Tales of the Dragon Coast: A Forgotten Realms Adventure

Infiltrating the Fallen Temple
A search for answers

A few days following their successful taking of Nulb as a beach head for the Veritas Council, the Dragonbusters were gearing up to take on the first leg of their true mission: investigating the remnants of the old temple of Tharizdun to see what might have possibly been recovered from the ruins to aid the newest incarnation of the Cult of the Elder Eye. This short rest gave Gargantuon the Ever-So-Pissed a chance to recover from his earlier revelry during Zephus’ surprise party and with the aid of a few heroic bounds, as well as the indignation from being denied a chance to cleave an enemy in twain, the half-orc rejoined his comrades and was quickly brought up to speed on the situation.

The group soon departed their base, Elminster was only able to wish them well and bade that the adventurers stay on their guard. There was no way of knowing what foul things might lurk in the greater deeps under Tharizdun’s temple and even Elminster’s knowledge has its limits! The team prepared as best they could and were soon off again. Iseri had managed to successfully craft some fine clockwork constructs for additional support and a circlet to enhance her spell casting. Elsbeth’s clerical prowess was brought to greater potency through deep prayer and meditation, granting her access to far more powerful magic. Kiba and Gargantuon had also become exemplars of the warrior arts and were eager to showcase their newly honed prowess as well. A day’s journey brought the busters to the old temple site. Here, the once mighty structure still loomed, cloaked in a thick aura of malice and destruction. Its primary entry had been caved in from the battles fought at the time of the original great defeat and no amount of muscle would allow the team entry. Careful examination of the outer perimiter revealed little. Iseri made note that the roof of the temple had been crowned with a replica of the Orb of Golden Death. This was the Temple’s greatest treasure, fueled by the power of the four elements and the wrath of the demon lady Zuggtmoy, goddess of fungus and poisons who once was a servant to great Lolth. Below, the rest of the group made note of four towering support pillars, each colored in fashion to represent the elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. These pillars also contained motifs of the power of nature at its most destructive: violent storms, earthquakes, wildfires and tidal waves! All manner of terror as brought forth to destroy the realms of the free folk. Seeing no possible way to enter the area from above (thanks to Iseri’s Fly spell) or below, the team decided to investigate a path leading to an area behind the structure, where things would hopefully become more clear.

A short hike north revealed what appeared to be a small guardhouse, used in better days by the temple’s guards. The busters had renewed hope that maybe some information might be found within. Kiba strode along in front, chest out and fearless! Alas for him that his disregard for the perils in these lands allowed the guards now stationed in this place to alert their comrades to the approach of battle and foes! Soon the fearless four were surrounded by ogres and bugbears! Fortunately for the team, they were only surrounded by ogres and bugbears! Iseri’s scorching flames incinerated the guardsmen on the rooftops, while Gargantuon and Kiba put the ogres below to the blade! Elsbeth made some use of more paltry magic, but it wasn’t really necessary for this rabble! Venturing in further revealed further enforcers, including 2 ogre mages. They attempted to even the odds with the power of darkness, but Elsbeth’s sunny will drove it away! Had there been more than 2, perhaps the ogre mages might have made things difficult, as their magical prowess complemented their warrior’s strength. But they reckoned without the need of a Greypeak Barbarian for bloodsport and were soon shuffled loose the mortal coil! Careful examination revealed little in the way of treasures such as the team had become accustomed to. This house was built on practicality, which included well crafted, but standard arms and armor and a well stocked pantry. Kiba set about cooking a hunter’s stew while Elsbeth examined a small office for any clues on the old temple. Iseri checked the roof and found not but half eaten rations from the watch and some dead leaves. Elsbeth was lucky to have recovered an old map that detailed the outer area of the temple and found someone had circled the back pillar that corresponded with the element of Earth. Over a fine supper and a mug of draft, Elbeth shared her new information with her comrades. An earth colored key on one of the ogre mages seemed to only further prove that the Earth pillar was the group’s way in to the fallen fortress.

Heading back to the temple, Kiba was able to use his keen Ranger’s sight to make out a slight indentation on the carving of a landslide which was revealed as a keyhole! Using their ogre mage’s key proved just the thing and the rocks on the pillar rolled away, magically revealing a hidden entrance/exit to the temple. Stepping inside, the group found the place to be black as pitch and long unused. Elsbeth called on Lathander to bring his light into the hall and reveal any nasty surprises hoping to use the dark to their advantage. The group then spread out to investigate. Kiba tried his hand at lock picking, having developed a fascination with it after observing Iseri at work. Sadly his hand was less than deft and it took the power of Gargantuon’s foot to boot open many a door! Elsbeth was able to locate the chief quarters of the former high priest. Herein were many documents from the elder days of the temple, detailing their activities both small and great. Of most interest was a small leather bound tome, which seemed to contain steps for some form of sacred rite. Iseri meanwhile, had come to 2 different rooms constructed of perfectly clean, smooth sandstone and barren of anything else. The busters pondered mightily at this and tried many tricks to reveal any form of hidden mechanism or door, but nothing seemed to stir in spite of their efforts. Making a mental note, the busters approached a single pillar in the northernmost part of the hall, surrounded again by the colors of the four elements. Using the high priest’s ritual book, the group was able to determine that the pillars had to be activated in order of Wind, Fire, Water and Earth. What was more, each pillar required a magically based form of the element to be provided in order to be activated. Gargantuon was able to use a Roc’s feather to power the Wind pillar, though he nearly blew Kiba clean into the high priest’s quarters by way of a small hurricane. Elsbeth was able to heat the Fire pillar and Iseri used a pillar of stone to waken the pillar of Earth. Elsbeth finished the ritual with the activation of the water pillar, using a nearby turning device set some hidden mechanism into motion and soon the team was rewarded with the appearance of a set of well hidden steps, the led further down inside the temple.

Below, the team came to a wide stone cross way, which passed over a chasm of indeterminate depth. More elemental colored pillars were contained here as well standing apart from the main bridge way. Sensing some new devilry, Iseri wisely sent one of her new constructs ahead to see what should happen and sure enough, trouble followed! A sinister, hissing voice entered the heads of the explorers. It stated that since they bore no sign of loyalty or favor from the Elder Elemental Eye, that they must be tested before accessing the lower deeps! Shortly after, Iseri’s poor construct was surrounded by four hulking masses that towered menacingly even in this chamber. They were Greater Elementals, of a kind not seen since the elder days of Faerun, though these were possessed of some bitter malice or evil and a terrible strength that absorbed most forms of magical damage, likely a product of the nature of Tharizdun. The team was hard put to the test against such foes, even though they had wisely avoided the snare of the central pass. The avatar of wind created great gales which obscured vision and the fury of the water elemental left its mark on even Gargantuon’s battle toughened hide! The Dragonbusters were not without their own might however! A powerful prayer from Elsbeth granted Gargantuon temporary status as a Paladin of Lathander, which served him well as he hewed down the aquatic obstruction of the watery guardian! Elsbeth used this opportunity to move alone to the eastern arm of the pass, where she drew away the wind guardian. A powerful spell of repulsion managed to bar off this area and prevented the Cleric from further harm whilst her allies hammered away and she delivered the final blow with a Flame Strike spell! Fire came next and it was thanks to Gargantuon’s new abilities that he was able to damage the beast and repair dome of his hurts, long enough for Kiba’s magical arrows to find their mark and snuff out the beast’s life force! Iseri played the most dangerous game here, for she alone teleported out to lure away the attention of the earth guardian, ever baiting and taunting him. Distracting his attention and allowing her comrades time to dispatch his allies. The elf achieved her final satisfaction when she used her ray spells to break the power of the earth guardian and allowed the group to complete their trial! The group reconvened and Iseri was able to gather the remnants of her poor construct. Deciding a rest was in order before moving forward, the Dragonbusters retired to the guardhouse to plan their next move.

