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Vashti's Tale
   "I was raised in a jhasinnadah in Manshaka," said Vashti, without emotion.

   "I did not learn of it till much later, but my father sold me into slavery to pay for my mother's medical bills.

   "I was trained as a dancer and for years took joy in tumbling and twirling in silks, as I naïvely relaxed in the comfort and pleasure that all jhasinnadah offer.

   "On the night of my 15th birthday, in the Year of the Gauntlet, I was to be presented before the druzir to 'dance' for him. I was lead to his bedroom by the villa guards, wrapped in beautiful layered silks I had chosen myself. He sat on his bed. I had never once seen him before; he was a hideously ugly man, but it bothered me not at first, for I was dancing for myself, not for him, to celebrate my own passing into womanhood. He ordered the guards to remove my silks, and they obeyed. I was disappointed, for I was pleased with my costume, but even then, I was naïve; nudity was of course common among all the women in the harem, as there were many baths and massage tables, and eunuchs were always present in those places, so I was not afraid nor embarrassed. He then ordered the guards to leave and me to dance. So I danced my best dance. For the moment, I was still happy, even as I danced before this despicable man. It was only when the dance was over and he opened his robe and gave me my next orders that I was filled with dread. I was confused and shocked, suddenly understanding everything, as my childhood innocence died.

   "I decided that I would rather die along with my childhood than obey his request. I said, 'No.'

   "Enraged, he began to beat me. I fell to my knees and wept, but still I refused. So he put his large hands around my neck and began strangling me. I simply closed my eyes and waited to die, as the happiness of my childhood was revealed to have been based on lies. That pain was far worse than the pain of his fingers crushing my throat. He continued to scream at me, as still I disobeyed, and it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't feel the need to breathe, even after all this time. Why was I not already dead?

   "I opened my eyes again, filled with sudden hope. There on the small table by the bed lay the druzir's jambiya," continued Vashti, as she withdrew her blade from its sheath. "Reaching out my hand, my fingers could just reach the handle. He was so furious that I was taking so long to die that he did not notice this motion. I took the blade... and emasculated him."



   She resheathed her jambiya and continued. "Wrapped in his robe and stealing his flying carpet, I escaped out the window before the guards returned. I survived by stealing what I needed, disguised by day as a boy. I soon took refuge in the criminal underworld, as there I found respect that women cannot find elsewhere in Calimshan. I only ever took jobs in which the targets were men, and soon those targets were also slavers.

   "By this, I found myself in the north, where I happened upon the town of Copper Hill and the Enclave there. Lady Frost was the first one who recognized and confirmed what I was growing to suspect; I am not of pure human blood.

   "I am a genasi. The blood of djinn flows in my veins. All the signs were there. I do not have to breathe; my skin is always cool to touch; my crazy hair; all those nights when I would wake up several inches above the surface of my bed.... I learned later that my great great great grandmother had been raped by a djinni she had foolishly summoned from a lamp,... and so, here I am.

   "And that," she finished with a mock smile, "is my happy tale."
Session: 16th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 12 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
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Imago Deorum
Chapter 2 — The Altar of the Air: Second Basement Floor: Part II
~ second-day, 22nd of Alturiak, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
the Altar of the Air, Second Basement Floor


The party stood around the body of the fallen undead creature — those who were not gagging from the stench, that is.

   "Let's get away from this foul beast," said Leokas, leading the way out of the room into the large square chamber in the center of this floor. Belvin and Mythlos followed, holding their stomachs, but Hakam and Jayce, nostrils pinched shut, instead moved into the room from which the monster had charged. It was another room with a gargoyle statue and six sarcophagi. The stone covers had been moved off, but all the coffins were empty.

   The two exited that room through its second archway to join the others, who were examining some pottery shards and a couple wooden buckets, which proved not to be the sort of treasure they were hoping for.

   "We need to rest," said Mythlos, sitting down in the corner.

   "It is not even highsun yet," said Vashti. "And I am not keen on resting when there are still rats about. Awake I can handle them, but I fear them gnawing on me in my sleep."

   "We need to prepare more healing spells."

   "Your sword will not be able to heal again till midnight," she said, "and though I am not very religious, I am fairly certain that Belvin prays to his god at dawn. Hakam?"

   Hakam nodded. "As do I."

   "I do not believe I've seen Belvin cast any spells at all today," said Jayce.

   Belvin shook his head.

