General D&D Topics* Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14) - Page 20





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    ø Ignore Innocent Bystander
    Another update! And so soon too! Can't wait to find out what held Aravis' soul in place.
    It may only be two cents, but at least it's MY two cents.

 

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    Yay! New updates are awesome!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sagiro View Post
    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 292
    Regarding Praska


    Morningstar frowns at the surprising and contradictory answers. Dranko opines that the results of those questions can’t be trusted, since Praska is clearly shielded from divinations. Not to mention that by considering the answers as a whole, it provably was Praska who set the trap for them.
    I don't follow the reasoning in concluding that it definitely was Praska who set the trap for them. I understand why those answers would be consistent with a set of divination shielding effects used to conceal Praska's role in this. But I don't follow why it couldn't be the case that somebody is using great power to make it appear that Praska was responsible.
    Storyhour plugs: Aphonion Tales, a storyhour that I write (mostly) about a campaign in which I'm a player.
    The Journals of Konrad Jagger, Licensed Diabolist, a storyhour I write set in the same world as Aphonion Tales, but about different characters.
    Orichalcum's Way Cool Roman Storyhour, in which I'm a player.
    Welcome to the Halmae, a nifty storyhour about a campaign for which I occasionally Council of Evil.

    Unfortunately moribund:
    My Storyhour

  • #193
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerebral Paladin View Post
    Yay! New updates are awesome!



    I don't follow the reasoning in concluding that it definitely was Praska who set the trap for them. I understand why those answers would be consistent with a set of divination shielding effects used to conceal Praska's role in this. But I don't follow why it couldn't be the case that somebody is using great power to make it appear that Praska was responsible.
    I agree with you -- but that's the conclusion my players came to after reviewing the answers.

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    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 294
    With Friends Like These

    The results of Tomnic's commune, to questions on the topic of the Null Shadow cauldron, are moderately useful: the thing is in the northeast quadrant of the city, and underground. Relatedly, Marigold's sending scroll had nothing to do with the cauldron or the theft thereof. Tomnic was unwilling to press Delioch further with narrowing-down questions, and he keeps any answers concerning Califax to himself.

    Dranko jokingly recommends that they hire the drunks and malcontents from the Happy Harpoon to scour the city sewers for the cauldron. The ones who don't come back will indicate the likely location by their absence. Even though Ernie knows it's a joke he lectures Dranko anyway.

    >> The following exchange deserves its own aside:

    Aravis's player: “ Do I think the Cauldron was in the plane of shadow?”

    DM: “Well, the room that the Cauldron was in had a weird feel about it; it was partially in the plane of shadow.”

    Dranko's player (Piratecat): “But it wasn't like that when the Cauldron was gone.”

    DM: “Correct. It was just an empty 20x20 room.” (Pause). “Well, admittedly it had some Null Shadows in it.”

    Piratecat: “Let the record show that I'm flipping Sagiro off.”



    * *


    Morningstar figures this is a good opportunity to do some scouting in Ava Dormo. She drops into a trance and enters the Dreamscape while the others guard her body. Her first stop is the inn at which they met with Mokad so long ago – when Praska had been kidnapped. It is no longer shrouded in magical dream-protections, but her scouting indicates that the place has likely been long abandoned by the Black Circle.

    While exploring the northeast quarter of Hae Charagan, her memory is jogged by the site of the Rock, the dwarven tavern beneath which Parthol's minion Manzanill had been excavating a gartine arch some years earlier. She swoops down into the tunnels and caverns, finding them much like she remembers – remnants of the Emperor's old city of Poal Cathan. The gartine arch itself is still there, albeit partially buried beneath a small cave-in. She does find something interesting: a new, narrow tunnel has been built out the back of one the buildings near to the arch. It snakes through the rock for a hundred feet or more before emptying into a wider, older tunnel, and thence into another large cavern. She makes mental note of its location.

    Kibi then sends his earth elemental familiar, Scree, to investigate in the real world. He keeps up a running mental report to Kibi, describing at first the underground locales they remember from their previous excursion there. As he moves to the new subterranean features, he describes small buildings mostly collapsed and crushed by stone and time.

