and she returns to her ale.

Suddenly, Brugg smashes his way through the front doors of the Halfmoon Inn, roaring about the Wraith Blade, his eyes are glazed over and he seems to be in some sort of trance! Aces is quick to head him off and turn him about before he causes too much damage and tells Modreg to stay back. Mentathenis deducts that it’s probably caused by the shard and Megilwath confirms it, the blade still threatening him through whispers. Krushi decides it’s best to only subdue the Ogre as he is not himself and can not be accountable for his actions. Once outside the inn, the party lays into the brute as he swings wildly at Aces. Three more thugs of the hall, their eyes also glazed over, join the fray and attempt to oust the blade for themselves. Not long after, Brugg is knocked unconscious and Mentathenis and Krushi hear a familiar voice, Surina has begun attacking Aces from the other side. One of the thugs bashes Aces across the back of her head and for a second she blacks out and can hear a very unfamiliar sound, a sort of “whooshing”. She snaps back to reality and refocuses. Megilwath dances through the thugs slicing at them with his blades. The Maven, Mentathenis and Krushi launch their abilities from afar, finishing off the thugs and then turning their attention to Surina.

Another voice, this time of Orontar, also entranced by the Blade’s whispers, begins to attack Aces, launching Ice Serpents and Fire Balls in her direction. The party focuses on Surina, finally shutting her up and shutting her down. They all turn towards the Mage of Saruun. After a quick volley of attacks, Orontar is also knocked unconscious. Krushi and Mentathenis go through his stuff and find a Staff of Fiery Might +3.

The blade continues it’s calls, and Megilwath alerts the party that it isn’t over and that the only way to stop it, may be to wield it. They decide the best place to try it is near the seclusion of the waterfalls and drag Orontar along with them. As they do, they can hear more shouting coming closer.

When they reach the waterfalls, Aces and Megilwath move onto a small rocky area in the center of the water. The drow reaches into the Bag of Holding and grasps the blade’s hilt, it tells him to ask for it’s power and he shall receive it. He agrees to wield the blade and it tells him that what is coming may hurt a little.

Megilwath feels a burning within his chest and through his arm, at first he thinks it to be his heart, but soon realizes that it is rather his soul being sucked into the blade. Starting at the tip of the sword, the blade begins to disintegrate before his eyes. It continues up to it’s hilt until the sword has all but disappeared. Aces notices a bluish glow coming over the roofs of some of the buildings of the Hall. As it draws closer, they can see it to be the thousands of souls from the soul vault being returned to their keeper. The souls swarm Megilwath and begin to form a waving ethereal blade that extends from his hand. A group of thugs who were previously under the blade’s spell now awaken to find that they have no clue why they are at the falls. They are told by the party to leave the area and the four misfits oblige them.

Strange golden runes begin to appear in the air around Megilwath, slowly at first and then faster and faster, forming a slowly spinning ring. Mentathenis recognizes the runes to be of a celestial language. A pillar of light forms over the drow and extends into the rocky ceiling of the Hall. It grows in size until it becomes 5 feet wide. A golden runic circle begins to appear beneath him and when he looks up into the blinding light he can almost see the heavens and a fire ball heading straight towards him. He moves out of the pillar of light just as the ball of fire crashes into the ground causing a shock wave that blasts throughout the falls. As the heavenly fire begins to clear, an angelic figure rises from a crouch, drawing it’s fiery sword from thin air. The Wraith Blade tells Megilwath that the being is Akiah, the Keeper of Secrets, one of Amaunator’s angelic generals. They are here to kill him and he must destroy the celestial.

Akiah glances around the falls, once realizing they are not in a Soul Vault, speaks. “Mortals, what have you done? You have made a grave error in removing the shard from the vault. The powers you meddle with are beyond your control or understanding.” As Akiah moves towards Megilwath, sword burning in celestial light, Krushi steps between them and attempts to plea with the angel. She tries to explain that their actions were in interest of good and that Megilwath will not be killed unless the angel goes through she and her friends first. Akiah, unmoved by the halfling’s words, bursts into flame and flies up and over she and the drow to land behind him, beginning the assault.

Struggling with the idea of engaging in combat with a celestial, but fearing the loss of Megilwath at it’s hands, Aces, Krushi, Mentathenis and The Maven come to his defense. The Drow moves his way across the creeks and around the falls as he attacks and attempts to avoid being attacked by the guardian. Aces follows closely behind and having the least bit of concern for celestial beings, attacks Akiah relentlessly. The guardian tells the party “Your friend’s soul is now trapped within the wraith blade. The cleansing can only be completed through death, and it shall be done. Do not interfere.” Krushi thinks maybe if they let Akiah kill Megilwath and take the blade back, they can resurrect their friend afterwards. Akiah hears her say this and says “Once a soul is taken by the blade, it can not be returned to a body, but if you assist me in killing the wielder I will ensure you a place within the heavens.” Krushi and the others will have none of it, and decide they must put an end to the angel. After a harrowing battle, and with the burdened drow nearly being killed a couple times, Akiah is defeated. As the light within the celestial being begins to sputter and release it says “Unthinkable, you know not what you do mortals. Though there is but one way to reignite the blade and restore it to it’s true form, You must, reach…surface, drink, light.” and with that the being explodes in blinding light, throwing both Megilwath and Aces back a few yards.

When Megilwath asks the blade where the other five shards may be located, he can feel the blade pull about, searching in all directions, it responds “They are smarter than I thought, The other shards are not upon this world.”

Mentathenis wakes Orontar and the party speaks to the mage about Paldemar and his alliance with the gnolls of The Well of Demons. The Mage of Saruun informs the five heroes that if they were still interested in gaining the favor of his order, he asks that they bring the rogue mage to justice.

The party agrees and Terrlen and Modreg rejoin them. Aces lifts the silver key that they found on Maldrick Scarmaker from her tunic and it pulls gently forward, revealing the way to the Tower of Mysteries.