   "And I still have a healing potion ready," said Leokas. I think we should finish exploring this floor. We've likely faced the worst already. Then we can return to the surface to rest."

~~~~


After about 10 minutes, Belvin and Mythlos were able to stand without feeling sick. The others had scouted ahead in the next quadrant of the the floor and found two other 15-by-25-foot rooms and another square room with a statue and six sarcophagi in the corner between them. Vashti had returned to gather them. "We've found a treasure chest at last," she said happily.

   They all approached the chest with caution. They almost did not notice the corpse 15 feet away near the exit to the outer hall. Hakam bent down to examine the dead human, while Vashti looked over the chest carefully.

   "I wish I had a magnifying glass to look more closely, but I can see nothing suspicious about this chest or its lock. If it is trapped, it is trapped well."

   "What about magical traps?" asked Jayce.

   "I cannot answer that," she said.

   Mythlos recited a cantrip and motioned with his arms. "The chest bears no aura," he confirmed. "Is it safe then?"

   "How did he die?" asked Belvin.

   "Not by any violence that I can discern," said Hakam. "He looks to have simply died in his sleep, and somewhat recently."

   "Not so recently to have been spared robbery," said Jayce. "He has no gear but for the clothes he wears."

   Leokas was examining the floor. "I am fairly certain this is his footprint in the dust and not one of ours. And here is another. Yes, he was standing over the chest and then walked over to where his body now lies."

   "I suspect poison gas then," said Hakam. He then offered a prayer to Kelemvor for the man's soul.

   "Let's just smash the chest," said Mythlos. "The poor man already triggered the trap."

   "You are all such novice adventurers," said Vashti. "Many traps can be reset, and some do so automatically.

   "In any case," she continued. "I think I can pick this lock. I have been trained to, but I cannot promise I won't set off the trap again."

   "We are not raising you again, Vashti," said Jayce.

   "You won't need to if it's really just poison gas," she said. "I'll just hold my breath. Everyone else should probably leave the room, however."

   "How long can you hold your breath?" asked Leokas.

   "As long as I wish; I don't need to breathe."

   They all looked at her in confusion.

   "I mean, I do breathe," she said, looking a little embarrassed. "I'm sure you have noticed me out-of-breath after a battle, but I do not need to breathe. I do it out of habit. My body can create its own air. That's how I drowned that hyena, if you recall."

   So the other stepped back into the nearest room with the sarcophagi and watched her crouch down and remove some tools from her bandoleer. She was only working on it for about thirty seconds when they all heard a click.

   "Damn," she said.

   Suddenly, a portcullis of five vertical metal poles dropped down from the top of the archway through which they were watching her, just missing them and blocking them out. They also heard a hissing sound as gas sprayed into the room from out of the key hole of the chest. Vashti turned around, saw the bars between them, and motioned for them to get away with her arms.

   It did not take any convincing for them the flee away toward the outer hallway.

   "How will we know when it is safe to go back?" asked Mythlos.

   "I was taught a useful cantrip at the enclave," said Jayce. "Watch." He pulled a small piece of copper wire from his pouch, hummed a tune, and waved the wire in the air. Then he whispered, while holding the wire close to his lips and pointing in the general direction of the other room, "Vashti, can you hear me?"

   The others huddled close to him. They all heard a clear whisper, as the copper wire vibrated. "Yes."

   "Is there still gas?" Jayce whispered.

   "Yes."

   "Any luck with the chest? Is it open?"

   "Yes."

   "And?"

   "What?"

   "What is inside?"

   "A lot."

   "Such as?"

   "Hard. To talk. Without. Breathing. Moron."

   "Well, at least we know she is still herself," Jayce said to the others.

   After several minutes, he checked in with her again, and she whispered back for him to wait longer. The same thing occurred after ten. After 15 minutes, he heard her whisper back through the wire, "I think it is safe now."

   When they returned to her, they found the portcullis had been pulled back up into the arch, the treasure chest had been shoved five feet from the wall, and a stone had been shoved into a gear mechanism underneath where the chest had sat. Vashti sat on the floor twirling a purple gem between her fingertips, smiling more than they had ever seen her smile. She motioned to the open chest and tossed the gem back into it. "Take a look," she said.

   The chest was full of thousands and thousands of copper coins, and for every ten copper coins, they spotted a gold one. Immersed in the sea of copper and gold were several other items, beside the purple gemstone. There was a finely crafted composite longbow. Leokas drew back the string with admiration. "This has an easier pull than my current bow," he said. There was a scroll with golden lettering. Hakam unrolled it. It was covered in divine writings and appeared to have two copies of the same writing on it. "When we have more time and more light, I will enjoy discovering what this scroll contains," he said. There was also a well-crafted set of tools and two brittle sacks, which Jayce suggested were filled with some alchemical substance, though they were different from the sacks they had recovered from the hobgoblin band.

   "There could easily be more gems hidden in there as well," said Vashti. "And each gem is worth many, many gold pieces!"

   "Did you just giggle?" asked Jayce.

   "No!"

   Mythlos lifted the chest off the ground with a grunt, then quickly dropped it. "This must weigh roughly one hundred and a half pounds," he said.

   "Yes, I know," said Vashti. "I could barely shove it over."

   "Excellent work, Vashti," said Leokas.

   "You are welcome," she replied.

   "Vashti, I think it is time for you to share what you really are," said Belvin.

   "If you wish to dampen the joyful mood...," she warned. "Could you not have considered asking at some earlier time in our journey?"

   "Now is a good time," he said.

   "Fine. But I warn you that I do not have the skill in weaving words as Jayce does; I will just be blunt...."
Session: 16th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 12 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 2 — The Altar of the Air: Second Basement Floor: Part I
~ second-day, 22nd of Alturiak, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
the Altar of the Air, Second Basement Floor


At the bottom of the stairs, they found themselves in a narrow hallway running to the left and right. Fifteen feet down the hall in both directions were archways on the near wall. Maybe 50 feet away in either direction, each end of the hallway turned around a corner. Leokas noted that the hobgoblin footprints headed to the left.

   On both sides of the hallway the walls had rectangular openings, and in these openings, there were large rectangular stone boxes, sarcophagi likely, stacked three high.

   "At last!" exclaimed Mythlos. "We may have found treasure." He approached one of the middle-height boxes. Jayce was beside him.

   "No looting the dead!" said Hakam sternly, but the two did not seem to give him any heed.

   "Belvin, surely you have no qualms about taking something not needed," said Jayce. "Come help us pull this one out; they are heavy."

   "It's dirty work," said Belvin, "but I'll do it."

   To his own surprise, Leokas found himself agreeing with Hakam. "What if your family's tomb were raided? How would you feel then?"

   "Men do not consider feelings often, now, do they?" said Vashti.

   "Is this how Akadians are usually buried?" asked Leokas, as the tomb raiding was going to happen no matter what anyone said at this point.

   "No, Akadi cares nothing for the dead. Most often, the devout have their ashes thrown to the wind. They are certainly not buried below the earth. Such is Grumbar's way. Although, I am not convinced that where we are standing was always underground.... Also, remember that this shrine has been repurposed multiple times."

   The others managed to get the stone sarcophagus out of its slot far enough to slide back the stone lid. Within, all that could be seen was dust and ash.

   "Nothing," sighed Mythlos.

   "I hope you are happy, Lawman," said Belvin.

   "We are not so far deep yet," said Vashti. "I would wager that any treasure so close to the surface has already been pilfered by other adventurers. Besides that, these are probably common graves or the graves of mameluks, based on what Rhinda told us."

   "Mameluks?" asked Belvin.

   "Warriors from the slave class," answered Hakam. "To be laid to rest in a crypt at all would be an honor to them."

