Apocalyptica

New Blood
Hellos and Farewells...

The battle with the Fire Cultists in the dreaded inescapable hallway raged on. Kareep’s summoned Dire Wolves were slain by the cultists. But Puck laid down multiple Ice Storm spells freezing the hell hounds and Salamanders to death. Templeton was in a good potion around a corner laying down deadly fire from Sky Piercer. Kareep had been burned by hell hound breath, skewered by Hot Salamander Spears and shot by fiery bolts from the fire cultists. Kareep finally could take no more and collapsed from his wounds. Suddenly a swirling portal of light appeared next to him. A human in half plate with a sword and wooden shield leaped out followed by a huge Aarakocra in a shining breastplate wielding a large morning star. The Aarakocra screamed, grabbed Kareep’s unconscious body and hurled him through the portal which then suddenly swirled away to mist.

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The human fighter and Aarakocra joined the battle on the side of the party and helped finish off the fire cultists. They fought well. Templeton thought he recognized the human. He was wearing Waterdavian clothing, but he couldn’t quite remember his name. The battle instantly turned against the fire cultists and the party won the day. After some quick healing and searching of the enemies, some introductions were in order.

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Brenn Buckman told Templeton Daltrey that he had been sent here by his father Renton Daltrey. Renn produced a scroll with a hand written note with perfect lettering. Renn read the scroll aloud to the group and did so in a voice that sounded ominously familiar to Templeton.

Templeton,

I am glad to hear you are actually doing something with the little task I put you on, and not drunkenly chasing whores about the night houses for once. But of course, when I received word of your “progress,” I had no idea that your involvement would bring disaster on the little hamlet of Red Larch. SO very disappointing. At first I couldn’t believe it, a no nothing town being laid to waste like that, so I sent your courageous brother to bring me an honest full report. He brought me real information I could rely on and craft a strategy for my trade routes in that area. Upon his successful return and reading the report, I see the situation is far worse than you have led on. IF you want a seat at my table Templeton, you must provide great intel to help the cause. So, it is obvious you will need help, I am sending a trusted scout from one of my last triumphant military campaigns, Brenn Buckman. He has served me well and is very aware of the virtues of Daltrey loyalty. He will do his job so you can do yours. See to it he is paid handsomely for his work, 1,000 GP, because as you know very well, a Daltrey always pays their debts.

Do not continue to disappoint me,
Renton Daltrey

Templeton slapped his hand to his head and exclaimed in exasperation and defeat. He asked if anyone would like a drink, because he certainly needed one. Brenn took the drink of wine offered and drank heartily with Templeton. And in a token of good faith and fellowship, he ignited the blade of his magical flame tongue sword and burned Renton Daltery’s letter away to ash.

Everyone was also quite curious about this new Aarokocra, Badding. Badding explained that according to the Aarokocra, the Elders of the flock in the Star Mounts had a vision that one of their kind would be involved in ending the rise of Elemental Evil in the Dessarin Valley. Knowing of Kareep of Goldenfields, they had been scrying on the party for the last five days. Fearing for the worst they prepared their friend Brenn and one of their finest guardians Badding to intervene if necessary. When Kareep fell they invoked the power of their Deity, the Great Bird in the Sky, creating a portal to save Kareep and send Brenn and Badding to help put an end to the fire cultists.

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Pushing Further into the Fire Temple

With their leader Bastian Thermander dead, the fight went out of the remaining cultists and hobgoblins. Most fought on and were cut down but one of the fire priests tried to escape by using a minor image of himself to distract Templeton and get him to waste a crossbow shot while he snuck across the high heat column area. Puck, however, gave chase wound up close enough to see the cultist from the ankles down escaping up the stairs. That was all Puck needed to unleash a full volley of magic missiles from his wand to blast the life out of him. His limp body flopped down the stairs to finally rest at the edge of heat room in a bloody mess.

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A quick search of the bodies revealed some treasure. Bastian Thermander had a purse of 90 GP and a potion of fire breath. Puck took possession of the potion.

At last the party was able to push further into the fire temple. There they found mostly undefended quarters of hobgoblins, priests, and ogres who had been marshaled by Bastian Thermander to fight against the party in the main hallway. Bastian’s room was smoky and lit by 4 separate coal stoves. Inside was a desk with some writings. They described various ledgers and accounts pertaining to the enslavement of the Azers and Salamanders by Sephabodis Wuwiad Taddaahiz the efreet and their production of weaponry for the cult. Templeton took the damning papers and put them in his pack as evidence.

The party also found stashed away, 3 potions of fire resistance (Quintus, Puck, and Kareep), 1 potion of greater healing (Quintus), and a Stone of Luck (Templeton). There were also 36 SP and 19 GP. The Master Party Treasure List was updated.

