Wrath of the Righteous

Dealing with the devils

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After slaying Xanthir, the party got a bit of downtime. It was the last they were likely to see for some time. Arueshalae decided to undertake the final two penances to secure her redemption. First, she went to the temple of Desna for an atonement spell. This would have done the job for a mortal, but as a demon it merely helped her. Next, Bendak decided to help with the final penace. Bringing Tane along to cast the teleport spells required, Bendak took her to his homeland.

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Once there he had her spend the day in nature. She helped first ensure that the demons of the Worldwound hadn’t brought ruin to the saurian jungle. Once that was accomplished, she aided in all the small and humble works required of a druid. Trees were replanted, wounded animals were tended to, and lost travelers nudged toward home. Once the work was done, Bendak lead Arueshalae and Tane to one more stop before returning to Drezen.

This time they entered the walled town of Tolguth and went to a home attached to a shop. Bendak removed his mask and set it down on the ground before knocking. It sprouted bone tendrils and crawled over to his other creatures. After a moment, Bendak’s parents answered the door. There was a moment of shock at his unexpected return before the greetings and the questions began. One of the first was from his mother, who quietly asked who the girl was. Bendak dismissed any hopes of his settling down and not living in the woods with dangerous animals anymore by stating that she was probably more interested in one of his cooworkers and also was a succubus.

At dinner, Bendak’s parents were rightfully wary that he had brought a demon home. After some tension, his father admitted that she wasn’t the worst girl he had brought in. Arueshalae wondered who the worst was, and Bendak’s mother launched into a story about a “Jessika” as Bendak groaned. After that, the dinner was a much more cheerful affair. The jungle trip, the light of the hearth, and the sound of the laughter was good for Arueshalae. As they said goodbye and Tane teleported them home, Arueshalae left her past behind in Tolguth.

When the expedition returned to Tolguth, they were greeted by Wase and Gith. Wase had returned from duty on the front lines against the demons. The experience had left him more powerful, but also more internally scarred by the horrors of battle and too many fallen comrades. Poonisher had suddenly left the city, muttering something about needing to help a flying vigilante in a metropolis. The paladin seemed romantically interested in the demon. For her part, she seemed a bit interested, more so than she had been in Tane. However, they had little time to get to know each other, as Queen Galfrey called them for a meeting.

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Galfrey met the heroes in the castle. The creatures and the demon waited elsewhere. The queen’s top councilor, an aasimar named Opaline, carried in a pair of metal plates in a case. The Queen explained the plates were from a rare and dangerous tome called the Lexicon of Paradox—the same book of forbidden rituals and incantations used over a hundred years ago to open the Worldwound and destroy Sarkoris. Areelu Vorlesh later tore the book in half and destroyed the portion containing the information about how she opened the Worldwound so that no one could reverse-engineer the process.

Fortunately for the crusaders, the actions of a small group of mercenaries led by Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare, his tiefling accomplice Radovan, and the half-elven paladin Oparal resulted in the book’s rediscovery and restoration, and the complete text was now in crusader hands.

Currently, the Lexicon was in a secure vault in Lastwall, being studied by skilled scholars under careful observation by the Knights of Ozem, but she did bring the pair of thin copper plates she had removed from the artifact concerning a ritual that can, in theory, be used to shut down a small rift between the Material Plane and the Abyss.

Galfrey allowed the party to examine the two plates. They were densely inscribed with runes, incantations, and equations, switching from Thassilonian to Abyssal to Hallit to Aklo, and even to Druidic in places. Between their various magics and languages, the party could confirm that the pages seem to describe a ritual for closing rifts between planes, but also that the ritual was incomplete.

The magic infusing these two plates, combined with a significant source of magical power such as that now wielded by the PCs, should be enough to shut down a smaller rift. And if that worked, then Galfrey could report the success to Lastwall and greatly accelerate the process of deciphering the remainder of the book. She believed that just as the rituals in the Lexicon of Paradox were used to open the Worldwound over a century ago, a powerful group could use the tome to do the reverse: close the Worldwound forever.

At this point, Galfrey asked the party for an update on what they’ve learned. She is particularly intrigued by the revelations from intelligence gathered at the Ivory Sanctum that the potent Nahyndrian crystals are being refined into elixirs of mythic power, and she is concerned by the discovery that the cults of Deskari and Baphomet are seeking to draw Nocticula into their plots. She was a bit more skeptical about the idea of redeemed demons, but willing to tolerate the concept. The rampant use of undead and ear collecting by some party members was probably not important enough to mention to her.

The task the Queen set before the party was complex and dangerous; not only did their growing powers make them the best suited to accomplishing the mission—they might be the only ones capable of doing so. Galfrey goes through the list of tasks she’d like the party to accomplish as a prelude to the eventual mission of closing the Worldwound forever.

1. Destroy the Nahyndrian Refinery: The party must travel to the Midnight Fane where Nahyndrian crystals are refined, search the fane for the methods by which the demons and their allies are creating these elixirs, then destroy their tools, resources, and inventors.

2. Close the Midnight Fane Rift: Next, they must use the Lexicon of Paradox to close the small but permanent rift within the fane that connects this world to the Abyss.

3. Prevent the Midnight Alliance: They must travel beyond the rift into the Midnight Isles to sabotage the Worldwound’s attempt to secure an alliance with Nocticula. This may require a face-to-face encounter with the demon lord, who seems to have her own reasons to not want to enter this alliance. The best place to go to secure an audience with Nocticula is her capital city of Alushinyrra, and the best way to get her attention would be to seek methods of becoming notorious in the city.

4. Find the Crystals’ Source and Cut Off Their Flow: Finally, they must discover where in the Midnight Isles the Nahyndrian crystals are coming from, then put a stop to that operation.

As the meeting ended, Queen Galfrey gave each party member a talisman of true faith. Since this mission required them to delve deeply into the Abyss and to interact with some of its most dangerous and manipulative denizens, these items would warn their bearers when they might unwittingly act in ways that could endanger their souls.

