The party has found itself in dire straits. After clearing out the Von G… tomb, rescuing Adronsius, and mutilating a dead gnome, they followed the dwarf’s directions into the western crypt. Several hobgoblins and the goblin sharpshooters that fled earlier were dispatched in one room, and the magma claws in the next room were frozen and stabbed almost before they had a chance to do anything. Their gnome handler, however, fled. The party took advantage of the brief respite to relieve the nobles of their grave goods, retreat to the Von G… tomb, and spend an uneventful 6 hours refreshing themselves. On returning to the western crypt, they discovered that the “room with a sticky floor” Adronsius had been dragged through earlier was sticky for a somewhat unusual reason: spiderwebs. Enough spiderwebs, in fact, to make movement a difficult proposition. Worse yet, the creatures that had spun the webs were still in the room, and they were armed to the teeth. At the end of this installment, what promises to be a very nasty fight had just begun. Leucimor was backed against a wall and trying to fend off further attacks after taking a greataxe to the chest, Aelius and Traxex were across the room engaging the largest of their enemies, Zarithyl was still stuck to the floor with a ball of webbing, and Adronsius was clutching his arm and looking worried.
The ettercaps have been dispatched, and after a brief chase and an encounter with a few hobgoblin guards and a surprisingly manageable guard drake, the gnome was finally brought down. The party seems noticeably wiser and more experienced, though they’ve had little time to reflect on it in their dash through Castle Rivenroar. In the course of the dash, they’ve discovered some questionably useful magical bracers, a decent amount of treasure (mostly scooped up by Traxex), and the very interesting tomb of the castle’s owners. It contained two altars to Vecna, since rededicated by hobgoblins and then defiled by a drow, and an inscription referring to the “Day of Black Sun.” The Rivenroar family seem to have indeed been involved with necromancy, substantiating the rumors of undead horrors. On an even more somber note, the ettercaps had killed several prisoners the adventurers were sent to retrieve, including the fighter last seen in Brindol and its guard captain, Kartenix. At the moment, they are intact with the exception of a slightly battered swordmage and a cranky dwarf who’s still pulling webs out of his beard, and have at last found another living prisoner. The cook Adronsius referred to is a human female, currently alive, chained to an altar, and worried by the dire rats in the room and possibly other, more ominous things.
The “other, more ominous things” in the room were a somewhat unusual trap and a very unbalanced excentric eccentric gnome mage, Milgram the Odd. The gnome was the leader of Sinruth’s animal trainers, and the dire rats in the room were his charges. The ordinary rats in the room swarmed around him and generally made life difficult for the party. Leucimor took it upon himself to fight one rat, Traxex, as ever, stabbed things with terrifying efficiency, Aelius pitched in where he could, and Zarithyl largely hurled bolts of frost from a distance. The wizard was, however, in an odd mood and had been taking advice from Traxex, and he may have spent part of the fight performing magic tricks in a corner. The gnome fell largely without incident; however, Traxex and Leucimor sustained a number of rat bites and have developed Filth Fever. In addition, there was a somewhat heated debate over activating the mysterious levers on the displacer beast statues. Aelius, in an unusual display of emotions beyond quiet disdain, was vehemently opposed, Traxex was curious, Leucimor was ambivalent, and Zarithyl might not have noticed. In the end, the rogue persuaded Adronsius to push one of the levers. For his troubles, the dwarf developed a splitting, distracting headache and shortly afterward fled the room covered in rats. The swordmage was vindicated, but painfully, and Milgram was briefly distracted. At the end of the fight, the party acquired a pair of helpful magic items and a vexing problem in the form of Mirtala, the human cook. It seems Milgram had been keeping her for purposes best left unmentioned. The party was unable to alleviate her fear and she remains unresponsive. After this, the party decided to rest, but were awoken by three hobgoblins. The combined efforts of Traxex and Zarithyl pinned them in the doorway to the room, and all was going well. When Leucimor awoke, he joined the fight and Zarithyl promptly, inexplicably, charged in, blasting the hobgoblins into the hallway and Leucimor into a statue. The warlord was knocked down shortly afterward, and remained on the floor until the hobgoblins were mopped up. The others then picked him up and returned to their rest. Traxex, perhaps as a result of his sleep being interrupted, seems sicker.
