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Pressing On... To Pyrrhic Victory...
The party chose to rest up, using another tiny but ritual just to get their bearings. Once they did, they pushed forward taking in the impressive cavern. Murals carved along the walls were clearly of dwarven design, but showed the dwarves in defeat. This is a rare find by any historian, as it means that the giant had kept dwarven artisans just to create a tapestry of their own failure and loss. Ngithol was able to make out the clan as Thunderhoof. They were prominent during her time, or place, or whatever she was from. It mattered little, but was interesting none the less.

As they continued on, they found the hall of dwarven armors. All of the kings and generals in the Thunderhooves clan stood here; a trophy room. Some were slowly becoming encased in ice, as if the magic in this cavern was broken somehow. Nissa recognized an animation spell when entering the hall and prepared party for assault. The suits not frozen to the bases walked off their mounts and began assault. It wasn't a nasty battle, but the animated suits did get a few licks in before being shut down permanently. Ngithol suited up one of the full plates that were mostly undamaged and the party forged ahead.

The next room was even more corrupted by the magical ice, creating a slick incline that hampered the party when assaulted by a group of Minotaur skeletons. The first leveled a direct goring charge at Ngithol, taking her to the ground for a moment. The others rallied behind Darius and Reckoning, as it is truly a sight to behold when a paladin wields a smiting hammer against a skeleton. There was little cause for concern when the powdered bones mixed with the melted ice from Nissa and Ngithols Firebolts. And on they walked....


The party eventually uncovered the cause of the magical interference. An ancient shrine to the Flaymaster was damaged and pulsing erratically, messing with the caverns magical auras and likely the cause of the undead. Unfortunately, there was more undead in here! From high up in the ceiling came two beholder zombies!! Eye rays launched and reflected off the ice, blasting the party in all angles. Darius flew up to meet them with his winged boots, while Ngithol tried to goad one down to her terms. All was going well with strong tactics and focused fire, when an erratic beam caught the dwarf in her shoulder. Disintegrate. In an instant Ngithol was gone. Nissa, Darius and Sorn redoubled efforts and barely survived. The rogue was then able to shut down the weird shrine, protecting them from any future magical issues. Darius gathered up the dust left behind of ngithol's passing, hoping the dwarves could maybe bring her back. He might even trade his mighty maul for his friend's life. But that was after they finished the mission. The end of the hall had two large vault doors locked and sealed tight. They found the treasury.

Sorn proved to be useful, again in getting them passed the locks. Once inside, they found a large cache of gold, gems, silver and copper coins, along with potions and scrolls, and in the center of the room on a dais rested Kargi-Mourn. Decorating the room were beautiful tapestries adorned with fire snakes. Each worth a sizable amount of money, but also hiding a nasty secret. Before Darius could reach for the sword, the snakes came to life and leapt from the tapestries. Most were simple flame snakes, but two were much more dangerous: Nagas! One guardian and one bone naga, all working together to protect the dungeon for all time. In an instant, lightning shot from one naga, hitting Nissa and Sorn and killing Beshenen outright. Sorn fell next, but was brought back up with a goodberry, while Nissa and Darius finished off the bone naga. Darius then suffered a nasty hit and was dropped, forcing Nissa to also bring Darius up with her last berry. That was just enough, as he was able to finish off the last naga while Nissa destroyed the tapestries and stopped more from emerging. She fell from a snakebite but Darius was able to stabilize the wizard after attending to Sorn. Beshenen was already lost to them.

The party gathered the treasure and the sword and took their fallen comrade's body out to be buried as is his people's custom. They made a simple rock grave and burned Desarkis' body, though Darius did grab a finger bone with intent to see about his squires resurrection as well. Unfortunately, they had nearly 100 miles to cross in less than ten days, and their guide was dead. It was not going to be easy....
Session: Game Session 42 - Sunday, Nov 29 2015 from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Into the Storm Giant's Stead
The frost giants wasted no time and engaged the thieves with reckless abandon. In mere moments, only Barden the wizard, Sorn the mastermind and Steward the halfling remained of the ten that set out from Shyta-Thybaj. Then a shout came from the hill, and an ethereal greatsword appeared to slice at the leg of one of the giants. Magic missiles and firebolts launched from the wands and hands of Nissa and Ngithol, respectively. Darius led the charge down the hill, absorbing the trees being flung at him thanks to Desarkis' warding bond placed upon him.

The battle was fairly one-sided from that point. Sorn moved to flank with Darius, and Ngithol distracted another while the giants quickly lost both ground and the advantage of numbers. When the last fell, Beshenen's bow pointed at Steward, ordering a lowering of weapons. Steward responded by firing a poisoned bolt at the cleric. The wizard, Barden, put a holding spell upon Darius and shouted for everyone to calm down. Unfortunately, he placed the spell on the wrong warrior. Ngithol sprung forth and blasted the wizard and thief with burning hands, finishing off the halfling and badly wounding the wizard. Nissa then dropped a sleep spell on him, ending the hold on Darius.

When the wizard woke, he was both shaken with fear and in a rage at seeing the smoldering corpse of his best friend. When confronted by Darius, Barden's words were a mixture of vile and anger toward the paladin. Whether he was trying to goad Darius into striking, or if it was the last act of a man fearing death, no one can be sure. Darius was drawn into the argument, for sure. His own temper got the best of him, but he restrained himself from striking the wizard, though his sentiment to leave him freezing in the cold seemed to visibly bother his charge, Desarkis.

Choosing to ignore the wizard for the time being, the party moved to inspect the giant iron doors fitted snugly in the glacier. Ngithol was at a loss, not able to read giantish, or figure out any way to open the door. Nissa cast comprehend languages and could discern much of the giantish language, though the sigils only made words and none were in any intelligible order. She did, however, locate the sigils that would mean "open" in giantish, so they tried that. The doors made a heavy clanking sound, then turned a bright blue before blasting the party with an icy cone of cold spell. After a bit of healing from Beshenen, they reexamined the door. Sorn, the thief, tried to slip away, but his movement was halted when Darius stepped on his cloak. Through a misunderstanding, Desarkis, still feeling some of the effects of his barbaric rage, stepped in between the thief and has master, Darius. If the thief was to be forced to sit and take another blast of that magic, then Desarkis would have to stand up and say no. Darius, still angry from dealing with the wizard, was having a hard time seeing why his squire was stepping up to him, and ordered him out of the way. Thankfully, Ngithol, rarely the voice of concern, was able to recognize the misheard argument, and calmed all down. Darius said he, alone, would stand and work on the door, to reduce the damage taken by others. Nissa was fairly sure she had figured out the door, reading a phrase of "ride the lightning" - which made sense, as storm giants were fond of lightning, though she wasn't entirely sure what that meant, in context. Barden, the wizard, laughed, and offered up assistance to opening the door if they let him and Sorn go. Reluctantly, they agreed, and the wizard grabbed some of the remaining gear and made for the hills. Once he was clear of their sight, Barden sent a sending spell with the instructions that ride the lightning meant to open the door with lightning.