The Queen also said that she herself would fight alongside the party on this mission until they had to enter the Abyss. Then she would have to remain on the material side of the portal to complete half the ritual. The Queen was not blessed with mythic powers, but she was an expert combatant in her own right. Arueshalae would not be coming on this mission. She feared that she could be corrupted again in the realm of the succubus queen. However, she could give her anarchic gift to party members. Normally, this ability is used by succubi to tempt mortals with the offer of power. In her redeemed state, Arushalae could give it freely. Those who had the gift would be a bit more powerful and be able to communicate with her telepathically, but would have to trust her not to hurt them through the mental link. Bendak, Tane, and Wase accepted the offer*.

The party and the Queen headed out to the rift. It was located in a place called the Locust Shrine. An imposing door marked the entrance. Wase approached and knocked. Nobody answered, so the party let themselves in. A statue of the demon lord Deskari activated when they entered. It began reciting a speech, something about how interlopers would die a thousand screaming deaths or the like. Four incubi entered the room. Rather than starting a fight, they bowed low and announced that their leader had been expecting the party. Not knowing what to do in this situation, they agreed to meet their leader. They were unused to situations such as this, since usually the demons all got shot in the throat before they could finish speaking.

The party was lead through a wide hall to a back room of the temple. A huge alchemical lab made mostly of glass took up most of the room. Three more incubi joined the procession, along with a floating tumor demon called a gibrileth. At the chamber, the eyeless demon woman named Minagho extended a greeting to the party.

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A beaten and manacled paladin crouched by her side. Minagho had been involved in the early plot to destroy Kenebraes. She was eager for vengance, while some of the party were vaguely aware of her existence. The Queen recognized the paladin as Yaniel. Her current weak and broken appearance seemed a mockery of the warrior she once was.

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Yaniel was the famous hero who had once owned Wase’s sword and was thought to be dead for nearly the past 20 years. Minagho offered for the party to take Yaniel and go. The Queen strongly desired to rescue Yaniel, and Tane read Yaniel’s mind for treason and advocated taking the offer. The talismans didn’t see anything alignment-threatening about it. The party agreed-for now- and began taking Yaniel away. Then the trap was sprung.

Tane turned out to be under mind control and cast Haste on the demons. An unseen assailant tossed a bomb emitting noxious gas into the room. Thankfully, the gas mostly worked against the demons. Gith was the first of the party to respond, blasting Minagho and several of her minions with a fireball. An ash giant stomped in and nearly slashed Hook with a hook.

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Bendak nearly managed to summon a whole pack of T.rexes, but he just wasn’t strong enough yet. Someday. For the moment, he summoned one T.rex, which devoured an incubus. Wase struck down two more. The gibrileth unsuccessfully tried to summon additional demons as the giant struggled to push over the T.rex. At this point “Yaniel” revealed demonic limbs and began tearing into the Queen. A cambion alchemist became visible and hurled bombs at the Queen. The Queen took an opening to cast a spell that freed Tane from the fiend’s control. Tane immediately cursed a large number of the demons with blindness. As they blinked, Gith launched another fireball into the alchemy lab. The equipment reacted and exploded as well. The gibrileth, several incubi, and Minagho were incinerated. The alchemist cursed and screamed in fury at the destruction of his life’s work. Gith used a Quicken rod that Tane had spent about 2 1/2 weeks to cast a bunch of spells during the fight, but had to drop on it on the floor when it was emptied. Galfrey was badly hurt, but her paladin abilities quickly got her back to normal.

The party began to focus their attacks on “Yaniel” as the last two incubi teleported away. “Yaniel” revealed she was actually Minagho in disguise. The other one was a disguised incubus. Minagho knew the fight was turning against her, so she telekinetically stole the Quicken rod off the floor and teleported away with a laugh.

The giant stopped fighting. He had actually been magically manipulated into fighting for the demons and had been freed by the Queen’s earlier spell she cast for Tane. He was evil, but temporarily joined the party to get revenge. All that was left to deal with was the alchemist. Bendak summoned another T.rex to attack him, and Gith fireballed both the alchemist and the dinosaur. Both survived. The alchemist used an invisibility potion and escaped the temple. Bendak tried sealing the door to the alchemy room with himself and his creatures inside, but the alchemist was already gone.

Tane was furious after being forcibly turned against his friends and wanted his Anarchic Gift removed. Arueshalae apologized, but was unable to take the gift away without wounding his mind. Galfrey, however, was prepared for this situation and cast Dispel Chaos to rid him of the gift.

The party began searching the area and Gith did some psychic readings. Tane guessed that Yaniel was actually most likely still alive and Minagho had been using her as a backup source of life force. The party found Yaniel as a dried husk shut away in a closet, still bearing a spark of life. The Queen broke her curse and Yaniel returned to full life. The party gave her clothing and water. Yaniel recognized her sword, Radiance, in Wase’s hand. She felt that it suited Wase more in her present state, but she did ask to hold it once more. Wase handed it over. When Yaniel took hold of it, Radiance revived like its old master, revealing it was a mighty Holy Avenger, a weapon capable of breaking spells and butchering demons in great and equal measures.

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*I’m not sure if certain players wanted the gift, as they haven’t said anything about it yet. I’ll update this bit if need be.

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The Worm that Walks
We have a T. Rex.

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After driving off Jerribeth, Gith stayed behind in her office to read through her various notes. The others continued on to a new chamber. On the way, Arueshalae apologized for sometimes freezing up in combat. Poonisher found a concealed door on the wall across from a large carving of a goat-headed demon. The lock was cunning, but Poonisher worked at it. A bit of mythic power casually channeled from Gith allowed him to finish the job. It was then that a pair of derakni scorpion demons spotted him. One immediately teleported away and the other tried to attack. Poonisher stared the demon in the eyes. It blinked, and he shot it in the throat. Bendak decided to test his powers a bit. With a new incantation, a T.rex stomped its way into battle, glowing with infused power from the Moon.