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CHAPTER TWENTY ONE: Something Wicked

The party barges into the Inner Sanctum with weapons drawn to find the demonic gnoll Maldrick Scarmaker working to finish his ritual upon a raised section of the sanctum. The final two Winterhaven slaves stand in a trance-like state within a glowing cylinder of light. Maldrick is joined by a Barlgura, a large Minotaur Bonecrusher Skeleton, and three more Carnage Demons. There are also four strange cauldrons emitting a blackened mist.

The party works together attacking the carnage demons and Aces attempts to hold off the Barlgura and Skeleton, though she is unable to do so for long and is eventually knocked unconscious by the Barlgura’s swinging fists. The Maven casts her healing word upon the mul and brings her back to consciousness, Megilwath spins his blades left and right slicing through each and every enemy. Krushi and Mentathenis make their way up onto the platform and attack from the high ground, moving towards the ritual circle. Krushi tosses Mentathenis her fan and he uses it to blow one of the slaves out of the deadly ritual. Krushi then uses a bit of lightning thrust to propel herself through the ritual circle to tackle the second slave out the other side.

Megilwath finishes off the carnage demons along with The Maven, and Aces continues her assault on the Barlgura and Skeleton. Eventually they fall, and the group focuses their fire on Maldrick. The Maven gets in a lucky slice with her songblade and nearly severs the gnolls head from it’s body. Blood sprays and the corpse falls to the floor.

Upon the gnoll’s body they find an Elven Cloak +2, a bundle of letters to and from Paldemar and a silver key.

They leave the Well of Demons, with the Winterhaven slaves and meet Terrlen at his camp nearby. He has cooked up some cave slugs for when the party returns. After they have had their fill of the toasty treat, Terrlen packs up camp and begins to lead them back to the Hall.

On their way back he stops the adventurers due to a large crevice that recently opened in their path. Terrlen deducts that it was probably ripped open by the Toril shake that happened earlier. Everyone can sense something beckoning them towards the dark hole. Krushi decides it best to investigate and against Aces’ wishes, and after Terrlen ties off the rope to a rocky outcropping, she begins her descent, before she dissapears from view Mentathenis casts light on her head. 250 feet down, she reaches the bottom of the rope they sent over the edge and calls up to the others to join her while she goes about securing the line further down to continue.

When the others rejoin Krushi, they continue their descent another 30 feet to see the bottom open into a cavern. The cavern glows a greenish blue and an uncountable number of lost souls swim about and drift past the heroes. Megilwath, despite the pulling in his gut, feels that nothing can come of this but bad, and decides to climb back up to Terrlen and the others. Aces borrows the Safefall Amulet from Krushi and jumps down into the cavern to see it lead into a constructed shrine of some sort emitting a yellowish glow. Aces calls up to The Maven to go after Megilwath in case she, Krushi and Mentathenis need backup. Krushi and Mentathenis join Aces on the floor an start to move towards the glowing shrine. As they approach, they can see three large angelic statues surrounding what appears to be a raises dias. upon the dias, a sword, suspended, and spinning slowly end on end. The fourth angelic statue has been destroyed by a collapse in the ceiling, leaving a hole in what would otherwise be it’s magical barrier of radiant energy.

When the three reach the center of the room, the souls start moving to attack them. More and more spin into the plane to attempt to stop their movement towards the blade, warning the party that it is dangerous. Megilwath and The Maven jump into the room to support their friends against the aggressive souls. Krushi enters into the vault and can see 8 panels of reliefs around the walls of the room. Before throwing her cloak over the sword she examines the panels.

The first relief depicts a great sun surrounded by worshipping celestials.

The second, a sword held by a single celestial larger than those he is surrounded by. The sword appears to emanate light, bathing all onlookers.

The third, thousands of celestials reigning fire upon the demons and arch devils. The large celestial with the lighted blade leads them into battle.

The fourth, the celestial is kneeling before a huge black figure of a man with horns, it’s eyes are inset with ruby.

The fifth, the sword again, held by the same celestial though now shrouded in shadow, the blade is blackened and no longer shining.

The sixth, thousands of demons swarm the celestials. The large shadow celestial with the blackened blade leads them.

The seventh, the shadow celestial falling from the skies, along with other angelic figures and demons alike, his wings tattered, the blackened sword now removed from his hand.

The eighth, six blackened swords surround the shadow celestial, forming a ring, beyond that a second ring of six angelic figures hold sentry.

Megilwath spots a few fresh corpses upon the rocky floor, they are the bodies of four humans and a dwarf with a tarnished silver crown. He grabs the crown and Krushi removes the sword from the dias, giving it to Aces, who sticks it into the bag of holding. Even while within the bag they can still hear it’s call.

Pushing their way back through the souls and fighting them off, they leave the Soul Vault. After hearing what Krushi has to say about what she saw upon the walls, Mentathenis, hesitant to jump to conclusions, recounts tales of a powerful weapon of the celestials, the Blade of the Seraphim, was forged of light. When it’s keeper fell to darkness, the blade followed, becoming the embodiment of evil and death. It became the Wraith Blade. Megilwath, remembers hearing stories in the tavern of Evereth about the gods and their armies at war with each other. Fire and chaos raining from the skies, it’s catalyst, some item of tremendous ability. Even Aces, during her time in the arenas of Tyr had heard bedtime stories about gods of another world. Amaunator and his angelic general Urziel. A weapon gifted by the god and forged on the surface of the sun. Could this really be the legendary corrupted Blade of the Seraphim?

The party climbs back up the way they came to meet with Terrlen and head back to the Seven Pillared Hall.

Upon returning to the Hall, Brugg is quick to approach them, and though happy at first to see Aces, he is perturbed by something. The whispers of the Wraith Blade extend even through space and time, and though Brugg knows not what it is, he is lured in by it’s power. The party assures the confused Ogre that they have nothing that powerful on their persons. The Ogre reluctantly let’s them pass, eyeing them as they split up. Aces to the Halfmoon Inn, Terrlen heads toward the temple of hidden light, and Megilwath, Mentathenis, Krushi and The Maven to Gendar’s with the crown.

