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Session 38: Through the Fog
The session opened with the F.I.A sailing towards the Winter Court of the Queen of Air and Darkness with Lyndra and Miletia in tow. The F.I.A’s only problem, of course, was that none of them were expert sailors. After Thane recounted what he could of the various workings and tasks of his old Vallsan crew, the party gained the ability to pilot their pinnace in what could easily have been mistaken as a straight line. Their Kelkan Folding Boat proved to be more than up to the challenge of crossing the Peacewaters, a fey sea that has been bereft of most of its original inhabitants since the War of Exiles. This distinct lack of life gave the Peacewaters an aura of both haunting silence and ethereal beauty. With the ever-consistent color of the setting sun filling the sky, this journey was not unlike traversing through a watercolor painting.

The F.I.A took an interest in a set of ancient ruins early in their seafaring adventure, and decided to disembark their ship in order to explore them. Leaving Lyndra behind to protect their pinnace, both the F.I.A and Miletia swam ashore to one of the nearby islands. Upon solid land once more, the party discovered evidence of a long since departed fey society. The party deduced that this society once had a symbiotic relationship with nature, indicated by a series of decrepit structures made of a strangely porus purple stone that seemed to absorb the sea’s inherent magics. Thane inferred that the separate islands that made up this cluster were once connected by land bridges, the layout of which demonstrated an intricate understanding of both urban planning and architecture. Through a light rain, Miletia informed the party that elves have long held the belief that the Feywild, and especially their capital city of Londlind, was at the literal center of the universe. As many extraplanar travelers may impart, this belief has had a great impact on some elves’ sense of self-importance. Since the Arrival, of course, this assumption has been factually disputed. Despite the fact that the Prime Material has been confirmed to lie at the center of the cosmos, many elves have simply chosen to ignore this in favor of older wisdom.

Once Miletia finished her explanations, the party split up to explore the ruins. After choosing to fly around the archipelago in search of arcane resources, Zaric and Midzaynov stumbled upon a young halfling girl who was taking shelter from the rain in a crumbling tower. She introduced herself as Ep, and explained that she had hidden in a Janavian oasis in order to escape a sudden sandstorm that was destroying her village. In the process of hiding, she had apparently fallen through a Fey Crossing and ended up on this island. The adventurers agreed to escort her to a safe location, and left to reunite with the rest of the party. Back at the pinnace, Miletia expressed her anguish at the fact that another creature had turned up in the Peacewaters without her knowledge. It was Miletia’s eternal duty to tend to the waters and guide lost souls to safe locations, but she was struggling to accomplish that goal on her own. Apparently, her pleas to the fey queens had gone unanswered, and her ship had been recently taken from her by pirates. It appeared that the Peacewaters, a region that refused to take sides in the War of Exiles, was still a sore spot for the fey queens despite the fact that the ancient war ended thousands of years ago.

About one week after finding Ep (time can be difficult to distinguish in the Feywild, seeing as the sky is permanently set in the shades of a glorious, ever-shifting sunset), the party’s boat made an unsettling lurch. A creature of comically large proportions had apparently just made contact with the bottom of their boat, shifting its occupants to and fro. Luckily, the creature was merely a mischievous whale who wanted to see what kind of large fish could swim above the water as quickly as their pinnace did. Zaric cast charm monster on the beast, and the two conspired in some light whale shenanigans.

A few days after bading their whale friend goodbye, the party passed by a series of coastal mountains on the starboard side of their boat. This prompted Lyndra to inform the group that they had just passed from the Peacewaters into the Ocean of Stars. Almost immediately after entering this new body of water, a thick fog began to roll across the deck of the party’s ship. Despite their best attempts to navigate in the visually-impairing terrain, the party soon found themselves off track. While the party was getting lost, another entity found them. A ship - larger and more menacing than any the party had seen before - suddenly materialized from within the fog, accompanied by the shrill laughter of dozens and dozens of goblinoid creatures. After a brief round of leading questions by the galleon’s hobgoblin captain, Thane unleashed a lightning bolt from the stern of their ship, catching them off guard! The party was suddenly facing down a crew of at least fifty goblinoid pirates at once, and lept into action!

Between the chaos of cackling goblin pirates and the order of strategically-minded hobgoblin officers, the fight was a maelstrom in itself. Wykeera’s casting of water walk allowed the party to sprint between the two ships and board the goblinoids’ galleon, who responded by shooting huge harpoons into the party’s pinnace! Thane strafed around in the air with the aid of his fly spell, launching eldritch blasts and a storm sphere that tore through the entirety of the enemy’s ship. Wykeera spent most of the battle defending against the goblins who had made their way onto the party’s vessel. Zaric cleverly used his wall of light spell to blind the enemy while keeping a safe distance by staying underwater. Midzaynov made quick work of the hobgoblin bosun, who cast a sleet storm on the party’s ship, almost destroying it with one incantation! Thane’s storm sphere was the star of the battle, destroying dozens of goblins by the time the dust settled. Zari’s divinity-infused spiritual weapon combined with Midzaynov’s martial experience fighting against pirates proved to be too much for the swashbuckling hobgoblin captain, and he fell to a mighty blow from the dragonborn’s Instrument of Mercy. With their captain defeated, the remaining goblins laid their weapons down. The F.I.A was victorious!

The party spent the next hour searching the goblin ship and tending to their wounds. They found a stash of electrum coins, the hobgoblin captain's journal, and gallons upon gallons of flammable oil. Midzaynov spent some time carefully placing oil around the enemy ship, lit a match, and let it burn. The Festering Wound, the goblinoid ship, had been disabled! Sifting through Captain Boneslicer’s journal, the party found several references to the Stalking Eye - the apparent name of the pirate cabal that the late captain once belonged to. Back on the party’s ship, Zaric swam through a hole that had been blown in the side of their ship’s hull and noticed that Miletia was missing from belowdecks! When the party questioned Ep, she told them that it appeared that one of the goblins had charmed Miletia, who then cast a spell to teleport them away during the fighting. With the aid of their new goblin captives, the F.I.A managed to repair the damage that had been done to their ship during the battle. With a new heading from Lyndra, the party set sail for a daring rescue mission at the heart of the Stalking Eye’s base of operations: Shipwreck Cove!
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Session 37: Aquatic Climes and Sick Rhymes
The session opened with Midzaynov regaling the myconids of Penumbra Grove with her original song, Mushroom Pie. The song recounted the exploits of the F.I.A in shaming Grusktooth the cyclops, just as Bulon had requested. During her performance, innumerable spores were shot into the air from the excited mushroom folk, resulting in a hallucinatory, transcendental, and mind-bending entertainment experience that exceeded the raw psychedelic high of even the most expensive of designer drugs. With Bulon’s blessing, the F.I.A left Penumbra Grove with a guide who would aid them in leaving the Feydark - an unusually aggressive myconid named Jant. A few hours into their journey through twisting, labyrinthine caverns, the party came across an elven outpost. After a tense negotiation helmed by Zaric, the party was allowed entry into the elves’ temporary base camp. Inside, they met a very earnest elf named Finwe who explained he was part of an organization dedicated to researching and documenting flora and fauna across all corners of the multiverse called Elebrin. The party learned about the elf capital Londolind, the fact that the majority of elves believe that the Feywild is the literal center of the multiverse (despite more recent factual evidence to the contrary: i.e the Material Plane), and about the Starblades, an elven faction that appears to be some kind of policing force in the Feywild.

Leaving the relative safety of the outpost behind, the F.I.A continued their journey to leave the Feydark on their way to the Queen of Air and Darkness. Using stealth, the party avoided the attention of house-sized beetles and other colossal chitinous creatures that scuttled across the cavern’s walls. Coming across a narrow tunnel covered in white webs, the party fought a group of spiders that phased in and out of the Feywild to attack their prey! The F.I.A quickly turned the tables on these arachnids, however, and the battle was won. After squeezing through the rest of the tight cavern, the party suddenly came face to face with a wall of water. Looking within it, the party saw impossibly-shaped fish, seaweed, and even sand. The party realized suddenly that the “Peacewaters” that they were seeking was a fey ocean that overlapped the Great Expanse in the Feywild! Their journey complete, Jant bid them adieu, and stomped into the darkness.

Lyndra informed the party that they were looking for an individual known as the Keeper of the Peacewaters, and that this individual would guide them to the Winter Queen. After a quick casting of water breathing by Wykeera, the party began to swim close to the ocean floor in order to make navigation to this being easier. The F.I.A used currents to keep traversal as seamless as possible, and eventually came across towering coral reefs. Behind one such section of coral, a standoff between seelie and unseelie fey was unfolding. Lyndra explained that because it was forbidden to shed blood in the Feywild, their battle was unfolding on a scale of lyrical wit. Taking the side of the unseelie fey, the F.I.A entered into a rap battle with a seelie fey lord named Brycherion. Utilizing a disturbingly high quantity of “your mom” jokes, the party was victorious. Ever the sore loser, Brycherion sicced his nautical elephants on the party and fled. Luckily, Midzaynov used her inherent draconic abilities to strike fear into the ambiphants for long enough to allow everyone to escape to a nearby reef. Inside, the angler-headed unseelie fey that the party aided introduced them to Nenya, a young archfey of the unseelie court, who helped the F.I.A’s spellcasters alter their “known” spells.

After bidding the archfey farewell, the F.I.A continued their journey towards the Keeper of the Peacewaters. While the rest of the party swam, Zaric used his hex-teleport to avoid any exertion whatsoever. Three hours later, the party came upon the first signs of an island. The F.I.A surfaced quickly using Wykeera’s wildshape, and found a dilapidated stone temple sitting on a relatively small archipelago. Inside this temple was a woman with seaweed hair, bark skin, and glowing blue eyes. Although her appearance had changed, Wykeera immediately recognized the Keeper of the Peacewaters as none other than Miletia, the druid that the party had met in the Garden of Deliverance who had been killed by Xeridal over a year ago! Lyndra explained that Miletia had been the keeper of the Peacewaters for about a century. When the party brought up the incongruent timeline, the fey reminded them that time in the Feywild flows much differently than it does in the Material Plane. Addressing Miletia’s apparent demise, Lyndra explained that she and other powerful fey entities had contacted Miletia’s soul and asked if she would like to return to life, albiet with a new purpose. Faced with the opportunity to protect natural landscapes once more, Miletia accepted the fey’s offer. Lyndra’s group had also tried to revive Fia, but their attempt to raise the dead had failed.

Miletia informed the party that she would love to escort them to the Queen of Air and Darkness, but her boat had been stolen by pirates. In response to this, Midzaynov produced her Kelkan Folding Boat! The party boarded with Miletia and Lyndra in tow, Thane set the wind to the correct course, and the party set sail towards the domain of the Queen of Air and Darkness …
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Session 36: Murder, Mushrooms, and Mayonnaise
The session opened with the party traveling north through the streets of Yalba, unsure of their next steps in the aftermath of Teoshi’s al-Surai’s demise. On their way towards the Sultan’s Palace, they noticed a conclave of guards gathered at the Athenaeum. According to Raha al-Kharii and Nurata, who were overseeing the apparent crime scene within, a break-in had occurred the night of the ball. The two librarians who were tasked with guarding the quarters of Racha’s gynosphinx had been killed! The party decided to lend their preternatural abilities to ascertain what had occurred at the Athenaeum before dealing with the owlbear in the room: the fact that the F.I.A was still not in agreement about their next steps.

With the hesitant approval of Sekmet al-Id, the F.I.A was allowed temporary access to the hallway that led to the divine gynosphinx. Before entering the darkened chamber, Midzaynov used her Headband of Thoughts to scan the mind of Nurata, who was also examining the crime scene. Midzaynov picked up on a few errant thoughts as she was speaking to the party: “Contact,” “Network,” “Investigation,” “Conspiracy,” and “The Weavers.” The party also learned that Nurata was not a member of The Hellraisers, although she was closely affiliated with them. Entering the chamber, Wykeera found that both humanoid footprints and an irregular, amorphous shape had made its way through the ancient dust and gravel that lined the chamber’s floor. Deductible deduced that the large, winding shape was consistent with the tracks of a massive snake. The tracks revealed that whatever creatures had entered the gynosphinx’s chambers had also left it.

Examining the guards, the party determined that their cause of death was most likely a series of deep cuts on their torsos. Wykeera deduced that the cuts were made by a bladed weapon from an especially high vantage point. The librarians were close to their posts at the time of their deaths, meaning that whatever killed them was able to get close without alerting suspicion. Examining the floor next to the winding double staircase that led to the gynosphinx’s chambers, Thane found a translucent pliable convex object with an emerald-colored center about the size of his thumb. It was a contact lens - a rare object usually coveted by elites who can afford such a commodity. The party recalled the only individual that they knew who had emerald eyes: Sisava al-Surai. At the moment, however, there appeared to be no concrete evidence to link her to the crime.

As the party geared up to leave the Athenaeum, their investigation completed for the moment, Hagar pulled Raha aside. He informed her that their party was soon leaving for the Feywild, and offered to stay behind in Yalba and help to rebuild the city in the meantime. Raha nodded slowly, pulled Zari away from the rest of the party, and asked her when she was planning to tell her best friend that she was leaving for an epic adventure on another plane of existence. They caught up in the brief time they had, and Raha informed Zari that Makaria would act as her retainer for the immediate future. The two had a tearful farewell that was in no way interrupted by Thane. The F.I.A had officially decided on their next step: they would enter the Feywild to answer the Queen of Air and Darkness' invitation. Hagar would stay behind in the interim to nurture the growth of the Yalban Parliament, build the FIAting Pit, and reinforce the strength of his network of contacts.

The F.I.A began to prepare for their extraplanar journey. Zari decided that she should tell her friends and loved ones that she was leaving Yalba for the foreseeable future, and casually informed the party that she had slept with Zaeshir. When Zari visited her home temple to tell her family of her impending adventure, she found Rashad speaking to her mother in the main foyer. Her on-again off-again romantic partner was wearing ... ceremonial robes of Kielel!? Zari immediately broke out in a cold sweat. She was here to unofficially break things off between them, but was he about to … propose? No. He couldn’t be. He wouldn’t. They hadn’t even talked about it, why would he -

And then he dropped to one knee.

Zari just about had a heart attack before she realized that her tiefling companion had simply dropped a ceremonial bangle and had knelt down to pick it up. The shell-shocked cleric let her heart rate slowly fall as Tulsi explained that Rashad planned to help out around the Temple of Kielel for the time being, seemingly anticipating her daughter’s growing sense of wanderlust. Before she departed, Tulsi reiterated the situation with her siblings. Twenty years ago, when Zari was too young to remember, Tulsi decided to scatter her children to the corners of the earth in a desperate bid to keep them safe from Urilesh. Tulsi had taken Zari’s magic potential as a child as a sign that Kielel had a special plan for her, and kept her under her watch Yalba. When several years had passed and the Miszas thought that the threat of Urilesh was behind them, they had Hamza. Tulsi explained that she gave each sibling’s caretaker an amulet, and instructed them to never let the child be without it. With one amulet, another amulet could be found - that way, even though Tulsi would not know her children’s whereabouts, they could perhaps find each other one day when the danger had permanently left them.

As Zari was leaving, she found a strangely beautiful tiefling man closely examining the Temple of Kielel. The mystical figure introduced himself as Zaric, an emissary from the Queen of Air and Darkness who had been sent to ensure that the F.I.A reach their destination of the Winter Court safe and sound. Zaric had an airy, otherworldly quality about him. He had traveled to Yalba with the aid of a former enemy - Raam the jackalwere! The three of them made introductions and caught up. Meanwhile, Hagar visited Belet again, and Midi gave him 10 platinum to give to the beleaguered tiefling. As Midzaynov was wishing Quespa farewell, she told her to not steal from people unless they were bad, and promised to take her to Kelkenheim one day. Thane gave Atka spending some spending money to live off of while they were away. The party bought supplies in the form of rations and spell material components, bade a temporary farewell to Hagar, and head to the River Room within the Yalban Catacombs to begin the next chapter in their journey. Utilizing the fish scale that Meekroot had given Wykeera, the F.I.A passed through the azure glow of the recently-restored Fey Crossing by immersing themselves in the river’s currents. When the F.I.A broke the surface of the water once more, they had emerged in another world.

This realm, known as the Feydark, was brightly-colored, otherworldly, and filled to the brim with magic. Thane made the decision to travel in his changeling form for the time being. As Lyndra emerged from the Fey Crossing, a new form was revealed. Citing a phenomenon known as “Planar Vitality,” Lyndra revealed that her humanoid-sized form was due to her re-emergence into her home plane. She explained that there are certain creatures in Aldion who have a unique connection to one of the planes of existence. For those creatures, a return to their connected plane can lead to a resurgence of vitality; by the same token, being separated from their plane for long periods of time can lead to their gradual enervation.

As the F.I.A traveled through subterranean tunnels, neon-hued mushrooms gave electrum coins as thanks for interacting with them. The party traveled through winding passageways and past flora-covered rocks until they came across a wide cavern full of bipedal mushroom-like beings. The party consented to the apparent wishes of these mute, ambulatory mushroom creatures and were herded towards the center of their settlement. Glowing spores shot from the caps of these myconids, allowing for a psychic form of communication between the two groups. Between immense, moss-covered stones, a towering myconid made their presence known. This myconid sovereign introduced himself as Bulon, and welcomed the F.I.A to Penumbra Grove. The party made note of several elven spore servants - fallen beings who were found in the underdark and reanimated by the myconids to serve as temporary labor.

