Tales of the Dragon Coast: A Forgotten Realms Adventure

The Climbing of the Tower
Or, How I Met Your Demon

Returning from the forest with his erstwhile companion Dave, Kiba joined up once again with the core Dragonbusters. They had rested just underneath the trapdoor leading to the tower of the drow necromancer, and intrepidly entered into it.

Emerging in the basement of the tower, they met a strange trio of zombies. They seemed to recall their memories of former life, and told the heroes that they had been friends of the drow Cordalaya when she had first come to the surface world with her exile family. Apparently they had lived near the town and gotten to know the locals somewhat. Unfortunately the surface dwellers were not comfortable with a family of drow living nearby and hatched a plan to murder the lot of them, with the sole exception of the youngest daughter. These three zombies had been her childhood friends, and they were told to lead her away from the village on some pretense while the dirty deed was done. Thus they sought to spare the young dark elf a gruesome death and perhaps find a more peaceful way in the world. Such was not to be, however, as Cordalaya sought ever more power to enact her vengeance. Returning some 40 years later with the might of necromancy at her fingertips, she laid waste to the city and raised the former citizens as zombie slaves. For what purpose she has summoned demons and taken over the wizard’s tower in the center of town, the zombies did not know. After laying the zombies to rest and discovering a powerful anti-negative energy ring, the party pressed on.

The next floor was even more curious. Only two objects were in the room: a large bronze gong, and a small chest. The party split in two to investigate both items. Zephus and Dave investigated the gong while Elsbeth and Kiba went over to the chest (Gargantuon was once again sound asleep). Both had short sentences written in Abyssal. The gong read, ‘Bang gong for demons’ and the chest read, ‘Demons don’t open!’. Believing the two to be linked, Zephus suggested they bang the gong and open the chest at the same moment. This they did, and instantly regretted it.

As the gong rang out, a gaggle of demons appeared, including their old nemesis the Glabrezu! Aiding him this time were a small cadre of hezrous and a fearsome Marilith general. The Glabrezu opened the festivities with a bang, reversing the gravity around our heroes. Having only found a seemingly innocuous knife in the chest, Kiba was understandably depressed. He was even more distressed when he fell victim to the advancing hezrou’s awful stench and spent much of the battle trying to hold his breakfast in. Elsbeth blasted away at the demons with her holy magic, while Zephus began to worry about their chances. He decided to call on his trusty steed Pharis. The dragon appeared to run interference, and just in time as the noble Paladin fell victim to the Glabrezu’s Power Word spell.

Just as things began to look bleak, an unexpected ally arrived. Having yet again been driven out of the forest by abusive animals, Set the ranger tracked his companions down and entered the fray! Helping to distract the Glabrezu and remaining hezrous, he provided valuable time for the group to get back on its feet (figuratively). Elsbeth and Pharis finished off the hezrous heckling them, but sadly the young dragon was banished by the Marilith’s relentless bombardment of arrows. Zephus, crying out in rage, escaped the null gravity and charged the Marilith. Braving the six-armed monstrosity’s blade barrier and numerous vicious attacks, he struck down the demon with his holy sword! The day was won!

But the stairs up loomed ominously in front of them…

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Night in the City
Adventures in Larceny!!

As her companions decided to enter into the lost city of Dunholme by way of catacomb, Iseri the dashing decided to take a drink or two to calm her nerves and soak in the local atmosphere. The inn her companions had chosen was a fine, ribald place, full of braggarts, drunkards and treasure hunters. Word soon caught the wizard’s keen ears of the fabulous treasures said to have been left behind by the wealthy nobility of old Dunholme before the forces of darkness had overrun it. Legends spoke of magical artifacts and strange constructs that might still exist in the ancient manses, though the throngs of drow and evil outsiders kept most folk well away from investigation! Knowing that she was not like most folk, the elf decided the time had come to put some space betwixt herself and her cohorts to seek out some wealth for herself. If she should happen upon her companions later, let it be said that she simply decided to scout the territory ahead herself to gain a better grasp of the situation!

