Second Darkness

Summary 13: The First Darkness
Chapter Three: Armageddon Echo
 
The Immortals had proven themselves that their namesake was merited. Before them, the vrock laid dead at their feet. Ruil’s wounds were healed enough so that he could rise to see the outcome he had hoped his friends could accomplish, that being finishing what he had fought so hard to do. From that last fight, it was obvious the drow were indeed prepared for an assault by the elves and had allowed false scouting reports to leak to Crying Leaf. Thoughts then turned to Allevrah and the mysterious Winter Council. As drow were elves, it made sense that there would indeed be at least one on the Council as they were the ones that influenced all elves across Golarion. If that was the case however, then it was a secret kept from the elves for centuries.
 
Horribly wounded, with Citrine nearly out of spells, the Immortal's needed to pray for healing spells. Not wanted to leave the <place><placetype>Academy</placetype> of <placename>Arts</placename></place>,  Corthana took out one of her scrolls and cast the spell, creating a small pocket demiplane. A rope led up to it, and everyone climbed up; all save Gunderhoff. He looked up and said that he did not climb. Yet after some coercing, and a threat by Ruil to physically throw him up, he agreed to go up.
 
During the eight hours, thoughts turned to Niko. Gunderhoff didn't really care, but both Corthana and Ruil mourned their fallen comrade. They asked Citrine why she hadn't brought the drake back to life with her revivify scroll. Citrine defended her actions by saying she was too busy defending Gunderhoff. In truth however, she had always despised Niko. He had after all been an evil creature, even admitting to eating non-drow elves.
 
After a few hours, the pocket began fading, and it was time to leave. Their wounds at been healed by Citrine and Gunderhoff, and thus they were more than prepared for whatever dared to impede their path. There did remain one last room to explore, the one the third elven group had attacked. The room was covered with blood, and drag marks indicated something had been dragged out. The room itself had a large pool in the middle, and Ruil said it was an ancient meditation chamber.
 
Just before the four decided to abandon the obvious empty room, Citrine heard the water begin moving. She looked on to see two large watery creatures emerge from its depths. Ruil quickly scanned his brain as to what they were, and all he could come up with was that these were water elementals. Yet how best defend or attack them was lost to him at the moment. He thus decided upon his reliable greatsword. Using a new technique he had been practicing, he dashed in as fast as he could, slashed his sword, and then exited the elementals attack range before it could counter swipe. The blade seemed to inflict some damage, but Ruil felt the water of the beast push back some of the momentum of his swing.
 
Citrine moved into the fray, her scimitar slashing and encountering the same resistance to her blade. Corthana then let fly her daggers, but each one simply bounced off the watery creatures. Gunderhoff then moved next to Citrine, his flaming hammer smashing water to mist. The two water elementals, seeing the dwarf as the biggest threat, pounded the stocky man with their thunderous fists. Yet after the assault, Gunderhoff emerged unscathed, with barely a dent in his armor.
 
Ruil then channeled electricity through his sword and was about to bring the pain down when a splash of water hit him in the eye, blinding him for just a few seconds. Citrine however found a vulnerable place and cut away more watery essence. Corthana decided to help Ruil attack defensively as her daggers were of no effect. Gunderhoff continued showing everyone he was more than piece of unmalleable steel by again hitting an elemental hard with his hammer. In response, both elemental put all their power into their slams, in an attempt to get in a lucky hit. The future dwarven defender was up to the task. His armor shuddered through the impacts, but easily took the stress.
 
By then Ruil had recovered from his blindness and cut the nearest elemental with steel and electricity, causing it to cry out in pain. Citrine then blasted the same one with fire, causing the beast to shudder in near death. And such was the case upon the end of Gunderhoff's mighty warhammer as it smashed the elemental down. The other elemental, having no luck hitting Gunderhoff, turned its attention on Citrine. Her defenses however were far above the norm and she dodged and parried both swings. Ruil capitalized upon the attention on his friend by electrocuting the elemental through his greatsword, nearly ending the fight with that one attack.
 
Citrine blasted the creature with fire, but the elemental was able to dodge part of the attack, taking minor burns. Gunderhoff then smashed it with his hammer. In desperation it slammed its whole body into Citrine, crushing two of her ribs. Ruil then cut the elemental yet again, but still the elemental stood its ground. It was sweet vengeance for Citrine however as her scimitar cut aside the last bit of life the water elemental possessed.
 
With only one last room to explore, the Immortals headed there. Ruil detected no magic on the door, yet a listen at the door, they heard the pulsing of something very powerful. If the aboleth was to be believed, the Armageddon Echo was on the other side. Corthana meanwhile began tinkering with the lock on the door, finally picking it open after a full twenty minutes work. Once she succeeded, Citrine cast an array of offensive and defensive powers upon herself, transforming into an incredibly powerful warrior.
 
As usual, Gunderhoff was first to enter. He and the rest of the Immortals beheld a huge glowing purple portal. That was not the primary concern at the moment however. That prize belonged to Kardrogas the drow barbarian screamed as he charged at the first person he saw. Gunderhoff felt the greatsword scrape across his scalp, cutting a few hairs and discharging a shock right to his brain.
 
Corthana launched a trio of daggers, all aimed low, tripping the raging drow where he stood. The drow however was quick to get to his feet, taking a hit from Gunderhoff but slashing Corthana right under the ribcage, exposing bone, and causing her body to shake with convulsions at the shear brutality of the hit. For a split second, she saw the glow of the afterlife calling, before reality came back to her, over the gravity of the wound she had just sustained.
 
Ruil saw his friend's plight and charged in, throwing all his weight into his next swing. The sheer power absolutely blasted the rage in Kardrogas right out of the barbarian, as well as impaling the drow all the way through. Citrine meanwhile quickly healed Corthana with a powerful spell to mend the gash upon the spellthief. Gunderhoff then swung his hammer, while Corthana waited for the drow to bring home the pain. Yet the dwarfs aim was off, and he hit nothing but air.
 
Kardrogas wanted blood. He wanted to kill one last person before is life was taken from him. And so he again attacked Corthana, cutting her twice. Ruil, wanting to surprise the barbarian, dimensional hopped right next to him and cut the drow from behind twice. Citrine then impaled Kardrogas twice more, bringing the drow to one knee. Gunderhoff then smashed the barbarian in the face, ending the fight.
 
Citrine healed up some of Corthana's wounds, while Gunderhoff sent forth several small healing waves to help everyone. With two of the remaining charges from the wand they were able to identify the magical items Kardrogas possesses. Both sword and armor went to Corthana, although given the weight of the blade, Ruil was asked to hold onto it.
 
Attention now turned to the room and its contents. Ruil noticed a stone upon the floor which he identified as a piece of the Cypher Gate. After doing some brainstorming, he realized that it likely had a part in the portals actual creation. Now though, the stone had no significance. Destroying the stone was supposedly an impossible feat anyway, yet the drow had found a way to break this one off of the gate in Riddleport. Using his knowledge in all things arcane, Ruil also noticed that the portal itself was slowly closing. It seemed thus that if the Immortals were to enter it, then it would be a one way trip unless they could find some other means to get back.
 
Fearing they might be attacked on the other side, the four starting thinking of a plan. They decided to imbibe potions of invisibility and go through, with the exception of Corthana who dived into the shadows. Once they crossed the threshold of the portal, they found themselves in a huge city, one very familiar to them. It was the ancient elven city of <city><place>Celwynvian</place></city>, but completely intact. The sky itself was a purple color, and amongst it was a huge meteor heading toward the city. To their left, a smaller meteor crashed through a tower, sending elves running through the streets. Throughout the city, more and more smaller stones fell from the sky, creating explosions of stone and fire where they struck. Ruil used his knowledge of all things nature and predicted that the big meteor would strike within two days. One fear of the Immortals was alleviated as behind them, the portal was still active. Ruil again put his studies to the test and deduced that their presence was similar to the shadow plane, although no quite as dark.
 
As the Immortals continued talking, four strange drow-like creatures lunged out; attempting to find the location the Immortals were standing in. Two of their claws found Citrine and Gunderhoff, but their undead claws bounced off the magical armor of the heroes. The blast shadows, now knowing there were foes to be slain, emanated a cloud of burning ash, burning all those who were nearby. They then clawed out, but again armor resisted their puny strikes. Corthana was quick to throw her dagger, with one hitting a pair of creatures right in the face and sending them to the ground. Gunderhoff then smashed the one on the ground, crushing brittle bones.
 
Ruil too concentrated his attacks upon the blast shadow on the ground, his greatsword and electricity doing massive internal injuries, but not making the creature scream in pain, indicating the things were likely undead. Citrine prayed to Sarenrae, asking her to destroy her foes. Alas the light from the holy symbol didn't shine as bright in the Armageddon Echo, and failed to do anything. Now with the Immortals fully visible, the blast shadows attacked, with the two on the floor rising and their burning auras scorching the Immortals. Three of them clawed at Ruil, but even not cloaked in magic, their claws missed Ruil. The fourth one meanwhile clawed at Citrine, but was unsuccessful.
 
Corthana aimed her dagger at three different blast shadows, trying to trip them all. This time the creatures resisted the momentum of the daggers. Gunderhoff, being in the middle of the action, sent a wave of healing energy that healed everyone and harmed the undead. The weakened blast shadow collapsed to the ground and then exploded in a ball of fire, burning everyone in a death burst. Corthana however jump aside of the flames, taking no damage.
 
Ruil by then was quite angry. Angry not at the whole situation, but rather at his fellow Immortals. His heart screamed for death upon his enemies by his own sword, yet it seemed that his friends continued stealing his kills. He again swung at the nearest undead, attempting to channel electricity through his blade. The pain from the death blast was to much however and he lost his spell. His sword did however inflict a significant wound. Citrine then slashed with her sword, wounding it further.
 
It seemed as though the blast shadows were being given instructions from a far off place as they maneuvered themselves strategically to burn as many Immortals as possible. This time one of them managed to claw at Ruil's neck, a small fire ball erupting into the wound right after the hit. With her friends wounded, she tried thinking of something else to do. She again tried to trip two of the blast shadows, but they again stood their ground. Gunderhoff sent another wave of healing out, injuring and harming those he wanted. Ruil struck again at the greatly injured undead, but again it somehow stood its ground.
 
Yet again a blast shadow got in a lucky hit upon Ruil, bringing him closer and closer to darkness. Citrine then went to her trusted scimitar, cutting through black flesh. It and its friend clawed at Citrine, but she had taken on a defensive stance, making it more difficult to hit her. The other blast shadows attacks were blocked by Ruil's blade, although its cloud again burned his flesh. Gunderhoff again prayed to Torag and sent forth a wave of healing energy, destroying a second blast shadow. It in turn blew up, created a wave of fire. Gunderhoff, Ruil and Citrine were prepared for it and braced themselves for the impact. Corthana however wanted to show off her rogue skills by jumping over the blast. Yet her timing was simply too fast, and as she finished her summersault, she found herself directly within the fires.
 
Citrine then attacked the weaker of the blast shadows, slaying it and creating yet another fireball. This time, everyone was expecting the fire, and moved accordingly to avoid the flames as much as possible. Corthana threw her daggers, sending the remaining one to the ground. Gunderhoff then used his remaining healing wave to mend burns and harm undead. Corthana waved back to the dwarf, silently laughing at her private joke. Ruil then stepped up and cut the undead where it laid. Citrine too cut it several times, with her last attack activating the blast shadows death thrash.
 
A quick search of the debris turned up nothing. Citrine healed up everyone's wounds, after which it was decided that they needed to ask the elves what the heck was going on. They looked to an elf who had observed the entire battle. He said his name was Borak, although his true name was Arkaxis under the effects of a disguise self spell. He said he would do what he could to help them with their queries. There was great fear in his eyes over the disaster happening around him, and in fact he asked Ruil why the warrior was not running like the rest of the populace? He also asked if the Immortals had come to stop the calamity in the sky? Ruil said he and his friends were not from the city. As for aid, he said it was an uncertain thing.
 
Borak then began responding to their questions. He said that the drow, or strange elves, starting appearing seven days ago. As it happened, the drow appeared right after meteor was detected in the sky. The elves of Celwynvian had mostly fled, but many, including Borak, believed the meteor would miss the town. He also said that recently the drow had carried several elves from the portal, all bloodied as though from a battle. He said he heard the drow talking about going to the Fluted Goblet, one of the only remaining taverns that had not abandoned humanity. Citrine then asked if they served meat, to which Borak responded yes. Corthana asked him what was up with the shadowy haze in the air, to which Borak asked what she meant, saying that the air had always been so. Several other questions led to no answers, however Borak did direct them to speak with an Azlanti emissary from Thassilon named Tolgren. He also showed the Immortal's a map of the town, along with several locations of interest.
 
Now the questions and suppositions starting being thrown around. It was obvious that there were elves to rescue in this the Armageddon Echo. Nolveniss was the one who had created the portal to this plane. As to whether Allevrah was here or not was unknown. There was no way to know whether the Armageddon Echo was an illusionary or not, although evidence pointed to the former. From what was known in the history, the First Darkness was caused by a huge meteor striking Golarion and wiping out Thassilon, as well as chasing the elves to the plane of Sovereign, used the Sovereign Stone artifact in the elven continent of Kyonin. What was impossible to surmise was whether they had been transported back in the past or not. And if they somehow stopped the meteor, whether that would prevent the First Darkness from even happening. What happened if they were able to save even one elf that was fated to die? With an actual Thassilonian within Celwynvian, answers would likely be around the corner.
 
The door was open to Tolgren's resistance. The man was taller than most humans, with an almost superior look to him without trying to appear so. He beckoned the Immortal's to enter, in the hopes of a pleasant conversation. Around him were many books of various subjects. The Immortals explained that they were visitors from the future, showing them the piece of the cyphergate as proof. Tolgren explained that the device was near construction, and seemed to accept their story. He said that, the cyphergate was a huge device that would permit the Runelords to look back in time, although the possibility to actually go back in time using the device was not outside the realm of possibility. He then spoke of the strange dark elves and how they asked about portals, rune magic, and time travel. Upon request, Tolgren gave the location of the cyphergate, which corresponded to the current one, although the name of Riddleport meant nothing to the Thassilon sage.
 
Ruil then decided to detect magical auras. He noticed that most of Tolgren's equipment glowed. Ruil then surmised that perhaps there was information in the past that the drow needed for what they were doing in their time. After further questions. Tolgren said that the drow had been very kind to all they had met. He also theorized that the elves were not the targets of the meteor, but rather simply collateral damage. He believed it was Thassilon that was the target. The reason being because Thassilon had borrowed all of their magic from the aboleths, and that it was likely them that had called the meteor to punish the Thassilon nation for the believed transgression. As for the location of the Sovereign stone, it was located within Kyonin. The mages in Celwynvian were currently teleported elves to that location. Tolgren also said that babau demons had been seen with the drow.
 
After spending a few hours of rest in Tolgren's home, memorizing spells, and listening to small meteors crashing into buildings around the city, the Immortals went to the Fluted Goblet, where they assumed the final battle with the drow would take place. Yet upon entering, the place was surprisingly empty. Only the bartender (the assassin Arkaxis again using his disguise self) was present, and he was thrilled to have clients. He said he had no intention of leaving his bar to the wrath of the gods. He also said that the drow had left about a day ago, but that they had enjoyed their steak tartar. That got everyone's attention, and they all ordered food and drink.
 
After it was brought out, Citrine did a detect poison on the food, but found nothing. They all thus sat down upon the chairs and the hidden poison needles. Ruil and Corthana felt the poison course through their veins. A few seconds later, Ruil felt a small crossbow bolt fly over his head as he ducked to eat some soup. He heard a curse from the kitchen as Arkaxis had missed with his assassination attempt. From the walls emerged a pair of shadows, as well as a shadow mastiff. The great beast lunged at Ruil, but he dodged the attack. The shadows meanwhile lunged towards Citrine and Corthana, with the spellthief feeling some of her strength drained from the touch. Arkaxis then emerged from the kitchen, his rapier leading the way to stab through Ruil's back.
 
Turning from the pain, Ruil's greatsword came cleaving down, creating a huge gaping wound in the drow’s chest.  Gunderhoff pounded the mastiff, sending shadowy blood flowing. Citrine then blasted the shadows to dust with Sarenrae's blessing. Corthana let fly her daggers at the assassin, wounded him further. Arkaxis again stabbed at Ruil, this time hitting a kidney. Ruil counter attacked, again slashing Arkaxis. Gunderhoff then smashed the shadow mastiff again, nearly bringing it down. Citrine finished the beast off with a fiery blast, leaving a very wounded assassin. Corthana again let fly her daggers, this time only catching the drow with a slight slash. Arkaxis stabbed feebly at Corthana, but there was no force in the blow, and rather than die needlessly, he threw down his blade and surrendered.
 
After some healing and restorations from Citrine, questions turned to Arkaxis. They asked him what his weapons were, and who he was. Ruil decided that cutting off the assassin's finger would encourage him to speak honestly. Arkaxis said that Nolveniss had created the Armageddon Echo using a piece of the Cypher Gate to observe the First Darkness in order to perfect Allevrah's plan. He also said that in order to return to the real world, one needed the shadow key; which Nolveniss possessed. Nolveniss had returned time and time again to observe the event that had changed the world ten thousand years ago. As for Allevrah being a Winter Council member, Arkaxis seemed surprised at the thought, saying she was nothing of the sort. As for where to find Nolveniss, the mage could be found at the <place><placename>Crystal</placename> <placename>Conservatory</placename></place>. The assassin then proposed a deal to buy his services as he had no loyalty to Allevrah and his gang.  He said he didn't want anything to do with Allevrah's ultimate plan of exterminating the elves. There seemed to be a general acceptance for the hiring of the assassin, save that the decision always seemed to fall on Ruil's blade. And after a quick slash to the assassin's throat, the decision was made.
 
The Immortals decided to head off to a chapel to see about the possibility of acquiring some scrolls and potions. They still had yet to determine whether things within the Echo were real or not. The nearest temple was abandoned, leaving the four to pillage to their hearts delight. The scrolls they found were written in some ancient language, and upon inspection, it was obvious that should they be read, their magic would have no effect. Ruil meanwhile drank a potion to cure her wounds, only to see his wounds remain. There was indeed a portion at least to the Echo that was false.
 
After consulting their map, they arrived at the <place><placename>Crystal</placename> <placename>Conservatory</placename></place>. They encountered no resistance at all, which in itself was odd. Within were various plants, most of which were now extinct. A few hours of searching came up with nothing. It appeared that Arkaxis had lied to them, as was the way of drow. Undeterred however, the Immortal's began asking people around town if they had seen a dragon enter a building. Their efforts were rewarded as they were pointed towards the Observatory.
 
Two Echo elf guards said they could not enter. Yet upon seeing an elf within their midst and having Ruil say that the humans were with them, they stepped aside. The doors to the Observatory opened with ease, revealing a huge chamber with a model of the solar system in the ceiling. At a long table, playing cards, were five rather startled drow guards. They were quick to react to the intrusion. A hail of crossbow bolts flew Gunderhoff’s way, all of them bouncing off his shield. A magical darkness then encompassed the room, making it more difficult to hit. The captain drow named <place><city>Lexington</city></place> meanwhile cast a hold person on Gunderhoff, freezing the dwarf in place.
 