The F.I.A was informed that because they entered the myconids’ domain peacefully, they would be allowed passage through their home. Upon hearing of the F.I.A’s goals, Bulon offered them an escort out of the Feydark in exchange for a favor: embarrassing a cyclops known as Grusktooth. The Feydark was full of cyclopes, but this one in particular apparently found great pleasure in dismembering the myconid scouts who left from Penumbra Grove to gather resources. The myconids were a peaceful race, so outright violence was out of the question. A bit of mischief, though … that was acceptable. The party was also warned of a race of giants known as fomorians - perceptive and hideous beings who had betrayed the fey queens in an age long past and now commanded the cyclopes of the Feydark. The party agreed to Bulon’s request, came up with a plan, and left Penumbra Grove to find Grusktooth.

The F.I.A successfully followed Bulon’s directions on their way to the cyclopes’ den, stealthed past humongous beetles that occupied the top of the massive cavern, and passed by a crevice in the cave wall that seemed to contain a campsite. The F.I.A created a very realistic-looking replica of a myconid using druidcraft and Wykeera’s basketweaving skills, and then filled it to the brim with four gallons of mayonnaise created from the Jug of Alchemy. The party used Zaric’s invisibility spell to sneak into Grusktooth’s den, which contained dozens of menacing one-eyed giants. The party found Grusktooth mouthing off to two other cyclopses in the main thoroughfare of their makeshift underground city, found a suitable hiding place beneath a large crack in the stone of one of their streets, and captured Grusktooth’s attention just enough for him to see the myconid replica. Grusktooh picked the myconid up with one massive hand, and began waving it around, indicating to all of the other cyclopes in the vicinity of his capture. Just as Grusktooth was about to crush the myconid in his hand, Zaric unleashed two eldritch blasts at the dummy! The myconid replica exploded, unleashing mayonnaise into the cyclops’ eye. The giant screamed, grabbed at its eye, and stumbled backwards … right into Midzaynov’s unseen servant. Grusktooth lost his balance and fell ass-first onto a lighting fixture, causing the roar of dozens of cyclopses’ laughter to shake the very foundation of the Feydark itself.

Unfortunately, there was one enemy that the party was not able to fool. Catching onto Zaric’s second eldritch blast, a formorian made its hideous presence known, stomping directly for the F.I.A’s hiding spot! The party turned invisible and ran before the giant could use his massive hand to upturn the small section of road that they managed to hide under, barely escaping their dire straits. The session ended as the party returned to Penumbra Grove, excited to tell their tale to the myconids ...
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Session 35: Galas and Gaslighting
The session opened with the F.I.A ensnared in a perilous position. Thane Illamin, Raha al-Kharii, Phanalan, Teoshi al-Surai, and two dozen Janavian nobles had inadvertently triggered a trap in Teoshi’s basement during the Crystal Ball on the eve of the new year, trapping them inside as the room filled with poisonous gas! The rest of the F.I.A would need to quickly find a way to save their allies before they succumbed to the toxic fumes!

Surviving this trap would require both guile and cunning. Almost immediately after the trap sprung, the Janavian nobles began to clutch their throats and gasp for whatever breathable air was left in the chamber. They pressed their bodies against the door, pounding on the stone as they began to lose consciousness. Thane’s use of a misty step spell to get closer to the exit alerted Phanalan that the blacksmith that he had been speaking to before things went sideways had inherent magical potential. Unbeknownst that it was actually Thane in disguise, Phanalan began to launch spells at Thane instead of trying to find a way to escape! Teoshi announced to the choking crowd that the trap had sprung because the manor’s security systems had been triggered, and that she was going to the back of the chamber to activate something that would help them. She ran out of the range of Phanalan’s dancing lights and into the darkness.

Meanwhile, the rest of the F.I.A attempted to enter the basement. Two magically-sealed doors stood in their way: one directly behind the false bookcase on the main level of the estate, and another on the basement level. Wykeera, sharp as ever, cast stone shape twice on the walls adjacent to the magic doors to bypass them entirely! She entered the deadly chamber with Zari and Hagar following close behind. Soon after entering, the Zeharian stonework began to magically knit itself shut, trapping most of the F.I.A in the basement once again. Midzaynov, who had missed her opportunity to enter the chamber before the stonework had shut itself, teleported inside with the assistance of Ghara’s dimension door spell. Reunited, the F.I.A was ready to tackle the situation head-on.

Wykeera cast a daylight spell to completely illuminate the darkened chamber. Zari discovered Teoshi’s unmoving form near the back of the chamber and ran to her. Teoshi’s arm was inside of a hole in the wall; Zari removed Teoshi’s arm, reached her own arm into the hole, and discovered a hidden lever! Pulling it, hidden vents in the basement’s walls suddenly opened, providing an exit for the gas that had accumulated in the chamber. Meanwhile, Midzaynov used her time to inspect the statue in the center of the chamber. She determined that while it probably was not directly related to the trap, there was evidence that another statue once stood in its place.

After disabling the magical locks that held the door of the basement shut with the help of Nurata’s bardic inspiration from the other side of the door, most of the room’s inhabitants had fallen unconscious from the onslaught of poison gas. The gas shifted in type during the encounter, challenging the party’s physical and mental attributes alike. Eventually, only Hagar and Ghara were left standing after a dramatic showdown with Phanalan ended with the sorcerer unconscious. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Hagar finally pulled the door to the chamber open with his brute strength alone! Yalban guards rushed into the room and began to rescue the survivors.

In the trap’s aftermath, Teoshi’s body was discovered. Wykeera determined that Teoshi had succumbed to her own poison gas. Upon discovering this, Sisava became inconsolable; she began lashing out at the guards, Phanalan, and the F.I.A. Zari cast a calm emotions spell to try to mollify her - strangely, it had no effect. Midzaynov used the last charge of her headband of thoughts to read Sisava’s mind, and learned that her inner monologue in that moment was not based in emotion in the slightest. Through crocodile tears, she asked the crowd if her mother’s fate would befall all who attempted to free their slaves in the city. On the sidelines of the spectacle, Hagar word-vomited at Ghara in an awkward attempt at normal human conversation. Ghara was curious, tipsy, and looking for a way to get Hagar to stop talking. She quickly kissed Hagar, and walked into the cool night air.

Phanalan was promptly arrested and brought to Qadira Prison for temporary holding. He was followed by Bernadette, Voriombor, and the F.I.A. Midzaynov turned invisible to eavesdrop on Bernadette and Vorimbor, who were whispering to each other in the prison’s atrium. Midi learned from the pair that Phanalan’s symptoms of madness were not new, and had apparently been getting worse as of late. Thane and Midi (invisibly) followed Phanalan to his holding cell. The pair learned that the cell was warded by an antimagic field, and that Phanalan himself was not sure if he had perpetuated the crimes that he had been accused of.

The F.I.A was torn about what to do next. Wykeera wanted to leave for the feywild immediately, while Thane and the others wanted to tackle the trial of the sphinx. Hagar was strongly considering staying in Yalba for the time being to watch over the city while it recovered. Wykeera spoke with Lyndra, who told her that it would be a difficult task to reach the Queen of Air and Darkness, and that journey itself was part of the trial that the queen had in mind for her. Atka demonstrated to Thane that she had apparently learned the scorching ray spell by almost ruining a perfectly good breakfast that she was in the process of cooking.

The session closed as the party walked northward through the city to seek the counsel of the royal family, unsure of their next course of action...
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Session 34: Starfall
The session began during the morning of Starfall with the F.I.A exchanging their holiday gifts. Joined by Atka and Quespa, the adventurers sat on a circle of pillows within their new abode in the Gold District. Gifts were given, laughs were had, and joy was shared. Thane gifted his fellow party members with magically-imbued business cards that provided a small boost to their power. Midzaynov gave Zari an enchanted journal that could only be opened with the sound of her voice. Within the journal’s pages was an updated Letter of Recommendation from House Maldren that officially added Zari as a member of the F.I.A. Midzaynov gifted Thane with a copy of his first book that included a forward from the recently-crowned Sultan Abdul al-Kharii to support the Firan release. Zari gave each of her companions three hundred gold pieces worth of diamonds, essentially granting each of them with an extra chance to avoid passing into Kielel’s warm embrace before it was their time with the help of her revivify spell. Wykeera offered to awaken Deductible, Hagar’s stalwart squirrel companion, and set off to begin the eight-hour casting process once she received an answer in the affirmative. Hagar gave his companions crudely constructed busts made of baklava, and announced his plan to re-make the Levithan’s Pit into a government-sanctioned fighting pit dubbed the FIAting Pit, a name given by Wykeera’s unfortunate suggestion.

During the day, Hagar threw flaming barrels off of the roof of their new home and Zari caught them because she is resistant to fire damage. Starfall! Hagar used to do this tradition in Yalba by burning down entire houses. This behavior probably came from Bana-Kye.

That evening, the F.I.A invited the rest of their friends and allies to exchange gifts. A cornucopia of people made an appearance. The crew of Dak's Axes (And We Also Sell Swords), the Cobalt Company, and many others took part in the festivities. During the gathering, Aldritch revealed to the F.I.A that he was engaged to a Galmranian lass named Laura, and that he had accepted an opportunity to act as the captain of the Yalban guard for the time being. Zari was officially inducted into the F.I.A., and told the party that she wished to continue adventuring with them. All in all, far too many gifts were given to recount here, and I refuse to spend even one more second mentioning them.

Raha, between bites of star-shaped cookies, agreed that Hagar's idea of a government-sanctioned fighting pit could help to raise the quality of life for those who lived outside the walls - if it was done right, that is. About midway through the evening celebration, Wykeera and Deductible made their way downstairs. The squirrel spoke to the party for the first time with the aid of Wykeera's magic, and revealed his tragic backstory: a pack of wolves had killed his parents mere days before Hagar found him in Drasek. The F.I.A also became acquainted with Ghara, the stern sorcerer/mercenary daughter of Artificer Saadia. Before the night could come to a close, the party received a parcel that contained premium invitations to Teoshi’s ball. Hagar recalled that premium tickets are reserved for Teoshi’s close friends, and provided access to an "after dark" version of the ball after midnight that typically involves doing hard, hard drugs. The next day, Wykeera visited Galene, her nereid mentor and friend. Galene warned her to be careful while she was in the Feywild, and told her of the Peacewaters, a neutral region of the Feywild that once served to heal the wounded and weary.

The night of the gala quickly approached. The party bought Janavian cocktail attire, had a quick discussion weighing the pros and cons of exposing Teoshi's murder dungeon, and walked confidently into the brisk winter air. Their first snag hit them as they reached the front of the entry line: Kriv, who was acting as a bouncer, told the F.I.A that weapons were not allowed inside. The F.I.A slightly faltered in their persuasion, and Hagar’s magic hammer was confiscated!

The adventurers, now allowed entry into the gala, were immediately taken by the ambiance. The outer chambers of the estate were filled with the sound of light social chatter and the smell of fresh lavender. Teoshi's estate - a building purposefully designed to resemble a Zeharian ruin - had been specially prepared for the evening. Slaves lined each wall with cocktails and appetizers in hand. Would-be socialites spoke amongst themselves as the party arrived, hoping to curry favor. Sensing her impending social anxiety, Midzaynov immediately downed a glass of champagne. As the F.I.A mingled with the party-goers, they noticed that certain members of Iomine (Phanalan, Vorimbor, Bernadette) were in attendance, as well as Nurata and Shivalis. Hagar noticed that Pakt was in charge of security for the event, and approached her. He asked her if she was okay with the F.I.A exposing Teoshi at her gala tonight. The gang leader gave a belly laugh, told Hagar that she had no idea what he was talking about, and urged him to enjoy the party.

Thirty minutes later, Teoshi made a grand entrance at the top of the balcony in the Crystal Ballroom with a large serpent coiled across her shoulders. She dramatically introduced her daughter, Sisava, who bore a striking resemblance to her mother. Teoshi then made the announcement that she was freeing all of her slaves, effective immediately. With a wave of her hand, all of her servants’ shackles dropped to the floor. The crowd was agog. Teoshi explained that she had felt the winds of change blowing in Yalba for some time now, but with the F.I.A’s victory over Auntie Ashheart, it was now time for her to take the first steps in combating the evils of the slave trade. Teoshi also mentioned that she would be happy to stay at the forefront of any groups of power that supported the freeing of slaves. Once Teoshi’s eye-catching pronouncement was over, the ball began in earnest. As Teoshi walked away from the balcony, Midzaynov used her Headband of Thoughts to read Teoshi’s mind. As Teoshi turned a sideways glance to the crowd beneath her, she thought to herself “that should keep me safe.”

Zari began to dance with Sisava, who looked to be about her age. While they spun in the center of the crowded ballroom, Sisava casually asked Zari if she came from a rich family, and lost all interest in the conversation when Zari replied in the negative. Zari asked if they had met before. Sisava shook her head and told her that she had been out of town for a very long time. Midzaynov used another charge of her headband to read Sisava’s thoughts; she was condescendingly analyzing Zari as they twirled and conversed. Midzaynov noticed Nurata talking to Shivalis, the latter of whom darted off to another area of the party once they finished speaking. Midzaynov danced with the ebony-skinned aasimar, who moved with a practiced grace.

During this time, Wykeera did her absolute best to not cause a scene. For better or worse, the rest of the F.I.A had other plans. Thane disguised himself as both Rafiq and a Galmrankan blacksmith named Zaerok to lure Teoshi away from the gala to the parlor where they had first met. Meanwhile, Zari focused her efforts on Phanalan. Phanalan seemed to be more unstable than usual; he could not catch his breath, and was relieved to have an excuse to leave the crowded space when Zari approached him. In the parlor, Thane found an excuse to step out while disguised as Zaerok, and then twinned his dominate person scroll. His magics overcame both Teoshi’s and Phanalan’s willpower; they both became enslaved to Thane’s will! Without hesitation, Thane had his thralls re-enter the ballroom. Phanalan announced to the ball from the top of the marble balcony that they were on their way to Teoshi’s secret basement, and invited the entire room to join them there for “a surprise.” Teoshi affirmed this, and then began to make out with Phanalan. The two controlled individuals bypassed Teoshi’s secret chamber entrance behind the false bookcase with a whispered command word. Teoshi, Phanalan, and two dozen nobles hurried down into the basement area, including Raha al-Kharii, at Zari’s request.

From his perch near the secret opening behind the bookcase, Thane sensed that party-goers were not having the reaction that he had anticipated. He then realized that there was no light inside of the basement chamber. To rectify this, he had Phanalan cast dancing lights to illuminate the space. The two dozen nobles still seemed more confused than horrified, so Thane descended the ladder to find the basement not at all as it was described by Wykeera over a month ago. The hundreds of snakes that Wykeera had told the F.I.A about were not present. Stacked against the ancient walls were several mundane crates and barrels, dusty and cobweb-ridden. Standing in the center of the room was a tall, bulky object covered by a white sheet. With the last of the time remaining on the dominate person spell, Thane commanded Phanalan to remove the sheet. As he did, Teoshi regained her senses and cried “No! The security syst-” as gouts of purple gas began to rise from the floor. The doors to the cellar closed with a heavy thud as the occupants of the basement began coughing and clutching their throats …
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Session 33: Of Gods and Kings [Expanse Epilogue]
The session opened in the Diamond Bazaar mere moments after the F.I.A had vanquished the demon witch Auntie Ashheart and saved Yalba from a demonic incursion. The party immediately split up to ascertain the whereabouts of their allies. Midzaynov set off to search for Aldritch, and eventually found him outside the city walls. The wyvern had successfully caught her paladin friend, but he had succumbed to his wounds before she arrived. Midzaynov had no magics that could bring the dead back to life, and too much time had passed for Zari to use revivify. Midzaynov carefully positioned Aldritch onto her back, and made a somber trek to the Temple of Kielel.

Wykeera and Thane made their way to the Sultan’s Palace. Inside, they found the body of Farza al-Kharii, one of Abdul’s younger brothers. The adventurers confirmed Raha and Abdul’s safety, and then followed a long trail of blood into a throne room. They discovered the sultan, whose corpse had been disfigured beyond recognition. The adventurers broke the news of their father’s passing to Abdul and Raha, who bore their grief in different ways. Looking over Atka, Thane asked how much money it would cost to buy a slave. Picking up on his intent, Raha said that she would draw up the necessary paperwork to have Atka freed.

Meanwhile, Hagar took on a task of even greater importance: terrifying the owner of Belet’s Baklava. In his defense, it was likely unintentional. Hagar inquired about buying the store from the tiefling who owned it, who was unaware that the danger that faced the city had passed. Hagar spent a few moments touting the amazing deeds that the party had accomplished to random citizens as they passed by, demonstrating his immense pride in the sixty foot tall spear that had embedded itself into the cobblestone of the district from their previous battle.

Zari went to check on her family at the Temple of Kielel. They were unharmed, but busy - the temple had been converted into an impromptu infirmary during the assault on the city, and many wounded lay strewn across tables and pews alike. Zari helped her family by tending to the injured as best she could until Midzaynov arrived with her fallen aasimar friend. When Tulsi pronounced Aldritch as deceased, Midzaynov began to cry. Quespa attempted to comfort her, and was pulled into a tear-strewn embrace. The party agreed to attempt a raise dead spell within the next few days with Tulsi’s aid, who cast a gentle repose spell on their fallen ally to keep the body preserved in the interim. When the party informed the Cobalt Company of Aldritch’s passing, their reactions were varied. For Shivalis, Aldritch’s death was the last straw in a long list of events in which the F.I.A had caused her allies harm. When they heard of the F.I.A’s plan, Zaeshir and Lidda focused their worry on if Aldritch would even want to return to life. Zaeshir admitted that none of them knew Aldritch as well as they wish they had, and that his drinking problem hinted at a darkness that may interfere with Tulsi’s divine magic.