There, Elminster and some knights of the Veritas Council greeted them. Elminster was able to determine that the empty rooms were actually magically concealed depositories that required a Knock spell to access. The Elementals were indeed unusual, being bound with the chaotic evil essence of demons to grant them greater power than similar beings of their kind. The busters were now truly beginning to see the magnitude of evil they were contesting with, all they could do now was hope that their own prowess and fortunes would hold them against it!

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Pale City of Night
Zephus journeys through dreamland!

Zephus awoke to find himself unceremoniously dumped by the banks of a river. A river of solid black, flowing through a forest of glowing white trees! A dog barked nearby; it also glowed white. The sky itself was as black as the river. Looking at the dog, Zephus noticed it was barking at something behind him. The paladin turned to see a shadowy figure advancing on him. The dog barked again, and made to leap at Zephus! But the dog wasn’t attacking. Instead he had become a sword that Zephus hurriedly grasped at swung at this dark opponent. The sword of light sheared through the shadow and the evil thing dissipated.

With the foe vanquished, the sword became a dog again. Zephus wondered about the strange place he had found himself in as he climbed up the bank of the river. The dog followed, and at the top began barking once more. Another figure approached, but this one glowed white. Stopping about 30 feet from Zephus, he could see the figure was that of an ethereally beautiful woman holding a lantern. She beckoned him to follow and glided off.
The paladin ran forward, but the woman always seemed to stay the same 30 feet away. He slowed to follow her at a normal pace, and she led him to a strange city. The buildings were ordinary buildings, but instead of wood and stone they too glowed white. In the back of his mind, Zephus knew there was something familiar about this city, but he could not place it. The woman stopped at the first alley she came to and glanced down it, raising her lantern. Zephus could only sense a dark evil in that direction, and didn’t stop to confront it. He continued to follow the woman through the town as she stopped occasionally to glance at a house or down an alley. At the far edge of town, as Zephus continued to advance, the lady vanished!

The dog once again barked, and Zephus turned around to see the lady once more, standing in front of a house and holding up her lantern in front of it. Curious, the paladin entered the house. Inside, he saw a similar ghostly woman. She reached out her hands in pleading towards Zephus, but as he approached a dark shadow appeared between them. Zephus watched as the shadow reached into the woman’s chest and drew out a glowing orb, leaving a red star-shaped hole in the ghostly figure. The shadow then attacked Zephus!
The paladin easily vanquished the shadow with his dog-sword, leaving only the glowing orb it had stolen from the ghostly woman. Zephus returned this to the grateful ghost and she dematerialized, merging her energy form to become a glowing white breastplate to protect Zephus.

Zephus now understood a bit better what the ghostly lantern bearer wished of him, and he visited all of the places where she had shone her light. In each such location he met another ghost and defeated another shadow, earning a piece of armor in return.
When he had a full set of armor, the lantern bearer led him out of the city. She walked long, nameless paths through scenery that bewildered Zephus. Eventually he found himself at a rocky clearing, a well made of glowing white bricks standing in the center. The lantern bearer eerily descended into the well, but as Zephus made to follow, another dark figure emerged to intercept him. This figure resembled a large, burly orc. He growled something offensive and attacked with his giant axe!

As Zephus closed to meet the orc, he noticed out of the corner of his that solid black vines with 6-inch long thorns magically sprouted out of the rocky ground. The orc also noticed, and used his massive strength to shove the poor paladin into the deadly plants. His armor was little protection against the magic spines, but they proved only a minor nuisance. More dangerous were the vines themselves, which made to grasp him. Zephus nimbly avoided the grasping plant, taking the fight back to the orc. Despite repeatedly trying to push the paladin back into the plant, Zephus now knew his plan and was able to brace himself against the tactic.

After withstanding several vicious rends each, the two combatants realized they were quite evenly matched. Both were breathing heavily with exertion, but while Zephus was starting to become worried as his store of divine healing ran low, the orc seemed to grow more eager by the second. Just as Zephus landed what he thought was the decisive blow, the orc-shadow roared in defiance and charged straight at Zephus! Fortunately for the paladin, the orc was so blinded by his rage that Zephus easily sidestepped his clumsy charge. Thinking quickly, he pivoted and used his divine strength to direct the orc’s momentum into the evil thorns! The vines reached out and entangled the doomed orc, and Zephus mercifully finished him off.

After his orc-shadow foe fell, Zephus noticed the scenery beginning to change around him. The sky once again was blue, and the ground also became a recognizable color. He found he knew the place at which he stood: the entrance to the underground ruins of The Raven’s Watch! The dog who had become his sword was none other than Shaggy, Nellie Keane’s faithful hound! As he gazed kindly upon the canine, the dog’s shape changed as well! He grew into the shape of a man with the muzzle of a dog, which Zephus instantly recognized as being a Hound Archon. The Archon explained he had been sent to watch over Nellie Keane, and then avenge her following her murder. He had been content to assist Zephus in the venture, but grew concerned when he found the paladin wandering the wilderness aimlessly. The Archon had no idea what Zephus was talking about when he explained the dream-like world to him.

The Archon trusted Zephus’ experiences, though, and suggested the answers they both sought might be found in the ruins to which Zephus had been led. But that is another story…

To Be Continued.

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Dark Road Through Nulb
In which the Dragonbusters assist a band of meddling Harpers and their dog.

Returning to Sandpoint following the trial of their good friend Zephus, the remaining Dragonbusters were in understandably low spirits. Elsbeth had resolved in her own boisterous fashion that no prison would be enough to hold her friend and resolved to break the disgraced Paladin out of Westgate penitentiary, but the prison break would have to wait! Because when your uncle is Elminster of Shadowdale, there’s only one thing that matters! And that’s….. Whatever Elminster asks you to do I suppose… Hm.

News had arrived from Elminster regarding the next necessary steps to be taken in the investigation of the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye. The Archmage’s research had led to the discovery of the original base of the Temple of Elemental Evil during the height of it’s strength and he believed that perhaps there may have been an artifact recovered from that area that brought about a renewal in the faith of Tharizdun. The great sage had called for a special assembly and asked that Elsbeth assemble her crew and prepare for a meeting in the main hall of stately Aylefyume Manor!

Once the team was assembled (save for Gargantuon the very Hungover), the good butler Danforth saw them directed to the great table of the main hall. Elminster stood at the end of the table with three other persons and three banners now were positioned here as well. The banners were of the Churches of Lathander, Helm and the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart. The guests themselves were Father Zantus for the Knights Hospitaler, Prelate Devan Stoutheart for the Radiant Heart and Arch Warden Y’dey Illvastarr of the Watchers of Helm. These three leaders had been convinced by Elminster to set aside the petty squabbling caused by the political differences in their churches to come together in defense of Faerun against the common enemy of Tharizdun. The Veritas Council, as this body is now called, acts in as close of a capacity to a black ops unit as such faiths can. They will provide support and information to the Dragonbusters off of the official record of their churches so that any backwash may be avoided from outside interference. The first order of business was to investigate the fallen temple, but a beachhead would need to be established first and the Necropolis near the old ruins seems to be the only place to grab a solid foothold. The old trade city of Nulb was a site of great wealth and prosperity during the time of the Temple’s reign, due mostly to the efforts of Tharizdun’s vile followers. When the Temple was originally attacked and destroyed, a powerful curse fell over the area and now Nulb is known as a terrible Necropolis swarming with undead whose boundaries are regularly patrolled by Were-beasts in search of prey!

