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WotBS Bill T's Second War of the Burning Sky: The Mad King's Banquet [with a smorgasbord of spoilers in the posts]

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Lucius, a human wielding a pair of short swords and a silver tongue.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, sick and tired of singing, with her mountain lion companion Smoke.

Basel provided these notes, which I transcribed, misread, and straightened up a bit.

Crystin introduces Jineer, who stutters out that he would like us to carry a letter to his father, Jinis, whose is Duke Gallo's proxy to to King Steppengard in Bresk. Crystin, at the mention of his father, says to him, "Your father will be caged by madness."

The reaction to Crystin's comment was -- well, nonexistent. Very strange.

Before we leave, Simeon hands Basel a scroll of sending, saying, "Good news can wait. Bad news will refuse to."

Balan manages to easily negotiate a not-horribly unreasonable price with the guy who had been collecting boats from refugees fleeing through the swamp to Seaquen and then start a conversation about our weapons and how we fight.
  • Dämmek needs solid objects to slam people into; eg, wall of ice.
  • Lucius needs the enemy to be distracted for sneak attack (< 30 feet): short-range teleport, disappear; greater invisibility would be great(er) advantage
  • Seda: competent tracker; singing (but doesn't like to), made the shadows corporeal; landscape control (grasp or parking); making a tree grow; lightning bolts
I was really worried that I had a group of characters rather than a party, so I had Balan try to get the characters to talk to each other. Subtle didn't work, so I eventually had to spell it out. It seemed especially important given the fortuitous spell choices Basel made at seventh level.

"Landscape control" was a new one on me, but appropriate.

Traveling through the swamp we see the Dragonspire to our left...and horses? With tackle? Dämmek goes ashore and see at least half a dozen more. As we paddle along, we see still more horses.

Eventually we reach Vidor without incident. A swamp farmer say, "Sorry, lady, we still don't got any more horses" as soon as he sees us. Apparently Gusle came by recently and flew off with all the stray horses!

Naizelasa drove a hard bargain for that second use of the lyre....

We walk on to Nashamport, where the river is frozen. Balan purchases us a large sleigh and some horses to pull it. Seda casts hide from animals on Smoke so the horses don't panic at being followed by a mountain lion.

The hide from animals was inspired by a comment from Dämmek. I'd been expecting calm animals, but hiding Smoke had other benefits -- like an easy lunch!

After we head north up the river a while, Seda hears something about a tenth of a mile ahead. Seda responds by casting a spell...on Smoke? People come screaming out of an orchard, a behind them we see an insect head above the tree line.

The head, it turns out, is attached to a giant centipede. Steam rises with its every footstep and its back pulses with a red glow. "Ah, yes, a remorhaz", says Basel.

Dämmek and Basel try to distract it with arrows, but are unsuccessful, so we all run up the riverbank toward it. We eventually get its attention, but not before it steps into the river, causing it and several people to fall in.

Seda, in particular, was very frustrated with their performance when the refugees fell into the river. I apologized to the group for how I ran this -- by using the Listen check to determine the distance the critter was from the party, and not from the river, I actually made it harder for them to save the people because Seda has a good ear. That's not how it should happen!

Basel has been going all-out with his spells, armoring himself, hastening everyone, zorching the remorhaz, and finally turning Lucius greatly invisible, who immediate skewers the 'rhaz with his short swords -- melting one sword in the process!

The surviving people who had been fleeing the 'rhaz say they had been chased by it for miles. They were headed towards Seaquen because Lord Rego had had enough of the refugees and had chased them from his lands.

We're riding along the next morning when the sleigh comes to a sudden, violent stop. We heal the driver of his wounds and then we all inspect the sleigh. It turns out a belt loop was sticking out of the ice. Said belt loop was still attached to someone -- a corpse, buried in the ice along with a couple other people. They bear the symbol of the serpent and leopard dancing under a sunburst, the symbol of Lady Dene, the southernmost of the Eight Lands. Having hacked away the ice to free them, we spend some time to give them a proper burial.