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The T. rex missed a bite as the dinosaurs jumped the demon. Poonisher then finished it off. As the demon thumped to the ground, its partner came back with three other demons like itself. These were harder to fight, but they all soon died. The T.rex was able to chomp the demons a few times before Arueshalae and Poonisher killed them. The demons did manage to poison Hook briefly, but Bendak took care of that.

The next room the party came to was also the heart of the temple. The room was the private chambers of Xanthir Vang, the Worm that Walks foreshadowed several times in the past. A runic circle took up much of the center floor. Candles, books, and other arcane devices took the rest. Xanthir himself reclined in a chair and extended a casual greeting to the party. He tried to make conversation but then Poonisher shot him twice in the chest. Xanthir uttered a slithering sigh and turned invisible. The fight was on. Hook charged and crashed against a bookshelf as her claws sliced through where Xanthir had been. Bendak then turned into an Allosaurus and summoned a rather small and cramped Brachiosaurus.

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It tried to smash Xanthir, but missed. A change then came over Tane. Before, his mind had been elsewhere, but now he was ready to fight. Tane promptly dispelled Xanthir’s invisibility. Arueshalae was shaken at the sight of him. He reminded her of her own evil past. Revealed, Xanthir called in aid. A massive construct made of the essence of the Abyss entered. It was called a retriever and looked like a black spider the size of an elephant.

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Xanthir injured Poonisher with a green ray and then took flight through a short flight of stairs into a small cave connected to his chambers. The Brachiosaurus swatted at him on the way. The retriever scorched Tane with rays of fire from its eyes and grabbed him with its talons. Before it could kill Tane, Bendak summoned another T. rex to chomp it and hold it down while Poonisher finished it off. Gith ran in with his undead vrock to join the battle. Bendak and Hook struggled to hit Xanthir as he dodged around them. Xanthir tried to gas the whole room with a Cloudkill spell, but Tane blocked it. Xanthir then took a bit of a beating as the party zeroed in on him. The Worm that Walks was a mighty opponent, but even he was not invincible. Xanthir then chose to teleport away. He would escape to some tomb of horrors, the party would track him to the ends of the earth and beyond, and it would all end in a climatic duel in which shocking truths would be revealed. At least, that all probably would have happened if Poonisher hadn’t shot him in his analogue of a throat and finished him off before he could cast any such spells.

The party was victorious. They found their next lead in Xanthir’s journals. The demon’s Nahyndrian crystals were being mined in the Midnight Isles, the realm of Nocticula, demon lord of succubi. Other surprises included that the crystals were made from the blood of assassinated demon lords and Nocticula had not given permission for the project. The journals mentioned that the forces of the Worldwound were trying to secure an alliance.

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The Ivory Sanctum

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The party took the succubus back to Drezen with them. The crusaders were deeply suspicious of her, but she had the backing of the party. With all of them vouching for her, she was allowed to remain un-smited for now. After the party had spent a bit of time resting and crafting (and Gith and Poonisher had time to set up another “skelliebomb”), Arueshalae recommended that the party go after the Ivory Sanctum. To recap, it was a major stronghold of Baphomet cultists. Bendak asked her to simply teleport the party there. Arueshalae explained that many of her powers no longer functioned as a consequence of her rebellion. The party would have to walk.

Though this was true, Arueshalae still appreciated the trip. She went out of her way to spend some time with Tane in particular. She admired the good yet free spirit she could sense in him. It was much like what she hoped to achieve for herself one day. As for the others, Bendak was friendly enough but a bit of a dull conversationalist. One can only talk about dinosaurs for so long before hoping for a serendipitous meteor. It was probably best for the succubus’s spiritual and mental health if she didn’t talk to or think about Gith and Poonisher too much.

The party stumbled across a pack of basilisks on the way to the Sanctum.

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Bendak tried to avoid the fight by communicating with the beasts, but Arueshalae fired a shot when it looked like the plan wasn’t going to work. After a brief exchange of arrows and deadly gazes Poonisher, Gith, and Arueshalae wiped out most of the creatures. Bendak was able to save one by knocking it unconscious before it could be shot. Also Tane was turned to stone by a basilisk’s gaze. Poonisher cured him fairly quickly by slicing open a basilisk and dumping its blood all over Tane. Hopefully, Poonisher knew that was the solution before making the decision to do it.

When the party made it to the mountain where the Sanctum was located the entrance was hidden. Tane soon found it by wandering around scanning the rocks for magic. When he found an illusion spell, he dispelled it and there was the entrance. A large magic portcullis was revealed. Behind it was four half-fiend minotaurs standing guard.

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The party spent a long time preparing for battle with the guards and then Poonisher shot them all in their throats. Gith fiddled with the magic of the door until it opened. Bendak switched to raptor form and the party entered the dungeon. Poonisher scouted ahead. Strangely, when he passed a statue of Baphomet he was unable to become invisible anymore. Thankfully he hadn’t let his mundane stealth skills fade. A pair of Kalavakus demons blocked the way.

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Gith and Poonisher dispatched them. The party next found a room where demon summonings would be performed and items were being stored. Gith did some psychic readings and saw a vision of a elf woman in green using this room. There was also a powerful magic book of exercise that the occultist took. Studying it would bolster his constitution. Next there was a room full of knight-cultists practicing with their weapons. The practice didn’t help. Poonisher began collecting ears. Arueshalae was a bit tempted to take some notes on his technique but was discouraged by the rest of the party.

The next room was a library. Some cultists were studying there. The party decided to keep one alive in the hopes that showing mercy would be good for Arueshalae. Of course, as soon as she was out of the room Poonisher stayed behind to…ensure that he wouldn’t escape.

For the next room, Bendak took a turn on point. Bendak kicked the door down after fumbling with the knob. On the other side was a coloxus fly demon with two cultist guards.

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Hook pounced on and killed a guard as Bendak summoned an ankylosaurus to whap the demon over the head and stun her. Then the archers went to work and the opposition was mulch. The demon clung to life long enough to start suggesting a bargin but was immediately finished off by Poonisher. The demon had been working on documents related to various evil plots. Tane easily detected and defused Explosive Runes spells among the papers and gathered them up to bring back later.

