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Session Eleven: House of the All-Seeing Eye
Having bested several vile Chokers roosting amidst broken furniture and rubble , the band of adventurers continued their exploration deeper into the ruins of the Refuge of Nethys. In a room littered with piles of shredded scrolls, books, and parchment, they discovered a large basalt plaque, depicting the god-king Nethys, blocking passage south. However, after turning his magical sight upon the Plaque, Aziz found himself able to assert control over the stone plaque, commanding it to rise out of the way.

However, Aziz was momentarily stunned by a powerful aura of magic emanating from the chamber beyond--as a profound sense of euphoria set in, Aziz found himself inexplicably drawn forward into the rough hewn passage, a corridor filled with a strange, pearly vapor. No sooner did he inhale the fumes, when he was engulfed by a frightening vision. Only through the determined action of his allies was he able to regain his senses. Nevertheless, figuring that while terrible to behold, visions themselves were harmless, the rest of the band ventured deeper into the vapor-filled tunnel. Upon entering, each was stricken with his own revelation--but whether these apparitions signified truth or fantasy remains to be seen.

Reaching into the depths of memory, Aziz and Waleed are able to intuit that the strange mist must be the Breath of Nethys, a gas from deep within the earth that imparts its imbiber with strange visions and enhanced magical potency. Uncovering further information about the gas certainly would be valuable to anyone looking to understand the magical research conducted within the Refuge.

Pressing onward, the party came upon a large cavern filled with the gaseous vapor, and dominated by an ancient and decrepit barge hovering in the cavern's center. Kneeling atop the barge was a ragged figure, an old man whose eyes had been raked out by a ferocious beast, and who held a brilliant gold sword at his side. With a stroke of sudden recognition, Waleed approached the tattered man, and attempts to begin conversation. Addled by the gas, however, the man (who was once the Shah of nearby Ghuart, but now who calls himself Haidar the Accursed) mistakes Waleed for a figure from his past, and launches into a frenzy. Fortunately, the party is able to calm the Shah before he becomes violent, and he recounts for the party his fall from grace…

Haidar Yunan was once the wealthy leader of the opulent city of Gurat, a jewel nestled along the river halway between Kelmerane and Katepesh. But he was a wicked and capricious man, and his people loved him not, though they did move against him, for they feared stirring his wrath.

But as he grew old, and his family blossomed in his household and his wealth and power grew without bound, he was visited by an agent of Fate. The night was taken by a tempest for the ages, a storm so powerful it threatened to tear the very foundations out from beneath the Emir's palace. Seeking shelter from the storm a wise woman, the Hakima of a wandering tribe, begged for hospitality at the Falcon Emir's door. Seeing that this wise woman possessed the Sight, he allowed her to stay within the palace, provided that she foretell his future.

"Hakima" he demanded, "tell me, for how many generations to come will my family know prosperity?"

She answered: "The span of your household is not measured in generations, Emir, but in mere seasons. Before the year is out, your family will know tragedy, and you will lose everything you hold dear. The hand of gold built your palace, and it will be the hand of gold that brings it down. Before the season's cycle is complete, a ferocious cat will enter your house, and bring ruin upon you and your family."

Enraged at the Hakima's predictions, the Shah had the women thrown out of his palace and the gates barred, swearing that the mad crone's ravings would not come to pass. The next day, when the Shah awoke, he ordered every cat in the palace to be slain--none were to escape their fate, be they in the gardens or hiding in the harem. And so it came to pass. But the Shah was not happy, and when he awoke the morning following, he made a new pronouncement. Every cat in the city was to be slain, be they in the palaces, or living by the docks. And so this too came to pass. But still the Shah was not happy. And so on the third day, he awoke and announced: No cat shall be found within fifty leagues of city, whether be in desert, or in the caves. So his guard took to the plains, and slew ever cat, great and small. But one still eluded them, a great and ferocious Katepeshi leopard.

The palace guards hunted the leopard for twelve turns of the moon, until at last they cornered the beast in its foul den, and struck it down. That very night, exactly one year after the Hakima's visit, the Shah held an elaborate feast celebrating his victory. Just as the Shah was lifting his glass in defiance to the Hand of Fate, the doors flew open and a young man in tattered clothes, bearing a brilliant gold sword at his side, strode in.

"Before the court of the Shah of Ghurat, and the Heavenly Host above, I demand justice for my father who was slain today!" the boy shouted. The Shah, who was now in a very good mood, responded: "If it is justice you seek, then it is justice you shall have. I will reward handsomely the man who brings me the head of the one who murdered this boy's father."