    “Everything seems unremarkable,” thinks Scree to his master. I sense a large cavern up ahead, probably the one you were talking about. I'll just.... whoa! Oh goodness. I'm backing into the stone...”

    “Be careful!” thinks Kibi in alarm. “Maybe you should come back...”

    “No, it's okay,” thinks Scree. “I'll just poke my eye back in for a little bit.”

    “Don't be over-brave,” admonishes the dwarf. “What was it that made you startle?”

    “Well, when I emerged into the large cavern there, I thought I smelled Null Shadows. Not strongly, but still. And I didn't see any. Don't worry though... I'm back in the rock.”

    Scree returns, and the Company formulates an attack plan. The elemental describes where he's been to Aravis (who has cast tongues), so the mage can teleport them in. While Scree's explanation is presented mostly in terms of different types of rock, and more by what's solid than by what's air, Aravis is smart enough to get a mental picture.

    “Also, Aravis,” says Scree, “you are an excellent wizard. I haven't had the chance to tell you in person before now.”

    “Thank you,” says Aravis. “And you are an excellent familiar.”

    “You're too kind,” returns Scree.

    The plan is to teleport to the cavern with the gartine arch, and to walk from there to the newly-discovered location. Just before going, Dranko casts omen of peril and gets a clear result: Peril

    “Hey, there's danger in the next hour,” he tells the others. “I know. Delioch told me.”

    They arrive in complete darkness., but Aravis quickly casts mass darkvision. The Company looks around. Able to take a closer look, Kibi concludes that someone engineered the collapse under which the old gartine arch is buried. They all have flashbacks to the battle they had here against Parthol's minion, the wizard Manzanill.

    Aravis, Kibi and Grey Wolf – the party's three arcanists – can all detect a faint whiff of Null Shadows.

    Peering carefully into the monochromatic gloom, the Company walks down the new narrow tunnel that leads from the back of a mostly-collapsed building. Ten minutes of a single-file meandering march brings them out into a small cave, with another tunnel leading out on the far side. It's all as Morningstar saw in her scouting mission in Ava Dormo.

    The uneasy sense of Null Shadows grows steadily as they progress, and before too long the divine casters can detect it as well. Ugh.

    There's a final straight shot where the tunnel widens and goes for about sixty feet before emptying out into the new large cavern. They cast some preparatory spells – xorn movement, detect thoughts and true seeing among others – and the sounds of their casting echo up and down the tunnel.

    Dranko and Flicker hustle forward on point. They're first to reach the large cavern, which extends past the range of their darkvision. Dranko's stomach churns with the nausea of proximate Null Shadows, though none are in evidence. Several ruined buildings jut into the cavern, and from one of these Dranko thinks he sees a faint flickering light. He relays this to the others over the mind-link.

    The others move forward. Grey Wolf sniffs at the door with assassin's senses and gets a whiff of something nasty. It's not Null Shadows, or anything else he's familiar with. After Ernie and Flicker check the door, Dranko slowly pushes it open.

    Beyond is a very large room – probably a guild hall in the old city of Poal Cathan. The ceiling is supported by stone pillars, and rotting wooden tables dot the musty floor. The whole is lit dimly by magical torches on the far walls.

    And speaking of the floor: there's a large symbol of weakness inscribed thereupon. Dranko makes his save, but Ernie and Flicker are sapped of strength, Flicker falling like a marionette with its strings cut. Ernie drops to one knee, unable to stand under the weight of his armor.

    “I can't move!” thinks Flicker in a panic over the mind-link.

    Dranko activates a magic ring and covers the symbol with a hemispherical wall of ice.

    “I've bought us seven minutes,” he thinks to the others.

    “I really can't move!” repeats Flicker. “I'm so weak, I can't even wiggle my toes.”

    “Flicker, it's a symbol!” thinks Dranko.

    “This is no time for literary references!” Flicker shouts over the mind-link. “I can't move a muscle!”

    Aravis moves quickly into the room to help his comrades, and that's when five Null Shadows appear. They're the sickly-green life-sucking kind, and four of them swarm around Aravis. Dranko, protecting the wizard with shield other, feels the pain as his friend is pummeled and drained.

