Sunday, July 8, 2018

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 37: A New-Found Ally

After Aravashnial consulted with the other mages and the priests in camp, it was determined that there were two options to deal with the curse afflicting Asami. The first options was for Sosiel to cast a spell on her to remove the curse. But this held the risk that it would free Eldrazi from within her and enable him to go out into the world and continue his acquisition of power. The second option would be to perform a lengthy ritual that would expel Eldrazi and send his spirit on to its intended afterlife, and might also do so for the remnant of Conshru's spirit that existed along with him. Asami was given the choice of which method to use. She decided that she preferred the ritual, even though she knew it would be uncomfortable or even painful for her, because she felt grateful to Conshru for helping to shield her somewhat from Eldrazi's efforts to take control of her body and she wished for him to be able to move on to the next form of his existence.

While she was still able to function freely, Asami recharged a curative wand that Jiro carried. Then she submitted to being prevented from spellcasting and having access to her spellbooks removed so she would be unable to threaten her friends and allies during the night. That evening Jiro researched and concluded that the impostor Iomedae they had met in the chapel had probably been a succubus, perhaps the same one Asami had seen, since the false goddess's powers had resembled those succubi could manifest. The Knights received news that Aegon and Darra had decided to return to Kenabres and try to either stop their old friend Abel from serving the demon-worshippers, or if he wouldn't turn his back on them Aegon was determined to slay him.

Aravashnial and the other wizards prepared to perform the ritual on the following day. He asked Jiro to look through some of the things Horgus Gwerm's men had found in Drezen for some necessary herbs. Asami remained bound and gagged during this time so Eldrazi would have no opportunity to escape. Aravashnial teleported back to Kenabres to collect some additional supplies and had to spend much of the rest of the day recuperating after he returned. Runa prepared a sermon for the next morning.

When morning arrived, Runa gave an impassioned sermon advising the paladins to be wary of false gods. Aravashnial then prepared a ritual circle that was meant to be large enough to contain any spells that Eldrazi might cast in an effort to get free. Asami could feel him struggling to overcome her so he could flee, but Conshru held him back so he was unable to master her. She was placed in the center of the circle and restrained there. Runa came and sat beside her so she could use her divine ability to lend Iomedae's aid to her comrade. Zosta, Jiro, and Shim also stood by as well, and Bohgong kept an eye on Kirara in case Eldrazi was somehow able to use her link with Asami to his advantage. Aravashnial warned everyone that they might find the ritual disturbing, and that it would probably be painful for Asami.

As the ritual progressed, Asami sensed Eldrazi trying to break free and Conshru trying to suppress him. Conshru's aid meant that for much of the time she was able to resist Eldrazi's efforts to control her, but at one point Conshru's aid wasn't enough. Eldrazi summoned a ball of fire centered on himself and hence on Asami, blasting the entire area inside the ritual circle with an inferno. Yet somehow despite the impressive intensity of the flames it did far less harm that it should have and none at all to Asami. Eldrazi had protected himself from the fire, which also protected Asami, and Conshru had somehow absorbed some of the heat so that Asami's friends were not badly burned. Jiro had linked himself to everyone and absorbed some of what injury they did suffer, though he couldn't extend that protection to the forty paladins who stood in a protective ring around the boundaries of the circle where Asami writhed in pain.

As the flames engulfed them, Shim witnessed two faces in the flames. One, who appeared to a be a human with a small goatee and hair forming a widow's peak on his forehead, looked very angry. The other was a smaller face accompanied by some sort of reptilian creature. The halfling was smiling and seemed to be drawing the flames into himself. When the flames had receded, Asami called on her special divinely-granted power to resist Eldrazi's influence another time and he was unable to do anything else.

Three hours later the ritual was completed. Jiro saw two spirits rise from Asami's prone form. As both separated and began to fade from sight, the halfling bowed slightly toward the young man. Then the halfling ascended toward the heavens, while the human disappeared into the earth in the direction of the Abyss.

Asami and those who had performed the ritual were all exhausted afterward, as was Kirara. Asami was taken to her tent to rest. But she could feel that the two entities were gone from her mind, and her link to the element of wood that had been partly suppressed since Eldrazi possessed her was now as strong as it had been before she touched his burnt spellbook. He had also left knowledge in her mind of several spells that she could now prepare just as though they were written in her own spellbook.

The following day with Asami and Kirara recovered, the Knights prepared to return to the chapel. They planned their spells and infusions carefully to withstand the succubus, assuming that they would meet her again once they reentered the Citadel. Jiro's research had given them a good idea of what she could potentially do. To better protect themselves from any reinforcements she might have, they took along a squadron of twenty-five paladins and five of the Crusaders who had been freed from the demons.

When they reached the doorway at the end of the long corridor where they had fought the gargoyles, the Knights found that some of the defenders had crudely restored the doors there. Shim checked them for traps and found none. As he did this, Asami suddenly had a strange sensation that something was wrong in the forest, but she couldn't articulate this to her friends except by saying that something felt wrong. Shim and Zosta kicked one side of the double doors open. To their surprise, a large wagon lay on its side in the passage beyond. Zosta immediately began to wonder aloud how it had got there, since there was a closed portcullis behind it that had been damaged so it couldn't be opened.

As the Knights wondered where the wagon had come from, it transformed before their eyes into a large creature that seemed to be made of wood. Jiro realized that it was a kind of elemental, but of wood. It had a distinctly female appearance. Its branch-like arms ended in wooden blades like swords and its facial expression was one of anger. Jiro recognized that the elemental was also unusual in that it was a denizen of both an elemental plane and of the Material Plane.

Jiro had begun to fly just before they reached the doors, and had told the soldiers with them to form a line behind them. He called out to them to hold their fire. Zosta, who had been determined to attack anything she encountered to avoid being dominated again, fretted when she heard Jiro give that order, but she reluctantly refrained from leaping at the wood elemental. Jiro moved closer to the elemental and spoke to it, telling it that the Knights had no quarrel with it. Asami also moved closer to tell it that they had no wish to harm it. Jiro had seen that something in the Worldwound must have corrupted her. The elemental seemed to be struggling with something within herself. She spoke angrily, proclaiming that mortals had corrupted everything and destroyed half her grove. Asami and Jiro both assured her that the Knights had come to remove the corruption, but first they needed to go farther into the Citadel. Runa moved behind Asami and laid her hand on the elven wizard's shoulder, extending one of Iomedae's blessing to make her words more convincing. The elemental didn't perceive this as a threatening move.

Asami stepped even closer so the elemental could see the faint wood graining in her complexion. In response, the elemental's blade-arms transformed into hands with long twig-like fingers. She extended one hand toward Asami, the fingers growing even longer and thinner as they reached out to touch her heart, her head, and the hand that held her wooden spellcasting sword. Asami's mind filled with the elemental's memories: of the demons' arrival at the Worldwound, of the destruction of the elemental's grove on the Material Plane, of being captured and tortured. At the same time the elemental could see into Asami's mind and perceive her affinity for wood and for green growing things. As Asami's friends looked on they saw her sword transforming into different types of weapons, shifting rapidly from one shape to another.

The elemental withdrew her fingers. Asami put her hand on the elemental's arm and cast a spell that would encourage the growth of plants. The elemental grew even larger, and where before she had appeared somewhat faded she now looked healthier. Jiro congratulated her on overcoming the corruption the demons had afflicted on her. She said, "I will help you," and reaching behind her she destroyed the portcullis that barred their way. Asami told her, "I will find your grove and do whatever I can to restore it, this I swear." She knew she could find it; the elemental had shared the memory of its location with her. Jiro told her that she could rest in peace and safety outside the Citadel. Zosta ran back to let the soldiers know that the elemental would be coming out. One soldier ran ahead to let Irabeth and the rest of the army know.

Several people had appeared at the other end of the passage. Asami couldn't see them clearly, but some of her companions recognized them as the fallen Crusaders who had fought on behalf of the impostor Iomedae two days earlier. Runa stepped past the elemental to address them, calling upon them to abandon their false goddess and turn to the side of good. Jiro followed her, telling the elemental that she didn't have to fight if she didn't choose to. Then he addressed the men behind her, saying that they didn't have to be the Knights' enemies. Shim also moved toward the men, noting that where there had been four of them previously there were now five.

The elemental took hold of one of the double doors she had been blocking and pushed it into the broken wall so it covered the spiked pit, making a crude ramp that someone could climb over. Then she turned toward the five men and sprayed them with sharp splinters of wood, wounding almost all of them. Shim commented, "So you're disguised as one of them!" Zosta lunged forward, glad to have a target to attack. She missed her attempt to trip one man but dealt him several blows. Four of the soldiers rushed up to surround her and and returned her blows. The fifth soldier ran away toward the chapel.

