Second Darkness

Summary 01: I Am Vancaskerkin
Prologue
 
Many months had pasted since the lovely Citrine Summerbreeze had been searching for her father, Sir Alaster The Morninglord. Like her father, she had sworn her soul to the goddess Sarenrae. Now her devotion and her research had led her to Riddleport, City of the Cyphergate. For it was here, that her father had apparently run off to in an attempt to research a calamity in the sky; a dark blot that many saw as a harbinger of doom to come. Citrine hoped that twas not the case, as she had decided to follow in her fathers footsteps.

After many hours of searching, she came upon a clue, or rather a place to acquire a clue. It was said that the House of the Silken Veil was a place where all ones wants could be granted. The building was officially a temple to Calistria, but within its walls, one would not find anything that seemed religious. Debauchery, drugs, and drinking were the pleasure to be found everywhere. It was also a place where information could be easily found, and no one in Riddleport had more contacts than Highpriestess Shorafa Pamodae. She was a tiefling who it was rumored, had been blessed by her goddess so as to be the most beautiful tiefling upon Golarion.

After sampling a dark sunrise, one of the local drinks, Citrine was greeted by an elf. A rarity in their own right, for such a refined creature to be found in such an unrefined place, was a first. He said his name was Ruil Coressther, and that he had been waiting for Citrine. He ordered for himself the same drink as her, noticing with his keen eye as the bar lass dropped a small pill within the drink. Ruil accosted the lass for the transgression, but she said simply that it was the norm as it heightened the mood of the drinker. Citrine, who had already imbibed, hoped she would not be affected, as she needed all her wits.

Ruil explained that he was looking for Sir Alaster, and that he was aware he was the father of Citrine. After asking what his business was, he responded by saying that he represented a group of individuals who wanted the man. This put the cleric on the defensive, but the elf seemed relatively harmless, and an extra set of eyes would help in her search. They thus decided to ally themselves.

Citrine had already placed her information inquiry, and she and Ruil were soon acknowledged by Shorafa herself. She told them that Sir Alaster had traveled to an old temple to Sarenrae called St. Caspierian's Salvation. It was a place where the destitute went to get off the streets or seek shelter where none could be found. And so the two companions left to investigate.

Along the way, a kid ran past them. This time it was Citrine's eyes that picked out the kid stealing something from Ruil's pouch. They ran after the kid and cornered him and Ruil lifted the kid easily off his feet. He was obviously poor, and after Citrine schooled the boy on how others would be a lot less kind to thieves, she gave the boy two gold coins in exchange for what he stole. Think just how well thieving could pay now, he handed over the strange green lantern he had stolen. Ruil started casting a spell to startle the kid, then quenched it, with the elf seeing something strange; that of a purple mist coming from his hand where he was about to send a bolt of magic flying. It lasted only a second, but even Citrine took note.

Soon enough, the searchers came to their destination. A beggar outside asked for gold, but the elf and human simply presented him with questions which he had no answers for. He did advise they not go upstairs as any who went up there never came down.

Within St. Caspierian's wall, they saw many people hunched upon the ancient pews that had been constructed from its founder, Saint Caspierian. There were many people, all taking refuge from the trials outside. One man, wearing only a soiled loin cloth and handmade angle wings, asked if he could save Ruil and Citrine. He promised to give them Sarenrae's blessing like he had to many others. Once received, their lives would be complete. The offer was refused however, as there was a man praying by an alter that was clearly the high priest.

The two approached Father Patrick and his advisor Jhonas. Upon the wall, Sarenrae's holy symbol was only barely visible as age and vandalism had reduced it to a faded outline. After questioning the father about Sir Alaster, be acknowledged that the man had indeed arrived some months ago. He had upstairs, but that was the last he had seen of the man. Like the beggar, Patrick advised they not go upstairs as there was nothing but trouble awaiting. Both Ruil and Citrine were armed for such an eventuality, and took the stairs to the second level.

They soon began exploring rooms. The first locked door they came to, they bashed in, and came face to face with three small scorpions, and their handlers who were definitely not roguish. The scorpions stung and clawed and Ruil as be was the first in line. Their tiny forms proved difficult to hit, but soon their bodies had been squashed. Ruil then moved into the confined room to deal with the human named Rasper. As he did so, Rasper's orcish friend Badeye caved in Ruil's skull with a vicious morningstar hit. The cleric closed some of the elf’s cuts as Ruil cleaved the human's spine in two with his greatsword.