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A large tunnel to the southwest took the form of a huge bridge that spanned a giant chasm. Kareep used his ranger powers to sniff the air and examine the ground to divine that to the southwest across the chasm were 8-9 humanoids and 4 elementals. To the southeast 6-7 humanoids were detected. And directly east were 4 more elementals.

Another rest was taken in order to get to full strength to confront these threats. All seemed quiet but of course Templeton sprung a trap again in the main hallway. Two fire cultists were waiting for the party with 4 Salamanders and 2 hell hounds.

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The fight was difficult from the start with all attacks being focused on Templeton while everyone else caught up. The hell hounds fiery breath was dodged and evaded by Templeton’s quick reaction but one of the Salmander’s hit him with his red hot spear and grappled him with his constricting tail. Kareep had summoned dire wolves for Puck and Quintus to ride in order for them to keep up quietly. Puck managed to blast the Salamanders and Hell Hound with an ice storm spell. It worked perfectly really hurting the Salamanders who were vulnerable to cold and forming a slippery coating of difficult terrain to slow their advance on the party.

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Kareep’s wolves were able to hold off the enemy while Quintus made his way over to heal the fallen Templeton who had been felled by the Salamander’s deadly spears. After being healed, Templeton was able to dart back down the hall and take cover around the corner. From there he launched many heavy bolts from Sky Piercer that found their mark in the form of deadly sneak attacks. Quintus was in the thick of the fray hewing mightily with FoeCleaver – his Greatsword Sun Blade.

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Bastian Strikes Back...
...But is Finally Laid Low

The party snuck back to the hiding spot they had carved into the rock of the temple using the Claws of the Umberhulk. They took a short rest. After an hour they took some hit dice of healing but heard some voices. Templeton was unable to scan them using his helm of telepathy. All was quite, So Templeton snuck out. The party snuck all the way down to the stairs leading up to the hobgoblin quarters when the trap was sprung.

The party was surrounded by 2 hell hounds, 10 hobgoblins, and 5 fire cultists including Bastian Thermander who had somehow been hiding invisibly right in the area of the party’s hiding spot. A large battle erupted as the party fought to try and get back together and find some cover.

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At one point in the battle Templeton created some cover for himself by using a silent image of a large briar patch. He and Kareep used it as cover. But when Bastian hurled a fireball and the fire did not alter the image at all, the fire cultists saw through the illusion. Kareep was able to slow the advance of the hobgoblins by casting a summon animals spell. He conjured 2 giant octopi that filled the southern hall. The hobgoblins spent many rounds trying to fight their way past, allowing the party to focus on Bastian Thermander.

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And focus they did Bastian Thermander was hit by bolts and Kareep’s lance and Puck even went toe to toe with him while under a blur spell. In the end, Bastian was overwhelmed and fell but not before hurting the party mightily. Although he had fallen the hobgoblins and other fire cultists fought on.

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Bastian Escapes

The battle in the Fire Temple raged on with Puck creating a Bigby’s Hand spell that appeared next to Bastian Thermander and smashed into him. It also get the group of enemies occupied and unable to get past. Bastian unleashed a full volley of magic missiles into Kareep but the lucky bird man had a brooch of shielding which completely protected him from that spell. Quintus used stone shape to make a small hole in the stone door that the cultist was holding shut and blasted him with a scared flame through the door forcing him to let go and allow him to escape. Bastian teleported away from Puck’s Hand spell using misty step but Puck used the hand to push a GUardian into the lava and burn him up.

Eventually all of the enemies were slain but when the party pressed Bastian Thermander, he vanished using some sort of teleportation magic to escape. The bodies were searched yielding 50 GP of odd coinage. The Master Party Treasure List was updated.

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A Well Needed Rest

Templeton used his power of suggestion over Orgg, the hobgoblin standing guard outside the door to the room, to suggest he move along back to his barracks and leave the area. Orgg followed the commands after Templeton reminded him the Sephabodis Wuwiad Taddaahiz the efreet was not to be trifled with. With the way clear, the party snuck back out to the first room of the complex with the dead ogres they had first encountered.

Quintus used his Claws of the Umberhulk to burrow through the loose rock and through the actual solid rock beyond to form a new narrow passageway. He then further excavated a large 10 foot by 10 foot room beyond while Templeton and Kareep camouflaged the entrance. The party took refuge in the newly created space and began a much needed extended rest. They heard some movement and talking outside in the room in the middle of the rest but were not disturbed. When fully healed, Templeton snuck out to find 6 ogres on guard in the room.

Puck snuck out first and lit them up with a fireball. Quintus used his sacred flame, Kareep attacked with his lance, and Templeton fired his crossbow from beyond the camo blind. The ogres got in a couple of attacks but could not hit anyone. All 6 were killed without the party getting hurt at all.