Runa granted Jiro, Zosta, and Shim the ability to move suddenly and Shim ran out into the pillared  large chamber looking for the fleeing soldier, which he had identified as the disguised succubus. But she had vanished. Jiro stepped into weapon reach of the four fallen Crusaders. Zosta tripped one man and stomped on him, leaving him unconscious. She had already knocked out another man. Asami drew her wand and sent three missiles of force into one of the two who were still on their feet. As she did this the elemental extended her roots deep into the stones of the floor and told Asami, "The one that ran is in the chapel, and another is with her that was not there before." When Asami had thanked her, she said, "If that is all I will take my leave." Asami nodded gratefully and the huge elemental withdrew from the area and passed through the long corridor.

One of the men on the ground called out, "In the name of Iomedae!" and swung at Runa, but the effort was too much for him and he fainted. Zosta took down the third man. There was no opponent left standing. The Knights looked at each other. Asami shared with them what the elemental had told her. They suspected that the "other who was not there before" was likely another summoned babau, as the ability to summon such demons was one known to be possessed by succubi. Should they wait until the duration of the summoning expired so the succubus would be alone? But they worried that she would teleport away if they waited too long.

Shim made sure the fallen Crusaders wouldn't die, and some of the soldiers outside were called in to carry them out in the hope that eventually they could be freed from their mistaken devotion to the succubus. Asami cast a spell on everyone to allow them all to communicate silently with one another. Jiro channeled healing power to Zosta and Runa, who had both been injured in the fighting, then drew a wand. Shim began to move toward the chapel. As he did so, a babau suddenly appeared behind him, dropped its long spear, and attacked him.

Everyone moved among the pillars, prepared to fight the demon. Asami cast a spell to protect them from evil, extending it to herself and Kirara, Runa, and Zosta. Shim had moved toward the demon and was too far away for her to cast it on him, and Jiro already had such magic protecting him. The babau had appeared at the opposite side of the chamber from the entrance to the chapel, near another doorway the Knights had yet to explore. When Shim approached it, a woman's voice spoke from beyond it. Her words couldn't be made out, but Shim responded, "That sounds like a good idea." Those who were closer to him realized that the succubus must be beyond the small doorway and she had cast a spell on him, probably to dominate his will as she had done to Zosta before.

Runa moved toward Shim and cast the same protective spell on him that Asami had cast on her, preventing the succubus from giving him any new commands. Jiro also moved into the same area, bringing with him a circle of protection from evil creatures that further inhibited the succubus' power. Then Zosta bounded over her friends to get into the area where the succubus was and grappled with her despite the fact the succubus was hovering above the floor. Jiro ran into the area behind Zosta, calling out mentally to the others, "Keep her controlled and keep the babau out!"

The babau moved into a corner outside of the area the succubus was in and began to cast a spell toward Shim, but nothing visible happened. Runa's protective spell still surrounded him. Asami cast a protective circle on herself and moved closer. The succubus attempted to teleport away, but Jiro was prepared for that. He countered her spell, keeping her trapped in Zosta's unfriendly embrace. Zosta pinned her in place. The succubus said, "You could help me!" in a voice filled with frustration, clearly speaking to Shim, who said nothing. Asami cast a spell at the babau and it disappeared, sent back to the Abyss. While she did that, Zosta and Runa finished off the succubus.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 36: In the Name of Iomedae

With the half-orc mercenaries and the demon reduced to burnt and melted remains, the Crusader Knights paused to examine them for any useful items. The vrock carried a valuable necklace, and the mercenaries each had a fine quality bow and a strong healing potion in their possession. When these items had been removed, the Knights took a moment to decide whether they should continue further into the Citadel or retreat to the courtyard. Jiro's healing abilities were significantly depleted by their battles with the gargoyles and the vrock, but they chose to forge ahead into the chapel.

The chapel had two entrances, one a set of heavy double doors and the other a smaller doorway that according to Aron's map led into the rear of the small chapel. Beyond the chapel lay a larger chamber with columns, littered with scattered piles of rubble. It was currently empty of any visible enemies and Asami detected nothing magical within it. To protect their group from enemies coming through that chamber to attack them from behind, Asami drew a circle of protection against evil creatures in the doorway that led from the large chamber to the chapel entrance. With Runa standing guard over him, Shim disabled the lock on the main doors to prevent anyone from entering or leaving through them. Asami then cast a spell on the entire group to allow them to communicate silently with each other, mind-to-mind. Shim knew the language of earth creatures, and he asked the elemental summoned by the gem to tell him how many creatures were inside the chapel. The elemental told him there were seven creatures within.

The rear door of the chapel opened to reveal a room lined with two rows of stone pews. Along the opposite wall stood three statues of armored knights holding their swords point down, set into alcoves in the wall. At the far end stood a statue of Iomedae. Four men garbed as crusaders sat on the pews, deep in prayer. In front of the statue stood a woman, who took them all by surprise because she appeared to be the very image of the woman depicted in the statue behind her.

The woman greeted them, calling them "My children" and asking how they had managed to get to the chapel as she and the four crusaders with her had been unable to escape. Runa responded by demanding, "How did I break my arm?" The woman seemed taken aback by this and didn't reply to it, instead claiming that she was Iomedae. Runa clearly did not accept this. She asked, "What was the last thing you said to my father and I before you sent me to the Worldwound?", to which the woman responded that those words were only between her and Runa. This still did not convince Runa, who strode toward the front of the chapel and began to cast a spell, which her companions recognized would summon Iomedae's radiance to harm and blind evil creatures.

Suddenly from behind the statue a longspear stabbed Runa as a babau appeared in the corner. Rather than react to the demon with anger as the Knights would have expected from Iomedae, the woman paid no attention to it. Runa managed to resist the pain of her wound and her spell harmed both the woman and the demon, revealing that as she had thought this woman was no manifestation of the goddess but a creature of evil.

The impostor responded by casting a spell of her own, not at Runa but at Zosta, who had run toward her when Runa did. Jiro realized that the spell would dominate Zosta's will and force her to obey the woman, but there was nothing he could do to prevent it. The babau attacked Runa again as this was happening, and Runa drew her sword to attack the woman. Asami, who was hovering at the back of the chapel, attempted to dispel the spell on Zosta but was unable to overcome the impostor's magic. Under the woman's direction Zosta moved toward Runa with her fists raised. Jiro hurried forward and cast a circle of protection around himself, hoping to give Zosta an opportunity to fight off the compulsion, but the magic failed to have the desired effect.

Asami flew up to the ceiling to get out of reach of the four crusaders, who had all come to their feet and were moving to attack the Knights. The woman attempted to overcome her will and force her to flee but was unsuccessful. Asami flew above Zosta and cast a spell that would form a sphere of force around her, preventing her from striking Runa. But Zosta glimpsed the sphere forming around her and dodged out of the way, causing the magic to be wasted. Zosta knocked Runa down and began to punch her. Runa pulled her shield over herself and began to pray loudly to Iomedae for aid. Asami threw a spear at the woman, but it splintered when it met her flesh and did her no harm.

Jiro moved toward the woman. Two of the crusaders attacked Shim. Another man launched himself off a pew in an attempt to strike Asami flying above, but his armor weighed him down and his leap fell short. The babau tried to dispel Jiro's protective circle and failed. Then the woman cast another spell at Asami and this time succeeded in overcoming her, ordering her to fly back to the army. Asami immediately complied with the suggestion and flew out of the chapel. Kirara followed her, confusedly asking why they were leaving. Asami told her they needed to go.

After Asami left, Shim enhanced his strength and grabbed the prone Runa, sliding her under the pews toward the doorway though which they had entered to get her temporarily out of Zosta's reach. Jiro used Asami's spell to call for a retreat and headed for the door. The woman swung her sword at him as he moved away, and he observed that unlike Iomedae she seemed to be unfamiliar with swordplay. When he reached the exit where Runa lay he pushed her out into the corridor toward the magic circle Asami had left behind. Zosta ran after him to the doorway and the crusaders also swarmed toward that area. The protective circle surrounding Jiro was dispelled by the babau. The woman attempted to control Shim but he was able to resist.