    Worse, other black shapes -- wraiths -- rise from the shadows on the ground, and these carry the unmistakable taint of the undead. The wraiths launch a frenzy of the attacks, and although these are largely ineffective against the higher-level Company, the effect of Null Shadow nausea mixed with the foul wrongness of the undead is nearly overpowering.

    Morningstar turns undead through the door, and three of the wraiths are obliterated. She then charges through the doorway herself, enduring attacks from others, and casts shadow blast hoping it will have some effect on the Null Shadows. Alas that their sovereign immunity to magic makes the spell a useless gesture.

    Grey Wolf launches a chain missile into the mass of wraiths, and Edghar, imbued with casting ability, lobs a fireball. Two more wraiths are dissolved. Kibi follows up with an earthbolt that finishes off another half-dozen. He quickens a magic missile and destroys one more. Only two wraiths remain.

    But the wraiths and Null Shadows are soon joined by another dangerous adversary. From the darkness behind the party comes an increasingly loud clanging sound, as some large creature smelling of rust lumbers into view. It's a large construct made of corroded metal and covered in long, sharp iron spikes.

    “Another creature immune to sneak attacks,” Dranko groans.

    The rusting automaton grabs Grey Wolf around the waist and lifts him off the ground in its huge metal hand. Ernie would like to help him but he still can't get to his feet. He looses the dancing sword Beryn Sur, and turns the last two wraiths.

    Dranko pulls out his non-magical whip and in three deft cracks annihilates one of the Null Shadows. Flicker doesn't see it. He's flat on his back, his strength reduced to nothing. He can see the spiked construct looming over him. “You all see that thing, right?” he thinks.

    Aravis tumbles back through the doorway, squeaking past (and slightly through – ugh!) a Null Shadow and slams the door closed. With all the recent maneuvering, that leaves Dranko alone with several Null Shadows, while the others are in the cavern with the construct.

    “You okay in there?” Morningstar thinks.

    “Yeah, just fine,” answers Dranko. “Just me and a bunch of Null Shadows! I'm sure Aravis wouldn't have left me if I couldn't handle it.”

    “You told me they'd need me more out there!” thinks Aravis.

    And that may be true, but then a wall of stone appears, sealing the doorway and more thoroughly cutting off Dranko from the others. The caster appears to be a Null Shadow itself, one which follows up with a searing light to Dranko's chest. Dranko doesn't have much time to ponder this new turn of events – a spell-casting Null Shadow? – before the other Null Shadows swarm him.

    “Update,” thinks Dranko. “I am in deep and serious sh*t. You can't open the door, because there's a wall of stone blocking it. And how come a friggin' Null Shadow is casting magic spells?!”

    Morningstar casts flame strike on the spiked construct but it's entirely unaffected. It swings a spiked arm at her and she ducks beneath it, as she sprints to Ernie and quickens a restoration. Strength floods back into the halfling's muscles.

    Grey Wolf squirms with all of his might but cannot escape the (literally) iron grip of his foe. Then the automaton lifts Grey Wolf up high before smashing him down onto the spikes on its back. Facing outward, the impaled Grey Wolf can see spikes protruding through his shoulder blade and thigh, and his blood dribbling down the side of the construct. The monster reaches out with its other hand and grabs Aravis.

    Kibi decides to even the playing field a bit. He summons a huge earth elemental that immediately tries grappling the construct. Ernie, reinvigorated, launches a full attack against Mr. Spiky with both Beryn Sur and his short-sword Coiled Viper. Though the thing has some resistance to the damage, metal plates and large flakes of rust fly from its legs. Each strike sends vibrations through the construct's body, and Grey Wolf feels like someone is turning a knife in his guts.

    Dranko takes quick stock of his quandary, and it occurs to him that he's never seen a Null Shadow climb, let alone fly. One of the room's old pillars isn't far from him; he burns his divine insight to better see the few handholds and footholds it offers, then scampers up and clings to the stone like a treed cat while the Null Shadows roil in frustration below. The one spell-casting Null Shadow moves directly to the opposite side of the pillar, out of Dranko's sight.