That left Badeye and the half-orc was as tough as he looked. Ruil fought valiantly but dropped after a small exchange of blows thus leaving the heavily armored cleric to deal with. Badeye took a couple of cuts from Citrine’s scimitar in a lengthy exchange between the two but eventually found the opening he was looking for. He smashed the cleric with an upper cut of his morningstar and Citrine dropped to the ground.

Both the elf and human were startled to awaken alive, downstairs before Father Patrick. He had healed their wounds, and said the men from upstairs had dumped their bodies at his feet. Sadly, all their valuables had been taken. For Citrine, that was truly a great loss, as she had yet to place her funds in any bank. Undeterred however, both warriors took up chair legs and returned upstairs. They entered an unexplored room and were lucky enough to come upon the valuables that had been taken from them.

They continued searching, and entered a room with an elf archer and another man who seemed to be a surgeon as he was standing next to a table with various instruments for the trade. Brandy the Surgeon was quick to fall with a quick blade strike. That left Garphael the archers with his hands to his sides, not wanting to fight anymore. After some questioning, he was able to finally give the answers that Citrine was looking for. It seemed that Sir Alaster had come for a little surgery to change his image, including the insertion of a metal hook to replace the hand that had obviously been recently amputated. Sir Alaster then returned the bar that he owned called the Golden Goblin.

Before leaving, they decide to search the premises more thoroughly in search for more clues. From the doorway, the beggar from outside appeared. He advised them that he had been kind enough to grant them their lives, but that it was time for them to move on. Ruil had detected a note of malice in the beggar originally, and seemed to multiply tenfold as the man was not at all what he seemed. In fact, his name was Beltias Kreun and he was the leader of the band of thieves occupying the temple. The two thus left, with Citrine sending a silent promise to Sarenrae that she would return.

Soon they arrived at the Golden Goblin gambling hall. It was clear that there was some great event in the process of being organized. Behind the bar, the proprietor was washing mugs. He looked up and started it surprise at seeing his daughter enter through the front door, and Citrine too started it surprise at seeing the name of the proprietor’s name upon a plaque. Sir Alaster asked that Citrine sit down as he had a lot of things to say. Most importantly that his name was not, nor had it ever been Alaster. His real name was:

Saul Vancaskerkin.
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Summary 02: A Scribe's Last Words
Prologue
 
Citadel Rivad, sixty miles west of Westcrown.

Inking his quill to write the first words of, what he hoped would a masterpiece of history, Scribbler Ribald began his arduous task. He looked upon all the notes he had collected over the many years months, and started from the beginning:

Corthana Trannyth, one of the lowly gophers of the Cypher Lodge, was summoned by Elias Tammerhawk, the high diviner. After hearing of the mission, the lovely Corthana went with gusto to find the location of acolyte Ortese who had gone missing in search of something bizarre in the magical nature.

After saving a dwarf named Gunderhoff, or The Hoff as be would later be known as, from being buried alive, the two followed the magical emanations given off by Corthana's wand. They soon arrived at a…


Scribbler Ribald felt absolutely nothing as the blade slashed on an angle from neck to heart, ensuring death. The killer gathered up Ribald's notes, leaving only the blood-spattered page that the man had been in the process writing. It would serve as a silent warning to those who dared speak of what had been discovered that day. Such knowledge was a much reserved feat to possess. After wiping the blade clean on the scribes brown robes, the killer disappeared in the night, and leaving the Hellknight Stronghold of Citadel Rivad behind.
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DM Comments 03: Smoke Ladder
Chapter One: Shadow in the Sky
 
As I've mentioned before, I play in another D&D group in French. I've had roughly three characters, two of which entered a campaign part way in as, do to how few times they play, their campaigns go on for years. Recently (about a year ago) one of their campaigns finally ended and I was able to create a new character from the beginning. I decided to make a gnome wujen, a class I had never played before. On a side note, when the other players found out I was playing a gnome, they all decided to make either gnomes or dwarfs. Anyway, as I looked through the spells, many of which are unique to the wujen, I decided to pick a very unique spell called smoke ladder. All it does is it creates a ladder of smoke twenty feet plus five feet per level. This ladder can be carried around and weights nothing.

It has turned out to be my greatest of spells.

