Tales of the Dragon Coast: A Forgotten Realms Adventure

Over the Sea and into the Mountains
The Thrilling Climax!!

As the Dragonbusters recuperated from the last successful adventures, they were approached at the Alagohn port tavern by a message runner from Waterdeep. Prelate Stoutheart had been charged by the Order of the Radiant Heart to charter a ship to see the wandering adventurers to the cradle of the Order’s power, word from Elminster had signaled that the time of the final battle with Malfeshnegor the Balor was at hand, and the team was to be briefed on the particulars of what strategy the Veritas Council could muster. Following a slight outburst of fangirl-itis from the messenger, the busters made plans to set out.

The trip went smoothly and surprisingly fast, with the schooner making port at Waterdeep in less than a week. At the docks, the busters were met by Delbert, a squire of the Order sent to lead them to the High Hall. Sir Zephus was urged to return immediately to see to some private matter with his superiors in the Radiant Heart, though the rest of the group was given time to do some shopping or explore the city. The group decided that the mission must take priority though, and made their way to the Castle District. The High Hall was a fine temple and the team took some time to wander about as Delbert had to send word to the Council of Chancellors that their guests had arrived. A hefty donation to the temple from Elsbeth sent one of the alms collectors into cardiac arrest, while Set managed to wow veteran knight and instructor Sir Rinaldo in an archery contest. Iseri demonstrated considerable dexterity in vaulting over the Climbing Wall in the exercise yard, whilst a heroic deuce from Gargantuon nearly vacated the premises with its atrocious stink. Stopping by the armory, the busters met Sir Roryn Bladebite, who joined Elsbeth for some strong drink as well as a contest of macho-ness with the half orc. Set took this time to request some barding for his Dire wolf companion Bongo as well.

In short order, the Dragonbusters made their way upstairs to meet with Elminster and the Council of Chancellors. Their plan was a simple one: The Order would assemble as much of its standing forces as possible to draw out the main force of Malfeshnegor’s legions, whilst the busters approached the fortress’ rear entrance through a pass in the Kuathym Mountains to engage the Balor directly.

As the group finalized their plans, the audience chamber was suddenly filled harsh, mocking laughter. The balor had guessed that the Radiant Heart would attempt to balk him and so sent forth a platoon of Purrodaemons, his elite generals, to raze the Order and slay the Chancellors as well as the busters!! The battle was a harsh one and though divine intervention from Lathander evened the field, it took the combined might of the Chancellors and Dragonbusters to expel the rest of the fiends. The Grandmaster of the Order then directed the team to a hidden passage that would lead them outside of the city, telling them to make for the rear pass, while the Order marshaled its remaining forces to draw out the Temple’s legions.

It was a 2 day journey to reach the foot of the mountain pass leading up to the temple. Knowing that the group would be in for a challenge, Iseri girded herself with all manner of magical wards and protections to keep herself intact. Elsbeth contracted the services of a mighty Planetar angel to take the place of the absent Zephus. About halfway up the mountain, the group made a light skirmish against a group of Hill Giants and Set managed to recover the mystical Pantaloons Incorporeal!! (though he was buried in a pile of boulders attempting to do so).

At the summit some 2 hours later, the group found that they had at last reached the back entrance to the new Temple of Elemental Evil, though first they would need to contend with its guards!! Gargantuon lopped off the head of a dark Cleric, while Iseri handily incinerated a blinking Barbarian. Set took to arms against a rival Ranger with extreme prejudice, whilst Iseri was forced to confront her most hated foe…

The Scorpion, dressed in the robes of a high officer, greeted the adventurers with snide mockery and disdain, saying that he had cast his lot in with Malfeshnegor in exchange for territory and power after the Realms had been subjugated. The team handily beat the slave master into a bloody pulp, but the Scorpion merely laughed… Saying that their haste to slay his body would prove to be their undoing. Growling and contorting, the Scorpion convulsed, writhed and took on his true form…

Scorpiox the Cruel!! An ancient red dragon from the earliest days of the Forgotten Realms, entrapped in mortal form by the gods of good for his cruelty, greed and pure evil. Using magic to keep his head from being hacked off, the mighty beast savaged Gargantuon with a punishing bite, though a strong blast of arctic magic from Elsbeth and Iseri soon had the monster on the retreat!! Attempting to fly away to recoup and bathe the area in fire proved to be an ill hope, as Iseri blasted away yet again with her magic, encasing the wretch in ice and sending him plummeting back to earth (atop her companions, though purely by accident.) The group then armed themselves with the dragon’s horde, which had been used to garb the elite guards of the Temple. Steeling themselves for the final battle ahead, the team entered into the darkness of the fortress…

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Flight from Dunholme
The Reunion of the Heroes

Having achieved her aim in recovering a fabulous treasure from the city of Dunholme, Iseri now looked to make good her escape from the labs of Noober. Her keen senses allowed her to locate a draft coming from the back of the test chamber and as the lift out appeared to be out of power, the elf took a more direct approach, using Gearjammer’s strength to bash the back wall out to freedom!!