The wizard had little trouble making her way to the city proper, bypassing a herd of semi-possessed mammoths on the road by a trick of teleportation. Iseri found the rumors of evil plaguing the lands to be more than verified as a band of demons casually had made camp by the fallen gates of the city. Stealth and guile got the rogue in and soon she was ready to rob to her greedy little heart’s content! Careful to avoid patrols of Drow (legendary in their hatred of surface elves), the rogue made her way to a long desecrated temple of Corellon Larathian. There a wendigo and it’s bearded devil companions made a grisly feast of some recently captured drow. Deciding to cautiously check for valuables in spite of the danger, Iseri unfortunately drew down the attention of the dinner party. She unleashed a mighty torrent of magic and though the bearded devils fell back, their host was unfazed. The wendigo moved with effortless grace and speed, its horrible powers and terrible strength forcing the wizard into retreat! Iseri feared the day might be lost, but thought that perhaps there may yet remain a relic or 2 in the fallen temple to aid her in her struggle. Sure enough, a pair of holy candles remained still beneath the altar, their magical power drawing up the forces of the elven pantheon and casting out the wendigo and its cohorts. Recognizing these as sacred artifacts, Iseri decided that should she return home or find a proper temple, she would restore the candles to the Temple of Corellon- for a modest fee of course.

The other houses in the area proved to be thoroughly pillaged. Iseri was wondering if she might have to chalk up the night’s venture to a loss, but fortune oft smiles on those who least expect it and a chance encounter with a rather cozy bungalow brought renewed hope for fortune!! The home had belonged to a resident mage known as the Arcanist, the entire area was strewn with disjointed notes and scrawlings, the most interesting of which was the plan for a one-man army that would have been a defense for Dunholme against invasion had time been on their side. It appeared that the Arcanist was ready to commence final trials in his lower labs, but the invasion had prevented him. Iseri managed to locate the entrance to the place, but lacked one of the necessary keys to gain entry!! Curses!!

Hoping that maybe something might turn up in one of the other homes, Iseri stumbled upon a rival in one of the largest homes in the area. So deft and spry was this rake, that he even avoided the attentions of Bugsy the Clockwork Spy!!! He introduced himself as Arsene, gentleman thief and treasure hunter. The rogue proposed an alliance that would leave them both mutually wealthy and under the radar of the drow forces. Warning Iseri of the various traps laid throughout, the larcenist duo was able to clean the place out thoroughly, each departing with a small trove in gems and Iseri locating her missing key among her plunder. Stealing a kiss and making off with a dash, Arsene bid his lovely rival adieu and wished her well. Iseri’s night ended with a return to the Arcanist’s home, where she used the crystal keys to enter into the lower labs!!!

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The Dunholme Catacombs
Don't go all George Martin on me now!

The Dragonbusters little knew what awaited them in the catacombs leading to the city of Dunholme. Certainly, they expected some sort of undead critters to get in their way, but with a Cleric of Lathander, a Paladin of Torm, and a Ranger of Mielikki with special training against undead, they were understandably confident. Indeed, as they breached the tomb of the last high priest, they encountered a group of pathetic mummies that crumbled beneath their might. As they entered into the large central chamber of the catacombs, they were riding high.

An evil laugh greeted them. The evil laugh of an Antipaladin! He and his drow followers mocked the Dragonbusters for believing that the evil necromancer Cordalaya would not have watched all approaches. His arrogance must have masked an underlying sense of inadequacy, however, as he was easily offended by Gargantuon’s insulting armor. All strategy flew away as he rushed the half-orc barbarian.

The rest of the Busters had to deal with several drow archers and a nasty drow wizard, all as they navigated around a lethal spinning blade trap known as the Boneslicer. In typical drow fashion, however, their disregard for each other would be their undoing. The wizard laid down area spells that hindered his allies along with the Busters, and allowed the adventurers to eventually gain the upper hand. Gargantuon and Zephus defeated the Antipaladin, causing him to topple out of his oversized boots and into the Boneslicer!
The cowardly wizard, seeing he was the last of his troupe, cackled madly and teleported away. After swearing vengeance the Dragonbusters searched the nearby chambers.

Gargantuon and Zephus explored a seemingly empty chamber, but their curiosity nearly ended them. Foiling an illusionary pit, they boldly walked into the room…only to find themselves falling into the real pit! Initially thankful for the soft landing, when they realized they had landed on a giant Gelatinous Cube they made haste to climb out. Less weighed down by armor, Gargantuon hauled himself out of the pit first and reached down to lift his friend out after him. Had they been less nimble, they may have ended up being slowly digested over a thousand years!