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The party then went back down to where they had learned the hobgoblins had their guardpost. Quintus’ noisy armor alerted them, but Templeton was ready. The first hobgoblin down the stairs suddenly found a heavy crossbow bolt tearing through his throat. Puck then came down and unleashed a storm sphere spell that created a swirling mass of wind on the stairs keeping the hobgoblins at bay. Puck was able to repeatedly launch lightning bolts out of the storm sphere to smash into the hobgoblins. Templeton would hide around the corner and take out a hobgoblin each round. Once they readied longbow fire to hit him, but Templeton created an illusion of himself that drew the hobgoblins fire.

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In all 10 hobgoblins were slain. But their hobgoblin captain survived. Two eternal Flame Priests and two guardians were in support of them. The 2 priests each hurled a fireball every round. It really damaged everyone but Templeton who managed to dodge and evade the flames. Then from the north more threats came. Bastian Thermander, a fire genasi wizard took on Puck. Puck tried to cast banishment on him and Bastion countered the spell. Another fireball from Bastian finally took Puck out. Puck’s concentration on his Storm Sphere was finally broken and the guardians and hobgoblin captain rushed down the stairs. But Quintus managed to heal Puck and they took cover in the rooms by the prison. Two additional guardians came up in support of Bastian Thermander. Kareep summoned a giant constrictor snake that appeared right in front of Bastian to slow him down.

Templeton took careful aim and shot a wounded guardian right through the eye for a critical hit that killed him instantly.

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Freeing the Azers

Templeton communicated with the 2 Azers via his Helm of Telepathy. He learned from them that they wanted to free more of their kind which were imprisoned in the cells to the north. Moving up to that area, they found there were more cultists, however, blocking the way. Two Flamewraths (fire magic wizard types) and 2 guardians were in their rooms adjacent to the cells. A battle began with these where one of the flamewraths used his hypnotic pattern spell to incapacitate Puck and one of the Azers. This took Puck out for many rounds. Quintus and Kareep were still badly wounded from the previous encounter so they had to be careful they did not go down.

Kareep used his gem of brightness to blind the other flamewrath and Quintus pounded on him repeatedly with the blessings of Tempus and FoeCleaver. Templeton used the boon given to him by The Revenant to turn into gaseous form and waft past the guards towards the cells holding the other imprisoned Azers. He then returned to physical form, opened one of the cell doors and used his mage hand to open another of the prison doors 30 feet down the hall.

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As a result 5 Azers were freed and came running out of their cells to join the battle. But Templeton’s moment of triumph was short lived as another hypnotic pattern went off catching himself and many of the freed Azers and lulled them into an incapacitated state. But the Flamewrath could not keep his concentration on more than one of those spells so Puck was now free to rejoin the battle.

Two quick fireballs went off and engulfed Puck, Quintus, and Kareep hurting them badly. So badly that Quintus went down burnt to a crisp. Kareep healed him and got him back into the fight and the Azers finally turned the tide and pounded the remaining cultists into pulpy bloody messes.

The Azers warned Templeton not to open the other cell doors because they contained Salamanders. The Azers thanked Templeton and marched off down the hall fading away to their home plane of elemental fire.

A quick search of the rooms and bodies yielded only 50 GP and no other info. The Master Party Treasure List was updated. In order to rest up the party holed up in one of the Flamewrath’s rooms adjacent to the cells. Puck cast his Leomund’s Shelter Spell, placing the wall right in front of the door. Templeton used his immovable rod to secure the stone door from opening.

Fort minutes into the rest there was a knock on the door. Templeton reached out with his Helm of Telepathy to scan the thoughts of the person knocking and discovered it to be a hobgoblin. Templeton used the power of the helm to plant a suggestion in the head of the hobgoblin named Orgg that he was the efreet Sephabodis Wuwiad Taddaahiz and that he would follow his orders and answer his questions.

There was some sort of argument on the other side of the door and other hobgoblins were clearly arguing with Org and then marched off with Orgg remaining behind to guard the door as instructed. A short rest was completed but 40 minutes after the first interruption, more hobgoblins were back.

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Puck versus the Efreet

The battle with the remaining Razerblast got a little more interesting when the explosion of its brethren brought a warband of hobgoblins to investigate. Four hobgoblins and a hobgoblin warlord arrived with bows and javelins from the western passage to attack.

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Puck lit them up with some well paced fireballs and the razerblast was finally defeated with some well placed crossbow bolts from Templeton. The hobgoblin warlord carried 20 GP and 2 bloodstones worth 50 GP each. The Master Party Treasure List was updated.

After a little healing, the western passage was explored only to find it impassable due to some very extreme heat emanating from support pillars in the room.