Meanwhile, Hagar took some baklava to Raha in the Sultan’s Palace. While it was a bit stale, the princess greatly appreciated the chance to decompress after the life-or-death battle that had just taken place. The two humans ate baklava on the princess’ bed and mused about Hagar's true lineage until a knock rang out at the door. Behind it, Hagar discovered, was his brother Malkar! He explained to Hagar that he was here as part of the Galmranian relief effort for the city, and asked to speak to his wife alone for a moment. Hagar left the room, anxious about the implications of his brother’s presence in Yalba.

Three days later, Sultan Abdul al-Kharii gave a grand pronouncement at The Furnace. He spoke of the dangers that Yalba now faced in the aftermath of the attempted fiendish invasion. Abdul explained that witnesses saw the dao Calvinia unleash a wickedly strong earthquake beneath the city’s barracks in the initial stages of the attack, causing the majority of Yalba’s military presence to be wiped out in an instant. The sultan then gestured to the empire soldiers who flanked him, and explained that their Galmranian allies would be bolstering their military forces in this time of need. Then, Abdul rewarded the F.I.A for their deeds for the city. The adventurers received platinum, medals, and a new home in the Gold District to replace the one that had been destroyed during the attack.

A few hours later, the F.I.A was shown their new property. Nestled comfortably in the Gold District, the manor featured high glass windows and intricate stone archways. When they opened the doors to their new abode, they were faced with Abdul’s final gift: several courtesans of every race and gender who were available for conversation or intimate activities upon request. The party was flabbergasted, but decided to engage in pleasant banter with the courtesans. The night was proceeding somewhat normally until Thane spiked the wine with the Philter of Love that they had pilfered from the Palace of Pleasure. A farcical night ensued, in which each member of the F.I.A regarded one of the chamber’s inhabitants as their true love … at least for a time. Thane spent his evening with tiefling triplets, and promptly forgot their names when the sun came up.

Over the course of the next few days, the party ran various errands. Hagar had a tense conversation with Malkar in his new office in The Spires. The barbarian did not trust his brother’s intentions for coming to Yalba, and some old wounds were re-opened. With Meekroot’s help, Wykeera continued to use stone shape to recreate the wall that once contained a fey crossing beneath the streets of Yalba. Midzaynov messaged her mother and negotiated with a gnome by the name of Gerrbat, a member of a minor archaeological society within the city. She convinced him to excavate the archalium sarcophagus within Auntie Ashheart’s old lair without alerting Iomine, to use Bip and Bap as laborers, and to deliver it wholesale to Artificer Saadia in the Sultan’s Palace.

When the time for the raise dead ritual was at hand, Tulsi and her daughter made the necessary preparations; they burned incense, drew the necessary arcane runes, and provided the requisite diamonds. The members of the F.I.A and Cobalt Company took turns attempting to petition Aldritch’s soul to return to his body. Midzaynov tearfully insisted that Aldritch’s work in this world was not yet done, and Hagar apologized for his terrible first impression of him. Shivalis took a turn speaking to Aldritch as well, but whispered her message into the corpse’s ear. Zari, perceptive as ever, was able to pick up on a few phrases during her pleas, chief among them that “the plan is not done yet,” and “there is still too much to do to rest now.” Once the spell’s magic had been released, there was a long pause before Aldritch shot up from the table and asked everyone why he was being stared at. Midzaynov hugged her friend, and relief spread throughout the chamber, as infectious as Aldritch’s laugh.

Over the next several days, the F.I.A mused over what they had learned. They asked themselves: What was Shivalis whispering to Aldritch about? What was Galmran thinking by sending military over to help the city? What was the empire’s intent? These questions and more swarmed through the adventurer’s minds as they walked to the Yalban Auction House, ready once again to bid on new items of arcane creation. Several magic items were bought at the auction, including a Saddle of the Cavalier, a Headband of Intellect, a Clasp of Proof Against Detection and Location, and a Circlet of Thoughts. Hagar attuned to the headband for a brief moment and found himself unable to enter his barbaric rage. The party immediately begged for him to remove it.

Midzaynov then paid a visit to Heskan, who she had not seen since their argument several days ago. Within Heskan’s chambers, Midzaynov noticed that the excessive items that had once adorned the space had been removed. Not five words were spoken between them before Heskan began a long apology. He explained to Midzaynov that the nightmares that were implanted in his mind that had caused him to act so strangely involved her. He had been sent on a pilgrimage from the dragonborn city of Kel in the north to spread the teachings of the Scaled Protector, but quickly ran into trouble when he arrived in Yalba. There were very few dragonborn in the city, the established temple was in a dangerous part of the city, and he lacked the charisma to truly influence Gavriel’s followers in a way that he felt was meaningful. In his nightmares, he explained, Midzaynov took over for his inequities, and led the church into a new state of success that he would never have been able to achieve on his own. Heskan explained that he believed that his holy mission from the Scaled Protector involved him protecting her flock and elevating their lives, and to be replaced in that mission meant that his life had no purpose. The night hag’s malignant influence had conflagurated his insecurities and poisoned his mind. Midzaynov gave Heskan a new pair of prayer beads made of residual archalium scrap. She explained that it was to serve as a reminder of his internal self-worth, and that a wealth of material belongings did not equate spiritual wealth. Heskan smiled, and asked if Midzaynov wanted to undertake her official paladin oath.

One day later, Midzaynov took her oath of redemption. Reciting the tenants of the Scaled Protector, a holy light surrounded the dragonborn. In that moment, the newly-sworn champion received a vision of a tall, angel-like being. A divine voice asked for Midzaynov to be her instrument in a world full of evil. It warned that there were those with strong ties to Kar’duuth in the region, and to silence their rituals. Midzaynov accepted, and a new paladin was created.

In a task of equal importance, Thane utilized ancient magics of great and terrible power to buy hard drugs. Appearing through the teleportation circle within the circle of the Iron Circle, Felsira’s foremost pirate faction, Thane inquired about the drugs that Zaeshir had mentioned in the Wyvern’s Rest Inn several weeks ago. He learned that the drugs were highly addictive, imbued with dangerous magic, and bore the name Death’s Dirge. Thane bought two doses of Death’s Dirge, and spent the rest of the day tracking down the elf who could operate the teleportation circle. As he left, Thane recited the motto of the Iron Circle with another member. “No Gods, no Kings.”

One day later, Hagar organized and attended a historic meeting between a few members of the F.I.A, Sultan Abdul al-Kharii, the leader of the Pit Vipers, and their various bodyguards. The place of assembly was as dramatic as it was symbolic: the ashy remains of the Leviathan's Pit. Utilizing both his knowledge of governmental structures from his Sidunian education and his own wealth of experience from living in Yalba's shanty towns, Hagar made a passionate argument for establishing a Yalban parliament and reducing the city's reliance on slave labor. Pakt, who lived outside the city’s walls, would gain significant political clout in exchange for reduced income from the slave trade. Abdul would gain a foothold towards abolishing the slave trade, but risked diluting his political influence and isolating the nobles who relied on slave labor. In the end, despite the risks, both parties agreed to support the creation of a parliament.

Back at the Temple of Kielel, Zari had a fated encounter with a man whom she would only learn later was her grandfather. Urilesh, a dashing tiefling man who did not appear to be any older than thirty, entered the temple and commanded that Zari answer two questions. He demanded to know how close she was to being able to kill him, and the location of the rest of her siblings. They fought briefly, and Zari was quickly overpowered. Tulsi appeared in the doorway to the chamber, causing Urilesh to teleport away with a smirk. Zari’s mother tended to her wounds and led her into the temple’s basement chambers. There, Tulsi explained that the man she had just fought was responsible for the fiendish heritage running through their bloodline. Shortly after the Arrival, Urilesh made a deal with the archdevil Krynora. In exchange for great and terrible arcane power, Urilesh cursed his future family. Zari learned that the reason that her family members lived unusually short lives is because of this curse: the years that are cut short from Misza family are added to Urilesh’s lifespan, hence his youthful appearance. Finally, Tulsi revealed to her daughter that she had more siblings than just Hamza; they had been sent away at a young age to keep them safe from Urilesh. Accompanied by a vision from Kielel herself, Tulsi bequeathed Zari with the Cryptkiller Flail - a magic weapon passed down through the Misza family.

The F.I.A’s adventure thus far had not been an easy one. Over four months ago, the surviving members of the F.I.A were tasked to find a Janavian prince after demonstrating their worth by fending off assassins at the wedding of Malkar Terroc and Raha al-Kharii. They met Zari Misza, a cleric of the Matron of Souls and minor authority figure within the city of Yalba, Janav’s capital city. The adventurers traveled across the Great Expanse, the world’s largest desert. From there, their journey would take them everywhere from the sacrificial basements of the super-rich to the largest fighting pit in the country as they searched for the missing prince. They would meet old enemies in a new light, become enslaved in a lamia’s torture palace, and fend off a shadow creature that rivaled even Xeridal in their sheer might.

Once Prince Abdul was recovered, a new plot would unfurl: that of the grim nightmares that had been plaguing the major members of Yalba’s clergy. The F.I.A uncovered the presence of a night hag within the city - a fiend with the power to instill doubt and fear in her victims to the point of absolute corruption. A game of cat and mouse ensued, in which the ethereally-bound fiendish forces attempted to kill the F.I.A before their plot could be halted. Botanical buildings were destroyed, catacombs were explored, and the lair of the night hag Auntie Ashheart was eventually located. The hag was battled once beneath Yalba’s streets and once more above them. The battle for the soul of Yalba ended in climactic fashion with the hag smote far above the city by a would-be paladin of the Scaled Protector.

Over the course of their desert-bound adventure, the party had grown more powerful in both might and bond. New monsters were discovered and defeated for the greater good, several magical implements were added to the F.I.A’s inventory to bolster their strength, and a new member of the party had been all but officially inducted into the party’s ranks. After being pushed to their absolute limits both physically and mentally from the literal and psychological torture that their enemies had put them through, the party desperately needed the space to heal. As the session drew to a close, the F.I.A collected themselves in the central living area of their new home. Their newest mission: to laugh, love, and celebrate life with their closest friends over Starfall.

And celebrate they did.
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Session 32: Ashes to Ashes
As the sun began to set on a day that would be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in Janav’s long and bloody history, the F.I.A found themselves caught in a maelstrom. Crimson-cloaked members of the Bloodbroods and crazed cultists of Yelpech swarmed the streets of Yalba, striking at citizens with dagger and spell alike! Meanwhile, the demon witch Auntie Ashheart had taken to the sky, muttering an incantation as storm clouds began to gather around her! The only clue that the party of adventurers had of what plots were lurking under the surface of this attack was Princess Raha al-Kharii’s warning that the forbiddance spell that protected the palace’s grounds from fiends and undead had been suddenly dispelled. Faced with their greatest peril to date, the F.I.A sprung into action to save as much of the besieged city as they could!

The party split up in order to cover more ground. Thane, Hagar, and Wykeera rocketed into the sky. Their goal: steal Auntie Ashheart’s heartstone to prevent her escape. Meanwhile, unsure of the fate of many of their allies, Midzaynov and Zari sprinted towards the Sultan’s Palace. As the dragonborn and tiefling champions bolted through the city streets, they picked up on two vital pieces of information. Firstly, death dogs and gnolls alike seemed to be emanating from the Victory District, snapping their jaws at any who came too close. Secondly, their enterprising friend Dak was currently in the midst of frantically hawking to the entirety of Merchant’s Row the items that he currently had in the greatest supply: the absolute deluge of lightly used weaponry that the F.I.A had brought back with them from the Palace of Pleasure and given to Dak upon request.

Wykeera, Thane, and Hagar shot towards their target with resolute intent. About one hundred feet away from Auntie Ashheart, the party noticed that hundreds of emaciated vines were floating in a wide radius around her. Soon after, their fortunes took a turn for the worse. Hagar had an earthbind spell cast on him, Thane’s fly was dispelled, and Wykeera was blasted with magic missile. All three party members began to plummet to the ground. Wykeera cast a gust of wind straight downward, cushioning her fall. Thane grabbed onto Hagar while the barbarian was being dragged down by Auntie Ashheart’s magics, preventing a fatal fall. Thane cast fly once again and landed a few hits on Auntie Ashheart with his eldritch blast, but his fly was dispelled once again. Wykeera let loose Saadia’s Feather Token, releasing a gargantuan roc that caught Thane before he could plummet to the ground yet again. Hagar took off once Auntie Ashheart’s magics were dispelled and caught up with Thane in the vicinity above the hag. Hagar used his Snake of Climbing to temporarily tame the gargantuan bird, Thane attempted to invoke Moroden’s aid in the coming skirmish, and the two airborne adventurers strafed out of range to prepare their next steps.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party hastened to the Sultan’s Palace. As they charged, they became aware that a building had suddenly collapsed somewhere within The Spires. Aldritch Xanroc, wounded and bloodied, was holding the bridge that led into the palace proper when they arrived. Within the palace’s atrium, the party encountered Eldon, Raha’s other retainer. Zari intuited that Eldon’s intentions were malicious, and a fight broke out; her former ally had apparently been swayed by some dark influence! After a brief skirmish, and Eldon used dimension door to teleport away. The party sought out Artificer Saadia, who was barricaded in her tower. The party persuaded her to join them, and they set off to find prince Abdul al-Kharii. After searching through several passageways, they found him in dire straits. At the end of a long corridor, the party found a force of cultists and Bloodbroods alike facing down Rashad and Abdul, who were desperately outnumbered. Fireballs and other magics rang out as the party attempted to save the besieged prince and his retainer!

Several prominent moments stood out in this skirmish. Rashad defended the prince like a madman with his spear, cutting down several cultists. Eldon launched a fireball at the party, greatly compounding their wounds from their previous battle with Auntie Ashheart earlier that day. Abdul sparred with the cultists with a surprising amount of speed and agility, at one point disarming one and stabbing him with his own knife. Yeron, the new leader of the Bloodbroods after Thyrias’ death, was embarrassingly ineffectual at fighting the party. Kilvan and a black horse wreathed in red flame appeared out of the Ethereal Plane to snatch Abdul away, but they were thwarted. Artificer Saadia killed Eldon with a high-powered magic missile. The battle was bloody and decisive - the F.I.A was victorious! Once the dust had settled, Abdul revealed himself to be Fazil, who had used his changeling heritage to disguise himself and protect the prince. The clergy member in the back who was supporting his allies with long-range spells removed their veil to reveal that they were, in fact, Abdul al-Kharii. Thanking his saviors, the beleaguered prince warned the party that his father might be in danger. Aware that there may be spies in the Ethereal Plane watching them at this very moment, Rashad hinted to the party that there might be something in The Furnace that could help them fight back against Auntie Ashheart, who was still hundreds of feet in the air and out of their reach. The party decided to not check on Abdul’s father or Raha, opting instead to rush to The Furnace to search for aid. On their way out, the adventurers picked up Sekmet al-Id and Aldritch Xanroc and all rushed to the fighting pit together.

Meanwhile, the boys were getting into some nonsense. Hagar and Thane continued to assail the witch, who defended herself by casting a plant growth spell to enlarge the vines that levitated around her to form a humongous spherical entity made of living plants. At the same time, the adventurers saw that Calvinia was making a beeline towards them with eyes that glowed red with murderous intent! Hagar and Thane responded by commanding the roc to use its great talons to latch onto the night hag’s plant-based shield and propel the entire thing northward. To everyone’s surprise, their gambit worked. The entire plant-based fortress began to slowly move towards the city’s walls. As an unexpected consequence, Calvinia became entangled in the vines, unable to escape! Auntie Ashheart retorted by summoning a deluge of demons. Massive gorilla-like fiends used the writhing vines to swing up at their targets, and a vulture-like fiend with razor sharp talons sailed through the air towards the multicolored bird that now eclipsed the sun! Hagar responded by pulling out the sixty foot-long spear that Thane had created using Auntie Ashheart’s Miraculous Pigments, and leapt off the bird to strike down upon them! Hagar sunk his oversized spear into the shoulder of one of the demons, but was quickly rebuked by the fiend’s overwhelming strength. The fiends began to close in on Thane and Hagar as storm clouds and rolling thunder gathered above them …

At the same time, the other party members arrived in The Furnace with Artificer Saadia, Sekmet, and Aldritch in tow. The various creatures that were held beneath the fighting pit had been let loose, and were fighting both cultist and guard alike. The party came upon two wounded wyverns that were futilely thrashing against their chains. Midzaynov spoke draconic to one creature, and, with the help of Sekmet’s divinatory magic, convinced it to temporarily aid them in their battle against Auntie Ashheart. Midzaynov broke its chain with her hammer, mounted the creature, and was shortly joined by Aldritch. Wykeera failed to tame the other wyvern with her druidic inclinations, but Zari’s calm emotions spell allowed them to ride for the moment. Sekmet and Saadia cast various fly spells on the party as an extra layer of protection, and the wyverns shot up into the sky.

By the time that the wyverns arrived, the situation above the city had dramatically worsened. Auntie Ashheart had cast a call lightning spell that buffeted both Thane and Hagar, who were now outnumbered; both adventurers had been knocked unconscious by the onslaught of fiendish might. As the rest of the party approached on their winged steeds, Auntie Ashheart’s lightning turned from a bright electric white to a midnight black. She croaked at the party as they approached: “You absolute fools, meddling in affairs you cannot possibly understand. My original intent was to kidnap your precious prince and have him commit a public suicide to throw this city into chaos. It was Siaval who was to see that the final light of hope in this city was extinguished. But now, I see the truth. You have become the hopes of Yalba. When you die here, as loudly and publicly as possible, the soul of Yalba will be mine, and I will spread your carcasses to all four corners of the Expanse!” The F.I.A tightened their grips on their weapons. The final phase of their struggle for the soul of Yalba had begun!