Seda and Dammek track the, uhm, tracks that lead both toward and away from the icy burial site. Eventually we encounter a few wagons which are stopped and being searched by a few men who had been travelling on horseback as halflings argue ineffectively with them. The men appear to be Dasseni soldiers.

The soldiers yank a woman out from under the wagon and quickly execute her! Seda challenges the soldiers over their killing, so one of them starts to question her. He grabs her, to his regret, and then knock her down.

Basel tries to calm the situation, but the rest of us are having none of it. Seda order Smoke to attack the soldier who tripped her, and everyone joins the fray. The officer is one of the first to be dropped. The one standing back using his bow, realizing their odds are not in their favor, dashes up onto his horse and starts to gallop away, but a lightning bolt from Basel puts an end to that.

Dämmek asks Lucius if he wants to use his recall spirit want to bring the executed woman, Hethal, back to life, to which he agrees. He then uses his gloves of Entras to restore her to consciousness. She's nonetheless disoriented, squinting, and clapping her hands over her ears and screaming in pain when people try to talk to her. The halflings are as surprised by this behavior as we are.

This really surprised me. Lucius is the only one without Indomitability's Boon, so I gave him the wand as an alternative (him being voted Most Likely To Die In Combat due to the time he's already spent unconcious at his enemies' feet), it doesn't have a lot of charges, and here he's spending it willy-nilly saving innocent people's lives. Lucius is supposed to be Lawful Good and he's been doing a good job of it. My plan is to reward this latest bit of generosity with Hethal's lover as another ally in Steppengard Prison -- someone to help set up sneak attacks for Lucius.

We try questioning the one soldier we spared, but, after answering a few questions, he clams up. What an arrogant and ignorant bastard. We eventually give up and put him out of our misery.

I'm questioning the notes at this point -- I would have expected Lucius to object, but he may have missed that bit of the conversation.

We don't bother to give the soldiers a proper burial, but thoroughly bury them in the river ice after Seda digs out a nice big pool using her little lightning bolts.

Lucius joins Hethal under the wagon she was pulled from and starts whispering to her. He learns that she's Hethal, and that her lover, Aaron, was arrested as a suspect in the assassination of the royal family, so she got the halflings to smuggle her out of Bresk lest she be arrested for associating with a suspect. She explains that the king ordered soldiers to begin searching anyone who appeared at all suspicious, and set his advisor, Nina Glibglammer, to divine who was responsible for the horrible crime. Steppengard has spent the past two days in mourning, and the funeral was earlier today. Many people are trying to flee Bresk and Dassen, and the Talon, Steppengard's newly-formed police force, are causing people to panic that they might be wrongfully accused.

The next day we at long last reach Bresk. There's a long line of people waiting to get into the city, but we arrive at the frozen docks, where a much shorter line awaits us. Balan's diplomatic papers get us into town fairly quickly, although Seda feels compelled to argue with the guard about leashing Smoke.

Balan takes us to the Golden Griffin, a hotel where he's made reservations for us. We get a large suite with with a shared living area, a room for each of us, and a private, er, privy. He goes off for a bit to find out what the schedule is and learns that our audience won't be for a few days. Once that's done, he attaches a magic stone (but not a magic stone) to the door, explaining that "It helps me sleep a little easier at night" and sharing the password with us. Use the password before opening the door or the alarm goes off!
 

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Bill T.

Explorer
One question that the players have discussed in email -- what is the Shahalesti presence in Bresk? Uhm, uhm...I'm tempted write them out somehow, but it's a reasonable question....
 