Corthana launched her daggers at two of the nearest drow, hitting two of them and sending them to the ground. Gunderhoff used all of his will power to push through the enchantment finding his movements and was able to break through it. Ruil then went into the room, and cut a drow down with steel and lightening. Citrine then threw her daylight spell stone expecting the sun to encompass the room, only to see nothing happen as the Armageddon plane enveloped the spell as it did all light spells. The drow soldiers put aside their crossbows and took out their rapiers. Their blades were aimed at Gunderhoff but most of them bounced off his armor, save for one minor cut. <place><city>Lexington</city></place> then cast a sound burst spell, shaking everyone's brains with sonic energy.
 
Ruil attacked another drow, but this time the darkness impeded his movement. Citrine however was able to find the drow and cut him good. <city><place>Lexington</place></city> commanded two of the drow to aim for Ruil, who took a rapier stab in the gut. The captain meanwhile cast a spiritual weapon. Corthana, now with a clean view on the captain, launched her daggers and catching him once. Citrine again stabbed the drow, nearly slaying it. Ruil meanwhile again found himself having trouble in the darkness finding his target.
 
<place><city>Lexington</city></place> sent his spiritual weapon upon Corthana, cutting her across the back. He then cast a protection spell to aid his defense. The other drow both attacked Ruil, but he batted aside the blades. Gunderhoff then moved into the fray and smashed the weakest drow to the ground and continuing to raise his frag count. Ruil continued his drow massacre and cut another drow down. Corthana threw her daggers at another drow, wounding and tripping him. Citrine impaled that same foe, her blade going clean his throat.
 
With his troops dead, the captain ran to the door and opened it, screaming something in undercommon. Ruil charged at the drow, trying to get him away from the drow. Yet <city><place>Lexington</place></city> was quicker, stabbing the warrior and getting out of the way. Corthana reached for her returning dagger as it came back, but she miscalculated her catching hand and nearly dropped it. Citrine was there however with her magic, immolating the captain with fire.
 
After a few healing spells by Citrine, they were ready to move on. With their resources at an all time low, Corthana passed a potion of healing to Ruil. Gunderhoff then sent out a wave of healing energy, healing more of everyone's cuts. The Immortals then entered the room the captain had wanted to take refuge in and came face to face with a rather fearsome troglodyte. Yet in a matter of twelve seconds, it was just another enemy left trampled in their wake.
 
From the next room, they heard the cry of help. The voice was very familiar, belonging to Eviana. Gunderhoff was first into the room, and came face to face with the fearful Razorhorn; bane of the <place><placename>Miereni</placename> <placetype>Forest</placetype></place>. The dwarf quickly called back to his friends to drink their potions of acid resistance while he too did the same. Sure enough, Razorhorn breathed forth his breath weapon, catching Ruil as well in the spray. After seeing the results, or lack thereof from his own acid breath, Razorhorn seemed to pause in perplexity, as though he was trying to solve a problem whose solution was right before him.
 
Gunderhoff used the distraction and attacked but his hammer bounced off scales. Corthana meanwhile took out her Book of Sniping to see if there was anything she could do against such a fearsome foe. She thought she found something, but her precise thrown dagger bounced off scales as well. Citrine decided to cast divine power in order to give herself some better armaments for the fight. Ruil then blasted Razorhorn with scorching rays, bringing the first cries of pain from. Although the wyrm wanted to inflict pain upon Ruil, he was too far away, and so opted to go all out on Citrine. The cleric was battered by horn, wings, and tail, making the cleric pay for entering near him.
 
Gunderhoff again tried to hit with his hammer, but the wyrm’s defenses were too great. Against such a creature, the dwarf needed luck. As did his friend Corthana whose daggers continued to bounce off impenetrable scales. Ruil continued to use his friends as cover and blasted fire from his hands, melting flesh and scales. Razorhorn again went for Citrine, but now she had engaged all her defenses, deflecting all the dragon's attacks. She then used a new spell that teleported her a small distance right in back of Razorhorn. She then cut a chunk out of the dragon's spine, nearly disabling the beast.
 
Ruil again blasted it with fire, wounded it more.  Razorhorn again attacked Citrine, but its nerves were partially severed and it could only find the strength to claw. The attack was laughable and she deflected it, then countered with a swipe to its throat. The power of the blow flipped the dragon up into the air, where it landed dead at Citrine’s feat.
 
Nearby, they came to a cell door, where within they found a very hurt Eviana. She implored the Immortal’s to go to the other cell and free the other prisoners. Corthana took her time and opened the lock. Inside, however, they found a sight of true gore. Upon the floor were ten elves, all dead, and all without their heads.
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Summary 12: One Step Closer to the Dark Side
Chapter Three: Armageddon Echo
 
There would soon be a nuclear blast if the flames reached the chemicals on the ground. Luckily Citrine was there to cast ten gallon of water upon the conflagration to stop the calamity from coming to pass. There remained as well a pair of large beakers, one brimming with acid, and the other a toxic poison as identified by Ruil and Corthana. The thief also located a drain, making the decision as to what to do with the beakers seem almost too obvious. Citrine cast light upon a stone and sent it to the bottom of the grate, where it made splash about fifty feet down. With no way to know if it connected to the elves water supply (and in fact it did), Ruil searched the lab and was able to find enough alchemical supplies to neutralize both lethal concoctions.
 
After arriving back at Crying Leaf, they gave their report to Eviana. She was thrilled with their victory and was happy to report that most of her other generals had reported in with similar good tidings. With drow heads to question, the Immortal's got right to work with Citrine's speak with dead spell. Only one of the dead gave any answers however.
 
The grate at the lab, what purpose does it serve? Haven't been to the lab
 
Where in Celwynvian is your base of operations ? Academy of arts
 
What is your next plan of action against the elves ? I am no more that a guard
 
Aside from Ixilano, what non drow forces have allied with you ? Razorhorn
 
As it turned out, the <place><placetype>Academy</placetype> of <placename>Arts</placename></place> was the next and final target of the elven forces. It was from there that the drow were reportedly coming from on a constant basis. It was also there that the drow were now retreating. Eviana said that they would attack on three fronts upon each entrance. Since the Immortals had proven themselves to be the greater of the forces upon the battlefield, she gave them the choice of which way they wanted to attack. The intelligence on the building indicated that the front doors were by far the most heavily guarded, and as such, the heroes decided that would be their point of entry. The final assault would begin in the morning. In the meantime, Eviana invited the Immortals to root out any other pockets of drow in the city. She also mentioned that one of her lieutenants Kaerishiel had yet to return from his own scouting mission and that perhaps they could find him.
 
After having their wounds healed up by Citrine, the Immortals plunged into the fallen Celwynvian. Through the afternoon, they scouted out abandoned buildings and slew several pockets of drow hiding in their dark corners, away from the blazing sun. They soon came to a set of three broken towers. From a distance they noticed several drow atop one, aiming a huge ballista at a neighboring tower. After a few moments they let fly a bolt that exploded in a fiery blast upon the other tower, bringing screams of pain from the elves within.
 
The Immortals quickly came up with a plan. Corthana used a scroll of invisibility sphere to hide their approach. Soon they were at the ballista tower, and Ruil tossed up a stink stone, but it hit a battlement and fell to the ground. He then quickly entered the tower and ascended the stairs. Corthana was quickly on his heels, a smile upon her face at the thought of stabbing a drow in the spine. Gunderhoff, now on the saddle of Niko, flew up, still canceled by invisibility. Citrine then tossed a daylight spell above, blinding the four drow temporarily.
 
Using her magical boots, Citrine scaled the wall and was upon the first drow she saw. She jumped with her scimitar leading the way in a two-handed chop that split a dark skinned elves head in two. Ruil then entered the fray, his electrified sword nearly cutting down a second drow. Corthana then threw her daggers low, tripping a drow and hitting an artery. Gunderhoff then jumped off the saddle and smashed that same drow's face in, ending its life. And then Niko emerged from his invisibility, biting a drow's arm clean off. Yet somehow it stood, though it was simply through several hundred years of battle training.
 
With the remaining drow now recovered from the immediate lack of sight, they saw the mighty forest drake and two of them attacked, their blades retracting with blood upon them. The other drow saw Ruil but its attacks were easily deflected aside. Citrine moved behind one of the drow that had wounded Niko and impaled him from the back through his abdomen. An uncharacteristic twist of the blade dropped the drow dead. Ruil then cut at the other drow attacking Niko and killed it with that single slice. Niko, wanting vengeance, charged at the remaining drow and attempted to knock it off the tower. The drow however side-stepped the attack, and jabbed its rapier in between two of Niko's ribs.
 
Now laboring for breath, Niko needed help and fast, and it was a good thing he had Citrine as an ally. A single prayer to Sarenrae healed all of his wounds. The drow couldn't help but look on in disbelief. A hammer to the face by Gunderhoff erased that look. And as he clutched his broken jaw, Ruil gutted him.
 
Niko was quick to burn the ballista with his acid breath. He then flew everyone down to the tower the drow had been assaulting. Inside they found several wounded elves, included Kaerishiel, the missing general. Another fourth elf too was present, but she had burned to death after the last ballista bolt. Citrine sent out a wave of healing energy that slowly healed up some of the elves wounds. With an emotional thanks by the general, the group headed back to Crying Leaf. There, Citrine and Gunderhoff used their remaining spell energy to heal up as many wounded as they could before resting for the night.
 
The next day, the assault began.
 
The <place><placetype>Academy</placetype> of <placename>Arts</placename></place> seemed quite small to be the central base where all the drow were coming from. Soon battle could be heard on the other side of the building where the other two forces were fighting. The Immortals approached the front doors cautiously. They saw a pair of statues nearby and knew instinctively they were placed in an unusual spot. Although they did not animate as was predicted, they did emit an unseen dispelling screen. This destroyed most of Citrine's spell enhancements, and Ruil's current shocking grasp spell. The Immortal's also unknowingly tripped an alarm spell notifying the drow hidden on the roof of the approaching invaders. Three crossbow bolts flew, at Ruil, but only one of them breached his armor. It was the fourth projectile that did the most harm as a fireball exploded in the Immortal's midst. Then darkness blanketed the battlefield.
 
Ruil flew from his burning comrades and blasted one of the drow to ash with his own rays of fire. Citrine then brought daylight to the drow, blinding them and negating the darkness around them. Corthana threw three daggers upon the helpless drow archanist. The first dagger transferred a spell into Corthana's mind: a fireball. The other two dagger brought death to the mage.  Niko then breathed forth his acid breath upon the survivors, and that was enough as they ran off in their blinded state.
 
Gunderhoff was the first one through the front doors, but the room was blanketed in magical darkness. Citrine put an end to that with a spell, and revealed a horrible creature waiting for invaders. It was a flesh golem made up of the body parts of elves. Its four arms plucked arrows from its body and fired them at Citrine. She deflected two of them, but the other two punched through her armor. Gunderhoff charged in, surprising his friends with his sudden jump into battle, but his hammer bounced off the golems fleshy hide. Citrine pointed out a weakness in the constructs defense to Ruil and the elf charged in. Yet the golem moved faster than the bodies it was made up of and parried the sword strike.
 
Citrine went to the weapon she most often used and sent a bolt of fire flying. It didn't do any damage, but it did have a strange affect in that it slowed the golem's movements. That put a lull in its blocking arms, allowing for Ruil to strike twice with his sword. Corthana meanwhile sent her daggers flying, but the golem's flesh seemed to absorb the attacks, and it seemed unaffected. The golem meanwhile upper-cutted Ruil, crushing his jaw. The elf tried to retaliate, but his head swooned and he simply couldn't bring his sword upon flesh. His friends too were having trouble doing any harm. A dagger then flashed by his knee and into the golems foot, tripping the behemoth.
 
As the thing arose, Ruil imbued his sword with lightening and brought the blade down upon its shoulder. The cut was not deep, but the electricity coursed through the flesh golem, causing its muscles to twitch and flex at a hastened rate. Yet despite the speed, the golem's punch hit nothing but air as Ruil jumped aside. Citrine then quickly immolated the golem, slowing its movements. Niko meanwhile had been coaching Gunderhoff on how to hit with no results. The drake became frustrated the dwarf continued not follow his advice and so breathed forth his acid on the golems and friends as well. Flesh everywhere melted away, the golem still stood and elbowed Ruil across the head. Citrine quickly healed the wound, keeping their gladiator in the fight.
 
Now without Niko's distracting battle tactics, Gunderhoff used his own dwarven skills and struck the golem hard. He ignored the acid cloud eating through his skin and hit the golem a second time. Yet despite the damage, the golem continued striking Ruil, whose own swings were going wild in an attempt to ward off the painful slams. Again, Niko breathed forth acid, and again the golem began melting away. Citrine then imbued herself with the power of the divine and cut down the last remaining vestiges of animation in the flesh golem.
 
The Immortal's began exploring the interior. By then the sounds of battle on the other two fronts had stopped. All around then, spider webs and their creators hung from the ceilings. The arachnids were quickly dispatched, and their gore added to the blood already on the floor. They took the right door and came into a room with a small black pillar covered in glowing runes. Citrine identified it as a shrine to Abraxas, demon lord of Forbidden Knowledge. A door leading further in came back with a magical aura on it. Not wanting to test it, the Immortal's headed left.
 
Entering into a small room, they came into an obvious place where elves had been help prisoner. Many elvish skeletons hung from the walls, and they animated as the heroes entered. A quick prayer to Sarenrae obliterated them however. The floor meanwhile was covered in fresh blood, with drag marks indicating that someone had been dragged back to the room they had just exited.  Fearing their allies had been captured, they turned back, with Niko melting the door with the magical aura on it down with acid. That set off a delayed blast fireball trap that engulfed them all in flames. Citrine quickly healed them all, and they entered the next room.
 
What they found was a pool of water, with a large lily pad in the center. Upon it was a beautiful elven maiden. She said her name was Meleeki, and that she was the portal master to the Armageddon echo in the next room. The drow had captured her many months ago and had forced her to help them, threatening to kill her family. When asked about Razorhorn, she said the dragon had entered the portal. She also said that an elf had been recently dragged there too; an elf matching Eviana's description. She said that the lily pad was her magical prison, and so Niko melted it with his breath.
 
Unknown to everyone, Corthana felt a magical intrusion in her head. She pushed aside the domination spell and tossed her daggers and the suspected source. Meleeki recoiled as the blades pierced her skin, drawing blood. Ruil raised his bow, and point an arrow at the spellthief's face, demanded she explain. After doing so, Citrine pulled out a wand and protected her friend from any future charms.
 
All of a sudden, a strange hypnotic pattern appeared on the nearby door. Gunderhoff and Corthana looked upon it and found themselves unable to pull their eyes away from it. Fearing an unseen attacker, Citrine started sending her flames at random places in the room. Ruil then found his mind hit by the same domination his ally had been hit by, but he too resisted the urge. Citrine then went to the waters edge, and looked through what she believed was not there. As she did so, she saw that the depths hid the very hideous Ixilano, the aboleth.
 
After he too saw through the illusion, Ruil launched an acid arrow that started eating away at fish flesh. Citrine then cast a spiritual scimitar that began cutting. Ixilano reached forth with his tentacles and stung Ruil, and causing blisters to start appearing. Again Ruil sent an acid arrow flying and continued to do so as the acid constantly ate away at the aboleth. Ixilano struck Citrine once with a very stinging tentacle, causing the same blisters to appear on her. She in turn engulfed the aboleth with fire.
 
After a few exchanges of tentacles and magic, Corthana and Gunderhoff were able to shake themselves out of their fascination. Corthana moved up to the pools edge and fired down magic missiles. The dwarf meanwhile blessed his allies, aiding their strikes. Ruil then tried a different tactic, sending a blast of electricity into the water, jolting the aboleth and himself. Again and again Corthana fired magic missiles into the aboleth. Again and again Ruil cast his acid arrows. In the end, Ixilano could do nothing but perish at the hail of magic against it. And it was a final barrage off missiles that brought death to it. With the aboleth's demise, its illusions faded away, revealing the room’s floor covered in blood and gore. Although the door to the Armageddon Echo was only a few feet away, the Immortal's decided to scout of the last few rooms of the academy.
 
Their first search came upon the room where one of their allied groups had attacked. The initial scouting report had said it was supposed to be the easiest entrance, but it seemed they could not get past the strange large bird creature guarding it. Within was a vrock demon, a creature the elves would have been no match for.
 
Corthana threw her fireball spell she had stolen, hoping to hear the vrock's screams of pain. Yet the demon came from the abyss, a place ripe with fires, and it suffered no harm at all from the spell. The vrock then cast a simple spell that created seven illusionary doubles of itself. Ruil too launched a simple spell of frost that shattered one image. Citrine then launched her firebolt, destroying a second image. Corthana threw her daggers. Two of them knocked out images, but the last bounced off the true vrock. Niko then breathed upon the demon, but it was immune to acid as well.
 
Now it was the vrock's turn for some offense. It screeched at the Immortal's in an attempt to freeze them in place. Only Gunderhoff found his body rigid in paralysis. With his defenses now down, the vrock moved in and clawed and bit at the dwarf, sending rivulets of blood splaying to the cobbles. Ruil then moved in, his sword swinging but only hitting an image. Gunderhoff quickly picked up the gear he had dropped after he had momentarily become stunned. The vrock tried to claw him, but he was ready and deflected it aside.
 
Citrine tried to burn the bird, but her flames, like the fireball, had no effect. Corthana then launched her daggers, destroying the remaining mirror images. The vrock then summoned forth a gate in an attempt to bring forth another bird demon. Yet luckily, no such demon stepped out. Ruil then blasted it with scorching rays and this time, one of them was hot enough to finally bring a little screech of pain. Ruil capitalized on the surprise of the demon by stabbing through its tough hide, hurting the beast bad, but the shocking grasp imbued in his blade had no effect.
 
Gunderhoff decided to help Citrine in her attacks in the hope she would get a lucky killing blow. Corthana then tumbled past the vrock's outreaching claws, and stabbed it in the armpit. Niko followed his friend, and bit down hard on the vrock's head, his teeth gouging skull fragments. The vrock then let fly a cloud of seeds into the Immortal's, with only Citrine escaping the barbs. Those seeds began growing into the Immortal's skin and snaking their way through muscle tissue.
 
Ruil again aimed for the vital area just beneath the vrock's collar bone, and plunged his greatsword home, sending magical cold through the wound. The chill touch didn't seemed to harm the demon, but the steel through its internal organs did. Gunderhoff then moved into a flanking position with Niko, taking a claw to his beard for his bravery. Citrine then healed some of the dwarf's wounds. The vrock then began doing a strange dance which, when finished, sent a wave of burning electricity coursing through everyone.
 
Still standing, the Immortals continued to stab away, inflicting minor wound after minor wound upon the creature. The vrock then seemed to go into a furry and clawed and bit at Niko. The poor forest drake didn't stand a chance. His head hit the floor with a finality that it would never rise again in life.
 
Ruil had found his spot, and he again jabbed his great sword into the wound he had made, exposing heart, lungs, and a lot of spilled demon blood. The vrock turned upon its torturer and it repeatedly clawed and bit at Ruil, nearly downing the warrior. Gunderhoff quickly moved in to interpose himself between demon and friend, taking a claw across the shoulder for his bravery. The spores imbedded in everyone continued burrowing, sending more blood pouring down everyone's arms. Corthana continued peppering the vrock with dagger after dagger, bringing a slow death from a thousand needles. The vrock however continued fighting, clawing Ruil again in an effort to bring more death.
 
Ruil was not one to usually flee a battle, and he continued swinging his blade, hitting the vrock again and again. Citrine meanwhile had conjured a spiritual scimitar, but it had yet to find any weak spots. Her own scimitar and blasts of fire were having little more success. It was all up to Ruil as his repeated sword hits brought the vrock closer and closer to oblivion. Something had to finally give, and it was Ruil own body that simply could not take the punishment as yet another claw send him to the ground.
 