Traveling to the south part of the complex revealed a huge room with lava pools and creatures hard at work blacksmithing. There were 3 Azers and 1 Salamander that were working hard at giant anvils with hammers. Four fire cult guardians, 2 Razerblasts, and 1 huge efreet were watching over them as they worked. They were so intent on their work and making so much noise from the metalcrafting that they had not noticed the previous battle.

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A plan was hatched where Puck would invisibly sneak down into range and attempt to banish the efreet to his home plane with a banishment spell. Templeton wold be ready to fire crossbow bolts, Kareep would be ready to swoop down and attack, and Quintus would jump down the stairs into position using his boots of jumping but staying far back at the start in order to not alert them to the party’s presence with his noisy armor.

Everyone moved into position perfectly. Puck unleashed his banishment spell, but the efreet resisted its effects by making his save. The rest of the party launched their attacks but the battle quickly got out of hand. Puck tried another time to banish the efreet and again failed. The huge creature tried to ignite a wall of flame around the party but Puck countered it with his magic dissipating the spell. Kareep hurled his javelin of lightning and successfully lit up most of the enemies with a bolt of lighting. Quintus summoned a spiritual weapon and used mostly ranged spells at first.

With all the enemies still in the fight (including the efreet), Kareep started to squawk with panic in his eyes. Everyone was yelling that some sort of retreat was necessary. But then suddenly the Azers attacked the guardians by pushing them into lava pools and smashing them with hammers. The Salamander who had been hit by Kareep looked at the Aaurokokra with hate in his eyes, but then suddenly turned and attacked the efreet.

This sudden turn of events emboldened the party. Puck stepped up and once more went for broke casting his last spell as a banishment of the efreet. The third time was a charm and the efreet lost his save and was hurtled back the elemental plane of fire by Puck’s magic. The tide of the battle had definitely turned.

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Puck ran away and hid because if he were to maintain his concentration on the spell for a full minute, the efreet would not be able to return. So the little gnome snuck back down the hallway and around the corner. Templeton and Quintus got into position to block anyone trying to pursue him. The Azers seemed to be fighting against both the salamander and the cultists whilst the salamander was fighting against everyone. The party took advantage and sided with the Azers. Kareep used his gem of brightness to bind the Salamander with a focused beam of light. That helped the Azers who pounded on it with their hammers. In the end all enemies were destroyed with 2 of the Azers surviving.

The Azers spoke a strange gravelly language. Puck had a comprehend languages spell going and could understand them, but could not speak back to them. Templeton used his Helm of Telepathy to speak to the Azers through their minds. He made peace with them and promised to help them free their brothers who were imprisoned here and help them get back to their home plane. The Azers told Templeton that the Efreet had imprisoned them here. The efreet’s name name was Sephabodis Wuwiad Taddaahiz. When Templeton explained that Puck’s magic had forced him back to his home plane and would not allow him to return, the Azers were relieved and said they expected he would be punished by his masters in the city of brass for failing his mission.

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Entering the Temple of Eternal Flame

After having a very enlightening if not utterly frightening visit and parlay with The Dark Lady of Rundreth Manor, the group decided it must confront the base levels of the fire cult and water cult which had yet to be dealt with before going deeper into the The Fane of The Eye. After ensuring the the wall of stone put in place by the earth elemental myrmidons was still in place, the group moved down the northwestern passage towards the fire cult.

Widget led the way down the miles of tunnel until he saw a light ahead. Templeton snuck up invisibly with darkvision to find a group of 6 ogres guarding the passageway. He used his new helm of telepathy to scan their surface thoughts and found that they were thinking about being hungry and about guarding this area from anyone trying to get through. Kareep summoned 2 dire wolves. Quintus rode one and Puck and Templeton rode the other. The moved swiftly and quietly down the passage and into the room. Quintus cast a silence spell to seal the ogres off from raising an alarm. Then Puck blasted them twice with fireballs. One of the dire wolves was lost but all 6 ogres were slain.

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Templeton scouted ahead beyond the silence and found a curtain draped across the passage. He peaked beyond the curtain and found some sort of fire cultists on guard. He was wearing plate armor that seemed to burn with fire. He may have been human once but now he was some sort of creature made from fire and pain. Templeton shot him with his heavy crossbow with surprise and everyone rushed out to attack. It turned out there was another guard around the corner who joined the fight. The two razerblasters were incredibly tough. They had 3 attacks with their spears per round and took a ton of damage to bring down. One had been defeated and when it died it exploded in a burst of flame and shrapnel.

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The other razerblaster is still battling the party…

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Dealing with The Dark Lady

A messenger from The Emerald Enclave met with Puck and Kareep and tasked the two agents with traveling to Rundreth Manor to parlay with The Dark Lady. She is a powerful Shadow Dragon who has possibly allied with one or more of the cults. This upsets the balance of power greatly and the Enclave wants to convince The Dark Lady to remain neutral or move against the cults. Puck and Kareep enlisted the aid of Templeton and Quintus. They purchased 2 horses for 150 GP total and rode off to Rundreth Manor.