I honestly wouldn't expect anyone of import. There's probably someone gathering information, but with their fleet screwed by the hurricane, that whole contingent can't send anyone. And it's not like any elves can teleport there. I figure the Shahalesti who are there are fairly cut off. There might be a foreign dignitary or two who keep their heads down since they don't have orders and don't know what their lord wants. It might actually be an opportunity to introduce a wholly friendly and neutral Shahalesti who has no agenda, who reaches out to the PCs to establish a relationship but wants nothing in return. Then you can bring them back later.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Lucius, a human wielding a pair of short swords and a silver tongue.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, sick and tired of singing, with her mountain lion companion Smoke.
Hi, everyone. Apologies for going silent, but no one in our group, including me, was terribly interested in generating session summaries lately. I want to give a quick overview of the bulk of the activities in Dassen because (1) the heroes went to kill the Koningsmarshal, a rare enough encounter that I figure I should share, and (2) a player shamed me into action by typing up the final session in Bresk. So, without further ado:

Our session in late October was pretty much a bust. I decided to take advantage of the excellent notes @Lylandra so generously translated and shared regarding the proxies in Dassen. Enfortunately, my players still haven't figured out that they should spend some time tryin to learn about the people they want to influence before talking to them. Their only crack at trying to learn about the nobles and their proxies was to try to gather information in a tavern --a tavern frequented by soldiers. I was a bit frustrated by the whole idea, so I just dumped on them the standard pre-audience information. To that I also added that the soldiers were talking (crudely!) about Lady Namin's efforts to ingratiate herself with the king. If I'd taken their plan to hit a tavern a bit more seriously, they should have only heard about Lady Namin there. Oh well,

Anyhow, after that, they went and talked to all the proxies. Unfortunately, not only did they make these visits ignorantly, but they kept trying to persuade the proxies that the Ragesians couldn't be trusted, and none of the were buying it. That said, they did manage to score some major points with Lady Namin and the proxies for Dashgoband, Dene, and Iz when Balan spoke during the next session (despite forgetting to mention succession) -- which, it turns out, saved their bacon later.

They also visited the Shahalesti ambassador, as I discussed earlier. I decided to base her on Ambassador Mollari from Babylon V -- in short, she got the position because no one else wanted it and she wasn't in the Shahalesti's court best graces. She was simply thrilled that anyone would take her seriously at all, although the heroes were a bit shocked when the directions they got to the Shahalesti embassy lead them to a burnt-out remains of a building. Luckily, there was a sign on the door pointing them to the ambassador's new residence, where they learned that someone had fire-bombed the embassy. I figured Torrax was sending the ambassador a message to mind her own business, a message which she took to heart. Unfortunately, I don't remember anything more about her and doubt the players do either, so she'l likely to make a return appearance.

The audience with King Steppengard was during our session right before Christmas (a bit of confusion over who was going to role-play Balan caused us to miss a session). The king really flummoxed Dämmek when he demanded to know how many people she'd lost in the war, and she kept trying to understand why the king was picking on her. As a result, she wanted to get out of the castle as soon as possible and wasn't particularly interested in talking to Serrimus and Torrax. Basel asked Nina to thank the king for listening to their request, which she found amusing if a bit confusing.

After leaving the castle, the party decided that, since they had been declared Fake News by the king (in Basel's words), they may as well leave for Gallo now and avoid the rush. And so Balan survived his trip to Dassen!

The heroes fought to take the northernmost watchtower in the Alydi Gap during our after-Christmas session (I decided that Gallo knew something was up at that tower because they lost contact with that chaplain but could still reach the others -- and Commander Hertiage certainly could tell them how the towers were laid out internally). They reached the tower at dusk and were very careful about their approach -- Basel send Simon to scout around the watchtower, who discovered the tracks and the torches before scurrying back to Basel to get warmed up again. They then approached under the cover of an invisibility sphere to get right up to the tower and, since Seda asked, they got a windy night to cover the noise they were making. Alas, their next step was to conjure a climbing tree to get on the roof of the tower. That certainly got the Ragesians' attention!

Anyhow, they climbed up the tree and onto the roof, still invisible. Smoke got a good pounce in on the wyvern, only to nearly get shredded in return, forcing Seda to call her back. Seda nearly got herself killed by the wyvern a few rounds later. Lucius wandered off on his own and nearly got himself killed. Basel and Dämmek dealt with the conga line of people coming up the stairs -- in retrospect, they should have waited downstairs rather than try joining the battle.