By then however, the vrock could barely take any more. It clawed and bit at Gunderhoff, but the stalwart dwarf stood firm and blocked the barrage. Citrine then finally drew blood with her sword, and Corthana's dagger found the vrock's heart. A simple search of an unexplored room had turned into one of the most deadly battles they had ever faced. The cost had been the life of their new friend Niko the forest drake. He had sacrificed his life, and would be greatly missed. Now it was time to rest and recuperate body and mind.
 
And to prepare for even greater battles to come.
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Summary 11: The Immortal War
Chapter Three: Armageddon Echo
 
The battle against the drow had started fifty years ago. Eviana explained that they simply appeared out of nowhere beneath the fallen Celwynvian. Thus the Winter Council commanded that Crying Leaf be created in order to stop the few in number from ever reaching the outside world. Yet there was no guarantee that such could be done, and so they sent their agents, the Shin'rakorath, or Lanternbearers to keep watch over all of Golarion.
 
Citrine finally asked the question that all the Immortals were thinking: who were the Winter Council? Eviana explained that it was a circle of the most powerful of elves who made decisions to influence the way of life of all elves. Their actions, though at times unconventional, always benefited the elves in the long run. They seemed to be able to foresee the future of different events, and judge what actions would be the best before any such events even happened. It was they who foresaw the Darkness, or Earthfall as it was named afterwards over ten thousand years prior, and they commanded the elves to flee the realms to a distant plane where they would be safe. Thus the Winter Council was the cornerstone of every elf's life, whether they wanted it or not.
 
Through the discussion, Ruil noticed there was a disturbance in her voice. He asked for a private meeting, and after their discussion, he brought to his friends what he had discovered. It the diaries that they had discovered, there were many references to a woman named Allevrah. This was the name of one of the prominent members of the Winter Council. It seemed this woman who was behind all of the drow's actions upon the surface, including the calling down of a star upon Devil's Elbow. Eviana was thus concerned that the Winter Council were orchestrating the war with the drow. The only other possibility was that Allevrah had been ensorcelled. Yet given how powerful she was, as well as the innate resistance to such magic that all elves possessed, such a possibility was unlikely. Ruil insisted that they garner more proof of Allevrah's guilt before running off and slaying her. He didn't say it, but if the Winter Council was behind everything, then he was unknowingly a traitor to his entire race.
 
Eviana said that she would consult with her lieutenants on an attack strategy as it had been decided that they would finally bring the fight to the drow. The drow numbers had been swelling as of late, and it was time to stem the tide of darkness. She opened the town's resources to the Immortal's to use in the form of potions and scrolls. She also insisted she be present when Citrine spoke with the dead drow heads they had brought back from their mission. Three of the souls refused to talk, but rest answered as truthfully as they could.
 
What role does Allevrah play in your mission? She is the mastermind behind all.
 
Where is your base of operations? In Celwynvian.
 
Why have you come out of hiding? We were never in hiding.
 
Where is your next meteor target?  I do not know.
 
What is your ultimate goal? To destroy the elves.
 
What interest was there for the conservatory? It was an unexplored building.
 
Where is Razorhorn? With Nolveniss.
 
Are there any other non Drow supporters other than Razorhorn or Allevrah? Yes.
 
What are these non Drow supporters' names? The ONLY one I know is Ixilano.
 
The answers were a little cryptic as was usually the case when dealing with the souls of evil beings, but it did give them some answers. And there would be many more heads to questions in the days to come.
 
After three days, the soldiers of Crying Leaf headed towards Celwynvian. The mission was to box the drow and their demon allies in until there was no place to run. The Immortal's were to garrison an ancient library where drow and demons had been seen congregating. Along the way, the four heard the sound of an elf screaming in pain. They ran to investigate, but found only a trail of blood that came to a sudden stop between two buildings. With no sign of anything, they continued on and soon came to four dead elves over two weeks old. This had likely been the first attempt upon the library as it was only a short distance away.
 
As the Immortal's came upon the building, four drow appeared on the rooftop from hiding and fired their crossbow bolts at Citrine. Two of them connected and sent an explosion of fire into her body. Ruil didn't hesitate, mumbling a single word that sent him soaring through the air. He landed right beside one of the startled drow who tried and failed to scream as Ruil's blade cut open his throat.
 
With an elf in their midst, the drow concentrated their efforts on bringing the man down. Yet their rapiers were easily parried by Ruil's skillful bladesmanship. Gunderhoff, who had no way up to the roof, cast a bless spell that guided his friends attacks. Corthana meanwhile jumped into the new saddle that Eviana had provided Niko and they flew up to the roof. The forest drake saw an opening and bit the head off the nearest drow. The rogue then let fly her daggers, inflicting painful wounds on an obviously more skilled drow. That same foe took a blast of fire from Citrine's holy powers. The smoke from the blast rolled across the roof and impeded the strikes of Ruil, but also the drow. Niko and Corthana were both above the choking smoke and as Niko bit the head off another drow, Corthana's daggers brought death to the last one.
 
With the guards dead, two of which had their heads taken by Ruil (the other two being digested in Niko's gullet), the Immortals moved to the front door. Corthana was quick to check for traps, but found none. Yet she wanted to be sure that no more sonic blasts shook her insides to paste and so asked Ruil to detect magic in case there was something she missed. He confirmed her initial search, and so they headed in.
 
The entryway was riddled with cobwebs, as well as spiders the size of Dobermans. The arachnids were easily burned aside by Ruil's magical flames, and Gunderhoff's hammer of fire. Corthana too was able to grab some glory by impaling one at the end of a perfectly thrown dagger. With a decision of whether to go left or right, they opted for the obvious and headed right. Corthana easily picked the lock of a door, only to come to a second door that seemed to mock her skill in lock picking as she continuously failed to set the tumblers in their correct order. Finally, after thirty minutes, and twelve card game rounds of Three Dragon Ante by her friends, the door finally opened.
 
Gunderhoff the Brave was the first to enter the library. By then, the denizens had already planned the initial attack, having thirty minutes to plan it. Two of them blanketed the room in darkness while the other two pushed the book cases atop the unsuspecting Gunderhoff. His armor could withstand any sword strike, his shield any reaching claws, but his head cracked with ten thousand years of knowledge smashing down upon it. The old books coughed up a huge dust cloud, adding to the anarchy of the situation.
 
One of the drow emerged from the dust and attempted to impale the dwarf, the blade failed to find a seem in the plate mail protection. Corthana was quick with her throwing wrist, imbedding a pair of daggers in the drow's lung. Gunderhoff shouldered aside the books, but he couldn't find a target to hit in the magical darkness. Citrine put an end to that as she threw a stone into the library that exploded into the veritable light of day.
 
Ruil pushed his way past his friends and slashed a drow captain to near death. Reeling in its blind state, the captain got in a lucky sword hit on Ruil's arm. Corthana targeted the drow she had hit earlier and ended its life with another dagger. She then spotted a second drow clutching its eyes in pain, and she threw a dagger right into its throat, dropping it dead. Niko then breathed forth a cloud of acid over the drow captain, melted its flesh away and bring an end to the fight.
 
A search of the chamber turned up several things of interest. First off was a magical book that improved the health greatly of anyone who read it. The Immortals were all mortal after all, and as they all wanted it, they decided to dice for the valuable treasure. In the end, it was Ruil who celebrated his victorious dicemanship. A second interesting find was a holy symbol on the drow captain. Citrine identified as a symbol to Abraxas, the demon lord of forbidden knowledge.
 
With nothing else to find, the Immortal's moved on to the remaining room they had yet to explore. As they entered, they found themselves faced with six dretch demons, with glass globes surrounding them on the ground. Corthana again was quick to react, nearly killing a demon with two perfect dagger shots. Ruil then blasted a pair with scorching rays, but the magic had little effect as the dretches were used to fire, given their home plane. Five of the demons then summoned forth stinking clouds which caused Corthana to begin vomiting up a storm, while the injured one threw a globe at Corthana, but missed his mark. The explosion of the globe however sent a small arc of electricity coursing threw Gunderhoff and Ruil's veins.
 
Gunderhoff then ran through the clouds, smashing his hammer into the injured dretch. Yet its resistance to physical and fiery harm left it barely scathed. Citrine bathed the same one in fire, yet still it stood, taking only minor burns. Niko moved into the room and help Citrine defend against any incoming attacks. Ruil then slashed one of the dretches he had injured before, and killed it. Ruil then felt his gorge rise as he found himself in the magical clouds, and then began puking like his friend.
 
The dretches waved their hands and each tried to summon in another dretch from the Abyss. Two such new threats stepped through magical gates. Citrine again blasted the injured dretch with fire, and this time, it finally collapsed to the ground. Niko meanwhile bit and tail slapped the nearest dretch. Yet by doing so, he put himself within the clouds, and joined his friends and began upchucking drow body parts. Ruil could do nothing as his gorge continued to rise, and he was forced to abandon the fight.
 
The dretches then launched their globes. One of the fragile globes exploded in one of their hands and the backlash ten thousand year old pent up energy flashed back into its eyes, blinded it. The other globes all went Gunderhoff's way, with two exploding into his chest and sending burning lightening into his body. Citrine bathed an injured dretch in fire, bring it down and sending its summoned friend back to its home plane. The remaining dretches tried to send magical fear into Citrine and Gunderhoff's brains, with the latter being successful.
 
As the cloud began to dissipate, Niko and Corthana were able to regain their senses. A combined assault of teeth and dagger destroyed the remaining summoned dretch. Ruil too was able to stop his stomach from heaving, and fired an arrow at a foe, injuring it. Citrine then became the target of thrown globes of lightening, bringing pain. She in turn sent more fire blasting away, and then moved next to Gunderhoff who found himself now surrounded by the demons. She then yelled at them to fight her, to which they responded within her mind.
 
Corthana launched a pair of daggers, but this time they failed to get through the dretch's resistance to steel. Citrine then asked her god for a powerful prayer spell which aided her allies and hindered her enemies. Now the dretches went to their teeth and claws to try to inflict pain. Yet the Immortal's were all well protected against such attacks, with only Citrine taking a minor scrape. Corthana threw her daggers harder and was rewarded with a growl of pain. Niko went a step further and ripped the throat out of a dretch, then subsequently spitting it out, complaining of the horrible taste.
 
Ruil meanwhile was having trouble as it seemed his recent illness was hampering his arms accuracy. Time after time, the dretch before him seemed to dodge left and right, making the elf feel like he was still a rookie lanternbearer. After what seemed like an eternity of missed chances, he finally got in a chop that cut the dretch's leg clean off, killing it. He looked to his left to see Niko and Corthana again combining their skills to kill the remaining dretch.
 
A quick search turned up a strange globe which appeared to have a soul trapped within. Rather than smash it to free the essence inside, they decided to bring it to someone within Crying Leaf who knew more about it. As it turned out, the globe contained a fragment of the soul of an ancient elven scholar. At the time it was used as a virtual teacher and it was still functional. After speaking with Eviana, it seemed that the initial assault had gone as planned, with the surrounding buildings in Celwynvian now occupied by the elves. Citrine and Gunderhoff went to the medic hut and did all they could to help the wounded.
 
A few days later, the Immortals were given their next assignment. The drow were using and old alchemist laboratory to create their poisons and their explosive bolts. That lab had to come down.
 
Along the way to the destination, the four came across a drow that had been completely flattened. They soon found the source as they spotted crazed treant smashing elves with its limbs. Ruil attached an orb that disintegrated plant matter and fired it right into the middle of the massive trunk. The treant screamed as the acid ate away at its bark. Gunderhoff charged in, his hammer swinging and the fire from the weapon sent the treant ablaze. Citrine coated the behemoth living tree with more fire. Ruil fired two arrows into the treant and that seemed to grab the beast’s attention as it charged into the Immortal's crushing them under its weight. A last blast of fire brought the tree down, and the fight to an end.
 
The Immortals soon arrived at the ruined laboratory. I huge plume of smoke flew up through a large chimney, indicating there was a presence inside. Corthana flew up with Niko with the intention of blocking the chimney with a spell. As she placed a foot upon the roof, she was suddenly hit by a lightning bolt. A drider, the source of the spell, suddenly materialized and prepared another spell. Hurt, but not out of the fight, Corthana threw her daggers, but they bounced off the drider's tough hide. Niko, who had also been hit with lightening, breathed forth acid.
 
The drider punched through the pain and cast a web spell that bound drake and rogue to the chimney. Citrine climbed the walls with her magical boots and prepared to face the arachnid threat. Ruil grabbed Gunderhoff by the shoulders and flew up to join his friends. He blasted the drider with two rays of fire, hurting it badly. Gunderhoff then charged in, but his hammer was deflected away. The drider attempted to finish a spell upon its lips, but the pain from the flames was to intense and it simply couldn't get the magic cast. It thus jumped down to the ground, levitating safely down.
 
Niko and Corthana finally broke loose of the webbing holding them. They saw Ruil step into a portal that brought the elf down below in the doorway of the lab. As he emerged, the ground beneath him revealed itself to be an illusion, hiding the acidic chemicals that burned his feet. Gunderhoff meanwhile cast a bless spell to aid in everyone's attacks.
 
Ruil found himself faced against more than the drider inside the laboratory. Within, several troglodytes and a drow bard names Ilverae defended the interior. To the left and right of the mage were two large glass jars contained unknown liquids. In the middle of the room, a huge smoldering fire pit shot out foul smelling smoke. With the added support, the drider tuned upon Ruil and swung its axe, and bit. The elf easily deflected each attack, all the while eying the bard as his goal.
 
Ilverae starting singing in undercommon and that inspired his allies to fight harder. The troglodytes moved next to their mighty drider ally and help its offense and defense. With so many clubs blocking the way, Ruil couldn't bring his greatsword slicing down. Citrine, possessed now of a divine favor cast from a scroll, and Gunderhoff were now down upon the ground, ready to enter the interior. Ilverae cast a confusion spell upon the Immortal's, and as Gunderhoff's mind could not be defended by shield, he found himself enspelled.
 
The drider finally got its axe through Ruil's defenses, but it was barely a scratch. Niko climbed into the chimney, acid breathing the grate within in order to follow it down. Corthana cast a stone shape from a scroll to make a hole in the ceiling so that she too could join the fight.
 
With the power of her god coursing through her, Citrine slashed her sword in a mighty cleave they disemboweled the drider. With the meat shield gone, the troglodytes started throwing various vials at the Immortals. Some exploded in frost, others with fire, and still others did absolutely nothing. Ilverae, seeing the power that Citrine possessed, cast a grease spell upon the priestess's weapon. Gunderhoff meanwhile swung his hammer at Citrine in his confused state, but whether against friend or foe, he simply could not connect with his hammer.
 
Now in the room, Niko blasted the drow bard with a cloud of acid. Citrine threw her weapon down, and drew forth her cold iron long sword, but she failed to connect on one of the troglodytes. Ruil seemed to be having a difficult time as the enemies continually dodged his attacks. Yet finally his blade found flesh, and inflicted death. Corthana, now in the room, hit Ilverae with a dagger.
 
With so many enemies, the troglodytes knew they had to eliminate the enemies fast. Two of them moved behind the cauldron of fire and pushed it over, sending flames blanketing Corthana and Niko. The others threw more vials, this time at Niko who seemed to be the biggest threat in their eyes. Ruil sidestepped the burning coals, and again cleaved a trog in two. That opened the way for Citrine who ran up to Ilverae and impaled the bard through its black heart. That was the end of the fight as Ruil viciously cut the remaining troglodytes down.
 
It was another victory for the Immortals, and a great blow against the drow. Yet the battle against their hated foes was not over. Throughout the city, the death cries of the elves of both skin colors echoed in the air. The war was far from over, and the battles would only get harder as they neared the heart of darkness within Celwynvian.
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Summary 10: Proving Ground
Chapter Three: Armageddon Echo
 
The Observatory was a test for the Immortals in many ways. It was a way to show that they were a powerful group ready to take on the drow. Yet if they were successful, then it would prove to Eviana and all within the town of <city><place>Crying Leaf</place></city> that the Winter Council had everything under control. To all but one Immortal, such a thing was very important. None of them had ever asked who this group was and how they were associated with the Lantern Bearers; those who carried out the Winter Council's orders. Corthana, Citrine, and Gunderhoff were simply blindly following Ruil, assuming all his actions were for the better. They had no evidence to the contrary, yet little did they know that they would soon be coming face to face with the secret society that been influencing elven actions for eons.
 
One thing was for certain, Ruil had brought both riches and death to the group on several occasions.  Today, this day, it was the former he had brought them to. The cutlass spiders had been constructed of nearly all magical weapons, and they knew just the dwarf who would buy them all. The problem however was that Imp was leaving in about a week. They needed to get their order to him quickly, and it was lucky that Crying Leaf had several mages to do just that.
 
After a few sending spells, the Immortals grabbed their gear and flew off to collect their order.  Niko was more than happy to oblige in being their transportation. Yet there seemed to be a change over the forest drake, above and beyond his charmed state. He said that he and his siblings had been forced out of their home by the drow and their dragon cohort Razorhorn. He asked if he could stay by the Immortals side so as to get even, and to have a little fun as they seemed like the group that enjoyed fighting. Seeing no problems at having an evil flying dragon-like ally who made no secret of the fact that he loved the taste of dark and white elf meat, they agreed.
 
They finally met up with Imp for what would likely be the last time. He said that he was on his way to the desert <place><placetype>kingdom</placetype> of <placename>Katapesh</placename></place>. There the markets were always bustling with possibilities, and it would make for a more comfortable climate for his fire dwarf heritage. He also mentioned he had a lead on a golden dragon orb and was anxious to see if it panned out. Imp also spoke of a previous group of adventurers he had befriended a few months back, and how glorious their deeds had been. He hoped perhaps they would meet again in the future. And as fate would have it, that reality would come to pass. The Immortals thanked the dwarf for their new equipment that would make them nigh undefeatable in the face of drow barbs and render claws.
 
In a few hours, the four were back in the ancient Observatory of fallen Celwynvian. They were still in search of the drow that had yet to exit the place. Citrine gave to everyone a ring to wear so that they would always be bonded with her during combat. And combat soon found them as they came across the nesting area of a half dozen shocker lizards. The little blue creatures all seemed to smile, and their tails lit up with sparks of electricity.  Fearing what the beasts might do, Citrine charged in with her scimitar, but missed her prey. Ruil, having seen battle for five of Citrine's life times, was able to slash one to near death. That seemed to anger the shocker lizards; in a flash they launched a bolt of electricity from one to another. At each jump, it became bigger and bigger until it was the size of Niko. The lead shocker lizard fired the huge lightning bolt and it nearly toasted all of the Immortal's.
 
Gunderhoff seemed to be the only one who was less affected by the blast and he charged in with his flaming warhammer, obliterating the lizard that Ruil had wounded. That brought angry shocks to the rest of the lizards and they began charging their bodies for a second mega blast.  Niko looked to his master and became enraged that Corthana was knocking on heaven's door as she had been shocked to the state of unconsciousness. He breathed his vile acidic cloud upon all the lizards. That sent them into screams of pain. Citrine ended the agony of one by impaling it on her sword. Ruil then fired an arrow, injuring one further.
 
Had the shocker lizards had the intelligence of elves, they would have endured acid and sent another lightning bolt flying to kill the Immortals. Yet they were possessed of a strong flight response in their tiny brains, and so they scattered to the left and into small cracks where they could hide. Gunderhoff sent a wave of healing energy to mend burns, and stabilize Corthana. Citrine then went to work healing the burns on everyone, including herself to bring great relief to everyone.
 