On the road the party met once more with the messenger and traded for some magic items to aid in the mission. Kareep traded his Ring of Fire Resistance and 600 GP for an Ion Stone of Reserve, a gem of brightness, and a potion of healing. Templeton traded 600 GP for a Helm of Telepathy and a Potion of Healing. Puck traded his wand of web and 2000 GP for a Cape of the Monteback. Three more potions of healing were donated to the group as a gift from the Abbott. Two went to Quintus and 1 went to Templeton. The Master Party Treasure List was updated.

After completing your negotiations, you move onwards to Rundreth Manor. A few miles down the road, in the distance you can see that what’s left of the Manor. It stands on a small, steep-sided hill just east of the Long Road, with a carriage drive opening off the road just south of the hill. The carriage road climbs the southern side of the hill to curve around and approach the back of the manor house from the east.

On the surface, where the Manor once stood are heaps of fallen stone blocks and tumbled lines of walls, which form a T-shaped outline with two rectangular wings thrusting north and south out of an enormous east-west rectangular room. This room has three-floor-high remnants of walls in two places, clinging to soaring stone chimneys. It looks like it was once a truly impressive hall.

You ride carefully, but casually up the carriage drive. Though it is in disrepair, it is passable. When arrive at the Manor, it becomes clear the two wings of the Manor are fallen stones and forest now. The large east-west room at the center seems almost to grow from the surrounding forest from this vantage. Initially, you are almost uncertain anyone could live here. Nonetheless, you dismount, tie your horses off and carefully explore the remnants of a flagstone floor you can see amid bushes and trees growing in front of the hall. With Kareep’s assistance, after a short time, you discover some old footprints leading to a particularly dense layer of foliage. You pull it back and see a stairway leading down into the earth…

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Puck casts Comprehend Languages as a ritual on himself. Quintus casts a 2nd level Aid spell on everyone but Templeton. Templeton casts see invisibility. As we proceed Templeton will use his helm of telepathy to be refreshing the detect thoughts spell every 1 minute. Templeton will be using the ability of detect thoughts to detect creatures within 30 feet of himself.

Templeton will lead the way followed by Quintus and then Kareep and then Puck. He reminds everyone that we want to parlay and should not attack immediately. Templeton will check for traps as we descend and scan for thoughts other than our own within 30 feet.

All spells are cast and Templeton carefully leads the way, searching for traps and thoughts. In fact, Templeton’s efforts are rewarded on the second stone step. At first glance the step seems solid enough, but Templeton discovers they stone is precariously held by some small slats of wood – he believes it would likely collapse with any significant weight.

Templeton directs everyone to avoid the second step and you continue down the flight of stairs with no further mishaps detected.

Upon reaching the bottom landing, you enter into a very large, gloomy chamber. It is seventy feet wide and a hundred feet long with high window openings above the surface providing heavily filtered light to the bottom.

The room is littered with rotting remnants of long trestle tables fitted with sinks and loosely covered with rusted-out metal platters, carry-bowls and tureens. The ceiling is a magnificent series of vaulted arches that crisscross to hold up a stone block ceiling, pierced in many places by hanging roots of trees growing above.

As you take in the scene, the air suddenly shimmers in front of you as a female drow appears in the center of the chamber.

The drow looks you over and then speaks with a mellifluous, yet throaty voice, “Welcome to Rundreth Manor.” She then seems to simply wait.

Templeton detects no thoughts from her.

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Templeton bows to the drow woman and says, “Thank you.” He waves his hand gesturing to all the rotting and rusted remnants of the once great mansion, “I love what you have done with the place. My name is Templeton Daltrey of the Waterdeep Daltreys. My associates and I are here to speak with The Dark Lady. Would you be so kind as to direct us to her presence? We have some interesting business opportunities that I am quite sure she will wish to hear about.”

With an almost imperceptible raising of a single eyebrow. “Speak. I am curious to hear what business opportunities would interest one such as I?”

Kareep opens his beak to speak, but then gets a sharp glance from Templeton and holds his tongue. Templeton raises an eyebrow and says, “It has come to our attention that you have made an alliance with a local elemental cult that has gotten onto the wrong side of our interests. When we heard that one as powerful as you had come under their fold, we were quite shocked considering you have a history of being neutral in such matters in the past. We are actively working to take down this cult and wish to see it come to an end. We would like to discuss your arrangement with the cult and see if there is any way we might be able to persuade you to become a neutral party once more and end your involvement with them. We would be in your debt. And the Daltreys always pay their debts.”