Desperately seeking a way to stop Zosta from attacking her, Runa reached in her haversack and drew out Telendrev's scale, calling on its magic to transform herself into the likeness of Horgus Gwerm. She hoped the change of appearance would deter Zosta. Zosta meanwhile had been protected from new commands by the woman because she had earlier been the recipient of a spell to protect her from evil creatures. But the power of the spell wasn't enough to end the compulsion to kill Runa. She stepped toward where Horgus Gwerm had suddenly appeared, suspecting an illusion. As she tried to determine if Lord Gwerm was real or not, Jiro and Shim tried to shut the door and trap the crusaders inside the chapel. At the same time the babau dispelled the protective effect on Zosta, and the woman vanished from sight.

Runa attempted to cast the protection spell on Zosta again, but Zosta doubted that Horgus knew any magic and attacked her, preventing the spell from taking effect. Then Bohgong appeared in the form of a giant white ape with four arms and grappled Zosta, throwing her over his shoulder. Angered by being handled that way, Zosta broke free. The babau had come after the group, teleporting itself outside the chapel, and it now tried to dispel Runa's disguise but it was unable to overcome the power of the dragon's magic. The party struggled to continue their retreat with the babau and the four crusaders on their heels. It occurred to Jiro that the four men had probably originally been dominated magically by the woman but had eventually accepted her domination and were now acting of their own volition.

The group backed up to the room with the ledge that they had entered just before encountering the vrock. Bohgong managed to grab Zosta again and restrain her. The babau teleported beind them and attacked the ape as the Knights moved toward the passage with the portcullis. During this time Asami was still flying as quickly as her magic would allow toward the courtyard outside. But as she did so she caught a glimpse of what she realized was a succubus, probably the same one that had been in the chapel though it no longer wore the guise of Iomedae. An instant later the succubus disappeared.

Jiro barred the door into the ledge room, locking the crusaders out and leaving them no way to reach the Knights since the portcullis was locked in the closed position. Freed of those four enemies the Knights only had to deal with the babau and with Zosta's compulsion to attack Runa. Zosta struggled free of Bohgong's grip again and knocked the babau off its feet. Runa backed away while her foe was preoccupied with the demon. Shim gave himself the ability to climb like a spider and scrambled over the spiked pit Zosta had fallen into earlier.

Asami reached the army camp and was greeted there by Irabeth, who asked her how the exploration of the Citadel was going. Asami was confused by why she had come outside. She scowled, and without responding to Irabeth's question flew back inside to rejoin her friends.

Zosta went after Runa again and knocked her down, which allowed the babau to get up . Shim slashed it severely with his sword. Jiro had created another magic circle and the demon tried to get rid of it but had no success. He held a potion out to Runa and told her, "Drink this." Runa got to her feet, grabbed the potion, and retreated again, using her enchanted shirt to grant her the ability to move farther than would normally have been possible. Jiro cast a healing spell on himself and began speaking to Zosta, attempting to persuade her to desist. Bohgong tried to grab her again but she slipped out of his grasp. The babau attacked Shim one last time and then disappeared, for it had been summoned from the Abyss and the duration of the magic had run out.

Asami arrived at the end of the long corridor her comrades were in, to find that Horgus Gwerm had somehow appeared and Runa was missing. Zosta was now trying to strike Horgus. She was about to try to dispel the compulsion on Zosta again when suddenly a voice in her head told her to attack Jiro and Bohgong. It was not the voice of Eldrazi. Against her will Asami summoned a ball of fire, not her normal sphere of burning wood nor Eldrazi's ball of acid, but ordinary fire. This she lobbed at where Jiro and his spirit animal stood together. Both of them were engulfed in flames, but when the fire cleared they were still on their feet. A third presence in her mind had somehow prevented the spell from being as harmful as it would have been under normal circumstances.

Runa gulped down the potion Jiro had given her without knowing what it was, and was surprised when she realized she had become invisible. That didn't stop Zosta trying to hit her. She was knocked down again and Zosta begun punching the area where Runa had been. When her blows connected Runa grunted in pain and felt her ribs crack under the violent blows.

The presence in Asmai's mind that had modified the fireball spell began to argue with the essence of Eldrazi, and this contention seemed to make it difficult for the other mind trying to control hers to have any effect on her. For the moment she was free of their influence. She called on her magic to dispel the compulsion affecting Zosta, and this time she was successful. Zosta stopped pursuing Runa and looked angry and confused as she realized what she had been doing. Freed from Eldrazi's control as well as the other mind, Asami called out, "Help me! There is someone in my mind!" When the others questioned her, she was able to tell them about the cursed spellbook, as well as the unknown entity that had forced her to attack Jiro and Bohgong. Jiro suggested that she cast a protection spell on herself while she was able, and she did so. They realized that the second compulsion had probably come from the same succubus that had controlled Zosta, and Asami mentioned glimpsing a succubus during her flight through the Citadel.

The Knights now withdrew from the Citadel and returned to the army camp, where they told Irabeth and Aravashnial about the cursed spellbook. To prevent Asami from harming anyone when her protective spell wore off, she submitted to being bound and gagged. The paladins were ordered to do everything in trios of people who were familiar with each other, to prevent the succubus from mimicking or compelling anyone else. The mages realized that to expel Eldrazi would probably require a ritual of some sort, and it was possible that expulsion might actually allow him to exist outside the spellbook. Asami also realized that the other entity that had helped to protect her friends must be a remnant of another evoker named Conshru*, who had according to legend sacrificed himself to prevent one of Eldrazi's spells from doing untold harm while the two evokers were engaged in a duel of spellcraft. She didn't think that Conshru was as whole a personality as Eldrazi, but she welcomed his aid. While she assured her friends that Eldrazi thus far hadn't tried to make her harm them, they were none too pleased that she was under his influence while they were trying to overcome the demonic defenders of Citadel Drezen.

*Conshru is the name of a character previously played by the GM in another campaign.

Note: Aegon's player has withdrawn from the campaign indefinitely.

Next: part 37, A New-Found Ally

Monday, June 25, 2018

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 35: Through the Gate of Drezen

Characters are now 8th level, 2nd mythic tier.

The next morning, the Knights met to divide up the treasures they had found in the chimera's den. Asami was given the magical blank spellbook that could hold a thousand spells, as well as the quiver which she could use to store wands, rods, and staves. She also asked if her friends would let her take the gems, as her training allowed her to use gems in place of other materials when casting spells. Her unusual training seemed to be causing Eldrazi some confusion, which was the only satisfaction she could find as she continued to seek a way to be rid of him.

The other Knights all approached Quartermaster Gwerm to see if any new useful items had been found. They also gave some of the books from the magic bag to Aravashnial to be copied in an effort to restore some of the materials that had been destroyed in the damage to the Riftwarden library in Kenabres. Runa acquired a healing wand, and Shim found a an elven curved blade made of cold iron.

The scouts reported that there was no sign of sentries on the towers of the Citadel, and they had seen no indication that anything had come from the summoning circle above the chimera's lair. Before the Knights set off for the Citadel again, Runa performed a memorial service for those who had fallen in battle, which lifted the hearts of all those who heard her prayers.

Aegon and Darra went to interrogate some prisoners rather than join the rest of the group in entering the Citadel. Jiro suggested that perhaps the party should prepare mantlets to protect them when they approached the main gate, in case there were any archers hiding up above. Shim agreed with this idea, and the two of them found carts that could be armored with planks of wood to give the assault party cover from overhead attacks. When the mantlets were ready, the party split into two groups and pushed them up to the gates. Shim then cautiously stepped out from behind the cover of the mantlet to examine the gates. He found that they were jammed shut. Closer examination of the area revealed that all of the tracks in front of the gates showed no sign of actually have emerged through those gates. It appeared that some creature had created a portal to bring the defenders out into the courtyard rather than the defense force having walked through the gates.

Fortunately the party had thought to bring battering rams. With Shim's surprising strength behind one ram, one side of the gate burst open. Beyond the open gate they saw an antechamber perhaps twenty feet wide and thirty feet long, divided by an iron portcullis that had been locked in place about five feet above the ground. The portcullis couldn't be moved from the side the Knights stood on. But there were several heavy doors leading out of the antechamber. Shim opened one of these, and the group was immediately met by blasts of fire from two brimorak demons, one on the side where Shim had opened the door, and the other appearing through one of the other doorways on he opposite side of the chamber.

Zosta immediately pounded one of the brimoraks with her fists, while Runa moved to attack the second goat-like demon. Asami blasted a demon with a ball of snow and ice. Jiro dropped the battering ram he had been holding and extended his aura of purity to block the brimoraks' breath. As he did so, he realized that there was an unusual sensation about the area the Knights stood in. It reminded him of the oppressive feeling in the desecrated chapel, and he warned his companions to be wary of it.