Elminster has named the Dragonbusters as the vanguard force in this war against evil and they have been asked to clear the path for future operations. However, the team was somewhat reluctant to proceed as they were now without any source of muscle to round out their team. Elsbeth came up with the solution and decided to evoke a powerful magic to acquire the necessary assistance! The Veritas Council was able to donate the necessary 6,000 gold to create a planar gate and by her powerful connection to the Morninglord, Elsbeth summoned one of his most formidable servitors: a towering guardian angel known as a Monadic Deva! It’s golden aura bathed the manor in light and its massive wings held it aloft as the angel asked what had called it from its master’s house. The busters made a stirring plea to the Deva help them cleanse a fallen city of necromantic evil, a noble quest for which the Deva allotted 3 days of its time at no extra cost! The angel agreed to meet the team at the outskirts of Sandpoint when time came to travel and the busters set about to make sure everything else was in order for their journey. At this time, Prelate Stoutheart was also called back to Westgate on urgent news, as the prisoner Zephus had somehow escaped from his cell! Sir Devan rode hard for Westgate, certain that the treachery of Dovran Certoz was behind these developments!

The remaining busters made their way to Nulb and the journey proved to be as treacherous as Elminster had stated! Werewolves and Wererats beset them on the road, but the power of their angel companion as well as their own strength saw the monsters laid low (good thing that Iseri made doubly sure the group had invested in silver weapons just in case!) Coming to a fork in the road, the Dragonbusters were then approached by something completely unexpected: a group of Jr Harpers and their faithful canine companion! They had been sent by their Harpermaster to investigate a supposedly haunted cave, but the young ones had no idea how to bring anything of value back for verification! To make matters worse, they were now in a very dangerous area with no weapons and seemingly no chance of ever getting home! They implored the busters for aid and moved by these pitiful little moffets and their dog, the group decided a quick sidetrack couldn’t hurt.

The cave itself was largely of no consequence. The bandits operating out of it were another matter! Their leader was a burly rogue bearing the Harper crest and from the looks of things, they had been utilizing a noisemaking apparatus and the infamy of nearby Nulb to pass the region off as haunted to rob those that came through and keep local law enforcement away! Elsbeth and Kiba put a plan into motion and appeared to stumble in blindly, allowing the Deva and Iseri to sneak by while the bandits were distracted. As Elsbeth proceeded to get the bandits schnookered to allay suspicion, Iseri used her invisibility wand to utilize the bandits noise machine and the dancing lights spell to convince the robbers that they had truly angered powers beyond their comprehension! A surprise appearance by the Deva was able to seal the deal and soon the penitent bandits and their leader Jenkins a fallen harper had thrown down their armaments and renounced their evil ways. As a first step on the road to recovery, the busters had the reformed crooks escort the Jr Harpers back to Sandpoint. The Deva ensured the deed was done and the thankful youths repaid the kindness of the busters with a bag of unsightly, but highly tasty nuggets known as ‘Scrooby Snacks’. These treats were actually quite potent and would guard those who consumed them against fear! The bandits had also socked away some fabulous treasure, including 4,000 gp worth of coin and gems, a stronger version of Iseri’s Bracers of Armor and an improved cloak of resistance. The finest treasure lay at the bottom of the chest: a gilded rapier etched in shamrocks (recognized by Iseri as the symbol of Lady Luck herself). This was none other than one of the fabled Luck Blades. Brands created by the Church of Tymora than magically increase the luck of their followers as well as being wonderful blades in their own right. The more powerful versions were known to carry charges of the Wish spell, but this model had been unfinished. Perhaps Iseri would be able to have it enchanted further at a later time!

Using some of their gold to procure an extra day of service from their Deva companion, the busters finally entered Nulb. The city was soaked in an aura of evil and despair and thick fog obscured the roadways. The area was mostly deserted, an abandoned herbal supply yielded some finer potions and antitoxins as well as a scroll of lesser restoration. An abandoned hostel served as a den for Kyton and her undead minions, though Elsbeth’s prayers and Iseri’s cunning use of a Shocking Ray spell soon laid the Kyton and her cronies back in the earth! Elsbeth also recovered a fine treasure from the rubble: a Staff of Resurrection! Such an item would likely prove invaluable in the coming days. The rest of the town proved uneventful, mostly abandoned homes, though Kiba’s reflexes saved him from ending up in a sinkhole when the floor of one tenement caved in. A conversation with the fallen captain of the town guard revealed that a great power was keeping him bound here: That of Lareth the Beautiful, the former high priest of the Temple of Tharizdun, who now ruled here by dark magic alongside his vampire concubine! The spirit offered a key to the side entrance of the desecrated temple of Tyr with the busters promise that they would banish Lareth and his evil from Nulb allowing the captain to finally rest. The busters agreed and were forewarned that a powerful Desecration spell on the grounds would grant Lareth an advantage in combat unless removed! The team utilized this and had the Deva nullify the spell before entering the church, prepared for an epic battle!

Lareth and his mistress seemed rather nonchalant at the adventurers’ arrival, thinking them easy prey. Kiba proved them quite wrong by almost laying Lareth to rest before the Cleric could act! Retribution was swift and Lareth bathed the halls in fire to roast his adversaries, but perhaps the damage he received was too much for him to fully channel his power. His spell left some of the busters battered, but undaunted! Iseri finished the villain off by using telekinesis to smash him into the wall with the temple’s hefty wooden pews and her fire magic soon caused the vampire to flee as well! The area secure, the busters used a special token to summon Elminster and the forces of the Veritas Council. The Deva made a final service of consecrating the grounds and the captain of the guard could be heard giving a hearty laugh as his ghostly steed thundered one last time through the streets of Nulb and into the afterlife! A quick trip to a forge established by the Helmites worked wonders for Iseri, as the smiths were able to set the pommel of her newly acquired Luck Blade with her lucky coin medallion. The potent combination of two such items now completely overrode the bad luck imparted by Beshaba’s half of the coin. A handy thing indeed for a Rogue in need! The busters took this time to rest and plan their next move. The dark temple still lay ahead and who knows what dangers might lie in wait for them?

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The Trial and Execution of Zephus Evensun

Elsbeth loved to get wasted. So when Sir Devan Stoutheart requested she throw a party of special magnificence for her friend Zephus, she did not hesitate. After all, the only things she needed to host a party were booze and guests, and she already had the booze! All that remained was to get Zephus out of the house for a few hours so the guests could arrive in secret, so she sent the paladin on a quest to purchase various supplies from around the town of Sandpoint.

When he returned that evening, back aching from the sizable load he carried but uncomplaining, Zephus was informed by the kobold butler, Danforth, that his guests had arrived. Handing the groceries to the kobold, Zephus had no time to wonder about the guests as he was quickly engaged in conversation by his mentor, Sir Devan. Apparently the party was to celebrate the establishment of the first court of law in largely lawless Westgate, an event that Zephus himself had no small part in bringing about. All of his friends from Westgate were in attendance, including Councilwoman Lady Alinna Silverblood, fellow paladin Lady Myrna Felsof, and even Shaggy, his late protegee’s faithful hound. Several notables from Sandpoint made appearances as well, and it was in front of such an august gathering that Zephus made a short, humble toast (beverage kindly supplied by Elsbeth) in which he acknowledged the efforts of all involved.

After the toast came a knock on the door. Danforth opened it to reveal Sandpoint Sheriff Belor Hemlock, leading a troop of perhaps half a dozen. He asked to speak to Zephus on a matter concerning his local chapter of the Radiant Heart, and was lead into Zephus’ office to discuss it. Inside one of the Sheriff’s retinue identified himself as Magistrate Saxtus, and placed Zephus under arrest for the murder of his protegee, Nellie Keane! Zephus was understandably perturbed at the turn of events, but something disliked it even more: his sword! Furious at being betrayed, the Traitorbane forced Zephus to draw it and attack the Magistrate. Luckily, the sword caused Zephus to act with such careless zeal that he tripped on the edge of the desk, fell on his face on the hard stone floor and knocked himself unconscious.

Zephus awakened in a cell in Westgate, informed by a guard that he was to stand trial. Before long the bailiff, a half-brained half-orc, came to collect him. In the courtroom he saw his nemesis, Dovran Certoz, himself lately cleared of the crime of Nellie Keane’s murder through suspicious means. Zephus had other things on his mind than revenge, however, such as how to save his hide. Given the choice of defense between the succubus-lawyer Josie Ramona and his superior officer Sir Devan, Zephus chose the latter and had scant minutes to prepare his defense before the Honorable judge appeared.