When they enter Gendar’s curious shop, the drow hops up and greets them in his sour tone, and asks if they were successful in locating the crown of Thain Cardanas. Megilwath pulls it out of his bag and hands it to the dark elf. Gendar thanks them and pays them 500 gld for their troubles. Suddenly he pulls a dagger from it’s sheath and flings it right passed Megilwath’s head, narrowly missing. It slams into the wall just over Krushi and a tiny, split-open black spider falls on Megilwath’s shoulder.

Gendar comes out and brushes it off Megilwath onto the counter. He remarks “Looks like our people are searching for something. It’s time for me to leave.” He quickly begins packing his things.

Mentathenis uses mage hand to flip the spider over and The Maven notices a small symbol on it’s belly. It appears to to an intricate design of two dark elves back to back a web spans the distance between them. Mentathenis recognizes the symbol as that of House Hun’viir, the drow family that his father Kallorel and Trysta fought against and lost a friend to. They ask Gendar where he will go and he tells them he is heading to the surface. Megilwath points out that it is unwelcoming for a drow on the surface and Gendar says he will take his chances with a few racist humans over a noble drow house paying a visit anywhere near him.

Aces enters the Halfmoon Inn and is greeted by Rendil who is already offering the mul woman ale. eager to hear more stories of their heroic deeds. Surina, also present in the tavern, stands and is drawn towards Aces. She too can feel the pull of the Wraith Blade from within the bag of holding. Aces shrugs her off and the others enter to join their friend. Krushi and Mentathenis explain that they forgot to cut the tails of the Gnolls for the woman, but brough Maldrick Scarmaker’s head instead. She seems happy enough and offers them 250 gold for a fine trophy of their endeavors.

They relax for the rest of the night with Aces being taught how to cook a mean Kruthik Egg meal and Krushi munching on the Halfmoon trail mix. When it’s time, they head up to their free rooms above the tavern and take rest for the night.

The next morning during a light breakfast, again on Erra and Rendil’s gratitude, Terrlen enters holding the hand of a wobbly goblin. Aces’ eyes widen when she realizes that it’s Modreg, recently returned to life! She runs up to hug the somewhat delirious goblin and looks to Terrlen who explains that he paid for the little guy’s resurrection with his own gold, and he hopes his gift to Aces and the party makes up for his failing in protection. She says it more than does so, and she wants very much to help the man become cured of his Lycanthropy. He pauses for a moment and replies that he isn’t so sure he wants to be cured anymore as he is starting to get the hang of the transformation and keep his wits about him in werewolf form. Aces vows to find out any way she can to help him handle and gain more control. Terrlen thanks her and asks that it would be a pleasure to continue to help the heroes in anyway he can.

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CHAPTER TWENTY: The Proving Grounds: Bell and Final Challenge

Skirting around the west edge of the proving grounds, the party heads through the center ring into a room with different colored pools. Mentathenis deducts that each pool does something different when someone drinks from it’s waters. Drinking from the yellow pool poisons, the green pool gives resistance to poison, and the red pool helps a person focus at the cost of their care of defense. The blue pool appears to be inactive.

Moving on to the southern most doorway, they enter a room, with pillars made of different creatures all entwined into one gruesome form. Near the pillars the party sees more Carnage Demons in waiting.

Following their normal routine, Aces and Megilwath charge into the room and begin melee against the demons, Krushi, Mentathenis and The Maven, mostly sit still and cast their powers from safety. A couple more Carnage Demons and another Barlgura enter the fray and give Aces a bit of a hard time. Meanwhile, the pillars seem to have a life of their own and cast negative effects and damaging spells against the heroes.

When the demons are finally slain, they all move past the pillars towards an altar in the rear of the area. Upon the altar, sits the Bell of Fury’s Calling. Aces picks it up and spikes go through her hand. They also remember what the three spirits mentioned to them about a treasure being hidden underneath the altar. Unfortunately, they are unable to locate any secret compartments, and in a disappointing defeat vs. hidden treasure, Aces destroys the altar and they all mope back to the proving grounds.

Now having all four of the items needed to open the doors to the inner sanctum, they split up and head to the different runic circles. Krushi heads to the pool room, Mentathenis heads to a room with shackled skeletons, Megilwath moves back to the statue gallery, and Aces and The Maven team up and head to the sacrifice room. On a count of three, they all place the four items on the runic circles and blue light engulfs them each, causing them to disappear.

Immediately after, the doors exiting the grounds slam shut, the traps in the complex activate and a screeching draconic roar echoes through the proving grounds. A spinning whirlpool rises up out of the blue pool in Krushi’s room. The shackled skeletons in Mentathenis’ room begin squirming on the ground. Two crossbows descend from the ceiling in Megilwath’s room and howling terrors rise up from the sacrificial altar in front of Aces and The Maven. A giant Doom Sphere can be heard rolling around the center ring and the flapping of wings draws closer. Aces and the Maven head to meet up with Megilwath who starts taking shots from the crossbows. Myst, the Shadow Dragon swoops in behind the mul and elf giving chase. Krushi is sucked in by the whirlpool trap and gets held by the swirling water. Mentathenis has trouble moving passed the grasping phalanges of the many skeletons littering the floor.

After a few failed attempts to get out of their rooms, Krushi and Mentathenis, both injured by their respective traps, rejoin with the others to start fighting off Myst in the statue gallery. Megilwath focuses on disabling the crossbow turrets. The shadow dragon sprays her necrotic breath, slices with her sharpened claws and attempts to rip into the party members with her jagged teeth. Giant globes of darkness are dropping all over and the dragon seems to teleport between them, keeping the heroes on their toes. During the fight, Megilwath suffers some serious wounds and has to stay back. Krushi, still reeling from her troubles in the pool room continues casting her spells even so near falling unconscious. Myst has heard tell of these adventurers and wants to deliver their bodies to her master, Aurgloroasa as a gift. After a while the traps in the proving grounds shut down and all the doors in the complex reopen. The party continues their battle with the unruly young shadow dragon.