Before Nissa could speak, Ngithol launched her lightning javelin at the door, precisely where Darius was standing. The Paladin suffered both cold and lightning damage, as the trap had reset, but the door did open this time, allowing all to enter. Sorn decided to stick around, thinking he might be able to score a bit of the treasure. It wasn't like he'd be free to head back to Fingers' gang, anyway.

Inside the glacier was a perfectly carved out hall, complete with giant stone columns to hold the ceiling. Crossing the threshold the party quickly spotted some figures standing up as Darius' Reckoning shone bright blue in the cave, reflecting off the walls and providing ample light for all to see the ghouls rise. They moved to strike, but were stopped by Beshenen and Desarkis' attacks. The ghouls were merely a minor annoyance, however, compared to the terrible surprise assault from the wraiths in the walls! They very nearly killed Nissa and Darius, though both were able to survive, thanks to the quick thinking of Beshenen and Darius with their healing abilities. Unfortunately, Desarkis had sustained too many injuries in the fight with the giants, as well as having taken damage from the warding bond he'd placed upon Darius. The half-orc fell from the necrotic draining damage of the wraith's strikes. When the last wraith fell, Darius rushed to his squire's side, hoping to heal him, but it was clear the orc was too far gone. He looked up at his master and simply said, "I learned much by your lead...you...are not a bad man." With that, the half-orc gave his last breath.

The others were tired, but they had to press on. It was unbelievably cold inside the glacier, making it unlikely they'd be able to rest well in here. No, they needed to get the sword and get out, hopefully before the sun fell.
Session: Game Session 40 - Friday, Nov 06 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Trailing through the Pass
Owl calmly woke the party inside the magical hut to warn hem of company. A group of orogs had entered into their campsite and we're moving to the hut. Ngithol and Darius began suiting up, knowing the orogs couldn't enter the hut. Unfortunately, the lead orog was wise to the magic and ordered his men to cut down the horses and mule when the party didn't immediately exit. That move got the group jumping faster with Owl and Beshenen momentarily stepping outbid the hut to launch some arrows at their assailants. That bought Ngithol and Darius enough time and they exploded from Nissa's magical barrier and the battle was joined.

The dwarf's blade barrier protected her from the majority of blows as the orogs swarmed her first. The leader then moved in to quarrel with both the paladin and eldritch knight. He proved to be more than a match for the two, with Ngithol taking some severe blows before the orog drew a topaz encrusted javelin from his back and spun to throw past Darius and Ngithol to target Desarkis. However, he shouted "incinerate" in orcish, causing the javelin to transform into a lightning bolt, striking all three with a blast of magical energy. Ngithol resisted, thanks to Plumphelmet, the pseudodragon hiding on her shoulder. Unfortunately, the next barrage of attacks would become more costly. Ngithol was momentarily dropped, along with Owl, followed by Nissa.l. Darius and Desksrkis kept fighting while Beshenen worked to bring the others up with healing magic. Slowly, the tide turned, especially when Nissa unloaded a barrage of magic missiles, ending the orog leader's life. Within moments of his fall, the others rallied to finish off the remaining orogs.

It was a stressful way to wake up, not to mention costly. They were now left without any mounts to carry gear, so Owl stashed what they couldn't carry behind some rocks and they pressed on to catch up with fingers' men. Beshenen and Owl found the campsite, but were unable to track the bandits any further. They were obviously using some camouflaging magic, though it would be of little use. The party knew where the giant's stead was. They would meet up soon enough. As such, Beshenen lead the party through a safer route up the pass; one they couldn't have taken on horseback and would help them make up time.

Along the way, they were encountered by three druids, one of which seemed to know Nissa. They explained that Jynko, the female druid, also had the gift of visions and had the same dreams as the gnome wizard. They were seeking Parn to help free the totemic spirits. Nissa was worried after speaking with the druids that she may have misinterpreted the dream, but was still convinced that a trek to Reanaaria was necessary to save the young woman's life. The three shared information and a few potions to help their new friends and continued on their way.

Later that day, as the party continued to climb through the pass, Ngithol heard a cry for help in dwarvish. Looking down a slippery snow covered slope was a dwarf desperately trying to move a broken cart. Not sixty feet away was an iron covered gorgon, snorting and pawing at the ground, preparing to charge. The archers loosed arrows while Desarkis blasted the creature with magic. Ngithol attempted to charge down the slope but lost her footing and crashed to the lower pass, barely able to stand from the tumble. That alerted the gorgon and it charged at the dwarf. Nissa's magic caused the creature to miss the goring charge, but it was able to trample Ngithol into unconsciousness. It then turned attention to the ranged assailants and launched its noxious breath up the hill. Beshenen suffered the worst, slowly turning to stone, while Desarkis was affected but was able to break free after being restrained. Darius took to the skies to charge the monstrosity as Ngithol was getting up. She drew forth the javelin taken from the orog and shouted "incinerate!" Unfortunately, her throw went high and the Lightning bolt struck the side of the mountain instead of the gorgon. A thunderous explosion, followed by an avalanche of snow and ice tumbled down the mountain covering the party, gorgon and dwarf. Darius was missed due to flying in the air, and Ngithol barely outran the snow. The others weren't so lucky. Nissa was the first to dig herself free, only to find she was in the direct path of the gorgon. It charged forth knocking her out, only to immediately fall from Ngithol's firebolts. The conscious members then set to rescuing their friends. It took a while, but everyone was located, even the stone form of Beshenen. And what luck, but one of the potions provided by the druids restored the sure shot back to flesh! The dwarf, named Rougan, thanked the party and told them he would be happy to make restitution for saving his life if they make their way to Karasta-nu. The party gave him some supplies and continued on their way.

