We're back to playing the elves.
The elves, in case you've forgotten (and honestly, it's kind of hard for us to keep up sometimes!) are:
- Fartathren Duentlethar - "Martini" - the Grey Elf assassin
- Her younger brother Lelilian Elisbian Duentlethar - "Azrael Abyss" - the Grey Elf goth wizard
- Geddy Lee Geddy - no assumed name - a gnome and noted bard
- Eva, a very young gold dragon who's adopted Geddy as her uncle and usually looks like a young human girl
- Springblossom Sunrise - "Ruin" - a true elf Horizon Walker with minor homicidal rage issues
In game, it's the 17th of April. We've arrived in Renfall, where approximately half the human army of Sol Povos is gathered -- facing off, ostensibly, against approximately half of the army of Vecna, who are occupying Welfort. Welfort is directly across the river, and was connected to Renfall by a massive stone bridge which has now been destroyed. Welfort is also the location of the far end of the Portal-Tent that our elf characters destroyed just recently when they were in the middle of the rain forest.
So: we arrive in Renfall, and Geddy immediately settles in to entertain at one of the bars. He is... wildly successful, with people rushing in off the street to see his performance. Ruin has taken a table with his back to the wall where he can watch the room, and there are plenty of humans here -- many of them soldiers in service to the King of Sol Povos. There is, however, one elf with very nice gear near the back; when the server comes by, his sleeve slips back and reveals the tattoo of a Solari.
Martini, meanwhile, has arranged to meet with the Earl of Renfall, Gustav LaCroix, and Azrael is wandering the streets and glowering at everybody who seems to be having a good time.
Geddy finished his first set -- not his best work, but well above the standards that Renfall is used to -- and takes a break to work the room a bit, chatting with people and picking up rumors. The first one that he hears is that Malafar is gone and Kaz Drachma is in charge -- which can't be right, because Kaz Drachma was the guy that we disintegrated when we blew up the portal-tent. He settles in to compare notes with Ruin, and the Solari motions them over.
Solari: "There was a gnome, a while back. One of the heroes of Fort Dedo. Rumor had it he died, and was brought back by the High Priest himself."
Geddy: "Oh, yeah. I heard about that."
Solari: "He was supposed to have disappeared after that. I guess you... went north." He says it like it's something filthy.
Ruin: "You should try it yourself."
The Solari looks disgusted. "I have some information. Things you'll want to know. Important things. But I need money."
Geddy: "We might be willing to pay, if it's worthwhile."
Solari: "I was in that battle. I was on the ships that invaded Boiler Bay, before our force was destroyed. And I know what was being carried on those ships."
Geddy: "Keep talking." He slides over half the money.
Solari: "A group of us sailed around the coast, to catch the Dark Army by surprise. We had three flagships, and numerous support ships. Farrakan the Fantastic commanded one ship, Mistwood the Monk another, and I was set beside the druid, Sorias Saltsoul. We expected to fight mages, so each ship carried a device -- devices that would prevent teleportation over a large area. Then a monster attacked from beneath the sea! It was a horrible crab-thing, and it tore into our boats. Its masters were worse. We call them the Solari-Hunters: a dwarven necromancer who could slay the living and raise the dead, a deadly spellcasting gnome, a vampire lord, and a human woman who was fury incarnate. Of the Solari on the ships, I alone escaped." (OOC: This is the ranger that Evil!Party failed to kill, and he's wrong: Farrakan the Fantastic did escape, but the ranger doesn't know it.)
The beast that destroyed their fleet was like nothing he'd ever seen. He saw it after the battle; it crawled into the sewer entrance and now rests beneath Wellfort. The Solari Hunters left shortly afterwards, as did Malafar, but the beast is still down there. The entrance to the sewers is sealed, and of course Wellfort is protected against anyone trying to teleport in.
So Geddy hands out some more of our money -- what remains after upgrading our equipment -- and the Solari tells us his second secret. The fleet encountered an Elvish flagship shortly after setting out, and overcame it and captured Grand Elder Kashara of the Wood Elves and her personal guard. She was taken from them when they were defeated, and she's now imprisoned in the castle; the Solari wrote to the High Provost about this some time back, but has not received a response.