With the immediate threat gone, Ruil decided to begin exploration of the rooms. The first he came to was a room filled with stars. It was as though someone had captured the night sky and placed it within the room. Yet there was something odd about the placement of the stars. The reason being was that it was a snap shot of how the universe looked over ten thousand years ago. Seeing no drow, Ruil continued exploring, with Niko right behind to offer some scaly support.
 
As Ruil entered the back part of the Observatory, he noticed one of the shocker lizards cowering in a corner. Without hesitation, Ruil blasted it to ash with a pair of scorching rays. That brought forth the full wrath of the remaining three lizards as they jumped out and send a lightning bolt straight at Ruil. Luckily with fewer in number, the shocker blast was much less potent. It still sent Ruil's teeth chattering as he hadn't expected it and thus was unable to get out of the way. Niko, who had seen everything, used his super natural forest drake speed and charged at a lizard, and swallowed it with one bite. It was the first time he had ever tasted such a delicacy, and it was clear he wanted more shocker meat.
 
Ruil tried to retaliate on one of the survivors, but his muscles were still shaking and he only managed a minor cut on one of them.  Gunderhoff then moved into the fray, but his large hammer was easily side-stepped by a nimble lizard. Corthana longed for some vengeance and threw two returning daggers at a lizard, killing it in an instant. The last lizard could do nothing as Ruil finally regained control over his body and cut the things head off. Niko then cobbled up every last morsel. Citrine then called to her god and healed up the remaining burns on everyone.
 
After searching a few rooms and finding nothing, they then came to a small room that seemed to be a shrine to a long forgotten god of elven music. Upon the alter was a floating skull that glowed a haunting blue light. It spoke to the Immortal's and asked them to dance with it. Not having time for such nonsense they turned the undead-looking thing down.  It seemed hurt by their reaction, but did answer their question about the whereabouts of the drow. It said a group had gone into the next room but had never emerged. And so the Immortals left and bashed open the door to the room indicated.
 
No sooner did they do so however when the floating ball flew next to Ruil and zapped the elf with an electric jolt. That put all the Immortal's into their battle stances. Corthana threw a pair of daggers at the floating skull, or wil-o-wisp as it was commonly call, but the skull seemed to zip around the thrown projectiles with ease. Niko was simply too far back to do any good and so help his companion in her defense. Citrine and Ruil both moved into the fray, their blades swinging. Again though the wil-o-wisp danced around the swinging metal and it touched Citrine's arm and burned it to the bone with electricity.
 
Corthana waited for her daggers to return, and then sent them flying, this time with more precision. The flying ball of light yelped as he was struck twice, proving that what they were facing could feel pain. Gunderhoff stayed his hammer as there was nowhere for him to swing it with everyone crowded together between two rooms. Ruil then used a shocking grasp upon the wil-o-wisp which brought not a cry of pain, but rather a glee of pleasure.
 
The wil-o-wisp was quite angry at Corthana and it dodged aside reaching bladed to shock her badly.  That didn't deter the rogue as she again placed a well aimed dagger right in between the eyes of the wil-o-wisp. That single hit seemed to stun the thing for a moment. And a moment was all Citrine needed as she ran the thing through from back to front, and ending the wil-o-wisp's eternal dance of light.
 
Instead of pursuing the path of the drow, the Immortal's decided to clear out the remaining rooms. This exploration brought them to a room with another nest of shocker lizards who had made themselves a home within the vine filled room.  Ruil quickly cast a spell to make him resistant to electricity, and then he ran in and cut one lizard down. The remaining ones let fly a lightning bolt that hit both Ruil and Gunderhoff, and also a patch of vines nearby. Those vines seemed to grow a little and they then lashed out at the elf. Ruil's instincts kicked into survivor mode and he dodged both attacks from the shambling mound.
 
Gunderhoff saw that the plant monster was the biggest threat and pounded his hammer into the mound. Yet it seemed to almost absorb the blow, and there didn't appear to be any harm done. Citrine saw that Ruil was in a tough situation and so bonded with the elf in order to accept a large portion of any harm that came to him through the link within the ring she had given him. Ruil then moved into the fray of the shocker lizards. He swung his blade to decapitate one that Corthana had earlier injured, and then he cut the two hind legs off of another.  That shocker lizard feebly sent a jolt of electricity into Ruil, but his spell of defense held and he felt little pain.
 
The shambling mound again reached out at Ruil, as it went for a smashing less precise strike, hoping for a lucky hit. Ruil however again ducked the pathetic lunge.  Corthana then sent her daggers flying into the melee again, killing off another lizard.  Ruil then went to work destroying the remaining lizards. That left only the shambling mound who had given up on hitting Ruil and was now trying to get past the unmovable object that was Gunderhoff's tower shield. Soon all the Immortal's were upon the creature with slashing blades and rays of fire. And soon enough, the shambling mound collapsed to the ground.
 
With all the rooms cleared, the four opted for the secret passage that Corthana had discovered in the room in which the wil-o-wisp had indicated the drow had entered. Citrine launched a stone below that exploded in a daylight spell to blind any of the dark skinned elves below. There were no cries of pain however, likely meaning the drow were still a ways off.
 
The Immortals descended and found themselves at the bottom of the hole inside a huge chamber. The light from Citrine's stone illuminated a horrible scene; at least to all but Ruil. For upon the floor were a half dozen drow, all hacked to pieces as if they had killed each other. The reason behind the scene suddenly floated up through the floor as the ghost sung a haunting melody for all ears. She had subsequently taken possession of drow after drow and had slain them with weapons while they had struck upon the body she had inhabited. Now more invaders had come, and the aasimar ghost slowly floated towards them.
 
Ruil and Citrine readied their weapons for some ghost busting. Yet their two friends didn't seem at all interested in raising their arms. Rather, they seemed fascinated by the ghost's bardic music. That song came to a screeching halt as Ruil blasted her with a scorching ray. Citrine shone her holy symbol and attempted to turn the floating apparition, but the ghost was solidly anchored to the living world and it instead shrieked at the Immortals. There was magic within that cry, and both Corthana and Gunderhoff became so panicked that they began running in circles around the room.
 
Citrine cast a spiritual weapon and that scimitar slashed away at the ghost's ectoplasm. Ruil moved in, his sword leading the way, but it passed right through the aasimar. It in turn reached into Ruil and attempted to take possession of his body as she had done with the drow. Ruil resisted with all his will and was able to push the apparition away. Again Ruil slashed his sword, and again it went right through the undead thing.
 
Such could not be said about the spiritual weapon that continued to inflicted horrible wounds upon her. She thus moved away from the elf and concentrated her attacks upon Citrine. A simple touch trained away a part of the priestess's life force, yet that didn't deter Citrine as she sent her magical floating scimitar into the ghost's back, while her scimitar in hand impaled its throat, sending it dissipating into the air.
 
Ruil's standing orders remained: that no evidence of the drow was to be revealed to the world. He thus cut off heads of he corpses so that the cleric's in Crying Leaf could speak with their souls. The bodies he gave to Niko to acid breath them into unrecognizable piles.
 
As the Immortals arrived again at Crying Leaf, this time victorious, Eviana was the first to greet them. She was greatly pleased with their efforts and it was evident that with the great success they had, that they would be thrown into the battle with the confidence of further victories against. Such would indeed be the case, as the Immortals would soon be asked to bring the war to the drow's doorstep.
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Summary 09: Heavy Metal
Chapter Three: Armageddon Echo
 
The battle against the drow Shindara and her dolphin ally was over. It had not gone at all like the Goblin Devil's had hoped as the sour taste of defeat hung thick in the air. Not only that, but their friend Gunderhoff still laid upon the ground in a very dead state. Their tank had been brought down, and if it could happen to the great dwarf, it most certainly could happen to the rest of the group should they continue the course of adventure that had found them; or rather that Ruil was leading them upon. They used Gunderhoff's shield as a makeshift stretcher and made the long walk back to Zincher's camp.
 
Upon arriving, Zincher was very happy that his granddaughter had returned with news the drow seemed to have fled. He offered her and her friends half the starmetal he had found as recompense for their actions. Samarithia too was happy to see her allies in relatively one piece. One thing that grabbed Citrine's attention was the ten akatas that were caged nearby. Zincher expressed how pleased he was at the captured creatures as they could make perfect additions to his arena. Given the late hour, the three companions went to their tents and rested. One of the three put off her prayers for an hour however as Citrine snuck out into the night and after she cast a silence spell upon a stone nearby the akatas, she sent twelve gallons of water upon them. Their flesh melted under the effects and all but three screamed out in silence. The guards looked on in shock as their charges simply became pools of blood and bone.
 
The next morning, the Goblin Devil's were called into Zincher's pavilion. He was extremely angry, but politely asked the three if they had anything to do with the akatas deaths. All of them however denied any knowledge, but Zincher seemed unconvinced. He didn't raise his pickaxe in retribution as he knew he was overmatched. He did however ask that they all leave his camp. Given it was the morning of their departure anyway, the Devil's left, carrying Gunderhoff with them.
 
At the docks, Captain Creesy awaited them. He allowed for Samarithia to board as well as Graven Goldammer, the dwarf who had lost his entire party and who and been accidentally attacked by Corthana on the first day upon the isle. Creesy said that the refitting of the Teeth of Araska was going well, however it needed a new name. Ruil thought it over for a second and said "Gunderhoff's Will." It would serve as homage to their brave friend. Samarithia also wanted a word with her new friends. She was truly happy that they had saved her life as well and was awestruck at the heroic quest they were set upon. She gave to Corthana her wand of magic missile and her wand of identify.
 
After only a few hours at sea, the Flying Cloud arrived in Riddleport. There were over fifty merchants on the docks and as the Goblin Devil's descended the gangplank, they all began hounding the adventurers with offers to buy any starmetal they had. Yet there was only one buyer the adventurers had in mind and that was Imp's Imperial Armory. As the adventurers arrived though they noticed something very disheartening: Imp's was packing up his shop. The fire dwarf said that business had not been as good as he was hoping and he was moving on. He did agree to buy the starmetal and other equipment brought to him. Imp also said he would be around for about another week.
 
The next stop was the Publican House, where there Citrine spoke to High Publican Arnando Rolf about bringing back to life Gunderhoff. The bartender/high priest said that his power was simply too small for such a feet. He said that the only person in town powerful enough was at the House of the Silken Veil. The temple to Calistria and its high priestess Shorafa Pamodae were the only place one could bring back the dead.
 
It was not the first time Citrine and Ruil had set her foot within the brothel, but it was for Corthana. Shorafa remembered Citrine and said she would bring back Gunderhoff for only 6000 gold. During the time it took to prepare the spell, the Goblin Devil's drank to their hearts content, despite their knowledge that there were likely special spices added to the alcohol. Finally Shorafa raised Gunderhoff back to like. The dwarf was thankful to be back in service to his friends, but lamented that he couldn't remember anything about Torag's realm where his spirit had likely been.
 
The reunited party decided to head back to the Golden Goblin. As they passed onlookers, they began hearing whispers of "The Immortals." It turned out that the people had renamed their party because they refused to die after so many assassination attempts. The name switch seemed to suit all four of them. As they entered the Golden Goblin, they were surprised to see it had been reopened and that clients were actually gambling. Saul was grateful to see his daughter, asking right away if she could resume her role as hostess. Yet Citrine didn't even reply, she and her friends simply went to their old rooms and collapsed on their beds in slumber.
 
In the middle of the night, Ruil was roused from his reverie by a magical message from his friend Ryn. It told Ruil to go to the town of <city>Crying Leaf</city> in the <place><placename>Miereni</placename> <placetype>Forest</placetype></place>, where there his true mission would begin. The words were from a final messenger, a spell that activated only when the sender became deceased. Yet oddly, through the window, Ruil noticed a green lantern shining its light on a far away building. Throwing caution to the wind, Ruil didn't rouse his companions, and instead went to investigate alone.
 
As he climbed the building and reached the roof, he came face to face with Shindara, the drow wench who had fled during the latest battle on Devil Isle. She said that Ruil had fallen for her little trap as she had lit Ryn's lantern in the hope that Ruil would come alone. And alone he was, to face off against her and her two drow allies. At her feet was Ryn's body, his head smashed to only an inch wide.
 
So shocked was he at the sight, that he didn't even see the two drow warriors charge in and stab him hard with their rapiers. Shindara meanwhile wanted to end the battle quickly and attempted to shatter his greatsword. Ruil pushed his will into keeping the weapon whole, and succeeded. In desperation he tried to send a shocking grasp into his sword, but the pain was simply too much, and he lost the magic. Yet his rage was enough to send his blade cleaving through the chainmail of one of the drow and into flesh.
 
Again a rapier found its way through his defenses. He then heard the voice of Shindara in his head to jump off the building away from harm. In that second it seemed like a good idea. Only when the unforgiving flagstones below broke his momentary lapse in the mind did he realize he had just succumbed to a dastardly charm. He jumped to his feet and pulled back his bowstring, wincing as he realized the fall had broken his elbow. The arrow he let fly struck true as one of the drow above dropped to one knee in agony.
 
Both drow fired their crossbows down below. With room to move, Ruil jumped out of the way of the barbs. He looked up and saw the drow priestess fall from the building like he did, except that she seemed to be walking on the very air as she nimbly walked near him. The air of confidence she bore upon her face was infuriating, so much so that Ruil didn't even realize he was charging Shindara's way until after he saw the smile upon her lips become one of desperation and pain. Ruil had made a crisscross cut over her abdomen, and she could do nothing but try to keep her intestines from spilling out.  Yet she was not dead, and she mustered up the strength to smash her flail upon Ruil.
 
Pieces of shards cascaded to the ground, which, if fully assembled, would be the piece of skull that was now missing from Ruil head. Yet still the elf refused to drop as he knew that should he fall, there would be no one to bring him back to life to continue his work. He ignored the two barbs that imbedded themselves in his shoulder from the drow above. Diving below another swing from Shindara, he came up with a knee to where he had sliced her open. As she buckled over, Ruil jammed the hilt of his sword in the corner of a building so that the blade pointed up on an angle. He then grabbed the back of the drow’s head and rammed her face into the blade of the greatsword.
 
Whereas most races that lost their leader would flee, the drow were not a normal race. They had a job to do, and they would see it through to the end or else forever be punished in the light of the sun. One of the drow climbed down to the ground, while the other illuminated Ruil in fairy fire. There would be no escaping into the shadows. Ruil still had some fight left, and with a true strike upon his arrow, he sent it right into the eye of the drow above. The body crashed to the ground below in a bloody heap.
 
Now it was a one on one contest. The drow climbed down and charged, but Ruil dodged aside and made a feeble attempt at a counterstrike to no avail. All he could think about was survival in order to accomplish the dying wish of his friend Ryn. He danced left and right, avoiding stab after stab until finally he began tiring. And in that moment when he stopped to catch his breath, the drow capitalized and grazed his cheek with sword. Yet the drow had overreached in that attempt, and Ruil grabbed the end of the greatsword with his other hand and uppercutted the drow on the chin with the blade. That send the dark elf stumbling back, and Ruil slashed again, catching the drow across the top of the head.
 
That last strike had lobotomized the drow, and now its movements were like that of a crazed zombie. The movements were too erratic to get a clean defense in and it managed a small cut on Ruil. With a last slice, the drow was finally cut down for good. With a sewer grate nearby, Ruil dumped the bodies into it after taking all the possessions the drow had.
 
Citrine's dreams were suddenly silenced as a banging upon her bedroom door roused her. No sooner did she answer the knock, did she believe she was still trapped in a nightmare. Standing before her was what could only be described as a mound of blood and gore on two legs, and gasping words for help. Ruil was on deaths door, and it was a wonder he had made it at all to the Golden Goblin. Citrine immediately administered her healing prayers, bringing a sigh of relief to her elven friend. After being attended to, he woke his other friends and described all that had happened. He also voiced their next destination: Crying Leaf.
 
The morning brought a great amount of excitement as there was a lineup of people wanting the autographs of the Immortals.  The thirty people were given what they asked for, save Corthana who insisted she be paid 100 gold per signature; something no one was able to pay. Saul gave them all a horse from his stables and the Immortals rode off to bring the fight to the drow.
 
It was a three day ride to the <place><placename>Miereni</placename> <placetype>Forest</placetype></place>, with only a friendly encounter with a few horselord potion traders to take note of. At the border of the woods however, three forest drakes suddenly swooped from the foliage and flew in to attack. Corthana was quick to catch one of the drakes with a dart, but it didn't really seem to do much to the dragon-like wyrm. The drakes in turn stopped their flight and breathed forth an acidic cloud that stung the skin and stayed in place.  The horses all disintegrated in the deadly mist making for a quick dismount by the Immortal's. Such a tactic was not something dwarves did best, making for a flustered Gunderhoff as he fell on the ground.
 
Ruil fired off a pair of arrows, and though his aim was true, he was shocked as the barbs simply bounced off green scales. Gunderhoff gathered his wits, stood up as though nothing had happened, and moved in closer to the fray. Citrine meanwhile also exited the acid cloud and cast a spell to make her more resistant anything other than physical attacks. Corthana fired off a couple of darts, but the drakes were ready this time, and one of them swapped them aside with an outreached claw.
 
With supernatural speed, all three drakes flew through the air, each one taking a target. Corthana and Citrine ducked the bites, while the others jaws clamped on Gunderhoff's armor, but couldn't get through the solid plating. Ruil blasted the injured drake with a scorching ray that melted flesh and brought a roar of pain. Gunderhoff meanwhile couldn't get a good angle on his drake thus his hammer strike did no damage. Citrine too couldn't bring her blade to bear on her drake.
 
Corthana had purchased several scrolls before this latest excursion, and attempted to use one of them. She mumbled the words of a charm monster spell, but the magical script was simply to unfamiliar to her. She thought she had pronounced the final word right, but when the drake in front of her continued snapping and clawing at her, she realized she had erred somewhere. A bite and wicked tail slap by her foe forced her to back off.
 
The drake that had been burned by Ruil, moved off from Citrine and bit Ruil hard on the shoulder, followed by a hammer-like tail slap to his ribs. Gunderhoff, still feeling indebted to Corthana for saving his life, moved in to help her, and took an unlucky bite from a drake in his strategic movement. He did manage a good hit on the drake attacking Corthana. Ruil meanwhile had his drake right where he wanted it and sliced into its scaly hide deep with a couple of greatsword chops.
 
Citrine used her bondage magic with Corthana to heal the spellthief's wounds from afar. That seemed to inspire the rogue as she darted in with a dagger and cut into the nearest drake’s spine. Yet it paid her no mind as it and its ally were in perfect position in a flanking maneuver on Gunderhoff. The dwarf barely saw the strikes coming from either side as the second set of teeth ripped through his throat and he dropped dead.
 
Ruil meanwhile was having a tough time one on one with his foe. He was completely out matched, and after the drake bit him on the back, he felt his muscles quiver as the end seemed to be nearer than ever. He saw Gunderhoff fall, but was thankful when the dwarf's breath suddenly return after a revivify spell from Citrine.
 
Corthana saw that things were as desperate as they always seemed to get, and so read from her last charm monster scroll. This time she saw her previous error and as the final word was spoken, the drake nearest to her looked on in a friendly manner. Corthana asked it to help her friend Ruil and the drake responded by positioning itself in between the elf and one of the attacking drakes. The drake who had slain Gunderhoff now turned its attention on the seemingly spellcaster that was Corthana. It whipped its tail around, catching the rogue across the face.
 