Upward, further into the pass the party journeyed. Eventually coming into a valley blocked by an old glacier. The sounds of battle and screaming could be heard as the party saw fingers' men running from three frost giants!! Just beyond the giants could be seen a massive iron door inside the glacier... The storm giant's stead, at last!
Session: Game Session 39 - Friday, Oct 02 2015 from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM
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Gotta Pay the Troll Toll
While preparing to leave that morning, Beshenen gathered up some arrows from the fletcher and noticed something peculiar. He brought his findings to Darius, "As you know, I have a good eye for detail. The arrowhead Nisa found, there's no way it came from a gnoll." The cleric continued, "the distinct pattern of the grooving makes it stand out and, compared to these I got this morning, I am certain they were made by same master fletcher." Darius' suspicions were heightened. He wanted to confront and deal with Bendle for this treachery, but Ngithol stayed his hammer, "We cannot be certain the arrows weren't traded for at some point, and we do have a more pressing concern about not losing the sword were chasing after. It is possible we were duped, but then it is our own fault for being so easily fooled." Reluctantly, the paladin agreed and the party made haste to move on from Ryrej and try to make haste to the storm giant's stead.

A few hours along the pass and they were ambushed by some cold, starving trolls!

Three of the sickening giants surrounded the party and went to work, slashing, biting and gnashing at anything remotely edible. It was all the party could do to just stay in the fight! Darius and Desarkis focused as much as they could on the leader, while Ngithol did her part in keeping fire on the creature, ensuring it could not regenerate. Beshenen did what he could to keep everyone upright and fighting despite Owl's insistence on being repeatedly knocked unconscious. Unfortunately, it was not all fun and games, as Jhera was crushed under the claws and teeth of one troll. Things were beginning to look bleak. Owl was down. Desarkis took a vicious blow and faltered. Ngithol was caught and ripped from her horse and smashed into the ground. Beshenen moved to provide aid as the trolls surrounded Darius. The paladin screamed "Aid them!!" And radiant healing burst in flashes of light, healing his comrades and charging up his will. Moments later he held up Reckoning as his eyes begun to glow; even the faintest outline of angelic wings could almost be seen forming when a cacophonous boom leveled one troll. It would never move again. The paladin was growing weak, however. He had done a rare thing, nearly exhausting his holy power, instead having to rely on brute strength to finish off the remaining troll. But he would not be alone. Owl took another blow, but not before healing Darius some, and Desarkis leapt from out of nowhere to deliver a killing blow to the giant.

It was a hard earned victory. One that the party felt earned them a bit of a rest. So they took their time reloading the horses while Ngithol burned the ever living hell out of the troll corpses. Before they could continue on, however, a familiar gust of wind nearly knocked them over. Darius shuddered and dove for cover, "Dragon!" He shouted as a shiny, large copper dragon landed in their way. "I should think so. For I am a dragon!" "Boo." The "boo" actually did scare Owl, who slipped in the snow and fell down. The dragon chuckled a bit before resuming his fearsome pose, "you are trespassing in my domain. I was thinking about killing you, but then you went and killed these blasted trolls that have been irksome for a while. I was going to do it mhself, but they kept hiding. So I may be inclined to give you a pass. IF you can tell me a joke". Owl looked up and said, "I helped kill the trolls". That brought laughter from about everyone, seeing as Owl spent more time picking himself up off the ground than he did fighting. And since the dragon, who identified himself as Modierken, saw the whole thing, he was inclined to find that as funny as the rest. "You chaps are alright. I'll let you pass on your way. Be careful as there are more dangers ahead. I believe some wyverns have been feasting on travelers of late. Keep your eyes upward while traveling." The party exchanged a bit more information on their intent to find the storm giants stead, and the other humanoids searching for it. The dragon didn't share much, but did confirm that they were on the right trail and close to catching up with them.

With Modierken gone, Darius finally felt he could exhale. The last time they faced a dragon, he lost two very good friends. And sages can wax philosophically all they want about metallics being good.. In the end, they're still fearsome and dangerous creatures. In fairness to Modierken, his tip on the wyverns was good, as not but two hours later Owl spotted two of them flying in for a chase. The party rode on until they saw there was little along the pass to hide in or around, so Owl and Beshenen began firing arrows while Ngithol lobbed firebolts. Darius told Desarkis to focus on protecting the party and grabbed Reckoning. As soon as the wyverns came into range, the paladin whistled and his boots grew wings and flung him fast into the air. He collided with one wyvern and began what some bards may call a strange mating dance. Those bards are perverts. Instead, the paladin dealt crushing blows to the dragon, and it returned in kind with claw and poison from its stinger. The second swooped in to help its kin, causing a bit of damage before turning to focus on Ngithol. Darius crushed the first one's head with a severe blow from Reckoning, while the other took down Owl and Ngithol with nasty strikes. Desarkis and Beshenen worked to get their friends conscious as the wyvern shifted focus to the flying paladin. One well-placed stinger in the back and Darius was floating ever so gently to the ground. Were he awake, he would have thanked Deb'fo for the treasure that was winged boots.

The half Orc rushed to his master's side, healing Darius just as Ngithol took ankther sickening flurry of blows. However, she returned much in damage, weakening it enough that Darius and Desarkis were able to finish off the dragon. "What a horrible day", Beshenen bemused, but Darius was almost all smiles. It's not every day you get to pay the troll toll and fight wyverns while airborne.

After Nissa set up camp, Beshenen and Owl scouted the area. They came back with great news! They spotted a campfire not too far ahead. It was likely Fingers' men, meaning they could easily overtake them tomorrow if they pressed the advantage. Ngithol spit out a bit more bile from the poison, "let's talk about that in the morning. Tonight I just don't want to die anymore." Darius agreed and the group slipped into the tiny hut for some much needed rest.
Session: Game Session 38 - Friday, Sep 25 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Into the Mountains
The party made good time in getting to Ekof, narrowly avoiding a particularly nasty blizzard that picked up coming off the mountains. They settled in for the night at Ekof commons, the only tavern and inn that caters to travelers coming and going. Their night was not uneventful, however, as a halfling merchant named Bendle and his guide, Ebert approached them with a job.