The brimorak that Zosta had attacked teleported away. The second brimorak spat burning blood at Runa, Jiro, and Zosta. Shim fired his crossbow at it. Zosta jumped over Runa's back to knock the brimorak down and stomp on it, and Runa ran it through with her sword.

Shim gave the portcullis a brief try, and then the group turned back to the doorway to their left. They found a set of steps ascending to a platform holding an intact ballista that showed no sign of having recently been tended. Another side room contained a second ballista but no defenders or other equipment.

Shim and Jiro worked together to unlock a set of double doors and force them open. These doors led into a long hallway dotted by piles of rubble and lined by six crouching statues of horned demons standing on low plinths. The statues were clearly not original to the dwarven-built Citadel, so the Knights decided to topple them after Jiro confirmed that he didn't detect anything magical in the hall, though he did feel that it had the same aura of desecration as the antechamber. Runa took out a length of rope to use to pull down the statues, while Zosta prepared to leap onto the head of one and smash it with her fists.

Stone shattered as the six figures transformed into six gargoyles that turned on the Crusader Knights. Asami reacted first, hurling her wooden spear at the gargoyle threatening Jiro. One gargoyle clawed and snapped at Zosta but its teeth and claws failed to connect with her flesh. Jiro took a step back and called on an ancestor spirit to come to his aid, summoning a young woman bearing a tetsubo. At the same time he handed his morningstar to Shim. Zosta sheathed her fists in acid as she punched her opponent. Asami called for a small elemental of air to appear and attack the gargoyles, which were all hovering on their bat-like wings. A nine-ring broadsword of force appeared in Jiro's hand. Zosta's first opponent was smashed to rubble and she charged across to drop Runa's foe. A third gargoyle fell to her onslaught. Asami struck another with her spear while the air elemental slammed into it. Only one gargoyle now remained. The entire party attacked it as one and it joined the others in becoming a heap of stony rubble on the floor.

Runa had taken some hurt from the gargoyles and Jiro attended to her wounds for a moment before the group moved on. There were two more demon statues at the far end of the hall, and these they shattered. The next set of double doors were locked but Shim opened them after verifying that they were not trapped. Beyond them stood another portcullis, this one fully closed. A section of wall had been turned to rubble. Zosta immediately clambered over this to see what lay beyond it, and suddenly vanished from sight with a cry of alarm.

Jiro called out in the Tian tongue, and was suddenly cloaked in a shining golden robe. At the same time he rose off the ground in flight. He flew over the rubble, perceiving that it was actually illusory. Zosta had fallen into a pit and been wounded by a spike set into its floor. Just as he realized this, arrows began to rain down from arrow slits above their heads. Runa threw a rope down into the pit to help Zosta climb out. Four arrows struck Asami. Shim swallowed a potion that allowed him to climb on the wall and scrambled over the illusory rubble. Runa made her way across it more cautiously. Zosta climbed out of the pit then jumped across to the other side, away from the arrow slits. Asami granted herself the ability to fly and flew over the pit, as did Jiro. The wall partially blocked the archers from continuing to fire on the party, but Jiro improved their cover by conjuring up a mist to block them from view.

The area beyond the disguised pit held a ledge, which everyone moved up onto to get to another set of doors. Jiro healed their arrow wounds while Shim picked the lock. As they passed through, Jiro reminded everyone that Aron's map showed the hidden storeroom where the Sword of Valor had once been kept in a shrine very near to where they now stood. He wanted to investigate that area next.

As Zosta stepped through the doorway into another hall, she spied four half-orc mercenaries with bows and a large creature that resembled a bipedal vulture, which she recognized as a vrock demon. The half-orcs fired and the vrock surged toward her. Hovering on the other side of the doorway, Asami saw the vrock and recalled as many details as she could about such creatures, calling out to her friends everything she could remember. Then she summoned a lantern archon from Elysium to come to their aid. As Asami called for the archon, Runa cast a spell that would imbue all of their weapons with the power of good.

Jiro remembered that vrocks could emit poisonous spores and filled the area with his purifying aura. The vrock's spores shot out and then fell harmlessly to the floor. Zosta's fists flew at the demon. Shim crushed the elemental gem they had found and commanded the earth elemental to rush the half-orcs. Under Eldrazi's influence, Asami sent a globule of acid to blast the mercenaries, while Runa called on Iomedae's divine light to dazzle them. Jiro, who had been absorbing harm from his companions since they entered the Citadel, suddenly collapsed at the vrock's feet. Shim grabbed him and pulled him away. Bohgong used a wand to heal some of his wounds and then backed away from the demon. Zosta leaped high into the air, kicking the vrock in the head and knocking it off its feet. The earth elemental knocked down all but one of the half-orcs. Asami then sent another ball of fire enhanced with divine power into the end of the hallway, consuming all of the half-orcs and the vrock in its flames. When the flames dissipated there were only smoldering corpses lying there.

Next: part 36, In the Name of Iomedae

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 34: Demons on the Roof

With the brimoraks gone, the Knights in the chimera's former lair were able to take time to examine the beast's horde of treasure. The chimera had amassed a considerable wealth of coins, gems, precious silverware, jewelry, and several enchanted items that excited the members of the group. These items included a magical bag that could hold far more than its exterior dimensions indicated, which contained a library of useful books about the other planes.There was also a blank spellbook that could allow a mage to scribe spells in it without having to expend the usual cost of special inks and other materials, a quiver that like the bag could hold much more than it appeared capable of containing, a suit of armor that would permit the wearer to harm insubstantial creatures, a crossbow that imbued any bolt fired from it with flames, and two javelins that would cause lightning damage when they struck a target. There were also several spell scrolls and potions, and a number of arrows enchanted to harm magical beasts. One of the gems proved to be a special one that could be crushed to summon a large elemental of earth for a short period of time.

As Asami and Jiro were engaged in determining the properties of these things, an arrow suddenly flew through the opening in the wall. It landed harmlessly on the floor. There was a strip of paper wrapped around the shaft, which bore the message, "An old friend has arrived." The handwriting was Anevia's. The Knights immediately realized that this probably meant Aegon had reached the camp.

Pleased and heartened by the news, the Knights waited while Runa changed into the armor they had found, stowing her own armor in the magic bag. Zosta then took charge of the bag for the time being. While this had been going on Bohgong had been crouching in the opening, watching what lay outside the tower. The monkey barely managed to avoid an oncoming ball of fire sent by another brimorak. Zosta and Jiro noted that the other brimoraks were on the top of the wall, across the rooftop of the Citadel from the chimera's tower. On observing this, the group decided together that their first priority was to eliminate the rest of the brimoraks. When they had made up their minds and everyone was ready, they set off across the roof toward the wall where the brimoraks awaited them.

As Shim and Jiro descended onto the rooftop, they saw five shapes climbing down from another tower. These were five brimorak demons. Jiro suggested that the party members spread out to make it more difficult for the demons to catch them with a ball of fire. The brimoraks began to walk on air and ascend. Runa suddenly felt her new armor getting unusually hot. She summoned divine water and doused herself in an effort to cool herself. Jiro realized that the effect was a magical ability inherent to the brimoraks. Then the demons tried to dispel some of the magical effects protecting the Crusader Knights, and Asami felt her protection from fire dissipate.

On the previous night when Asami had retreated to her tent to examine the spellbooks Horgus Gwerm had given her, her attention had been drawn first to a partly burnt book that was locked. When she began trying to unfasten the arcane lock that protected it, a strange entity had invaded her mind and she had yet to find a way to expel it. This entity identified itself as Eldrazi Portheim, the former owner of the spellbook. Now, as Asami looked at the brimorak demons, Eldrazi robbed her of her will to cast a spell of his own. A ball of acid hurtled toward three of the brimoraks.

Just as Asami surprised her comrades with this spell they hadn't seen her cast before, three more figures appeared in the air overhead. But these weren't demons. One of the the three was Aravashnial, and when the Knights looked closely they realized that the other two people were Aegon and Darra, her severed leg still replaced by a new limb of glowing golden energy. The three new arrivals began to drop toward the rooftop, then slowed as Aravashnial used a spell to let them drift down like feathers. Darra dropped abruptly as one of the brimoraks dispelled Aravashnial's magic, but she landed in a roll that left her unharmed.

Zosta sprinted across the roof toward the demons. Runa paused and cast a spell on herself to protect herself from fire, which had the effect of stopping the heating she had been experiencing. Zosta reached the wall and vaulted up to attack a demon with her bladed gauntlets. Asami, released from Eldrazi's control for the moment, tried casting a spell of her own and hurled a ball of flame at the brimoraks, forgetting that such creatures couldn't be harmed by fire.