Zari and Wykeera’s wyvern flew directly towards the roc in order to heal their allies. Zari cast a blight spell as she passed by the ball of vines, greatly decreasing their ability to hamper her allies’s movement! Wykeera managed to stabilize Hagar with her fey magics, but it was too late for Thane. By the time that they reached their changeling companion, he had already expired from his wounds. Zari cast the revivify spell on Thane, pulling his soul from Kielel’s warm embrace once again.

Midzaynov and Aldritch’s wyvern shot straight for the sickly heart in the middle of the maelstrom itself: Auntie Ashheart. During their flight, they felt that the fly spells from Sekmet and Artificer Saadia had been lost. Something was clearly happening in The Furnace, but the party was too far away to tell what it was. Weaving through arcs of necrotic lightning that threatened to topple them from their mount, the two paladins soared towards their target. At the same time, Calvinia finally broke free of her bindings and rushed to intercept them. Calvinia took two mighty swings with her maul, causing Aldritch to hurtle towards the ground. Midzaynov commanded that her mount dive down to catch the unconscious aasimar, and leapt forward to strike at Calvinia with all of her might. Instead of connecting with the dao’s form, however, something unexpected happened. Thane’s djinn patron, sensing the imminent conflict with his rival, materialized just in the nick of time to give Midzaynov the requisite wind-based momentum to carry her to the hollow center of Auntie Ashheart’s makeshift lair. Midzaynov would have one chance to kill the witch before she began to plummet back to the ground. Mustering every ounce of her remaining strength, she brought her Hammer of Kar’duuth down on Auntie Ashheart’s form and unleashed the mightiest divine smite that she could! Midzaynov’s channeled holy powers proved to be too much for the fiend, who fell onto one of the now-deteriorating vines beneath her with a blinding flash of light. Midzaynov braced herself for the inevitable fall to earth, but she somehow remained aloft. Looking behind her, a pair of multicolored dragon wings had sprouted from her back. Looking ahead, her Hammer of Kar’duuth was shining brighter than it ever had before. Midzaynov floated down to the form of the dead hag and retrieved her heartstone as the evil being’s raiments began to disintegrate into ash.

Meanwhile, Calvinia continued her struggle against Moroden. Finally conscious and in the presence of his mighty patron, Thane willed a small cloud to form beneath him and act as a method of temporary flight. Infused with his patron’s full power, Thane unleashed a shocking grasp that was so powerful that it disintegrated the dao almost instantly. Still feeling the rush of might from his patron, Thane maneuvered towards the demon witch’s corpse. Something inside of him, equal parts integral and unidentifiable, compelled him to place a hand on her skin. Thane complied with his strange urge, and touched Auntie Ashheart’s cold flesh. When he tried to remove his hand, a sort of membrane came off with it, and began to attach itself to Thane’s skin! In a terrifying and sudden display, this cold membrane crawled itself over every inch of the changeling’s skin. By the time it was over, Thane had absorbed both new power and new understanding. He now had the ability to use his changeling heritage to create articles of clothing that he had seen before to increase his penchant at creating disguises. He also had the terrifying realization that changelings and hags are inextricably connected. Suddenly, the pieces of lore that Thane had picked up on his journeys began to click in his mind. He was not sure why, and he was not sure how. But Thane Illamin understood that he - and perhaps his entire race - owed their existence to that of hags.

While the immediate conflict seemed to have ended, several aspects of the attack still remained a mystery. What was Calvinia’s role in the attack? What became of the sultan, or Kilvan? How could such a large cultist presence gone undetected in the city for so long? These thoughts and more raced through the adventurers’ minds as they regrouped on top of their trusty roc. Waving from a balcony from the Sultan’s Palace was Raha al-Kharii, Quespa, and, surprisingly, Kilvan! After a brief moment, however, Kilvan’s form shimmered and turned into that of Atka al-Safiri. Apparently, she had mastered the disguise self spell that Thane had recommended she focus on, and was able to keep both the princess and Midzaynov’s dragonborn ward safe during the attack. As the F.I.A soared above Yalba, they could see that the remaining cultists and Bloodbroods had suffered a devastating loss in morale with the death of Auntie Ashheart, and were in full retreat. Their unanswered questions would have to wait for another time - for now, the city was safe. The F.I.A descended towards the Diamond Bazaar, their silhouettes framed by a brilliant Yalban sunset.
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Session 31: The Withering Heart
Within the ancient crypt beneath the city of Yalba, the F.I.A’s deadly conflict with the demon witch Auntie Ashheart raged on. Separated from her friends, Midzaynov faced a malicious swarm of venomous spiders. Meanwhile, Zari danced around the jaws of a massive hound with jaws that teemed with necrotic energy. Hagar and Thane were dealing with their own deluge of spiders, while Wykeera held her concentration on the moonbeam spell that was focused on the necrotic tree in the epicenter of the Withering Heart itself.

The luminescent orbs that drifted in the boughs of the black tree began to expand, causing the party to see glimmers of nightmares that Auntie Ashheart had inflicted on Yalba’s populace. Zari was downed by the shadowy beast, but Hagar successfully kicked open a door on the inside of the tree with such force that it slammed into the creature, buying enough time for the party to slay it before it could finish off their tiefling friend. Thane fell during the battle, and was saved only through a combination of Midzaynov’s magically-imbued inspiration and Hagar interposing himself between his friend and a flaming sphere conjured by the hag.

Despite the hag locking down the party’s movement by magically locking the doors in her lair and moving between rooms by walking through walls, the party pressed on with their assault. Wykeera was able to use her otherworldly mental abilities to force open some doors and continued to whittle away at the tree’s vitality with her moonbeam. Before she could get comfortable, however, she noticed half-formed bulezau demons stumbling through the abyssal portal in an adjacent room, who lunged forward to attack her! Midzaynov brought Zari back to consciousness with a healing word; Zari responded by using her spirit guardians to assail the remaining enemies in the chamber. The party successfully drove the creatures back, but not before one of the demonic creatures inflicted Wykeera with their inherent disease. Soon after, they sealed the rift to the Abyss using their spells.

Suddenly furious at the being that was bent on destroying her lair, Auntie Ashheart focused her various spells and hexes on Wykeera. After being downed by a jar of death slugs that the hag threw at her, Wykeera was resuscitated by Midzaynov, and cast moonbeam one last time. The damage was enough to destroy the tree! The radiant damage from the magic dissipated the source of evil, causing the bark to turn into an ashy substance that collected at the bottom of the lair and slowly burned away into nothingness. With the haunted tree now destroyed, both Wykeera and Thane felt the pressure that had entered their minds along with Auntie Ashheart’s nightmares release. Apparently, the tree had served as some sort of conduit for the night hag’s nightmare haunting, greatly increasing the psychological harm that her nightmares inflicted over time. The tree now destroyed, Auntie Ashheart decried the party and pressed herself against one of the stone walls, unable to pass though anymore.

Sensing an opportunity, Midzaynov brought down the full reckoning of her divine fury on the witch. Auntie Ashheart caught the first swing of the hammer with her bare hands and chuckled in the dragonborn’s face. Midzaynov stomped on Auntie Ashheart’s foot to create an opening, and brought her hammer down square on the hag’s head, causing massive damage. Heavily wounded, Auntie Ashheart reiterated that she warned the party what would happen if they pushed her too far, pulled out a long black crystal that the party immediately recognized as her Heartstone, and disappeared into the Ethereal Plane. Thane immediately cast blink to give chase, but Auntie Ashheart was too quick. She disappeared through the roof of the cavern, out of sight.

The party cursed their circumstances and tended to their wounds while they scoured the lair for clues. They discovered several magic items with the hag’s personal belongings: a silver lantern that revealed invisible creatures when lit, a set of paints that could create three-dimensional objects when painted in two dimensions, a feywood ring with the same magical properties as Xeridal’s, and a mysterious gold coin that the party could not identify. Thane investigated the sarcophagus located in the back of the mausoleum, and discovered that it was made of archalium. The party recalled that several mundane types of ore, rock, and metal became infused with magic during The Arrival, and that the Zeharian people used a specific kind of limestone for their sarcophagi that was different from most of their other building materials.

After their short rest had concluded, Midzaynov messaged Raha in order to tell her what had transpired in the crypt. The message she received back, however, warned her that the magical barriers that keep fiends out of the palace had just been disabled, and that the royal guard were mobilizing! Almost immediately after receiving this message, the party felt a rumbling in the ground all around them, and loud noises coming from the surface. The party rushed out of the mausoleum, discovered a passageway nearby that let them ascend to the surface, and exited the crypts in what they quickly discovered was the now empty headquarters for the gang known as the Bloodbroods.

As the party made their way into the city from the shanty town where the gang hideout was located, they came face to face with chaos itself. Red-cloaked members of the Bloodbroods were running throughout the streets, firing fire magic at both civilians and guards alike. Seemingly-normal citizens of the city were exiting their homes with freshly-carved symbols of the demon lord Yelpech on their bodies and joining the fray with daggers drawn! Finally, the party could barely make out the figure of Auntie Ashheart silhouetted against the fading colors of the day. She levitated several hundred feet in the air while verbalizing an incantation so loudly that even the party could hear her. The streets of Yalba were running red with blood, and the party would only have so much time to save what they could …
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Session 30: A Dance with Demons
The session opened with Bernadette discovering the ashy remains of her former friends in the aftermath of the party’s fight with the doppleganger and maligned darklings. Through tears, she told the party that Phanalan was right about them; they had shot first and asked questions later. The F.I.A speculated that maybe the humanoids who were killed were evil clones who were anything but innocent. While they did this, Bernadette found a locket in the ashy remains of one of the members of Iomine who died; a friend of hers named Calvin. The party had accidentally killed a few innocent people. Bernadette went off to the corner of the river room chamber and sobbed.

Midi went over with the clothing and personal items and apologized to Bernadette for their mistake. She took them silently. The party talked about what they would do while Thane used the last of his blink spell to pass through the wall at the end of the river room … and enter into a place of haunted wonder. He found himself in the Withering Glade - a large cave lit by magically luminescent black grass. A path in the grass led up to a red sandstone columned mausoleum on the top of a hill with a large black gnarled tree growing out of the top. The entire space was effused with glowing green orbs that circled in wide arcs around the tree. Thane quietly circled part way around the perimeter of the cave. He could find no places where there was a physical entrance. It appeared that the only way to enter the cave was to teleport in, or travel there by another plane of existence. Almost on cue, Thane saw the ethereal form of Kilvan heading towards the mausoleum.

Thane reappeared in the river room, told the party what he found, and they began to plan their next steps. Zari was tearfully quiet all the while, clearly affected by the mistake that cost half a dozen innocent people their lives. Hagar recalled from Bana-Kye that structures such as the one that Thane was now showing with minor illusion were the resting places of the great Zeharian pharaohs. They sought out Meekroot the darkling via Hagar’s graham crackers in the hallway where they found him previously, and Bernadette went her separate way northwest through the catacombs. They asked him about the river room and the wall that had been destroyed; Wykeera asked him to create a drawing of what the wall that contained the fey crossing once looked like. He gave a very detailed inscription, shading and all, of what the wall once looked like. There was a naturally-formed circle in the stone wall that the ancient Zeharians used for some religious purpose; this helped create the crossing.

The party went back to the river room, and both Zari and Wykeera used stone shape to begin the recreation of this wall. It will take several more castings of the spell to complete the process, but it was started nonetheless. During this process, Meekroot told the party that he and his family had been in the Zeharian Catacombs for about 40 years, and that the night hag was here before they had arrived. She destroyed it after the darklings arrived so that nobody else could find her there. Wykeera told him that she wanted to restore the fey crossing. Meekroot was grateful, but told her that he was exiled and cannot return even though he wanted to. After all, he and his family had been banished from the plane following the War of Exiles.

The party asked Meekroot to give a brief overview of the War of Exiles. He told them that 40,000 years ago, a fey of the summer court fell in love with a fey of the winter court. Meekroot himself was a member of the house in the summer court the lady was from - a fey noble named Naivara. He told the party that the summer and winter queens did not want the two fey to change the ways of the courts, so there was a war. On one side: the summer court, the winter court, and the great cities of the elves. On the other side were fey who wanted to destroy the court system entirely, creatures of evil who wanted to see the queens dethroned, and any neutral fey who were unlucky enough to be associated with them by proxy. Many fought, and many died. The fey queens prevailed, and all combatants (and those even vaguely associated with them) who fought against the two queens were exiled to different planes of existence across the multiverse. The members of his own house were cursed by the summer queen for their betrayal so that they would never again be able to be in sunlight without a severe wizening effect. Meekroot also told the party how his family had traveled through several planes of existence before settling in their current home. They were chased by the dao Calvinia through the Plane of Elemental Earth as she tried to enslave them, and eventually ended up here, below the streets of Yalba.

The party took a long rest, thanked Meekroot for his help, and dropped the tiny hut spell. Midzaynov noticed that they had an ethereal visitor in the form of the incubus Kilvan. They began talking about their “weaknesses,” deceiving Kilvan as to what could hurt them in combat. Using his spyglass of secrets, Thane detected a similar energy emanating from the dead-end wall to that of the Zeharian ruin that the party had discovered beneath the remains of the Greenbough Oasis. Wykeera used her strange mind-based powers to create a passage in the wall wide enough for the party to slip through; the moment she did, Thane slipped into the ethereal plane using blink in an attempt to stop Kilvan from entering the mausoleum before the party did. The changeling and the succubus wrestled ineffectually in the air, to Midzaynov’s bemusement.

The party rushed through the grassy fields of the Withering Glade. As they sprinted, cobwebs began to collect at their shins; they realized that these fields were filled to the brim with spiders and vermin! Wykeera shifted into the form of a giant seagull and beat her wings in order to clear a path. The party approached the entrance of the mausoleum to see several shambling humanoids looking to head them off who were not there the previous day. The group seemed to be tainted by dark fey energy, and the party recognized several members! Included in the shambling mob was Samash (the tiefling that Hagar had sparred with at The Hellraisers HQ), a half-elven girl whom the party had entertained during the Tournament of Champions, Aida al-Sal (the tiefling guildmaster for Yalban goldsmiths who had escorted them across the Great Expanse when they first arrived in the city), and two hooded members of Iomine. Kilvan appeared in material form above the crowd that had formed in front of the mausoleum, and addressed the party. He told them that if they killed the night hag, the innocent people on the ground beneath him would surely die. Thane attempted to cast hex on the incubus without him noticing during their parley, but failed, and a combat ensued!

Kilvan immediately vanished into the ethereal plane, while the mob of charmed innocents drew long, thin daggers and took aim at each other! Though the combined magical effect of Midzaynov’s countercharm and Zari’s calm emotions spell, the party managed to break the enchantment on the night hag’s thralls while doing minimal damage to them. Midzaynov even recognized one of the members of Iomine - a young human named Melvin, who Midi had spared beneath the Drasekian village where Thane had been kidnapped during their previous adventure. He did not seem to recognize the party, and the group of survivors were instructed to head for the surface. They left in a hurry.

The party now stood outside the entrance to the Withering Heart. Wykeera took a quick pass in her giant seagull form to scout the building; nothing seemed out of the ordinary from her distance, although the building seemed to get slightly taller as one moved from its front to its end. The party crept through the atrium of the Zeharian monument, passing through a door into a long hallway with two doors on each side that seemingly ended at the base of the huge black tree that grew out of the building’s ceiling. The party made a beeline for the tree. Hagar examined the tree, and found a door that led into a small, enclosed chamber within the tree itself that led to another door.

As he examined the next area, Auntie Ashheart’s voice rang out! She gave the party a warning and an offer. She warned the party that if they attempted to kill her and failed that she would reap her vengeance on the next ten generations of their families and friends. Then she offered to tell them anything they wanted to know about Yalba, specifically geared towards the various schemes of Teoshi al-Surai and Phanalan. In return, the party would have to agree to sign a magical contract that forbade them from telling anyone of what they had seen up until now, attempting to stop her plots in any way, or any other activity that would interfere with her ultimate goals.

Thane tried to cast an illusory script spell to trick the magical contract into thinking that they had signed it, but the contract was too powerful to overcome. Auntie Ashheart was made immediately aware of their attempted duplicity, opened the door in front of Hagar, and uttered “let’s begin” as she assumed a defensive stance. The party noted her dark purple skin, warts, and surprisingly hardy frame. Before anyone could move, the necklace that Auntie Ashheart was wearing began to talk! One of the two shrunken heads that lay at her withered collarbone began jabbering about how Auntie Ashheart always got to have all of the fun; Auntie Ashheart told it to shut up, and began the incancations necessary to cast a spell!

The first part of the battle saw Auntie Ashheart demonstrating the ability to walk right through the very walls of her lair. The party tried desperately to open the doors that they now found themselves locked behind as Auntie Ashheart phased into and out of the various rooms, casting spells as she went. The battle began in Auntie Ashheart’s most inner chamber, but eventually spread out to include a crypt room where the Zeharian pharaoh was buried, complete with a large sarcophagus that at one point began to bleed a swarm of spiders that enveloped the party! Auntie Ashheart cast a moving ball of fire and a plague of locusts to attack the party, who found themselves without a way to counterattack as she phased between the various rooms of her lair. Midi managed to break open a door within Auntie Ashheart’s tree den to find another room with a rift that led to a palace with huge crimson pillars that seemed to stretch forward for as far as the eye could see!