Bendle recently came into a deal with some nearby gnolls for a large amount of furs. The gnolls, either being too stupid to know the worth, or unable to sell them anywhere else, were offering up a massive trade for a ridiculously low price. Too good for the merchant to pass up. However, Bendle was not a stupid man, and knew better than to enter into a deal with gnolls without good backup. Having heard about Darius and the party's recent exploits, he figured a ten percent cut of the furs would be a reasonable share for watching the halfling's back during the trade. He wasn't expecting trouble, but gnolls have historically enjoyed halfling flesh.

The party agreed and all set out in the morning toward the meeting place. The snow had barely let up from that night before, greatly slowing their travel and ability to see. It was unfortunate, then, that Owl was off tracking the southern slope when they were ambushed by a small group of winter wolves!



The wolves moved in concert and attacked from all sides at once. Darius and Jhera took on the leader while Nissa, Bendle and Ebert held off another. Ngithol led Desarkis and Beshenel toward the third. It was a fairly nasty battle, and one that decidedly favored the wolves in their preferred climate. But home field advantage isn't always enough and while Darius took enough damage to fall, his mighty warhorse was more than enough to finish off the alpha. Meanwhile, Nissa and Bendle finished off the second, and between Desarkis' axe and Ngithol's fire, the final wolf was put down. Before they could enjoy the victory the party needed shelter from the continuing flurry of snow. Nissa opened up a mystical hut using her magic while Desarkis pulled the unconscious Beshenel and Darius inside. They moved to help Ebert, Bendel's guide, but found him frozen from the winter wolf's breath. A silent prayer was given, and the party slipped inside the hut for protection from the elements.

Once they had sufficiently rested and recovered the party set out again to meet with the gnolls. The weather had lessened and was now mostly clear skies with just the slightest breeze. Approaching the small valley where the gnolls were located, Darius was suspect. The gnoll pack leader stood out in the open with four armed warriors and a rather large pack of furs. Bendle and Darius moved down first, with the others keeping an eye out for danger. The gnolls were suspect of a non-halfling arriving to make the trade, but barked out his offer and Bendle agreed, showing the large pile of coin to trade. Just then, an arrow fluttered out from behind the visible gnolls and would have struck Nissa square in the chest were it not for her otherwise invisible mage armor. The arrow shattered off into the snow and the party quickly responded to the ruse, following Bendle into the fray. The fight was over so quick. What looked to be a serious skirmish was rendered moot when Nissa cast shatter upon the packlord and his guards. All three dropped instantly, their gear, eyes and brain matter exploding from the thunderous blast. The remaining gnolls tried to escape, but Jhera trampled one down while the other was caught by the arrival of a halfling scout, Emitt. He was wary of the deal that Bendle and his brother, Ebert had gotten into and came to survey the situation. A good thing, too, as the last gnoll may have gotten away were it not for his well-timed arrows.

Something didn't sit right with Nissa or Darius in how this all played out, however. They could locate gnoll tracks all about the place, but were unable to find the assumed shooter or his precise location. Nissa did locate a piece of the arrowhead that missed her, and it did appear to match up to the arrows used by the other two gnolls they did manage to drop. The whole situation was not without disappointment, however, as Emitt lamented the loss of his brother by the wolves, and regretted not being with his brother to help save him. The party spent the next few hours loading up the furs and checking the gap for any more gnolls. Bendle offered up the reward to the party in coin, seeing how he didn't end up having to spend it on the furs, which was a welcome offer, as it kept weight off the party's mounts and ensured the party didn't have to get the fur anywhere for trade and such. Besides, 1,800 dothok (gp) was a solid payday.

They arrived in Ryrej just before dusk and settled in the comfy calf for a nice warm stew and sleep for the night...
Session: Game Session 37 - Friday, Sep 11 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Nissa's Shopping Trip
After deciphering her dream as best she could, Nissa realized that it was still very early; the sun hadn't yet begun to rise and the dark sky outside her room's window was only just starting to lighten. She decided to head off to the tower of the Black Cloaks immediately. She really didn't want to get bogged down answering endless questions from the town guard about the previous night's events, and she had some time-sensitive information that the Black Cloaks might find valuable. She knew that enough wizards kept odd hours that she would likely find someone awake at the tower.

On her way out of the room she rememberd that she had intended to cast Alarm around the party's rooms the night before, in case some of Finger's men decided to get their revenge in the middle of the night, but had forgotten to due to sheer exhaustion. She didn't have time to cast it now, and it seemed unlikely that anything would happen to her companions before she returned.

Nissa woke up the stable boy and had him saddle Rosie. As she rode out to the tower she made a mental list of the spells she thought would come in handy for the coming trip that she would be able to afford to buy the scrolls of. Find Familiar, Feather Fall, and Spider Climb. She also wanted to obtain a couple more divination spells, Detect Thoughts and See Invisibility, if possible. Nissa wasn't sure what the going rate for those spells was locally, but she thought she had enough coin in her currently fat purse to cover them. She also calculated the cost of the materials and special inks it would take to copy them and the remaining spells from Tamarin's spellbook into her own book: 600 gold pieces.

Nissa arrived at the tower and used the knockers to bang on the door. She awaited a response from within as the sun began to rise over the mountains to the east.
Session: Game Session 35 - Friday, Aug 14 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Session 36 - Swift Retribution
Darius' discussion with Zak'Hara went better than he had hoped. The paladin expected to be criticized and possibly punished for his actions, when in fact the guardian was happy with the young Kalamaran's successes. "While your methods were suspect, your bravery and actions have likely saved Fabara's life and dealt a considerable blow to the lowlife, Fingers', business in the city. Plus, it was good to remind the city watch that their corruption has not gone unnoticed and that the swift sword is ever vigilant. Good job."

They discussed a bit further before Darius took his leave and met with the party back in the inn. There, Knut surprised them with the unconscious Ashenil and Captain Veshnyr. The captain explained he had nothing that he could hold the half-dragon for, but in light of their recent dealings, he would grant them some I observed interrogation time. Ashenil, once awake, was at least cooperative. He had no interest in dying or being arrested, and held no allegiance to Fingers. As such, the half-dragon spilled on directions to find the Storm Giant's Stead and Kargi-Mourn. It was enough information that Darius agreed to let Ashenil leave and spared his life. Owl was against it, and none were too happy with the idea that someone who they now knew to be working with Novei would get a free pass, but even Ashenil seemed to be forced into service to the warlord. So the half-dragon gathered his gear and left into the night.