Poonisher cleared out another room full of mages by shooting them all in the throat. Then the party rested for an hour to regain spells. The next thing the group encountered was a webbed-up room with what seemed to be trapped victims at the top. Bendak summoned some spiders to climb up and rescue them, but the “victims” turned out to be the monstrous spiders themselves.

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A rare sight in this world, the things were called Neh-Thalggus, or brain collectors. The aliens attacked Bendak’s spiders and destroyed one before Bendak sent them away and retaliated with a blast of holy flames. The brain collectors fired off a salvo from confusion wands to no effect before the archers got them. Behind the webbed chamber was a lab where the creatures would perform horrific experiments on captives. They were trying to find a way to bind mortals so that they could be used as summoned creatures. Gith considered the theory interesting but the premise flawed.

The party traveled on through a few more chambers. Another pair of minotaurs got their throats shot. Finally they came to a large bedroom. The elements of luxury seemed incongruous with the bloodstained torture equipment occupying the space. The woman in green that Gith had seen earlier lounged on the bed with the mutilated remains of a cultist. She greeted the party by their names. She started to offer to grant a wish but never got to finish the sentence because Poonisher shot her in the throat. With a shrug, she assumed her real form as a massive glabzeru demon,

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She possessed tremendous power and actually survived the initial archer barrage and dinosaur charge. However, the situation was still untenable and she teleported away. The party then spent eight hours resting and decoding information about the Baphomet cult’s secret signs and signals. There was also a letter there that the woman in green, apparently named Jerribeth, had been writing to someone named Hepzamirah discussing the now dead brain collectors and Nahyndrian elixir.

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Demon's Heresy

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The party continued their exploration of the Baphomet cult’s hideout. A secret door was discovered and Poonisher began scouting the place out. At one point, he was ambushed by a smoke monster. He promptly crippled it with arrows and left it for the raptor to finish off. In the last chamber, the party confronted a summoner named Zanedra and her eidoleon Svennarobeth.

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She didn’t manage to put up much of a fight. Poonisher’s knockout arrows disrupted her connection to her monster and thus sent it back to the Abyss. Zanedra managed to retreat with a teleport spell before the party could finish her off.

The party hoarded the loot and took the two day trip back home. When they arrived and entered Poonisher’s secret batcave, an unpleasant surprise awaited them. Zanedra’s mutilated corpse was lying on the floor. Gith began a psychic reading to try to understand what had happened and how the killer had pierced Poonisher’s defenses. Instead of his usual readings, Gith found a threatening message from some anonymous evil being. Or rather, not so anonymous. Piecing together bits of evidence from the message, Gith identified the speaker as the Worm that Walks he had seen in previous visions participating in the attack on Kenebraes. At any rate, nothing could be done then. After the corpse had been checked for valuables and disposed of, the party rested. Tane dreamed again of the succubus. She was asking for help. This time, she gave her location. She was with a holy artifact called of Bell of Mercy and under attack by other demons at a ruined fort.

The party decided to head out. Tane had several crafting projects to work on, so he purchased a cart that he could ride in as the party traveled. The journey took several days. Whenever Tane slept, the succubus would send him information about her attackers. Eventually, the party arrived at the fort. Poonisher did a quick flight around and saw that the place was teeming with evil. There was two drakeriders, three massive grubs, a toad demon and a scorpion demon, six barely visible will-o’-the-wisps, and a spider the size of an elephant.

The party spent quite a while planning out what to do about all the demons. Tane bolstered everyone’s defenses, and Bendak let everyone walk on air. Ultimately, Gith and Poonisher decided to use a special trick they had been saving. Tane turned Poonisher invisible, and he flew above the fort like a bomber with a large blanket tucked under his arm. When he dropped the blanket among the giant grubs, it unfurled to unleash fifty mindlessly aggressive skeletons, all with glowing runes upon the their foreheads. The skeletons swarmed about clawing at everything in sight. Every time a skeleton was struck down, it would explode on the slayer. That took care of the grubs. As the chaos created a distraction, Poonisher sniped the spider and killed it. The scorpion demon was the first of the villains to react to their new enemies. It flew over the party and began a maddening drone. However, the party resisted the effects. The demon was then pulled down and mauled to death by Bendak and Hook. The demon’s leader, an annis hag named Jaruunicka emerged just as the rebel succubus did.

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Gith killed one of the drake riders with his bow as his vrock skeleton began brawling with the toad demon. Jaruunicka began to taunt the heroes, only to be silenced by a flurry of throat arrows from nowhere. The surviving drakerider tried charging Hook, only to miss and also get ripped apart by the dinosaurs. The succubus finished off a pair of the grubs with her bow. The toad demon managed to defeat the vrock. However, the fight was effectively over at that point. The demons were broken and the party was still entirely unhurt. The remaining enemies were soon finished off. The vrock skeleton knitted itself back together. Gith read the dead hag’s corpse, and learned that she was hunting the succubus as a sort of bounty hunter for the late Staunton Vhane.

The party then approached the succubus for introductions and explanations. She said her name was Arueshalae. She claimed to be a former member of the demon armies who had been able to turn her back on their ways with the help of the goddess Desna. Now, she hoped to make the final leap to truly become good. One wishes she had better teachers than a pack of bloodsoaked psychopaths and eccentrics. Anyway, she gave the party their next target:the stronghold of the Baphomet cultists known as the Ivory Sanctum. Rescuing the succubus seemed to gain the party divine approval, as their powers grew.

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In which evil gets Poonished

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The party rested and took Irabeth home. The flight back took two days, which Tane spent working on a Cloak of Resistance. The party took a few days of downtime to work on personal projects. Tane toiled to craft more magic items, and Poonisher looked for leads with the followers he had collected. Poonisher also connected the group’s houses to his completed subterranean lair. Gith did his own research, and found out about a place called Seeker’s Gully that seemed to be connected to his own late Riftwarden parents. While object reading a chest he found, he saw a vision of his parents battling a spirit of some sort.