Mentathenis decides to summon his Obsidian Steed, and in a burst of black smoke the great black horse appears. It looks around, seemingly disoriented and stares the eladrin down. It charges him and he is knocked into the astral plane rolling over his back into a grassy field. When he stands, he is on a small floating moat wandering the astral sea. The Obsidian Steed charges again and rears up striking the eladrin with it’s hooves. he retaliates with two magic missiles and the horse again kicks him, knocking him back into the proving grounds. The Obsidian figurine falls next to him.

The fight with Myst has moved towards the center of the proving grounds and she has become bloodied by the party. Mentathenis rejoins the fight. Knowing her chances of defeating the heroes are slim, she retreats back into the pit from whence she came. A roar of defeat echoes up from below.

The party returns to the pillar room. Sifting through the rubble that remains of the altar, they notice an out of place tile that was overlooked the first time around. Perhaps, in the destruction of the altar, a piece of the debris fell upon the floor and cracked the tile just enough to reveal a secret compartment underneath! Aces pulls up the tile to find a small lock box that Megilwath and The Maven work together to open. They find a pair of Bracers of Defense.

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CHAPTER NINETEEN: The Proving Grounds: Mask and Blade

On their way South, Terrlen taps Aces on the shoulder and finding it very hard to look the mul woman in the eye, he apologizes for being unable to save Modreg. He feels horrible, and even though he tried to force the transformation to werewolf form, it didn’t come fast enough. He asks permission to make camp outside of the Well of Demons so that he may reflect on his failings as a guide. Aces makes sure that the man will be safe and allows him to return to the entrance.

The party continues and enters the doors to the south. They are greeted by three spirits of former adventurers, Valdrog the Brave, a human cleric, Sir Terris, a dwarven paladin and Mendara a human wizard. The three heroes were all done in by the dragon guardian, and ask that the heroes prove their good intentions and that they are strong enough to overcome the dangers ahead. In return the spirits promise important information about what they will face within the Proving Grounds.

Aces demonstrates her prowess in melee combat showing unrivaled strength in battle, Krushi speaks words of compassion and empathy for the spirit’s misfortune within the grounds and appeals to the three spirit’s soft side. Mentathenis dazzles Mendara and her fallen companions with demonstrations in the arcane, and The Maven and Megilwath show that love can stand tall against all things no matter how dark the world becomes.

The three spirits tell the party all that they know about the proving grounds. They speak of traps and the guardian, a Shadow Dragon named Myst. When asked about the Dracolich they saw flying under the bridge of the Horned Hold, the spirits explain that Myst is the ward of the Dracolich. Her name is Aurgloroasa, The Sibilant Shade, who’s lair lies under the Well of Demons in an abandoned dwarven city known as Thunderholm. After their questions are answered, Valdrog kneels before the heroes and begins a prayer to Selune, when he is finished, his spirit body breaks apart into wisps of energy and flies into each, reinvigorating them.

Mendara and Sir Terris are shocked that Valdrog would do such a thing, but wish the adventurers luck, bid them farewell, and fade into nothingness.

Now knowing about the locations surrounding the proving grounds, Aces and Megilwath lead the party to the west and through a northern door. Inside they find a large room filled with mirrors scattered about. As Aces enters the room, she looks into a mirror and her reflection turns to a black shadow of herself, reaching through and grabbing her, sucking her into the mirror. Worried for Aces, Krushi runs up to the same mirror, getting pulled through as well.

Megilwath, Mentathenis and The Maven make their way around the room without looking in any mirrors, and behind some curtains they discover an altar guarded by two large minotaur skeletons. Aces and Krushi find themselves in an oubliette with a single mirror facing down their shadow selves. They discover they can only hit their own shadow and that their dark reflection mimics everything they do! Megilwath rushes in past the Minotaur skeletons and turns them around, The Maven follows and Mentathenis pulls the curtains closed to avoid any attacks from the mirrors. With a little work, the two undead fall, and they locate the Face of Baphomet on the altar. Aces defeats her shadow and Krushi nearly destroys hers but is knocked unconscious before she can finish it. Aces picks Krushi up and puts her in the Bag of Holding, causing a paradox and exploding Krushi’s shadow self.

She walks over to the mirror and is transported out of the oubliette to rejoin her friends. Aces removes the halfling from the Bag of Holding and The Maven bandages her wounds.

Once Krushi is feeling better, the party makes their way around the west edge of the proving grounds through a crumbling statue gallery and into the Hall of the Crimson Axe. The Hall is filled with blood with various sized platforms scattering the area that rise five feet above the blood. Two giant bronze Minotaur Statues wielding large axes stand on their own platforms. Two small platforms across the large room each have a piece of a dagger upon it. The left has the hilt, the right has the blade.

Megilwath jumps across to the first Minotaur statue’s platform and the giant statue activates, swinging it’s huge axe in a giant arc, large enough to reach the others still by the door. Krushi, the Maven and Mentathenis focus on damaging the statues, while Megilwath and Aces make their way across the room jumping from platform to platform. Mentathenis also uses his Mage Hand and sends it out across the blood pools to attempt to grab the pieces.

Three Carnage Demons rise out of the blood and attack Aces on the middle walkway. She fights them back and they eventually move back into the blood when Mentathenis grabs the blade with his Mage Hand. One Carnage Demon springs out of the crimson lake and swats the blade out of the Mage Hand, it flies behind a Minotaur Statue platform and sinks into the blood pool. After a game of hide and go seek in the blood with the Carnage Demons, they are finally destroyed along with the statues, and without too many wounds inflicted upon the heroes. Megilwath and Aces search the blood and eventually find the blade and Mentathenis attaches it to the hilt. They form the Bloodhorn Blade and head back across the blood pools to return to the proving grounds.

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Gnoll Slaughter: Tome

Aces listens through the double doors and hears the yelping of hyenas and gnolls. Before they charge in, a large quake rocks the Well of Demons, it causes the walls to crack and floors to roll. Dust and debris begins to fall from the ceiling. Megilwath and The Maven are knocked over on the unsteady floor. The quake goes on for 15 seconds and then dissipates. The party regains their senses and Aces charges into the room, noticing a group of four gnoll huntsmasters to her right, she heads in their direction, and jumps over a makeshift barricade of broken furniture and crates.