Eventually, the heroes took the tower, but this was probably the most dangerous battle of the adventure -- the wyvern brought Seda's constitution down to 1 when it attacked, so if the damage dice had gone slightly different or she had failed her second save, she'd have ended up truly dead. Smoke, likewise, was in dire straits and it took an awful lot of hinting to get someone to feed her some antitoxin.

The heroes went to rally Gallo's allies during our session in early January. With difficulty, they managed to talk their way past the pitchlings. Seda foolishly assumed that the pitchlings would treat her as a "fellow fey", and not-so-foolishly (but nonetheless incorrectly) assumed that sharing information about the oncoming Ragesian army would help persuade them. They then easily convinced Dashgoban to send troops.

Their efforts to convince Pitchburg to set the river afire just barely failed. The sad thing here was that Basel kept talking about bribing the people of Pitchburg to convince them to help, but didn't talk to anyone about getting money for the bribe -- and Balan had a purse full of coin dedicated to bribes!

They then proceeded to the Glaskeel cliffs, where they encountered a pair of ice dragon's (Basel's term for white dragons, which actually has a better ring to it -- I decided I didn't want to run the sphinx encounter again, and the girallon strikes me as a bit strange). Battling dragons while hanging from a cliff was, as you'd expect, difficult, but they eventually used feather fall to make a HALO jump and drove the dragons off from the ground. The dragons had to settle for their horses, but the Smoke got the last laugh -- she was able to stalk a dragon that was eating a horse and managed to snag herself some oh-so-refreshing dragon meat. When the heroes eventually discovered this, they decided to skin the dragon, and now Basel is insistent that Simon get leather armor made from white dragonhide.

Anyhow, the second attempt to scale the cliffs was successful, and convincing Lady Timor to send Gallo aid was pretty straightforward. The next morning, they decided to head to see Lord Iz to try to convince him to aid Duke Gallo. Oh, er, uhm -- oh, look at the hour, it must be time to call it an evening!

So, that gave me a chance to check the progress of Steppengard's army, and, because of their success with the audience in Bresk, had given them just enough time to get to Timor and Dashgoban, as they had decided to spare the horses on their way to Dashgoban. So, when they decided to head south at the start of the session in late January on the phantom steeds Timor's mages da provided them, they ran into the vanguard of Steppengard's army. They would have been happy to take on the first patrol, but another patrol nearby recognized the heroes and so they decided to simply ride back to Gallo's Fend. On the way, they met a mephit who used a giant glowing sign to get their attention. The mephit explained that Timor's mages had a plan to capture Smoke and bring her to Gallo's Fend for them. They never clued in to the fact that the mephit was actually a tiefling wizard from Timor using alter self and silent image.

Anyhow, upon reaching Gallo's Fend, Gallo asked the heroes to destroy Steppengard's catapults and, er, eliminate Kelkin as a factor. The attack on the catapults went rather slowly, and Lucius's role was particularly boring -- Gallo's team explained to him how to disable a catapult, so he spent the entire encounter doing that -- and only that. Since he was invisible the whole time, only the red dragon (who I renamed Scarlet) was able to attack him, and even she was frustrated by her continual misses and the fact that he refused to counterattack. They only managed to destroy three of the 'pults before the cavalry came, forcing the heroes to flee. Sadly, I think the winning strategy would have been for Seda to fill her head with warp wood spells to destroy the catapults. If she'd done that invisibly while the rest of the heroes created a diversion, she could have easily wrecked many of the catapults all by herself.

