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Session 23 recap
So much is happening, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Still, I guess it’s time to try.

We made it back from the Palace of Pleasure. Abdul is fucked up, but at least he’s home. I don’t want to say he’s “safe”, since Batu got away and we still don’t know what is happening, but we’ve got him back to Yalba. Of course, Yalba is kind of the center of whatever nefarious plot is happening, so maybe that’s not safe at all. At least he’s not being actively tortured. All the refugees from the Palace are also in Yalba, and Raha and The Hellraisers are very kindly helping them figure out what to do. I hope they’ll all be alright. Also, Raha told us there’s a transportation circle in Yalba now, so that’s neat.

We finally found some weapons for Dak’s crew! The cockatrices are growing up so well. I’m so proud of them. Their names are Axe, Arrow, and Money. <3

I’m very worried about Prin. I wish I knew what happened to her. I believe she’ll be alright, I just don’t know where to even begin figuring out how to help or if she even needs or would want help. And Lyndra always kind of seems mad at me? I’m very grateful for the help she and Prin were able to give in the Palace! Galene didn’t give me a very good understanding of fae politics and customs and I really just hope I’m not accidentally stewing discord between courts. It’s hard to find time to even think about what I can do there with everything else happening.

Also, Xeridal’s ring hasn’t stopped being an issue. The attack on the Palace was definitely related to her. Saadia gave us a box to stash it and keep it from being tracked. The last place Xeridal’s crew will be able to track her is somewhere is the desert outside Yalba. There’s still so much darkness and uncertainty around whatever she was and what plan she was a part of, but maybe we’ll have a little room to breathe and focus on whatever horrendously powerful evil planar force Batu’s in line with and how it’s related to the clergy.

The Cobalt Company was a great help. Dorkuul wasn’t there, but the rest of them came with Raha to bring Abdul home. I don’t get the feeling they’ve been operating as a full crew a whole lot since Deliverance.

Atka’s magic is coming along well! It’s hard not to feel like we’re putting her in danger simply because she ended up with us and we’re the center of so much danger and strife, but it’s nice to see her skills developing.

I say it’s hard not to feel like we’re putting her in danger because she was literally in danger while we were away. The gangs have, apparently, caught on to Hagar’s presence and the house of champions was assailed. We’re going to go meet with someone named Ro-Zodolf from the Jade Dragons to, hopefully, sort out this whole mess. Again, I’d like to be able to focus on the main clergy mess.

Did I get everything? I think so? Well, regardless, I'm out of time. We’re off to the auction, and then to meet with Ro-Zodolf. Here’s hoping that things in Yalba don’t get even more complicated from here on out. I know we have the skills to get to the heart of the problem and turn things around. I just hope we don't leave too much mess behind us along the way.

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Mmmmmm.....raw snake
Solera had to say she was really impressed. The thought of eating raw snake turned her stomach a little but what Valindra did with the herbs... it was.... almost magical.

Valindra regularly pulled some tasty seasoning out of her pouch to turn their what would have bland meals into something bursting with flavor. But this time, she had really was amazing. Between the flavor of the rosemary and the mushrooms she had gathered, the raw meat of the snake was transformed into a tasty treat.

Solera smiled at herself thinking that Valindra could probably make shoe leather taste good. Which is good, considering she was not sure how long they would be down here and how long their rations would last.
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Not Just A Cleric
I know what most people think about us.

I know what you imagine when you hear ”cleric.”

A robed priest hiding behind an altar, occasionally healing sore throats and female cramps.

Someone you went to as a child when your parents were fed up with the screaming in the night. The cleric chanted a wordy prayer to Woden then patted you on the head. They gave you a holy symbol to hang over your bed and the nightmares dissolved.

Or perhaps your skin was covered with spots and your body burned like sunbaked stones. The priestess poured water on your forehead and chanted to Febris, and a cool breeze swirled through the room.

I’m sure these are lovely, reassuring memories. But do you associate a priest with the power of combat? I was raised on stories of the awesome war feats of Gwydion. Where I come from, we visited quite different priests. We wanted to know how to cast an illusion that blinded the enemy, or turn our skin to steel, or dodge a fatal blow.

Gwydion’s clerics are warrior priests and priestesses, fighting alongside the brave. Our powerful spells pour strength into our comrades, destabilize the opponent, heal the slashes and crushed bones of the warrior.

