EvilParty resumes the battle!
Chuck, newly restored, tries to shatter the device inside the cage with a spell. He fails, but thinks it could work. One of the enemy rogues slips past the battling barbarians (Jenny and Three-Fang, who are honestly more invested in proving their dominance than in which side wins the overall battle), and comes up under the crab-machine; he tries to attack Chuck, but misses. Durest reaches down to the dying orc on the floor, and casts Death Knell to finish the guy off and strengthen himself. Hatch continues squishing the bard, Farrakon the Fantastic.
Three-Fangs attacks Jenny, doing some damage but dropping one of his axes. Farrakon casts Otto's Irrestible Dance on Three-Fangs, because fucking bards are *not* reliable. He then tries to convince us that he's secretly on our side, and he's surprisingly persuasive. Hatch, at least, is swayed -- though not enough to release him from the mechanical pincer.
Chuck again tries to shatter the gem and again doesn't get past its damage resistance.
Jenny attacks the bugbear (Three-Fangs) again, and sends him to the ground. He's stable, but essentially out of action -- and since he was raging, he's going to die the moment he stops raging.
She then steps forward and takes out the cleric, then snaps her chain back around and lays it into the rogue, though the first attack doesn't kill him. The second attack, however, does. Jenny has literally run out of things to kill, except for the guy who has dominated her.
The rogue under the crab attacks Durest, but misses.
The sailor/swashbucklers in the main hold start fleeing up onto the deck. Two other rogues move in and flank Jenny, who is now in serious trouble.
Chuck shatters the sphere.
Farrakon uses Dimension Door to get to somewhere safer, so he misses the resulting explosion out of sheer luck.
Jenny, meanwhile, lays into the two rogues that were flanking her, and obliterates them.
At this point, the battle turns, and Jenny runs up onto the deck to go around the blade barrier. Since Three-Fangs is still conscious, she drags him along. She jumps off the side of the boat as we pull the crab-submarine out of the Blade Barrier, and swims inside -- still hauling Three-Fangs -- to where Durest is waiting to heal her.
Three-Fangs immediately proposes marriage to Jenny; she refuses, but adds him to her harem. He asks if he can at least be in charge of the harem, but she says he has to earn it. "You... firm but fair," agrees Three-Fangs.
The Battle of Boiler Bay... is over. The Solari naval incursion is all but annihilated. Somewhere, there's a ranger making his escape, and a Bard thanking the gods that he got out in time.
Hierophant Malafar is extremely impressed. We have brought him the Apparatus (the crab-submarine), we have defeated several powerful foes, and we have delivered a valuable hostage in the form of Grand Elder Ishara. (They murder all her guards, though. The elves are likely to be pissed.)
THUS DO WE RETURN TO OUR NEWLY-ENNOBLED SOLARI PARTY.
The Solari party, loyal to the human king and sworn defenders of Sol Povos, are:
-Tavros Fontaine, half-dragon and Knight of the Temple of Amun. (Paladin/Fighter)
-Leira Sirène d'Incendie, sixteen-year-old sorceress and former mermaid (now human)
-Marshall Mercy, human priest of Artem-hiss
-Alexej (whose last name translates to Sausage Schnitzel), human fighter and gourmand.
After our previous adventures, we were sent north to reinforce Janbridge. A group of boats had been sent to circle Sol Povos and retake the town. The Duke of Janbridge wanted us to attack the elves, who looked like they might be gathering for an attack; but they withdrew, and Grand Marshall Lady Orfevre ordered us to hold our position in Janbridge. So we did, until we were summoned back to the capital.
That evening, we're bought to a laboratory down in the main part of the castle. We're met at the door by Conrad DuVall, the King's Seneschal. "Faithful Servants, the King wanted me to inform you that your apartments and lands have been expanded in keeping with your service. The mission you are about to undertake is dear to the King's heart, and your success here will gather you more of his generosity.
We enter a room with the Archmage Malzeros, Father Raphael Montaine (High Priest of Helios), Viggo the Whisperer (the spymaster), and Dante Alighieri (the world's greatest poet).
Dante starts in at length; Viggo intercedes. "Come, friends, let me tell you of our progress. You found the Eye of Vecna, and that evil Paladin Sasha cast you into that other world within the Eye, in a land called Fanaxia. Sasha pulled you out, and fled. Since then, the Archmage has been studying the artifact and believes he has reproduced the magic. We believe we can send you back to Fanaxia."
Dante, in verse: "You might want to tell them that they'll need to be dead to get there."
Priest: "Not entirely."
Archmage: "Only temporarily."
Viggo: "You should be able to return."
Leira: "Could I just stay in the bathtub instead?"
Tavros: "Some dangers require extreme measures." He turns to Viggo. "This seems a bit extremely extreme, though."
Viggo: "This mission is... not so optional. It is dear to the king's heart. And I have the utmost faith in the Archmage and the High Priest."
Leira: "If I die, I'm going to come back and haunt you. And my boyfriend Sasha is going to come murder you."
Viggo: "I accept your terms." He sounds completely serious, at least to Leira.
Viggo: "It seems the dark army is in service to Vecna. It seems that Vecna originated in Fanaxia, and may be the very Dark One that they refer to there. It seems also that some of the minions, including this Krony, originated in Fanaxia. So we want you to go to Fanaxia and find information on Krony, Kaz, or Vecna himself."
Leira: "How do we get back?"
Viggo: "We can put you in at the same place you arrived last time. The valley of the giants, I believe it was. Once you return to the portal there, you will return."