After a few otherwise uneventful days, the alarm was raised as demons launched a raid against Drezen. The party soon found themselves battling a pair of drakeriding incubuses. The party worked to bring the drakes down and deny them from being able to attack from above. It took some doing, and not a few lance wounds and drake blasts were absorbed, but the party eventually slew the drakes. The demons fled. One teleported away, while the other tried to retreat on foot. The velociraptor chased him down and killed him.

Things soon went back to normal, or as normal as they can be in the Worldwound. Tane had a dream of a succubus fleeing some danger and pleading for help. Soon, the party decided to go visit Seeker’s Gully. It was a small town and had been abandoned when the Worldwound opened. Gith warned the party that they would find a restless spirit there that they would need to befriend. The party stopped by the cemetery and soon met a ghost who looked unmistakably like Gith. The ghost, in a rather curmudgeonly manner, “asked” the party to slay a demon defiling Gith’s family crypt. The ghost provided one day to accomplish the task or he would kill them. The target was a nabasu glutton demon named Skullgrym.

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The party marched into the crypt. The entrance was dominated by a defaced carving of Iomedae. The party first checked some tombs for anything of note. The treasure had been carried away by demons long ago. In one tomb there was a powerful bodak undead. It would have used its deadly gaze against the party if Poonisher had not mowed it down before it could so much as blink. Gith read the corpse and found that the creature was a friend of the demon. The party moved on. They came to a wide stair leading up to a large chamber. At the top was Skullgrym. The demon prepared for battle, raising its terrible claws. And then Poonisher shot it full of arrows and Gith finished it off with a few arrows of his own and the help of his pet skeleton. Gith found an enchanted axe in the crypt, and then the party returned to the surface so Bendak could Hallow the tomb. The party had to spend 24 hours in the town as Bendak worked.

The ghost thanked Gith for letting him rest in peace. With a trail of glowing lights, the ghost led Gith to a treasure chest before departing. The chest had a special bow for Gith and various other magic items. The party then went back to town for some downtime. Tane did some more crafting while Poonisher and Gith worked on a secret plan involving psychic runes of blasting, a magic blanket, and a horde of uncontrolled skeletons. Eventually, Anevia contacted the party with a lead. The scouts had found a cave outside the city that seemed to be used by cultists. The party headed out to investigate.

The cave had a massive entrance with stairs flanked by statues of the demon prince Baphomet.

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Three cultists stood guard outside. Tane made Poonisher invisible, and then he lined up a shot. He fired a single arrow at the cultists, which looped back to hit them twice. All the cultists died from the single shot. Gith read them for information, but didn’t find much. The party began to advance into the ruins. They found one cultist sleeping, and Poonisher promptly shot him.

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Trials by Fire

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The party planned their next move from the top of the lavafall. By plan, I mean of course that they decided arbitrarily. Bendak spotted a plume of smoke in one area, and some activity in a lava crater. With neither option looking particularly better, the party went to the smoke plume. Bendak turned into a massive quetzalcoatlus pterosaur to carry the non-flying party members over.

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The party arrived at their destination to see a giant hall structure. The smoke originated from a hole in the roof, presumably from a cooking fire. Some tribesfolk milled around outside looking miserable. Poonisher invisibly flew in through the fireplace. After a few moments of putting out his now-burning clothes, he put out the fire. It was a small room, empty of all but the cookery. After Bendak alighted over the entrance like a freakish bat, the others clambered down. Bendak switched to become a raptor and followed.

I hope the reader will indulge a brief change in perspective. Two warrior women sharpened their swords in the darkened hall. They had the honor of being the Master’s chosen. They had been taken from their families for their strength and beauty. If they had names, they weren’t important anymore. All that life ever was and ever would be was to serve and please Master Marhevok. The bruises made sure they remembered that. Suddenly, a band of intruders opened the door from the kitchen. It was a surprising sight. Dragonlike animals, an undead, a bird-monkey, and a pair of mages stood before them. The women raised their swords and rushed to die with honor. Their strength had been honed for this moment. Their strength didn’t matter. The mages overwhelmed them with a blast of water and mental curses, and the creatures bound them with ropes. They did manage to gash the monkey a bit. The strangers began to ask the women about their tribe. One of the mages stated that the women weren’t evil after casting a spell. The women simply informed the intruders of their fate. Marhevok was near. Marhevok was all powerful, and would crush them with his demonic might.

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One of the beasts, the one they called Bendak, seemed strangely pained by his very name. The foolish strangers were eager enough to test themselves against Marhevok and soon opened the entrance to his chambers. The women watched and waited to see Marhevok punish their blasphemy. The women heard his voice from the other room. He seemed to be trying to convince Bendak to join him. Surely, that one was greatly blessed! Or perhaps not. A defiant hiss broke off Marhevok’s words, and the sounds of battle began. In a matter of seconds, it was over.

The women looked on in shock. Impossibly, the strangers all lived, and one of the mages carried Marhevok’s crushed head in his hands. An arrow dangled from the remains of his jugular. One asked quietly if the Master had died with honor. The monkey responded cavalierly while cutting Marhevok’s remaining ear off. “Well, he stumbled around and gagged a bit. Does that count?”

It is now useless to describe how Marhevok’s slaves felt, as those people didn’t really exist anymore. All that remained was two women with a very shaken worldview.

After that, the party gathered up the tribe and ordered them to stop engaging in the cannibalistic practices Marhevok had taught them and also to stop living in the Worldwound like a pack of morons and move to Drezen. The party rested there for the night before moving on. Bendak felt that Marhevok held some connection to his past. However, Marhevok was dead now and Bendak wasn’t one to dwell on such things. He had Gith do a bit of object reading on the bloodsmear that passed for a corpse, but didn’t find much useful.