(Imagine her voice with a slightly altered southern bell drawl…)

“Well, well. Word does get around, doesn’t it. I have to say I am curious where such information began… and how your precious ears came to hear it. I wager it is a… delectable story.”

She pauses a moment while she lightly licks her lips.

“Now debts. I do love any conversations that include debts… As a gesture of goodwill, why don’t you begin by telling what you know about these cultists and how you have come to… engage them.”

Templeton smiles, “Indeed. We are all about goodwill. And I must say I find your voice and this particular form quite lovely. I appreciate your good taste. Our introduction to the cult stems back to The Town of Red Larch. My family, The Daltreys… The Waterdeeep Daltreys, owns several businesses in the town and has stakes in many important trade routes that run through Red Larch. I hired on these brave companions to help me investigate some trouble that was brewing across the Dessarim Valley. It started with a missing caravan of dwarves from Mirabar and has led down a rabbit hole of secret cults and hidden temples. We have identified a cult of earth, water, fire, and air. Each seems to be at odds but linked in some way. They are toying with ancient and powerful elemental magics which have brought destruction and danger in their wake. The safety of the entire Dessarim Valley and its inhabitants are at risk. In order to quell this threat and bring peace and stability to the region, we have identified and eliminated many of the cultists and their leaders. We unmasked the Circle of the Scarlet Moon as the Fire Cult, destroyed their cultists and leader Elizar. We slew Jolliver Grimjaw, the wereboar leader of the water cult and cleared out their river keep. We unmasked Thurl Maroska of Feathergale Spire as a leader of the air cult. We cleansed the spire and followed the trail to the self proclaimed queen of the air cult Aerisi Kalinoth. We slew her minions and cleared out her temple of the howling hatred sending her fleeing for her life. We cleansed the Sacred Stone Monastery of the earth cult and killed their leader Abbess Hellenrae. We are closing in on Marlos and the last remnants of the cults. They seem to be inhabiting the old dwarven ruins of the Bessilmer Dwarves. Is there a particular cult and leader you have been dealing with?"

The Dark Lady said, “Interesting. You seem to have delved deeply into their machinations. You mentioned that some cults seem to be at odds. What has you believe this?”

Templeton responds by saying, “We found evidence of air cultists fighting earth and water cultists. Prisoners and treasure of one cult were taken by force to the base of another cult.I can show you a letter penned by Aerisi Kalinoth, Queen of the Air Cult to Thurl Merosska praising him for leading an altercation between the air cult and the earth cult and the capture of one of their prisoners. She calls the earth cult in the Sacred Stone Monastery an enemy. We found bodies of both types of cultists that had been killed by one another.”

The Dark Lady then asked, “Additionally, what destruction have they wrought – other than upon their followers?”

Templeton answers by saying, “In every conclave and hidden temple of the various cults we have found prisoners. People taken from their homes, travelers captured on the road, nobles, simple folk, merchants, and farmers. Men, women, and children of a variety of races. All has been tortured, some killed, many put into forced servitude as slaves. We freed and liberated all that we could save. We found the remains of an entire merchant train. Everyone was either slaughtered and left on the ground to rot or taken prisoner to some terrible fate at the elemental temples. The town of red larch is almost completely destroyed. Air Cult priests brought a magical box to town that unleashed a terrible windstorm that killed many innocent folk and destroyed their dwellings. And just when they were trying to rebuild the town and restore order, the black earth cult arrived and used some horrible weapon called a devastation orb to create an earthquake that leveled many buildings and killed many people before we were able to put a stop to it. These cultists are evil, the worst kind of evil who care for nothing but their own pathetic elemental powers. They will be made to pay for their deeds and their destruction.”

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The Dark Lady replied, “Devastation Orbs… Oh, my. That does sound amaz… I mean awful. Can you tell me more exactly what happened? Please describe the orb and how it was delivered.”

Templeton frowns, “I have been very straightforward and forthcoming. But negotiation is a two way street. I have answered all of your questions but it is now time for you to answer mine. To which cult are you currently allied and what is your arrangement?”

The drow smiles. "Why, Mr. Templeton, you were sharing information so forthcomingly I didn’t think there was any need for… negotiation.

“You also leap to hasty conclusions without much evidence, don’t you? What reasons might you have to assume these…. cultists and I have any such arrangement. I certainly have not said so.

“A piece of unwarranted advice, neither speak nor listen quite so quickly…”

Templeton smiles. “Such wise words… Truly a revelation…” He takes a bottle of fine Sembian wine out of his bag of holding along with a beautifully crafted silver goblet. He pours the wine into his cup and takes a long draught. “Yes indeed an excellent vintage from many years ago.” He lets go of his goblet but it remains floating in the air using his mage hand. He uses his actual hands to produce another silver cup and pours wine into it as he continues, “We humans are such busy folk scurrying about always in a hurry. But those of your kind always have a different perspective on things. Much more cognizant of the long view. At least with wine we humans attempt to be patient and take our time. A toast to patience.” Templeton presents the silver goblet to The Dark Lady to take it and drink.