Three of the brimoraks retaliated by lobbing handfuls of flames at the Knights. Runa broke into a run. Jiro summoned an ancestral spirit to attack one of the floating brimoraks menacing Zosta. Other brimoraks drew their swords and turned them on Aegon and Shim. Asami decided that running across the roof was too slow and took flight, swooping up toward the walkway atop the wall. Jiro began to climb toward Shim's location.

As Asami flew above, Eldrazi took advantage of her again to hurl a globe of ice and snow at the demon facing Shim. Shim used his blade to cleave a second brimorak in half. Aegon followed by slaying another demon with his axe forged of cold iron. There were only two brimoraks remaining. One of them kicked Shim with its fiery hooves and slashed him with its sword badly enough that Shim was barely able to keep his feet. Zosta slew the second demon she had been battling. Then Runa climbed up the wall and slashed another demon with her sword. Asami took out her wand and sent missiles at one of the demons near Shim. In short order all five of the brimoraks had been slain.

One of the demons that had been walking on air wore a pouch, unlike its fellows. Asami pushed the floating corpse over to the walkway and emptied the pouch, finding gold coins, a ring, a wand, and a scroll. The wand held a curative spell so she handed it to Jiro. The scroll she kept for herself. After she revealed that the ring was meant to help the wearer be a more agile climber, Runa swapped a similar but lesser ring for that one. At Zosta's urging, Asami claimed the ring Runa had previously worn.

By this time Jiro had little healing magic left. The Knights decided to return to camp and recuperate overnight before making another assault on Citadel Drezen. Aegon then revealed that Cennami had sent a parcel with him, which contained seven adamantine cloak clasps formed in the insignia of Zosta's clan. Asami realized these clasps were magical and would help to protect the wearers from harm, but only so long as they were worn with the cloaks that Rhino had sent with Shim.

Zosta was happily reunited with Darra, and Darra shared with her the news that Zosta's adopted demon brother Rhino had now manifested wings! There was also news that Cennami's tribe might be planning to move on to the Worldwound, that the demons were starting to realize the Wardstones were no longer functioning; and that Aegon and Darra's former friend Abel, who had accompanied them to Kenabres, had apparently joined the demons' followers, much to Aegon's anger.

The Knights rested, and prepared to assault the Citadel again the next day. Their attempt to circumvent the front entrance had been less than successful, and they decided that tomorrow they would go in through the main gate, which appeared to have been barricaded. Reports told them that little sign of defenders had been seen other than a few brimoraks patrolling the battlements. Scouts like Anevia and Aron had been busy keeping those sentries distracted. They also heard news that the ruined chapel they had cleared and re-consecrated was now seeing use by Crusaders, and the valley occupied by the vescavors was now almost entirely clear of the abyssal insects.

Most of the group went to their beds feeling heartened by recent events, but when Asami returned to her tent she could only fret over how to free herself of the malign influence of Eldrazi. The entity had threatened her life if either she or Kirara tried to report its presence to anyone else. She could only hope a plan would come to her, or that her unusual behavior would attract the attention of her friends.

Next: part 35, Through the Gates of Drezen

Monday, June 4, 2018

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 33: Into the Citadel

Player-characters are now 7th level, 2nd mythic tier.

The Beast of Drezen. Characters shown are not the player-characters.
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As the chimera breathed its last breath atop the tower, large groups of human cultists and tieflings, and a smaller group of dretches rushed into the courtyard below to defend Citadel Drezen against the Crusaders. The defenders weren't armed with bows or crossbows, which left the Crusader Knights atop the tower free to heal their wounds. Jiro and Sosiel both summoned divine energies to heal Runa, who was the most badly wounded of the group.

Once the heroes had healed themselves and made an accounting of the defending force below so they could report back to Irabeth, they descended the outside of the tower and returned to meet the rest of their army. The army had now tripled in size by the addition of the captive Crusaders the paladins had set free while the Knights were disabling the catapults and battling the chimera. Irabeth ordered a tent set up across the Ahari Bridge as a temporary command post and began to plan for the Crusader army to assault the Citadel. She sent Anevia and Aron out to keep watch on the town for any sign of reinforcements for the demons. Meanwhile she introduced the Crusader Knights to the newly freed prisoners, who had all been away from Kenabres too long to have heard of the Knights' exploits there.

Then the commanders met to discuss how they would take on the defenders and gain access to the interior of the Citadel. Irabeth told the Knights to rest while she led the bulk of the army against the demons' minions. The Crusader army's morale was high with the success against the chimera and the release of the prisoners, and Irabeth wanted the Knights to be at full strength to enter the Citadel once the enemy forces outside it were eliminated.

When the Knights left the command tent, they went to see Horgus Gwerm, who had been acting as quartermaster for the army. They intended to trade some items they had recovered in exchange for other objects, as well as to see what sort of useful gear had been founded in the armory the Crusaders had seized. Gwerm reported that there appeared to be no enemies still within the town - they had all either been slain or fled. He told the Knights that he had had learned from informants that they should expect the interior of the Citadel to differ from the details on the map Aron had provided. Gwerm had also learned that the forces within the fortress included Joran Vhane, brother of the traitor Staunton Vhane, but reportedly Joran wasn't as dedicated to the demons as his sibling. Jiro and Runa both came away from this interview suspecting that Gwerm had got his hands dirty questioning the prisoners the army had taken, and that he wasn't comfortable with what he had done.

The Knights had all asked Gwerm to check the inventory of items taken from the demons' armory and let them know if he found any objects they desired. The result of this was that they each obtained several useful things. Asami acquired a rod that would extend the duration of her spells, a pair of bulette-hide bracers that would grant her the benefit of armor, and a wand that would allow her to enhance the vitality of herself or her companions. Her friends also gained various similarly useful items. Gwerm allowed each of them to choose one item of lesser value without requiring any payment or trade, and the remaining items were sold to them at half the typical market value.

Their purchasing done, the Knights went off to rest, but not before they heard that their comrade Aegronius, who had remained in Kenabres to look after his friend Dara after she was injured, would soon be rejoining them. Runa also performed a short service for the Crusaders who would be going into battle the following day, donning a chasuble over her armor rather than changing into her priestly vestments. Afterward she joined Jiro and Zosta in practicing with Bohgong, which drew a crowed of the new members of the army who hadn't seen the monkey leading a martial practice before. Asami meanwhile was presented a book of useful spells by Aravashnial, and she took that book and two others that had been taken from the armory back to her tent to study them.

That evening as the Knights all settled down to wait until the Crusader army returned victorious, they realized that like their success in reclaiming the Gray Fortress in Kenabres, slaying the chimera had brought more divine blessings upon them. Everyone felt stronger and more capable. Asami knew that the strength of her spells would be greater and they would be more difficult to identify or dispel, and her knowledge was a bit broader. Her affinity for all things of wood or plant-based had increased as well. But she also felt a greater repugnance to touch anything made of metal. Of course she didn't notice it herself, but the next day some of her companions told her that the bark-like markings on her skin and the green tinge in her hair seemed more clearly visible/

The siege against the Citadel defenders went very well for the Crusader army. Their enemies had been dismayed by the Knights' success in disabling the catapults and slaying the chimera. As a result the Crusaders were soon mopping up the courtyard to remove the last traces of the demons and their followers, at which point some of the Knights went to lend their aid. Asami remained in her tent copying spells into her spellbook. When her friends returned, they met to determine their strategy for entering Citadel Drezen.

It was Jiro who suggested that instead of entering through the front gate they should go to one of the towers at the rear of the structure and come down from its roof. He and Shim had done a circuit of the Citadel by walking along the top of the curtain wall and had decided that might be the best entry point. After the Knights took the Ahari Bridge Asami had acquired a wand that could teleport herself and two fully-laden people at a time to a nearby destination, which they decided could be used to take Runa and Zosta to the tower first since they were the best fighters. Then she would return for Jiro and Shim. Bohgong and Kirara could make their own way up the tower since the monkey could climb and the silvanshee could fly.

The map Aron had provided showed that the hidden vault where the Sword of Valor had been stored in the past was closer to that tower, and although they didn't expect the banner to still be in the vault after so many years of occupation they wanted to check there before investigating the rest of the Citadel. Aron had also told them that the top of the tower Jiro had chosen once held a summoning circle used for summoning celestial beings to aid the Crusaders. No doubt the circle had been destroyed or corrupted by the demon invaders, but it would be good to know what state it was in. Once their plan was in place it was decided that Sosiel should remain with the rest of the army to lend them healing, and Aron would be better staying with him. Only the Knights would enter the Citadel.