Now I let myself be tricked by that small cavedwelling beast. I thought it was aiming at my heart. I did not dodge fast enough, did not see the real intent. I, Blair the warrior priestess, underestimated it. What it really wanted was to drink my armor. Now my failure is evident to all: my chain mail consumed by a rusty vermin. My usefulness sorely diminished.

What will the rest of Winter’s Bane think of me? How well can I perform in battle without armor? If I were a truly powerful priestess, perhaps it would not matter what I wore. I search their eyes for judgment, pity.

We continue through the corridors and caves of this underground labrynth and I’ve never felt so weak, nearly naked like an awkward adolescent.

I must focus on drawing strength from Gwydion. I pray ceaselessly that he will lead me to a new set of armor, and vow to be more cautious with it.

Please Gwydion. Please.
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The Transformation
Valindra loves to work the Transformation. Ever since the Leaf Lord bestowed this gift upon her, she rejoices in its majesty. To become another being with a single breath, to leap into the wild alienness of animal form as one would leap into a clear forest pool and to experience the newness of its form is exhiliterating beyond words.

She has heard tales of other priests of the leaf lord who have succumbed to this passion and have never returned. Now she understands why.

To be a bat winging on silent wings through these dark cathedrals of stone, to sense the world with its unique sensorum is to experience the Great Ones gift in an entirely new way. For this she is infinitely grateful.
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Recap Session 22
[From Zari’s New and More Secure Journal]

We’ve finally done it! The precious prince is safe.

After fighting off the undead in the palace’s zoo, we realized that we needed to make our move. We decided to break Siaval’s scrying mirror so he could no longer track us and use Wykeera’s pixie friends to stealthily move through the palace. But Siaval and Batu had other plans for us. We were called to the throne room where Siaval told us more undead were on their way to the palace to find us and collect the ring. He used us as bait. He seemed to think he could gain something out of a deal with the undead.

Midi convinced him to let us have most of our weapons back in the evening to defend ourselves despite Batu’s objections. He didn’t seem to keen on the whole plan or Xeridal’s ring.

They released us back to the slave pen where we decided to send Prin to inspect the area in the throne room to see what trap had been laid, and Lyndra to look for Siaval’s scrying mirror.

Prin found an illusion hiding 60 gallons of holy water that was hanging from the ceiling in the throne room above the entrance. Lyndra found Siaval’s mirror in his bath next to his bedroom on the top floor. Thane and Wykeera snuck up to the 3rd floor to snoop and remove the mirror. Thane misty stepped his way around and Wykeera wild shaped as a beetle.

They discovered Abdul making holy water inside Siaval's bath tub with a few other clerics. They made a plan with him to escape during the fight with the undead. One of the pixies would transform Abdul into a flying creature and meet us in the slave pens once the fight was over.

When we returned to the throne room that night, our belongings were returned. Everyone got their weapons, armor, and magic items back except for Hagar's sword. Midi received a weapon called the Instrument of Kar'duuth. It’s a magic drum that can transform into a great hammer. It’s made of dragon bone. She clearly doesn’t like it as much as the hammer thane wrote about in his book, but I hope she can keep it.

Before the undead arrived, Hagar got Batu to open up about his father. His dad is a Demon Lord!!! TYelpech. Batu revealed that his goal is to rule the Abyss with an iron fist. He wanted to kill his father to become a Demon Lord himself.

Thane showed me a journal that he had nabbed from the 2nd floor library since he can’t read Abyssal. He’s finally starting to ask for help with things. It contained a series of entries relating to a demonic cult that praised Yelpech. The entries got awkwardly sensual, and each was signed “Siaval.” I’ve heard of a cult dedicated to Yelpech in the early days of The Arrival in Yalba, but don’t know much else about it. We should look into it more when we are back to the city.

Thane mentioned to Siaval’s that Batu was acting sneaky. Which was probably what allowed us to survive this fight.

We waited. And waited. And eventually, the undead arrived. Pouring through the door to the cistern was a mass of black smoke. As it entered the throne room and grew to towering heights, Siaval began talking to it. He said that the ring belonged to it, and then he placed the ring in the palm of his hand as an offering. The shadow condensed its form into that of a pale elf woman with scars covering her face and a bandana covering one eye from behind her long white hair. She asked Siaval if, being the ringbearer, he had been the one to kill Xeridal. He told her that the we had killed her.

While that was mostly true, He either doesn’t understand my involvement with this group or chose to leave my innocence out. I’m sure it’s the latter, but believing the former makes me much happier. I don’t like to believe anyone other than Kielel can know my every action.