It seems that every session, a situation comes up where I can use it. Whether its climbing a tree after everyone repeatedly fails their climb checks. Or going to the top of a tower instead of risking the interior. I have saved someone from a pit trap after they were unable to climb out. I have spanned a crevasse that we had no way of going around. I have placed it upon a slippery floor, so that we wouldn't fall. And at one point I had a very annoying kobold NPC with me that I despised. So I summoned a smoke ladder to go down from a tower. After my character (Scalpelexis Twiddlefingers) went down, the kobold started to follow. At which point I dismissed the ladder, killing him in the fall. The DM forced an alignment change on my character from chaotic good to chaotic neutral, but couldn't deny that it was one of the funniest things he had ever seen.

In one of the earlier sessions, I had been tasked with slaying some cockatrices for a mage. After I succeeded, I decided to take a handful of feathers as you never know when they could come in handy. Last session with my character part of the group of players a year later, we were tasked by a dryad to go to a cave and kill a bunch of cockatrices to prove we were worthy enough for the information she had for us. Now a meta-game player (essentially someone who uses rules to maximize their character) would have gone on the quest because of the experience points it would have garnered, and in my case a level up as I wasn't missing much. However, I had Scalpelexis say to the dryad that we had taken shelter in the cave on our way and had destroyed the cockatrices already, and showed her all the feathers I had collected. After I nice 16 bluff roll and a 1 on the dryads sense motive check, the DM had the dryad give us the info. The other players were disappointed that I denied them xp because of my wit, but I was laughing in my head as I had found a simple way around a combat situation. The DM did award a few xp just for my character of course.

So why am I writing about my character? Well, for one, it gives me a chance to talk about him as he is starting to become one of my favorite characters of all time. Two, because every session brings an unexpected occasion where unique situations can be bypassed with unique ideas. Everything does not have to be hack and slash, we win the day. Everything does not have to be linear even though it looks that way. Last session, you all showed a perfect example by talking down the drunks when you could have easily dropped them with a sword thrust. Then there was the stab to the eye of Lymas through the peep hole.

As a DM, I absolutely love seeing things like that, as my other DM enjoys all of Scalpelexis's unorthodox moves (and there have been many). Using or bending the rules to get from point A to point B by using the pentagram theorem (another thing that happened in my last French session) can be more fun that simply fireballing a group of enemies. And I think this current group of characters runs the risk of finding alternate means to succeed as they are a little underpowered compared to MoK.

We have had similar ideas in the past, though not many. The one that always comes to mind is the rolling rum, where we often lit a rum barrel on fire and rolled it into an enemy-filled room with the predicted consequences. If there is something you want your character to do, and you don't see a way in the rules to do it, there is a good chance we'll make it work anyway, or at least give your character a chance at it. After all, it's near impossible to use your whip to loop around a dragons mouth to prevent it from biting or using its breath weapon. Running along its back to get to is eye however, is a possibility.

I have no complaints at all with how you are all playing. In fact, I see advancement in your level of play that overmatches all the previous years. It is why being a DM for you all is so much fun. I know there will be a little bit of unpredictability in every session that is not covered in the words of the Second Darkness campaign setting. The only thing that should ever hold your character back is your own imaginations which, even at 2am, are always ready to bluff that ones fireball burned everyone in the room because the floor was covered with oil. Til next time.

Chris
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Summary 03: Chaos at the Golden Goblin
Chapter One: Shadow in the Sky
 
Saul Vancaskerkin sat with Citrine Vancaskerkin and Ruil, and prepared to explain everything to his daughter whom had found him in the wilds of the world. He was grateful to see his daughter, but it was clear that he was fearful of what she would think of him when he spoke the truth; the truth, not only of his past, but hers as well. It was fortunate then that a client entered through the doors, giving him an excuse to delay the inevitable for at least a few moments.

Corthana, spellthief extraordinaire, was greeted by Saul in a very friendly manner, almost to a fault. She was surprised to see Gunderhoff in the corner, counting coins and looking at the various games to be played in the next day's event. That was the reason she was present, as her new mission was to win the Cheap the Devil And Steal His Gold gambling event; at all costs.

Saul showed Corthana a room, and in the process, was told by the thief in not-so-many-words that she was here on a certain crime lord's request. Saul said that he would make the next day's events easier for her should she choose in turn see him favorably for the crime lord Clegg Zincher to which he had lost his hand to. The deal was accepted.

It was then time for Saul to finally reveal to his daughter his own tale.