That evening before settling into her meditation period Asami used her new ability to restore several charges to Jiro's wand that could summon a weapon of force energy. She had already used that ability on the previous night to recharge her own wand that fired missiles of force. The next morning when everyone was ready to begin, she used the teleportation wand to transport herself, Runa, and Zosta to the top of the tower. They found the summoning circle of inlaid gold and ivory intact, but Runa wasn't able to determine if it had been corrupted. Then Asami left and went to fetch Jiro and Shim.

An instant after Asami departed, a burst of fire blasted the top of the tower. Zosta saw it in time to drop to the ground and avoid the flames, but Runa was burned. They couldn't tell where the flame had come from. Asami, Jiro, and Shim saw the fire, but that didn't deter them from going to the tower to join their companions. As they appeared on the tower a moment later, they welcomed by a much bigger inferno. Asami was momentarily exhausted by the use of the teleportation magic and had no opportunity to protect herself from the cloud of fire that engulfed her and left her a hair's breadth from death. The wand that had brought them all to the tower burned to ash. Seeing that Asami was in dire condition and Jiro would need to work quickly to save her life, Zosta picked Jiro up and grabbed Asami by her cloak to carry both of them off the tower roof to safety. Runa ran down the stairs behind her. Shim was hit by another ball of fire before he could escape the exposed roof, but he managed to stagger down the steps to join the rest of the group.

Asami was terribly burned. Jiro and Runa both called on the greatest divine power they could muster to save her. Jiro then healed Runa, Shim, and himself, and linked his life force to Asami as well as to the others so he could continue to provide healing.

After Asami was recovered enough to get on her feet again, they looked around at the chamber they had entered. It carried a strong animal smell, and they quickly realized that this must have been the lair of the chimera they had slain. A hole had been knocked through the tower's exterior wall to allow the creature to fly in and out, but the doorway to the descending staircase had been blocked up with stone to prevent the monster from entering the Citadel. The chimera had accumulated a pile of looted treasures that were heaped on the floor near the rubble-strewn area that had once been a stairwell.

The mass of fireballs that had attacked them from above led the Knights to realize that there were probably more brimoraks in the Citadel other than the tower defenders they had eliminated. Brimoraks like many demons could also summon others of their kind from the Abyss, and these summoned demons could teleport and call flames to attack their foes just as well as those who had summoned them. Concerned that she would be injured again and drain more of the party's resources, Asami cast a spell to grant herself some protection from fire.

Before the Knights had time to look closer at the chimera's treasure, a brimorak demon suddenly appeared inside the room, teleporting in from elsewhere. The demon looked surprised, though they didn't know whether it was because they were there or because all of them appeared to be unhurt. They knew it must be sending a telepathic message to its brethren to warn them. Shim swallowed the last of a potion he had been drinking when it arrived and stepped toward it, sword drawn. Zosta rushed forward to knock the demon off its hooves and then stamped on it. Runa drew her sword and stabbed it fiercely. The brimorak breathed its last and vanished, demonstrating that it had been summoned rather than among the Citadel's regular defenders. Shim decided that getting out of the tower room was the best option to avoid being cornered by more demons and began attempting to break through the stones blocking the stairs by chopping at them with his sword.

It seemed likely that more brimoraks would be arriving soon. To prepare Asami cast a spell on herself and her comrades that would allow them to communicate with one another in whispered messages to prevent their enemies from overhearing their plans. She then went to look at the chimera's treasure to see if it held anything helpful to them. She could see at least on enchanted item in the collection of objects and coins. While she was looking, three more brimoraks appeared floating in the air beyond the gap in the outer wall. Asami failed to observe them because there was a section of broken interior wall between the spot where she stood and the gap. There was a five-foot-wide doorway through this broken interior wall, but Asami wasn't looking toward it and didn't see when Zosta and Runa both ran to defend the gap.

Zosta punched one of the demons. Runa then called on Iomedae to wound the evil creatures with her holy radiance, injuring all of them and leaving two of them blind. The third hovered there blinking its streaming eyes. Asami realized that there were enemies present and repositioned herself so she could hurl her spear through the opening in the interior wall to hit the demon who had been dazzled by Iomedae's light. The wound was minor, much of its force deflected by the brimorak's armored hide, but it began to bleed freely.

Jiro moved closer to Runa and Zosta and created a circle of protection to defend against the demons. At the same time he created a purifying effect that prevented them from causing harm with their sickening smoky breath. Two of the brimoraks spat burning blood toward the Knights, but their spit caused no harm. Asami cast a spell to create a narrow stream of strong wind blowing through the opening in the inner wall and out through the broken gap. The wind caused one of the blinded demons to be pushed away from the tower. Because the brimorak was floating on the air rather than standing on the ground, it was pushed even farther than would ordinarily have been possible. In its blinded state it was too confused to move out of the wind or return to the tower.

Jiro summoned a tetsubo of force to attack the demon nearest Zosta and drew his cold iron mace. From behind him a single bead of force shot over his shoulder to attack the same target as the tetsubo. Bohgong was part of the communication spell Asami had cast and she was amused to hear the monkey say, "Pull!" in the Tian tongue when he triggered the wand he'd pilfered from her, as if he was calling for a new target in an archery contest. He had forgotten anyone could hear him. Meanwhile, Shim realized that the stones blocking access to the stairs formed a barrier at least ten feet thick. He abandoned trying to smash through and joined the others by the gap in the outer wall.

One of the blind brimoraks created a ball of fire but centered the blast on itself. Asami was protected by the interior wall section and the rest of the Knights were relatively unscathed. Zosta grabbed the demon Asami had hit with her spear and began to struggle with it. Runa followed up with a thrust through its heart and it collapsed. Asami threw another spear at the other blind brimorak but missed her aim. Jiro transferred his tetsubo to the demon that had been blown away by the wind spell and Bohgong sent another unerring missile at it. It was still blind and unable to either escape the wind or find its way back to the tower. The wind continued to blow it further away. Its comrade who was also blind retreated, walking on air to escape.

A moment later both demons recovered their sight, and the one that had been caught in the wind was able to escape the wind and follow its fellow's example by retreating. Before it could get much farther from the tower, Jiro's floating tetsubo took it's life. Only the first brimorak that had begun to flee was actually able to escape.

Next: part 34, Demons on the Roof

Sunday, May 20, 2018

[Pathfinder] Mummy's Mask, part 32: The Sightless Sphinx part 5

The Sightless Sphinx

The Ruby Scarabs once again withdrew from the Sightless Sphinx to recover from their battles with the two guecubu and the zombie priestess. Once outside they examined the items they had taken from the zombie's burial chamber to determine which to keep and which to sell. Sula requested that she be allowed to take one of the fine scimitars that some of the cultists had borne, as she'd seen the need for a slashing blade against creatures like the guecubu. Most of the other items proved to be of no use to the Scarabs. Then they said a brief farewell to Tetisurah and Hutt transported them back to Sothis, where they planned both to gain magical recovery from the effect of the bodaks' gaze and to purchase some additional items that might be useful in Areshkagal's temple.

During their overnight stay in Sothis, Sula acquired several potions to allow her to see in the dark in the event they met any more babau demons, and had a spell cast on Nyema to cure her of the weakness the bodak had inflicted on her. Uto purchased a number of scrolls containing spells to combat the debilitating effects of things like the bodak's gaze. Once they had been healed and made all their purchases, Hutt took them back to the Sightless Sphinx. They found Tetisurah sitting in exactly the same position she had been in when they left.

As they returned to the structure, they discussed what direction they should go in next. They met no cultists and found none of the traps had been reset. The doors they chose to open next led into sleeping rooms that had clearly been used by the cultists. Kaa opened several simple chests and found that they contained clothes and personal items but nothing of worth. But in one room he noticed a loose brick in the floor. When he pried it up he found a bottle containing a milky white potion, which Hutt told him could make the person who drank it invisible. These rooms showed no sign of having been occupied over the past few days.

After departing the cultists' bedchambers, the Scarabs proceeded down a hallway, Kaa and Azzaria taking the lead. They came to a place where the hallway turned a corner and there were two doorways at this bend. Kaa peered around the corner and saw no one. The two doors were neither trapped nor locked. He noticed that humid air was seeping through the crevice under one of the doors. When he opened it he looked into a room that held a pool in one of the far corners, with a disturbing rock formation standing in the water. On the wall beyond the pool were carvings of clawed tentacles. There were also two male girtablilu in the chamber who had apparently been enjoying the pool.