The next day, the party rode out on Bendak to the place where they had seen suspicious activity before. The place was a pit-lake of lava dotted with rock islands and huge dark purple crystal growths. On one of the wider islands, Irabeth the paladin was held captive being subjected to a fell ritual by a band of vrocks. The vrocks were holding her down and trying to make her drink a potion. Their leader carried a scythe. Poonisher recognized the leader. He and Wase had once escaped from a similar ritual. He knew this demon’s name. It was Vorimeraak. She had taken his tail before he escaped. Poonisher still didn’t know what horrible magic she must have done with it.

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Vorimeraak began to cast a spell, only for Tane to offhandedly squelch her magics with his own as he cast a spell that would make Poonisher invisible even if he attacked. The other vrocks took wing and attacked the party. Bendak used his greater size to shove through the creatures. The demons clawed deeply into him, but their wings were tangled and they fell into the lava to burn. Vorimeraak started to fly above the battle, but was then slammed back down by one of Poonisher’s arrows. As she grappled with summoned dinosaurs, Poonisher fired again to fatally slam her into the lava. The other two demons survived their initial lava bath, but were put to sleep by Gith before they could get away and ended up incinerated anyway.

The party rescued Irabeth, who thanked them profusely and explained the situation. The demons had managed to capture her with a surprise attack a few nights before. The reason they had brought her here was that these crystal had both empowering and corrupting abilities. They had been trying to turn her into a champion of evil. Gith drew a magic circle around the crystals and someone put up a warning sign. The druid and the vigilante felt that dealing with the demons from their past had made them a bit stronger, in a subtle way.

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Drezen rises

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Drezen had been retaken by the Knights of Kenebraes, but there was still much work to be done. The city needed to be rebuilt and protected. More crusaders arrived with craftsmen, priests, and merchants to work on the city. A cleric of Shelyn arrived and started up a temple for anyone of any good faith to come and worship. Artists were also welcome. Although the party had imprisoned him after finding him possessed by the shadow demon, Aron had apparently behaved well enough afterward for Irabeth to make him captain of the guard. Of the party’s other allies, Anevia became the spymaster and Querm became the treasurer.

Gith’s return proved fortuitously timed. He used his necromantic powers to raise the skeletons of demons and put them to work tirelessly repairing the city, managed by living supervisors. The paladins and the clerics there ferociously objected, but Gith cunningly exploited loopholes in their religious texts to force them to allow him to “redeem” the undead. Gith also endeared his undead to the common people by allowing the children to decorate them in bright colors and name them. For more secretive reasons, he had his undead workers include a small image of his face in every building they worked on and made contact with a qlippoth abomination that he named Reginald. Qlippoths are nightmarish beings that inhabited the Abyss before the demons. They hate demons for stealing their home, and they hate mortals for spawning the demons with their sins.

Poonisher used his free time to wander a certain neighborhood around the wall and do mime reenactments of his alter ego’s accomplishments in order to build his renown. Once he was popular enough, he used his influence to begin to have a huge vigilante lair built underground and magically ward it against detection.

Tane toiled away creating new magical items and using the redeemed Corruption Forge. The antipaladin’s sentient evil glaive Soulshear was the first to be transformed by the now-Redemption Forge.

Finding himself in a wasteland with few plants and no dinosaurs, Bendak had little to do as a druid. He decided to open a magic shop in emulation of his merchant parents.

During this peaceful time, a letter arrived from Queen Galfrey. The letter was heavily perfumed to the point that it was hard to read, but the party was able to gather that they should investigate the area around the city and follow up on any leads they had found in the siege. Soon, the party marched out to do that. The first threat they came across was an villainous incubus riding a drake. Those two were quickly and efficiently dispatched.

Next, they saw a woman who looked like a cultist with a strange mutant dog and a cage of normal puppies. Poonisher shot the mutant and Bendak stomped up in allosaur form demanding to know what was going on. The woman vanished. Bendak cast a spell and spoke to the puppies for information. All he got was quick cries of “She’s mean to us!” before the woman came back casting fire at him and Hook. Two more came out chanting summoning spells. Poonisher took aim and fired three arrows. The arrows flew to the women’s side, then curved in midair. A slashed throat and two pierced heads later, the cultists fell as one.

Tane and Gith identified the cultists as followers of Lamashtu, goddess of monsters. Her cultists often work to breed monsters. They related this information as the others secured the loot and puppies.

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Moving on, the party found a canyon with a lava flow. After everyone was bolstered with Resist Fire and Air Walk spells, they began exploring. Soon they found a surprisingly normal looking wooden chapel in a cavern. Gith assigned his personal bloodstained undead vrock in to take point. He explained that the blood was charged with energies that would regenerate the creature so long as it wasn’t killed by holy means.

The interior of the chapel was a wretched sight. The walls and floors were stained with blood, and a warning in Abyssal had been carved into the walls. The party found a rare book in the rubble. It was the teachings of a heretical sect of Erastil worshipers. Erastil is a benevolent deity of rural life. According to the writer of this book, city dwellers were inherently corrupt and every 54th member of a community was evil and needed to die. It also said that an Erastilian hero was buried nearby. Gith used his object reading and saw visions of a man in the chapel practicing a fear spell.

Poonisher soon found the tomb. The party entered and saw the hero ensconced in a massive crystal near a lake of lava. Atop the crystal was the man Gith had seen in the temple. He declared that he was a failure to his religion before preparing to throw himself into the lava. Everyone rushed to stop him. He avoided the undead vrock’s attempt to grab him but then Tane shoved him to the ground with water, Gith put a psychic block in his mind against suicide, Poonisher telekinetically tied his shoelaces together, and Bendak grabbed him in his jaws. The man tried to teleport. Bendak’s teeth flashed green and the man was held in place, unable to escape even by magic. The man dejectedly frowned as Gith put him to sleep.

After the man was securely tied up and Bendak wrapped a claw around him to prevent any teleporting, Gith used object reading on him. Gith saw him trashing the chapel. A demon wandered into the scene, and then suddenly leapt out and attacked Gith in the real world. Without missing a beat, Poonisher barraged the demon with arrows and destroyed it.