The young man spoke up. "You will not need to look far, Shah, for the man who took my father's life sits before me in this very room." Suddenly, the room was filled with panic and accusation. Outraged at this accusation, the Shah flew into a rage, "Seize this boy, and throw him into the dungeons!" But the boy was not finished, and he drawing his sword, he announced: "Shah, it is none other than your own head that you ask for." But the boy was no match for the palace guards, and was soon disarmed. "Stop!" shouted the Shah, "I will deal justice right now" And with that, he claimed the boy's golden sword, and with one mighty stroke and a bestial roar, struck the boy's head from his shoulders.

That very night, however, the Shah's palace was beset by a terrible and ferocious golden-haired beast, who crept from room to room, and devoured the Shah's servants and family. But in the wake of this bloodshed, the Shah disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. And so it came to pass that the Hakima's words came true, for no man can defy the Hand of Fate…

Piecing together the story of Haidar, the party deduces that it was the Shah himself, transformed into the leopard, that slew his family and brought ruin upon his House. Secretly agreeing to bring the man to justice for his crimes, the party shames Haidar into submission, and with aid of a magical illusion, convince the man that only by falling upon his blade, can he bring an end to his suffering. With this grim task accomplished, the party collects the crazed man's body and belongs and returns to the surface. Along the way, they pass through ancient temple to the Dark and Destructive arts of magic, but determining that discretion is the better part of valor, they leave the sanctuary undisturbed and continue upwards to the surface...
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Session Eight
At nightfall, Almah’s contingent journeys to the now-reclaimed Monastery. Upon arrival, they begin their final preparations for the assault on Kelmerane. Assembling the host in the ruined nave, Almah makes a brief speech, and outlines the role that each member of the company will play. Due to their recent success, Almah affords our band of mercenaries a place of great importance in the upcoming assault. Tasked with the orders to scout out the region to the south and east of Kelmerane, and to assess the defenses of the occupied town, the mercenaries make arrangements for last minute supplies. Just before dawn, as they party makes ready to embark, they are approached by both Mahmud the Caravan-driver, and Father Zastoran. Each man presents the group with a task: Mahmud tells a story of a long-lost treasure-filled tomb recently rediscovered, and entreats the party to seek out the Ravenous Sphinx and bring back the fabled Ruby Eye of Nabataea. Father Zastoran then mentions that, since the group will be traveling east of Kelmerane, they might come upon an ancient watchtower of Nethys. The tower itself might prove to be the best vantage point for observing the town, and is quite likely to be filled with all manner of magical treasures—Zastoran only requests that if the party does venture into the Refuge of Nethys, they keep an eye out for records of the experiments that were once conducted within the tower’s hallowed walls.

The group decides first to make for the Refuge of Nethys, hoping that, as Zastoran advised, the tower will provide a good place to begin their reconnaissance of Kelmerane. As their trail wanders through the hills and cliffs east of the town, the party spots trouble on the road ahead: a group of bloodthirsty gnolls have waylaid some desert travelers, and are now feasting on the corpses. With the element of surprise, the party falls upon the gnoll marauders, quickly eliminating the threat. As they search through the gruesome remains of the travels, the mercenaries discover that one of the riders yet lives—though but barely. Reviving the dying man, they discover that the travels were a group of desert nomads making a pilgrimage to a sacred cairn. What’s more, they learn that one of the fallen travelers is the son of the tribe’s Sheikh! Aziz offers to assist the rider—Rashid ibn Halal, the Sheikh’s vizier—in traveling to the Monastery so that he may be tended to by the healing arts of Zastoran. After the two leave, the remaining mercenaries make an important discovery: lying amidst the bodies is a mystical golden necklace fashioned in the shape of an eagle, now soaked in the crimson blood of the sheikh’s son. It is not too difficult to surmise that this talisman is likely the sacred symbol of the tribe, perhaps the nomads’ most treasured and valuable heirloom. What the party will do with such a precious and magical item is yet to be seen.
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Session Seven
The band of mercenaries set off from the temple to inform Almah of their success. Seeking shelter from the blazing afternoon sun in the shade of a rocky outcropping, the group is startled by a gang of rough bandits, led by the loquacious and arrogant chief, Zalla the Magnifice. Zalla demands a fee for the use of his ‘glorious desert palace’ and after a fierce exchange of wit, wherein Zalla reveals that he is in league with the fabled Jackal Prince—a bandit king of legend—Zalla decides to extort his toll by force. Suddenly, a towering warrior appears sneaks up upon the bandit chief, and with succinct eulogy, swiftly deals the effusive thief a mortal wound. Seizing the opportunity, the ambushed party rushes at their assailants—the fighting is fierce and bloody. After a mere minute of intense battle, the mercenaries dispatch the bandits, and make ready to travel for Almah’s camp. Befriending the impeccably-timed warrior—who had, until his previous employer has met a recent and grizzly end at the point of a bandit’s sword, been contracted to the eliminate the bandit threat in the region—the five continue their travel to the Sultan’s claw, where they receive a handsome reward from the Merchant-Princess for all of their endeavors.
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Session Six
Near to completing their mission, the group delves in to the deepest reaches of the Monastery crypt, seeking to expel whatever menace may lurk in its depths. An icy darkness engulfs the party as they venture forth, and whispers riding on an unholy wind gnaw at their sanity. Suddenly, a skeletal wraith appears before them, letting loose an ear-piercing howl that rattles the group to their very souls. Unable to harm the spirit by conventional means, the band of mercenaries bide their time, noticing that the creature cannot pass beyond a line of dried, red blood cutting across the floor. Alimah then recalls a tale from her childhood: Edimmus rise from the corpses of slain genies unable to return to their elemental homelands. Whether through powerful magics or as part of bargains made with mortal spellcasters, genies occasionally find themselves tied to the material Plane for a specific term or until they compete a set task. As the conditions of some magics remain binding even in death, genies that perish before the terms of their service are fulfilled sometimes manifest as creatures of uncontrolled fury. Folklore has the Edimmues cannot pass over oxblood, nor will they harm genies, or anyone covered with funerary runes or garb. With this knowledge, the party quickly scouts the end of the crypt, discovering many hastily interred bodies, some bearing the robes of the priests of Sarenrae and others with more malicious tools of war; fallen beside the corpse of the abbot, Alimah finds a tarnished gold scepter bearing strange runes. She takes it for later investigation. Since the Edimmu cannot escape the depths of the crypt, the party retreats, while making note that they should seek a way to set the tortured genie spirit free.
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Session Five
Having returned to Almah’s encampment, the defeated band briefly trades words with one of Almah’s personal guard, before seeking out Father Zastoran to mend their wounds. Though the learned priest is quick to dispense patronizing wisdom about the virtues of patience and discretion, he nevertheless assents to healing the many injuries sustained by the mercenaries during their last foray. With these matters taken care of, the four retire to their tent for the night, recuperating before setting out for a second time the next day.