Meanwhile, Elsbeth, Kiba, and Dave explored a different chamber. This one had a pedestal in the center, and two desiccated husks in the far corners. Reading the book that was on the pedestal provided some insight into the final days of the High Priest, where he had apparently helped fight off an army of drow and demons. However, the fight had alerted a pair of Bebiliths who had come to feast on the demons. The Priest had defeated them, but the unexpected arrival of two Ingersols made things much worse. They inhabited the corpses of the Bebiliths, turning them into undead monstrosities! Luckily the priest was amply prepared to handle undead, and drove the Ingersols away. He then sealed the Bebiliths in the catacombs so they would not be inhabited again.

Armed with this new knowledge, the Ranger and the Cleric made to leave the chamber. The door slammed shut in front of them, and two ghostly, glowing figures floated into the room through the back wall. Ingersols! They fused with the Beblith corpses, rising again as giant spider-like beasts. Kiba suppressed his arachnophobia just long enough to assist Elsbeth with exterminating the undead demons before he fell unconscious from fright. Dave escorted his master back to the nearby forest while the rest of the group went into the final chamber.

Here they found a dragon mural on the wall, several display cases, and a strange wireframe sculpture in the center of the room. After finding a pair of wings on an antique drinking vessel that clearly didn’t belong, the three Busters deduced that the wireframe was actually the skeleton of a dragon statue! They affixed the wings to the frame and saw the dragon mural glow, and a line from a verse appeared in fancy draconic letters. Smashing everything in the room looking for more pieces, Elsbeth and Gargantuon located the dragon’s torso. Zephus found the head hiding in a painting of Tiamat. Finally they discovered the tail masquerading as a branch on a potted plant. With the full statue completed, they had the entire rhyme, which seemed to be about an undead dragon. With one last act of vandalism, they knocked over the statue, revealing a star shaped gem.

This gem fit into the pedestal out in the central chamber, and upon turning it, the Boneslicer ceased spinning and turned into a spiral staircase! A touch apprehensive, the Dragonbusters descended the stairs. They found themselves in a dark chamber with a floor of loose bones. Elsbeth enacted a light spell, and they saw several exits to the large room. One was protected by a force field, while four others led into stone corridors.

In each corridor they found a trap and a switch. Gargantuon and Zephus had mixed success trying to dodge their traps, while Elsbeth simply used a pair of Spider Slippers she had taken from one of the drow they had defeated earlier to bypass the traps. Once they had thrown all four switches in a timely manner, they made to return to the central room. Elsbeth, however, clumsily disturbed some fungus and inhaled their spores, momentarily becoming confused. Luckily Zephus knew well the signs of confusion and quickly removed the effect with the help of his holy sword.

Now all together in the head, Elsbeth and the group looked to see what the effects of the switches had been. Indeed they had lowered the force field on the exit, but also on a small alcove housing two treasure chests. They decided to investigate the chests first, but as they touched one the entire chamber rumbled! A gigantic form rose up out of the bones: a Ravener! The undead dragon politely asked the group of their purpose, but had no intent of letting them leave alive. Fight!

The battle began poorly for the adventurers, with the dragon unleashing its horrible frigid breath upon them. Elsbeth evened the score by blinding the Ravener with light! It might not have been able to see them any longer, but the Ravener could still smell them! It utilized its superior reach and magic to keep them on their toes, nearly felling the party numerous times, but their healing abilities kept them in the fight. Just as they thought they were gaining the upper hand, previously innocuous statues shattered and revealed undead giants underneath!

Working furiously to destroy the dragon before its allies could close the gap, Elsbeth, Gargantuon, and Zephus formed a defensive line at the entrance to the treasure alcove. Through their might of arms and with a little help from Lathander, they managed to down the undead beast and even blind most of the approaching giants to boot! But the day was not yet theirs.

Seized by a holy fury after seeing the blasphemous Ravener fall, Zephus charged the nearby skeleton. Ignoring the cries of ‘stick with the plan!’ from the cleric, he delivered a mighty blow to the undead giant. But it was not enough to destroy the skeleton, and even while blind the monster was far from helpless. It connected with two boneshattering hits with its massive greatsword, and the Paladin crumpled.