Saul had been a crime lord of Riddleport in his younger days. One day he fell in love with a beautiful woman; the daughter of another crime lord named Clegg Zincher. Zincher was none to pleased and sent assassins after Saul. Rather than fight a battle he couldn't win, he and his now pregnant love, left Riddleport, taking Saul's great ill-gotten gold with them to start a life together. Sadly, only a few months after giving birth to Citrine, his love passed away from a mysterious illness. Yet Saul loved his daughter so very much, and did all he could to raise her to become a good person, even taking the false mantle of a priest of Sarenrae in order to surround her with good values.

And then Zincher finally found Saul. He threatened to kill Citrine if he didn't return to Riddleport and pay back the money that Saul owed the man. As proof of how serious he was, he had his goons cut Saul's left hand off, though this was more in vengeance as Zincher blamed Saul for his own daughter's death. And so Saul returned to Riddleport, taking out a loan to pay off part of what Zincher owed and to start up a lucrative gambling hall to pay off the rest of the dept.

He asked if there were any questions, to which Ruil replied that he wanted information on a woman that he was rumored to be hanging around with. There was no other woman however, at least not yet as far as Saul could tell. He said his love had died many years ago, and there would be no other. With no other questions, Saul gave them both free room and board and gave them both a free ticket into the Cheat The Devil And Steal His Gold event the next day. Both Citrine and Ruil turned the offer down however, yet both agreed they would help with security.

The next day brought about a hundred people into the gambling hall. All of them had a single goal; to win the 10,000 silver grand prize. The rules were simple: win games to earn enough chips to buy ones way out of the seven hells. The first to do so, won the great prize, while the rest left with only half their winnings. Saul had with him a caged imp named Old Scratch who spewed forth profanities in its infernal language.

As the day wore on, Citrine's keen eye caught one man putting a card up his sleeve. She reported the infraction to barkeep Farur who promptly tossed the man out to the streets. Corthana, a participant in the contest, was not doing so well, despite the winks and nods from the dealers on when to stay with the cards or which insult the ghoulette head would cry out. After a while, as well as a little pick pocketing, and a loan from Citrine, she was able to buy her way to the third Hell. Gunderhoff meanwhile was not faring well at all, and his seven gold turned into minus twenty after negotiating a loan from a seedy patron.

Ruil kept his eyes open for the woman he was supposed report upon. Without a description, it was a difficult task, but his contact had been specific in saying that Ruil would know her right away. That knowledge gave him some pause as he noticed an elven gambler. Her beauty was exquisite and so he approached her. She said her name was Samarithia Beldusk and she had come in the hopes of becoming a cypher mage as her interest was in the runes upon the cypher gate. They were the oldest runes known to exist, and had been researched extensively, but as of yet, there was little known about them. After a few pleasant words with her, it was unclear whether she was whom Ruil sought. The fact that she didn't seem at all associated with Saul, likely meant that he still had to keep searching.

Corthana had just won a large chip count and was nearing enough for Hell number four, when a sudden explosion before her eyes blinded her to the world. The pyrotechnics left most of the people in the room blinded. Only Citrine and a guard shook off the effects, as several armed goons moved through the crowd, and smashing their clubs down upon those who were armed.

Upon the stage, a bard starting singing a pirate tune that seemed to inspire the goons violence. Corthana decided to silence that tune by launching a dart his way. Yet her orientation in her blindness was off and she heard Gunderhoff cry out in anger as the dart pierced his shoulder blade. Old Scratch meanwhile found his cage magically unlocked, and he flew with delight to the rafters above. A blinded Ruil found himself flanked by a pair of men who, seeing the elf's greatsword, knew right away that the elf was a true threat. One of their clubs shattered three ribs on Ruil.

With no foes in sight, Citrine blessed the room to give those who allied against the attackers, a boost to their fighting spirit. Ruil turned his blade upon one of his attackers, but he simply couldn't hit what he couldn't see as his blade whistled wide. Gunderhoff pushed his way to the center of the room and sent out a wave of healing energy. Corthana put her ear to the air and finally sent a dart at the bard. As is the wish of all singers, the bard died there upon the stage as Corthana's dart struck true.

Ruil again took a club hit in the ribs and it seemed he was done for as, with all the commotion, there was no one to come to his aid. Unknown to him, Citrine finally arrived near him. She caught sight of a wizard shrinking the chest of silver down to size, but the immediate threat was in front of her. She slashed one of the men threatening Ruil with her scimitar. That brought a grunt of pain from him, and also let Ruil know where he was. The elf brought his sword down upon that same place. The spray of blood that he felt upon his cheek was so great, there was no doubt he had struck a death blow.