Shortly before dawn both Darius and Knut were rudely awoke with a poisoned blade to the guts. Two dark elf assassins seeking retribution for their priest made attempt on the party. Unfortunately, they were outclassed by the party, once the heroes gathered their senses. Desarkis successfully slew the one, and the other was forced to make a hasty escape as Ngithol and Beshenen kept the foe from finishing off Knut. The Fhokki fought well, but the poison proved to be too much to keep upright. Aside from a few cuts and bruises, however, the party suffered little. They had no real way to track the assassin , so they instead chose to grab their gear and get out of the city early, hoping to catch up to Finger's men before they reached the giant's stead. They were two days behind, but they had Owl and Beshenen to guide them. It's possible they could find a quicker route.

So off they were to Ekof and then on to Ryrej. With any luck the weather would hold and the party could make good travel time...
Session: Game Session 36 - Friday, Aug 21 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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A new perspective.
Ngithol sat quietly in her chair at the inn, looking at what she believed to be a perfect picture of unfettered joy. The pseudo-dragon that had been found in the... dungeon they'd left had been provided an apple pastry upon their return to the inn. It seemed to be both eating and playing in the confection in equal measures. A smile fleetingly crossed her face as the creature finished its merriment and sought out a place on her left shoulder. It seemed only moments before the creature had secured itself and started to doze.

The day and its events seemed to finally catch up to Ngithol as fatigue suddenly rushed into her. Sighing, she stood up to take care of one issue before she could rest. A quick word with the inn-keep allowed her to procure some fresh cloth, a small bucket of water and a relatively quiet spot in the back of the inn to work.

She drew her cloak off and looked closely into the reflection on the water and grimaced at her ruined eye. She knew it had been bad, but seeing the wound seemed to bring some kind of finality to it. The healing she'd received thus far seemed to have closed the wound, no pain came from it. But still it needed to be cleaned.

By the time she was done the night seemed to be coming to a close. She went to lay down in the bed that had been available to her and felt the dragon readjust itself to now sleep on her chest, between her and her cloak. She was not sure why it had so attached itself to her. However as sleep slowly started to take her over, she felt glad for it having done so.
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Epic!
Familiar steps
Zak'Hara walked with his remaining acolytes back to the temple, and Darius followed behind, breaking off from the rest of his companions again to return to the church. He understood his place in the marching order, spoken or not. Desarkis trudged beside him, looking up occasionally to try to read the Protector's face, but Darius's mind was thousands of leagues away, thoughts rustled by the wind of winters past. He remembered a similar march, a similar feeling of dissatisfaction; his first searching, his first attempt to go out into the greater world and shine forth the light of Deb'fo.

It was a Guardian then as well, Sandemis, his master at arms who had overseen his martial guidance, who marched at the head of that column that had returned Darius to the church grounds. He limped behind them as best as he could, but even his injury seemed to frustrate his mentor, who grimaced when he saw Darius lagging behind the back of the file. "One of you go carry our wayward hero so that we may make it back before sunset," Sandemis said. It cut like a knife, worse than the pounding pain Darius felt in his knees and back, where he had been beaten. He attempted to shrug off the attendant who had come back to assist him, but lost his balance in the process and crumpled to the dirt of the walkway. Sandemis sighed aloud, and dispatched another acolyte to help pick the paladin off of the road, his face a sneer that would haunt Darius for a span of time longer than he thought it capable of.

Darius knew his instructor had always been the type to take his pupils' failings personally. He had denied Darius food and drink for 3 days after Darius had mistakenly left his weapon in the training yard at the end of a long day of sparring. Another acolyte had been shackled for days at a time for returning late from his duties out in the city. This time, it seemed worse. The paladin limped along with the help of two acolytes, and even then every step was agony and fire. His knees were swollen beyond recognition, his back a bloody stain of flesh and cloth. By the time they reached the temple doors, Darius was muttering incoherently, and the one eye that wasn't swollen completely shut was seeing double. Sandemis took one last look at him and pointed blithely in the direction of the healing houses. He did look back a moment later, but just to utter, "make sure he stays with the transients and the beggars. He has lost his rights to be treated alongside our honored."

When he came to his senses a week later, Darius felt like he was waking from a nightmare. He looked around and found that he was in the hallowed infirmary, not the transient quarters. Perhaps he had simply misheard Sandemis when he said his last? His whole body ached, and one of the nearby clerics came to his side and urged him to return to his resting. Reluctantly, he layed his head back down. As he closed his eyes, he heard a voice saying "Master Darius.. Master.. Master!"

He jolted mid step, and realized that he was still walking in the column.. no.. a different column. His mind readjusted to his surroundings as Darius rubbed the bridge of his nose between his index finger and his thumb. "Another blasted daydream.." Desarkis looked at him again, saying "Master? Is everything alright?" Darius eyed him coldly, and then blinked again. "Yes Desarkis, I am fine. Let me have some peace with my thoughts. And for the last time, stop calling me 'Master.' I am your mentor, no more." Desarkis grunted to himself, not completely convinced.

As they neared the temple grounds, Darius wondered if he had caused more harm than good. He felt he had done as he Deb'fo would have had him do, and hoped that they had spared the Adjucator's life, but he could not shake the feeling that he had still managed to bring dishonor upon the temple. And.. despite it all, he did want to try to show Desarkis how to be a true follower of the Knight of the Gods.

The temple doors opened ahead of them, and Zak'Hara stepped through, accompanied by what remained of his party. Darius hesitated for a moment, then gritted his teeth and followed, steeling himself for what was to come.
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Nissa's Vision
The same cloud covers the land, this time grasping at animals that bite and strike back: Bear, hawk, pigeon, and a wolverine... Each of the four lash out and fight but are subjugated and forced to cower and shrink into the shadows - the animals form a circle and attempt to defend, but they're bound by this cloud.

The wolverine continues to strike, but falls short, while the pigeon fails to escape on the winds. The bear stands firm, but is knocked deeper and deeper away. The hawk soars high and waits patiently - eyes focused on a single rose in the field. None of the animals can reach the rose, however. Each tries alone, but they can't seem to get near the flower because of the mass of shadowy thorns that continue to intercept them.