Our business concluded, the elf finally gives his name: he is the ranger, Merrick. He plans to flee Renfall, and rethink his loyalties. Ruin suggests that he should "come north" himself (i.e. join the Duendewood elves), but Merrick says that as far as he can see, anyone who tries to stand against the Order of Secrets is going to lose. They part ways.
Martini, meanwhile, is dining with the Earl and attempting to convince him that we've come here to help defeat the forces of Vecna. Unfortunately, she is... not as appropriate as she could be. The Earl introduces her to his friend, the Grand Marshal Benedict of the Great Eastern Army. He commands 13,000 men, and also brings word from Lady Gizelle in the north that elves have retreated into their forest.
"Cowards," sniffs the Earl.
Martini has had just about enough of these two being asses, and uses her magic to cause the sound of falling plates and glasses outside the door. The Earl rises and goes to investigate, but the Marshall remains staring at Martini. She rises and takes the Marshal's arm, and steers him towards the door after the Earl. With her free hand, she drops a packet of mild poison -- diarrhea-inducing, rather than deadly -- into the Earl's drink.
"It seems the lady would like to take her leave," says the Marshal, as if this were all perfectly normal and nothing to do with them standing there being insulting. The Earl calls for servants to conduct her out, in a grand show of elegant propriety.
Martini manages to trick the servants into thinking she's gone out the front door while remaining behind in the hall, invisible. The servants depart, and she makes her way back to the dining room. She knocks on the door, then ghosts inside when a servant opens it to look out. Inside, she switches from invisibility to Greater Invisibility, and uses Deep Slumber to put the Earl to sleep. The Marshal stands and draws his sword: "Show yourself. Guards! Guards!"
Martini assassinates him.
She can hear the sounds of alarums and excursions outside, so she does a quick looting of the two men -- leaving the Earl asleep beside the Marshall's corpse. As a result, she doesn't get much; just a +2 amulet of natural armor, a +2 ring of protection, and the Marshal's +3 longsword. She departs by way of Dimension Door, and strolls off into town.
Azrael, meanwhile, has found nothing of interest to him. Everything is darkness and despair and life is meaningless and temporary, but none of these people are wise enough to realize it. With a profound sigh, he rejoins Geddy and Ruin at the bar, just a minute or so before Martini wanders in and hands him a ring, an amulet, and a longsword. Very much in his role as Martini's put-upon younger brother, he drops all three into the bag of holding.
Geddy, meanwhile, learns that some seven weeks ago the forces of Vecna slung a prisoner into a cage and lowered the cage by a chain to hang outside the wall. They've been keeping him alive, even going so far as to heal him when someone tried to put him out of his misery with an arrow from across the river. Most of what he hears confirms Merrick's account: the troops here believe that the Solari Hunters slew all ten Solari, and then departed the castle in a grand procession some days later.
The next morning, Martini and Ruin hear rumors that the Grand Marshal has been assassinated, and immediately start spreading rumors that the forces of Vecna must have done it. Ruin just assumes that's what actually happened.
Then we teleport across the river to treat with the Dark Army. We are greeted by Cassadia Kristian -- a Secret of Vecna -- and an ogre who introduces himself as King Charth. She greets us by our chosen names, so obviously they've been expecting us. She shows us around one corner of the castle; Kas Drachma is supposed to meet with us here, but of course we're looking at it in terms of opposing forces, tactics, and strategy.
The thing is, after Geddy's performance last night, we sat down to think things through, decide what we wanted to do here, and lay out some contingencies. And what we concluded was that, well, an alliance -- or even a non-aggression pact -- with the Order of Secrets really wasn't the best thing for our Duendewood kin. And also, we killed Kas Drachma once and if it didn't stick then we needed to do it again until it does. And also-also, holding Grand Elder Kashara prisoner and hanging her guards off the battlements is just not the sort of thing we can let slide. The King -- Mythrandril, not the human tyrant -- has given us a great deal of latitude to negotiate, and we intend to use that to scout this place out and negotiate the deaths of everyone inside.