Gunderhoff meanwhile was dealing with another goon. Though blinded, he still bore his near impenetrable armor. He felt his opponent’s club bounce off his helm, then bashed his warhammer in the darkness. The metal caved in skull, and sent the goon dead to the floor. He felt a mental voice that asked him to attack anyone around him. He pushed aside the imp's words, and listened to the crowd for any other way to help out. Ever the thief, Corthana felt about and picked one of the panicked client's pockets.

Citrine took a small club hit from the last thief, and then gutted him on her blade. To her left, she saw the mage run out the door with the small chest in hand. She attempted to pursue, but by the time she made it through the crowd, the mage was gone.

A few seconds later, everyone's vision returned; and all eyes turned on Saul. He too had been blinded, but that might have been to make it seemed as though he was an innocent victim. Now the people wanted blood. Or, more importantly; gold. After healing Ruil, Citrine stepped to her father's defense, commanding them to ease off. Yet their rage was simply too much to leave empty handed. It was either pay up or lose more than another hand, and so Saul paid them all as much as he had.

When the dust settled, Saul was more broke than ever. His guards left that eve, leaving only the help as well as the only four who made a difference in the fight. He thus offered them all employment as well as a free place to stay. Gunderhoff accepted, given he had no other place to go. Citrine too accepted, having finally found her father and not wanting any harm coming to him. Ruil had a mission that was directly related to Saul. He took the hand offered in order to complete his own mission. As for Corthana, gold was all the reason she needed to stay. She looked to Samarithia and said that a job opening had suddenly opened in the Cypher Lodge, and that she could have it.

The next morning gave Ruil and Gunderhoff a scare as they awoke to the screeching of metal. Looking outside, they noticed that all the weather vanes in Riddleport had twisted around and were all now pointed at the Blot in the sky.

From there, the four new companions helped Saul with the cleanup up the Golden Goblin. Once done, they did all they could to help stem the bleeding of gold the gambling hall was spewing. From guard duty by Citrine and Gunderhoff, to drink mixing by Ruil, to promotion by Corthana. Yet despite their work, they couldn't seem to attract clients. The only ones that did show up were a bunch of drunks that wanted more money after the Goblin fiasco. Luckily, Citrine and Ruil were able to calm them down and send them on their way without a fight.

There was one other visitor, and that was Samarithia. She had come to thank Corthana for her help in getting a spot in the Cypher Lodge. Once she turned her back however, Ruil noted a smile upon Corthana's lips, and it was evident that there was more to Corthana's "generosity." Perhaps it was she whom his allies had sent to look upon.

A few days later, the bartender Farur failed to show up for his shift. Saul explained that he had sent the honorable man to speak with Lymas Smeed, one of the people Saul had borrowed money from. He wished to renegotiate the loan as Saul was out of funds. He thus asked his new favorite employees to investigate what happened to Farur.

The obvious place to start was Lymas’s home. As they arrived at the house, Gunderhoff spotted something in a garbage can. It was the cloak of Farur and it had over a dozen bloody stab marks in it. As Lymas was a crime boss, as well as a moneylender, they decided on caution. Corthana offered to pick the lock on the door. After a few tries however, it was obvious she had much learning to do on the Riddleport security system as the door remained closed tight. A knock on the door did get the occupants attention as a slip opened in it. Citrine tried to negotiate her way in, but Lymas refused her entry unless she was there for a loan. Corthana then knocked, and when the slit opened, she shoved her dagger right through the hole and into Lymas’s eye.

Several moments later, Corthana finally picked the lock. Gunderhoff was the first to move in and hit a trip wire that sent a crossbow bolt into his armor. Shaking off the minor poke, the four proceeded into an empty room. There was an empty potion bottle on the ground in which had been an expensive healing potion. There was also a large pile of hay in the center of the room. Ruil stabbed down into it in the hopes of stabbing an unseen foe, When he retracted his blade, he notice he had skewered several piles of dung.

A staircase led upstairs so Gunderhoff headed that way, triggering another trap that sent a bolt grazing is hand. On the second floor, they came to a hallway. Corthana decided to use her skills to try to find any further traps. As it happened, she came upon a trip wire that was easily bypassed. At the end of the hallway was a door. After ensuring no surprises awaited the person who turned the knob, Corthana motion for Gunderhoff to proceed. It was not much of a surprise when a poison dart jabbed his open palm as he turned the door knob.