Four hyenas rush out from around a large cage that a dire boar is being held in for target practice. They rush up on Megilwath and The Maven, with Krushi and Mentathenis hanging back in the hallway and launching their attacks from there. Aces endures some injuries, but the party emerges victorious.

Mentathenis senses the presence of magic hidden somewhere within the barricade. He also feels a sharp pain, from an unknown source that feels as though it pierces his very soul. Megilwath attempts to locate the magical item and discovers a Charm Bracelet in a broken cupboard.

The Maven plays a lullaby to sooth the dire boar. After a short while, she manages to calm the beast enough to pet it’s snout, and the party drags the corpses of the gnolls and hyenas into the cage for it to eat.

The party continues to the north to encounter another gnoll huntsman, two gnoll marauders and four more hyenas in a mess hall, kennel and barracks area. Using a bottleneck strategy they make quick work of the cackling creatures. One of the hyenas surrenders and Aces ties a rope around it to give to Modreg as a gift and the little goblin is very happy. Buried under the hay of the kennel, Mentathenis discovers a Cloak of Resistance +2.

Once they have searched the barracks area, they head south to find a Shrine to Baphomet. When they rush in, they get into a battle with a gnoll scourge, a barlurga, and two tiefling darkblades. Krushi uses her Fan of the Four Winds to keep the barlurga at bay and Megilwath and the Maven help out. Aces and Mentathenis go for the scourge. When the fight concludes, the creatures are all dead and the companions locate a locked chest which Krushi explodes with lightning to find a pair of Shadowfell Gloves. Mentathenis finds the Book of Wrath Unveiled upon the alter to Baphomet. The Maven notices blood rushing towards them from behind. The hyena that Aces gave to Modreg as a gift ate the poor goblin. Terrlen, having transformed into a werewolf, killed the hyena in retaliation.

Aces is furious that her little buddy died and starts destroying the shrine. When she is finally calmed down by her friends, they continue back the way they came and take the corridor to the south.

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: On to the Well of Demons

Mentathenis emerges from his meditation and is greeted by Phaledra, who makes sure he is feeling well. Though most of his body from the chest down is still numb and tingling from being resurrected, he is able to stand with the priestess’ help and she leads him towards the door of his room and down the stairs into the tavern of the Halfmoon Inn.

Being early in the morn, the tavern is mostly empty save for his friends. Aces and Megilwath are playing cards and attempting to teach Modreg to stop eating those he is dealt. Terrlen looks on while gulping down some ale and Krushi shares in a bit of trail mix with Rendil at the bar. Erra is busy behind the counter as usual, cleaning her mugs and plates and the soft strum of a lute can be heard from the corner where The Maven is practicing her tunes.

Terrlen looks up and greets the eladrin as he is coming down the stairs and Megilwath stands to clap. Everyone joins in to welcome him back from his quick run in with death.

After another full breakfast, courtesy of Erra and Rendil, the party gathers their things and sets off to brave the Labyrinth once again.

Terrlen cautiously guides them around the edge of the cisterns this time, and into the twisting passages. After a few minutes trek through the winding corridors, the party stumbles across a group of three wraiths and a gelatinous cube. With nary a scratch, they make quick work of them all and find a stone tablet that appears to have a treasure map engraved upon it.

They continue on, and eventually make their way to the first of the locations Surina described on the map she gave to Krushi and Mentathenis. Megilwath notices what looks to be a vague semblance of an archway within the rocky wall. Mentathenis detects the residual effects of a magical ritual upon the area, but they are unable to find their way through. They decide to continue on to the second location and discover the same thing. Moving towards the third, there is a definite magical aura upon the wall. Megilwath pushes on the rocky wall and finds he can walk fight through as if no rock were there at all. The party follows.

When they enter the entry way of the Well of Demons, Megilwath feels a slight vibration under his feet, and sees that much of the floor in the room before them appears to be up torn. They also notice 5 pillars around the square room, each one has a relief of a Minotaur carved out of it. When Aces moves in, the Minotaur carvings animate and pull partially away from their pillars, together in a booming voice they say…


Greetings seekers of Baphomet’s boundless glory.
Those who prove unworthy of his attention
Shall be claimed forever as his slaves.
Those who prove worthy
Shall be granted power beyond mortal reckoning.
Mask, Bell, Blade, and Tome.

Aces moves in further and a giant phallager tentacle errupts out of the floor near her. The same happens for Megilwath as he follows. Three other creatures, a ghoul and two chokers emerge from hiding behind three of the pillars and converge on the mul and drow.

Krushi, Mentathenis and The Maven stay in the hallway and launch their attacks from there. After a tough fight, the party bests the the undead and fey, and successfully remove and destroy all four of the phallager’s appendages, sending it rumbling away, alive, but defeated.

The party takes a quick breather and Mentathenis notices that the walls of the Well of Demons appear to phase in and out of another plane. As though the barrier between this world and the next is breaking down, just as they had seen in Shadowfell Keep as they neared the subterranean cathedral and Kalarel’s ritual.

Mentanthenis feels a chill wash over his body as though something unwholesome has swept into his soul. He can make out the whisper of a voice as it happens and immediately casts Root Understanding. The voice said “You are mine.” He alerts the party of what he experienced.

Aces sends Megilwath ahead to scout the two corridors branching off to the east and south of the entry room. The drow puts his ear to each door he comes across and hears the yelps and laughs of hyena-like creatures beyond. , he returns to the party and they decide to attempt to shim the first set of doors and move on to the second…

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Perils of the Labyrinth

The party awakes early the next morning when Rendil knocks on their doors to deliver his aunt Erra’s famous breakfast, Kruthik Eggs and Labyrinth Links. After eating, they head off in search of the location marked on the map they received from Charrak the previous night.