Ruil meanwhile found that the hostile drake's bites kept being intercepted by his new allied drake. That allowed him the time to gather his strength and fire away with more scorching rays. He then felt some of his wounds heal as Citrine prayed for such to happen. Citrine then moved closer to Corthana in the hopes of helping her friend. She dodged the expected bite attack, and Corthana capitalized by diving past the drake and stabbing hard in what she assumed was the kidney area of the wyrm.
 
The drake attacking Ruil was having no luck in its attacks and so it backed off and breathed forth a cloud of acid upon the elf. There was no way the other drake could protect Ruil from the caustic fumes.  The other hostile drake decided to ignore Citrine and continue its assault on Corthana and gouged out more flesh with its teeth. There was almost relief as Corthana felt her consciousness wane, for then the pain would stop. Yet Citrine was there to mend the wounds, forcing her to stay in the fight.
 
Again Ruil blasted away the same wounded drake with his scorching rays. He could tell that the beast was nearing its last breaths. Citrine too saw this and conjured a spiritual scimitar to cut away the last vestige of life the forest drake possessed. Now there remained only one foe but it refused to give up. It smashed its tail again into Corthana, yet somehow the rogue stood on her feet. The hit however shook her muscles to the core, and her feeble dagger strike couldn't pierce scales. Ruil's blade was much more powerful, and when imbued with a shocking grasp he brought a huge amount of destruction upon the drake. It seemed to teeter on its hind legs, and Citrine sent her spiritual scimitar right into its heart, killing it. Now there remained on one drake, and it would remain Corthana's friend for several days by their calculations. Given her new ally, Corthana decided to name it Niko.
 
Niko knew exactly where Crying Leaf was located, and agreed to fly his fellow Immortals to the location. Yet no sooner did they near the area when a hail of arrows flew up to greet them. Niko was hit four times, but he shrugged the pain away, and landed in the midst of fifty drawn bow strings, wielded by their owners. Eviana stepped forth and demanded to know who the band who had somehow befriended a forest drake were. Yet after Ruil stepped forth with his green lantern, the elves put aside their bows as they knew that an emissary of the Winter Council had arrived.
 
The Immortals spent many hours together with Eviana, as they recapped all that had happened. She asked for the two drow diaries so that she might study them and understand them. Ruil handed them both over which was very puzzling to Corthana. The previous day, she had been summoned to the Cypher Lodge and had been reprimanded by her liege for handing over, not a drow diary, but rather a diary of very inappropriate thoughts from the author to a teenager. It was then that Ruil revealed he had had a fake diary made for Corthana in order to protect the secrets contained in the pages. Eviana almost smiled at the notion, and silently applauded Ruil for his actions.
 
Eviana then explained that they were near the ancient fallen city of <place><city>Celwynvian</city></place>, where the elves had originally fled the world when Earthfall had happened over ten thousand years earlier. It was in these ruins that the drow had appeared, and ever since then, the town of <city><place>Crying Leaf</place></city> was in a pitched battle with them. The drow had been getting more and more violent in recent battles, and they seemed to becoming greater in number. She asked then if the Immortals could help her town against the growing forces. Ruil said that it was for that reason they had arrived. As such, Eviana sent the Immortal to the fallen Conservatory in Celwynvian. She said that several drow had recently gone into this place of ancient magical music, but had not come out. She wanted to know what was so interesting to warrant their attentions.
 
Upon arriving, they noticed the structure was a huge dome with only two doors to get in. One such way was a set of double doors that seemed to have been recently ripped open. Corthana commanded Niko to perch upon the room and attack any drow he saw. In the meantime, she decided to do some silent scouting alone within the structure.
 
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, she stumbled upon a huge beast known as a grey render. The thing was very much dead, and its wounds demonstrated that it had been shredded by many blades. She then heard some metallic clicking from above. As she looked up, she saw a spider made completely of weapons descend to the floor. She then heard two more of the creatures fall to the floor, and she didn't hesitate to leave the place and warn her friends.
 
Gunderhoff moved in, his shield raised to ward off the spiders. Ruil was next into the dome, and fired off a scorching ray, but the nearest spider jumped aside from both blasts. Gunderhoff was soon flanked by two spiders, and the first sent a pair of greatsword pincers right through his mighty platemail, and eight ribs. The other spider however couldn't find a weak point, and was pushed back by the dwarf, taking a warhammer hit as it retracted its mandibles. The third spider moved next to Ruil, and he was powerless to stop the spiders serrated mandibles from cutting his leg open wide.
 
Citrine was quick to heal Gunderhoff's wounds from afar, but her clerical powers were far too weak as compared to skill and brutality of the cutlass spiders attacks. Ruil slashed with his sword, igniting the shocking grasp already stored in the blade. Normal foes melted at the attack, but the metallic ton monsters kept biting and clawing.  Corthana, her darts useless against the spiders, opted to coach Ruil on how to better defend against them. Such advice was pointless, particularly when one claw snagged Ruil's sword and nearly pulled it away. With Gunderhoff and Ruil bleeding, and with this discovered weapon absorption ability of the cutlass spiders, the Immortals were forced to flee.
 
They returned to Crying Leaf in defeat, but not undeterred. If they could not bring down such constructs, then they simply could not defeat the drow. After asking around, one of the local mages knew of the cutlass spiders and gave the Immortal advice on its attacks and defenses. He also gave to Corthana several scrolls to help in the battle. And after taking the time to heal up and pray for more spells, the Immortal headed back to the conservatory.
 
Gunderhoff again moved into the fray, but this time he had a shield other spell upon him which would transfer some of his wounds directly upon Citrine. Ruil was next into the dome and blasted the same spider he had previously wounded. This time, the flames blasted the cutlass spider and causing it great pain. Citrine conjured a spiritual scimitar, and cut away the metal plating with the power of force. Yet the cutlass spider still stood and it cut away with its many-bladed leg. As it tried to grab Ruil's sword away however, it encountered something it had never faced: a locked gauntlet that bound the sword to Ruil arm.
 
Using another item he had acquired in Crying Leaf, Ruil launched his stonebreaker at the cutlass spider and melted away more of the beast. Corthana then cast a fireball spell from a scroll that sent flames burning away at all three spiders. Gunderhoff took a small hit from one of the spiders, and threw his own stonebreaker. Yet he was not adept at throwing anything, and he missed his mark.  Citrine's blade again hit the now greatly wounded spider, yet still it stood. She then moved into the fray and faced off against two spiders, placing her own scimitar in from of her to try to ward off any incoming strikes.
 
Bravery however is not a shield, and both spiders managed to gash her flesh, nearly sending her down in an instant. Gunderhoff again was hit, bringing more pain to his bonded friend. Niko meanwhile joined the fight, and helped Citrine defend her person. Gunderhoff sent a wave of healing energy that helped everyone, but that did not affect the metal constructs they were battling hard. Ruil again launched a stonebreaker acid vile at the injured cutlass spider. And as the seconds passed, the acid ate into the cutlass spider’s dylithiam crystal core, and it fell dead to the ground.
 
Citrine was forced to back off to heal her own wounds, but her floating magical scimitar continued its work, slashing away at another spider. The spell to absorb Gunderhoff's wounds was proving to be a partial curse as he was again mauled by a spider. Ruil too was being harassed by his cutlass spider. Although he was dodging most of the strikes, the ones that he couldn't deflect cut him deep each and every time. The elf quickly rolled under a pair of outreaching mandibles but got sliced by the other spider’s leg. It was worth the price as he grabbed both stonebreakers that Gunderhoff had missed with. He then flung them both and easily hit one of spiders. There was a small explosion as the acid did its work and ate right through the cutlass spider, and stopped its anarchy.
 
Now there remained only one cutlass spider, and with all magic and weapons turned upon it, the Immortals destroyed it in short order. As Ruil cast detect magic, he smiled for the first time as the cutlass spiders bodies were almost completely made of magical weapons.
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Summary 08: Dark Water
Chapter Two: Children of the Void
 
Corthana had been scouting out Zincher's camp when she suddenly came upon four bodies with missing lower jaws. Two of those bodies suddenly rose up and charged her, their tongues leading the way.  A quick dart toss wounded one of them, and then they were upon were, scratching at her flesh. Hearing the commotion, Gunderhoff was the first upon the scene, smashing a void zombie down to the ground. Citrine and Ruil were right behind, with the former flashing her holy symbol to eradicate the remaining zombie.
 
They confronted Zincher about the zombies. He said he was hoping to use them in his arena back in Riddleport, and had miscalculated the time it would take for the zombies to rise up. Since a void zombie turned those they slew into other void zombies, they were quite the find. Yet there were more pressing matters at hand. Zincher disclosed exactly where it was the drow could be found and so the party made preparations to leave. Samarithia, exhausted as she was, decided to stay in camp at Zincher's offer.
 
The Goblin Devil's walked the three hours to the secret path along the side of the cliff. They had to walk single file, meaning Gunderhoff was the one leading the way. It was good that he did as a dart suddenly chinked off of his armor. Then the path was encompassed in a magical darkness spell. There were drow about, but they couldn't be seen at the moment. Both Gunderhoff and Ruil were suddenly covered with magical purple flames that didn't burn but which made them easy targets. Upon casting the spell though, the drow revealed their presence, hiding at the end of the path.
 
One of the drow was poised on the edge of the precipice, and that gave Gunderhoff an idea. He charged down the path, got his shield in front of a reaching rapier, and tried to bash the nearest drow off the cliff. Yet at the last second, the dark elf got out of the way, and that put the dwarf in a dangerous position against the two drow. Citrine cast a spell of protection upon all her allies, which also negated any magical attempts to possess the mind. Not wanting to leave his friend in peril, Ruil dimensional hopped right next to his stout friend.
 
Corthana decided to stay in the darkness. She sent a pair of darts flying, bringing pain to one drow. Gunderhoff brought his hammer down upon the same drow, but it stood its ground. Citrine attempted to aid the dwarf with his defenses, but there was no need. The drow had in their midst a surface elf, and they decided they would reduce that races population by one as they both stabbed at Ruil. The duskblade was able to roll with the blades, allowing for only a pair of light wounds. There would be no avoiding the retaliation strike as he imbued his blade with lightening and sliced a drow from head to pelvic bone. The blast of magic that accompanied the strike blew the drow clear off the cliff. There was no doubting he was dead.
 
The remaining drow was cornered. He took two darts from Corthana, and stood his ground. He took a massive wound from a greatsword and stood his ground. He narrowly avoided a warhammer, but was then gutted on the scimitar of Citrine. There was no resisting the call of the afterlife after that mortal wound.
 
With no enemies remaining, it was evident that the drow had come from somewhere. Corthana moved in and with her keen eyes, discovered a secret door. As she placed her hand on the opening mechanism, a strange rune began to glow, a split second before an explosion of sonic energy ripped through her and her companions. It was also an alarm to all those who dwelt within the cave network. A few healing waves from Gunderhoff, followed by a few healing prayers from Citrine healed all their wounds, and they entered in.
 
They soon came to a passage that went left or right. As was the norm, they decided on the latter and came to a collapsed passage. Before the rubble was a sign written in undercommon. Luckily Corthana was a master linguist and was able to piece together that the words warned of a ghost beyond the rubble. Wondering whether it was worth the risk to enter, Ruil decided to cast a detect magic. He found there was something on the other side that radiated magic. The situation was made a little more curious as Citrine mentioned that, if it was a ghost, then it couldn't be trapped as it could pass through solid barriers. The only explanation was that it had to be a guardian over something.
 
The consignment was to move aside the debris, to get at whatever was beyond the cave-in. Gunderhoff shoved aside boulder after boulder until the dark interior of the chamber was revealed. The dwarf crossed through a faint line of silver dust of the floor, breaking the enchantment, and source of the magical aura, that bound Virashi, the siren ghost. In a blast of light, the apparition appeared before the Goblin Devil's. Yet something seemed odd about the ghost. Citrine and Gunderhoff realized that there was no threat in Virashi's empty eyes. The ghost held out her hands as though inviting someone to touch them. Pushing aside the voice of Sarenrae that whispered caution, Citrine touched those outstretched hands. She felt the relief of the ghost and understood that Virashi was overjoyed that her love, the one which had become the wraith upon the cliff, had finally been given peace. This gratitude manifested as a potent blessing upon Citrine. After which, Virashi simply vanished.
 
It was evident to all that the drow were well aware of their presence, given all the noise that had been made. Gunderhoff led the way to the left. Suddenly the entire cavern was blanketed by a deeper darkness spell. Gunderhoff felt a pair of jabs as two crossbow bolts imbedded themselves in his ribs, while a swarm of spider suddenly appeared and began biting him repeatedly. From the wall, came an entity that was the epitome of night. Citrine dodged the reaching arm at the last minute, and noticed even in the darkness, she could see through the thing. Chmetugo the shadow demon vowed that he would take Citrine's soul to his matron Nocticula, lady of Darkness and Lust. It then lunged at the Sarenraevian and its claws and teeth passed right through her armor, and rended her flesh.
 
Corthana sent a pair of darts flying at the demon, but they passed right through the thing. Gunderhoff charged at the trio of drow he saw who had fired upon him, yet he simply couldn't see straight in the gloom, and his hammer ricocheted off the stone wall. The priest of Torag was then illuminated with fairy fire, making him an easy target in the darkness. This close to the drow, he noticed that one of them was a spell caster, and had a vicious looking lizard with him. He raised his shield to deflect a rapier strike and prepared for the great battle to come.
 
Behind him, his friends were trying to deal with Chmetugo. The darkness and the incorporeal traits of the creature were making it near impossible for steel to inflict any solid wounds. Citrine shone her holy symbol and attempted to turn the thing. Only then did she realize that Chmetugo was not an undead. It saw the holiness in Citrine and slashed with very real claws that spilled blood upon the stone floor.
 
Nearby, Gunderhoff was doing all he could against the drow. He couldn't see his friends, but started wondering where they were. That moment of inattention allowed for one of the drow to get in a hard parry that blasted his shield to the side, and allowed for the caster to drive home a flaming spear right into his gut. He grunted the pain aside and continued harrowing the drow in front of him, but simply could not get in a decisive hammer blow.
 
Chmetugo smiled as holy bloody poured through his claws. He smiled at the weakened Citrine, and with one final lunged, he caused another twenty cuts to appear on her body. The blood loss was simply too much, and Citrine fell to the ground. That was enough for Corthana who still had yet to do anything to the demon. She used her spell thief ability to steal away a potent healing spell from her downed friend, and then she tumbled out of the demons reach, and closer to the safety of the outside world. There remained only Ruil and Gunderhoff standing. The former saw the futility of the battle, and as much as it galled him to leave friends behind, the elf followed Corthana outside and into the setting suns embrace.
 
Gunderhoff, despite the odds, was holding his own, until incorporeal claws ravaged his spine. Chmetugo was unimpeded by armor, and took great delight in the dwarf's suffering grunts. The caster finally recoiled as the might of the warhammer finally caught him in the stomach and blew the wind right out his confidence. He hissed at the lizard who moved into melee, while he backed away and healed the wound.
 
Through the haze, Corthana noticed the shadow demon had gone deeper into the caves. That opened a small window for her to save her friend Citrine. She tumbled through the cave opening and past the rocks to her friends side, then used her stolen spell to heal her friend. Citrine's eyes opened, as did her ears to the sound of Gunderhoff's labored breaths. She cast a healing spell from afar that brought some comfort to the dwarf who only then understood that his friends had not abandoned him. He saw a spiritual weapon appear and it struck true upon Chmetugo, replacing the demons laughter with cries of agony. It clawed again at Gunderhoff, and for the first time, the dwarf began sobbing silently in agony.
 
And then he saw Citrine, bathed in the light of her goddess, appear behind Chmetugo. That seemed to given him added resolve as the demon struck a mortal blow over his heart. Chmetugo smiled with the delight of the kill, and then it saw Gunderhoff looking back with very much alive eyes. The dwarf grunted out the word "No!"  The drow looked on in shock and stabbed hard, both rapiers and the lizard bite gouged into his body. Gunderhoff continued to shake with rage and again said the word "No!"
 
Citrine, still wounded and out of spells, looked upon her friend dwarf who simply refused to die. If courage could become something tangible, she was witness to it then and there. Yet she could not ignore her own peril. She heard her two other friends yelling for her to flee. She looked at Gunderhoff whose eyes begged her to save herself while he held off the enemy with his last remaining strength.
 
And so she fled.
 
Chmetugo however would not let such a prize leave without one last mark. He lunged after her, and clawed at her back. The wound was a terrible one. An unseen internal organ fell with a splat to the ground, and Citrine knew that she was done for. There remained only one option, and she took it. She charged the opening of the cave and jumped out over the cliff, feather falling down. Her heart wept as she heard the war chant of Gunderhoff. It was a song to welcome the dead to the afterlife. Gunderhoff knew the end was nigh. He felt his strength drain as the wounds piled upon his body. He fell to one knee, and then the lizard jumped and bit his throat out.
 
Dejected and broken, the three survivors made their way in silence back to Zincher's camp. There was some debate as to whether they should leave the island completely. For Ruil, that was not an option, and in the end they all followed his lead. Now they knew their enemy, and what tricks the drow had in the arsenal. They also knew what could harm Chmetugo, and luckily they knew someone who could help.
 
They went and spoke with Samarithia on the proposition of her joining them in exterminating the drow. To their surprise, she was not as accommodating as they thought she would be. She said she was a scholar, not an adventurer, and that she had already seen enough death to last a lifetime. Ruil however was adamant in the fact that the elven race needed her. And in that argument, she could not dispute her necessity in the battle against the drow. Her only demands were that they protect her, and that she be entitled to an equal share of any findings both magical and mundane. The terms were agreed upon. Oddly, it was Citrine who seemed to harbor a great dislike to the transmuter. Yet she kept her feelings a secret given the immediate need of some spell power against the shadow demon.
 
The next day, the four of them headed out, with much more prepared spell munitions at hand. They noticed the glyph had been reset, and so Citrine took it upon herself to set it off. Again the sonic energy tore through her body, but she quickly healed the wounds and led the way into the drow caverns.
 
At the first junction of paths, the expected darkness flooded the caves. Citrine was prepared however and cast a daylight spell that burned away the spell and caused the drow to clutch their eyes in the immediate blindness. Chmetugo emerged from a crack in the wall and clawed and Samarithia, nearly dropping her before she could be of aid. She backed away and set fly a pair of magic missile. The shadow demon grimaced as they struck home. Ruil then sent a pair of scorching rays at Chmetugo, with only one connecting, and even then only causing a minor burn as the demon seemed resistant to fire.
 
Corthana let fly her darts, but they both passed harmlessly through their foe.  Citrine summoned a spiritual scimitar to cut away at Chmetugo's life. She then positioned herself in front of Smarithia in order to defend the elf from harm. With the demon occupied, Corthana tumbled past the melee in order to harass the drow. She found herself beset by a swarm of spiders cast by the druid. The lizard, being directed by the other two drow, bit at Corthana foot. The nimble thief however jumped up and avoided the attack.
 
Ruil used his dimensional hop and suddenly he was right behind the drow druid.  Samarithia continued firing missile after missile into Chmetugo. The shadow demon growled in rage, and was about to rush at the elf, when suddenly the spiritual weapon lurched upward and impaled the demon right through its lower jaw. It screamed in pain as black, translucent blood poured from the sickening wound. With its last vestige of life, it clawed at Citrine, rending flesh. Samarithia cast another magic missile spell, and sent the spell at the same place where the scimitar of force had struck. And with that Chmetugo perished, dissolving into a mist that carried him back to the plane of shadow.
 