Not to be dismayed by the defeat of their comrade, Gargantuon and Elsbeth worked together to clear the battlefield of foes. Once the final skeleton had fallen, Elsbeth made her way to her fallen friend. Taking the opportunity, she slapped the still warm corpse, as if to say ‘what an idiot’. Then she kindly used her Staff of Resurrection to return Zephus to Toril. “I told you to stick to the plan!” She chided him. Zephus, too bewildered from his recent death, merely stumbled along into the final chamber, where a hatch in the ceiling above would lead to Cordalaya’s tower. The group decided to rest and allow Kiba and Dave to catch up with them, not knowing what manner of foe lay ahead. If the Ravener was merely the warm up act, they had their work cut out for them…

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Interlude: An Ocean Voyage
This ain't no three-hour tour!

Having finally been reunited with Zephus the Paladin, the Dragonbusters independent adventuring consortium was once again whole. They returned to their luxurious mansion to rest, recuperate, and figure out their next move.

The journal of Certoz that Zephus had discovered provided several clues. It mentioned a realm of peace and prosperity, a dark tower over a ruined town, and a few details of how the evil drow Cordalaya treated her employees. After doing some research, Zephus recognized the area as being that of his homeland, Turmish. The city that was mentioned, however, did not sound familiar. They reasoned, then, that it must be located in the Eastern part of Turmish, geographically separated from Zephus’ homeland in the West.

Despite his misgivings, Kiba the ranger agreed to the swifter sea route. The rest of the group’s assurances that he was less likely to encounter spiders on a water voyage probably made his decision easier. They decided to travel first to Westgate, allowing Zephus to report to his superiors. Gargantuon and Eslbeth sought out pirate costumes to make the voyage more realistic, while Iseri secured their transport. The night before departure, they were feasted by the Radiant Heart. While most of what happened at the feast remains lost to history, legend has it that Gargantuon alone rendered the meat and poultry industry of the Dragon Coast out of business for the entire season!

On board the ship, the Dragonbusters met with the crew. The captain seemed somewhat reasonable; however the bosun was a completely insane gnome. The gnome latched onto Elsbeth (literally) until she helped him root out a strange source of magic down in the cargo hold. It turned out to be a rat with a magical item on him!

Meanwhile Zephus investigated the kitchen. The cook, a kobold that only cooked with rat, was irate at the intrusion and also at the Paladin’s steadfast refusal to eat the various rat-infused delicacies the cook had slaved over.

Up on deck, Iseri and Gargantuon were witness to a strange sight. An itinerant sailor drifted by on a small dinghy, whistling a lively tune in between puffs of his pipe. As he floated past, the sailor man shouted a greeting and tossed up a can of spinach to the grateful Trickster.
Soon after, a giant beast attacked the ship! Zephus noticed it out of one of the portholes, but even at top speed he couldn’t reach the thing before Iseri sent it to the bottom of the ocean with her spells.

While the ship anchored for a while to attend to some minor repairs, a couple of mermaids visited the ship. Iinitially they were fascinated by the mechanical cohort of Iseri, one Sprocket. He seemed immune to their charms, but one other onlooker was decidedly not. Kiba was watching them from a porthole on the second deck, and when the mermaids noticed his heavy breathing fogging up the window, they spooked and swam away.

They took up sail again and eventually reached an island spoken of in legend. A small force took a rowboat to the island, where they were set upon by a number of ghouls. The undead menaces were quickly dispatched, in large part thanks to Kiba and his barrage of arrows. Afterwards, they encountered a quartet of Nightwings. Sensing the holy power emanating from Zephus the Paladin, they decided to test the party. Two of them hung back by a chest while another two attacked the group.

The Nightwings were a powerful foe, but they underestimated the Dragonbusters and didn’t fight for keeps. Gargantuon and Iseri faced down one of the attacking pair, while Zephus held the other at bay so Kiba could fill it with arrows. The remaining two fled after their companions fell, fortunately leaving the treasure chest behind!

Returning to the ship and the high seas, the group was not out of the woods yet, so to speak. Another vessel appeared off of the horizon, and approached with fearsome speed. It was the ship belonging to a certain captain, friends of a beneficent pirate lord assassinated by Kiba earlier in his career. Out for vengeance, he set his crew upon the Dragonbusters while he himself made for the Ranger. They stood little chance against the excellent tactics displayed by the adventurers, however.

Zephus and Gargantuon charged to the enemy ship, murdering pirates left and right. Sprocket guarded the gangplank, effectively piercing pirates with his superior reach. Kiba provided range support, with Iseri wreaking havoc from the crow’s nest with her spells. Soon only the captain himself remained, but he would not retreat. He locked swords with Kiba in melee, and even after falling, was reenergized with a lightning bolt from the heavens! But no amount of divine intervention would save the hapless captain, as the impressive might of the combined Dragonbusters force ended his hope for revenge.