The prosecutor, one J. R. Remington III of Waterdeep, was conversely well-prepared. The gentleman lawyer dredged up embarrassing episodes from Zephus’ past such as his participation in a drinking contest, and established his controversial relationship with the aforementioned succubus. For Zephus’ part, he managed to mitigate most of the character defamation and seemed to be holding his own on defense despite most of the evidence he wished to present either missing or tampered with. All that came crashing down, however, when Remington played his final card.

The prosecution’s last witness was none other than the victim, Ms. Nellie Keane herself! Inexplicably, she personally identified Zephus as being her killer, a shocking twist to which Zephus and his team had no defense. His fate was decided on the next bang of the gavel, and he once again found himself locked in a cell. Zephus didn’t have much time to wallow as Dovran himself showed up with a full blooded orc crony. As he had already been tried, convicted, and sentenced to life, Dovran could now make his move to be rid of the interfering paladin once and for all. He opened the cell door and commanded the orc to attack. Zephus put up a good fight, but with no equipment and hope ever dwindling, the outcome was preordained. Zephus Evensun fell to the flat of the orc’s blade, sweet darkness enveloping him.

To Be Continued…

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(Stolen) Antiques Roadshow
How a Girl got her Golem Manual

We rejoin Iseri and her motley crew in Calimport. A few days pass quietly as Ydranos Arshan explains his plan to have Iseri infiltrate the warship turned casino known as Sweet Lady Freedom. A massive convention tailored to merchants and the wealthy elite of Calimshan, Arshan plans to have the elven rogue inserted into the event as a vendor for Scholomance Sundry which will provide her an in point and a way to observe the Scorpion’s operations otherwise unnoticed. After reaching deep into her bag of tricks to cobble together a passable disguise, the lass was soon able to put together a gaudy getup sure to both grab attention and yet properly conceal her true identity. Ydranos meanwhile used up and great many personal favors and pulled all the strings he knew to ensure his charge held a place on Sweet Lady Freedom come party night!

The day of the event passed swiftly and Iseri was able to hang back and observe as labor forces moved Scholomance’s belongings onto the ship. While she also went almost completely unnoticed, Iseri could not seem to detect any of the Scorpion’s usual mercenaries or guardsmen. Evening fell swiftly, and soon the ship was alight with activity, fine food, rich wine and liquor as well as the heady stench of the pretentious wealthy soon filled the night air. Iseri remained keen on her mission and her eagle’s eye darted hither and thither attempting to locate any possible sign of the Scorpion’s band or possibly the fiend himself. Of course all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, so the nimble elf managed to pass the time with a bit of purse snatching and visitation to her fellow vendors booths. She procured Some Dust of Holding from a lizardfolk salesman and took some time to peruse a den managed by the Calimport Thieves guild which held nothing to her particular liking. As for Scholomance’s booth, The rogue again displayed her love of showmanship and theatre, wowing the crowd with a dazzling light display and feats of legerdemain, casually tossing potions, scrolls and trinkets as mere eggs and deftly collecting payment to the wonder and delight of onlookers. All total, the good mage made a haul of 24k in gold, more than enough to keep Ydranos in her debt for the future!

A magical announcement soon indicated the time for the auction was upon the guests and so they herded into the main presentation area. Iseri however, was detained by a purple haired elven secretary and her 2 brutish guards! The secretary introduced herself as Eninaj Zantlem, personal secretary to the Scorpion and had come forth at his request with a business proposition! The Scorpion had recently come into possession of three items of supposedly high value and magical potency. Hoping that as an employee of a shop that dealt regularly in rare magical items, Iseri’s talent could determine their legitimacy the Scorpion was willing to offer an exclusive partnership with Scholomance at an incredibly generous premium should Iseri be of good service! Never one to waste and opportunity, the elf was shown into a private room and put on the clock!

The three items were laid before the elf on a large table and an hourglass was placed upon it as a timer. If the elf could successfully determine whether these objects were of sizable worth in good time, she would be treated to a private meeting to discuss future business operations with her former master! The objects presented were a greatsword, a brass medallion and an ancient looking tome. The sword was supposedly the Hallowed Redeemer sword of Sir Keldorn Firecam of Eshpurta, but Iseri was able to determine it as false due to its incredibly shoddy condition, lack of the proper holy aura and the rather hastily converted symbol of Helm upon the blade’s hilt! The medallion was supposedly the ceremonial badge of the head of the Magic School of Brynnlaw. This too proved false, as a careful appraisal revealed the metal used in crafting the piece to be tin in place of brass and that the Magic School’s hallowed motto inscribed on the leather neckpiece was utter boococky!! The old tome alone proved to be the sole treasure of the night. This was an ancient grimoire once spoken of by Sonar the gnome. Called the Silent Servant’s Bible, this was the apotheosis from which all other golem manuals were gleaned. It contained thousands of years of priceless knowledge and the dialects in which it was written, even common, seemed alien and unreadable.

Realizing that this could come in handy and should never fall into the hands of a maniac like the Scorpion, Iseri was able to pass off the false sword as a true treasure and carefully pocket the golem manual for herself! She was led topside by the guards as Eninaj went to fetch her master. Iseri did not have long to wait until the man himself stood before her! He chortled softly and following some idle small talk, produced a gemstone that stripped Iseri of her guise! The fiend proceeded to monologue (as all villains are wont) about how child slaves had never been of any true interest to him and that he had merely set things into motion as a means of drawing out one of the few to ever escape his grasp! Iseri attempted to turn the tables with the Black Tentacles spell, but the Scorpion was never one to be caught unprepared! Producing another gem which he used to free himself, the crime lord promised Iseri that the time of their true reckoning was not yet nigh and flew off into the night in the form of some monstrous black shape. The guards proved no small matter themselves, being far tougher than the average grunt! Their throwing axes proved painfully accurate, but a dimension door spell soon had them at Iseri’s heels as she fled to the streets of Calimport! A timely raid by the city guards provided extra chaos and soon Iseri was well away from danger.

The following morning, the elf was able to report what she had learned to Ydranos and was rewarded with the exotic Monkey Belt as well as a fine sum from the sales at the booth. Sonar was able to glean some information from the tome Iseri recovered, but deduced that some kind of translation guide would be necessary to fully comprehend its contents. The gnome promised to do all in his power to help his student unlock the potential of the this wondrous grimoire! A few days rest saw Iseri with her back to Calimport, bidding a fond farewell to the city and its people who would now be free from the Scorpion’s tyranny! The mage would have to wonder what her companions might make of these events and looked forward to reuniting with them once again!

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The Revenge of Black Fang

Having recovered from their hurried flight out of the Gold Dragon’s Lair, the heroes of Sandpoint gave thought to leaving that seaside city. Now armed with the knowledge of how to defeat the magical ward protecting his lair, the Dragonbusters knew they must soon give a thought to ending the threat of Black Fang once and for all. In preparation for this, Zephus sought a place to stow the group’s new charge: Ansafarilonyxia’s egg. He sought the advice of Father Zantus, Cleric of Tymora. He examined the egg and informed Zephus that the wyrmling inside had already imprinted on his aura of law and goodness, and would not be able to grow if not in close proximity to the paladin. The Father generously provided Zephus with a custom made dragon egg baby holder and wished him well on his journey.

Awaiting the rest of the group in the Rusty Dragon, Elsbeth and Gargantuon were fast becoming drinking buddies. Luckily, Kiba returned from hunting nuts and berries in time to interrupt their binge before they became unconscious. Zephus entered the tavern not long after, and the group quickly discussed what to do. All of them were eager to see the vile dragon slain, and they left without delay (and without Iseri, who was still mucking about in Calimport).