Their fight with Kelkin was in late February. This turned into a Battle of the Clouds -- Seda send a murderous mist at Kelkin's tent, and he eventually responded with cloudkill. Thanks to the clouds, the battle was something of a confused mess, but they did eventually defeat Kelkin and his sphinx. Unfortunately, everyone decided to press their luck -- especially Lucius -- and start looking for loot. Simon and Basel searched Kelkin's "tent" (and I forgot about the symbol and then foolishly retconned it in midstream) while Lucius looted the dead soldiers outside. They kept doing this even as the criosphinxes started arriving and attacking. Dämmek would have died but for Indomitability's Boon, and Smoke would have been chewed up by a pair of criosphinxes had Tupof Dzequifs not arrived in the nick of time to save the day. (I had a card for Tupof in my stack of initiative cards from the beginning just in case he needed to make an appearance). The bit with Smoke was a result of some poor strategy -- Seda told her wounded animal companion to Stay in the middle of a dark forest as the rest of them went off to do other things. Smoke would have scurried for the exit if Tupof hadn't rescued her anyhow, but the attacks of opportunity would have likely done her in.

Anyhow, to the main reason for this post: I decided I didn't like the idea of the battle of Gallo's Fend ending in a draw, and there's really no way Gallo would have known one way or another how things would work out, so I had them learn about the death of Gallo's crack team of Koningsmarshal assassins when Gallo did. Gallo never asked them to take the mission on themselves, since he had figured the heroes had done enough but, after a short discussion amongst themselves, they volunteered to take the mission on anyhow.

It turned out that this Very Dangerous Mission, which we played late February, was a cakewalk compared to the prior two missions. The sappers blew the stairs and an entrance to the Koningsmarshal's bunker, Lucius dashed in, and then, with two quick blows, brought the Koningsmarshal down.

Well, of course, it wasn't quite that easy -- one prelate healed the Koningsmarshal while the other cast invisibility purge. That spell's area is large enough to cover the entire bunker. They made several attempts to kill Nina using a variety of means, but were frustrated by the fact that all their attacks went right through her, while Lucius, Dämmek, and Commander Hertiage made their way to the Koningsmarshal. Basel cleverly used a wall of ice to slow down the reinforcements coming into the bunker, so they didn't have to face them until they were ready to leave. They were also smart enough dragged along the Koningsmarshal's corpse as they left, just to make sure the enemy couldn't resurrect him.

Nina then made her obligatory after-battle taunt and then got away. That wasn't what I was hoping for -- I was looking forward to Seda singing the Song of Forms so that they'd have the chance to battle Madness in a long underground hallway, but Basel had gotten everyone fixated on Nina being some sort of projection, so it didn't even occur to her.

The tournament of unity, played during our early March session, had its amusing points. Dämmek decided to joust, since her Knockdown feat makes her reasonably good at it, and Seda, of course, decided to sing for the nobles. Seda's sang well until the final face-off between her, Duke Gallo, and the revivified Koningsmarshal, at which point she choked and gave a performance inferior to them both. Meanwhile, Dämmek made it all the way to the final round before being creamed by Silvia. Sadly, Dämmek never thought to use any of her spells. Using disable on a jouster's horse could have easily ended a joust right then!

Just to emphasize how dangerous Silvia was, I had her kill her opponent in the quarter-finals. I was hoping to use this as an excuse to let Seda reincarnate someone (as part of a longer silly plan to hopefully give Seda the chance to reincarnate Smoke as a more powerful animal companion), but Lucius cut that plan off by telling Seda to use the wand of recall spirit on the dead jouster. Wait, what? They then sent themselves off on a wild goose chase investigating why the jouster had died despite the precautions being taken. Lucius eventually ended up drinking the mage responsible for nerfing the jouster's weapons under the table.

They also did speak to Randas of course, and had a lot of fun with that -- Smoke managed to pilfer several steaks, and even managed to fetch one for the heroes. On their second visit to his stand they managed to bribe the guards taking away his carts to give them all the soup. Basel was in soup heaven!

After syncing up with Gallo after the tournament, they went to make their way into the backside of the castle. The tragedies were at least a somewhat interesting challenge, made more difficult by the fact that Lucius forgot about his anklet of teleportation. The zombies frozen in the ice were no challenge at all, thanks to Seda's little lightning bolt reserve feat (sort of like warmage strike). Jutras, on the other hand, was quite a challenge, since he had the height advantage over the heroes -- again, the anklet would have been useful here. They did manage to get into the dungeon, but Jutras paralyzed Dämmek before they destroyed him, and Basel unnecessarily used a potion of remove paralysis on her after the battle was over.
 