They finally reached the port city of City. Like any adventurers would, they rushed to the tavern to hear the legend of the tower and the ruined city. They learned from the knowledgeable barkeep that the town in question was called Dunholme, and an insane drow had slaughtered all the inhabitants for an unknown reason some 400 years past. Now there was an evil-looking tower there, spewing an ever-increasing darkness over the land. Lately the darkness had been growing faster, worrying some of the townsfolk.

The barkeep warned the group that it would be dangerous to go to Dunholme, but he saw that they were determined. He told them of two possible ways into the drow’s tower: they could attempt to sneak through the town proper, now the home of demons and drow, or they enter through the catacombs that run underneath a temple outside of town. Hoping to avoid as much trouble as possible, the Dragonbusters chose the catacombs.
But that is a story for another day…

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The Fate of Nellie Keane
And also of a few other things

Zephus the paladin found himself once more at the Ruins of Raven’s Watch, and underground facility used by the evil cleric, Vislak. He and the other members of the Dragonbusters had cleared it out many months previous, but the strange lantern-bearer had led him here once again. With Shaggy the hound archon by his side, he descended into the dungeon.

Zephus instantly saw signs that the place was inhabited again, and he soon found some of those new inhabitants in the form of J.R. Remington III and a couple of orc cronies! Apparently the lawyer was also a sword for hire, but not without his own form of honor. He offered to let Zephus go if he could hit the swordsman once in a duel. The orcs grumbled a bit at this, but didn’t object. Zephus, seeing little choice, agreed. After being parried frustratingly several times, he finally managed to land a hit on Remington. True to his word, the barrister awarded Zephus his freedom. The orcs, however, weren’t too happy about that and turned on Zephus and Remington both! The unlikely pair quickly overpowered the green-skinned thugs, and Zephus continued about his business.

Needing a weapon of his own, Zephus recalled that he had left his own sword at a statue of Torm in these very ruins! He grudgingly thanked Remington for his assistance and headed straight for where he thought the statue was. Unfortunately, he did not have his companion Kiba’s sense of direction, and found himself in an office instead. Well for him that he did, for he found evidence that his old foe, Dovran Certoz, was in residence at the Watch. Researching further, Zephus found chilling evidence that Certoz was a follower of the evil drow witch, Cordalaya, until recently. He had taken over the Watch from her late operative Vislak, and discovered the secret of Black Fang’s unusual size and strength: an experimental mutagen that vastly increased growth rate and had the side benefit of making the creature extremely tractable! He pocketed the journal and the mutagen recipe and took off to find the statue once more.

His memory having returned of the correct place, Zephus found the statue without further mishap. To his surprise, the lantern-bearer awaited him. Now able to get a closer look, he realized the lantern-bearer was none other than the spirit of his young student, Nellie Keane! Unable to speak freely, she hinted that Certoz was controlling her and that destroying her heart would be the only way to free her. Zephus vowed to see this done, and took up the sword from Torm’s statue. There was only one place that Certoz could be lurking: the main chapel where the Dragonbusters had destroyed the cleric Vislak!

Zephus, not wishing to be foolhardy, decided to take the back route into the chapel. Unfortunately, a fire-breathing dragon lay in wait for him there! It appeared to be a gold dragon, and Zephus felt a sense of familiarity from the dragon. Could this be the offspring of Ansapharilonyxia? But when had it hatched, and how had it gotten so big? More importantly, how could he free it from the grasp of Certoz? Zephus valiantly held off the dragon and the hordes of vampire spawns, wolves, and Certoz himself while Shaggy searched the tomes for an answer. When things looked especially grim, the archon tried to step in and assist the paladin, but took a solid blow to the head and fell unconscious.

In the end, Zephus had to drive the dragon away with the avenging power of Torm, and focus on the true threat: Certoz! He hade to charge the red-headed fiend, but found himself face to steel with the flat of his sword! Somehow Certoz had confused his actions! Spending valuable time not in complete control of his faculties, Zephus began to worry that this might be the end! Adding insult to insult, Certoz summoned the ghost of Nellie Keane to attack Zephus! This most evil development triggered something in the Paladin, a store of divine power, with which he threw off his foe’s enchantment and charged!