Reaching the swamp within which lay the dragon’s lair, the Dragonbusters cautiously approached a clearing. Not cautiously enough, however, as most of them were surprised by a group of Marsh Giants who were hanging about! The combined show of might from Gargantuon and Zephus soon had two of the enemy fleeing for their lives, while the third and last fell to their deadly weapons. With his masters slain or fled, the Giants’ pet Hodag scuttled off into the marsh. The group continued on.

Next they reached an overgrown hut, nestled into the vines and weeds of the swamp. Inside they met a cowardly Hag, who seemed nervous at the sight of the adventurers. She told them that a certain drow had enlisted the hag and her coven to waylay the adventurers, but that the hag in her divinings had discovered the dark elf was not even close to trustworthy. She advised them to leave before the coven arrived, and certainly not to brave the fearsome Acid Swamp!

The Dragonbusters of course made straight for the Acid Swamp, where they were met by two eerily glowing female apparitions. These turned out to be Witchfires, the rest of the hag’s coven! They attempted to slay the party with their evil fire, but all they succeeded in doing was to singe poor Gargantuon’s tunic and give him some slight indigestion. He responded by discorporating the evil …witches with his axe! The hag appeared after the ghost girls had fallen, informing them that the Witchfires had usurped her coven.

Impressed by the group’s prowess, the hag offered some information on their foe. She told them that the drow dwelt in a tower that overshadowed a land of peace and plenty. Furthermore, this particular drow had both betrayed and been betrayed, greatly influencing her current behavior and untrustworthiness. Finally, the drow had apparently come to some sort of philosophical crossroads, at which she had taken a dreadful path but not without some regret at those she had not.

Turning these new pieces of information around in their minds, the party entered the Acid Swamp. Kiba and Gargantuon’s natural survival instincts led them fairly well through the dangerous swamp, with help from Zephus’ keen eye and Elsbeth’s endless light. Despite Gargantuon taking a facefull of Acid Spout, Kiba narrowly avoiding the Lightning Water, and following a swamp rabbit’s trail into a dead end, the Dragonbusters emerged from the Acid Swamp having only encountered 2 of the fabled 3 Dangers. Now they had come to the object of their pursuit…

The Lair of Black Fang! A purplish energy barrier blocked their way, and after some debate Elsbeth used one of the two Dragon’s Tears to dissolve it. A foreboding mountain rose out of the swampwater here, daring the adventurers to delve its secrets. Elsbeth whipped out her scroll of Water Breathing, and a well lit Dave led the party under the water and into the mountain’s caverns.

Inside, they were briefly sidetracked by some ho-hum skeletons, evidently past victims of the dragon. Other, more recent bodies lay soaking in stagnant pools. The Busters continued through the caves until they found a large room gleaming with treasure. The hoard of Black Fang! Helping themselves to the loot, they found several belts which enhanced their physical abilities. Elsbeth found a headband that made her wiser and feel more attractive, in addition to a rod that would improve her spellcasting. Kiba found a hood that would allow him to strike from stealth, while Gargantuon found two ancient orcish runes that strengthened his already formidable axe. They also shoved a large amount of gold into their bag of holding.

Now to deal with the dragon! They decided to lure the dragon farther into the cave by leaving a trail of coins. Dave would stay by the treasure to watch for the dragon. He soon returned, carrying a limp figure in one massive claw. He immediately noticed that his treasure had been handled, and also that the heroes had neglected to put out the braziers they had lit earlier! Dave did not escape his notice either, and after failing to turn the loyal reptile from his cause, nearly melted the poor snake with his acid breath. After this he laughed, mocked the Dragonbusters’ attempt to lure the huge dragon through a passage obviously too large for his bulk, and dared them to follow him outside if they wished the return of his captive, whom Dave had recognized as Shalelu, ranger of Sandpoint.

Growling with rage, the heroes were determined to meet the dragon’s challenge. Elsbeth used her final scroll of New Life to get Dave back on his … scales, and the party then swam back up out of the cavern. Outside, they finally came face to face with Black Fang! He seemed to have gotten bigger since last they met, odd considering the lifespan of a dragon. The Dragonbusters attempted to earn their name by rushing at the dragon, however the brackish water made that difficult. Black Fang started out strong by breathing another acid gout at the party, nearly felling the cleric Elsbeth.

Gargantuon roared with anger and scored a few nasty hits on the dragon’s scaly hide while Zephus struggled to get within reach. Kiba stayed out of sight, waiting for a better opportunity to strike, and Elsbeth diligently called upon the light of Lathander to keep herself and her comrades in the fight.

Zephus and Gargantuon succeeded in capturing the dragon’s attention, taking some hideous wounds from his teeth and claws in the process. Kiba found a soft spot with an arrow before succumbing to Black Fang’s fearsome presence, fleeing despite his hatred for the beast that had nearly killed his closest friend. Elsbeth came to her friends’ rescue, magically Commanding the dragon to kneel before her! Cursing the half-elf who had twice before used this same tactic, Black Fang could not resist her divine power and complied. Seizing their chance, the group hacked away at the monster. Elsbeth herself finished the vile creature off with a powerful Flame Strike, but not before eating another acid breath that nearly killed her and Zephus both.

Harvesting some teeth and scales from their defeated foe, the triumphant and now properly named Dragonbusters returned to Sandpoint. They mayor, Kendra Deverin, quickly organized a parade through the town for the heroes, but their true calling soon found the group once again inside the Rusty Dragon, this time with enough scratch to buy the entire town a round! It was after the third such round that Iseri returned from her adventures in the south, and everyone was still sober enough to tell her the tale of their exploits. She listened intently to their trials with the Acid Swamp and the Black Dragon, and when it was through she had just one comment…

“How come you didn’t prepare Resist Energy before you left?”

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Under the Sands and Over the Seas
Iseri the Raven and the Outpost of Doom!

We continue with the adventures of Iseri the Raven as she attempts the next leg of her mission to rescue the lost children of Calimport from the clutches of her old nemesis, the Scorpion! Clad in leathers befitting a mercenary and still having her disguise in place, the adventuress found it easy to move about the outpost, which seemed to be a shipping facility, without much disturbance from its regular occupants.

Exploration of the first hall brought some much needed opportunity for filthy lucre, as the elf was able to thoroughly swindle the Scorpion’s storehouse of contraband of its monetary wealth and gemstones. Of course, no roguish endeavors would be complete without a bit of pickpocketing and so Iseri handled that in usual splendid fashion, by ripping off the footlockers of some orcish guardsmen. Alas, this also came with the horrible revelation of what an orc prefers for bedtime wear, but a will of iron allowed the good thief to avoid giving away her presence when presented with an orc’s nethers!

Further investigation revealed that the outpost was not simply easy pickings! Traps had been placed in many of the inner halls and quick reflexes along with a trapsmith’s keen eye allowed Iseri to avoid being shocked or punctured with arrows. The lass was able to swiftly locate the location of five of the stolen children of Calimshan, but the Scorpion guarded this precious asset most heavily, two guards were assigned to each cell and a pair of mages were also in attendance! A straight fight would not be an option, but a rogue knows that with patience, another way will usually present itself!

Continuing her espionage, Iseri came to a pair of double doors emblazoned in rich gilding with the Scorpion’s personal emblem. Peeking inside, the elf found that no one appeared to be within and so took the opportunity to have a look around for herself! The office proved to be lavish and fortified to a level that bordered on paranoia! The rugs were dusted with Mindfire poison! A bookcase hurled fireballs! Even something as simple as a chair was rigged to drop any unawares into a deadly chamber of blades!! However, knowing her foe as she did, Iseri was not wholly taken by surprise, though the fireball trap did incinerate any valuables worth taking on one bookcase, careful investigation of the second allowed the rogue to purloin a small fortune in wealth from a hefty strongbox, likely draining the Scorpion’s personal account in this region. Well worth the twenty minutes it took to overcome the cunning lock placed on it! The man’s desk was also ripe for the taking, as it gave the adventuress a look into the Scorpion’s future plans, including a secret auction to be held tonight aboard a private freighter in Calimport! A fine pair of magnifying lenses were absconded with to be put to use for a future project along with some fine vellum and writing materials. And like any guest, Iseri was sure to leave a note for her host so that he would be aware of where his possessions had wound up! Such courtesy!