With an elf present, the druid commanded his troops to attack. Ruil was stabbed twice, but they were glancing blows. The swarm meanwhile continued attacking Corthana, but as she was next to the lizard, it too received a thousand spider bites. Ruil channeled lightening through his sword and brought his blade down hard upon the druid, slicing clean through the parrying spear. No one had ever stood from such an attack, and that day was no different as the druid collapsed in death.
 
With the druid dead, the swam dissipated, but that was small consolation for Corthana as the lizard ripped a chunk of flesh from her foot. She tried repeatedly to throw her daggers at the drow, but it seemed as though they all had monk training as they repeatedly dodged her attacks. Then suddenly one of the drow recoiled from a greatsword hit from Ruil. The drows defense slipped for only a second, and Corthana let fly a dagger right into its head, dropping it. Samarithia meanwhile continued firing her missiles, peppering the lizard time and time again until finally it moved no more. The last drow refused to surrender, and as it lunged for Ruil, it found an elven greatsword had suddenly appeared through its torso from front to back.
 
After a few healing spells were distributed, the four moved on. They soon found themselves in a large chamber with several tall ledges above and water below. Citrine levitated up to see if she could spot anything and came face to face with a drow priestess. Shindara cast a quick spell to convince Citrine that they were allies, she she was prepared for such attacks and had previously cast a spell to counter such mental attacks. From another ledge, a pair of drow appeared and fired their crossbows, but missed as Ruil jumped aside. Ruil aimed an arrow at one of the drow, but Corthana realized the elf's aim was way off and moved his arm down with her own. Ruil cursed at the attempted aid when the arrow went way to low. He had adjusted his aim for the height of the enemy until Corthana's intrusion.
 
Shindara sent a shatter spell at Ruil in an attempt to destroy the bow, but the spell failed to splinter the wood. Samarithia fired a magic missile, but Shindara's innate magical resistance fizzled the spell. Corthana then ran past her friends and onto a wooden bridge in an attempt to get closer to the drow. As she started crossing the wooden planks however, something horrible lunged up from the dark depths. An orca, the biggest member of the dolphin family, grabbed Corthana in it mouth and nearly crushed her in two. The thief didn't have time to scream as consciousness fled her being and she began to sink.
 
Ruil continued firing with his bow, catching one of the crossbow wielders in the left lung. Still standing, thetwo drow fired upon Ruil who dodged both barbs. Shindara however was much more accurate as she fired a bolt that caught the elf right in his ear. She then jumped off the ledge and landed on top of the water, utilizing her waterwalk to full effect. She then charged at Ruil and with her flail, grabbed his bow from his hand and sent it into the water where the orca awaited.
 
Citrine quickly healed Corthana's wounds, bringing relief to the rogue, but also panic at the realization of how vulnerable she was ten feet under water. She saw the orca swimming up to finish her off and quickly cast a levitate spell to float out of its reach. Yet it was not high enough as it jumped fully thirty feet into the air and ripped a huge chunk of flesh from her back. Barely holding on, she continued levitating up, and used the wall to shimmy out of the chamber.
 
Ruil meanwhile was battling for his life. One of the drow had cast a darkness spell, impeding his strikes, and as usual, the spell didn't seem to hinder their attacks. Samarithia continued pulling him out of the way of the reaching crossbow bolts. Shindara meanwhile tried to charm Ruil into taking a swim to wash off the blood on his person. Like most elves, his mind was trained to resist such attempts, and he shook off the spell.
 
Citrine then charged down from on high and stabbed the priestess in the side. Ruil then finally saw his prey clearly for a split second and tore into her with his greatsword, triggering the lightening of his shocking grasp. Wounded horribly, Shindara retreated onto the water. The drow above continued their barrage upon Ruil and the wounds started piling upon him. He ignored the pain and launched a pair of scorching rays at Shindara. Her innate magical resistance however dispersed the fire into harmless wisps of energy.
 
Out of spells, Ruil looked to Smarithia for spell aid. She in turn sent a barrage magic missiles from her wand. Yet their magic simply wasn't powerful enough to pierce Shindara's magical protection. Ruil took the time to retreat and grab some of Corthana's remaining darts and daggers. He heard a cry from Citrine as the orca again made an appearance and clamped its jaws upon her from where she stood by the water's edge. After receiving the munitions, Ruil ran to her side, and hit Shindara with a flying dagger. She chittered in the orca's language and the dolphin let go of Citrine and bit into Ruil's calf.
 
Shindara retreated to the cliff where her drow allies were continuing their barrage, but who were also nearly out of bolts to fire. Citrine spider climbed to the far cliff and attempted to jump the gap in order to get to the trio of drow. Yet the distance was simply too great, and she floated down to the water. Still undeterred, she made the climb again to the top. She was just in time to see Shindara cast a spell upon herself and the other drow drink a pair of potions. For them, the fight was over, and they dived into the water and grabbed onto the orca's fin. It in turn dragged the drow away to safety, leaving four very wounded, and very frustrated people looking on in futility.
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Summary 07: Isle of Darkness
Chapter Two: Children of the Void
 
The fight was over, and the carvel, formerly the Teeth of Araska was theirs for the taking. On the sea, there was little quarter given, and none to pirates. Yet this day saw a change in the winds of normalcy. For it was revealed that none of the Goblin Devil's knew how to pilot a boat. And with most of Captain Creesy's crew dead, and he having to pay their families for the loss, there came a period of negotiation. Although the Devil's wanted to sell the boat, there was no way they would get what they wanted for it. Corthana thus came up with a brilliant idea; to heal the pirates and have them steer the ship. It would be given over to Cressy in exchange for ten percent of the profits hauled by the vessel. The Abadar account information was exchanged, and Citrine and Gunderhoff healed up the pirates. The former crew of the Teeth of Araska agreed to the deal of sail or die.
 
Soon the Flying Cloud was sailing towards the <place><placetype>island</placetype> of <placename>Devil</placename></place>'s Elbow. As it neared the docks, they noticed another ship being overhauled by men. This was the same process the Teeth of Araska would go through in order to make it look less like a pirate ship. Not wanting any more fighting, they passed the vessel by and docked. Cressy gave them a map of the island, and after some discussion, agreed to return in five days.
 
Devil's Elbow was said to be a cursed hunk of rock. It was a place where a man named Yaris Neraken had once tried to form a colony. When he did, it seemed misfortune followed him everywhere as plagues struck the livestock and sudden fires burned the buildings he was trying to construct. It was a place that united Yaris and a siren named Virashi's in love ever after, only to have the people of Witchlight, the only town to be built on the island, slay the siren. It was a place where Yaris committed suicide after finding out about this, and once done, his people abandoned the isle. And it was a place where a star had recently fallen from the heavens above.
 
The Goblin Devil's decided that a quick rest was in order so that some could pray for spells, while others memorized them. During Ruil's meditation, he began hearing strange noises coming from the woods around. Not wanting to disturb his friends, he went off to investigate. His woodland knowledge told him the high pitched squeals were not of animalistic nature. Through a break in the tree line he was able to catch a glimpse of a small creature with tentacles for a mane, and extremely sharp teeth.
 
It seemed evident; their camp would soon become a battle ground. Ruil roused his friends quickly, and they prepared themselves for the battle to come. They heard the crashing of trees as something began charging through the brush in their direction. Ruil used his new spell to dimensional hop upon a branch above. Gunderhoff and Citrine prayed for guidance while Corthana readied a very deadly dart. And when the menace was upon them, she let that dart fly; directly into the shoulder of a very startled dwarf.
 
Gravin Goldhammer was a tough dwarf, and he shook off the painful barb. He was overjoyed to see living people as he said the island was filled with nothing but death. He recounted how his men had been pulled into the forest, never to be seen again. He also said he had sent some men to look into the strange flashes from the middle of the island, but they had not returned. Now from a group of twelve, they were only four, including himself. As for starmetal, he had found hardly any and only wanted to get back to Riddleport. The Goblin Devil's said their boat wouldn't be back for five days, but if Goldhammer wished to wait by the docks, they would bring them to shore at the time.
 
Despite the dwarven words, they reached a decision that the drow might very well be hiding in the crater of the star as their logic said it would make the perfect hiding place. Yet the crater was huge, and it took them the better part of the day to scour for clues. Citrine did find some pieces of star metal, but they were barely enough for a simple buckler. One thing of note they did find were hollowed out rocks. Ruil remarked that they almost looked like eggs.
 
As darkness arrived, there was no sign of their prey. They were nearby the eastern watchtower which had been built when Riddleport had attempted to colonize the Isle. As they neared it, they noticed a faint blue glow coming from the cliff edge. Looking down, they noticed a sword that radiated a soft magical aura, along with several other valuables all among a pile of broken bones. Citrine levitated down to scoop up the valuables. As she neared the body though, a shadow suddenly emerged from the wall. Her instincts were already honed for battle, and she dodged the reaching hand at the last moment. Recognizing the undead for what it was, she flashed were holy symbol of Sarenrae and obliterated the shadow. She then retrieved all the valuables she could find, and then spider climbed back up. It occurred to them that they had likely come across the body of Yaris Neraken; the mayor of Witchlight who had committed suicide so long ago.
 
After a nights rest, the four decided to search for the drow at the former town of <place><city>Witchlight</city></place>, as that seemed to be the next logical place to hide. As they arrived, they noticed that the town had barely survived times passage. The building had been made even less unstable after the meteorite had struck the isle. They began searching one of the nearby buildings. Corthana moved aside a book case that she thought might be hiding something, but which was in fact supporting the remains of the roof. A cascade of beams and debris buried everyone. Gunderhoff used his stalwart frame to dig himself out and then help everyone else out.
 
After a second building collapse that left most of them bruised and bloodied, they tread more carefully. They came to one very large building that had once been a place of local commerce where blacksmith and butchers all sold their wares under the same room. There was no sign of anyone thriving in the building at the moment. There was however a strange and gruesome sight; four dead dwarves with their lower jaws torn off.  They also noticed that the bodies had tongues that were three times the normal size. Those tongues lurched towards the group, and they yanked the dwarven bodies with them into an undead frenzy. The void zombies charged at Gunderhoff, but only one of them was able to get past the ever present shield and it clawed his face. Ruil blasted one to ash with a scorching ray. Citrine however had a more powerful weapon; her faith. With a prayer to Sarenrae, she blew the zombies apart. In death, the tongues fell to the ground and squirmed for a few last moments before dying.
 
There was only one remaining building and that was a very unstable-looking tower. As they approached, they heard a woman yell out to them behind a barred door to identify themselves as living creatures. Both Ruil and Corthana recognized the voice of Samarithia. Upon saying their names, the cyphermage immediately ushered them all in. She recounted how she was the last survivor of a band of cyphermages that had been sent out by the Lodge to investigate the meteor strike. She said that the rest of party had been slain by strange creatures she had never seen before, but which she called akatas. She thought it odd that the Goblin Devil's had not been attacked by the vicious creatures.
 
As if on cue, Ruil and then Citrine began hearing chittering noises coming from all around outside. They bashed open a boarded over window and, to their shock, saw two dozen creatures charging the tower. These were the akatas Samarithia had mentioned, and which Ruil had spotted the day before upon their arrival. Corthana hit one with a dart, but the piranha on legs kept charging. Ruil went for something with a little more pop and immolated one with a scorching ray. Citrine blessed everyone, while Samarithia mirrored her elven comrades' action by destroying another akata with a fiery beam.
 
The wave of small abominations soon reached the tower, and began climbing up to reach the defenders. The sheer weight of them caused the tower to shift dangerously to the edge of the cliff face. After a few more seconds, the tower completely gave way, and began rolling down the side of the island. The air was filled with the crunching of bones as many of the akatas were crushed by the tumbling tower. Yet several of them were able to squeeze into some of the windows, and as the tower rolled, so did they. Everyone did all they could to brace themselves. The nimble Corthana soon saw a hole in the wall, and she didn't hesitate to escape the chaos.
 
Finally, the tower came to a stop in the water below. The surviving akatas screamed in pain as the water melted away their flesh, thus exposing a weakness to be exploited later in future fights. Above the tower, the rockslide the tower had caused came crashing into water, and in that rockslide was a scrabbling Corthana, jumping from rock to rock to avoid being buried alive. In the end, she made it down bruised and battered, but otherwise not greatly hurt.  After a few healing spells, everyone was healthy again. They found a spot to rest up for the night, and continue searching in the morning.
 
During the night, Corthana noticed torchlight coming from the side of the mountain about a quarter mile away. Curious, she went to investigate and came across Clegg Zincher. He seemed to be using a hidden path in the cliff face to go back to the island. Corthana continued her incognito maneuvers and noticed Zincher enter a sizable camp with many thugs, Zincher thugs, guarding it from outside intrusion. Knowing knowledge was power, Corthana returned to her friends and did not say a word to them about her nights excursion.
 
The following morning, the Goblin Devil's continued their exploration of Devil's Elbow. They soon came to the western guard tower, again a remnant of the past. Citrine led the way with a light spell into the dark interior. That light sent the towers denizens into a panicked fight response, and four centipedes six feet in length and their swarm of babies surged outwards. Ruil blasted at the swarm with flames, and then cut a large one in two as it tried to get past him. The swarmed crawled over him and Samarithia who tried to cast a spell, but found herself choking on centipedes as they crawled into her open mouth.
 
Corthana touched Samarithia's shoulder and took a magic missile spell away. Yet as she tried to cast it, the centipedes crawled up her arm and began biting down. The pain was simply too much, and she lost her concentration has she tried to cast the spell. Ruil tried to blast the swarm with another scorching ray but he too found the repeated bites to distracting to bring the magic to bear. Citrine meanwhile was dealing with one of the large centipedes, but she was forced to abandon that battle as she noticed Samarithia fall to the ground from the thousands of bites she had sustained. Praying to Sarenrae, Citrine touched the transmuter's body and sent healing energy to stabilize her friend. Pushing through the pain, Ruil finally sent a burning ray of death into the swarm, destroying it. The three larger centipedes meanwhile were lying dead at Gunderhoff's feat. None had been able to get past his mighty defensive stance.
 
After the battle, and finding no drow, Corthana finally revealed to her friends the location of Zincher's camp. Remembering that he was supposed to be an ally of the drow if Saul's words were to be believed, they healed up and headed right to it.
 
Oddly enough, the guards were almost welcoming as they met the Goblin Devil's on their approach. They happily escorted them to Zincher who seemed quite happy to see his granddaughter alive and well. While discussions went on, Corthana decided to dive into her thieving ways and began scouting out the camp. Zincher said he had found no star metal and said that he knew nothing of the drow. He also said that the murder attempts on the four should be left in the past. These were new times and he wished to establish a better relationship with Citrine.
 
Ruil, an elf whose job it was to be cautious about everyone's actions, noticed there was something strange in the way Zincher spoke. He remembered his arcana professor showing the effects of a charm spell on someone and Ruil realized that Zincher had the same behavior as that of someone who was under the influence. He mentioned this fear to Citrine in hushed tones, and she dispelled the magic that bound Zincher. The man blinked a few times and then expressed his gratitude for finally being free of the drow's charm spell. He asked that Citrine and Ruil bring a finite end to the drow for what they had done to him.
 
And then suddenly the air was cut in two by Corthana's scream.
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Summary 06: The Advent of Darkness
Chapter Two: Children of the Void
 
A quick search of Depora's belongings turned up several items of interest, including a journal. Within its pages was written the key to everything. The writing however was in a language no one could understand. Corthana had seen many scripts in the past, and although she couldn't read the words precisely, she was able to piece together that they spoke of some great event that was to occur that eve on an island called Devil's Elbow. There was one other thing, and that was a rune drawn in ink upon a page. Corthana revealed she had seen something similar, and upon touching this one upon the page, there came a soft glow from the far wall. A closer examination of the light showed a simple illusion covering a large magical rune matching the one in the journal.

Something had been activated.

They scaled a hidden ladder they had found, which led up to the base of the cyphergate. There they spotted a light in the sky that was getting closer and closer. Ruil realized that the drow had somehow pulled a star from the sky, and that it would hit very close to Riddleport. Corthana was able to confirm that Devil’s Elbow was a island only a few miles away, and if the journal was correct, then that would be the target.

They moved inside the Golden Goblin, and went to Saul in the hopes he could read the undercommon language in the journal, so that they might prevent the disaster that was to come. He seemed honestly baffled by the writing and said he had no idea what Depora had been planning. Ruil estimated they only had a few minutes, giving very little time for action. Citrine ran to the docks to encourage people to leave the shore. Corthana stayed with Saul while Gunderhoff and Ruil watched from the roof.

The light in the sky became brighter and brighter, and soon the star crashed into an island in the dark, creating a huge explosion. Within moments, the water swelled upon the docks as a small tsunami struck the shore of Riddleport. Boats were thrown about and people were dragged into the surf, only to be eaten by the sharks that had been carried by the wave. The shops close by were smashed to splinters, and a hundred cries for help echoed in the night. Gunderhoff didn’t hesitate as he jumped off the roof and ran to help. Ruil decided upon the stairs to descend and he, along with Citrine went through the night helping people out of the water and healing wounds. To their surprise they saw many ruffians with the badges of the crimelords also helping out.

When dawn finally arrived, both Citrine and Ruil were exhausted to the brink of death. They decided to go to St. Casperian’s mission to see to the people there, and to get quick rest. Beltias Kreun, the self-proclaimed ruler of the temple, let fall his malice and showed them in as he too had his heart set upon nothing but helping Riddleport. Of Gunderhoff, there was no sign but they knew his dwarven strength would allow him to continue helping in his own way well past the ability of a normal man.

Corthana had tied Saul to a bed and slept behind the bar. To her surprise, when she awoke, there was the smell of bacon and sausages in the air. She looked up to see a very much not tied up Saul serving breakfast. He said he had cooked up the boar, made scrambled eggs, and had purchased fresh fruit from the market. That last comment seemed to strike a truly angry cord in Corthana as it seemed to mock her ability to keep the prisoner bound.

As if on cue, her companions walked into the Goblin, with a very tired Gunderhoff sitting down right away stuffing food into if very empty stomach. The fact that he didn’t die from poison convinced everyone that the food was safe to eat. Corthana was seething with rage and lashed out at her friends about them forcing her to be a babysitter for Saul. The aforementioned man seemed quite content, given that he had nearly perished the night before. It seemed that the near death experienced had ironically given him life.

After the fantastic meal, the four went off to Imp’s Imperial Armory, leaving Saul alone to clean up. Through the morning sun, they noticed something rather strange; the Blot had disappeared. They also noticed that future spell casting no longer produced the purple mist. Their arrival at the shop was in the form of a ‘‘ Hail Goblin Devils.’’ This was the name the people of Riddleport had adopted for the four as they were the four from the Cheat the Devil and Steal His Gold tournament who had given quite the headache to many a crimelord in town. After a few purchases, they left to decode the journal.

Citrine had prayed to Sarenrae for a comprehend languages spell. With it she read all that Depora had written. The journal spoke much about the money from Saul she had used for various alchemical supplies, as well as diamond dust for the special chisel she used to take off a piece of the cyphergate for some grand project. Depora went on to write about the strange occurrences her and her allies current plan was doing, including the Blot, purple mist, weathervanes, and all the other strange phenomena. After activation of the glyphs, the star would likely fall that eve, and that the glyphs would need to be refined in order to eliminate such blatant displays lest the enemy receive warning of the impending apocalypse that was to come. It also mentioned that her other allies were already on Devil’s Elbow, as there the remaining glyphs were to be activated. The isle would also be where they predicted the test fire of the star would strike.