Poonisher took the freed man and flew him back to the Shelyn priest’s temple for magical aid. Bendak dug at the crystal with Stone shape to get the treasures out. Inside was a suit of Celestial armor and a powerful weapon known as a Talisman of Pure Good. Suddenly, the crystal disintegrated. Shortly thereafter Poonisher returned and informed the group that he and the formerly possessed man were now lovers.

The party then found a 200ft tall lavafall that gave a good view of the surrounding terrain.

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Sword of Valor

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After slaying the vampire, the party interviewed his victim. The nearly drained man was a crusader named Idrian Vosner. Unfortunately, he knew little of value. The party helped him escape the citadel before continuing on their merry warpath. With the vampires gone, there was nothing standing between the party and the Corruption Forge. It was a place where holy relics were fouled. Bendak’s sentient mask was particularly offended by the place. The Forge was a shadowy and industrial place, with movement between various pulley elevators being needed for most. Bendak cast a spell to let everyone walk on air however, nullifying that. Tane also cast Resist Fire on everyone. Swoop and Fee of course didn’t need any help.

Four evil snake-man salamanders were manning the forge. Their spears did little to protect them from a rain of monkey arrows and dinosaurs.

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Tane looked at the Forge and knew that it could later be turned to reverse its purpose and serve good. That would have to be done later. A secret door was opened and the raid continued. The door lead to a blasphemous shrine to the demon lord Deskari. Murals depicted him striking down various good deities. What seemed to be the Sword of Valor banner stood prominently displayed in an iron frame. Wase marched up and grabbed at it. His hand phased through the illusion, and the room’s trap was activated. Five cursed were revealed, and five illusions struck Wase, and attempted to reveal five of his greatest fears. These fears would strike so deeply as to warp the soul of anyone. However, a paladin knows no fear. Wase simply endured, and the curses faded.

The next room was a walkway around a shadowy pit. A statue of the four-armed marilith general Aponavicius stood on a raised pillar out of the pit. There were telekinesis traps to push the unwary into the pit, but the Air Walk spell made that irrelevant. Past the traps was an important looking door. Poonisher silently opened it and peeked in. Inside he saw many crystals decoracted the walls of a chamber. In the middle was a marble slab with a red banner tossed across it. On the banner sat Aron, the Knights of Kenabraes’ scout. He had disappeared some time ago, and had somehow found his way here.

A black, smoky demon came out of him and went into Poonisher while nobody could see him. At the same time, the room became pitch black. Under the demon’s influence, Poonisher turned and told the party that everything was fine before blasting them with a dark fireball. Everyone dodged and took minimal injuries. Bendak summoned an anklyosaurus to club Poonisher into submission, with hasty warning to leave him alive. The possessed vigilante ducked the club as it cracked the door just behind him. Before he could rise and let loose his arrows, Tane cast a Protection From Evil over the whole party. Since the demon was unable to control Poonisher’s body through the warding, he fell into the pit with the demon inside him.

With a nasty sound, Poonisher landed in a sticky mass of flesh eating green slime. Wase flew down to get him out. Even after he was removed from the pit, the slime stuck to Poonisher and continued devouring him. Bendak burned it off with a weak fire spell just in time. Thankfully, Wase didn’t hesitate to believe the floating raptor demanding that the paladin’s friend be immediately set on fire. Tane then used a powerful spell to drive the demon out of Poonisher. The smoke trail went back into its room. After Poonisher was healed, the party marched into the dark for the next round.

Wase was attacked first since he lead the way, since the demon had gone into Aron again. Again, Tane drove him out. With Tane’s wards protecting everyone from possession, the demon was forced to fight in its true form. Tane dispelled the darkness, exposing the shadow demon.

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For quite a while Wase dueled the demon as Bendak and Hook slashed ineffectually at the shadows while Tane and Poonisher contributed spells and arrows. Poonisher decided to take a gamble, and fired a rare demon-slaying arrow. The arrow struck true and annihilated Eustoyriax, the mythic shadow demon. The banner on the slab was found to be the true Sword of Valor. With their goal achieved, the party easily finished off the remaining threats. A dark portal opened as they worked, but for once it wasn’t a new threat. Gith-Fa-Rha-Ha the elf occultist had returned to lend a necromantic hand. Wase felt that it might be best if he went off and helped more directly with the rebuilding of Drezen for the time being.

With the fall of the Citadel and the recovery of the Sword of Valor, Drezen was reclaimed. As the party returned to their camp, a magic message informed them that Queen Galfrey would soon arrive to see their handiwork.

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Vampire hunters

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The party rested after the grueling battle with Staunton Vhane in the extradimensional space. During the night, Wase was awoken by a sharp pain. The old hero the party had rescued was stabbing him. Thankfully, the blow failed to kill him. The “hero” then transformed into a succubus and vanished. Although Tane had long since all but eliminated the need for sleep with a magic ring, the attack came during his nightly two hours of rest. The next morning, Vhane’s brother lead the party to the castle’s underground levels. The party descended after a few spells, leaving the dwarf behind. There was an unhallowed darkness to the dungeon that sometimes assaulted the minds of the party as they explored here. The party found themselves in a prison area. Iron bars of cages and torture equipment decorated the chambers. The spectres of mangled knights floated through the walls. Evenutally, two of the spirits attacked.

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The incorporeal claws ripped into Wase, draining most of his life away. Wase retreated as Bendak cast an ineffective flame strike. Poonisher fired a volley of his best arrows, dissipating one of the attackers. As Tane was casting his spells, the surviving undead dove forward and tried to drain him. At the last moment, Tane turned briefly into wind, dodging the blow. With the remains of his strength, Wase stepped up and put his fellow knight to rest.

The party decided to continue despite Wase’s crippling. The party continued to traverse the grim halls, and eventually came to a torture chamber full of vampire spawn.

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However, vampire spawn are just a shadow of their progenitors. They were all exterminated in short order. Before going, they were able to drain a bit of Bendak and Hook’s strength. Nearby was a cell enclosed in an antimagic field. Inside the cell, prayers to Lady Luck and hundreds of butterflies were carved on the walls. Outside that cell, starved corpses lined the walls.