The dark one used to be in Sandorn Castle; he was executed. For laying hands upon the king his hand was removed, for spying his eye was removed, and for attempting to cause the downfall of Fanaxia, he was exiled to the Abyss. Now the priests of Urbroth run everything, and King Baldric is holed up in his castle and doesn't come out. The west wing of the castle is haunted and inaccessible. We're pretty sure the priests of Urgroth were priests of Vecna, but the west wing of the castle was something different.
Since we have a day to prepare, Leira is going to write a very lovestruck-sixteen-year-old letter to Sasha. Marshall and Tavros go to buy wands: Death Ward, Cure, and Knock. Tavros adds a +1 Morningstar as well.
We return to the clearing where we last arrived in Fanaxia. There's a portal there now, and the giants haven't done anything to repair the area. We make our way into town.
Marshall immediately begins investigating to see if there is a temple to Artem-hiss. Alexej starts asking about his friend, Christobol, who was a very good Captain.
Marshall finds a temple of Vecna/Urgroth; the moment he asks, they try to drive him away -- "You one of them snake worshipers? We drove your kind out to Serpente Selva in the west!"
Alexej has rather better luck: the first person he asks about Christobol looks around, then invites us inside. "Are you with the resistance?"
Alexej: "If Christobol is, then yes."
So Christobol is a lieutenant of Rygar now, and he's going to lead them to rise up against the priests of Urgrol. The castle of the Magiknights is where Rygar, Christobol, and the remaining knights are. "Okay, but beware the nightwing!" Alexej assures him that we'll be careful.
So our contact Bellamy now thinks we're highly placed in the resistance. He's thrilled to host us to dinner. He tells us a little about the area in passing. In particular, it's now split in half by a marsh, and there's a ghost tower in the center of the marsh that nobody seems to be able to reach. It occupies the same location as Sandorn Castle used to, except it appears and disappears, always just out of reach.
Kuldor Keep is the only port, and sea trade is the only way to trade with the north. The ruler there is descended from Walter Crow, known as the Centaurs' Bane. The family sigil is a leaping centaur impaled on a soldier's spear. (This is the same symbol we saw in the barn where Christobol was being held, so presumably he was being held by Lord Crow's men.)
The other thing we learn is that the province/city of Vrist in the far northwest has this Devil's Reef surrounding it; only really skilled smugglers can get through there. Styre and Westyre trade with Kuldor Keep; trade between Styre and Vrist passes through the Griffin Hills, which are passable but dangerous.
"Does Rygar really exist?" Bellamy wants to know. Marshall remembers: Yes, he's a lean, charming half-elf. He has three lieutenants: Tybalt, Rybalt, and Jorn - and now Christobol. When Marshall was here, he was shown a tapestry of Vecna being executed. (That was back when he was traveling with the elves, though, so he's the only one in this party who's met the magiknights.)
We spend the night with Bellamy and head north in the morning. Tavros and Marshall want to head into the Serpente Selva to look for Artemis priests; Alexej wants to head east and north to Castle Dinoden. We start looking around for a carriage, because none of us want to go traipsing through the rain.
Marshall: "So here's something you may not know about Artemis: while most religions are about being humble, but Artemis feels you should show your worth." So we end up acquiring *two* carriages: a plain one for the rest of us, and one that Marshall can decorate in snake motifs and holy symbols and arrange to have pulled by a pair of giant vipers.
We get about five miles into the forest before a low-pitched voice says, "Halt."
There are humanoids all around us with bows; an armored centaur emerges from the trees. "Who goes there?"
"Why, Marshall! The all-powerful and greatly celebrated priest of Artem-hiss, and his followers."
"Are you with the crazy snake-worshippers from up north?"
"The centaurs rule this land. Who are you with?"
Tavros climbs out.
Centaur: "Are you a summoned snake-person?"
Leira: "This is my uncle Tavros."
Marshall actually (shockingly) manages to convince them that we come in peace. We've met the Guard Captain; he will take us to the king. Leira compliments his hair. He is really, really pleased.
He takes us about three miles further on, to a centaur village; they've arranged a number of canopies to keep the rain off. He leads us to this one particular canopy and explains our request for passage.
We go inside and sit down. He speaks to us in Elven, and Tavros starts explaining our mission. Embrasios thinks we must have come from far over the sea, but nobody has made it back on the floating trees. Apparently in the early times there were other centaurs elsewhere, but nobody has survived traveling on the floating trees in this age. Have we met any other centaurs, beyond the ocean? Tavros allows that few visited his mother when he was young. The king is pleased by this; he seems to see it as a sign.
Tavros tries to explain our mission.
The king is willing to grant us passage, but wants to know whatever we learn from the serpent priests, since apparently they're destined to join the centaurs in defeating Lord Crow. Tavros is... not entirely comfortable with this, but he's willing to carry the message and try to encourage an alliance. Lord Crow seems a thoroughly villainous sort, but Tavros is not as naive as he once was.
The king has named Tavros their Kalamon: the one who will bring the centaurs justice.
Leira asks if she can have a nickname too. "She is named [something] Concubine to the Kalamon."
Tavros' nostrils have never flared so wide in his life; he's a Paladin of Amun, and not wholly unversed in the ways of the world, but he is not going to have concubines and especially not underage ones. However, the king is pleased with this, and with us. He will grant us passage.
At this point, we break for a feast: fire, meat, and dancing. In the morning, they send us on to meet with the crazy snake people.
Next time: crazy snake priests.