Kareep’s feather’s bristle on his neck…

“Templeton you are wasting time with your wine drinking and pandering to our dark host. Tell me witch as I do not pretend to know, do you have an alliance with the cultist and to what end. My 7 years on this plane seem like an eternity compared to this conversation. Squawk!”

Templeton laughs at Kareep’s outburst and takes another drink of his wine. “It seems that humans are not the only impatient race. What leads me to believe you have made arrangements? Let’s just say I have very reliable sources whom I trust that say you have taken sides in this silly little elemental cult uprising. Honestly when I heard the news I was quite taken aback. To think one as powerful as you would bother herself to get involved with such rabble, well I could not believe it. So I have come here to see if the rumors are true. We have seen envoys from the cultists come in and not come out. But suddenly things seem to have changed. Tell me what is different now? What could they possibly offer one so great as you?"

“Dear Templeton, you make two mistakes.

“First, never forgive rudeness. In fact, The Aarakocra now owes you his life… well, at least for now. Were it not for your graciousness and wit, dear Templeton, he would be mine… now and forever.”

For a brief moment, the entire room darkens ominously and seems to terrifyingly writhe in shadow, humanoid shadow forms emerging and disappearing in an overwhelming pool of darkness. Then the dappled sunlight returns and the deep pressure of the fear abates.

“Second, you exhibit facile hubris with the claim the current states of things as a ‘silly, little elemental cult uprising’. For all you’ve discerned, you are still blind.

“As for the cultists that left a tendays ago, it seems that someone watches… Interesting. You mistake my purpose, however. I wearied of their attention – merely consuming them did not seem to slow their entreats so I pursued another tact.

“Those that I let fly will never be rid of the fear I planted in their hearts. It is my hope that they communicate such to their brethren. It seems to have worked so far.”

“Now, Templeton, I have played your game. I have pulled back some of the shadow. Your turn. Tell me more of these so-called devastation orbs….”

Templeton’s laughter dies in his throat as the shadowy forms writhe ominously. As the fear abates and the dappled sunlight returns, he drinks his wine nervously. Templeton shakes his head and says, “Ah yes… Hubris… I am afraid you are quite right about me.” Templeton casts his gaze down at his feet in shame, "Its something I am working on..”. His gaze rises and fixes once more on the beautiful drow elf, "But I do appreciate your patience with me and my compatriots. I do not deny the dangers of these elemental cults. They dabble in ancient and powerful magics that they do not fully understand. You are correct they are neither silly nor small. They do in fact represent a great threat to this region. I am glad you have sent them packing with fear in their hearts. Hopefully they have learned to leave you alone.”

With a wave of his hand Templeton uses a minor illusion to re-create the spherical metal object he saw in the chest. “This is a devastation orb. One of the priests that brought it to Red Larch said it was crafted by Marlos Urnrayle, leader of the earth cult. Once activated it pulses with power until it unleashes terrible waves of force creating earthquakes and knocking creatures down. I witnessed the earthquakes it produced level several blocks of dwellings in Red Larch. All were of sturdy construction but they could not withstand the deadly earthquakes produced by the orb. Quintus here…” Templeton gestures to the cleric, “was able to use the power of Tempus to quell the magic of the quakes and put things to right. But the devastation the earthquakes had wrought was most certainly worthy of the orbs namesake.”

Templeton puts away his wine and goblets as he says, “It seems our friends were mistaken. I am glad you are not in league with cultists. We are still learning more about them and as you have so eloquently stated we are still blind to their ultimate goals.. As I said our intention is to put an end to them. Is there anything you can tell us that might aid in our quest. If we are successful they will never bother you again. Is there perhaps some boon or aid you might provide to help us? We would be most grateful and would repay you for your help."

“An intriguing object. Let me see it more closely…”

Templeton shifts the illusion her direction and she studies in silence for a while.

“How was the orb transported? As you describe the orb and its destructive power, I do not believe the magic could be contained without some other means.”

Templeton then describes the chest the orb was being pulled out of and how it had some sort of runes on the outside.

“Ah, that explains it. I believe that chest was a fundamental part of the creation of such magic. If you had gotten a view of the runes you said you saw from a distance, I surmise they were elementally opposed symbols to keep the orb in abeyance… until the chest was opened.