But Certoz had not attained his power by leaving himself unprotected. He revealed a ring on his finger that bore a shrunken, misshapen eye. The eye of a Beholder! Speaking a command word, the eye snapped open and Zephus felt the divine power fade from him. So this is how Certoz defeated the Zone of Truth in his trial! Rather than flail about wildly in impotence, Zephus tried another tack. Around him were set 6 pedestals, each with a still-beating heart resting upon it. Two had burst into flames during some sort of vile ritual that Certoz was performing; already he looked stronger. One of the remaining four must be Nellie’s!

Zephus quickly drove his sword into the nearest heart, but with no luck. The ghost still approached, and Certoz lashed out in anger of the disruption of his ritual. He attempted to once again dominate the paladin’s actions, but Zephus’ holy fury allowed him to shrug it off. As he brought his sword down onto another heart, several things happened. A flash of light nearly blinded him as Nellie’s Geas was broken; a rush of cold air as her spirit was drawn back into her heart; and his sword, ringing softly as it absorbed the power of Nellie’s righteous being.

Then reality snapped back. Zephus stood before his enemy, face serene, holding aloft the Holy Avenger ready to strike. Certoz appeared uncertain, not even managing to snarl at his foe. Then, quick as lightning, Zephus struck! The holy power of the legendary blade bit into the evil creature, and he hissed in pain. Certoz backed away, his body fading into mist. “You’ve won, boy.” he said as transformation completed. The gaseous form of Certoz floated away through the crack in the entrance doors.

Zephus let out a deep breath and hurried over to his friend Shaggy. His work was not yet done. He revived the archon, and together the pair followed the obvious trail left by the dragon. Soon they had it cornered in a deep cavern. Shaggy had found that infusion of holy power could disrupt the mutagen’s hold, and Zephus bravely approached the dragon to Lay his Hands upon it. The treatment worked, and the dragon accepted Zephus as a rider in token of gratitude. He soared up out of a large chimney of rock, with Zephus on his back, and up into the morning sky.

Zephus, through the rush of the excitement of flying, noticed several figures on the ground below. Taking the dragon down closer, he saw it was the rest of the Dragonbusters! He caught just a bit of their conversation as he hovered overhead:

“I think we should sneak in!”

“Let’s just bust down the door!”

“What do you think, O cleric?”

“I <hic> can’t decide!”

Zephus settled the dispute by crash landing in their midst. After getting to his feet and brushing himself off, he turned to his friends,

“Have I got a story to tell you!”

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Once More into the Deeps!!
Treasures and Revelations!!

The following morning after the Busters’ initial excursion into the fallen temple, the team awoke to find that Elminster had departed with his compatriots to inform the Veritas Council of the intel that had been gathered the previous day. Taking the morning to prepare themselves and to allow Iseri to repair Bugsy the clockwork spy, the team made ready to move into the lower deeps of the temple grounds. Coming back to the bridge way, the group found the pass still secure and open from their previous visit. The area beyond the pass was filled with a thick, almost tangible darkness. Deciding to risk the unknown, Iseri rallied her comrades and led them through the pass. Moving through the dark left the team with a sensation akin to moving through gelatin, but their hardy constitutions were able to withstand the disorientation and avoid any nausea.

The group found themselves in a central hall linked to a series of passages that each had the color of one of the major elements. The walls were carved with demons and elemental monsters and each led to a massive set of doors. Taking the time to explore led to a confrontation with a lonely Hezrou and a band of mutated sleeping trolls. Traps were in fine supply as well. Halls lined with poisoned spears, rooms with falling ceilings and floors that dropped into bottomless pits! Iseri managed to clear the halls and Kiba through ingenuity and a clear head avoided having his body ground to pulp. The group found that many side rooms along the main halls contained vast murals and mosaics that detailed the glories and victories of the temple of Tharizdun during the height of their ancient power. Wars against the elves and druids, the barbarian tribes of the far North and even the military might of Cormyr. Each room also contained carefully hidden switches that led to hidden repositories of ancient treasures from pillage and battle. Kiba found another Efficient Quiver, this one filled with Slaying Arrows for humans, Chaotic Outsiders and Fey creatures. In addition, a magical golden bowstring was used by the Ranger to provide his already powerful bow with even further accuracy to aid him in his archer’s pursuits. Iseri was sucked through a portal of darkness into the secret treasury, filling her bags to the brim with lucre for her future crafting endeavors, though the group wanted a few gems for their severance pay. Gargantuon was pleased to come into possession of an ancient double bladed axe etched with demons on the blades and a strong aura of necromancy, though it meant parting with his beloved Eliminator. The last storage area contained a footlocker containing about 10 lbs of unworked Solarite ore, a rare but prized mineral to the temple of Lathander. Seeing that it was too heavy and volatile to haul around, the group decided they would need to come back at a later time to retrieve it and decided to focus on the double doors at the end of each hall.