Fortune next presented itself in the form of Master Chef, Michael Chester. A massive troll with some considerable intelligence and the air of a gourmand. This hulking mass along with his huge fire elemental companion ‘Flamey’, supplied the gutsacks of the mercenary forces of the Scorpion with nourishing, if not exceptionally tasty fare. Iseri saw little in the kitchen to become excited over, but a strange belt with which Chester had girded himself caught her interest. It contained tools which would be of no use to any chef and its buckle had the letters ‘SOS’, which certainly didn’t spell out to Michael Chester in any language. Iseri was also able to find out that the belt had come to the troll after being taken from a ‘funny little man’ the guards had brought in some time ago. Through bribery, the rogue managed to convince Chester to part with his cookware in exchange for a Fire Opal gemstone, however the rogue could simply not bring herself to part with any of her hard earned treasure and attempted to coerce the troll to return his part of the trade. Not taking well to loosing 2 prizes and because he had wanted to cook the elf anyway, Chester and Flamey leaped into battle (more like Chester slid into Flamey and rolled around like a madman trying to put himself out after Iseri greased up the kitchen floors!) But even with the troll seared to medium nasty, his fiery compatriot proved a force to be reckoned with! The elemental scored a series of punish blows, though the Energy Heart gem kept burns to a minimum. Through use of her wand of Invisibility, her wits and a brutal fire and ice spell combination, Iseri delivered the 1-2 combo needed to put the kitchen staff out with the leftovers.

Continuing her search, Iseri managed to find the final room in the desert hold. A door of adamant surrounded by force magic guarded whatever was at the end of the hall, but Iseri’s tenure with Ydranos allowed her to remember that the crafter of such security was notoriously shoddy and over-priced. Some water from her canteen when applied to the control panel allowed the rogue to easily overcome security and left her standing face to face with a grizzled looking gnome sporting purple and grey hair. He introduced himself as one Sonar O’ Sullivan, a craftsgnome from Sembia who was kidnapped by agents of the Scorpion on his way to a tradeshow in Cormyr. The fiend had expected to coerce the gnome into building warmachines and other such devices, but the feisty gnome told him exactly where he could stick that hogwash! Sonar offered to lend his considerable talent as a craftsgnome to the aid of his rescuer if she was looking to escape, but that he would require his tools first. O’ Sullivan was ecstatic when Iseri was able to return his lost tool belt and a short trip back to the main storehouse saw the return of a burlap sack of ‘spare parts’ which also bore Sonar’s initials.

Within ten minutes, Sonar had crafted a small army of ‘Gnolems’ to wreck tiny vengeance upon the remaining inhabitants of the fortress!!! The children were quickly freed as their captors were subdued by the gnolems and even though the orcs from earlier hoped to provide reinforcement, they met their end at the hands of one of the electricity traps that Iseri had neglected to disarm (tee hee!)

The group worked quickly to escape and found their means in the form of a skiff that was anchored at a small dockside which would allow them to flee unnoticed around the coastline! A squad of rogue guards thought to deny them passage, but the Black Tentacles spell soon had them realizing they weren’t being paid nearly enough for so much aggravation!

And so this adventure came to a close! Iseri would take the children to Ydranos for safekeeping until the Scorpion was expelled from the region and Sonar, having nothing better to do, offered to take up the dashing damsel as his apprentice, to instruct her further in the art of Golem creation! A fine day’s work, but there was still the matter of the private auction taking place outside of town tonight…

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The Gold Dragon's Lair
Out of the Underdark, into the fire!

Upon entering the strange marble door and closing the pursuing drow out, the Dragonbusters collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. Several hours later, 3 of them awoke. Gargantuon was so tired from being angry all day he required a few extra hours sleep. The others quietly moved into the next room to explore.

The next chamber initially seemed quite ordinary, until the group noticed a plaque on the wall. It showed four crude drawings, and below that a riddle. Upon solving the riddle, two panels slid over the pictures, revealing a clue: “To succeed, you must survive. To excel, combine the powers!” The Busters immediately connected this to the four switches on each wall. Zephus, carefully examining the room, found another switch on the ceiling. Each Buster stationed themselves by a different switch (including Dave) and Kiba dexterously used a lasso to pull the ceiling switch. With the switches combined, they had summoned Planet Golem! His mission: destroy trash! Perhaps if they had taken the time to examine the switches, they would have seen that each was labeled one of: earth, fire, wind, water, and heart.

In the next room, there was just that: loads upon loads of trash! As the group began to examine the refuse, several odd forms emerged: trash golems! At this, the Planet Golem from the previous room charged in, ready to battle his nemesis. Despite finding a new least favorite status ailment in ‘Trash Golem Stank’ that could nauseate nearby allies, the Dragonbusters compacted the golems with ease (with a little help from Planet). The riddle clue this time told them that ‘All that is gold does not glitter’. This led them to search the trash piles, discovering a chest and two parts of a key. In the chest was a Ring of Fire Resistance, a pair of Boots of the North, a pair of Boots of Striding and Springing, an amulet of Natural Armor, a Cloak of Resistance, and a rare Pink and Green Ioun Stone! . Using their ingenuity and dexterity, the Busters were able to reassemble the broken key and move on. Favorite quote from this room: “You really expected to find a whole key in a room made of trash?”.

The next room was even stranger than the previous two. It contained several shelves of books, and two beautifully carven columns flanked the exit door. These were no ordinary columns though: they were riddle columns! They challenged the party to identify the name of the dwarven hero pictured on a bas relief above the door in order to proceed, and a boon if they could also name his weapon. It was at this time that Gargantuon finally awoke and caught up with the others. They combined Zephus’ knowledge of various religions, Elsbeth’s disarming charisma, Gargantuon’s weapon rafting skill, and Kiba’s extensive lore of the leaf worm to correctly identify the dwarf as one Orndt the Drunken and his mighty hammer, Goblinplopper! The columns were so impressed that they not only allowed the group to continue but summoned a chest that contained a valuable Bag of Holding! And also an Efficient Quiver, a Pearl of Power, and a magnificent set of magical Hodag Fangs.

The next room was comparably small, only enough room for the adventurers to stand in with Dave curled around their legs. One final riddle plaque awaited them, this one revealing that ‘Each of you has a strength. Use it!’ Then they pulled the switch, and they all vanished.

Each member of the party reappeared in a separate room. Each room was entirely different except for a switch, ear and mouth mounted on the wall near their entrance and a teleportation circle beneath their feet.

Gargantuon ended up in a room with only a wooden wall at one end. Summoning up his considerable half-orcish strength, he rammed the center of the wall with his shoulder. The wood splintered asunder, but behind it was a solid stone wall! He grunted away the pain and decided to simply punch the left handed wall section. This one also shattered, but revealed another passageway! Here there was another set of switch, ear and mouth. He threw the switch, and a friendly voice called out, ‘Congratulations, you have won.” But nothing else happened.

Kiba found himself in a room with three identical people in it. After talking to them he found out the man on the left was named Bob, the man in the center was named Joe, and the man on the right Elminster. After getting over the fact that anyone could be named Elminster and not be an old and stupidly powerful magician, Kiba realized learned that Joe’s real name was Steve, and named him a liar. That was apparently enough to satisfy the challenge, and a strange voice rang out saying as much.