“Though it seems strange that my motives and yours might align, you are a Harper I believe, in this instance they do. I care nothing for the goals these elementalists pursue. In truth, I actually do not wish them to achieve their goals at all…

The Dark Lady explained that there are 4 cults – earth, air, water, and fire. Each has a prophet who wields a legendary artifact crafted by the drow Vizeran Devir. The prophets took the artifacts from the The Fane of The Eye – a drow temple devoted to the Elder Elemental Eye. The cultists are scared of the elder elemental eye. Each artifact weapon is linked to a particular elemental plane and to a particular evil prince of that plane. Wind Vein is a silver spear linked to Yan Si Bin, the air prince, and is currently in the possession of Aerisi Kalinoth. Ironfang is a solid iron war pick linked to Ogre-Mach, the prince of earth and currently in the possession of Marlos Urnrayle. Tinder Strike is a flint dagger linked to Emix, prince of fire, and in the current possession of Vanifer. Drown is a bronze trident with barnacle and sea shell motiffs linked to Al-Hydra, Prince of Water, and in the current possession of Gar Shatterkeel.

In exchange for not killing us all (or worse), The Dark Lady has graciously allowed us to leave her lair alive. In exchange we are to seek out these cultists and destroy them before they can bring any of the elemental princes into this world. The Dark Lady has happily agreed to safe guard the items in her lair to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.

Before we left she gave us a brief glimpse at her true form to hasten our exit.

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Yet More Tragedy Strikes Red Larch

The party exited the complex beneath the Monastery of the Sacred Stone and returned to Red Larch. There they found lodging and resupply. In fact they were meeting with Feng Ironhead about new armor for Quintus and Kareep when sounds of shouting and unrest came from outside Feng’s shop. Everyone left and saw in the center of town a group of townsfolk had gathered around 3 clerics wearing garb of the black earth cult. They were surrounded by 12 guards wearing their distinctive stone armor. Two of the clerics held a chest. The third priest was opening the chest and reaching in to grab something.

The party instantly sprung into action. Kareep summoned 4 giant wasps that appeared adjacent to the priests. The throngs of villagers stepped back in confusion at the sudden appearance of the insects. Templeton moved to a hidden vantage point, drew a bead on the central priest reaching into the chest, and exhaled as he gently stroked the trigger on Sky Piercer. A heavy crossbow bolt buried itself into the central priests eye socket on a critical hit. The priest howled in pain and grasped in futility at the heavy crossbow bolt lodged in his skull. Blood was spraying like a fountain from his head. The villagers began to run screaming as far away from the battle as possible. Kareep’s giant wasps converged on the wounded priests and stung him repeatedly with their poisonous barbs. The man’s skin puffed out in anafalactic shock as the poison coursed through his blood. His airway finally closed and ceased his screaming as he fell to the ground dead.

Puck unleashed a ball of fire that engulfed all the remaining priests and guards. They then spread out and began to engage the party. The two priests dumped the chest and something spilled out of it. One of the priests said something about a devastation orb. The orb was a small metal sphere that hit the ground and began to pulse. The first pulse completely destroyed the chest. Kareep flew up and grabbed the sphere. He flew with it in hand straight up to try to get the sphere out of the area. Puck unleashed another fireball and Templeton sniped from hidden spots behind buildings. Quintus fought the guards off with his greatsword.

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Kareep tried to climb higher but the sphere suddenly became incredibly heavy and Kareep could not hold it. It slipped from his talons and plunged down at great speed burying itself in the earth. A short time later it let off another series of pulses which unleashed massive earthquakes that reduced even more buildings in Red Larch to rubble. The quakes were increasing in size and destructive force until Quintus cast a dispel magic and finally quieted the devastation orbs destruction. It took him two castings of the spell but it finally worked. The rest of the guards and priests were slain but two were taken alive – 1 priest and 1 guard.

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The the party joined the triage teams trying to save as many people buried in the rubble of buildings as possible. It was Quintus who truly rose to the occasion here. Spewing the teachings of Tempus as only he can, Quintus used his Claws of the Umber Hulk to dig through the rubble and his ogre strength to move debris out of the way. He and Kareep used their healing magic to heal the wounded. Quintus even used his revivify spell to bring two villagers back from the dead using 600 GP worth of diamond dust material components in the process.

These heroic gestures were not overlooked by Feng Ironhead. Later after the exhausted survivors had saved every one who was still alive to save, Feng brought the party back into his shop and into the back room. There he showed Quintus a glowing suit of plate mail armor that he called Enduring Plate Mail and sword hilt he called FoeCleaver – Greatsword Sun Blade. Both were clearly enchanted. The enduring plate mail can never be broken or destroyed. The sword hilt can generate a blade of pure light.

The party thanked Feng for his generosity and traded gold and Quintus’ Greatsword+1 for the two new items. Quintus had to use all of his gold plus borrow from Puck, Templeton, and Kareep. But the party made it work.

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