Sensing an opportunity, Batu entered the fray on the back of a flaming nightmare to attack Midzaynov, but he was no match for the combined might of the F.I.A, who took him down to death’s door in a single round! The very next round, Auntie Ashheart pushed both Midzaynov and Zari into new, isolated rooms and magically locked the doors behind them. Midzaynov found herself in a room filled with blood, instruments of torture, and a strange collection of glyphs on the floor as another swarm of spiders leapt from the shadows to attack her! Meanwhile, Zari found herself in a meeting area of some kind with a large collection of stone rubble on the floor, and was accosted by a large shadowy hound that leapt to strike! With Batu gone but the bout only beginning, the F.I.A braced themselves for the ongoing struggle...
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Session 29: The Catacombs of Yalba
The session started out in the House of Champions on the 9th of Iazon with Atka threatening to blow up the party if they didn’t prove to her that they were who they claimed to be right now. They stumbled for a minute until Wykeera remind her of Jeralf, Moroden’s incredibly old servant. The plane of Elemental Air, they remembered, is a bit harder to get to via the Ethereal Plane. That appeased her, and she dropped the spell scroll, and the party took a big exhale. At this point, the party realized that the past five days have begun to take their toll on them; they had been through several near-death fights the past several days, and their wounds were building up. Midi cast leomund’s tiny hut (by playing her bagpipes so loudly as her verbal component) so that the party could have some shelter from prying eyes. They wrote on parchment what they wanted to communicate, because the dome was opaque. The party also know that it blocks travel from the Ethereal Plane, being made of magical force.

The party came up with a code phrase so they’d be able to identify each other in case succubi/inccubi were impersonating them: “What do you wash yourself with?” “Soph.” Midi then realized that the party couldn’t just sleep in the middle of the living room without blankets; Atka tried to out outside to bring a pillow in but physically couldn’t. So they all made a pillow fort and then Midi cast her spell again. At this point, Quespa informed the party that these fire horse things came out of nowhere and brought the goat-headed fiends with them when the old botanical wing was attacked a few hours ago. Zari recalled that these creatures were known as nightmares - fiends from the lower planes who could travel between the material and Ethereal Planes, and that there was a ritual used to summon them. Midi sent a sending spell to Raha to tell her to hide the clergy in a safe place. They all slept in the hut in a big ol pillow fort. And it was the best sleep they’d had in days.

The next day, the party looked outside and saw that the city was in disarray. After the events of the previous day, people were on edge. Citizens of Yalba were keening in the streets. A building had collapsed for a reason that was generally unknown to the populace of the city. Dozens of people died, and several times more were wounded. The citizens of Yalba didn’t know what was going on, or where the next threat might emerge from. On their way to the palace, Zari said a quick prayer at what was left of the destroyed building. At the palace, they told Raha what they had learned and what they had planned to do, which was find the night hag and stop her corruptive force forever. The party left Atka and Quespa at the palace with Raha. The party visited Artificer Saadia in her tower, who was drinking. Midi asked her about Heartstones - the item that the sentient plant had informed them of in the old botany building. She told the party that a Heartstone was a foot-long magical item that can cure any disease, but didn’t know how night hags interacted with them. They left Aldritch there to drink with Saadia, and they decided to go to the atheneum.

Thane tried to convince one of the cowardly guards in front to go visit the sphinx. He didn’t seem to know what Thane meant by what he had said, but was afraid nonetheless. They found Sekmet in Anakis’ old office. They asked her about night hag things, but she was not very knowledgeable on the subject. She told them where to find the books on demon summoning, and they went up three floors to browse through old tomes. After several hours of research, the F.I.A eventually found the ritual to summon a nightmare. It required expensive material components and a humanoid sacrifice. They decided that the humanoid sacrifice was too high a price to pay, and continued on.

Next, the F.I.A visited Iomine to ask about places where they could enter the catacombs. Phanalan said that he could let the party into the catacombs, but asked that they bring a guide with them. That guide was Bernadette. She hesitantly accepted. Phanalan told the party that some members of Iomine had gone missing in the Zeharian Catacombs recently, and to try to help them if they could if they saw them. They saw through Phanalan’s and Bernadette’s interactions that they seemed to have a complex (and maybe gross) history. Phanalan kept calling the women “sweetie” and “honey” and other bad things. He was a creep, and seemed to be more unhinged than the last time they spoke.

The party descended into the ancient and dark Zeharian ruins beneath the city. Bernadette told them that she would help them avoid the areas that they weren’t allowed to go, and that she did not want to partake in any combat that may happen on this journey. The party asked why there were places they were not able to go, and she said that they were too dangerous. They were suspicious of her answer, but continued nonetheless. They walked under the city for about an hour, ducking under partially-collapsed passageways and musty corridors. While they walked, they asked Bernadette about her relationship with Phanalan. She was cagey and untrustworthy of the party, at one point telling them that they were on the “wrong side.” Thane asked the half-elf at one point if she was from Galmran. She said that she was (she and Midi actually had a conversation about being from Galmran when Midi disguised herself as a different dragonborn to contact Iomine about a month ago). Thane asked if her village had a lot of changelings, and she said that there were a few. Then he asked if Bernadette was her real name. She looked at him and said "of course." The party didn't pick up on any deceit in her voice. They also learned the she was a sorcerer, although they did not know of what type. They also noticed that she seemed more confident in her “wizard’s explorer’s gear” down here in the crypt than she did in her Iomine robes above the surface.

They continued south until they arrived at the point where the disappearances had been happening: near the edge of the city below Bloodfall Row. They came across a long corridor with bloodstains and drag marks. As the party investigated, Midi used her divine sense to look for extraplanar creatures - and sensed three redcaps lurking in the shadows! Her holy powers told her that redcaps were fey beings of evil merit that revel in torture and death. Midzaynov warned the party of these foes, and then they revealed themselves! They rushed at the party, short yet hardy figures with almost comically-oversized sicles, blood-red hoods, and heavy iron boots. The party made quick work of them, and continued down the hallway.

The party came across a split in the path, and Bernadette did not know which way would help them find the lair; they were now farther than she had ever been before. Using his natural attunement to wind and currents of air, Thane detected the smallest breeze-like noise coming down the right corridor. The party chose to take the right corridor, and head further in. Heading deeper and deeper into the unexplored sections of the Zeharian Catacombs, the party was eventually hailed by an unseen voice that shouted “who goes there?” The party fumbled for an answer for a time before a very short cloaked figure with grey skin revealed itself in the hallway. Wykeera recognized this figure as a darkling, a type of fey that has been cursed to be wizened by sunlight. Thane transformed himself into a somehow even more crazed version of Phanalan, told the creature that he was a great and powerful sorcerer, and explained to the figure that he was down here to do nefarious deeds. Thankfully, the creature didn’t believe him, and instead decided to parley with the party. He told them that a horrible creature made its lair deeper into these passages, and to stay away if they valued their lives.

The creature told them that he was a refugee from the Feywild, and that the Summer Queen had cursed the members of his house after the War of Exiles. He and the rest of his family lived under the city, surviving on snakes and rats that made their way into the catacombs and plying their trade as thieves to the citizens above who knew of their existence. He also told the party that some of his brethren took a deal from the night hag and now work for her. After the darklings had come through a fey crossing via the underground river through Yalba, the night hag offered the darklings a “chance to live above the surface once more.” Some took her up on her offer, and some did not. The darklings who did not join her understood that they would probably have to perform great evils to get what they wanted, and decided against it. Once her offer had been made, the night hag destroyed the fey crossing on the side of the material plane. Wykeera vowed to find a way for the darklings to return home. Thane told the darkling before he left that there was one sorcerer who was even more powerful than “he” (Phanalan), and that it was Thane Illamin. The darkling told them that his name was Meekroot, ate a bunch of Hagar’s graham crackers, gave Wykeera a blue fish scale once he realized that she was “fey touched”, and then darted into a hole in one of the walls.

Pressing deeper into the catacombs, the party eventually found a large square chamber that contained the source of the rushing noise. This room held a section of the underground river on the far side; Wykeera deduced that this is where the fey crossing used to be. Also in this room were two dim green light sources spaced evenly apart and about a dozen humanoid figures who faced away from the hallway that the party was approaching from. They wore commoner’s clothing - a couple of them wore robes from Iomine. Their faces were hidden from view, and they seemed to be interacting with something at the center of their crowd. Using the sounds of the river as cover, Thane snuck around the left side of the chamber to get a better view. He could make out that there was a tall figure in the center of the semicircle, but could not see any other details. Midzaynov, using see invisibility, had been keeping track of Kilvan in the Ethereal Plane. The incubus was surprised to see the darkling, and looked more and more nervous as they approached this chamber. Thane signaled the rest of the party, and the F.I.A lept into action!

With the element of surprise, the fight was brief and bloody. Zari used her spirit guardians to decimate the humanoids who stood around a central figure: the grotesque form of the night hag herself! Hagar dove into the fray, attacking the night hag with all of his might. A sphere of darkness suddenly took center stage, blinding Hagar and most of the combatants in the fray. The battle turned against Hagar, who was taking attacks from all sides. Midi cast a faerie fire that was dwarfed by the darkness - she cast it again at a higher level soon after, effectively cancelling out the darkness. The odds were evened! Wykeera turned into a giant seagull, and began tearing into the night hag’s fiendish form. The hag fought back with necrotic claw attacks, but eventually fell to Hagar’s hammer strikes while under the effects of the darkness spell. The green globes turned into flameskulls and flung fire-based magic at the party. Bernadette flung motes of lightning at their enemies, and eventually, the party realized that the enemies who were attacking Hagar from the darkness were darklings who had decided to join the night hag.

When the smoke cleared, the party looked down at the carnage … and the night hag was gone. In her place was a large, muscular, naked, and genderless creature that the party identified as a doppelganger. Doppelgangers are monstrous creatures that can change their form - like a changeling, but more physically tough and with the ability to read minds. At this moment, Thane cast blink and inadvertently slipped into the Ethereal Plane just long enough to make eye contact with Kilvan. The incubus beckoned Thane towards him, and disappeared ever-deeper into the catacombs of the dead.
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Session 28: Lessons in Falling
At the start of the session, the F.I.A stood in an office that was once used to receive professors of The Atheneum. Adjacent to them was a room labeled “herbalism research” with the health potions in a chest that was unofficially under guard by a couple of goat-headed fiends, who were sniffing around the room searching for victims of the initial building collapse. Having the drop on the fiends, Thane cast a shatter spell at them. This not only damaged the fiends, but caused some previously unseen enemies to be killed in the blast (although they party never quite did see what they were). During this fight, a human archer named Caloran joined the fray from behind the party, shooting one of the fiends in the head and killing it. A tiefling warrior named Ariadnez joined by falling through the ceiling with her greatsword, skewering a fiend that she had been fighting on the level above in one fell swoop. The party defeated the fiends, and then looted the health potions from the crate. Adi and Cal had a rushed reunion in which they revealed that they were long-lost twins, made brief introductions to the party, and pushed deeper into the still-collapsing building. Adi was looking for her girlfriend Kembi, and Cal had something important to tell Adi when they had a moment to stop and talk.

Making their way to the center of the building through one of many long hallways teeming with vines and bloodstains, Hagar brushed his hand over Cal’s cloak, revealing a symbol that he recognized to be representative of Galmranian military. Hagar kept this to himself as they continued. They eventually came across a dark room in which every wall was covered in thick vines. Thane produced a bullseye lantern from his abacus of many things, and the party entered. Once the party was entirely ensconced in this room, the vines that covered the floor began to creep up their ankles. At the same time, the mass of vines on the far wall that obscured the door that led out of this space contorted into a shape that vaguely resembled a giant humanoid face. The face contorted and bellowed at the party. In their minds, however, the entity communicated with them telepathically, and struck a much different tone. “Do not be afraid. I am here to help.”

The entity explained that they were at one point a man whose soul had been claimed by the night hag, and that communicating telepathically would allow them to communicate without alerting the fiends who were lurking in the ethereal plane. They did not remember their name or how long they had been growing as a plant creature in a bottle on the night hag’s waist, but they did know that they wanted to defy the night hag and help the party in whatever way they could. At the same time, sharpened vines shot down from the ceiling towards the party but stopped an inch before they would have made contact; the entity explained further that the magics imparted on them by the night hag were difficult to resist, and that while they wanted to help the party, doing so may put them at risk.

The party began to ask the entity a series of questions about the night hag’s plans within the city and how they might counteract them. Every time they did so, sharpened vines would descend from the ceiling and attack the asker. The party asked the following questions:

Where is the night hag’s lair?
“I do not know, but I know that it is in a large, dark room. It takes several minutes to get from the lair to the street level of Yalba via the ethereal plane.”
Thane: How many fiends does the night hag have under her service?
“I do not have an exact number, but she has no army. A few succubi, a few incubi, many goat-headed creatures, and some horses that seem to be made of fire itself.”
Caloren: What is the night hag’s plan?
“She covets the soul of Yalba. She wants to destroy the people’s faith in the clergy and tip the city into chaos so that she can reap the souls of the sinners who resort to vile acts in the aftermath.”
Wykeera: Can we save you / put you back to normal?
“I do not know, but it does not feel as such. I feel as though my purpose has been completed when I was implemented here, and now I can already feel my soul fading away.”
What’s happening at the center of the building?
“I do not know, but I do know that whatever happened to this building began there.”
Adi: Have you seen Kembi?
“I do not have vision outside of this place.”
Hagar: What is the single most important thing that you think that we need to know?
“The night hag carries with her a magic item known as a heartstone that allows her to travel between the ethereal and material planes without using her expendable magical resources for the day. If you can take that stone from her, it will severely limit her ability to wreak havoc the way she has been.”

As they were leaving, the ceiling of vines began to violently contort. Wykeera, who was the last person to exit the chamber, heard the entity tell her telepathically “My time on this earth is done. Please … tell Shala al-Bay that I love her.” After this, the vines in the room constricted, instantly crushing any creature that would have been left in the room.

The party pressed on into another long hallway that Midzaynov remembered from her last visit was the home stretch before the central auditorium. This hallway had a very high ceiling, and vines began to pass overhead in larger clusters as they got closer to the center of this building. After this encounter, Adi used her divine sense to search for fiends in the area. Her godly powers told her that Quespa, the little red dragonborn girl who was riding on Midzaynov’s back in a backpack, was a succubus. She relayed this information to the party, and Thane immediately fired off an eldritch blast at her. “Quespa” immediately vanished, Thane determined, into the ethereal plane.

Moving carefully through the fiend-infested building, the stench of rotting plant and animal life continued to strengthen. Cal scouted ahead for unseen dangers. The party eventually came across a small hooded figure facing away from them in this large hallway. They seemed to be hunched over an unmoving humanoid form. Thane cast a suggestion spell on the creature telling it not to move. Once this was done, some party members moved closer to the creature to get a better look. Hagar pulled back the hood to reveal red scales and a dragon-like snout: this was Quespa. Again. She claimed that she was trying to revive the humanoid with CPR, but failed. The party told her stand by Midzaynov so that they could protect her, and continued forward. Creeping down the hallway, they noticed two more crouched figures wearing garb of students of the athenaeum. As they approached, Adi used divine sense again to look for any would-be fiends. She determined that the dragonborn child that they had just picked up was a succubus, as were the two figures crouching further down the hallway. As Adi alerted the party to this reality, the two figures further down the hallway removed their hoods. They, too, resembled Quespa.

A fight broke out, in which the three Quespas attempted to charm the party members into attacking each other. Midzaynov was charmed, as was Hagar. Midzaynov used her dragon fear to scare many party members; meanwhile, Hagar's succubus was killed. Hagar clocked Midzaynov with his hammer, bringing her back to her senses. Midzaynov cast a thunderous smite during the battle, causing a deafening sound to ring out. The party defeated the three succubi, who reverted to their true forms after death: attractive, scantily-clad humanoid females with short horns and bat-like wings.

After the fight, Cal pressed ahead to scout. Stepping on a weakened floorboard, he accidentally caused part of the building to collapse, and deftly dodged a pile of debris that he had inadvertently caused to sail in his direction. Their stealth presumably blown, the party gathered in front of the tall wooden door that led to the central auditorium of the building. Thick vines crept from the inside of the room to the outside, holding the door shut. With a bit of force applied, the door creaked open.

The inside of this massive auditorium was almost completely covered in thick, green vines that obscured the walls and dangled from the ceiling. The space itself used to contain an ampitheater-like arrangement of seats, which had been overgrown with flora. Flying near the top of the 50-ft high ceiling was none other than Batu, the pale-skinned cambion with beautiful, almost elven features along with a pair of antlers. He addressed the party as they entered and told them that “Now we finish what we started in the Palace of Pleasure. We killed about thirty people and destroyed a building to get what we want.” When Hagar asked what it was that they wanted, he simply responded “...this,” as five figures materialized from the ethereal plane, each bearing a striking resemblance to each member of the F.I.A. Batu grinned a smile that literally stretched from ear to ear, revealing his rows of razor-sharp teeth. He uttered “we will take good care of Yalba for you,” as a giant sentient flower descended from the ceiling, landing in the center of the party. The creature looked fairly injured before the fight even began, and may have crushed them if it was not for Cal’s weapon of warning that foretold of the danger.

The confrontation was epic and bloody. The incubi and succubi that were impersonating the party vanished into the Ethereal Plane. Batu rained down bolts of fire onto the party from his flying vantage point, and the giant plant (identified as a corpse flower by Cal) looked to be already injured but still proved more than capable of dealing out large amounts of damage by knocking Thane unconscious. The plant carried corpses within it, and used them to both heal its wounds and to create zombies. Soon after the fight began, several goat-headed fiends revealed themselves from beneath the foliage and sprung up to attack the party with claw and poisonous tail alike.