Upon arriving, the passage opens into a larger cavern with a raised ledge to one side and three large boulders. Megilwath points out that it can only be an ambush, and he and Aces move into the room. Taking in their surroundings the two notice what appears to be a Bronze Minotaur hiding unsuccessfully, behind one of the boulders. At that moment, two tieflings who were hidden upon the upper ledge spring up and begin attacking the Mul and Drow. The Bronze Warder rushes out from his hiding spot and slams into another boulder wedging it into the passageway mostly blocking the exit. Knowing heir friends are in trouble, Krushi, Mentathenis and the Maven attempt to push the boulder out of the way but its a little too large for them to budge further than a foot or two. It’s enough for Mentathenis to Fey Step to the other side and Krushi and the Maven climb their way over through a two foot gap between the top of the boulder and the passage ceiling.

Megilwath manages to make his way up to the raised ledge to harass the two tieflings while the Bronze Warder continues to plow over and cleave the rest of the party. Once the two tieflings are killed off, they all focus on the Warder. Krushi is particularly effective against the construct with her Lightning piercing, and after a few thunderous attacks and bolts, the Bronze Minotaur is shut down.

Searching the bodies of the tieflings, Mentathenis uncovers two letters and an amulet of command. One of the letters is a message from the missing mage Paldemar to the two henchmen telling them to do away with the adventurers quickly. The other is a message addressed to Maldrick Scarmaker of the Blackfang Gnolls. It is an offering of the corpses of the party to the Gnoll Chieftan.

Aces pushes the boulder out of the way far enough for the party to rejoin with Modreg and Terrlen, and they all continue on towards the Well of Demons. Terrlen leads the party on a short cut that takes them down into the cisterns again. As they round a bend near one of the underground pools, a pack of Kruthiks comes swarming towards them.

Aces immediately rushes forward with Megilwath to attempt a bottleneck between two large rocky crags. The Hive Lord moves up to the two and spews acid all over, which splashes past them hitting Krushi and the Maven as well. The five Kruthik adults move forward and burrow under the two on the front line. Everyone begins unleashing attacks on the Hive Lord, when the adults reemerge in the middle of the party. They slash at the halfling, elf, mul and drow. Mentathenis manages to stay away from the slicing claws. Again the Hive lord emits a blast of acid all over the party. The adults manage to split the party even more, ripping at Krushi and the Maven pushing them back. After more acid and clawing the Maven falls unconscious, but is revived by the help of Krushi and Megilwath. Mentathenis is pushed back by two Kruthiks and chased down relentlessly until he falls unconscious. Modreg is able to administer a potion of healing to the eladrin reviving him. Krushi gets chased down as well, and knocked unconscious by a hungry adult. Mentathenis attempts to attack two Kruthik Adults on Aces, and draws their attention back to him. They burrow away from Aces and emerge to rip into and lay out Mentathenis a second time. Megilwath makes his way to Krushi and stabilizes her then manages to give her some bandaging. Aces finishes off the Hive Lord and turns her attention toward the adults. The Maven rushes over to help Mentathenis and is able to get him up, but he makes the mistake of attempting to crawl away, and once again the Kruthiks give chase. They slash into him and the Eladrin perishes. One of the Kruthiks immediately begins consuming the body. The Maven runs back around to the other side of the crags to avoid the carnage and help Aces and Megilwath. Krushi flings volleys of her lightning and thunder into the reptilian creatures, and the Mul and Drow work together to slowly pick off the rest including the one eating Mentathenis’ corpse.

When the battle is done, they gather what’s left of the eladrin and the Kruthik’s carapaces and rush back to the Temple of Hidden Light in the Seven Pilared Hall. The priestess Phaledra greets them and tells them she can bring their friend back from the dead for the price of 500 gold. They agree and she begins the Raise Dead ritual.

In the fog of death, Mentathenis can make out the image of his father Kallorel Starfeon, who looks as though he is lost, even more so than usual. His eyes are vacant and staring through his son’s soul. His image wisps away to be replaced by the image of another Eladrin. This one female with shining silver hair and crystal blue eyes. she turns towards Mentathenis as if alerted that he is in danger.

When Mentathenis awakes, he talks about his visions with Phaledra and as the fog thins, he realizes that the woman is a cohort and old friend of his father. Her eladrin name is Saranine Lunathalia, but her true name is Saranathia, The Radiant Dawn. She is not actually an eladrin at all but a venerable silver dragon. Krushi and Megilwath wait patiently while Mentathenis ponders these visions, then they help him up and head to the Halfmoon Inn.

Aces, Modreg and Terrlen visit Gendar to give him the Kruthik carapaces, and he is shocked that they came through for him so quickly. He offers the team another job going after a tarnished silver crown that an insane dwarf of the labyrith named Thain Cardanas, carries on his person.

The mul agrees and the three also head back to the inn to recover and fight another day.

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Trichotomy

The party arrives back in the Seven Pillared Hall to some amount of commotion near the minotaur statue in the center of town. Once pushing through the crowd they see a man kneeling before an animated Bronze Minotaur construct and another man standing by, wearing a black robe and a featureless gold mask over his face. The masked man turns to the crowd and identifies the kneeling man as a thief who made and attempt to pillage the recently abandoned Grimmerzhul Trading Post, now sentenced to death. With a wave of his hand, the Bronze Minotaur lifts it’s axe high over it’s head and in a single swing, decapitates the thief.

Terrlen explains to Megilwath and Aces that the dark robed figure is called The Ordinator Arcanis, a sort of justice keeper within the hall. Aces approaches the Ordinator as the crowd is dispersing and asks what is to become of the Trading Post. The Ordinator dismisses it as of no interest to the Mages of Saruun and lets Aces know that if they want anything out of it, they are free to take what they will. Seemingly strange that they just killed a man for attempted theft of the very same location, but the party pays it little mind and heads over to see what may be left as Terrlen heads back to the Halfmoon Inn. Inside the post, hidden under one of the mattresses in the back Megilwath finds a small pouch of 50 gold. Mentathenis pours over a carving above the counter but figures it to be a simple sign of little importance.

Aces, Krushi, The Maven, Megilwath, Mentathenis and Modreg then return to Gendar to give him the recovered Skull Scepter. He gives them more information on the missing mage Paldemar and offers them another job collecting Kruthik carapaces from within the labyrinth. Megilwath asks about the nearest entrance into the underdark and Gendar offers to draw a map for 10 gold. Megilwath accepts, and they all head back to the inn. Upon arriving at the Halfmoon, Rendil greets them and informs them that the rescued Winterhaven villagers headed back to the town early that morning, he again praises them on their heroic deeds and reminds them that room and board are on the house. Aces pushes Modreg onto Rendil who takes the little goblin to the bar for drinks and chats him up.