The bear then howls and charges through the thorns, opening a path for the others before falling. The pigeon dives with the hawk to help guide the wolverine through the pathway. The great wolverine then crushes the flower in his massive jaws, causing the clouds to burst with cleansing rain. The shadow thorns roll backward and recede into the ground...
Session: Game Session 35 - Friday, Aug 14 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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The Moderately Successful Escape!
The vampires made good on their word and exited the room, leaving the party to figure out how to bypass a black pudding guard. Bribery in gold might work on a lesser vampire, but not so with an amorphous ooze. However, there was a partially dissected body in the necromancer's study... They did see the guards used hacked up meat to pacify the ooze when they first crossed the room. Darius quickly nabbed the body to fling down the hallway and learned the room did, in fact, have one other surprise. Two of the skulls on the wall were flameskull sentries, protecting the necromancer's work. They flickered alive and sent fireballs spewing at the party. Ill-equipped to deal with this threat, the party chose instead to run past the pudding and barricade the doors as best they could. With the largest explosive spells exhausted, the skulls would not likely be able to take down doors meant to hold back a pudding. For once, they were absolutely correct. They made their way back to the elemental guardian room and hold up there for a moment to decide what to do next. That's when they heard hell break loose upstairs.

Guardian Zak'Hara, ten servants of the swift sword and a very agitated Nissa Timbers approached the bath house and demanded entrance into Finger's den. His men were discussing with a number of city watchmen when they were interrupted and it was only moments before the lesser capo realized Zak'Hara was not interested in conversating. The servants drew their swords and battle was joined. Nissa blew a number back with a thunderous wave, while the others battled hard against an ever-growing number of thieves. The city watch threw in with the guild, seeing as technically it was an unprovoked attack by the Halls of the Valliant's guardian. Zak'Hara shouted at Nissa to go down and find her friends while they dealt with the mess upstairs. The little gnome wasted no time darting down into the den, hoping she wasn't too late. She quickly blasted a guard with a firebolt and rushed around the corner to where she heard sounds of a battle.

During the assault upstairs, the party crept upon the thieves that had previously beaten them down. They were without the half-dragon leader, but much of their gear was laid about the tables. In fact, everything but Fraerhaem, Knut's magical blade, was present. One of the thieves mentioned Ashenil, the half-dragon, had chose the blade as his trophy. Without Ashenil, the thieves were woefully under-powered against a surprise assault and the party made short work of the thieves. Only Darius took any meaningful hits, staggering the paladin momentarily, but even he stood victorious at the end. They barricaded doors and quickly dashed to put on armor and recover their gold when a hobgoblin drunkenly stumbled into the room. He rambled on in goblin, but no one was entirely sure what he was talking about. Nissa, who'd shown up too late assumed maybe the goblin wanted more alcohol, so she pointed him toward the bar and handed a few bottles to the warrior. He smiled a toothy smile and stumbled back down the hall shouting to a number of other hobgoblins. The party did some quick interrogation to see if they could find Fingers, but realized they should be getting out of the guild-hall when it was confirmed that a veiled priest also made home here. They weren't in the proper condition to handle one of his kind.

As they made their exit the party came face to face with a bloodied, but victorious, Zak'Hara. He was overjoyed to see Darius and the party alive and well, but when Nissa let it slip that there was a veiled priest present he opted to stay and cleanse the desecrated place. Darius wouldn't leave his church's side, so the party turned to fight. Luckily for them, the priest was already on their tail and summoned forth his wraith and spectre servitors to take down the group.

It was a fairly nasty battle. One of the two acolytes in Zak'Hara's charge fell to a spectre, and Darius' wounds tore open hard in contest with the guardian spirits of the priest. He would survive, however, as the party unleashed hell upon the veiled one, providing an opening for Zak'Hara's greatsword to cleave the head from the serpent's body. They drug the lifeless corpse and thief prisoner out to show Captain Veshenr what was going on beneath the bath house. It was enough that the captain was seeking a stay of execution on Fabara, and he opted to turn his head and allow the party to get back to the inn without further complication.

Knut was clearly preoccupied, likely angry at the insult of losing Fraerhaem to the half-breed creature. The thief seemed to know something about where the half-dragon was going when overheard talking to Captain Veshenr...
Session: Game Session 35 - Friday, Aug 14 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Who saw it coming?
Ngithol hurt. What was to have been a direct ambush on a group of thugs had gone so wrong. The initial push into the room was stifled by Darius's zealous nature. After eliminating or capturing all of those in the first room they moved on into a trap Ngithol won't soon forget.

Who could have seen Air Elementals coming? Ngithol didn't need a doctor to know the blow she took when she was thrown into the wall had been physically traumatic. Suddenly being half blind was sufficient proof.

The next room containing almost a full squad of readied thugs was the final straw that broke their ability to push. A half dragon 'thing' and more bolts than she could count laid half their group low and prevented any retreat, leading to their capture.

------------------------------------------------

Ngithol had to prevent from laughing a little as herself and Darius made short work of their prison cell. They had been formidable fighters, apparently not used to prisoners that were... capable? Ngithol looked at the vampires that stood in the room and sighed inwardly at Darius's reaction. She understood it, purging the undead creatures with fire was her own home's reaction to such beings. Discretion was needed now though, more than anything else.

She distracted herself by focusing on the weight of the psuedo-dragon that had perched itself on her shoulder. She had heard stories of similar animals being taken as pets in other dwarven holds in her world. Whole flights of the creatures trained to fight en masse in defense of their fortress home! For now though, she took reassurance in the minor form of companionship it showed, as well as the solace in the hope that it would be hard for anything to sneak up on her left side with it perched there.
Session: Session 34 - Friday, Jul 31 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Shackled and unshackled.
A sore jaw, singed eyebrows, and a lack of armament was all Darius had to show for their latest encounter. That and the knowledge that a paladin of his order was involved with vampires. The Protector rubbed his temples and muttered to himself that he would find this "Navadaal" and set him back on the Valiant path. In the meantime, he would need to focus.

After coming to his senses in the jail cell, Darius was grieved to learn that the party had failed yet again. Nissa was missing, and they had been beaten by mere henchmen! They had not even seen Fingers, let alone captured him or deposed him from his seat of power. The stain on Darius's honor was too much to bear, and even the berating comments of Erdan were borne without so much as a verbal parry. The string of shortcomings were beginning to crush the normally upbeat paladin. Atleast he had not been forced to see them be subjugated by whatever it had been that had knocked him to his knees, but merely found himself in the state that they were currently in. And now..