Caloren climbed a vine to get into a sniping position and was followed by a goat-headed fiend. He climbed higher, and then cut the vine below him with a dagger. He then did a rad BOTW-style archery shot at Batu while he fell to the ground, and acrobatics-checked well enough to take half damage from the fall. Sick. Thane cast a minor illusion business card to protect himself, and it confused both the goat-headed creatures and Batu into not attacking him. The glint from his wall (and the hex he cast on Batu) prevented him from finding Cal, allowing the rogue to deal massive damage at range. Vine-like creatures literally came out of the woodwork to attempt to steal the player’s weapons. Wykeera cast a moonbeam spell that chased Batu around the arena, dealing damage as it went. Hagar got incapacitated the first round by the corpse flower and then got his hammer stolen in the second. Midi’s shield of faith aided Thane’s longevity on the battlefield, and her inspiration aided Caloren’s constant damage to Batu.

Zari eventually dealt the killing blow to the corpse flower, ending what she had started when she had cast blight on the creature in the previous session. As they fell, the goat-headed fiends dissolved into a bubbling black ichor when killed, unlike any other creature that they had fought against previously. When he was on the verge of death, Batu cast plane shift to escape. As he was fading into another plane, he screamed “die in the rubble!” Near the end of the fight, another Quespa ran out from behind a vine-covered wall and into the fray, being chased all the while by vine creatures. She was struck and went down, dropping a flute as she did so. Midzaynov immediately recognized this as the flute that she had given her. After a few tense moments, the party brought her back to health.

Once the creatures were vanquished and Quespa secured, the central support column of this auditorium gave out, sealing the fate of the chamber they were in. The party spent a minute trying to figure out how to escape before they attempted to outrun the collapse. They weren’t fast enough; the ceiling of the building began to collapse on them! At the last second, Midzaynov dove on top of Quespa to protect her, and Adi used her divine powers to take the damage that Caloren would have taken from the building falling on him. The entire structure collapsed on the party, dealing catastrophic damage to most party members and creating the most deafening noise they had ever heard.

Midzaynov found herself fading in and out of consciousness and coughing blood onto the prone form of Quespa beneath her. Part of a wooden support beam had embedded itself through her shoulder, limiting her movement. Midi tried to move, but she was pinned. She couldn’t turn her head to look around, and did not know if moving would cause more wood to come collapsing down on her. Holding up the debris from collapsing on the child, she told Quespa to get to the top of the rubble and get help. Quespa scurried through the opening above Midzaynov’s head, heading to the surface.

Hagar’s fortitude made it so that he was mostly unaffected by the building’s collapse. He found himself close to Thane, who had been knocked unconscious and was dangerously unstable. Thane had several wooden stakes impacted into his shoulders and chest. Hagar attempted to give Thane medical attention, but was unsuccessful in stabilizing his condition. He cried out for help, not knowing how to fix his friend. Adi, who was not knocked unconscious, had made herself unstuck from the rubble that pinned her and crawled out of the wreckage to approach Thane. By the time she reached out her hands to heal him, however, his breathing had ceased.

Meanwhile, Caloren, who quickly realized that he wouldn’t be conscious if it was not for his twin sister taking the impact of the building for him, came across the unconscious form of Wykeera. He quickly poured a healing potion down her throat. When she became conscious again, the two of them set out to find the others. Wykeera took the form of a beetle, and Caloren used his finely-attuned senses to make out which parts of the rubble were acceptable to climb through. They eventually came upon the form of Zari, who had a support column wedged in her abdomen. The magic bracers that she wore kept her from bleeding out. Wykeera changed back into a halfling, Caloren gave Zari a healing potion, and they all worked together to free Zari from the debris that was pinning her to the ground. Around this time they heard Hagar’s cry, and started to crawl in that direction.

At the same time, Midzaynov was listening for any sign from Quespa. Thinking on her feet, she reached into her stachel and retrieved her gem of brightness. She sent a beam of light straight into the air as a signal to those who might be looking for her. A few moments later, she heard Quespa asking someone for help. That person responded in a sinister voice that sounded like sandpaper: “don’t worry, my dear. I’ll give your friends all the help they need.”

With Caloren’s help showing Zari where to step in order to move quickly, they made it to the area where most of the other party members were crouching. Adi had managed to stop Hagar from pounding on Thane’s chest in an attempt to resuscitate him, spreading blood around the low ceiling of the small hovel of rubble that they now found themselves in. Zari pulled out the necessary diamond-based components and cast revivify on Thane. Nothing seemed to happen. The party was unsure if they had been too late - if it had been longer than a minute since their friend had expired. They began to panic when Thane took a breath, the magic taking its effect.

Hearing the voice above her and fearing the worst, Midzaynov attempted to move her body in spite of the several-foot long piece of debris that had pierced her shoulder and kept her pinned to the ground. She succeeded, and breached the surface of the debris to find Quespa face-to-face with an older human woman in tattered clothes. The woman squinted her eyes at Midzaynov and began to cast a spell. Midzaynov responded by swinging the support beam that was still embedded into her shoulder and hitting the woman square in the jaw, interrupting her magic. She screeched “you bitch!” as a louder voice rang out above the rubble: that of Aldritch Xanroc, who had seen Midzaynov’s magical flare. He brought his greatsword down on the figure of the old woman right as she dissipated out of this plane of existence.

As the party dug themselves out of the rubble, Adi stayed behind for a moment, not wanting to leave without Kembi. A moment later, a fist burst out of the rubble about fifty feet away, and a very angry and very alive Kembi unearthed herself from the rubble. She and Adi ran to each other and embraced. Cal approached them and took a moment to tell Adi about their father, who had become very ill as of late. Adi agreed to leave right away to go see him. Cal told the party that they can rely on his survival skills at any time and that he travels between Yalba and Port Qamsa, helping with caravans.

Aldritch army-carried Midzaynov back with the rest of the party to the House of Champions as the city guard started to sift through the rubble. When the opened the front door and Atka saw them, she assumed a defensive stance, produced a spell scroll from her cloak and screamed “PROVE TO ME THAT YOU ARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE RIGHT FUCKING NOW.” As the fire swirled around her arms and her phoenix-fire form began to take effect, the tensions in the chamber seemed to grow with the light of Atka’s flames …
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Session 27: Faltering Foundations
The session began right after Anakis al-Fahai attempted to kill Farouk al-Fahai’s during Abdul’s pronouncement, which sent the crowd of thousands into a state of near-riot. In response, Thane, Midzaynov, and Hagar performed a song and dance routine that managed to soothe the audience. Midi performed an epic bagpipe solo as the crowd’s panic mellowed into befuddlement. They wondered: was somebody really almost assassinated? Was the entire pronouncement nothing more than an odd performance piece? Was this all just a strange dream? The crowd was unsure for long enough to take the edge off of their initial alarm, preventing what would have been a much more severe situation. Continuing their performance, Thane did a quick comedy bit while Hagar sang his Thermadorian heart out.

Meanwhile, Raha and Abdul conferred with Wykeera and Zari. The prince blamed himself for his choice to exonerate Farouk al-Fahai. Abdul wished for today to be the day that the city begins their fight against corruption, but Anakis’ assassination attempt on her husband seemed to have ruined their chances. Zari and Wykeera managed to convince Abdul that nothing was ruined yet, and that the people were still waiting for the young prince to speak.

Abdul regained his courage and stepped out onto the balcony, where Thane introduced him to the crowd as a comedian. Abdul told the Janavian people that he was indeed not a comedian, and then reiterated that everything was under control and that he believed that dark magics may have caused Anakis to try to stab Farouk, so stay calm. He managed to assuage the crowd with the help of the F.I.A’s unconventional performance and Midzaynov’s bardic inspiration. Before they left, Thane asked Raha if she could provide invitations to Teoshi’s gala, and she claimed that she would secure some.

The party left the tension of The Furnace to try to gather more information about their enemy, who seemed to constantly be one step ahead of them. In a nearby alleyway, Midzaynov messaged Lyndra to ask for a meeting. After thirty minutes, the punk-styled fey arrived in a shower of pixie dust and inherent glamor. Lyndra informed that the party that she had been so bored waiting for the party to contact her after their experiences in The Palace of Pleasure that she had resorted to playing pranks on the Bloodbroods to entertain herself. Then the party heard “oh my god where did that BEAR come from?” from a few buildings down the block and Lyndra just snickered.

Wykeera offered to trade the platinum she had received from Lyndra in Drasek so many months ago for information about night hags. Lyndra declined, but offered to give the information Wykeera needed if she agreed to take an audience with the Queen of Air and Darkness in the Feywild. Lyndra explained that this audience didn’t have to happen now, but it would need to be sometime soon; part of the problem was that many fey crossings in the desert that used to exist near oases were being destroyed by immensely powerful sandstorms. They would have to find one of the few remaining crossings to make sure that they can cross into the Feywild when the time came. During this exchange, Midi detected strong signs of jealousy coming from Lyndra pointed in Wykeera’s direction. Knowing that time was of the essence, Wykeera accepted.

Lyndra explained that night hags are hags, which was already bad enough. Lyndra also told them that most night hags are remnants of the War of Exiles - an ancient conflict fought in the Feywild centuries ago between the fey courts and an unnamed third faction. Lyndra admitted that those who lost the war were exiled from the Feywild; Wykeera recalled her fey mentor Galene explaining to her that she had been exiled from the Feywild several years ago. Lyndra went on to exposit that night hags are hags who have gained a taste for souls. In other words, they had become fiendish in their exile, and tended to reside in the lower planes. Lyndra warned the party that hags are ancient and cunning. “No offense, but they are much more cunning than you are. If she has it her way, she will defeat you while never having to face you in combat.”

The pixie also warned the party that while night hags prefer to work from the ethereal plane, it is not a very defensible space. Because creatures can walk through walls in the ethereal plane, it is not conducive to a permanent abode. Lyndra suggested that the night hag may have a den somewhere in the material plane where she can hide - perhaps somewhere in the city, even. Lyndra didn’t know how often the night hag’s nightmare power can be used, but she did know that spells such as protection from evil and good and magic circle can break the connection that a night hag has with its victim. As she was leaving, Lyndra asked Zari what her favorite animal was. Zari told her that it was a giraffe, and so Lyndra turned her into a giraffe. The deal made, Lyndra flew off to learn what she could about any remaining fey crossings. Wykeera burned a 4th level spell to undo the effect on Zari.

That night, the 8th of Iazon, the F.I.A returned to the House of Champions to brainstorm. They came up with an elaborate plan to get several small bags and place rocks that are identical in size to the magic stone that they received from Peter so that when they split up for the night, the night hag would not know who could see her. The only question was where the night hag would attempt to influence her next victim. Midi decided to go watch over Heskan. Zari went to go look after her mother. Wykeera, Thane, and Hagar stayed in the House of Champions.

Midi trekked to the Temple of Gavriel late at night and knocked on the large, wooden door. Quespa eventually asked who was there, and had to stand up on a stool to unlock the door when Midi responded. Midi decided Quespa should stay with her while she checked on Heskan, and together they crept upwards through the very tight spiral staircase that led to Heskan’s room on the top floor of the temple. Midzaynov knocked on his bedroom door, but received no response. Midzaynov unsuccessfully tried to pick the lock with a spatula from her disguise kit, but Quespa made surprisingly quick work of the lock.

Meanwhile, Zari visited the Temple of Kielel. She wandered around the temple for a spell, eventually knocking on Hamza’s door: “Don’t you want to see your big sister?” “Noooooooo, it’s laaaaaate, Zari. Mom’s either upstairs or in the basement.” Zari then knocked loudly on the door that led to her parent’s bedroom. Her father answered, and explained that her mother was sleeping in their bed tonight instead of the basement for the first time in a long time. Apparently, Tulsi opening up about her nightmares the previous day to the F.I.A had helped her to talk to Palor. Not only were the two of them on better terms, but Tulsi had started heading in a more stable direction. Relieved, Zari sat in a chair by her parents’ bedside and waited for the night hag to strike. Wykeera, Hagar, and Thane stayed in the House of Champions for the night. Hagar and Thane engaged in Tactical SpooningTM. Wykeera resolved to stay up the whole night to catch the night hag in the act of nightmare haunting her companions.

Midzaynov opened the door to Heskan’s room and found that the space had been decorated in excess. Gold prayer beads, lavish tapestries, and a collection of fine silk robes lined the space of the musty attic. A large bay window framed Heskan’s writing as he slept. The dragonborn priest was muttering the name “Thava” over and over again as sweat ran down his face. He was in the midst of a night terror. Midzaynov crept towards the bed and hoisted Quespa onto her back. She cast protection from evil and good on Heskan, and his writhing ceased. For the first time ever, the F.I.A had proof that a night hag was the cause of the nightmares and corruption that targeted the Yalban clergy. The hunt was officially on.

Midzyanov wasted no time before she messaged Wykeera of what had happened. The dragonborn made a simple cloth backpack for Quespa, swung the sleepy young girl onto her back, and went to visit Zari. Once she had arrived at the temple, Midi told Zari of what had happened, and the two of them slept in the Temple of Kielel. Before they fell asleep, Quespa woke up for a moment, said “dreams are weird,” and fell back asleep.

Zari and Midi went back to the House of Champions in the early morning with Quespa. Over breakfast, they talked about their theories about what was going on with the clergy. They wondered what the pattern was with the clergy falling to sin and temptation. They remembered that Barakas al-Bay cheated on his wife, Farouk al-Fahai killed his son, Tulsi Miza seemed to be obsessive over Zari’s safety, and Kimbatuul Heskan had excessive belongings in his room. They speculated if the night hag and Batu were trying to destroy Yalba’s faith in the clergy to cause chaos and cause “the streets to run red with blood,” maybe they were trying to corrupt what made the clergy good in the first place. There seemed to be a correlation between how the clergy were publicly disparaged and their set of values. Zari recalled that about a year ago, there were smaller incidents related to the clergy that seemed inconsequential at the time. The Surian church quietly shuttered their free music program, and their leader disappeared soon after. The head priest of the church of Gano had a fire that caused some crops to be lost, and a day later the old halfling was found dead. People had assumed that the halfling had died of old age and that the head Surian priest had left the city due to shame; however, considering the current circumstances, it would appear that it may have been more than a coincidence.

At this point, Quespa woke up from her sleep on Midzaynov’s back. She greeted the party, and then Midzaynov asked if she had school. Shocked, Quespa claimed that she did, and she ran off towards the Temple of Kielel; Thane and Midzaynov followed. When they arrived, Quespa snatched her things and left again for The Atheneum. While Midi and Thane saw Quespa go, Heskan came down the staircase. They had a tense conversation in which Midi brought up the excess that she found in his room the previous night. She also told Heskan that he was being targeted by a night hag and to be careful. The conversation quickly turned south. Heskan became defensive about Midzaynov bringing up his expensive belongings, and at one point screamed “who are you to judge me?!”. Thane told HeskanMidi’s been learning from you. So if she thinks that something is wrong, it must have been on your hands.” Heskan told the adventurers that they needed to leave, or he would call the guards. Midi told Heskan that she hoped that the light of Gavriel would shine on him, and they left.

Meanwhile, back at the House of Champions, Hagar recalled that Thava, the name Heskan was muttering during his nightmare, was the name of the Matriarch of Kel. He also remembered that Heskan and Thava were siblings. Midi and Thane returned to the House of Champions to discover that there were several notes and small gifts addressed to the F.I.A for saving prince Abdul. Most of them were of heartfelt thanks, but one note read the following:

F.I.A,

Meet me at Dashul Coffeehouse at the Diamond Bazaar this afternoon. For every day you delay, I will kill ten people.

An enemy.”

The party resolved to visit this stranger later in the day, and set off on individual errands in the meantime. Wykeera, getting no sleep the previous night, decided to rest her eyes until their meeting with their new “enemy.” Zari went to warn other priests of the impending danger of the night hag and realized that there were very few influential clergy members left besides Heskan and Tulsi. The other priests who were left did not have as much influence as to be of much consequence; in other words, it seemed that they were less likely to be targeted by the night hag. Zari spent some time conversing with Abad - the head priest of the church of Paha, who is a huge stoner. They shared oousad as Zari talked. He was very chill. And also super hot? Zari also warned Abdul and Raha what they had learned about the night hag, and they promised to be on their guard.

Hagar took a less subtle approach to diplomacy. He went to visit Heskan by flying up to his bay window and knocking when he saw Heskan inside. Heskan closed the blinds, and Hagar waited exactly four seconds before kicking in the window, scattering broken glass everywhere. Hagar wanted to talk to Heskan, but his exhaustion from saving Bana-Kye’s life and his aggressive tactics made the priest unpliable. Heskan fled the temple, leaving Hagar inside.

Thane went to retrieve Atka from Moroden’s domain, perhaps smelling oousad from Zari’s meeting with Abad as he passed into the Plane of Elemental Air. Moroden asked Thane about his findings in The Atheneum, and was curious as to why Thane hadn’t taken the sphinx’s trial yet. Thane told Moroden that he might come back in a time with Merrick Gerrickstan, Atka, and a few others once their powers had developed a bit more. Thane didn’t want to take the F.I.A with him. Moroden said that Thane’s path to godhood was his to choose, but waiting for Merrick and Atka to be ready enough to join him may take a long time. Before Thane left, Moroden stressed that he didn’t want Thane to die. On their way back to the House of Champions, Atka told Thane how impressed she was with both Moroden and his slaves. Well, servants. Thane said that Atka wasn’t a servant or a slave, and was free to do what she wanted for the rest of her life. Atka smiled, and the two of them returned home.