She was enraged though by the idea of us killing her. Black smoke began to flow from her mouth and her eyes as she took on the form of 20 foot tall shadow being with a deer skull for a head, glowing green eyes, and dozens of scythe blades swirling around in its shadowy form. I’ve never seen anything so purely evil in my life.

She said, “Xeridal’s talents were in alchemy. Let's see how you fare against one made to destroy. Let's see how you face against Orthordis.” I’ve never heard the name. But I’ve also never heard of Xeridal. I was sure that whatever their connection, the ring could not be given up. Undead are never good. But the direct interference of undead this powerful will lead to more death. We I couldn’t let Xeridal’s soul be restored.

A moment before Siaval could spring his holy water trap, Thane cast a suggestion on Batu saying, “Siaval is going to lose the ring. You have to take it from him, now.” Batu flew up and shoved Hagar's longsword a foot into Siaval's chest. I had no clue why he reacted so violently to the suggestion.

At the same time, Midi triggered the trap behind Siaval's throne, dropping the 50 gallons of holy water straight onto Orthordis’ undead form. Orthordis screamed and writhed and retreated southward to the cistern room as her undead servants flooded the throne room from the open skylight.

Siaval ran out of the throne room with a few of his servants while Batu took the ring from Siaval and flew towards the cistern chasing Orthordis. It was clear he wanted to give her the ring. He knew how dangerous and stupid Siaval’s plan to make a bargain was.

They all wanted to let him do it too. I tried to explain that we couldn’t let her get the ring. That we would be dooming the world by giving her the ring.

They wouldn’t back me up. They wouldn’t listen. So I did it myself.

I understand why they would be afraid but it’s no excuse. Yes, she was dangerous. But they would only get stronger if Orthordis walked away with the ring now. There is no benefit in simply postponing our death. I had to risk it.

I followed Batu and cast a suggestion of my own on him. I think I said, “You need to go take care of Siaval. Leave the ring with me, I’ll keep it safe.” It worked. He hated Siaval in this moment more than he distrusted me. Or I thought at the time. I later realized he actually wanted to take care of Siaval. Make amends with his brother. Batu gave me the ring and flew through the throne room to follow Siaval. I didn’t bother to follow Orthordis myself. She was retreating.

Her hordes stayed to fight. As we fought them off, a pink pixie and a raven descended from a 3rd floor room. Things were working out fine.

We made our way to the slave pens after clearing out the cistern. There were some skulks attacking the slaves but Midi located them and we were able to some everyone. Aym thought the slaves would be safe for a bit, and we went to clear out the rest of the palace.

We asked Peter to help us fight the skulks and shadows. We were able to get him out of his cage and kill the few undead that were attacking him. He cast a scrying spell on the throne room to find Siaval, who he saw running through a window on the 3rd floor to his bedroom.

Raam, who I think is another one of Hagar’s sex friends, escorted us through the palace into Siaval’s bedroom, where he and Batu were screaming at each other.

We tricked Siaval into thinking we were on his side and fought Batu. When he was almost dead, as we went for the finishing blow, Batu plane shifted away. We couldn’t kill them both. Yalba is still not safe.

Siaval met a gory end with Thane dropping his last iron door on his head while an air elemental Midi created whirlwinded him into oblivion. As a final revenge filled flair, Thane shocking grasped the iron door and Midi used her new hammer to slam the iron door down turning Siaval’s head to mush. It may have been a bit much.

When he plane shifted, Batu left behind Hagar’s sword. Peter cleansed it for him transferring the enchantment to Hagar’s Warhammer. Peter told Hagar that he’d wander the wastes, and see what other destiny he could find.

Prin returned Abdul to his human form. I had been searching for him for so long. Even when I did find him, he was a wreck. Mind controlled and demeaned. Now he is free and my heart is filled with hope. I think we can still save Yalba. And I know he will make a great emperor. We hugged. I cried. I wasn’t even embarrassed.

In the past couple of weeks as we’ve waited for aid, we explored the rest of the palace. We found a staircase down to the basement. Inside was a tomb for Zeharian pharaohs. It looked like a few sarcophagi had been completely removed from their resting place. Looted maybe.

Finally, today we saw banners approaching from the north. This rescue party solidified all of the hopes I have held during our captivity. To see the prince, but not be able to help him was torture. Those banners were a signal to me that we had really done it.

Everything is going to be okay.
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