After talking with Terrlen about romantic places within the Hall, The Maven invites Megilwath to accompany her to the waterfalls where there is a cave with beautiful mushrooms and crystal formations. Megilwath agrees and The Maven takes his hand pulling him out of the Inn towards the falls.

Terrlen approaches Mentathenis to tell him about the difficulty in finding the Well of Demons, and that there is one person within the Seven Pillared Hall who can help them. A warlock named Surina, who has heard of the adventurers and doesn’t like that there are two other magic users stealing her show of heroism. Terrlen has arranged a meeting between Surina, Mentathenis and Krushi, in hopes that things can be ironed out, and they might be able to get the information they need from the woman. Once they get the number of her pigeon-hole, the two magic users head out of the inn.

Brugg invites Aces over to his table and greets her excitedly with a nearly alive flower. Aces shares more tales of gladiatorial combat with the ogre over two small barrels of Erra Halfmoon’s mediocre ale. Feeling the effects of the alcohol, Brugg works up the nerve to ask Aces if she would be willing to teach him some combat moves. Aces agrees, and they head out of the inn to practice.

The Waterfalls

The Maven and Megilwath enter the Waterfall caves in awe. Bioluminescent mushrooms of every color pulse with light, reflecting across the crystals and rippling water, creating a kaleidoscope of sparkling lights. The Maven sits on a low ledge over the water and dips her feet in, Megilwath sits down beside her and the two converse about the falls, Megilwath’s past, and the underdark. The Maven slides closer to the dark elf and rests her head on his shoulder. They share a short kiss before they are interrupted by the sound of clapping. Three men have entered the cavern, Megilwath recognizes the leading man as Harwin. One of the men they rescued from the slave pits of the Horned Hold. Harwin makes a cynical remark about the two lovebirds and Megilwath hops to his feet. In seemingly strange behavior, the ex-slave threatens to kill the two elves. When Megilwath questions his motives, Harwin morphs into a pasty skinned, white haired creature with sunken dark eyes…a doppleganger. The same doppleganger that was struck by the drow’s dagger in the Horned Hold. He must have taken the form of the merchant Harwin to escape the Hold alive! The doppleganger reveals that he was working as a spy for the Grimmerzhul.

Megilwath and The Maven both draw their weapons and Harwin and his two lackey’s charge in. With decisive movement, Megilwath jumps the flowing water to bear down on Harwin and begins slicing with his daggers. The Maven stays back to support him with notes of dischord. Harwin goes invisible and the two elves turn their attention on the other two men. Working together, they manage to take them both out without much trouble. Harwin reappears to resume his attack, but is overpowered by the two’s coordination and falls to the ground in a bloody heap. Megilwath searches the body of the shape shifter, to find an Enshrouding Candle.

The two elves return to their ledge within the waterfall cave and quickly forget the rude intrusion to resume where they left off with a passionate kiss. They embrace each other and become another entwining colorful ripple in the reflection of the falls.

Surina’s Challenge

Mentathenis and Krushi knock on Surina’s door and can hear a banging noise accompanied by an annoyed voice behind the door. It is opened by a human woman with dark brown hair and pale blue eyes, who introduces herself as Surina. She invites the eladrin and halfling in to sit on the floor while she showers them in her extraordinary magical prowess and gnoll killing exploits. She also listens intently to the two’s false praise of her amazing abilities, and their pleas for the location of the entrance to the Well of Demons. Surina ponders their request and decides that in order for her to give them the information they seek, they must defeat her in a magical truel. After some hesitation, and Surina’s goading, Mentathenis and Krushi accept.

Mentathenis and Krushi stand together and Surina stands on the opposite side of her small carved out domicile. She warns them both to not go easy on her as she is a fiery force to be reckoned with and will not hold back herself. They immediately begin casting a flurry of spells at each other in explosive bursts of hellfire, lightning and arcane. Some casts find purchase on their target and others fly into rocky walls and destroy Surina’s furniture. The warlock focuses her efforts on taking down Mentathenis and after a few well placed casts, she succeeds in knocking him unconscious. Krushi continues to rip into Surina with streaks of white hot lightning and thunderous damage, finally subduing the warlock and winning the truel. Krushi wakes Mentathenis and they both wake Surina. While the warlock woman is upset that she was defeated, the two magic users have proven themselves worthy of becoming her agents of gnoll slaying, and offers them each a badge and the directions to the entrance of the Well of Demons so that they may kill in her name. She asks them to wait where they are while she pushes her bed aside and lifts up a loose tile in the floor to reveal a ladder into a secret passage. She descends the ladder and twenty minutes later she returns with two more gifts for her agents. A Fan of the Four Winds for Krushi and an Obsidian Steed Figurine for Mentathenis. She then bids them goodbye, pushes them both out her door, and wishes them success in the murder of gnolls everywhere.

Ogre Affection

Aces readies her flaming maul and Brugg pulls out his giant club as Modreg, Rendil, Terrlen and others from the inn come outside to watch the demonstration. Aces starts the session by showing Brugg a combat stance and graceful swing of her maul. Her weapon strikes the ogre in the belly. He attempts to mimic her move by swinging his club wildly and uncontrolled to whack the mul in her side. She spins around and swings again, but narrowly misses, Brugg doesn’t spin but launches another sloppy swing of his club. The large bronze skinned woman locks the ogre in place with a psionic attack and explains to him the importance of gaining the favor of the crowd, who are now cheering wildly. Then she turns and hops up on a bench to gain a running start, and charges the ogre. At the end of the bench, she leaps into the air, maul slicing in a downward arc and smashes into Brugg’s head. The ogre praises Aces on her showmanship and attacks, along with a host of other compliments as he once again swings his club back and forth, managing to hit her once. Aces swings her maul again and slams into the ogre’s gut, he doubles over in pain and happiness. When he regains his breath, he thanks Aces for her training and offers her a small token of his love and respect. A Vagabond’s Die. The two help each other back into the inn and the crowd follows.