Girtablilu warrior

Uto asked his companions to wait a moment until he could try to persuade the girtablilu not to attack. He steered the bronze sentinel through the doorway to converse with them. When they greeted him with hostility he cast a spell to calm one of them, which gave him a little time to talk to them without being attacked, but his effort to convince them that the Scarabs would leave and they should remain in the pool room and not attack was unsuccesful. One of the girtablilu charged him, while the other began to cast a summoning spell.

Two giant scorpions appeared in the pool room, summoned by the second girtablilu. The girtablilu ordered them to kill the intruders. One scorpion moved toward Kaa but missed its attack while the other attempted to attack the bronze sentinel without effect. Uto stretched his hair out through one of the sentinel's portholes, holding out the talisman that he'd taken from the dead girtablilu warrior the Scarabs had found in the desert many days earlier. When he showed it to the warrior who had charged toward him, the girtablilu sneered at it, indicating that it had belonged to someone from a different tribe and he had no regard for it.

Sula, who was still in the hallway, repositioned herself so she could see through the open door and hurled a handful of flames at one of the giant scorpions. The ball of fire overshot it and landed on the stone floor. Kaa sent a blast of lightning at one of the girtablilu. Hutt cast a spell to hasten everyone's movements. As he did this he noticed that the drops of blood that had fallen on the floor seemed to have been absorbed somehow. Then the stone in the center of the pool began to move, transforming itself into a tentacled creature that seemed to be made of water vapor. Hutt recognized it as a kind of elemental creature of air, but one that had been corrupted by evil. It would be invulnerable to lightning and resistant to the elements of fire and water. He shared this information with his allies.

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Uto slammed the sentinel's bronze fists down on the girtablilu in front of him. Azzaria's form began to flicker as she attacked the same foe. Sula threw another handful of flames, again unsuccessfully, then stepped inside the room to get better aim. Kaa pummeled the second girtablilu, which had moved up to join the fighting. Several missiles of force shot away from Hutt to strike the scorpion nearest the doorway; it collapsed and then vanished. Hutt's homonculus, Little Anubis, rushed into the room and attacked the second girtablilu with its tiny spear. The elemental moved toward one of the girtablilu who was more injured that his comrade.

Uto eliminated the second scorpion. Hutt moved toward the girtablilu to aide Little Anubis. Sula lobbed fire at the first girtablilu. The girtablilu went down, and its comrade withdrew from the fight, retreating back toward the pool. The elemental began to follow him. Uto suggested that everyone withdraw from the room and shut the door behind them in the hope that the elemental wouldn't pursue them. The rest of the Scarabs backed out. As Kaa began to lock the door, the elemental seeped out through the gap underneath it into the hallway. Sula drew her spear as Kaa's fists battered the creature. Then Uto reached out with his hair, and using the magic of an amulet he carried he sent the elemental back to the plane from which it had come. 

Kaa reopened the door to see that the girtablilu was still alive. The girtablilu mercenary responded by saying, "You said you would leave!" Uto tried to convince him that his people shouldn't be working for the cultists because they were evil and dishonorable, but the girtablilu wouldn't believe him. He did however tell Uto the name of the mercenaries' leader, and he also indicated in what part of the Sphinx the Scarabs would likely find the cultists. Uto also confirmed that the girtablilu had food and wasn't so badly wounded that he was at risk of death. After Uto left the room, Kaa locked the door again and jammed the lock. Uto sealed it with a spell that molded some of the surrounding stone over the edge of the door so the girtablilu would be imprisoned there.

Kaa then checked the next door, which like the other door was neither locked nor trapped. This door opened into a large room divided by curtains, its floor covered with green and white tiles of semiprecious stone. One wall was covered by a tile mosaic. Green flames burned atop two pillars. Beyond the curtains was a bed with a silken coverlet, and a pool of greenish water. By the pool stood a white stone statue of a faceless six-legged sphinx.

Azzaria also looked into the opulent chamber, and it was she who spotted a big creature near the pool that seemed to have the head of a crocodile on the body of a man, and fists of stone. This description confused the rest of the party. Then two cultists rushed toward Azzaria and Kaa and began to pummel them with their fists and feet. Sula and Nyema entered the room and took up position behind the cultist who was attacking Azzaria. Hutt again hastened everyone.

Rathos the broken soul
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A wail of agony issued from the crocodile-man, filling the Scarabs with dismay. When his gaze fell on them all of the Scarabs quailed from it and averted their eyes. Nyema was worst affected because she didn't know better than to look at the creature. The creature's cry left her weakened, but that didn't prevent her from attacking the cultist with her fangs and claws. Sula stabbed at him with her spear. Kaa's fists flew at the second cultist. The crocodile-man bit Azzaria and punched her with his stony hands. Tetisurah then moved into the room, asking a cryptic question that Uto realized was meant to determine who was injured.  Uto warned her to avoid looking at the crocodile-man. Then he directed the gaze of the Forgotten Pharaoh's funerary mask at the strange being. The mask seemed to have no effect on the crocodile-man.

Sula and Nyema jointly attacked the cultist again and again until at last he cried, "In the name of the Forgotten Pharaoh!" and exploded in a burst of fire. Tetisurah moved up behind Azzaria, carefully shielding her eyes from the crocodile-man, and cast a healing spell on the nagaji woman. Nyema had turned on the crocodile-man after the cultist died, and Azzaria moved into a flanking position opposite the lioness. After she struck him several times he too called out and then exploded, leaving behind only a pile of ash and his half-plate armor. Kaa disposed of the second cultist at the same time.

With the three cultists gone, Kaa searched the room, finding no traps but discovering a small opening on the far wall beyond the well. Hutt realized that the well was magical. Further examination revealed to him that it was a scrying pool which would only scry on other locations that had similar statues of the demon lord Areshkagal. The Scarabs realized that this mus have been how the cultists knew what they were doing as they first entered the Sphinx, as the entry room held the same kind of statue.

The Scarabs gathered up the crocodile-man's armor and the items left behind by the two cultists, then moved out into a long hallway that had no doorways along it. At the far end was a blank stone wall, but Kaa observed that it wasn't the same type of stone as the walls and floor around it. Hutt then exclaimed that it was actually a stone wall created by a spell. He licked it, and told his companions that it wasn't a newly-cast spell and had probably been there for several years.

Masked cultist of the Forgotten Pharaoh
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Sunday, May 6, 2018

[Pathfinder] Mummy's Mask, part 31: The Sightless Sphinx, part 4

When the Ruby Scarabs had defeated the bodaks and the two maftets, they put the unconscious maftet pair in an empty sarcophagus, with the intention of releasing them later after the rest of the Sightless Sphinx was explored. The group members briefly considered leaving the temple to rest again and recover their health and spells, but they decided that their progress through the huge structure would be too slow if they retreated after only exploring one or two rooms.

The entrance to the next room was open. While the rest of the party waited, Kaa cautiously peered inside. The tengu monk saw that the room held eight tables arranged in a figure X, with a red stone altar at the intersection point. The tables had chains attached to them and showed signs of having been used as roosts by the maftets. Some of the tables had bloodstains on them. The altar had more blood on it, which looked more recent than what was on the tables. Kaa sensed no traps, and his first examination of the chamber found no secret doorways or compartments. Four daggers lay on shelves, along with manacles and other blades that appeared to have been undisturbed for a long time.

Suddenly a wave of energy filled the room and the floor seemed to ripple and distort. Two skeletal creatures, their bodies partly covered with earth and sand, emerged from the floor beside the altar. Around them the floor surface behaved as if affected by an earthquake. Kaa recognized that the creatures were a type of undead called guecubu. Like all undead things they would be invulnerable to lightning damage and resistant to to other types of energy, as well as resistant to damage from piercing or bludgeoning weapons. They would also be able to inflict a dangerous curse on their victims. When Kaa had warned the others of this, Hutt flew into the altar room and carried Kaa out. Thinking that perhaps the guecubu were tied somehow to the altar room, Sula suggested that perhaps the part should go on to one of the other doors they had seen rather than try to fight their way past the undead creatures. But before anyone else could respond to that suggestion, the two guecubu moved toward the entrance of the room, bringing their earthquake effect with them. Both of them made spellcasting gestures, and Kaa saw an area of the floor inside the sarcohpagus room fill with stone spikes that would make it difficult for the Scarabs to move easily in that space.