Elsbeth and Zephus had a little trouble settling on a challenge room. Zephus initially started in what appeared to be someone’s bedroom, because a man was sleeping in a bed nearby. Deciding to wake the man up to talk, Zephus found that not all sleeping people are conversational! A voice from nowhere informed him that his challenge had been failed, and he found himself back in the starting room. A second attempt had him discovering a key in the chair cushion, which unlocked a large door in the back of the room. The door was squeaky however, and, not having any oil, Zephus attempted to open it just wide enough to squeeze through. Full Plate does not allow easy squeezing, however, and having become stuck in the door, Zephus was left with a no win scenario. He tried to unjam himself but in doing so awakened the sleeper, and went back to the starting room. Sighing in exasperation, he tried again, this time arriving in a long narrow room bifurcated by a wall and shortened by a deep pit. At the far end were two targets, one being in view and the other hidden by the wall. He took out his bow, shot one target, sidestepped, and shot the other. Finally, he had won!

Elsbeth, on the other hand, appeared in a long hallway, completely dark. She promptly cast Daylight, letting her see her surroundings, and also causing a strange vine in the corner to grow. Elsbeth, having none of that, threw the switch and returned to the starting room. Afterwards she made several attempts at a strange garden-like room with trees and squirrels, but not being able to make heads nor tails of it, she eventually settled on trying the sleeping man encounter. Ingeniously using some lantern oil to silence the squeaky door, the cleric entered into an office. Behind the wall painting she found a safe, and pieced together the combination from clues strewn about the room. Opening it while nimbly dodging the dart trap, she found the exit switch.

Now that all the Dragonbusters had successfully completed their challenges, they appeared together in a large, dark chamber. Gargantuon scouted ahead with his superior night vision, spying a huge sleeping form on the raised third of the chamber. A light spell revealed this form to be a beautiful Gold Dragon! While normally friendly, this dragon was guarding a recently laid egg, and questioned the Busters as to their purpose. They explained about the massacre at the research facility, and that drow had been behind it, when the dark elves themselves appeared! Apparently in closing the giant marble door, they had neglected to lock it! And now they had led the fiends straight to their prize!

The leader of the drow, a female wizard, thanked the party for clearing the way for her. She laughed yet again, and mentioned that she might perhaps let the party have the gold dragon’s tears, which would dispel the barrier to Black Fang’s lair, if they did not interfere. She then offered them a choice: let her have the dragon or die. The heroes chose a third option: fight. Battle was joined!

The Gold Dragon, Ansafarilonyxia, could not help the Busters much as she had to protect her egg. However she did manage to cast a protective spell on them. This was not enough, unfortunately, to protect the valiant Dave from the evil Drow Wizard leader’s Cloudkill spell! He fell beside his master, Kiba, who vowed revenge! Zephus and Gargantuon charged into the fray, with wildly differing results. Zephus met a well-timed Ray of Exhaustion, which, while he was able to shrug off the worst of the effect, still hampered his movements greatly. Gargantuon reached the enemy with his superior speed, and nearly dropped a puny drow elf with one attack. Elsbeth rained holy fire down upon the vile drow.

Revenge, however, was not so easily achieved. Drow crossbows twanged as they shot at the dragon, most bouncing off the fine gilded scales, but one found its mark. The poisoned dart instantly began pumping an unknown substance into the creature, causing it to spasm in pain and begin to lost control of its actions. The drow wizard leader threw up a wall of force, saying that time was now on her side, giving the party a welcome respite. Gargantuon finished off a few of the unfortunate stragglers, while Elsbeth attempted to revive Dave. The Dragon, though, did not have much time. She roared out that she had strength enough to teleport them to safety, if they would only take her egg with them. With hearts of gold themselves, the Busters agreed. Stowing the egg safely in their bag of holding, they accepted the dragon’s spell and were whisked away back to the forest ruins. Two tears had Ansafarilonyxia shed in the last moment before the party vanished, and the quick hands of Kiba and Elsbeth managed to collect them in an empty potion bottle and an empty beer bottle, respectively.

They all took slow, deep breaths and tried to calm down. So many questions rattled their brains: Who was the mysterious drow wizard? What was she after? What had been the Gold Dragon’s fate? Would Elsbeth ever acquire the full ingredients for her Dragon ale? Having no answers, the party started the long trip back to Sandpoint to rest and regroup.

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Magical Research Facility
Boxception

The Dragonbusters were enjoying a well-earned respite from the rigors of adventuring, making use of their recently acquired mansion. Kiba was busy teaching new tricks to Dave, while Gargantuon worked his quads. Zephus decided to setup a satellite office for the Radiant Heart, working out of his own quarters. Elsbeth, of course, was making use of their private bar. As she downed yet another Ghost Touch mug of beer, she heard a voice beside her.

“Haven’t you had enough?” said a smart-alecky man. It was a lieutenant of the Sand Fleas, the local rogue and spy guild. On Elsbeth’s other side appeared Softhands, another lieutenant, as if from nowhere. Forestalling the cleric’s drunken rage, the two explained that they were there to fulfill their debt to the group. They had not learned where Black Fang was, but they knew who did: Shalelu, the town ranger. Unfortunately, she had gone missing while investigating a mysterious magical research facility in a forest south of Sandpoint. The two Fleas wished the Busters well, provided a good location in the forest to start looking, and took their leave.

Travelling to the forest, the group of 4 came upon the spot the Fleas had mentioned. Their tracker Kiba found some old tracks, but no one had been through the area in several weeks. Nearby they found a cottage belonging to a surly dwarf. He warmed up to the group slowly, eventually telling the group the way to the facility as well as making a request of them. The local forest drakes had been harassing his garden, and he would reward them if they would bring him several drake tails.

The Busters easily found the drakes’ cave, and made short work of three of them. Returning triumphantly to the dwarf, they received an upgrade for Kiba’s bow and a menacing executioner’s mask for Gargantuon. They immediately headed back out into the forest to look for Shalelu, but they met something else instead. Feeling an overwhelming sense of Good, Kiba spied a rare animal off in the distance: a unicorn! After hesitantly allowing the ecstatic follower of Mielikki to stroke its mane, the unicorn led the group to a clearing where stood an ancient, ruined stone pavilion.

The trolls guarding it were anything but ancient, however! They debated over a still-breathing but unconscious Shalelu, unable to decide how to cook her. Zephus and Gargantuon, yelling their war cries, rushed in to distract the monsters while Kiba retrieved the fallen ranger. Elsbeth stood by to mend her wounds. After the trolls were righteously vanquished, Shalelu told the Busters the location of Black Fang’s swamp. Unfortunately, the lair of the dragon was protected by an ancient spell, rumored to have been created by some eccentric mages. Intelligence reports had led Shalelu to believe those mages were employed at the research center.

Promising the group that she could now return to Sandpoint on her own, Shalelu turned to leave. Spying a strange object on the ground back in the direction the group had come, she mentioned it to the Dragonbusters. Upon investigation it turned out to be a figurine of a unicorn. Kiba took it with reverence. Searching the area, they found several things: a stone door in the floor of the pavilion, a strange piece of metal, and a note. The metal appeared to be some sort of identification, belonging to the head of magical research, one Neddis Endry. The note spoke of danger and how the town must be warned. Using the piece of metal, the Busters opened the door and descended into darkness…or would have had it not been for Elsbeth’s Light of Lathander!

Inside, the group found themselves within what must have been the research facility proper. They split up to cover more ground. Several of them went in to offices, discovering some background information on the facility. Gargantuon had the misfortune of attempting to open a locked door that blew up in his face. They also discovered the corpse of a researcher. One of the notes they found mentioned someone’s colleague running up the stairs, locking the door, and promptly dying. The key now was in the possession of a demon!

Zephus himself found the demon, a vile and conniving Glabrezu. He seemed willing to deal with the adventurers, and Kiba was willing to test his mettle, but Zephus was having none of it. He knew demons well; they would never keep their bargains. He decided to carefully move into the demon’s chamber and attempt to open the chest at the back. Narrowly avoiding the circle of protection inscribed on the ground, he successfully retrieved the contents, one of which being a scroll of dismissal.