After that room, the party came to a large two-leveled chamber with a pair of babaus. The demons shrieked with delight and raised their spears. One was promptly shot in the throat by Poonisher before Bendak summoned three ankylosauruses to crush him between their tail clubs. The remaining demon summoned another of its kind behind Tane and tried to dispel the sorcerer’s spells. Both were foiled by his greater magic. Wase finished off the new demon and an ankylosaurus struck off the other’s head.

As the fight ended, everyone felt something trying to take over their minds. While fighting off the mental assault with all his will, Poonisher spotted someone looking at them through a tiny peephole in a metal door nearby. He opened fire, but sadly didn’t manage to shoot the stranger’s eye out. A moment later, Hook and the ankylosauruses bashed the door open. Behind it was a vampire cleric wielding a vicious dagger. A man drained of blood was also on the floor beside a bookshelf. Before anyone could attack him, the vampire turned to smoke and vanished. The party rushed in and began looking around his room.

The vampire rematerialized behind Tane and attempted to cut him down. Tane turned into wind again but the blow still managed to hurt him. Wase began to duel the vampire. As the knife and sword clashed, Poonisher lined up some shots. The arrows were loosed and the vampire was blown against the wall and shredded. The vampire turned back to smoke to retreat to his coffin. Bendak tried to trap the smoke in egg-shaped stone, but missed a few tiny holes that the vampire escaped through. Wase also tried to finish the vampire off with channeled energy, but was unsuccessful. Poonisher soon found the coffin through a secret door behind the bookshelf. Wase and Poonisher teamed up to stake him and cut his head off and dip his head in holy water and harvest an ear. To be fair, one of those was only Poonisher’s idea.

The party noticed now that the drained man was actually still clinging to life. Poonisher tied him up and Wase revived him.

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The pitfalls of evil

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After finally resting inside the extradimensional space Tane created, the party prepared for battle with the fiendish minotaurs. Wase’s sword became alight with divine energy, Bendak became a raptor, and Tane cast beneficial spells. When all was in readiness, the party entered the officer’s quarters and the battle was on. The room was a large office, with a door or two on all sides. The aforementioned minotaurs were present, and also three babau demons guarding a haggard dwarf at desk. The dwarf looked listlessly over tomes and scrolls. Wase and the dinosaurs charged, meeting the minotaurs in a pitched melee.

Poonisher flew in through the shadows and considered his shots. He had felt he wasn’t contributing enough, and had spent some time improving his skill and practicing with his mythic blessing. Now it was time to test his new methods. The following flurry of arrows skewered the minotaurs and even blew one off his feet and pinned the corpse to the wall by the throat. Poonisher was well pleased by this result. Tane then made him utterly invisible, making him even more deadly.

A babau was picked off and the dwarf seemed inspired. He threw up his hands. The babaus turned and tried to finish him off. Thankfully for our diminutive defector, Tane was ready with a Glitterdust spell that blinded the demons. They flailed about attempting to kill the dwarf, but were slaughtered. Noting the high ceiling in this room, Bendak became an allosaurus to help end the fight.

There was no time for the party to catch their breath after the demons were slain. The doors in back flew open, and two babaus and two minotaurs filed in. They made a dramatic corridor for a dwarven figure that marched in behind them. Staunton Vhane, antipaladin betrayer of Drezen, stormed into the room.

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Staunton struck his glaive on the floor and summoned one more babau before sending his minions against the party. Poonisher opened fire without even a hint of surprise. The minotaurs pushed forward to Bendak, horns clashing with saurian jaws. While Bendak was thus occupied, Staunton moved up and brought him down with both an unholy parody of a Paladin’s smites and Vhane’s own mythic power. Before Vhane and the monsters could finish the job, Tane dropped the antipaladin in a magic pit while Wase and Fee deployed healing magic. Rather than get into the fight, the babaus tried to kill the dwarf at the desk. A loud buzzing sounded from down a hall. Bendak revived thanks to the healing magic and reached a claw over to the pit. Warping the stone of the floor and wall, he created a cap to keep Vhane in. At the same time, Tane created two ice walls to block whatever was making the buzzing sound.

Without their corrupt master, the remaining demons were swiftly slain. Tane made Wase into a giant for more efficient exorcism-by-exsanguinations. The party picked themselves up and prepared for the final round. A huge stinger was chipping through the ice, and Vhane was digging through the stone cap with a returning throwing axe. Bendak summoned an ankylosaurus by the pit, waiting to swing its clublike tail. Poonisher readied arrows.

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The walls broke. A giant fiendish wasp burst through the remains of the enchanted ice and dove into the hole. Vhane hopped onto his steed and it began climbing out. Before it could escape, Poonisher blasted it back to the bottom with an arrow before finishing it off with subsequent shots. Recovering, Vhane used the same mythic speed as Wase to climb out of the pit. Vhane leapt out and rolled under the ankylosaurus tail to cross blades with the giant Wase. They dueled for a long moment, dodging around dinosaur claws and clubs. Ultimately, Vhane brought Wase down. The villain raised his weapon to gut the hero. Before Vhane could strike the fatal blow, the anklyosaurus finally landed a solid club blow to the back of his helmet. As Vhane reeled and howled through the horrible ringing, Tane tripped him with a grease puddle underfoot. Bendak helped Wase stand back up. Vhane lay on the ground, struggling to recover. The dinosaurs and the knight pounced, attempting to subdue him. Vhane laughed at their attempt at mercy. He was warded against such nonlethal assaults.

This posed no obstacle to Poonisher. With a final arrow to the throat, Poonisher killed Staunton Vhane.

After the fight finally ended, the party talked with the desk dwarf. He was Vhane’s brother, tricked into helping Staunton in his dark efforts by managing a Corruption Forge that tainted holy relics for the demons. He gave the party much information on what dangers remained within the castle. The Sword of Valor was being kept underground, in the sublevels of the fortress. As most of the defenders had been vanquished, the party roamed around and captured a fortune in loot. The treasures might serve them well in the last dungeons of Drezen.

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