As the dwarf entered, he was hit again by a crossbow bolt fired by Lymas who had been waiting behind a desk. In the far corner of the room, a baboon was frothing at the mouth in anger at seeing strangers. Lymas demanded that the four leave his home. He was clearly outnumbered, making the threat a hollow one. Citrine demanded the whereabouts of Farur, but Lymas denied knowing anything about the man. Yet there seemed to be a glimmer in his eye as though he was hiding something. That was enough to spring the battle into action.

Citrine blessed everyone, giving them confidence in their strikes. It definitely inspired Corthana as she charged the baboon and dropped it dead with a single thrust to the throat with her dagger. Gunderhoff moved in swinging, but Lymas was able to dodge the attack and counter with a sword swipe that bounced off the dwarf’s armor. Ruil moved in next to her fighting comrade and slashed Lymas across his ribs with her great sword. That left the crime lord wheezing for breath as one of his lungs was punctured. Citrine then walked up to the broken man and clubbed him over the head with the hilt of her scimitar, knocking him unconscious.

A quick search of the house turned up nothing out of the ordinary, leaving only Lymas as a source for information. After a healing wave from Gunderhoff, he was questioned more about the disappearance of the bartender. He remained adamant about his story about not knowing anything, even suggesting that someone might have been trying to implicate him with the bloody cloak in his garbage can. As he either refused to or simply didn't know any information, they were left with two options: kill Lymas or let him live.

In the end, Citrine came up with a very generous offer. She would give the crime lord 500 gold. In exchange, Lymas would reduce the debt to Saul from 3000, to 1000 gold. They would also take his possessions, what little there was. Lymas accepted the offer, while secretly promising sweet and painful revenge for them and for Saul. Thus the four bodyguards left Lymas to wallow in misery and contemplation over the counter attack that most undoubtedly would be on the near horizon.
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DM Comments 04: The Big Reveal
Chapter One: Shadow in the Sky
 
It is a difficult thing to surprise players. When you play for so many years, and you play with the same people for so many years, how do you give them a "What the Hell" moment? For me, it is even more difficult because I know that my emotions show on my face. I try to maintain a neutral tone, try to talk the same way, try to say one thing when I'm thinking the opposite. Often I'll try to help out when I know in fact it helps the enemies. I will try to maintain a sense of innocence about an NPC when I know they are preparing an ambush. The problem as was voiced last session was they the players can easily read my face. They knew I was lying.

Did this take away from the big reveal? Yes and no. It would have been nice to keep the Vancaskerkin betrayal a secret. Yet, like the last campaign with Queen Ileosa, there was a celebration by the players. They said "Ah ha! We knew it." So in one way that is fantastic because if I'm a player and I see an NPC turn on the party, I'm thinking right away how I could have missed seeing that? What remains then is the reason behind the betrayal? In many cases, the reasons lie in pages of back-story that the players will never know of.

So why would Saul suddenly betray the players? That in itself is of course the biggest question. It may not even be true of course, but one way or another, the answer will be had next session, one which promises to be filled with answers, explanations, and what should be the biggest reveal of the entire campaign. But that title already belongs to one that was a true surprise when it was revealed that Citrine was a Vancaskerkin.

I was very close to making a last minute change during the session that really would have rocked the party. I had suggested that Gunderhoff stay behind to look upon the Golden Goblin and Saul's welfare. And then it occurred to me, to perhaps have Gunderhoff betray the party and outright murder Saul when everyone was away and turning the dwarf into the main antagonist for Second Darkness. To be faced with a dwarven defender with an impenetrable armor class, would have been fun. It was something I dismissed in an instant though, only because I made Gunderhoff like a character that I would have loved to play.

So how does someone like me surprise the players? Well for one, I have to start wearing a mask to cover my facial expressions. I think one of the biggest things though is staying patient. As a DM, you know who's good and bad, and what's coming up. You can't let that excitement push your actions, nor influence how you have NPC's speak. You can't smile when you should be frowning. You can't blatantly lie when you try to make the players believe it's the truth.

These are things that I think about every second of every session. You react moment by moment based on what the players do, trying to remember what you had said previously so as not to get caught up in your own spur of the moment ideas. Because those are the dangerous moments when you can ruin everything by accidentally revealing too much.
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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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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 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 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 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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