Meanwhile Kiba, Elsbeth and Gargantuon explored the side rooms. One appeared to be a magical item research room, where Gargantuon was attracted by some chainmail that called out insults to him. They also found a large mithril bowl Elsbeth could use for brewing. Moving on, they entered another side room. This one was filled with artificial limbs and other body parts. At the far end were some strange, wooden figures working on a much larger metal one. They discovered a half-built mithril cobra on a table that intrigued Kiba. As they moved to take it, the wooden golems at the end of the room turned to attack them! At first they only seemed to want to get to the other side of the room. The Busters were unable to deter them, and one of the golems pulled a large lever. Upon doing so, the large metal golem came to life! The group was now hard pressed, and Gargantuon took several wicked blows while protecting the others. Zephus arrived just in time to call the retreat, after the others had felled the wooden golems. Luckily the large metal golem was unable to fit through the person-sized door.

Turning back to the demon, the group knew they had to retrieve the key. They settled on a plan of action: Elsbeth would use the scroll to attempt to banish the demon. The demon was too strong, however, and the act of casting a spell through the barrier dispelled the magic protection. The glabrezu was loose! After taking a solid hit from Zephus, though, he stepped back and vanished. A key dropped to the ground where he had been, and the group took it and moved on.

Opening the locked door that Gargantuon had found earlier, the Busters found the stairs down to the next level. Here they found some more tragically murdered researchers. Kiba examined the bodies and declared that only drow could make such intricate cuts. Searching through a few more offices, the group learned that another key they needed was in possession of one Bob, and something named Ansafarilonyxia had laid an egg. Farther in they found a few inaccessible cages, one with a gelatinous cube and the other containing a family of rust monsters.

In the large chamber at the end of the cage hall, they found Bob, a curious beholder held in an ingenious trap. The chamber was lined with mirrors, effectively neutralizing the many eyestalks, and around the beholder was a magic barrier. Suspended magically in the air above the beholder was a humongous sword. If the beholder were to open its large anti-magic eye, the sword would be released and smash into the beholder. Thus, it was open to discussion with the Dragonbusters. The beholder told them it would give them the key in return for its freedom, but Elsbeth decided it wasn’t worth it. She took the demon’s advice from earlier, and pulled the left switch.

Instantly the mirrors swiveled around, freeing the beholder’s eyestalks. It immediately used its telekinesis ray to move the sword out of reach, and then opened its anti-magic eye to remove the magical barrier. Bob attacked! The group was initially worried, as Elsbeth was quickly turned to stone. Bob mused at how it couldn’t wait to study its new specimen, but reckoned without the combined muscle of Zephus, Gargantuon, and Kiba. The three quickly dropped it and hit the other switch, removing the cage over the chest and finding with a strange box, and a scroll of stone to flesh. Freeing their comrade, they mused a while over the adamantine box before decided to use the rust monsters to eat away the metal. Inside was a wooden box, which they had the gelatinous cube take care of. All that remained was a dragon shaped key.

They took this key and descended one more time, down a seemingly neverending ladder. Finally at the bottom, they found themselves in a huge cavern. Attracted by their abnormal amount of light, several creatures attacked the group. They quickly dispatched the initial group of umber hulk and hook horrors, but the final foe gave them some trouble. The strange ghost like figure could inhabit the bodies of those fallen, rising again to attack! It managed to paralyze poor Kiba, but in the end it was no match for the other Dragonbusters. Exploring a southern branch tunnel, the Busters discovered a grove of mushrooms. Elsbeth took some for her recipes and the group went back and took the northern passage.

At the end of the northern passage, they came upon a huge ornate marble door, with a single tiny keyhole. Also, on the ground lay one more mangled body. Identifying this as the work of drow, the Busters decided not to hang around. As they were about to open the large door, however, the light went out!

In the confusion, several of them were hit by unknown objects, but Gargantuon and his darkvision was unaffected. He took the fight to the lithe forms of the ambushers. Once Zephus had recovered, he used his hand to call upon the light once more. The sudden brightness momentarily blinded their attackers, who were revealed as a large force of drow! Their leader did not seem hurt by the light, as she merely laughed. Quickly recovering, the drow slowly started to overwhelm the companions. Kiba was struck with a poisoned crossbow bolt and went down, unconscious. The others decided to make a retreat, and, scooping up the unfortunate ranger, squeezed through the door just ahead of the pursuing drow, Zephus, the first through, had waited by the lever to close it just in time!

Out of danger for the moment, what new challenges await our heroes?

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Interlude 5
Roc-in' and a Rollin

Following their return from the mysterious City of Hangovers, the founding busters decided that maybe it was time to cut down on the mixed drinks and take a day or two to sober up. Rest was in short supply, as Kiba and Gargantuon were thirsty for adventure!! Kiba had heard tell of a blue dragon being sighted in the mountain ranges of Bryn Shander. Recalling that it was a blue dragon that had made off with his priceless black arrow and eager to show his skills as a tracker to the Sandpoint Rangers, the rugged Ranger set things into motion to have the team depart!

The merchant roads made for relatively fast travel thanks to the work of the wardens of Helm driving out most of the highwaymen. Catching passage on a small trade ship out of Baldur’s Gate, the Dragonbusters managed to make their trip in record time, just under a month.

There was little time for sightseeing though! Kiba was a harsh master and soon enough the team was geared up and trudging into the mountains. This was Kiba’s time to shine, as the mountains of his youth were as familiar to him as the back of his hand (minus that unusual growth that appeared shortly after their journey to the moathouse. Thank the gods Spugnoir had helped him clear that up!) As they ventured into the upper ranges, the team came across a group of fearsome hill giants! Iseri provided stealth via a wand of invisibility and Kiba decided to see if he could possibly acquire some information from the hulking brutes. They decided that they would rather feast on Kiba’s bones, but the crafty hunter soon had the giants heading for well, the hills as he managed to convince them that he was possessed of a terrible, giant slaying malady! Three of the galoots threw a hapless member of their group out as a sacrificial lamb, but Gargantuon’s blood lust claimed the life of another giant as well before the remaining 2 were able to flee!!

Weather took a turn for the worse as the trek continued, and the adventurers were forced to find shelter in a nearby series of caves. There, Gargantuon recuperated from the after effects of his rage and Kiba was able to scout a path to take the team to the uppermost heights of the mountains, where hopefully, his arrow might be found! Before that could happen, the team had to contest with a group of bugbear bandits that had made the caverns their home, guarding the exit to the height of the mountains. Through use of the Greater Command spell, Elsbeth was able to force the bugbears to abandon caution and rush from their 20 ft perch down onto the waiting blades of Zephus and Gargantuon, while Iseri pre-cooked the bandits to make for easy cutting! The team was able to search through the goods that the thieves had pilfered, the best of which was a fantastic composite longbow with a lightning motif lacquered upon it!

Arriving at the top of the mountain, the group spied a colossal nest, which fittingly served as the den for a colossal Roc! Iseri used her magical prowess to provide a boost of super speed to her compatriots and with their bows, Kiba and Gargantuon led the assault against the beast! In addition to improving the Ranger’s phenomenal accuracy, Kiba was pleased to discover that his new weapon also sheathed his arrows in a coat of electricity which burst upon foes at contact! The beast proved more resilient to Gargantuon’s scorpion venom arrows, but Iseri and Elsbeth bathed the bird in fire to help offset the deficit! Meanwhile, Zephus was able to observe quietly, as the feathered foe never came within reach for a sword stroke! A few more expert shots from Kiba and the Roc was soon on the fast track to meeting the ground!

Scouring the nest, the team located a small fortune in gold that was used as decoration by the bird and Kiba was able to recover his black arrow! Also found was a blue hood with a silver tassel, the initials T.O. stitched into the brim, but no one knew what to make of it.

Returning to town, the busters celebrated the success of their quest, though Zephus chose to cut back on the suds and settled with a bottle of ginger beer with a hearty stew shared between his fellow adventurers!

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