As Owl, Ngithol and Knut bargained with the vampires, Darius stood off to the side with Desarkis, chastised for his zeal by his companions. "Sometimes, valor involves a lack of force, Desarkis. I would not recommend becoming too familiar with it though." Desarkis grunted in approval, eyeing the vampires with a similar light in his eyes as Darius did. However, he did not make any further attempts to broach hostilities with the filth. He did make a mental note of their characteristics, in the hope of being able to track them down some day..

Another sharp comment from Owl jerked Darius back to his senses. It was time to choose a path to proceed down. Darius did not like the idea of the garbage chute, and he did not want to risk the chance of leaving Nissa behind, so he had already made up his mind on heading back into the maze of chambers beneath the bath house. He would listen to his comrades first, for suggestions on how to proceed.

Looking over at Desarkis, Darius whispered softly, "Do you feel you've been set on the right path for your Searching?" Desarkis smiled toothily and nodded his head in agreement. If nothing else, the half-orc was a good cheerful sort himself, something Darius felt was direly needed in this current situation. Darius looked up and down at his comrades, preparing to disembark.

"Let's end this, one way or another," muttered the paladin, as he awaited their opinions.
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Finger Hut
The party wasted no time getting to Nurian's Bath-House. A quick intimidate and a sleep spell put the guards down and the group prepared to enter the sub-level where Elnettle claimed the guild house was located.

They were quickly met with opposition as a group of thieves were in handing over their scores to the pit-boss. Darius threw back his cloak and ordered them to surrender or die. They chose poorly and the fight went as expected, with only Owl and Knut suffering any serious wounds. Before too long, the surviving thugs offered surrender and were let escape with their lives, provided they knew better than to return.

Unfortunately, one thug ran the other way, likely raising alert to their presence and not giving anyone time to rest. When the party gave chase they ran into a surprise trap, instead. Two air elementals were bound to the room and assaulted anyone who did not know the password.



Since the party didn't hear what the thug had shouted, they were in for a bruising. Ngithol was flung hard into the wall, crushing her left eye and knocking the dwarf out cold, while the others surrounded the elementals and beat them into nothingness. It was a sound victory, but not without cost. They wasted precious time and allowed the thieves to prepare for assault in the next room. That would lead to the party's failing.

When the door was opened crossbow bolts rained through, peppering the party and forcing them to take a defensive position. Leading the thieves was a half-dragon man who aggressively shot the gap and unleashed fire into the group, dropping Darius and wounding Beshenen and Desarkis badly. From there it was a retreating fight. Ngithol tried to drag Darius' out of the room while Owl and Beshenen worked to get Desarkis free. It was left to Nissa and Knut fighting the rest of the thugs and there were just too many. Slowly, Knut was repeatedly hit with bolts from a hidden halfling while defending himself against the blows from a bandit captain and the half-dragon. When knut fell it was clear the fight was over. The party was offered surrender and wisely accepted. All but Nissa, who was just far enough down the hall that she was able to make an escape to the upper levels and disappear. The party was shackled and taken to the cells for interrogation and torture later.

Nissa made a fast break to the Halls of the Valliant in hopes of securing aid from Zak'hara and the servants of the swift sword. He was taken back at Darius' brash move, but someone impressed with the young paladin's boldness. Despite what he should or should not do, the cleric was not about to let one of his own be tortured by some low thief. He called the church to arms and followed Nissa back to the bath house.

By the time Darius regained consciousness, the party was chained up in a cell waiting for someone to come and likely torture them. Those that were awake during the transport saw the flayed body in a nearby room that was being studied, along with skulls adorning the shelves. It was not a pretty sight and a fitting end for their adventuring days. Of course, Darius and Ngithol had other plans. The paladin used his mighty strength to rip the chains off the wall and Ngithol summoned both of her bonded weapons to hand in preparation for battle. Knut then followed suit and the rest were broken free. The dwarf's mace of smiting made short work of the cell door and the party was free to find a way out of this hell. But first, they had one more guard to get past.



Swinging from a cage in the adjoining room was a pseudodragon. the poor thing looked like it'd been through a few rounds of torture itself and was all too eager to get out of its cage. Repeatedly sending warm thoughts toward Ngithol and Darius, it hoped to secure a friendship and a means of escape. While they were apprehensive of releasing the creature it did seem mostly harmless, so Nigthol acquiesced.

It qiuckly made friends with the party and found a safe place to sit on the dwarf's shoulder. They began to make their way out of the place when Darius sensed an overwhelming amount of undeath in the area. The skulls on the walls, though inactive, were flameskulls. They were woefully under prepared to deal with a set of four flameskulls at this time, so they pressed on out of the room, only to come face to face with even more undead; two vampires sat on a guard duty!

Darius raised his sword and prepared to shout all manner of holy utterances when the vampires raised their hands in protest. They were pissed at the mistreatment being sent their way by Fingers and were not looking to be simple guards for his guild when they came to speak with him. If the party were to leave them be and compensate them monetarily, they had no trouble being gone before the adventurers returned. The paladin was against making any sort of deal, but the others were more interested in getting revenge against Fingers or getting out alive. A duel with some vampires seemed to be one more impossible obstacle in their way. So, reluctantly, Darius agreed, but not before he asked the name of a paladin the Vampires apparently both knew and admired. Such a thing must be impossible and would need to be dealt with by the church. "Protector Navadaal, is his name. A good man; you would probably like him." The vampire chuckled and motioned that either of the two exits out of here would be met with opposition. One way housed the black pudding, while the other is used as the waste disposal, and the beasties in there were no better, though the vampire wasn't sure what they were called...
Session: Session 34 - Friday, Jul 31 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Entrapment
It was a busy week getting prepared to journey to Karasta-nu and the party had earned every bit of rest and relaxation they were going to get their last night in Shyta-Thybaj. Castigen drug Owl, Aguirre and Knut out gambling at the Gambler's Ho! establishment. It may have had a double-meaning, but the group was possibly too inebriated to catch on. Knut and Castigen did fairly well for themselves, earning enough money to pay off their living expenses in the city and pocketed a bit. The others...did less well. Aguirre spent all his earnings getting piss-drunk while Owl doubled down on losses...