A few hours after dawn, the four intrepid adventurers return to the Monastery of Sarenrae and prepare for battle. Aiming to catch the wretched pugwampis by surprise, the band charges forth into the sunless chapel, and begins launching a volley of javelins, arrows, and magical energy at the desert imps’ vile nest. The pugwampis return fire, though not nearly with the fervor that they did so the previous day, and Alimah and Kahir are able to scale an old, rusty ladder to the rafters above. Fearlessly charging across the rotten beams, Kahir rushes towards the Pugwampi tent, but is stopped short as the timbers beneath his feet crumble, catapulting him to the floor far below. Alimah, however, displaying a grace and lightness, far surpassing her physical appearance, dances nimbly along the rafters without so much as causing them to splinter, and brings the fight to the monsters’ den. Viciously carving a hole in their nest, she proceeds to slay half their number in a deadly scimitar dance. Kahir, Aziz, and Waleed, meanwhile, are able to eliminate the remaining divs with their combined ranged support. With the scrimmage won, the four collect themselves and investigate the room, discovering among piles of gnoll fetishes a hidden cache of gems and gold pieces, as well as the tattered remnants of a book dedicated to Sarenrae. The pious and devout Kahir takes a few moments to clean the soiled alter of the Goddess, offering her humble prayers—taking notice of his acts of holiness, Sarenrae blesses her champion.

Kahir, Aziz, Waleed, and Alimah then return to the southern end of the temple, and make preparations to delve into the dark basement of ruined building. Though the stairs downward are lined with a suspicious mold, Aziz notes that such mold is not harmful, and further, that its arrangement is highly unusually; the band continues downward. The passage opens into a large laboratory containing several alembics, beakers, and vials filled with a strange greenish ooze. A table at the center of the room is blanketed with the same suspicious mold as coated the doors above, though here in far greater concentration. As the group spreads out to investigate, the green slime in the jars shivers, before erupting forth in a shower of glass to assail the party. Two slime molds acting under a peculiar intelligence, swarm the warrior, Kahir, and the scholar, Aziz, attempting to engulf them in a sickening embrace. Though the mercenaries are able to hold the slimes at bay long enough to bring about their destruction, one of the molds, in a dying frenzy, launches itself at Aziz, smothering him in a slick, green coat of slime. As he screams in horror, the mold rushes up his clothing and slithers into his open mouth, causing him to shudder and nearly collapse. Kahir rips the mold slime off, but not before it is able to gush down the scholar’s throat and into his lungs. The group stands in breathless trepidation, anxiously awaiting what terror this new development may bring.
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