Midzaynov went to The Atheneum to tell Quespa’s teacher to tell Quespa to come to the House of Champions after school. The teacher was starstruck upon seeing a real life hero in her midst, and agreed. Meanwhile, Wykeera was sleeping in the House of Champions. She had a nightmare that she was the sandstorm that killed her entire family, and that she had violent urges that led her to do so. While the party were traveled through the city as a group, they found that they were easily recognizable. Seemingly overnight, the F.I.A had gained celebrity status in Yalba for saving the crown prince. Collecting themselves from their various errands, the F.I.A set out around in the early afternoon to the Dashul Coffeehouse.

It did not take long for Midzaynov to see the person who had summoned them to the coffeehouse, as he was the only one who wasn’t staring agog at the party as they passed. The party approached a human man with a strong jaw, tight haircut and bright blue eyes. He wore a purple and red tunic and loose-fitting slacks. He asked the party to sit, and told them that he liked to come here to the open space and people watch. The man told them the he likes to imagine what people are afraid of. At this point, Thane asked him what he believed his greatest fear was. The man said that Thane tried too hard. Hagar then asked the man the same question, and he said that Hagar was afraid of disappointing his father. Thane began to say that it was a generic fear, and then man began to go into more detail about never receiving love from his father or his brother. Hagar told him to shut his mouth, and the man responded “you are the one who asked.”

The man casually informed the party that his name was Kilvan, and that he was an incubus. He explained that he needed to have a frank conversation about their antagonism with the night hag, and that any further duplicity at this point was stupid. Kilvan told the party that his group of fiends was smarter, stronger, and more ruthless than the F.I.A., and that any further resistance against them was futile. Hagar asked Kilvan if he specified night hag or night hag(s), and Kilvan narrowed his gaze and specified that yes, he meant one night hag. Hagar also asked why the F.I.A shouldn’t just kill him right then and there, and he said that he would simply disappear into the ether. Kilvan offered to let the party leave the city. Midzaynov pressed Kilvan that he would not offer to let them leave if he was not afraid of them, and he denied the claim. Kilvan admitted that following the party around was simply a chore, and he would rather not deal with it. Midzaynov used her divine sense to determine that Kilvan was, indeed, an incubus. Kilvan explained that incubi lie, mislead, and communicate, and that those things were simply his job. Kilvan then asked “knowing everything that you know about us, our power, and our organization … what do you think we would do to accomplish our goals?”
Suddenly, screams rang out from the nearby crowd. The party took note of Yalban citizens sprinting away from the northern part of the city. The party assumed an offensive stance against Kilvan, but he was prepared. The fiend began to disappear into the ethereal plane. As he vanished, he cackled: “Wykeera, I don’t know your greatest fear. Of all of the people I’ve followed, you are by far the least interesting. You appear to have no thoughts, ambitions, or opinions that are your own. The only difference between you and the livestock that you eat is that at least you have a soul that I can claim for my own. Now, I’m off to go kill a pixie.” Midzaynov messaged Lyndra that she had an incubus on her tail; she messaged back “I’ve got it handled.”

The party ran towards the source of the screaming and eventually came across The Atheneum. They watched as part of the old botany wing on The Atheneum’s campus collapsed due to some unseen force from within. In this moment, Midzaynov had a dreadful realization: this was the building that Quespa was having classes in today. Midi messaged Quespa and asked her if she was okay and where she was. Quespa responded that she was in great danger, and that she was in the very center of the building in the auditorium, where the attack originated. After a quick conversation with a cowardly guard and a casting of fly from Thane, the party rushed into the slowly-crumbling structure.

The F.I.A entered the building and attempted to run right through the atrium to the next hallway. Before they could make it all the way through, however, they were ambushed by two goat-headed fiends that smelled of rotting meat. These creatures had slender frames, tails that dripped with venom, and an incredible ability to leap. The party defeated the creatures, but not before one of them stuck Wykeera with its tail, causing her face to immediately sprout several pus-filled sores. Hagar beat the creatures back with his hammer, Midi cast divine favor and smote the fiends, Zari used her spiritual weapon, Wykeera used produce flame, and Thane destroyed the two beings with a twinned chromatic orb. Once the dust settled, Wykeera cast a lesser restoration on herself, curing the fiendish disease in an instant.

The beings defeated, the party pressed on into a long hallway with debris blocking their path. As they proceeded, the stench of plant and animal decay became increasingly acrid. They decided to enter a classroom in the hopes that its exit would let them circumvent the rubble that lay in front of them. When they arrived in the chamber, they saw Quespa helping a human man who was trying to lift a heavy support column that had fallen on his legs. The party helped to remove the beam, and Quespa told the party that she had heard the fields talking about a magic ring that the party carried. She wanted to warn the party, so she asked where it was. When the party told her that they didn’t have it, she asked “you don’t have it?”. In response, Thane immediately took Quespa and attempted to fly her out of the building; however, the side containing the front entrance had collapsed, preventing any escape from that direction. The party pushed further inward, noting that there were lush vines growing and then dying in rapid succession that seemed to emanate from further into the building. Following a hunch, Zari cast a blight spell on a live vine, and heard a terrible screech coming from the center of the building.

Pressing forward, the party came across what looked like an office space. The old botanical wing was a place where students could learn about fauna from different climes. To their left, Wykeera noticed a room titled “Herbalism Research” with two creatures in it that looked like the ones they had fought previously. She also saw a crate that was labeled “Potions.” The party had the choice to fight the creatures to secure the crate, or to move on. The party was stealthy enough that they didn’t alert the creatures to their presence. While they were deliberating, Hagar noticed a large oval-shaped scorch mark on the ground with four darker markings spaced near the edge of the long side of it. The scorch marks were also on the ceiling. The party didn’t know what to make of the markings; they speculated that it might have been the blast that destroyed part of the building, but the room itself seemed mostly intact. The party resolved to fight the creatures and secure the potions in the crate as unseen figures moved in the dark …
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Session 26: Premonition and Pronouncement
The session began with the F.I.A tending to their wounds in the aftermath of their battle with Bana-Kye in the vault of the Jade Dragons headquarters. After a brief discussion, the party heard a commotion above them. Trekking upstairs, the party members who could still move discovered Lidda Hilltopple, who had just killed a few Jade Dragon looters. She asked the party what they wanted to do with Thyrias, who was restrained in the rafters of the Leviathan's Pit. Hagar did not want to kill Thyrias; rather, he wanted to broker peace between the gangs. Bana-Kye, Hagar, and Wykeera stayed behind while Midzaynov, Thane, and Zari went to retrieve the tiefling gang leader. The three adventurers collected Thyrias from where Hagar had left him. Thane burned the Levithan’s Pit to the ground on their way out, leaving the Cobalt Company to take care of the fire. Deciding that privacy was in their best interest, Thane, Midzaynov, and Zari took Thyrias outside the city walls for questioning.

Meanwhile, Hagar asked Wykeera if she thought he was being foolish by suggesting what he had earlier about achieving a peace between Yalba’s gangs. She said none of it was a good idea; the gangs, the F.I.A’s involvement, all of it. Wykeera asked Bana-Kye what exactly he had done with rifts in his past. He admitted that the Jade Dragons would kidnap people and place them by the rift to determine if they had any dormant magical talent; the majority of these people died before that happened. Unstable rifts, Bana-Kye explained, drained away at those who were near them for too long. Some are driven insane, some achieve unimaginable powers, but most die. Bana-Kye told them that the rift that was recently in the Jade Dragon’s vault was going to explode and destroy half the district if they did not neutralize it, and gave thanks for that. Bana-Kye revealed the rift that had been recently closed had led to the Elemental Chaos, a plane of wild and ever-changing elemental forces, and that Hagar may have received his storm powers from his constant exposure to its magical essence.

Outside Yalba’s walls, even after using suggestion and zone of truth, Thyrias proved difficult to interrogate. He was an unsettling man who was not afraid of death. Through a series of intimidation checks, they learned that Batu had a hand in what was going on with the clerics. They also found out that he had a right-hand man named Yeron. Thane killed Thyrias eventually; the party took a gnarled wooden wand from his corpse, left the fingernails that were in his pocket, and burned his corpse to eliminate any evidence of their deed. As they were walking back, Midi and Zari bonded over how edgy Thane was. Thane became self-aware … at least for a moment. When they returned to the Jade Dragons HQ, Midzaynov demonstrated to Hagar that Thyrias had died by gesturing to the gore on the front of her armor. Hagar grew silent. Midzaynov messaged Pakt and said that the deed was done and that Thyrias was dead; she responded back that they should come to the ruins of the Levithan’s Pit if they wanted to see something special.

In the morning, the party made tea for the mostly-immobile Bana-Kye before they left the headquarters. They visited the remains of the Levithan’s Pit, and saw that there were throngs of people gathered outside. The ruins of the fighting pit were still smoldering, and the civilians around seemingly had no clue what had happened. The party saw Pakt lurking in a nearby alleyway with some of her gang members and approached. She told them that the was happy that Thyrias was dead, and then explained to her Pit Viper allies that Ro-Zudof double crossed them, that he had burned the Levithan’s Pit to the ground, and that the F.I.A were not to be harmed. Pakt then intoned that she wanted to have Bana-Kye exiled so that he would be unable to interfere with her plans in the future. The party begrudgingly agreed. Thane gave her his business card. Then Midi recalled that the ethereal plane overlaps our plane and was good for spying.

The F.I.A visited Zari’s mother, who told them that she was still having nightmares. The party learned from Palor that she was working on something in the basement. Tulsi kept repeating that she loved Zari and would do anything to protect her. She admitted to the party that her nightmares were about Zari leaving the temple and her dying and Tulsi not being able to protect her. After some coercion, she agreed to talk to Palor about her nightmares. The party realized that they cannot scry on creatures that are not on the same plane of existence as they are as they brainstormed a way to find Batu. They also heard from a town crier that an announcement was going to be made soon by the crown in The Furnace. Midzaynov messaged Peter and asked if he knew anything about Batu. He said that he knew that Batu did not have the power to cause nightmares in people, and to look elsewhere for the source of corruption.

During the day, Zari bought a jeweled horn and a glass eye as material components for the clairvoyance spell so they could spy on people if necessary. The party visited Heskan, who was wearing a silk robe instead of his usual haggard garb. When asked, he explained that the robe was for appearance’s sake, and that donors were more likely to donate to a cause that looked professional. He told the party that Quespa was in school at The Anetheum for the first time today. He reiterated that he was having nightmares, but the party was not persuasive enough to learn what they were.

Then, the F.I.A visited Iomine to ask more about the effects of planar magic. They saw Bernadette again, who gave them her usual bubbly greeting. They secured a meeting with Phanalan in the back room of the archaeologist's guildhouse, where they described the situation that they faced. Upon hearing of the symptoms of nightmares and the ineffectiveness of the forbiddance spell in combating it, Phanalan immediately knew what force plagued Yalba. In return for this information, Phanalan did not want money or favors, but simply some information of his own: he wanted to know why Thane was so antagonistic towards him. Thane, after all, was the one who aggravated the conflict in the Brass Candle Inn so many weeks ago when the party first arrived in the city. Thane agreed, and asked that the rest of the party step out of the room while he speak. The party complied, and then proceeded to listen at the door. Thane revealed the truth of this past - that he used to be a student of Phanalan’s named Thomas Overfiels who escaped the village of Tengren when he was young - in exchange for the information that the creature that was plaguing the city was most likely a night hag. The remaining party members re-entered the chamber, and Phanalan exposited that night hags typically stay on the ethereal plane, where they prey on victims while they sleep. These creatures used to be fey but were now fiends. Finally, Phanalan told Thane that if he wanted to know more about Rendra, Finata, and Maxis, that they should talk later. And then they got baklava.

After leaving Phanalan, they went to the library and researched night hags. While they were there, they discovered from Anakis al-Fahai that she had been having nightmares for several nights in a row. Up on the third floor, the party discovered that night hags are stronger when there are three hags together in a coven, but that was about it. They researched until night, then went to go visit Bana-Kye. The F.I.A found him lying prone in the kitchen - he had fallen and was not able to get back up. Before they left for the House of Champions, Bana-Kye asked Hagar to go his secret chest, grab what was inside, and bring it down to the vault. Hagar trekked to the upper levels of the now-derelict building and discovered that inside the safe was several containers of jade ink and a jade stone with a glowing wing inscribed on it. He brought it down, and Bana-Kye prepared the ritual for what would be the last bestowing of the Jade Dragon ink. Hagar had his head shaved, received dragon fang marks on his neck and head, and jade fire running down his arms. Bana-Kye then gifted Hagar with the stone he had found in the chest. It once belonged to Bana-Kye, and contained great power. When Hagar clutched it, it caused the dragon wing tattoos on his back to animate, allowing him the ability to fly.

The party returned to the House of Champions with Bana-Kye, who said that he would be leaving in the morning to avoid any retribution from Pakt. The only issue was that Bana-Kye did not know where to go. Midzaynov offered to let him stay at her home village in Drasek, Kina. He agreed, intending to become a humble farmer for the time being. Bana-Kye thanked them for saving his life.

Then party split up by gender and did their tasks. Hagar managed to successfully connect with Peter in a dream. The dream took place inside the throne room of the Palace of Pleasure. Hagar asked about the ethereal plane and asked how he could get there, and Peter said it could be done with powerful magics. Peter offered a small token to help them, and Hagar woke up with a small black orb that he gleaned would let someone cast see invisibility to see into the ethereal plane. Thane meditated to help Hagar with this, and while Hagar was dreaming Thane opened up to him about his past a bit.

Meanwhile, the girls drank some wine, ate some popcorn, and spied on Teoshi. They also made fun of Thane’s real name being Thomas. They learned that Teoshi was going to throw a gala soon by placing a clairvoyance orb in the main hallway of her estate. Akila and another slave were talking about how hard the gala would be to please Teoshi, and then Teoshi came by and roughed them up. Midi messaged Quespa to see if she was really in school, and she was. She had made some new friends at school, and was taking Gallian and history and botany.

That night, Thane had a nightmare that drew a parallel between his relationship with Atka and Phanalan’s relationship with him. It made the statement that Thane would become just as toxic to Atka as Phanalan once was to him. Thane awoke in a cold sweat, and felt some of his vitality drain away from the incident.

In the morning, Bana-Kye wished Hagar well and left his jade stone behind as he walked out of the city, silencing the glow of his tattoos perhaps forever. The party walked to The Furnace to listen to the crown’s announcement, and were escorted to the main platform overlooking the crowd. Midzaynov inspired the royalty before they began to speak. Raha took center stage and addressed the full stadium of Yalban citizens. She disavowed the corrupt influences in the city who used gangs as their personal armies and sent political enemies to die in far-away torture dungeons. The F.I.A received credit for Abdul's rescue, as did Iomine. Raha talked about how she wanted to put a stop to the corruption in the city, which was generally well-received. Then, Raha introduced her brother.

Abdul entered the space and pleaded that Yalba must begin to immediately make this world a better place. He told the citizens of Yalba that he suspected that dark magics had affected some of the clergy’s activities as of late, which garnered shock and fear from the crowd. Abdul then publicly exonerated Farouk al-Fahai of his crimes. Abdul removed the shackles from Farouk, and was midway though explaining that things always seem at their darkest before the light comes when Hagar’s fine-tuned barbarian senses picked up hostile movement. He noticed Anakis al-Fahai running towards Farouk with a dagger raised. Hagar rushed forward with his jade wings and tackled her to the ground before she could finish her attack. The entire crowd perceived this, and began to become increasingly frightened as Anakis was dragged away by the guards. As yet another well-respected member of the clergy was led to the dungeons and the screaming was building up in the crowd in The Furnace, the session came to a close…
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Session 25: The Leviathan's Rage [Part 2]
The Leviathan's Pit was packed to the brim. Filling up the bleachers were members from each gang, who were having a rip-roaring good time. Bana-Kye was at the center of the fighting pit in a stockade; all manner of trash and spoiled food covered his beaten form. The mood was jovial. Celebratory, even. As Hagar entered through the front doors, the F.I.A and Cobalt Company made quick work of the guards near the back entrance with a casting of silence from Shivalis. Most of the party (sans Aldritch) used the cover of the silence spell to sneak into the Leviathan's Pit undetected by the gang members whose attention had turned to Hagar.

Standing in the center of the fighting pit only ten feet away from Bana-Kye, Hagar had captured the attention of all. Ro-Zudof, weilding a massive two-handed flail, lept from the bleachers into the pit to address him. He asked Hagar if he had come to die. Hagar dropped his warhammer and said that he had. He offered to trade the location of Pakt for taking Bana-Kye's place in the execution. Hagar told the crowd that only he knew where Pakt was. He was right; the Pit Vipers were not able to track the party after they had left their territory the previous night and had no idea where their leader was. Playing to the audience around him, Ro-Zudof offered to kill Hagar regardless and find Pakt himself. Hagar retorted that losing Pakt at such a pivotal moment could result in their momentary alliance being cut short. Ro-Zudof grimaced as he realized that Hagar was right. He had underestimated Hagar's intelligence for the last time. Hagar noticed that the other Pit Vipers in the room were nodding their heads in agreement. As much as they wanted Bana-Kye dead, they did not want to lose their leader. Hagar pressed again to be replaced with Bana-Kye in the stockade. Flustered, Ro-Zudof raised his hand to give the order to kill Hagar when the rest of the party sprung into action.