    “Everything's okay for the moment!” Dranko thinks to the others.

    “You all know that Grey Wolf is stuck to that thing's back, right? And that Aravis is about to join him?” Flicker is far from thinking that everything's okay.

    But Aravis has himself covered, at least. He dimension doors out of the construct's grasp and back to the ground, while the monster's fist closes reflexively.

    Morningstar invokes greater visage of the deity, sprouting wings of solid shadow and transforming into a veritable Angel of Ell. She follows with a quickened mass cure light wounds.

    Grey Wolf, concentrating through the pain, follows Aravis's example and teleports off of the spikes, and puts himself so that Kibi's earth elemental is between him and Mr. Spiky. Kibi himself, thinking that leaving Dranko trapped and alone in a room of full of Null Shadows is a bad idea, dives into the ground and pops back up next to the wall of stone. He casts stone shape, making a gap big enough for a half-orc.

    Meanwhile the earth elemental and the construct have begun a titanic grappling match. The elemental roars in pain as spikes are driven into its body, but it doesn't let go.

    “You are mighty!” says Kibi encouragingly.

    “I am!” agrees the elemental. “But this creature is spiky, and painful to crush!”

    Ernie manages a few sword-hits on the grappled construct, but his damage is minimal – the foe is resistant to mundane damage as well as magic.

    Back in the old guild hall, Dranko starts to relax as he realizes the Null Shadows can't touch him. Even better, he takes out his immovable rod and makes himself a little seat, where he can brace against the pillar and whip the Null Shadows from safety. (Though first he uses a wand of cure critical wounds on himself.) Also he warns the others that two of the Null Shadows have clearly noticed the new hole in the wall of stone.

    “Why is no one helping me?” whines Flicker from the floor. He has nearly been stepped on several times by the grappling giants above him, and figures it's only a matter of time before he's smashed to jelly.

    Aravis fires a disintegrate at the construct. No effect. He sighs as he mentally revises his assessment of the enemy from “magic resistant” to “downright immune.”

    Just as Dranko is getting comfortable on his perch, the odd Null Shadow steps back into his view and pegs him with another searing light.

    Dranko peers at it. What the heck?

    Some of the Null Shadows grow tried of flailing uselessly below the half-orc and move through the wall of stone. They attack Kibi, smearing his skin with stinging black wounds and forcing the forcecage spell out of his head. Morningstar, having retrieved her non-magical weapon, moves to defend the dwarf.

    The elemental and the construct continue to roll around, locked in a grappling embrace. One of the construct's spikes gets driven into the ground right at Grey Wolf's feet, as he moves into position next to Flicker. Ernie drops Coiled Viper, draws his gartine shortsword, and destroys one of the remaining Null Shadows. Dranko destroys another one with his whip, and beckons to the spell-casting one to come closer. It doesn't oblige.

    “Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Thud! Crunch!

    That's the sound of both the elemental and construct falling upward into the ceiling, propelled by Aravis's reverse gravity. Their epic struggle continues high above their heads, as pieces of rock and corroded iron debris rain down.

    There's something you don't see every day thinks Flicker to himself.

    The Null Shadow caster points a black finger at Dranko and hisses a greater command: FALL!

    “Bite me!” rasps Dranko, resisting the compulsion.

    Ernie and Morningstar finish off the final Null Shadow on their side of the door, and Dranko pops the last one at the foot of his pillar. Now only the caster remains. It targets Dranko with a flame strike, but the half-orc deftly uses the immovable rod to swing around the pillar, avoiding all the damage. The Null Shadow hisses in frustration, but Dranko notices that the flames also melted the wall of ice covering the symbol. He mentally warns the others.

    A spike from the construct snaps off and plummets downward. Flicker's eyes grow wide, but his strength is still gone and there's nothing he can do. It impales itself... in the ground, inches from the halfling's head.

    “Save me that spike!” calls Dranko. “I want a souvenir.”

    “I'm going to kill you!” thinks Flicker over the mind-link.

    Ernie dashes into the room to help Dranko and with his true seeing still up he sees what Dranko cannot.