It was a lot of information to process; information that Ruil all but threatened had to remain a secret. The drow were a fairy tale race of elves that no one, including himself had ever seen, and he had orders that it was to stay that way. Despite the warning, Corthana had her own priorities. Such magic, and such revelations was why the Cypher Lodge had been founded in the first place. Corthana didn’t hesitate to reveal all to Elias Tammerhawk. The diviner was delighted by the news, and sent a team of cypher mages to the new rune that Corthana had found (and in fact inadvertently activated). On mention of the journal, Elias paid Corthana a large sum of gold to retrieve the prize.

Arriving back at the Goblin, the thief asked for the journal from Ruil, who promptly refused the request. There had in fact always been an issue of trust, or lack thereof, between the two. Ruil had his own issues on his mind at the same time. He knew of something important he needed to do, but lacked the knowledge to do so. He placed his hope in Samarithia knowing the answer. Upon arriving at the Cypher Lodge though, Elias said she had left on a mission of great importance. Ruil thought of a solution to a part of his dilemma involving the journal. Once arriving back at the Goblin, he acknowledged to Corthana that he would hand it over after a day of study.

True to his word, the elf handed over the journal to Corthana. The thief’s eyes seemed to flash the color of gold coins for a brief moment and she went to Elias to claim her prize. Corthana did ask that any knowledge of the drow be kept discreet. Yet the diviner said that such would not be the case. Such wisdom was to be shared and sold to the world. To find evidence that the drow were real was a find almost equivalent to finding out the meaning of the cyphergate itself. Knowing that such a problem was Ruil’s and not her own, Corthana took the remainder of the coin promised to her and left.

The cleanup of the town was not something that could be accomplished in only a few days. Repair work and healing was a much needed thing as the days went by. People went about in fervor to repair what was lost. There was also however a great excitement to get to the place of the star crash site. Such an event had in fact happened in the past, several thousand years ago. It destroyed civilizations and even races. However those who dared to go to the place of the calamity, found metal that resisted magics touch and was harder than steel. And so, the skymetal rush was on, as crimelords and the everyday man tried to find a boat that could take them to Devil’s Elbow.

Riches were far from the heroes’ minds as they continued to help rebuild a city, and build a relationship with them. They did think of one place they wanted to explore, and that was the passage under the Golden Goblin they had bypassed.

Once down below, they retraced their steps and entered a small room with a deep pool. On the other side of the pool, impaled in the wall on a sword, was a skeleton in the garb of a pirate. A detect magic revealed there was something in the pools depths. Citrine swam down, holy symbol lighting the way. She found a small chest, with another skeleton draped over its lid. As she approached though, its eyes lit with a deathly red glow. The wight lunged, but its hand and the rest of its body disintegrated in Sarenrae’s holy light.

After recovering the treasure, the four went back to the surface. Ruil then insisted that they had to go to Devil’s Elbow. If there was drow, they needed to be destroyed in case any of the skymetal explorers stumbled upon them. There was only one problem, that being there was simply no transport to the isle. The only boat they came across was the Flying Cloud and its Captain Cressy. He said his boat, though damaged, would be ready to sail in a few days.

During the wait, they were able to find out a little bit of information about the groups who had already set out. The first group was one run by a minor crimelord named Slyeg. Clegg Zincher had also set a group out soon after. There was a dwarven brigade led by Gravin Goldhammer. The last group was a band of cypher mages, led by a woman named Finela.

Five days later, they were ready to set sail. Captain Creesy invited the four to dine with him. He was by all appearances a decent man, a rarity in Riddleport. The hours passed by in a cordial manner, although at one point Gunderhoff tipped his head as though he had heard something, but dismissed it. Soon after though, the Goblin Devil’s would be forever jumping to action as every single time Gunderhoff thought he heard or saw something odd; he was right. Soon after he was sure he heard the crackling of flames on deck, and he cried out ‘‘Fire!’’

They all ran up on deck, and saw several Zincher thugs setting fire to the sails. It seemed the crimelord had no shortage of peons in his gang. They all put down their torches and fired crossbows at Citrine. She had been studying her dwarven friend’s initial defense tactics and deflected all the barbs with her shield. She in turn sent a blessing to her goddess, giving her allies courage in battle. Gunderhoff sent his legs moving as fast as he could and tried to ram a goon off the deck. He had never tried such a tactic however and his maneuver was easily sidestepped.

Corthana, used one of the thug’s pupils as a bull's-eye for her dart throwing, and hit it dead on. Ruil was next on deck and slashed another thug, lightening crackling on his sword and he cleaved through flesh, leaving nothing but a pile of ash in his blades wake. With all the enemies in close quarters, they dropped their crossbows and pulled out blades. That opened a small window for Gunderhoff to slam home his warhammer into the face of one of them, dropping the man dead.

Seeing the pile of ash, the goons surrounded Ruil. He parried their swords left and right, but one managed a small cut in his back. Citrine slashed down the one with a pair of darts in his eye. Another dart flew through the air, indebting itself in a goons shoulder. Ruil killed another one with a quick slash through the throat. With only two surviving foes, they gave up the fight. Upon questioning them, they admitted they were just trying to score points with Zincher, and that they had not been ordered to burn the sails. The captain scanned the damage and said it would only take a day to fix.

The next day, the Flying Cloud set sail, and was the only one to do so. It would be at least another week before Riddleport would send any other ships out, with most waiting for word back from the isle in order to ensure a safe docking, and safe passage. As it happened, they were right to do so, as the Flying Cloud was approached by a pirate ship as they neared the isle.

Corthana suggested they raise the disease flag, while the crew disguised themselves as plague victims. It was a tactic the Teeth of Araska was familiar with. And as the caravel pulled up next to the Cloud everyone could hear the sickening screams of the crew as they were murdered. The Goblin Devil’s did not stand by for long as they quickly emerged from the cabin to take on the pirates. Citrine raised her shield as, upon hitting the deck, a hail of daggers flew at her. Only one got past per shield nicking her ear. Corthana was next, but her friend’s raised shield prevented her own daggers from finding a target and her attacks went wide.

Citrine noticed one woman who seemed to be a spell caster, commanding the actions of the pirates. She thus summoned a spiritual scimitar to harass her, slashing through robes with the power of force. Ruil ran out the cabin door, and with a cry to the elven gods, brought a quick death to the nearest pirate with his sword. Following in his footsteps, Gunderhoff gave a battle cry to Torag and smashing in the head of another pirate.

Ishana, first mate of the Teeth of Araska, commanded the pirates to flank Citrine. Rule number one in any fight was to kill the healer before anyone. Yet Citrine was becoming more and more familiar with battle, and parried aside all their reaching blades. Seeing things were not going as planned, Ishana cast invisibility on herself and began silently making her way back to her ship to warn her captain.

Citrine commanded her magical scimitar to slash a pirate from behind. She then finished him off with a slash to his gut. Ruil relished in his ability to channel electricity through his sword, and smoked another pirate. That left only a single pirate, but he soon found himself with an unexpected aid as a scorpion suddenly appeared, clawing and stinging Citrine, and sending poison seeping into her veins. Gunderhoff pushed his way in between her and the scorpion, inviting the summoned creature to hit him instead. And indeed the scorpion clawed and stung, managing to get a good slice across his knee.

Gunderhoff however took the hit without flinching as with the scorpion’s full attention on him, the arachnid didn’t see Corthana sneak up from behind and cut its spine in two. Barely twitching, Ruil finished it off with a quick sword slash. The remaining pirate, seeing his ally destroyed, began debating whether he should surrender. That decision was taken from him as Citrine’s similar slashed his throat, ending any attempt to voice anything.

Gunderhoff and Citrine repaired a few wounds on themselves, and negated the poison in the Sarenraenien’s veins. There was little time to celebrate a victory however as, from the pirate ship emerged a half a dozen pirates, three lizards, and Captain Grudge himself, yelling out threats that seemed to inspire his crewmates into action.

Corthana flicked a loaded crossbow with her foot from the deck into her hands and fired, planting a bolt into the chest of one pirate. Ishana meanwhile emerged from her hiding place behind a life boat and baned Gunderhoff. Captain Grudge saw the armored dwarf and attempted to suggest he attack his friend. Gunderhoff’s mind was as powerful as his body and he shook off the spell. The pirates then sent a volley of bolts flying the Devil’s way, with one jabbing into Ruil’s solar plexus muscle. Ruil returned fire, but the immediate pain threw off his aim, and is arrow went wide of any target. Citrine prayed to her goddess, giving courage to her allies in the fight. Gunderhoff then charged onto the enemy deck, putting himself in harm's way for anyone to dared to think he was an easy target.

It was not weapons he had to worry about, but rather the rope near his feet that magically coiled around his legs, entangling him at Captain Grudge’s bidding. Ishana sent a charm at Citrine, asking her to drop her sword. Such simple magic was easily broken by her will power, and Ishana was quite disappointed to see her target keeping her sword in hand. The lizards, listening to the hisses of the captain, aided the defenses of the pirates in front of them. Grudge then commanded the pirates to direct all forward fire on the super pirate destroyer that was Ruil. And so they did, with the duskblade taking a brutal bolt to his head.

Somehow shaking off the mortal wound, Ruil found the strength to continue battling on, and moved to his friend Gunderhoff in order to defend the dwarf. Citrine too was there, and she mended the hole in the elf’s head. Gunderhoff hopped a little closer to the pirates, the rope impeding his movements. Corthana threw a few daggers, but only one hit a pirate for a minor cut. Grudge walked to Ruil and slashed his whip at the elf’s feet in a trip attempt. Ruil however jumped the weapon with ease. Ishana tried to command Corthana to let her daggers fall to the ground, but again the magic failed.

Captain Grudge now clearly saw that Citrine was a healer and so ordered his pirates to fire on Citrine. She was not at all expecting the barrage, and in a split second she found herself coughing blood with three bolts impeded in her lungs. That was enough to instill some unrecognized rage with Ruil. He sent out a battle cry that would make a barbarian weep, and slashed Captain Grudge across the chest. An explosion of electricity brought Grudge to his knees with pain, but it was not enough to kill him. Corthana sent a dart into the captain’s back and that was the killer blow that ended Captain Grudge’s rein of tyranny.

Even with their captain down, the pirates continued fighting. The lizards moved next to Citrine and bit at her, with one hitting an artery that spewed life blood. Citrine found herself becoming very dizzy, but found strength for a life saving healing spell. With Grudge dead, the rope around Gunderhoff released its hold. He sent out a wave of healing energy that mended both ally and enemy cuts. Ruil then moved next to a monitor lizard and cut it in two. With the elf's proximity close to her, Ishana commanded the troops to fire at Ruil. Two of them smiled as their bolts hit the elf in the back. That only seemed to encourage Ruil as he blasted another lizard to oblivion. And then the last lizard met the same fate.

With the main threats out of the way, and Ishana out of spells, the Goblin Devil’s made short work of the survivors. On the water, there was no quarter to give. And so, the four of them soon found themselves the proud owners of a mighty pirate vessel. And if rumors of skymetal were to be believed, then its hold would be perfect to hold the unimaginable riches they would soon find upon Devil’s Isle.
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Summary 05: Dark Revelations
Chapter One: Shadow in the Sky
 
There was a great decision to make. It was not what to do next, for that seemed obvious. Rather it was whether to believe the letter they had found on the mangy wererat. For if what they had read was true, then that meant that Saul had just tried to murder his only daughter. It was an idea that made no sense, yet the evidence could not be denied. There was one fact that no one could dispute, that being Saul was considered a crimelord; something even he admitted to. Wounded as they were, and not wanting to let Riddleport know they yet lived, Corthana took the group to the cemetery, where there she led them to a cave she knew of. They rested until the morning, at which point they would begin their investigations into Saul. 

Corthana meanwhile went to see Samarithia. She asked the elf if she could scout out the Golden Goblin. She wanted Samarithia to say to Saul that she had heard his four mercs had been slain, and to gauge his reaction. Two hours later, the elf returned. She said she had not been able to enter the gambling hall as there were two men who had stopped her from entering, and they had said the establishment was closed. She also said there were several archers posted on the roof. Armed with this information, Corthana returned to her friends.

The next morning, the four donned disguises and approached the Golden Goblin. Their intention was to enter incognito, but it was clear that the archers on the roof recognized them as one of them tapped on a boarded over window as though signaling reinforcements. Seeing this, the four companions opted for a subterranean approach as Saul had said there was a way into the Goblin from the sewers. They chose one of the closest sewer grates, and headed down.

Several directions presented themselves, with the middle path leading to a dead end. With Citrine lighting the way, they opted for the right passage. As they entered a chamber, they were suddenly beset upon by several dire rats. A quick dart toss by Corthana skewered one of the rodents, while Gunderhoff's hammer smashed another one. The remaining rat jumped into the air, its teeth aimed at Gunderhoff's throat, but the warrior simply put his shield up and it bounced off. Corthana sent a dart at it, ending its life.

They continued onwards, with Gunderhoff leading the way. He came to a rickety door which he easily bashed open. As he walked through though, the floor gave way, and the dexterous dwarf was barely able to jump aside. Had he not, then the pit of spikes might well have been the weapon that would have ended his life. He placed his tower shield across the gap, allowing for everyone to pass safely.

As they entered the room, they noticed two elven statues, each with bow and arrows pointed at them. Fearing a trap, Corthana began searching around. After a few minutes, she gave the all clear for the next door. Gunderhoff stepped towards it, when suddenly he was struck by an arrow that shot out from the opposite side of one of the statues. He stepped aside to let Corthana deal with the trap, but when he did so, an arrow from the second statue hit him. They were minor scratches, and luckily no more fired out. Corthana moved in and unlocked the door that, by their calculations should lead to under the Golden Goblin.

As they entered, they noticed eight more elven statues in a large chamber that was obviously a living area for someone. Gunderhoff took a look at the statues and said that he thought they didn't look quite right. As they entered, four of the statues threw off their disguises and attacked. These were sewer dwelling bird creatures called tengus. One of them got in a slash on Corthana, but she retaliated by piercing its lungs with a pair of darts, killing it. Citrine advanced on another one, and with a quick scimitar slash sent bloody feathers flying, but the tengu stood its ground. 

Ruil meanwhile channeled a shocking grasp spell into his sword and blasted a tengu to giblets. Gunderhoff couldn't bring his hammer to bear on one tengu, but as the creature attempted to tumble pass, he saw a break in its defenses and smashed its spine in two. Corthana took out the enemy daggers in her own chest and flung it at the remaining tengu, finishing it off. A quick search turned up nothing, including no way up to the surface. A search of the surrounding chambers turned up the same, meaning that Saul had lied to them about the Goblin being joined by the sewers.

They were thus forced to head back up and attack the Golden Goblin in the open. Corthana blended with the shadows so completely, it took her friends many minutes to find her. They soon saw the archers on the roof. One of them got a lucky hit in Ruil's ribs, while the other seemed to get his arrow stuck in his bowstring. Citrine summoned a spiritual scimitar that slashed at one archer from behind, nearly dropping him. Gunderhoff then cast bane on the fresh archer, impeding his skill. That same archer received an arrow in the shoulder fired by Ruil. Corthana meanwhile attempted to pick the front door lock but was having trouble in such a stressful battle situation. The two archers tried to finish Ruil off, but he deflected their shots with his bow, then showed the archers how an elf fires an arrow has he killed off one of them. Citrine's magically summoned scimitar slashed the remaining one and sent him crashing dead to the ground.

With Corthana still having no luck with the lock, and not wanting to barge into a large room where they might be murdered on all sides, the four went to the back door. This one Corthana had more success with as after only a few seconds her lock picks gave her the telltale click of an open lock. Gunderhoff moved in, shield leading the way. He heard the ping of several arrows bouncing off its hardened surface. Glancing around his metal barricade, he spotted an archer close by and smashed his warhammer into the enemies arm. Corthana was next into the bar, firing two darts at another archer, nearly killing him. Citrine moved in and granted her allies Sarenrae’s blessing. The third archer was pinned against the wall from a dead-eye shot by Ruil. Seeing the elf, the other two archers sent their arrows flying at Ruil, drawing blood.

Corthana reached into her pouch, grabbed two darts and sent them at the enemy nearest Gunderhoff, but they only scratched the skin. Gunderhoff tried to finish the archer off, but his foe jumped out of the way. Ruil jumped over the bar stool and, now with greatsword in hand, tried to decapitate his foe. The archer however ducked the swing, and sent an arrow point blank into Ruil's throat. The elf clutched at the wound, his eyes wide as he feared death had found him more suddenly than he wanted. And then Citrine's healing magic washed over him, and he was relieved to see the arrow fall to the ground, and feel air enter and exit through his mouth. Seeing as though they had the advantage, Corthana jammed a dagger in the lock of the back door to prevent anyone from escaping.

The truth of everything finally arrived as Saul emerged from his counting room with several goons. He said he was truly disappointed that his daughter and her friends were still alive. He went on to say that they should never have come to Riddleport as everything had been fine before their arrival. He took out his rapier sword and waded into the battle, with several more goons from the main room following him. There was no time for talk as Citrine again healed Ruil. Gunderhoff, not at all fazed by the advancing blades, placed himself between Saul and his friends. There was no way he would let the enemy past. Citrine made a desperate attempt to negotiate a cease fire but her words fell on deaf ears. She insisted that her father not be harmed; a battle against two Vancaskerkins would have ensued otherwise.

Ruil, now fully healed, aimed an arrow at a nearby archer and shot him dead. He noticed the bouncers pointing out weaknesses in Gunderhoff's defenses. At least that's what it looked like as time and time again, Gunderhoff parried, dodged, or simply let incoming strikes bounce off his armor. It was clear that even Saul couldn't pierce the great dwarf's defenses, and when Saul's allies started falling one after another, it was time for a retreat. Saul ran off to the stairs that led down to the winery, where there his secret passage would bring him to salvation.

A quick word by Citrine convinced the remaining bouncers to frag off, and the Goblin Devil's, for lack of a better name, gave chase. They entered the winery, only to face Bojask the half-orc and his boar animal companion. Saul meanwhile was unlocking the secret hatch, to escape. There would be no such things today however. Ruil cleared the way with a shocking grasp channeled through his greatsword. That explosion of energy blasted Bojask dead against the wall. Citrine meanwhile moved in and tried to hold the secret door closed. Corthana attempted one better by trying to tackle Saul to the ground. The crimelord however saw the attack from a mile away, and dodged the attack, while stabbing his rapier in her side.

Gunderhoff meanwhile faced the boar, smashing it across its snout. Ruil moved in to help his friend and slashed the boar across its head. That seemed to only enrage the animal. Yet its tusks simply bounced off Gunderhoff's shield again and again. Ruil again channeled his shocking grasp into the sword and immolated the boar. Saul meanwhile had reopened the secret door and had jumped down, nearly dislocating his knees. Corthana took a chance and jumped into the darkness landing atop Saul. Injured as he was, Saul surrendered as he had no wanting for death this day.