Aside from the height and the stone walls, the defenses consist of several patrols of low-level mages, harpies all over the walls (eugh) and sturdier bodyguard types; there are also a couple of Hulking Corpses, of a sort this party hasn't encountered before.
Martini will do the actual negotiating; the rest of us are free to wander, but we've already talked this over and we know our roles. Cassadia Kristian also mentions that should we need to stay the night, Krony's rooms are open. It takes us no time at all to connect the dots and realize that this means that Sasha -- our paladin friend who's been possessed by the spirit of Vecna's old ally Krony -- is very likely the prisoner in the cage that's hanging from the curtain wall.
Geddy "decides" (we worked this out already) to go check out the dining hall while we negotiate the terms of the treaty, and Cassadia Kristian remains with him while King Charth leads us downstairs to where Kas Drachma awaits. There are two rooms off the corridor that leads us there: one with the ogres and a bunch of Girallons, and one full of various sorts of really nasty undead. The door at the end of the hall leads us into the negotiating room.
We've... been here before. There's a stone platform along one side, with stairs leading up to it; a shattered stone portal behind it... it's the room we reached when we went through the portal-tent to lure the forces of Vecna in before we shattered the extra-dimensional space that connected them. Ruined, now, and with Kas Drachma standing behind a table at the far end with a pair of guards behind him. "Here," says King Charth. "Master thought this would be a symbolic place to meet."
"Hope this place doesn't blow up again," he adds, in case we somehow missed the connection. "That's why Drachma's so ugly. Ha! Oh, and Krony won't be joining you." Drachma glares, and King Charth turns and leaves, muttering, "Shouldn't have said that..."
Drachma does not look good. His body looks half-formed, unfinished in a way that's probably painful. Azrael, looking him over, concludes that he'd cloned himself but the clone hadn't finished growing when he got disintegrated and had to transfer his consciousness to it.
Martini and Azrael seat themselves at the table, and Martini begins the discussion of terms with a monologue on Elvish history, the importance of tradition, and the need for proper recognition of Elvish lands. It's basically all irrelevant, but she pushes on with it to buy time for Geddy. Ruin, meanwhile, mounts the steps to look at the shattered gate.
Geddy, meanwhile, has settled in to entertain the troops. His performances is so magnificent that guards start shirking their duties and coming in off the walls so as not to miss it. While he has them distracted, Eva ducks out (by prior agreement) and resumes her dragon form long enough to do a flyby and see who's in the cage. She returns mostly unscathed, though the guards have definitely fired off some arrows at her. She also ate two of the harpies, and she isn't very happy about that; harpies taste horrible.
Once he has the party going, Geddy begs off for a momentary break and ducks outside to check with Eva. It's definitely Krony/Sasha in the cage. The few guards who have not joined the massive party/near orgy in the dining hall are still very alert -- the more so now that a dragon has been spotted nearby. There's also a woman in the tower. Geddy turns invisible and climbs up, using Martini's Slippers of Spider Climbing (again, prior arrangement). It's the wood elf elder; he tosses her a note. ("I know I'm a little short for a servant of Vecna. My name is Geddy. I'm here to rescue you.") Next, he heads over to Krony/Sasha, who's in bad shape, and drops some healing on him. They talk for a little bit. Sasha is relieved to hear that Malafar and the Solari Hunters are gone, but he has a request: if we're going to rescue him, he'll need some things from his room. His old things. (Presumably, his paladin things.) Also, Gorf has some letters and he desperately needs those backs.
Geddy heads back to the dining hall to keep the party going. When he's ready, he's going to Message Ruin with the signal, and the other three will either wrap up negotiations or (far, far more likely) kill everyone in the room and then work their way back up top.
Will our heroes triumph? Is Kas Drachma planning some horrible treachery? Is Cassadia Kristian as drunk as she looks? Find out in next week's exciting episode of Duendewood Unleashed!