Bill T.

Explorer
Man, these folks seem like they have some bad luck and missed opportunities. How are they enjoying things, though?
They seem to be having fun, for the most part -- I'm more worried about how some of the combats are going slow than anything. There were sections earlier where there was a lot of frustration about not being successful (the Remhorhaz Incident being the most, er, clearly expressed). At this point there's a general feeling that they're making progress -- they did a good job of saving Gallo, and, as you'll see soon, saved the rest of Dassen smoothly and efficiently.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade, and her pet rock Skullcracker
  • Lucius, a human wielding a pair of short swords and a silver tongue.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, sick and tired of singing, with her mountain lion companion Smoke.
  • Balan, because none of the heroes speak Dwarven.
Seda, with a little assistance from Basel, provided us with the record of the last session of The Mad King's Banquet!​

Back in the Guardroom
Skullcracker and Simon are still curled up in the corner of the wall under the bed. Skullcracker reports to Dämmeck that Nina Glibglammer briefly visited the inquisitor. "The Book of Eight Lands?" Inquisitor answers, "It's been taken care of."

Meanwhile, Simon noticed the Inquisitor do something as we battled our way into the dungeon. Not able to tell anyone, he holds onto the information.

That was actually Serrimus, but no matter.

The Torture Cell
After taking stock of our condition after the fight with the tonguing zombie, we search the room. Other than Jinis' body, there isn't much there. Time to get outta here. The door opens inward and is locked! Lucius and Dämmeck search for traps. Not finding any, Lucius proceeds to pick that lock. After a bit, Lucius comments "I was making it harder than it was."

We exit into a hallway with three doors. This must be the hallway that Skullcracker peaked into earlier.

The Stillroom
The first door we come to isn't locked. Lucius and Balon wait outside. Inside we find a room that looks like a cross between a kitchen and a still. There is an apparatus with glass tubes, a sieve and heating device. There is also a stack of empty whiskey casks. Seda looks into the sieve and sees cooked mushrooms. These are Blue Gym mushrooms. They are psychedelic. The active agent can be removed with water. So these must just be the remains.

Basel picks up the book next to the still. He starts reading a recipe for making a poison with the whiskey and the mushrooms. Seda takes the book. That book is dangerous in the hands of someone who wouldn't know the difference between a Blue Gym and a toadstool.

I'm not convinced there is a difference...

Door #2
Just a storage room with cages and taskets of various sizes. That must mean the prize is behind door #3.

The Guardroom
Not wanting to be lined up in a conga line when the door is opened, Seda and Smoke stay in the storage room. Lucius and Balon wait at the end of the hallway. Basel joins Dämmeck at the door.

Dämmeck opens the door. She finds Inquisitor Torax standing inside. There is a fire directly across from the door, a table in the center of the room and a bed in the far corner. At her feet she sees caltrops on the floor between her and Torax. She attempts to sweep them away with her sword. The sword goes through them as if they weren't there. Simon starts to say something as Basel, standing behind Dämmeck, states "They're illusory."

Serrimus wasn't completely useless -- I thought the illusion was pretty clever, but Simon aced his Spellcraft check and Dämmeck effectively eliminated them in a single action.

Lucius moves up behind Basel. Torax puts up a wall of fire along the length of the room separating him (and Simon and Skullcracker) from the party. It's warm in here. Luckily for Lucius, Basel provides an effective buffer. Dämmeck moves into the room and upsets the table through the wall of flame with her sword, setting the sword on fire. Seda moves into the room and sends a storm bolt through the fire, resulting in a pleasing yelp. Basel and Lucius pull out their bows. Basel throws a softball sized fireball at Torax. Torax acts as if he just took a pleasant shower. Dämmeck, tired of standing around, decides to bullrush her way through the fire and slam Torax into the wall with a sound of cracking bones. Another bolt of lightning and Torax goes down. The fire burns for another minute and goes out.