The western way brought the group into a large open chamber inhabited by a murder of Vrocks! These demonspawned vultures proved to be no match for Kiba’s slaying arrows and Elsbeth’s mind affecting spells. The north room was populated with a troupe of salamanders, but Elsbeth’s ice magic and the might of Sprocket the construct and Dave the Serpent of Steel were able to quench their wrath. The eastern hall contained a seashore guarded by a coiling sea serpent that managed to catch Elsbeth in its awesome jaws after she tried to bathe it in flames, though Gargatuon’s axe was able to send the beast back to the briny depths. Finally, the south room contained a vast cavern inhabited by a creature both amphibian and tentacled horror! Iseri was the lady of the hour in this chamber going airborne and then blasting the creature with a fearsome Disintegration spell that blew off a portion of the creature’s mass and exposed a fair number of its disgusting organs! Finishing the creature off proved simple after such a massive attack. The group was then brought back to the central hall, where a new portal awaited them leading into yet more unknown territory. Steeling themselves, the Dragonbusters moved into the light.

The portal led to the innermost chamber of the old Temple. There the team was greeted by a lone man in the robes of a high priest of Tharizdun. He claimed to know Iseri from a previous encounter, though he was a mystery to the elf. Dislocating his hands at the wrists and shedding his human form revealed the man as Salakh the Rakshasa of Calimport!! He revealed that he had been the one responsible for the latest incarnation of the Temple and that he had supplied the latest leader with the Orb of Golden Death to inspire followers to the call of the Elemental Eye! A new temple was finishing construction and soon plans would be set into motion to begin Tharizdun’s transition to the mortal realm, though the Rakshasa indicated that this was only a cursory portion of his true plan and with that began yet another terrifying transformation…..

Massive wings ripped free from his back and from the rest of the body was torn to shreds as a hulking form revealing itself as a Balor Lord revealed himself to the heroes!! He identified himself as Halfeshnegor the Dread, high captain of the armies of Tharizdun and the consort of the demon lady Zuggtmoy, servant of Lolth. With his lady’s favor, the balor led many successful battles against the free realms of Faerun. Their pairing was sundered at the destruction of the original temple, when a band of heroes managed to kill Zuggtmoy’s mortal body and banishing her essence into the depths of the Abyss. Halfeshnegor escaped the temple’s defeat and spent hundreds of years seeking a way to restore his demonic love, a goal at last within sight as he planned to beg Zuggtmoy’s resurrection as a boon from Tharizdun for bringing the god onto the mortal plane. The demon concluded this lengthy bit of monologue with a challenge to the Dragonbusters to come and face him at the new temple when the time came for the final ceremonies and the advent of Tharizdun and teleported the adventurers back to the surface. The group ended up outside the temple grounds and fortunately for Elsbeth, the demon included her Solarite, saying that the mineral caused him irritation and he felt no use for it.

The group reconvened in Sandpoint a few days later and shared their adventures with Elminster once again. The mighty wizard grew pale at the mention of the balor lord and explained that Halfeshnegor was one of his earliest and most powerful opponents, not someone that he had ever thought or wanted to face again!! Still, the sage was pleased with the group’s progress and said he would look into finding the new temple of Tharizdun. After his departure the busters took a 2 week rest while the temple of Lathander borrowed Elsbeth’s morningstar and solarite ore for a commission from Craftholme. The time passed and soon the final product had been wrought: The Disruptor had been reconstructed and infused with Solarite to forge a weapon of the most potent kind against the legions of the night! Elsbeth accepted it gratefully, eager to test it against her mortal foes! Growing bored by this time, the group decided to follow up on the news of Zephus’ disappearance from Westgate prison and using a coin from the Paladin’s purse, set off to Raven’s Watch to locate the wandering knight.

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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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