    “That's not a Null Shadow!” he cries. “It's Praska!” And so saying, he casts a flame strike of his own on Dranko's childhood friend.

    Dranko tumbles down from the pillar and lands directly next to Praska. “I thought better of you,” he says, before tripping her up and scoring her with a flurry of whip snaps.

    “Then you're still an idiot,” Praska hisses.

    “Idiot?” Dranko lets disappointment fill his voice. “Who's the one that's taken up with evil, horrible people? You've taken the cheap and sleazy way out. Like I said, I thought better of you. And, face it, you're jealous 'cause I married Morningstar.”

    Praska chuckles. “Actually, I always though you'd do better.”

    Aravis moves in, avoids looking at the symbol and casts chain lightning on Praska. Ernie sees that she is entirely unharmed. Praska stands up, dusts herself off, endures another whip-crack from Dranko without flinching, and casts harm. Wounds sprout all over Dranko's face and body.

    Grey Wolf finally gets around to casting restoration on Flicker.

    “It's about time” Flicker shrieks.

    “Yes, yes,” says Grey Wolf. “Now go help Dranko.”

    Kibi summons another earth elemental, but when it tries to grapple Praska she slips from its hands as if greased.

    “I just don't get it,” says Dranko, moving into flanking position with the elemental. “Why do you want to work with the people who were so cruel to us? Unbelievable!”

    Praska smiles, though only Ernie can tell. “Dranko, I could fill a book with what you don't know.”

    Dranko launches a devastating series of whip attacks that ought to kill her – but after the third crack of the whip a bright silver circlet around her head glows briefly before turning to a dull gray and falling to the ground in pieces. As it does so, all of her wounds heal.

    Flicker finally gets into the action and charges at Praska... only to be brought up short by some magical effect that prevents him from approaching. He screams in frustration while futilely pushing toward her.

    “Confession is good for the soul,” Dranko says to his old friend. “It's not too late to tell us why you've chosen this path of evil, and repent. Delioch will forgive you.”

    Praska chuckles. “Because we will win, is why.”

    “And what do you get if you win?”

    Praska smiles knowingly. “Favor.”

    Dranko scoffs. “That's a sucker's bet.”

    Aravis centers a greater dispelling on Praska, and luck is with him. He manages to dispel the symbol but not Kibi's earth elemental. He also gets rid of the repulsion that was keeping Flicker away from Praska. He stumbles forward towards her.

    Ernie fires off a dimensional anchor, but Praska was specifically prepared for that. It dissipates harmlessly into her spell immunity.

    Praska realizes that her tactical situation has finally become wholly untenable. She takes a step back and says to Dranko: “Tell Califax we say hello.”

    So saying, she casts word of recall and vanishes.

    “Crap!” Dranko exclaims.

    Into the momentary silence that follows comes a huge clattering, as if a cartload of rusted machinery had been dumped into a quarry. A booming and satisfied voice comes from high up in the other room, speaking in Terran.

    “Next!”

    ...to be continued...

  • #195
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    ø Ignore Atanatotatos
    Nobody commented yet?! What a great update, sagiro!!
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  • #196
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    Those Null Shadows are no joke! *shudder*

    Great update, Sagiro! Looking forward to the next.
    Enemies are the price of Honor.
    ~Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Wizard of the First Order

    Fear. Fear attracts the fearful. The strong. The weak. The innocent. The corrupt. Fear. Fear is my ally.
    ~Darth Maul

    No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.
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  • #197
    Ah, the fully-prepared high-level cleric enemy. So much fun.
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    ø Ignore Innocent Bystander
    So the party was right, Praska was responsible. Does them having access to all those high level divination spells take some of the fun, or at least surprise, out of it for you?
    It may only be two cents, but at least it's MY two cents.

  • #199
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    Quote Originally Posted by Innocent Bystander View Post
    So the party was right, Praska was responsible. Does them having access to all those high level divination spells take some of the fun, or at least surprise, out of it for you?
    Give the party's willingness to cast commune, augury, moment of peril, thought capture and find the path, I consider it a bonus when I manage to keep anything secret for any significant period. But I try to structure the campaign assuming they'll learn things by divination spell. Also, the Black Circle's main schtick is divinations and the thwarting thereof, so I do have ready-made and plausible countermeasures when I want them. It's all good.