Searching the body, we find two scrolls, an amulet, a mask and a wand. Seda reads the scrolls. The first is Detect Poison, the second Speak with Dead. The inquisitors' supply clerk must buy things in bulk. The amulet looks similar to one that Lucius and Basel are wearing. Basel looks at the wand. It's another one of Knock. He hands it to Dämmeck. Seda keeps the Detect Poison scroll and hands the other to Dämmeck along with the amulet.

I goofed here -- the amulet looks very different from the one Lucius and Basel are wearing. Alas, the mistake seems more memorable than my correction.
I love the comment about the inquisition buying things in bulk.

Dämmeck picks up the pieces of the slate that was lying on the table before she destroyed it. There is a message on each side: "Guthwulf, good news in Dassen....Rumors of new safe passage.”

The other door our of the room leads to the cell block. It is empty other than the halfling head cook whose soup set Basel swooning. We let him out and he's outta there, after reporting Torrax's diabolical plan to poison the nobles.

Now what? Do we head straight to the banquet or stop to check for the Book of Eight Lands in the vault? The vault is one floor up while the banquet is three.The Book of Eight Lands, as well as tracing the family trees of the nobles, also protects them from mind-affecting effects. If it is gone, the nobles will be susceptible to the poison that was being distilled in the dungeon. But the vault is warded. Only those of human and Dwarven heritage can enter with a phrase that Balon knows. The book can't leave. In theory.

We decide to make a quick stop at the vault room. There is bored-looking guard standing outside. He looks at Seda and Smoke and says that they can't go in. Balon repeats the Dwarven phrase. Balon along with Lucius, Basel, Dämmeck, and small friends enter the vault. It's not on the lectern. They take a look around. Feel the lectern. It's not invisible on the lectern. The book is missing!!!

Talk to the guard. There were bigwigs and others in today. The last was some dwarf. "What do you mean, the book is missing?" He takes a look in the vault. "The book is missing! This is really bad. I gotta tell the king." He runs off to the banquet hall yelling "The book is missing! I need to talk to the king!" We follow behind him.

The Banquet
The vault guard opens the doors to the banquet hall. "The Book of Eight Lands is missing!"

Basel shouts out that the soup was tampered with. Everyone looks concerned -- did someone swap the broth with something vegan? "No, it's poisoned!" yells Lucius. At this, King Steppengard shouts out a vaguely-coherent rant: "Poison? Truly.... This land I kill!"

King Steppengard stands up holding his flail. He turns to his right and swings it at Lady Namen. She goes down in a heap. One more swing for good measure. Before anyone has a chance to react, he turns to his left and down goes Lord Gallo.

Balon walks in and attempts to put Steppengard into a Deep Slumber. The guests shout, "He's attacking the king!" Seda sends Smoke to defend Balon. Stepping just inside the door, Seda, having heard Nina's gleeful giggling, starts singing the Song of Forms. Nina, standing in a corner that we can't see, shrieks and undergoes a quick and startling transformation. Nina’s legs, arms, torso, and, lastly, her smile are absorbed into a huge coiling form...we know its name is Madness. Lucius enters the banquet hall. Before Basel and Dämmeck can enter, Nina moves into the area in front of the doors managing to close one of the two. Seda is blocking the other. Lucius manages to jump out of the way. Seda, Smoke, and Balon are not so lucky. They are caught by the snake heads.

Dämmeck attacks Madness from the doorway. He sword keeps bouncing off her scales, so she switches touching it with her fingertips. Say what? Balon plays the small pipes, inspiring courage in our heroes. Lucius moves into a position to sneak attack Madness. He needs help. Seda directs Dashgoban into a flanking position. Smoke attacks while grappled. Seda continues to sing. Madness learns that holding onto seela stings. Lady Timor sends a giant snowball into the swarming snake heads before turning to stab Lady Dene. I hope that doesn't leave a scar! Around the room, the guests start to attack each other. It's sheer madness.