When everyone gets back to the Halfmoon Inn they all sit around the largest table and share their stories of the night. Krushi and Mentathenis let their friends know that they have the directions to three entrances of the Well of Demons. The party is briefly interrupted when a kobold panhandler named Charrak enters the inn and approaches the adventurers with a message he was paid to deliver to them. The message is written by someone who is in league with the duergar but requests the heroes help in finding a way out of the organization. The message gives directions to a location within the labyrinth not far from the Hall to meet in secret.

Megilwath chases down Charrak as he leaves the inn to ask him about the one who delivered the message, of which Charrak has little information other than he was a cloaked figure. The drow pays the kobold 5 silver to deliver a message back to the mysterious man to let him know they will meet in the morning.

The adventurers drink into the night until Erra closes the bar. They all head upstairs for a good night’s rest and leave on the morrow for the secret meeting.

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Hold Falls

Megilwath snaps out of his meditation at Terrlen’s camp just outside of the Horned Hold. A sharp sting upon his left fore arm. When he turns his arm over he notices two little bite marks, as if bitten by a spider. He decides to wake The Maven to see what she can do about it. As she is examining it, it begins to swell and something dark and bulbous begins to wiggle under his skin. The Maven wakes the rest of the party and Megilwath hears something or some things crawling up the cliff face at the edge of their camp.

The spider-like mass under his skin begins to crawl up his arm. Megilwath quickly holds his upper arm to block the creatures path and calls Mentathenis over to him. Handing him his dagger, he tells the Eladrin to cut it out, and fast. Mentathenis complies and slices into the Drow’s arm, blood explodes outward splattering the both of them. No spider can be seen, as if whatever it was has disappeared.

Aces and Krushi turn to see five large, black widow-like spiders crest the edge of the crevace and scurry towards Megilwath. Aces manages to step in front of, and stop one, but the other four make their way to the Dark Elf, and begin snapping their fangs at him.

Krushi and Mentathenis blow them up quickly with their magical abilities causing each one to burst into a black smoke upon death. Then a much larger Spider crawls up over the edge towards the party, It steps over Aces, Krushi and the Maven to go face to face with the drow. Krushi notices that it doesn’t appear to be a normal spider, as it’s head is vaguely shaped like an elf’s but twisted and malformed with the features of an arachnid.

When it pulls its face right up to Megilwath’s he can see that doesn’t just resemble that of an an elf, but it is his own face. His arm begins to throb in pain as blood continues to gush out, slowly turning black and beading up until it has turned into a wave of tiny spiders being expelled from his body.

Megilwath snaps out of his meditation to the feeling of a sharp sting on his arm. When he turns it over he can see a tiny black widow sitting there staring at him over it’s recent bite. He decides to wake The Maven to see what she can do about it. he flicks the small spider off his arm and onto the ground, also interrupting Mentathenis’ meditation to tell him what is going on. Mentathenis locates the small spider and snatches it up with a mage hand. He examines it and comes to the conclusion that it is a natural spider, just before allowing the mage hand to crush it.

After sucking out the poison and being asked what he thinks his visions mean by The Maven, Megilwath determines that he will need to seek out answers from Trysta regarding his past at the party’s next convenience. They all agree, and head back towards the Horned Hold to finish the job.

Aces leads the party back to the double iron doors that they were unable to get through, and notices that the wooden shims they wedged under the doors were reduced to splinters and the doors had since been unlocked and were now slightly ajar.

They push through the doors to find a small alcove with two more sets of doors. The doors to the left they assume lead back into the slave pits and the doors ahead of them must be where Murkelmor is. Megilwath listens through the doors to hear some duergar voices arguing. Mentathenis uses ghost sound to impersonate one of the spined devils, Marshk. The duergar don’t fall for the trickery and form up for a fight. Aces crashes through the doors and sees a dwarf at the back of the room wielding a giant flaming maul and introduces himself as Rundarr, Duergar Champion. There are also two other duergar shock troopers and a duergar theurge. Murkelmor is nowhere in sight.

Aces heads for Rundarr as Megilwath and the Maven work together on the theurge. Krushi and Mentathenis are left behind to face down the two shock troopers who give them a particularly hard time until Megilwath and Aces move to help. Once the shock troopers and theurge are taken down, they all move in to focus on Rundarr. Megilwath attempts to get the duergar to surrender but to no avail.

Working hard to shake off her injuries from the other duergar, Krushi is able to muster the strength to stand tallish and look Rundarr in the eyes. Without blinking, and using her undeniable charisma and overpowering cuteness she says “You have fought well Rundarr, but I really think it’s time that you surrender.” Rundarr agrees with the Halfling as he is sorely out of practice, and thanks the party for an exhilarating fight, offering Aces his Flaming Maul +2 as such a worthy opponent. He informs them of Murkelmor’s abandoning of the Hold to retreat into the Underdark and then takes his leave.

The party investigates Murkelmor’s chambers and near his bed they find a small locked chest which Megilwath is able to pick open. Inside is an Amulet of Health +2 and around 261 gold.

Once they are sure that the Hold has been cleared, they return to Terrlen’s camp and pack up their stuff to head back to the Seven Pillared Hall.

On their way back to the Hall, the group runs across a band of gnolls, with a Barl’gura, and a small shackled goblin. The large demon rushes forward and slams Aces, Mentathenis drops his Stinking Cloud in the middle of the pack causing them to scatter. The gnoll scourge rushes through the party to attack Krushi. Megilwath and The Maven work together in unison to rip through the enemies and with Aces’s help manage to keep the gnolls getting poisoned by the deadly gas.

One gnoll manages to escape the carnage and disappears into the labyrinth, the goblin is able to remove his handcuffs and introduces himself as Modreg, a wandering explorer who was captured by the gnolls and being brought to the Well of Demons. Aces immediately takes a liking to the little guy and adopts him as her pet.

Then they all continue on back to the Hall.

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