    Hey, while I'm here: another smallish update. For the record, the Story Hour has now fallen about 30 runs and 2.5 years behind the actual game, which is still going but kind of entering the home stretch.

    By which I mean we may only have 2-3 years left before it all ends.

    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 295
    Shadows of the Past

    After the party exchanges celebratory words about the effectiveness of grapple-happy elementals, Kibi looks thoughtful.

    “That was great, but weren't we here looking for the Cauldron? I thought our divinations told us Praska was in Kivia.”

    “Good point,” says Dranko, grimacing. He's still a bloody mess from Praska's harm. Morningstar heals him up, and she and Ernie top off the rest of the group.

    Morningstar casts another circle dance to divine the direction to Praska, and gets the same reading as last time: east. Also the direction is not sharply up, which means she's either underground as they are, or extremely far away. Perhaps she teleported back to Kivia? Or maybe she never was in Kivia at all, and has some means of foiling the spell. Who knows?

    Kibi, focused on the main goal, casts locate object to find the Null Shadow Cauldron. He expects it to be shielded, and so is surprised to get a clear reading – off to the south-west, and downward.

    “Huh,” he says.

    “What do we do with it when we find it?” asks Morningstar.

    “Give it to Abernathy so he can suck the magic out of it,” Dranko jests.

    “Or store it in the basement with our other evil stuff,” Flicker laughs. “Heck, we can keep the other stuff inside it.”

    Aravis rubs his hands together. “It won't be too much longer before I can cast Mordenkainen's Disjunction.

    “Isn't that a bad idea?” Dranko asks. “I mean, if the thing's an artifact, couldn't you lose your powers?”

    “That's a chance I'm willing to take,” Aravis answers. “Besides, what better way is there to follow in the footsteps of the Archmagi, than to lose all my powers?”


    * *

    There are other doors leading out of the ancient subterranean guild hall; Flicker checks the one most likely to lead in the direction of Kibi's spell, and finds it neither locked nor trapped. He gently pushes it open and the Company peers inside.

    It's a fairly large space – maybe twenty-five feet on a side – with a number of tables and desks pushed up against the walls. All are empty save one in the far corner, upon which rests a quill pen and an overturned ink-pot. The last of the ink is still dripping onto a fast-drying stain on the stone floor. Before anyone can contaminate the scene, Morningstar strides over to that desk and casts thought capture.

    She recognizes Praska's mental voice: Crap. Crap crap crap crap! How did they find me?

    Interesting. So they had taken her by surprise. She casts a second time.

    I bet that stupid halfling is going to... wait... dammit! Stop thinking!

    Morningstar can't help but chuckle. And it makes sense, since Praska clearly knows and expects that Morningstar can cast thought-scooping divinations.

    She casts a third time, and gets a follow-on thought to the first one. ...find me? Crap. Then there's a pause. Son of a... the stupid cauldron! It must have been the cauldron that they found!

    Considering that Praska might also be able to cast thought capture, Morningstar thinks very deliberately: Yes, Praska. It was the stupid cauldron.

    Dranko issues the following sending to Tomnic via Ernie: From Dranko: Praska is confirmed powerful Black Circle. Recommend that powerful, trusted priests apprehend and strip all her friends, including Marigold. Use vast caution, speed.

    Tomnic replies: Thank you. I will take that under advisement. Do you know where she is now?

    Since Ernie only had the one sending, Morningstar casts the next one as Dranko dictates: Licking her wounds. In Kivia? Not sure. All divinations are suspect. She's as powerful as Morningstar, and you know what that means. Dranko. Feeling a need to convey some humility, but with only two words remaining, Morningstar appends: Huh? Morningstar.

    Tomnic's answer: Morningstar, we know how powerful you are. You have a reputation. We will set to work on Praska, and double-check everyone inside the temple.

    While sendings are being composed and delivered, Flicker has been sitting and thinking hard.