The next morning when the party gathered to leave, Owl and Aguirre were nowhere to be found. After a bit of searching, the elf was located shaking off a hangover and rambling about a giant skeleton, fingers and a strange bit about a Kargi Mourn. When the story was clarified, they found Aguirre in the Giant's Fell, a trench just outside of town with a storm giant's skeleton partially uncovered in it.

Aguirre had little memory of what happened, but both were clearly the victims of a beating. Between the two, they pieced together much of the story. Nurian "Fingers", one of the more prominent thieves in the city, took Owl for a rather large amount. As an offering to square their deal, Fingers told Owl he should use his cleric friend to speak with the giant skeleton and find the whereabouts of his long lost treasury in the Vrykkar mountains. Aguirre was drunk enough to try and learned much from the giant, unfortunately, more than Fingers wanted him to know. Specifically, that the most prized treasure in his vault was Kargi Mourn. Fingers ordered the two beaten and left for dead, but Owl escaped and Aguirre fell back down in the trench. The rest of the party were, at best, bemused by the tale and ready to leave when Nissa explained she knew something of Kargi Mourn. The fabled holy sword of the Truthseekers. Darius, upon hearing this, felt it imperative they make some effort to recover this blade before some unsavory thieves get it in their possession. Castigen was completely against leaving their current mission, but the rest of the party was at least interested in a little revenge for Owl and Aguirre getting beat up, so he was over-ruled for the time being.

With a bit of investigation at Gambler's Ho!, the party spoke with a man in Finger's employ. Darius threw down a zone of truth to force information out of the man named Matthias while Aguirre simply charmed him and coerced much from the poor teamster. He was only working for Fingers to pay off some gambling debt, a debt that Aguirre was more than happy to pay, if for no other reason that no one should be in anyone else's bondage. Matthias told them where to find Fingers and the party geared up to go "Talk".

The stables were packed with buyers and sellers and the entourage of one Nurian Fingers. When the party tried to get in close and speak, some of Finger's men approached. One subtly caressed his sword hilts while speaking with Darius. It was clear that short of drawing weapons in a crowded market, there was no way the party would speak with Fingers, and they didn't deny anything that transpired from the previous night, only that the reason they had to beat the party was Owl's decision to draw on the thieves and try to renegotiate the deal once he heard of the treasure. Whether or not this was true was suspect, but Owl was too drunk to recall, and the racist slurs they claimed he made were pretty accurate to his usual ramblings. Dejected, the party left and once again prepared to leave the city. Darius had one more stop, however.

The paladin went to speak with the highest ranking member of the Truthseekers in Shyta-Thybaj, a one Adjucator Fabara. When he told her of the possibility of finding Kargi Mourn and that Fingers was what stood in the way, she explained the corruption in the city and how they could possibly utilize a friendly bartender of hers to entrap some of Finger's men, allowing for the Adjucator to lean on them for the information. It was worth a shot, so Darius took her instructions to the Strong Ox tavern and the party waited for Finger's men to arrive.

When they did, the bartender refused to pay and Darius was preparing to step in when Ngithol made a move to incite the men to assaulting her. It didnt' work and accidentally tipped off the men to the party's plan. They instead chose to leave after a small confrontation with Darius and headed down the street. Darius, incensed at yet another bit of failure charged up to their leader and layed down an ultimatum of surrender. The man flashed a city guard's clasp and said, "What will you do to--" Reckoning hit him square in the jaw, knocking him unconscious before he could finish the sentence and a second swing dropped his closest ally. Ngithol burst from the bar and set to aid her friend with a burning hands spell. In her rash decision, she caught the unconscious men as well as the remaining guards in the blast. The guards went down and the two already brought low were immolated. The people on the streets screamed at the sight of violence and magic, running about in terror. Nissa was screaming from behind them, "Why did you kill them!!?!! I could have put them to sleep!!" Knut and the others were just as perplexed, but were more focused on saving the unconscious but possibly still alive guards. By the time they were stabilized, nearly two dozen guardsmen had surrounded the party, ordering surrender and seizure. Aguirre, Castigen and Beshenen slipped out the back while Nissa and Knut tried to explain what happened with regard to the assault. Darius, Ngithol and Owl were arrested for assault and murder.

Beshenen used his magic to heal the guards that had survived and offered up testimony that the party were, in fact, heroes and not the villains they appeared to be, while Knut and Nissa backed the claim. Darius, still boiling with anger could not bring himself to calmly speak with the Captain, Veshenr, and just continued to make matters worse. Ngithol, for her part, openly admitted to burning the men, but claimed it was under self defense, despite all of the men's weapons being cleanly sheathed even after they were burned. Veshenr planned to take the guards to the Adjucator to get the full story and judgement would come after that.

Meanwhile, Castigen was making his way to speak with the Adjucator as well. He hoped to reach her before the captain, but he had little chance to beat a mounted guard while on foot. When he did arrive, he saw the men leaving with the captain and coerced his way into a quick meeting with the Adjucator. He explained all that was going on, including their situation with the warlord and hoped for leniency. She explained that there was no way she could do such a thing, and that her judgement was already finalized. Sentencing would come from Dakary himself. Castigen sighed and said, "Well, then tell them I will continue with the mission. Good luck." and the warlock headed out to leave Shyta-Thybaj and continue on his way.

At the jail, the captain explained that Owl was free to go, as was Desarkis. Only Darius and Ngithol would face the charges of murder, assault, unregistered magic within the city, and assault of an officer of the city. When Adjucator Fabara arrived, she laid a judgement of guilty on the two, and then explained that in the charge of conspiracy to commit these crimes, she was guilty of ordering this task completed, and produced the letter she had written for her bartender friend. By the alliance between the Halls of the Valliant and the Courts of Justice, Darius had to follow her orders, and as such, she was the guilty party. She would accept the guilty conviction and accept the sentencing of death by hanging. They would simply have to pay a 500gp sum to the families of the deceased and face banishment from within the city. Ngithol agreed, reluctantly, but Darius was against every aspect of the situation. By his actions, her life was forfeit.

They were given their belongings and explained that they would be accompanied by guards to collect their gear and leave the city at dawn when the gates opened...
Session: Game Session 33 - Friday, Jul 24 2015 from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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