Ironically, Dämmeck cleverly switched to the hammer power because she kept missing with the sword, but every touch attach she made would have been enough to have hit with her sword. Oh well!

Steppengard steps in front of the pillar between his table and Lady Timor's. A couple of swings and Lady Timor is down. Basel pushes in front of Dämmeck. "I'm going to stop the king." He traps Steppengard in a large transparent bubble ("resilient sphere", Basel says pedantically). The heroes manage to put an end to Madness. Around the room, the madness continues. How do we stop this?

Basel runs to the high table to assess the condition of the downed nobles. Seda tries to stop the attacks by obscuring the vision of the combatants with some mist. Lucius goes around with his sap to knock the bodyguards out. Dashgoban takes charge of the room and calls guards in from the hallway. Basel observes that Namen, Gallo and Timor are not breathing. Steppengard settles down, putting his head between his hands. Lucius directs Seda to use his wand to bring the nobles back. This is incredibly generous. Seda hopes that they do not give all the credit to her since it isn't her wand.

We discuss the option of dismissing the sphere entrapping Steppengard. His bodyguard agrees that he and Dämmeck will grapple the king to the ground if he is violent. Before that, Seda summons a unicorn to neutralize the poison that we assume the king has ingested. Not just any unicorn, Nelle from the Forest of Innenotdar shows up! After treating the king, Nelle heals those around the room.

The king is beside himself. He apologizes to his downed nobles. He throws away his crown. Basel implores him to pick it back up and put the country back together — with an elegant and very diplomatic monologue. :cool:

Guess which part Basel contributed!

The Book of Eight Lands
We head back to the vault along with Gallo's chaplain. She is the strongest spellcaster with Detect Magic available who can enter the vault. After a brief discussion, Basel suggests that it is possible that the book could technically still be in the room, but in a different plane. We request that the guard brings a ladder. Dammek climbs up the ladder until her head disappears into an extra-dimensional space. Dammek sees the Book of Eight Lands and a rope (coiled up) and decides to pick up the book and burn the rope. Once the rope has been completely burnt Dammek's head re-appears.

Basel was biting his tongue, wanting to tell her not to worry about the rope, but, with her head in an extradimensional space, there was no way she could hear him.

Dämmeck Dreams
The night after the mad king's banquet, an elf comes to Dämmeck in a dream with information about Indomitability and Deception, the seela formerly known as Vuhl.
  1. Indomitability is a trillith, a creature of dream, born in the darkness below the world where his mother eternally sleeping lies. His true form.... He currently travels the mountains south of Ragesia, contemplating his identity.
  2. Deception is a trillith, a creature of dream, born in the darkness below the world where its mother eternally sleeping lies. Its true form.... It is seeking the torch of the burning sky.
I decided it was about time the heroes learned some details about the trillith, so I had the elven wizards investigating the case of vital military intelligence cast legend lore on the two names. Dämmeck got the dream because the wizards were ordered not to communicate with people of Seaquen, but the heroes aren't technically people of Seaquen.
If the heroes think to bring pieces of Madness back to the Lyceum, someone (probably Simeon) can cast legend lore on it and get full details about her. They're fretting that Madness may rejuvenate, so they'd sleep a little better if they knew that Madness was truly dead because she was Song o' Formed when she died.
 

They seem to be having fun, for the most part -- I'm more worried about how some of the combats are going slow than anything. There were sections earlier where there was a lot of frustration about not being successful (the Remhorhaz Incident being the most, er, clearly expressed). At this point there's a general feeling that they're making progress -- they did a good job of saving Gallo, and, as you'll see soon, saved the rest of Dassen smoothly and efficiently.
Yes, we are having fun. It sure beats having to worry about that virus which has been a real horror for the whole planet. :oops:

Woohoo! We saved Dassen...I think Simon did all the hard work though :ROFLMAO:
 

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