    “Which one of us do you think is the stupid halfling?” he asks out loud, but mostly to himself. While Ernie stammers modestly, Flicker thinks some more before standing in a hurry. “Ooooh!”

    He starts investigating the perimeter of the room, carefully tapping on the walls and running deft fingers along the stone. While the others look on he does a completely thorough search of the space, and just when they think it's probably a fool's errand, he crawls under one of the tables. The rest of the Company hears a clear “click!”, and a small piece of stone swings inward to reveal a small cubbyhole filled with parchment.

    “Ha!” they hear the halfling shout. “See? She was afraid I'd do that. Who's stupid now, Praska!”

    The many pages of parchment are covered with scrawl, and Flicker stows them safely in his pack. He spends another few minutes completing his search but there's nothing else of note, and specifically no sign of the Cauldron.

    With Kibi (and his ongoing locate object) navigating, Flicker continues to take point on the exploration. There's a small complex of rooms and short hallways, and in one of these they find a table with various containers upon it: a lead bottle with a stopper; a small metal tub with a hinged lid; and three wooden boxes. Flicker checks them for traps, while others check for magic and evil. All tests are negative, so Flicker opens each one.

    The bottle contains a thick liquid with an eye-watering vapor rising off of it. The alchemists in the group guess that it's contact poison, probably potent. Flicker hastily puts back the stopper. The metal tub is half-filled with mercury.

    The first of the wooden boxes contains a handful of emeralds – their particular shade of deep green is highly reminiscent of the Null Shadows recently encountered. The second box contains about thirty carefully chiseled flakes from various types of gemstones: emerald, sapphire, topaz, even some diamond flakes. Flicker guesses that the flakes alone could fetch twenty-five thousand gold pieces if he worked the market.

    The third box contains finger bones. Ew.

    Another room en route to the cauldron is small and empty, but with a large black circle inlaid into the floor. It glows faintly of teleportation magic. Aravis casts arcane lock on the door, in case something teleports in while they're searching.

    Finally they find the room with the cauldron – a 20 x 20 square chamber nearly identical to the room in which the cauldron resided back at the Cosnor estate. The room itself is full of shifting shadows, and indeed is partially in the Plane of Shadow. The Null Shadow Cauldron, source of so much suffering, sits in the center. There are no Null Shadows to be seen, but the taint of them is palpable.

    Morningstar is prepared for this: she casts her second prepared shadowblast into the room, and the shadows ripple and vanish. The Cauldron itself still squats there like a black iron toad. The tang of Null Shadows has been diminished but not eliminated; they can see a shimmering “lid” of sorts still across the opening of the cauldron. The thing is still a gateway to Shadow, but Morningstar's spell has, for the moment, sealed it off.

    After some quick debate as to the best way to be rid of the thing, they decide to try the simple and direct method first. Aravis casts greater dispelling on the cauldron, and it seems to work: at least it no longer detects as magic to Ernie.

    Then, with the rest of the party backing out of the room in case of emergency, Aravis pegs it with a disintegrate while its magic is suppressed.

    Fwoosh. Just like that the Null Shadow Cauldron is reduced to metal filings.

    “Can we do a sending to Praska?” asks Ernie. “I want it to say: “Destroyed your cauldron. Neener neener neener.”

    Aravis suggests: “You don't have to worry about us finding you through the cauldron any more.

    They spend another hour clearing out the rest of the place. There's nothing as interesting as what they've already found, though they do find Praska's bedroom and procure a few strands of hair from her pillow along with her spare Black Circle robe. There's also a standard Black Circle Ritual Chamber(tm), with the expected inlaid circles and mathematical equations written on the walls.

    Finally, in another mostly-intact building that centuries ago was a large inn, they find signs that it was more recently inhabited by somewhere between 25 and 50 people. They appear to have all left a couple of years earlier. Morningstar goes to the biggest of the rooms and casts a final thought capture.

    I'm sure not going to miss this place. I hear our new headquarters is in a mansion in Kallor.

    Ha!

    So, with the Cauldron taken care of, the Company agrees on their next priority: find Praska.

    ...to be continued...

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    Very, very interesting. Also these shorter, more frequent updates are a reliever!
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