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Azzaria surrounded herself with her images and grew blurry as she prepared to fight them. Uto suggested that the group move back, out of the spiked area. Then he brought down a column of fire on the guecubu. But because he'd been weakened by the gaze of the bodak, his magic didn't appear to have much effect on the guecubu.

Sula backed out of the spiked area and summoned fire to her hand, hurling it at one of the guecubu. Her aim went awry. The guecubu's attacks caused two of Azzaria's images to vanish, which led the two creatures to grumble to one another in the language of the Abyss, complaining that their foes had too much magic. One of them managed to touch Azzaria, but its curse was absorbed by the scarab necklace she wore and didn't affect her. Sula decided to get out of range by transforming into a falcon and flying up toward the ceiling. Hutt backed further away. Kaa darted acrobatically through the spikes and sent a line of fire at one of the guecubu, turning it into a pile of sand. The second guecubu turned on Azzaria, leaving her with only two images. She responded by destroying the creature.

The earthquake effect died along with the undead things, but the stone spikes remained and would linger for some time. Kaa marked them to help his comrades avoid them. He then entered the altar room again to examine it more thoroughly. The four daggers that had lain on the altar proved to be made of cold iron. There were also two cultist masks on one of the shelves. Then Kaa realized that there was a hidden door in the far corner of the room. When he listened at it, he thought he heard the sound of a voice casting a spell.

Once Kaa had shared this information with the rest of the party, the other Scarabs all joined him at the door. As Kaa opened it, he felt something pushing it from the other side. When it swung open he found himself facing three leathery, slimy horned creatures with bodies that appeared emaciated. Beyond them he saw what appeared to be a human woman, but it was apparent that she was no longer living. He realized she was a type of particularly powerful zombie, created from the corpse of a mage. He warned his companions of this as he sent a cone of fire at the horned creatures. His flames seemed to do them little harm. Azzaria stepped up and with heavy blows destroyed one of the creatures. It appeared to melt rather than collapse as a corpse, making everyone realize it must have been summoned. Uto called out that the creatures were demons called babau. He cast a spell on himself, Kaa, Hutt, and Hutt's homonculus to protect them from fire, but Sula didn't receive that protection because she was flying overhead.

Sula threw a talon-full of fire at the zombie woman beyond the doorway, but the awkward angle caused her to miss. One of the remaining two babau murmured something and the area was suddenly engulfed in complete darkness, which only Uto could see through. Unseen by anyone but the shaman inside the bronze sentinel, the second babau teleported to appear beside Kaa. The zombie woman also cast a spell at Kaa. Hutt backed out of the darkened area, as did Kaa. As he moved the babau he was unaware of beside him attacked him. Sula cast a spell to dispel the darkness, but the restoration of light was short-lived as the other babau immediately filled the area with darkness again. Then the zombie woman sent a wave of sound mingled with evil energies from the other chamber, and a dazed Sula plummeted to the ground at the feet of the bronze sentinel.

The same energy that had brought Sula down left Uto immobilized inside the metal guardian. Hutt blasted the babau with fire. Tetisurah charged at one of the babau and those who couldn't see through the darkness heard her cry out in pain as the demon's acid ichor splashed on the sphinx's hide. Azzaria targeted the second babau, and despite being unable to see it she was able to destroy it.

Babau demon
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A burst of lightning flew out of the doorway, leaving the still stunned Sula in pain. Tetisurah continued to attack the last babau. Kaa pummeled it with his fists, but its slimy hide resisted his efforts to harm it. Azzaria moved into the other room where the zombie waited. Though that room was not within the babau's area of unnatural darkness, it was still dark. Azzaria heard a throaty chuckle, followed by the sound of a heavy door closing. The sounds from the altar room were cut off, and she realized that the zombie had trapped her inside the smaller room.

Uto found he was able to move again. He slammed the sentinel's arms down on the remaining demon, then summoned a wave of positive energy to heal his companions. Hutt used a wand to provide more healing. Tetisurah jumped up on one of the tables and continued to attack the babau. Kaa and Uto moved out of the dark area so Uto could heal some of the numerous wounds the babau had inflicted on the tengu. Sula had also recovered and flew out of the darkness, retreating to alight on Nyema.

Inside the other room, Azzaria ignited a sunrod and examined her surroundings. The room held a sarcophagus and appeared to be a burial chamber. The inside of the door had no knob or mechanism to open it from the burial chamber. Azzaria drew her adamantine flail and began to pound it against the door.

Heqet the zombie lord
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The zombie woman was now in the altar room with the rest of the Scarabs. She moved out of he darkness to reach through one of the sentinel's portholes and touch Uto. Fortunately for him the magic of the Forgotten Pharaoh's funerary mask held off the full effect of her spell, but Uto was still wounded. He had been absorbing damage from some of his companions, but due to the effect of the bodak's gaze he wasn't able to withstand as much as he normally could and was now badly wounded. Hutt attacked the zombie with a lightning bolt, which had no effect, leading the rougarou mage to realize that she must have some type of magical defenses. Kaa also tried to harm her with lightning and Hutt determined that she had specifically protected herself against Kaa's ability. She must somehow have been observing what spells the Scarabs cast.

Sula cast a spell of her own, this time one to protect her comrades, granting them all greater vitality. The zombie woman channeled negative energy to harm her enemies and stepped back into the darkness. Uto cast a spell at the babau, and it vanished, though no one but he could see this. Sula flew through one of the sentinel's portholes to cast a spell on Uto and grant him healing and protection from fire. She had been left weak by the spell that stunned her earlier, but she felt her strength return now. Her elation was brief, as a moment later the zombie's magic left her wounded. The same magic left Uto unconscious inside the sentinel. Hutt again tried to affect the zombie with lightning. Sula began to summon a beast to join the fight.

Unseen, the zombie touched Tetisurah with dark energies and the sphinx wailed. Hutt had called a storm of ice and hail in the dark area, and he now moved into the icy space to try unsuccessfully to bite the zombie. Suddenly the door to the hidden burial chamber burst open in a spray of splinters as Azzaria smashed her way out. At the same time Uto revived and attempted to grab the zombie woman. Sula's summoned ankylosaurus appeared behind the zombie and swung its tail at her, but she avoided Uto's grab and ducked under the mace-like tail. Sula abandoned her falcon form and drew her spear.

Then Hutt stepped closer to the zombie and cast a spell. All magic close to him was suppressed. The zombie lost all of her magical defenses as well as her ability to cast spells. The bronze sentinel became a statue, trapping Uto inside. Sula's summoned beast vanished. Kaa moved to Hutt's side and hit the zombie with his fist, which affected her but only slightly. Sula stepped in with her spear but it failed to connect. The zombie attacked Kaa and then moved toward the immobilized sentinel, reaching for Uto. Azzaria followed her. Tetisurah flew behind the sentinel and pulled the unresisting Uto out. Kaa slashed the zombie with his sword, and Azzaria hit her with her flail. Sula joined them in attacking the zombie with her spear. The zombie focused on Kaa again, realizing that he already had numerous injuries. She kept moving, trying to continually attack Kaa while evading everyone else.

Uto was now outside the range of Hutt's spell, which brought him back to consciousness. He used this opportunity to heal himself. Kaa and Azzaria took up positions flanking the zombie and Sula stabbed her twice, both times fiercely. Hutt kept having to follow the zombie as she moved so she couldn't escape the area affected by his spell. Tetisurah moved in to block the zombie's escape. But her repeated attacks on Kaa left him endangered and he had to retreat outside the magical effect to seek healing from Uto. Before the zombie could take advantage of the opening to get away from Hutt, Azzaria rained a series of punishing blows on her and she collapsed.

The zombie's corpse proved to carry a spell scroll, a fine quality breastplate, a heavy steel shield, a magical rod in the form of a serpent, and a holy symbol of the demon lord Areshkagal made of very precious metals. In her burial chamber they found two chests containing 500 gold pieces, a necklace of gold and turquoise that was clearly very valuable, and a pair of slippers with gold chains that were also of considerable worth.

After they claimed these items, the Scarabs realized that they were too depleted to go on, though it wasn't yet midday. The harm the bodaks had done to Uto and Nyema had seriously weakened the party's strength and capability. Uto healed everyone as much as he could, with some assistance from Hutt. They discussed whether they could risk resting inside the zombie priestess's burial chamber. While Uto could close the doorway with stone to keep out intruders, the thought of spending a rest period inside the demon lord's temple was not appealing to most of the group and they decided to withdraw from the Sightless Sphinx again, returning once Uto had recovered.

Next: part 32. The Sightless Sphinx part 5