The hole created by the golem lead into a long forgotten underground cavern that the Arcanist had built his laboratory inside of ages ago. The trek proved lethal for poor Bugsy, as the ceilings were not entirely stable and prone to collapsing. The clockwork spy proved its worth yet again, as it’s master was able to use that knowledge to trigger controlled collapses, which would allow her and her remaining companions to escape. Moving through the passes, the trio found themselves confronted by a pair of basilisks. These were easily dispatched by the constructs, who were immune to their more lethal abilities, but those creatures were but the door wardens for something much worse… A great sinewy linnorm now sprang from its den, its fearsome flames and terrible strength reducing even the mighty Gearjammer to spare parts!! Still, Iseri was used to such tight situations and managed to make an end of the beast with a combination of magic and an old standby: falling rocks. A quick search of an adjacent cave revealed a cache of gold, the hoard of the Linnorm, likely buried by its doorkeepers.

Advancing out of the caves, Iseri and Sprocket came to a long forgotten tomb. A vampire lord held court here with its mummified servants and following some banter, sought to feast on a drop or three of Elvish Red. Sprocket, ever loyal, kept the abomination at bay, humorously teaching the vampire that one cannot seek nourishment from crude oil unless they should possess gears!! The mummies proved far to slow to be of any aid to their master and with his swift destruction, Iseri felled them and claimed some exquisite treasures: an amulet of greater spell resistance and a ring of greater fire resistance, along with the gaudy headdress of the vampire, which was inlaid with some form of unusual gemstones.

Iseri managed to locate a secret pass out of the crypt and outside of the city, just as the cursed tower was reduced to ruin. She was met soon after by the remainder of her companions and the pinky of Sir Zephus. Over the next few days, the group was received warmly at Alagohn for their deeds and Zephus resurrected (his sword thankfully recovered by the grateful mother of Pharis), though it seemed he would now always be one finger short. Occupational hazards of the adventurer!!!

Sonar O’ Sullivan also happened into the area at this time, along with his portable workshop and great news! He had been studying Iseri’s ancient manual extensively and believed he now had the keys to create a one of a kind golem, never before built!! Gearjammer’s remains, along with the stones from vampire’s headdress (revealed to be Astral Diamonds) were key elements in the rebuilding process, which removed the flaws of Noober’s design and replaced them with superior clockwork parts. The work was arduous, but the results were astounding, with Gearjammer being infinitely more powerful, damage resistant and an added bonus- the ability to stop time itself once per day!! A special amulet was also created to link Iseri with the golem, to forge a protective bond between the two.

The group now sought a well earned rest from their ordeals, but it seemed some time since they had last heard word from Elminster….

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To the Top of the Tower
Where do these stairs go?

After their battle with the dastardly demons, the Dragonbusters spent a fretful night in the tower of Cordalaya. Kiba, too tired from the battle to even wake up after an 8 hour sleep, was dragged off to the woods once again by Dave. Fortunately, the group’s alternate, Set, was nearby to help. Also, Gargantuon the Ball Buster returned to fulfill his namesake.

The next floor in the tower they caught sight of the mistress herself, but she fled up the stairs after siccing a few of her mud demons upon the heroes. In the back of the room was the necromancer’s infernal machine, the Darkness Engine. Before leaving, Cordalaya started the machine up, and the group was kept so busy with the Omoxes that they could not reach it in time to prevent it powering up its protective shield. Whatever the machine did they would not be able to stop it without going through the drow first…

And through a maze of pipes on the next floor! Apparently they were connected to the machine in some way, as some of the pipes were hot and others radiated magic. Using Elsbeth’s ability to sense eldritch auras, the Busters were able to navigate the maze without breaking open too many dangerous pipes. They halted at the next set of stairs, wondering what awaited them.

The stairs turned out to open onto the very top of the tower, where Cordalaya herself and a small group of drow were ready for them. The necromancer, however, cared so little for her fellow drow that she dropped them all with a leadoff Wail of the Banshee! The group initially could not reach the evil wizard as the Darkness Engine was creating a shield for her half of the tower, but after besting fire elementals, cauldrons of lava, and some weird animated bones, they were finally able to bring the fight to the magic-user!