Now was the time for questions and answers. Saul explained that he had fallen in love with an elf that had grand designs for Riddleport. She needed funding however and Saul was more than happy to help her, taking out extravagant loans to help while buying the Golden Goblin as well since it was perfectly located for her plans. Her name was Depora Azrinae, and she apparently had a grudge against Ruil, though why Saul didn't have the answers to. Depora had only recently come to ally herself with Clegg Zincher, thus it was why his goons were there to help kill the four as they were coming dangerously close to impeding her plans. As for Ferur the bartender, Saul had killed him in the hopes they would kill Lymas Smeed and annul the debt owed to him. All of the news devastated Citrine as it destroyed all the good thoughts she had for her father. It seemed he was as bad as all the evidence had indicated. Death for Saul was not an option. She insisted on locking him in a room, until they could decide what to do with him; and option Saul agreed to enthusiastically. As for Depora, despite their low spell resources, they knew that the elf might flee at any time. It was time to strike immediately.

The four descended down into a watery cave, illuminated by Ruil's flare spell. Gunderhoff led the way, but was suddenly attacked by a pair of swamp barracudas. Their teeth bounced off his armored boots. Citrine stabbed down at one of the fish, gutting it with a single slash. Gunderhoff's hammer smashed down, but hit only stone. Corthana sent a pair of darts flying, impaling the last barracuda's tail. Ruil slashed down, slicing through gills, but still the barracuda twitched with life. Citrine again slashed down with her same finesse and sent fish guts flying into the water, ending the fight.

They noticed the passage continued on and then split. With the general adventurer rule of right is always right, that was the way they headed. They noticed several flashes of purple up ahead, but they didn't think anything of it. That was until an arc of electricity fired from those lights and zapped Gunderhoff. His metal armor seemed to have attracted the lightening. From a side chamber came four troglodytes bringing with them a horrible stench that caused all, save Gunderhoff to begin vomiting. From another passage came a huge cockroach creature called a fungal crawler. The purple lights also opened their eyes, revealing themselves as darkland sentinels.

Fearing more electricity, Corthana threw a few darts at one of the sentinels, piercing its eyes and slaying it. Ruil meanwhile attacked the fungal crawler, slashing mushrooms off its body. It retaliated, but the elf easily dodged its attack, with Ruil striking it over the head and momentarily stunning it. With Gunderhoff blocking the corridor, Citrine simple gave him defensive tips. He in turn tried to hit a troglodyte, but missed. Despite the mighty dwarf's stalwart defense, a pair of claws scratched at his neck. Citrine found herself facing one of the underground dwellers, but she dodged aside its attacks. She sent a return slash, bringing a cry of pain from her foe.

Ruil slashed again at the fungal crawler, dropped it to the ground. Citrine meanwhile slashed at another troglodyte, drawing blood. Gunderhoff too wounded one with his warhammer. Yet again Gunderhoff's defense wavered for just a second as two more claws found grooves in his armor. For the most part though the battle was going well, as the warriors were easily a match for their enemies. 

Ruil's sword flashed, and a troglodyte screamed. Gunderhoff's warhammer slammed down, crushing bone. The only true threat was the darkland sentinel which sent lighting blast after lightening blast at Corthana. Eventually, the rogue was forced to retreat until Citrine healed her wounds. Ruil recognized the threat from above and sent arrow after arrow into the purple lighted thing. Revenge however was left for Corthana as she emerged from hiding and threw a dart at the sentinel, dropping it dead from the ceiling.

Ruil again slashed at a troglodyte, ending its life. Yet as he did so, five more of the lizard-like things rounded the corner, claws and teeth ready to rip flesh. Gunderhoff charged into the fray, and his warhammer smashed one to near oblivion. Ruil sent a ray of frost at the same one yet somehow it stood its ground. It and its friends simply could not find an opening in Gunderhoff's defenses and he deflected all aggressors. One finally did scratch the dwarf across the neck, opening a vein that starting bleeding dangerously. The wounds had finally started piling up as Gunderhoff began feeling weak in the knees. That seemed to send the dwarf into a furry as he smashed his warhammer left and right. And when the smoke cleared, he had slain all the troglodytes, although several bore the telltale frost bites of Ruil's magic.

As they moved on, they came to an even larger chamber with another watery pool. Emerging from it came a pair of aquatic gricks. Gunderhoff simply stood his ground in front of them and allowed their tentacles to bounce repeatedly off his shield. Behind him, a flurry of arrows and darts came from his allies, skewering the gricks where they swam, and ending their lives before they could escape.

Unscathed by the encounter, the four moved on, and found themselves in a large chamber with a huge stone monolith. It was a part of the giant cyphergate, meaning that the giant artifact truly did form a complete ring. Defending it were two demons called dretches. Behind a desk, a crossbow bayonet in hand was the person Ruil had come to slay. Depora, a drow, and legendary creature prepared to slay the intruders. The drow had always been a rumored race, with no one having ever actually seen one. And Ruil knew then and there that such should remain. He would end Depora's life at all costs, and Depora seemed to think the same of him as she looked upon him with utter hatred.

Corthana slashed at one of the dretches and was shocked as her blade bounced off its flesh. Gunderhoff however found a weak spot in its hide as his hammer cracked a dretche's ribs. Ruil attacked the same one, but the demon got its spear up and blocked the strike. Both dretches backed up and tried to summon one of their brethren into the fight. Much to the delight of one of them, he saw another dretch appear. Depora meanwhile summoned a globe of darkness, making it more difficult for everyone to strike true.

Despite the gloom, Corthana hit the drow with a single dart, but it seemed to do very little. Gunderhoff again hit the dretch in front of him, but this time the creature was ready and turned aside so that there was little damage done. Depora, furious at being stung, sent a poisoned cross bow bolt at Corthana, but the agile rogue ducked away from it. Ruil tried bringing his sword to bear, but the darkness impeded his strike as he failed to make contact with any enemy. 

The dretches too were having trouble in the darkness. Ruil felt a pair of claws across his shoulder, but otherwise, the warriors escaped harm for a few seconds. Citrine again tried hitting one of the demons, but as her sword was not imbued with magic, it bounced off flesh. Ruil's blade however was enchanted and he found a target in the darkness. The blade slashed open the wounded dretch's throat and it disappeared to its home plane, taking with it the dretch it at summoned.

The elf felt a small prick as a bolt lodged in his shoulder. He felt the drow poison seeping into his blood stream but used his mighty stamina to fight off the wave of unconsciousness that came over him. Ruil stepped past the remaining dretch and tried to find Depora in the darkness. Yet where he thought she was, she was no longer. Corthana did see the drow for a split second, and sent a dart her way, a rewarding grunt of pain to indicating a hit. 

Gunderhoff and the remaining dretch found themselves in a match up as the stronger dretch simply could not find a way past the dwarf's tower shield. Gunderhoff was able to find the beast through the darkness as the warhammer smashed through demon skull. It in turn abandoned the fight with the dwarf and sent a claw Ruil's way, as though it had been commanded by its mistress to do so. Those claws scraped upon chainmail links and did no damage. Depora stabbed out with her bayonet, wounding Ruil further.

Corthana tumbled into the fray, feeling the bayonet pass over her head. She then stabbed out with her dagger and for a split second, she sensed a spell within Depora's mind. Corthana used her roguish training and stole that spell away, only then seeing a fairy fire spell ready to cast now. She saw Depora again stab at Ruil, missing in the darkness, and used that moment to stab the drow in the side and then up into her black heart. The drow stumbled back, spitting out blood, and with great pleasure, Ruil stabbed with his greatsword, impaling Depora. The darkness faded, revealing Gunderhoff and Citrine standing over the now dead dretch, their weapons dripping with blood.

The battle was finally over. The repercussions of the drow’s very existence was a thought to be carefully considered. Yet there was something even greater to consider, something the four were oblivious to at that very moment. For before their arrival, Depora had activated a specific rune that had just set into motion an event so dire, it would shake the foundations of all of Riddleport.
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Summary 04: Sins of the Father
Chapter One: Shadow in the Sky
 
The four new friends left Lymas Smeed's house and headed back to the Golden Goblin. Their latest mission had been moderately successful, but one thing they had done was send a message to all the crimelords of Riddleport; mess with Saul, you deal with them. That was evident in the looks of many people they passed by, with some whispering the "Goblin Devils" in hushed tone. As they walked the streets, the ground began rumbling. Then from the sky fell tiny black gemstones that pelted everyone in the city. The storm only lasted a minute, but it left many injured and some dead. Corthana picked up a gemstone, but when she did, it dissipated into black smoke. Gunderhoff was quick to administer as much healing as he could to the people.

Arriving at the Golden Goblin, they noticed little damage. Which was a good thing as it needed to stay open in order to finally start earning profits. They had little good news for Saul, other than the debt had been reduced. Saul indeed was somewhat content about the news. However he was visibly saddened that Farur had been murdered my Smeed. As it happened, they had arrived at the perfect moment. A case of rare wines was ready to be picked up at the docks. It had been due for the gambling tournament, but had been delayed because of a storm. The longer the wine was in port though, the more likely that a crimelord would find out about it and steal it. He thus, asked his employee protectors to go to the Foamrunner, and pick it up.

As they arrived, they spoke to the captain who said that there had been a mistake. The wine had in fact been lost to the sea. And the men loading wine into a cart nearby were picking up Zincher's order that had survived the voyage. It was obvious the crimelord was again trying to steal from Saul. They thus approached the men, one of whom was very heavily armored. Citrine got their full attention when she began probing the suspected merchandise. After a brief conversation, it was clear that the three men were not going to back down. Ruil attempted a touch of fatigue on the leader named Braddikar, but it did nothing, save for the usual purple mist. And with that, Braddikar ordered his men to attack.

Gunderhoff ran in with his warhammer, but Braddikar deflected it with his own large shield. Corthana sent two darts flying, with one piercing the heart of a goon by the cart, dropping him into the water. Ruil found himself flanked by the remaining goon and the big warrior, and found himself wincing in pain as their blades found flesh. He brought his own sword sweep low, eviscerating one of his aggressors. Citrine prayed to Sarenrae to bring warm healing magic to her elf friend.

Corthana sent two darts at Braddikar that bounced off his armor. The fighter then flexed his muscles and slashed Ruil across the back. Ruil in turn swung his sword harder, chopping through mail rings and cutting flesh. Citrine again healed his wounds, while Gunderhoff bashed Braddikar across the head, knocking the helm off. Corthana sent a dart into the big man's knee. Braddikar, mad that his bloody work kept being repaired, slashed at Citrine. Luckily she was able to jump out of the way. Both she and Ruil flanked the big man, but he was as stalwart as Gunderhoff as he deflected their strikes with his shield. Gunderhoff used the distraction by them to cave in Braddikar's side with his hammer. That spun the man around, to face Corthana, who finished him off with a dart to the head. After looting the bodies they took the cart and dumped the bodies into the river.

After arriving at the Goblin, Saul was overjoyed to see that every bottle of accounted for. Corthana asked if she could have twelve bottles of lesser quality wine. When she was granted the request, she took the cart, loaded with the wine to Zincher's Palace. As she approached, one of Zincher's guards started approaching, at the same time reaching into his pouch. Panicked, Corthana left the wine and ran off. The guard simply shrugged as he pulled out the two hundred gold he was going to pay out and put it back in his pocket.

Back at the Goblin, everyone seemed to be asleep. Corthana decided to slink around a little bit, to see what secrets she could find. Going to the wine cellar, she noticed a very noxious smell in the air, like that of a sewer. Under one of the racks, Corthana found a very well hidden trap door with a keyhole in the shape of Saul's false hand. Further exploration turned out nothing so she went to sleep. In the morning she spoke with Citrine about the door she found. They in turn confronted Saul. The man was obviously not happy that Corthana had been sneaking about. He did say that the trap door was a secret passage out of the Golden Goblin should he ever need to flee.

Later, the four companions went on a small shopping excursion to sell the items they had recently acquired. Word was that a dwarf had moved into down and had opened up a place called Imp's, as that was his name. Upon entering the shop, there were many objects to catch the eye, including a beautiful and powerfully enchanted bastard sword on the wall. The exchange of goods for gold was fair. Imp however was not very happy with Gunderhoff, saying that dwarves shouldn't need to hide behind a tower shield. Imp did say he would be able to identify the remaining items in exchange for a masterwork long sword. Ruil then made two inquiries. The first was the purple mist from spell use. Imp said the cypher mages would know something of that. The last request was for a weapon with a little bit more edge. At that Imp said that the bastard sword was the toughness weapon that existed and suggested purchasing one.

From there, it was off to the Cypherlodge. There they found a furious amount of activity as mages were running back and forth with papers. They were all researching the tremor and subsequent hail storm of the day before. Many of them nodded at Corthana who nodded to them in kind. After finding Elias Tammerhawk, the head diviner said that the purple mist was a common event. He said that he believed the Blot was somehow the cause, but as of yet no one had been harmed. They then inquired about Samarithia. She had indeed flown up to the Blot and had returned. However her mind had been overwhelmed with images of death and destruction so extreme, it had caused physical harm to her body. She had survived and was resting. Ruil went up to speak with her. She simply confirmed what had been told, and wanting only to rest. Ruil offered to stay with her but she declined his offer. She did say that she was happy she had gone into the Blot. She also said that if Ruil and his friends ever needed her help, they need only ask.

That night at the Golden Goblin, Citrine and Corthana were awakened to the sounds of walking on the roof. Citrine climbed out the window to check it out, while Corthana went down stairs to the back door. As she approached, the door was kicked in, and she faced three intruders, one of whom was a half-orc. She heard Citrine call everyone to arms as she had seen a pair of archers on the ceiling. That got Gunderhoff and Ruil moving, and they grabbed their weapons and headed out their rooms.

On the ground floor, there were men looking in every room, yelling out for Saul. It was obviously another assassination gang sent by Zincher. One such thug found Saul in a room preparing for battle. After a few quick parries, it became clear why so many people were needed to bring down the elder Vancaskerkin, as Saul demonstrated amazing skill in battle. He plunged his key arm right into the heart of his attacker, and prepared for any more foes.

Ruil was soon on the ground floor, using his dark sight to find an enemy and pick him off with a well placed arrow. Gunderhoff too, used his sight to see in the shadows and crushed another foes head. From the entry way, the archers appeared in the moonlight and sent their arrows Citrine's way, with one catching her in the back. Above them came a devilish cackle and suddenly one of the goons turned on another one as Old Scratch's suggestion took hold. Ruil downed another enemy with a well placed arrow. Another two enemy arrows sent Citrine down to the ground. Seeing that, Saul ran out to help his daughter.

Meanwhile, Corthana had her hands full against three opponents. Using the bar, she was able to maintain as much a distance as she could. She sent her darts into one goon, downing him. She then peppered the half-orc, and was mortified to see him deflect one of the barbs. She was facing a stupid monk! That man moved in with the speed of a tiger and struck Corthana across the throat. She felt her knees shake, her body shudder, and she found she simply couldn't move.

Seeing the true threat, Ruil moved in and sent an electric jolt into the monk. The half-orc in turn punched out, cracking the elf's jawbone. He pushed through the pain and again shocked the monk, but still he stood. A return axe kick to Ruil's shoulder separated the right rib cage from the spine, and that was too much pain to bear. Ruil fell to the ground. Gunderhoff and Saul were now fighting back to back, while Old Scratch had finally come down to help out. The foe he had suggested had been slain, but he still had claws and teeth to bring upon the enemies. Citrine, now partially healed do to a wave of healing by Gunderhoff was back in the fight. Saul cut the monk across the throat, downing him. Citrine tapped into her last once of strength and impaled a goon, but still he stood. That was until her father flanked the man and killed him with a deadly key-arm slash. And with that, the fight was over. Saul looked to Old Scratch and said that the imp was free of servitude.

It was time to find out who was behind the attack. All fingers pointed to Zincher, but Corthana, who had yet to deny she was a member of his gang, said she would do some investigation. In the end she was able to confirm that both Zincher and an unnamed crime lord had been behind the attack. She also discovered that the following eve, there would be a meeting of several crimelords at the Boneyard. Where there they were supposedly going to discuss the fate of the Golden Goblin.

Saul was able to confirm with his own contacts that Smeed and Zincher would be at the Boneyard, and thus it seemed prudent to finally rid the world of both of them. Corthana offered to sell the exotic wine, as there seemed to be few clients to actually serve it to. Saul reluctantly agreed. Yet upon the thief's return, she presented only about thirty percent of what the bottles were worth. That put Saul on the near boiling point, but there was nothing he could do.

The four companions decided Smeed's was a good place to go. Arriving, though, it seemed like the house was abandoned. A small layer of dusk seemed to indicate Smeed had fled the night he had been attacked. Thus as a warning, Corthana decided to burn the place down. That, Gunderhoff could not approve of, but he was outvoted by his fellow warriors. He thus simply walked away, to let his allies have their pyro fun. Fearing the flames would spread, Citrine was quick to aid the city watch put out the fire by dumping several gallons of water using frequent create water spells.

As the time neared for the Boneyard meeting, it had been established that the four would ambush the gathering and take out the threats that had been a constant death sentence on them all through the many weeks. Later during the day, Ruil warned his friends that one of his contacts had come to him and had said that if they were to go to the Boneyard, that it would be them who would be ambushed by someone they knew. That didn't leave a lot of people, and suspicion turned to Saul right away. Yet, after all that had happened, it made absolutely no sense.

They decided to ask Saul about who his contacts were. He revealed that his main contact was Beltius Kreun, who lived at St. Caspierian's Retreat; a place very familiar to Citrine and Ruil. On their way there, a strange event happened, their armor and weapons suddenly became magnetized. Looking around, everyone else was having the same problem as guards couldn't withdraw their swords, and shields kept sticking to armor. The event lasted only a few minutes but it was yet another strange event, perhaps related to the Blot.

Soon they arrived at St. Caspierian's Retreat, and confronted Beltius the beggar outside. Again he let show his obvious skill with subtle dagger tricks. He confirmed that he was an information broker, and that he had provided the info Saul had sought. He did say that anyone could purchase his words, giving all four of them that not-so-subtle warning. He then asked them all never to return, sending a promise of death Ruil's way. There would be no doubt his words would not be heeded as Citrine had already silently promised to undo the corruption Beltius had brought to the temple of Sarenrae.

With no other recourse, they decided to head off to the Boneyard; a place where ships go to die. As they arrived, they noticed several people huddled around a fire, one of whom was Smeed. Staying far away, the four continued observing the situation. Both Ruil and Corthana noticed that the five men were not moving, and concluded that they must me dummies. Citrine and Gunderhoff then noticed two figures hidden in the shadows off to the side of the dummies. Corthana jumped from shadow to shadow in order to get closer. What she discovered was that the figures were not human; they were wererats.

They decided to try to surprise the two foes. Citrine blessed everyone, and Corthana launched a dart. The barb simply bounced off the wererat's hide, as it took silver weapons to truly harm them. Ruil sent a ray of frost at one foe that burned it with cold. He then went into the fray, slashing his sword, but it was made of normal metal, and he inflicted no damage. Citrine's scimitar was made of silver and as she slashed down, she sent a spray of wererat blood into the air. The wererat, barely standing, stabbed true up Citrine. Ruil summoned all his strength and brought his sword down hard, piercing the wererats innate resistance and bringing death to it. That left one wererat, and it avenged its fallen comrade by stabbing at Citrine, and dropping her to the ground. In rage, Ruil summoned forth his most potent shocking grasp spell yet and stopped the heart of the wererat.

After a quick healing wave by Gunderhoff, the four pillaged the bodies. They found one strange note on one of the wererats. It had common words on the paper, but it seemed to be written in some sort of code. Corthana took one quick look and announced it was written in thieves cant, the language of her profession. She translated it, and it brought a pang of sorrow to Citrine. It seemed Saul had contacted Clegg Zincher to organize this little ambush to kill the four of them. The concept made little sense, but it didn't matter.

Saul would answer for his crime at the end of his daughter's sword.
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