Zarithyl seems to have permanently taken to performing minor displays of arcane power during combat. The purpose behind them, and the rest of the wizard’s character and motives, remain enigmatic. The party now has two more former captives in tow: a human female acolyte of Ioun who has taken a liking to Leucimor and to Kartenix’s 8-year-old son. So far, no one has seen fit to break the news of his father’s death; Traxex and Zarithyl have decided that it’s better that he not know for the time, though Aelius half-heartedly opposed them. As for combat, the party dispatched a group of hobgoblins, drakes, and a goblin mage with uncharacteristic efficiency, only to run into the long-expected undead horrors, or at least some of them. The undead, two ghouls and two zombies, were in a richly-decorated but completely dark room with an unusual symbol on the floor. The symbol was, in fact, a necromantic sigil that healed them, making the subsequent fight much nastier than expected. The zombies fell quickly, but the ghouls proved tenacious and lethal opponents. Leucimor was quickly immobilized by their venom, and stayed essentially rooted to the floor. Aelius expended all of his protective abilities and all the healing Leucimor could provide, then collapsed after repeated, venom-laden bites. Traxex was able to revive him rather quickly, however. The warlord was not so lucky. Worn down by repeated attacks, he sustained an apparently fatal wound. The situation seemed dire enough that Adronsius charged in, only to draw the attention of a ghoul and flee after trading blows. Zarithyl made good use of Thunderwave, Traxex, as ever, slyly flourished his dagger, and Aelius, once again on his feet, even attempted to throw his sword. The ghouls eventually fell, and the warlord, unexpectedly, stood up, much the worse for wear, but apparently granted a reprieve from death. Leucimor’s escape from death is detailed in death-script-1 The party has, so far, encountered the undead, a scrying pool, a number of hallways, an odd assortment of noncombatants, and perhaps forces more powerful than death. Castle Rivenroar now holds little but two more captives and an unknown host of enemies.
Fast-forward through the end of Castle Rivenroar. Vecna demands someone go back and fill this out. After an unnecessary history lesson and a fight with a mysterious amphibian and an ooze on a raft, our heroes have recovered Agros’s logbook. Which is convenient, as he hasn’t been very helpful since he turned to stone.
Halflings, and a slaad. We’re not talking about that now.
The Red Caps hired the party to recover a Teshi spy from under the watch of the Gilded Mask. When they questioned him, Umarith Korred insisted he is not an enemy agent, but a religious refugee and denies knowledge of why he has been captured. They threw the pale-skinned man in a box and delivered him to Colin. Leucimor, suspecting more is going on here than he’s been told, followed the captive and decided to eavesdrop on the subsequent interrogation. Despite Dougan’s questioning, Korred insisted he did not know the location of something called the “Living Key.” Inspired by his hatred of Tesh, Leucimor took it upon himself to steal the foreigner a second time, and perform his own interrogation. Promising him freedom, he managed to learn that the Living Key is some sort of magical effect that binds to one’s soul, and the person who holds it is most likely on his way to the Sanguine Isles. With this information revealed, he knocked Korred out and returned him to the Red Caps, entertainingly concealed in a cart full of apples. The warlord returned to the Hermitage to find the Caps on red alert, and his companions under guard. Dougan was understandably enraged at Leucimor’s antics, but the information he gained about the Sanguine Isles may have mitigated his rage. “Since you’ve taken it upon yourself to get involved in this,” Dougan told the tiefling, “We might as well let you all the way in. I’ve got a mission you can do for me in the morning. We’ll see if you can redeem yourself.”
The party has once again broken a contract with the Red Caps, this time to recover a book from a ruined section of the city’s academy. In the course of this assignment, they also managed to double-cross and kill an agent of the Gilded Mask, encounter a halfling alchemist and his legion of addicts, brutally kill one of the addicts, and most importantly, acquaint themselves with a deva that seems bent on breaking all the stereotypes of her kind.
Aelius and Vera spent the next week holed up in Strata interpreting the book. They discovered much more lore about the Living Key and the Gate it opens, along with some rituals pertaining to the transfer of the Key. However, Aelius had apparently had enough of betraying employers, and secretly attempted to open negotiations with the Red Caps, only to be reminded that he is an utterly terrible diplomat. Fortunately for everyone, save Colin, the party was able to evade pursuit and leave the city via rowboat; they even paid fairly for the trip and refrained from murdering the boat’s owner.
Arriving in the port city of Tarmalune, they quickly resumed their usual habits. A bit of intelligence-gathering by a rather crestfallen swordmage revealed the existence of the Urban Sons, a middle-class criminal organization that seemed able to back the PCs against the Gilded Mask and find them a ship. Traxex arranged a meeting with the group by the unusual expedient of setting a saint’s statue on fire. With the discussion concluded and three-quarters of the party sobering up slowly, the adventurers suddenly realized an interesting way to take advantage of their sacrilege. They concocted and spread the rumor that the flaming statue was a sign from Erathis, and when a crowd had gathered, a bit of minor magic, eladrin theatrics, and semi-coherent remarks from Leucimore and Traxex established the party as warriors of justice, charged with restoring vitality to the city by cleansing it of the Gilded Mask. Erathis has so far had nothing to say on the matter. As the sun rose, the fictitious crusaders stumbled back to bed with an assignment from the Sons, but few plans beyond that.