She had some more tricks up her sleeve, however. At her beck and call was a corrupted Ansafarilonyxia, mother of Zephus’ loyal gold dragon companion! The paladin, upon seeing their new adversary, called upon his magic steed to assist the heroes. Eventually, after the dragon took wing and came back to earth atop poor Gargantuon, the adventurers managed to get the necromancer away from her huge protector. Hastily erecting a wall of force around herself, Cordalaya began formulating a new plan. Unbeknownst to her, though, the cleric Elsbeth had a better one already! She called upon the power of Lathander to dispel the magic barrier, and Zephus leaped up onto the parapet to deliver the final blow!

In desperation, Cordalaya threw up her staff in a vain effort to stop the arc of the descending Holy Avenger. The magical blade sheared right through the staff and into the drow’s body. But such staffs of power are notoriously volatile, and the magical energy contained in it erupted into a huge explosion! Cordalaya was consumed, and Zephus, standing in the epicenter of the blast, was incinerated as well!

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Jamming in the labs!

While her Dragonbuster comrades continued their ascent of the Cursed Tower, Iseri found herself heading deeper and deeper below the earth. As she navigated the ancient depths of the forgotten labs of the Arcanist, the elf decided that a bit of caution was in order. Sending Bugsy ahead to investigate, Iseri took a few moments to search through yet more haphazard notes strewn throughout the lower area as her faithful clockwork servant carried out his duties. Exploration of the central passage yielded a strange hissing sound, while a side pass contained much buzzing.

Deciding to investigate the side pass first, Iseri located the sad remnant of an arboretum the Arcanist had been using to study exotic and magical plant and animal life. From his final log entries, it appeared the wizard had the misfortune of being swindled by a shady goods dealer and had resolved to deal with this particular pest problem before it got out of hand. The mage believed that he was to receive a rare specimen of plant which ended up being some kind of hideous misshapen subterranean creature that was quickly becoming too difficult to sustain. Alas, it seemed that he perished before the lower level might be properly fumigated…

Some careful searching in the hall also yielded access to a collection of lore and trivia on various villains and ne’er do-wells from the long history of Faerun. Some notes here indicated that while this was valuable as a historical archive, the Arcanist was hoping to be able to turn history into an amusing past time for those less inclined to scholarly pursuits. Fascinating! Continuing down the central hall, Iseri was confronted by the beast that had escaped the Arboretum centuries ago! A pulsing, slimy, slithering mass hissed and sputtered!! Iseri dealt with it as she dealt with most obstacles of a similar disposition: with plenty of fire!! This creature was not without its own defenses and its powerful psychic abilities forced even the mighty Raven of Calimshan onto the defensive! With aid from loyal Sprocket and a handy dandy disintegration spell, Iseri was soon moving on and grooving on down the way!

The next area contained a most amusing diversion: A large scale version of the Arcanist’s trivia game was created as both a lark and lock to the final lab. Iseri drew on her vast reserves of knowledge born from intense study to unravel the men and women behind the historical clues left by the Arcanist: Crafty and vicious Manshoon, the vampire lord! King Obould Many-Arrows the orc Warchief of legend! Cunning Miklos Selkirk, protector of Sembia and what game of trivia would be complete without mention of Elminster Aumar, the Sage of Shadowdale and hero of countless songs and tales!! Answering the trivia yielded two results: The forgotten name of the Arcanist: Noober of Nashkel, the single most annoying man in the history of ever, who hoped that his exploits as a wizard would bring him respect and admiration from those that once pelted him with stones, and caused the floor beneath the elf to be lowered, at last bringing her to the prize…

In the center of this chamber stood a mighty Clockwork Golem. A thing of great and terrible wonder! Iseri was eager for a chance to study the construct, but first she would need to deal with the security detail of a pair of Iron Golems and their Gorgon watchdogs!! The situation looked to be ugly, until the lass felt a strange weight in her pocket. Reaching inside, the rogue removed a palm-sized amber colored stone that her magical training identified as a Wish Gem!! Just the thing for pesky Golem guards!! Commanding their steely hides to become delicious candy, the mage indulged in light bit of sweet to savor her triumph and skill.

Busting out the Silent Servant’s Bible, the artificer in training was able to deduce some of the more complex workings of the clockwork golem, determining that it would need gemstones to function as a rudimentary fuel source until something more suitable could be found. Feeding some fire opals into the construct’s receptacle allowed Iseri to start up the construct, while a handy testing function was put into place by the labs to observe the golem’s effectiveness. In a one on one match against another Iron Golem, the Clockwork construct emerged victorious against a more hardy opponent by its superior combat capability. Christening this new member of her Clockwork family as Gearjammer, Iseri and her allies raised the golem’s arms in a cheer of celebration!!

Now, to make good their exit!!

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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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