Shivalis and Lidda took on the left half of the pit, taking out enemies in a synchronized ballet of death. Zaeshir cast bless on his allies while Aldritch flared up his greatsword in a holy light and jumped headfirst into the fighting pit. Thane used the scroll of slow to debuff several gang members, including Ro-Zudof. Midzaynov and Zari jumped into the pit to assist Hagar. Zari cast a death ward on Bana-Kye to protect him from harm. Wykeera cast entangle to restrain Thyrias and his personal guard. Midzaynov used her gem of brightness to blind several gang members and then quaffed her potion of invulnerability. Hagar tightened his grip on Picasso and swung his hammer to destroy Bana-Kye's bindings. Sensing a shift in the tide of battle, Ro-Zudof retreated to the bleachers, where he came face-to-face with Lidda Hilltopple herself. Once Bana-Kye was free, he asked Hagar if he had any weapons he could borrow. Hagar handed him the formerly-cursed longsword of Ostan Gerrickstan, and Bana-Kye’s eyes lit up. Bana-Kye told Hagar “thank you,” and then began to surge with an arcane energy that Hagar had never seen before. Bana-Kye's eyes crackled with fire, electric wings sprouted from his back, and frost began to form at his feet. Bana-Kye's transformation resembled that of Hagar's storm aura, but was much more potent. The power was so potent, in fact, that Bana-Kye's body seemed to be deteriorating as he wielded it.

The Jade Dragons and Pit Vipers fired poison arrows on the party from afar, taking down Zari, who had cast spirit guardians in the form of spooky ghosts to assail her enemies. The Bloodbroods utilized fire magic to burn their enemies. Thyrias cast a fireball that greatly wounded the party and rendered Zaeshir unconscious. Midzaynov used her dragon fear ability to make several enemies afraid of her at once. Thane fired several lightning bolts that ripped through the gang members as though they were paper. Hagar utilized Zari's eversmoking skull and blinded everyone in the arena with a thick smoke. The command word was “Rashad’s cute butt.” This effectively blinded every combatant in the room, friend and foe alike. Ro-Zudof escaped from Lidda and Shivalis and ran for the front door, clearly outmatched. Midzaynov lost line of sight with those who were afraid of her, taking away their disadvantage. Wykeera cast sleet storm to make it more difficult for her enemies to escape the pit.

At some point, Hagar made his way up to the top level and found himself face-to-face with Thyrias. Hagar eventually overpowered him, and used Picasso to connect Thyrias’ unconscious form to a support beam in the ceiling, out of view. Wykeera cast a gust of wind to dissipate the smoke. The fight continuing as normal, Aldritch used his lay on hands to restore Zari to consciousness and gave Midzaynov a boost out of the pit and into the fray. Midzaynov cast healing word to heal Aldritch. Bana-Kye tore through several enemies with Hagar's longsword, but took heavy damage in the process. At one point he was shot through the neck with a crossbow bolt, but Zari's death ward negated what would have been a killing blow. Lidda and Shivalis teamed up to take down Ro-Zudof once and for all; his life ended with Lidda's axe embedded in his shoulder.

The battle eventually winded down in favor of the F.I.A and Cobalt Company. When he could finally rest, Bana-Kye’s powers faded and he collapsed to one knee, emaciated. He began to vomit blood. Bana-Kye told Hagar that he needed to go to the rift. Hagar began to run to the Jade Dragons headquarters with the F.I.A. in tow. Thane cast fly on Hagar to help him get there faster. Hagar arrived at the HQ with Bana-Kye first. The door was ajar when he entered. He floated to the trap door that led to the Zeharian ruin beneath the HQ. When he descended with Bana-Kye in his arms, he saw several sets of Jade Dragon clothing in clumps; it was as if the bodies had been removed from the raiments instantly, leaving the clothing behind. He also saw a familiar sight: the planar rift that he had become accustomed to as a member of the Jade Dragons. Its bright azure hue was the only source of light in the chamber, and the rift itself was much larger than he remembered. Strangely, the rift seemed to call to Hagar. His heartbeat synchronized with the pulse of the portal, and he had an understanding that it was a part of him in some way. Once Hagar let Bana-Kye touch the ground, a blue tether of energy reached from the portal and enveloped the gang leader in an arcane light. This seemed to restore Bana-Kye briefly, and his strength returned to him. Only a moment later, the tether violently strengthened. Bana-Kye screamed, and his eyes began to glow with a blue flame. His movements became erratic, and a familiar storm-like aura encompassed him. This time, however, the aura was larger and more erratic. Bana-Kye met Hagar's gaze, uttered “consume” with a halting tone, and rushed forward to attack him.

Hagar and Bana-Kye dueled with the force of two titans. Hagar's magic warhammer battered Bana-Kye's deteriorating body while Bana-Kye’s black longsword left long cuts in Hagar's torso. The two left lasting damage on each other as the blue tether between Bana-Kye and the rift persisted. Bana-Kye's speed and strength were greatly enhanced from the rift’s energy, but it was clear that the sheer magnitude of power he was wielding was too much for his body to handle. As they fought, Hagar discovered that he could temporarily utilize the arcane energies from the rift to amazing and self-detrimental effect. Once, he used the energy to heal some of his wounds. The second time he went to use the energy, a lightning bolt sprung from his hand. Both instances left Hagar feeling exhausted, but onward he fought.

Eventually, his fellow party members joined him, having traveled from the Leviathan's Pit on foot. Midzaynov took little time before deciding to attack the rift with her divine smite. Zari could seemingly not predict Bana-Kye's attack pattern, and was knocked unconscious several times during the fight. Wykeera cast healing spirit to keep Zari alive specifically and used her balm of the summer court to keep her other allies on their feet. The party began to attack the rift with spells, and quickly realized that certain types of damage were ineffective; lightning damage seemed to be ineffective, while radiant damage seemed to weaken the rift’s connection between the material plane and wherever it originated. Due to the raw energies emitting from the rift, Hagar had an intense flashback of the two days after he had killed two gang members in the Levithan’s Pit several years ago. He recalled that after the incident, Bana-Kye instructed Ro-Zudof to take Hagar outside the city limits to the Jade Dragons between Yalba and Port Qamsa for his own protection. For two days, Ro-Zudof rode with Hagar on horseback before leaving him for dead in the desert with no food or water. Hagar survived with no memory of how he had landed in the middle of the expanse, stumbled his way back to the city, and the rest is history.

The party continued to wear down the energies of the rift by attacking it. Eventually, the rift shrunk to the point that the two focusing pillars that anchored the rift in space were visible, and the party began attacking those instead. Thane cast shatter in the space to weaken the pillars. At one point, the black steel of Bana-Kye’s longsword melted off the hilt and was replaced by a blue arcane flame provided by the rift. As Bana-Kye became increasingly injured, the rift suffused more energy into him to keep him fighting, which increased the strain on his body even further. Bana-Kye began to teleport around the battlefield in the form of a bolt of lightning, moving faster than anyone the party had ever seen. The fight ended with a climactic casting of thunder clap from Midzaynov that shattered the two focusing pillars into dust, closing the rift.

With the rift’s energies dissipated, the force that was holding up Bana-Kye’s body did as well. He fell to the ground, dying. Hagar ran to his father and held him in his arms. Bana-Kye told Hagar that he missed him, and Hagar told his father that he didn’t want him to die. Bana-Kye told him that there was nothing left for him here; the Jade Dragons were finished, and if he died to keep Hagar safe, it would be a good way to go. The source of energy that was keeping Bana-Kye alive and healthy had faded, and Bana-Kye was fading with it. Hagar intuited that he may be able to transfer some of his own rift-given energies into Bana-Kye in order to keep him alive. He convinced Bana-Kye to go on living, and proceeded to save his life without question.

Hagar channeled enough energy into Bana-Kye to sustain his life force, but at great personal cost. Hagar took several levels of exhaustion in the process, and by the time he finished he was unable to move a muscle. Hagar collapsed on top of his father, too drained to move. Midzaynov moved Hagar and Bana-Kye to a nearby wall. The former gang leader’s body had been destroyed. His right arm had been damaged to the point of it being dead weight, he had lost several pounds during the fight to the point that he looked as though he was starving, and his breathing was haggard. Still, Bana-Kye lived. The session ended as Hagar and Bana-Kye held each other; broken, beaten, but still breathing.
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Session 25: The Leviathan's Rage [Part 1]
The session opened with Thane and Midzaynov standing on a roof near the Leviathan’s Pit, still wounded from their recent skirmish with the Yalban gang known as the Pit Vipers. Midi, who still carried the unconscious form of Pakt over one shoulder, sent a messageto Zaeshir asking to meet behind the alleyway of the nearby Wyvern’s Rest Inn. Midzaynov then messaged Wykeera to tell her of both their rendezvous location, and that Ro-Zudof was a traitor. Soon after, Midayznov and Thane met with Zaeshir, who was wearing two eyepatches in lieu of a sleep mask and a nightshirt decorated with anchors. Zaeshir remarked that they looked very injured from their recent melee, and the party disguised Pakt to look a bit more like a drunk friend and less like an unconscious gang leader. Thane and Midzaynov bargained with Zaeshir for help. The pirate asked if they had been followed, but Thane and Midi did not know either way. Wykeera, Zari, and Hagar met up with the party soon after. Together, they rented a room for the night adjacent to the Cobalt Company’s chambers. They convinced Zaeshir to stay up a bit with them and cast zone of truth so they and Pakt could have a straight conversation.

Pakt woke up about three hours later, and her veins immediately began to run black. She groaned to the party that the poison that ran through her removed implant sustained her, and that she would die without it. Wykeera re-installed the metal implement that constituted her left arm, and she returned to health. Zaeshir cast a zone of truth spell to keep the conversation honest, and the two parties entered into a tense parley. The F.I.A explained that they believed Ro-Zudof when he claimed to want the other gang leaders kidnapped, and would not have gone through with his scheme if they had known that he had turned traitor. Pakt grinned, and admitted that she was in on the plot with Ro-Zudof from the beginning. The kidnappings were a ruse to lure the F.I.A into a trap, and to provide a window of opportunity for Ro-Zudof to stage his coup on the Jade Dragons. The F.I.A pressed that they held no ill will towards Pakt. They asked for her to call the Pit Vipers off their tails so they could save Bana-Kye. The changeling responded by giving a big belly laugh. In retaliation, Hagar immediately wrapped his animated rope Picasso around her neck, for he thought that she her laughing was directed at Bana-Kye. After a tense moment where Pakt loaded a poison round in her arm and threatened to unleash it in the room where it could kill all of them, both parties stood down. Pakt explained that she had laughed because admired the party’s boldness for kidnapping her in her own territory and then turning around and asking for clemency. Pakt admitted that tied to a chair in the Wyvern's Rest Inn, she didn't have much choice but to agree to the F.I.A’s terms.

An agreement was reached. The F.I.A would kill everyone inside the Leviathan's Pit with the exception of Bana-Kye. The plan was to leave no witnesses, claim that Ro-Zudof double-crossed both gang leaders, and show that everyone died in the process. In return, Pakt would call off her gang members from murdering them on account of the stunt they had pulled earlier that night. Pakt would stay in the Wyvern's Rest that night to have plausible deniability for the incident. They asked Pakt about how many people would be in the pit. She responded that there would be about ten Pit Vipers, a smattering of Jade Dragons and an unknown number of Bloodbroods. (Thyrias was a loose cannon, and tended to be unpredictable in his plans). Pakt told the party that losing ten of her members was a small price to pay for having the leader of a rival gang killed without any seeming connection to her. The last thing that Pakt warned the party about is that Teoshi al-Surai was one of her patrons. While their current truce would hold, she would only be able to do so much to resist a direct order from Teoshi, and they had clashed in the past. The party cautiously removed Pakt’s restraints. She quickly collapsed into a bed, and was loudly snoring two seconds later.

At some point, Zaeshir made a smooth advance on Zari given a rumor about tattoos and Captain Tritus. He might have a thing for tieflings. Or women with the letter Z in their name.

In the morning, Shivalis Nailo knocked on the door to the F.I.A’s room. Having been apprised of the situation by Zaeshir, she asked the party how they wanted to handle taking on the traitorous Jade Dragons. Lidda, sleeping just next door, immediately sprang out of bed upon hearing this. Sliding into the room, Lidda made clear her enthusiasm for a chance to repay Ro-Zudof for all of the torture she had inflicted upon him. What was left of the Cobalt Company would help to kill Ro-Zudof, if for no other reason than Lidda had been so hurt by him.

Over breakfast, they discussed further. After some back and forth, the parties decided that Hagar would go into the front entrance alone as a distraction. Meanwhile, the rest of the adventurers would take out the rear guard and be on standby to infiltrate the fighting pit from the back. At one point, Shivalis demonstrated that she still had reservations about going on this mission with them considering what had happened in Etir (when Thane and Fia framed Aldritch for assault and left him freezing and practically naked in the streets). Shivalis said that she wanted to discuss it later rather than now, and motioned her head to Aldritch as if to say “we don’t need to discuss this in front of him.” Aldritch didn't seem to know the details of what had happened. Aldritch did, however, have a strange reaction to Midzaynov’s gem of brightness. He didn't know why, but he felt uncomfortable around it.

After their breakfast, Hagar went to talk with Pakt. He asked her how many people had been killed as a result of what he had done several years ago. Pakt told him that several Jade Dragons were killed in skirmishes, but the bigger issue was Bana-Kye himself. Pakt respected Bana-Kye, but thought that he was naive with respect to Hagar. She told Hagar that while she did work with slavery within the city, so did all of the gangs. The city was rife with it. What interested her, however, was what Bana-Kye was doing with those he kidnapped. Pakt even went as far as to say that she was horrified by what Bana-Kye was rumored to have done with those he kidnapped.

While the party waited for sundown, Zari paid a visit to the palace while in disguise as a green tiefling. She visited Raha first, interrupting a conversation she was having with Eldon, Raha’s other retainer. Raha asked Zari what had happened in the Palace of Pleasure. Zari admitted that it was a terrible situation, but she was okay; Abdul was in much worse shape. Raha nodded and suggested that Zari visit him before she left. Raha then told her that rumors that Abdul has returned to Yalba have been circulating despite the fact that no such announcement has been made public. Auction Master Kaisen had said something along the lines of thanking Iomine for Abdul’s return at the last auction - how could he know such a thing? She said that she would make a public announcement in The Furnace in a few day’s time to make clear what had happened. Raha felt as though she wasn’t doing enough to advance her and her brother’s cause in the city, which is why she wanted to make this announcement herself. Raha also confided that she had a plan for Teoshi, who the party had investigated before they left for the Palace of Pleasure. She could not inform the guard captain of Teoshi’s alleged crimes; Teoshi was so rich and the guard captain was so corrupt that it would make little sense. Raha said that she had a plan, but it could wait a bit if needed. Raha then asked if Zari thought the F.I.A was competent. She said somewhat. She asked Zari if she liked the F.I.A. She said that she did ... for the most part.

When Zari went to the adjoining room to visit Abdul, Rashad and Fazil were oil wrestling again. They were putting a bit more of a show on than usual for their prince in an attempt to cheer him up. Rashad quickly pulled his hand out of Fazil's loincloth upon seeing Zari enter. Zari threw the retainers some towels and sat on the bed next to Abdul. The crown prince was still covered in scars, and receiving treatment from a nurse. Zari and Abdul talked for a while, and Abdul told Zari that Rashad missed her while she was gone. Abdul laughed and reminded them how close they had been as children. Zari was able to read her friend to the point that she could tell that he thought that she and Rashad would make a nice couple. She also asked Abdul about his investigation and what he found out about the cleric’s odd behavior before he was abducted. He told her that the party had mostly followed in his footsteps. Farouk al-Fahai had killed his son. Anakis al-Fahai was acting cagey, and he was unable to get good information out of her. He knew that Barakas al-Bay, the priest blessed by the god of love, had cheated on his wife before death. Abdul then asked about Zari’s mother. When Zari told him that the forbiddance spell had not been helping her sleep, Abdul found it odd. After all, Farouk al-Fahai was protected by the forbiddance spell in Qadira Prison, but his nightmares seemed to have stopped.

Rashad was loitering around the exit to Abdul's room with a towel arched behind his neck as Zari exited the chamber. He tried to lean against the wall when Zari approached, but slipped due to the oil that was still on his hands. They talked for a while; Rashad told Zari that he missed her while she was away and admitted that “those Gallians” weren't so bad after all seeing as they brought Abdul back. He tried to lean on the wall again and slipped. When they were done talking, he walked out the door and into the hallway, away from his clothes. He entered the room again, moved past Zari, and tiptoed over to his trousers. They agreed to go on a date.

Meanwhile, Thane paid a visit to Moroden's Domain while in disguise to purchase the scroll of slow. When he arrived, Jaralf took ten minutes to tell Thane where the actual shop was, which was in the basement of the main cathedral. He bought the scroll from a very bored Naima, and went to look for Moroden in the main courtyard. Atka was sitting on a cloud with Moroden, where they were having a lively discussion. Atka was enjoying her time in Moroden’s Domain, because it was not a big empty house or a slave pen. Moroden placed two small clouds in Atka’s ears to facilitate a private conversation, calling them air pods. Ugh. Thane asked Moroden about his new invocations, and Moroden responded that they were from his own power. Thane told Moroden that he might go die now because of the current situation with the gangs, and Moroden told him to not die please. Moroden needed Thane to live in order to accomplish his goals, and also because he likes him.

The party regrouped at the Wyvern’s Rest, where Shivalis gave them her scouting report. She was not able to make it inside the fighting arena, but reported that there were six guards at the main entrance, two guards on the roof of the facility and two guards at the back entrance. A few hours later, the party made their way to the Levithan's Pit. Hagar split off from the party to make a solo approach to the front entrance. The guards out front ordered Hagar to halt. When he refused, they raised their crossbows. Hagar told them that he wanted to make a deal. One of the guards darted inside to get some help. When he re-emerged, he ushered Hagar in with him.
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