~~~~


As Belvin and Jayce pushed back the stone coffin, Mythlos, bored with the history lesson, set off down the hall to their left and turned to pass through the first archway.

   "Curse that elf to the Abyss!" exclaimed Vashti. "He's going to get us all killed if he keeps going off like that."

   Belvin nodded. Leokas readied his bow.

   No sooner had she spoken than they heard a pained grunt, followed by Mythlos hurrying back into the hall, holding his midsection with blood on his hands. "There's a lot going on in there," he muttered, before touching his blue sword to his stomach to seal his wound.

   "Such as?" asked Belvin.

   "Hobgoblins," said Mythlos, panting, "and rats!"

   Leokas was already in the archway. "Rats" was an understatement; he already could count at least six dog-sized rats near a hole in the wall to his left. Another squeezed out of the hole to join the others. They were sniffing around the 15-by-25-foot room. He could see no hobgoblins, but there was an open archway on the right wall and another opening of some sort farther ahead, and Mythlos' wound was not a bite wound.

   Belvin appeared at his side. Seeing the rats, he tried to empathize with them. One of them drew closer and sniffed at the two elves. Leokas joined in at trying to keep the rats calm.

   Meanwhile, lighting his studded armor magically, Hakam moved behind them down the hallway and squeezed past Mythlos, fearing an attack from the other direction. Jayce left his crossbow on the ground, and followed him, drawing his dagger on the way. Hakam had guessed correctly. As he rounded the corner, he spotted a hobgoblin hurrying toward them with punching dagger in hand. The katar struck out at Hakam, but was deflected from one of the glowing armor studs. The blow still stunned Hakam a bit, however, and he fumbled and dropped his sword when pulling it out of its sheath. Fortunately, Jayce came to his rescue, casting a daze spell at the hobgoblin, who blinked repeatedly, confused at what was happening to him.

   In the room with the rats, Leokas and Belvin were joined by Mythlos and Vashti. They looked down and saw that one of the rats was happily rubbing its snout against Belvin's shin. "Don't anger them," whispered Bevlin, motioning to the cluster of seven or eight dire rats in the room. Just then, a hobgoblin entered the room from the other side and tossed something from off its chest belt. The object landed on the ground near the center of the room and shattered, scattering a black goo in all directions, which burst into flames upon contact with the air. The rats scattered, as several of them were scorched mildly by the fire. A few squished back into the hole in the wall; another ran wildly past the hobgoblin out of the room. Most of the fire fizzled out quickly, having landed on the floor. What little got on the adventurers was quickly extinguished.

   Leokas felled the hobgoblin with a single arrow.

   Belvin moved through the archway on the right wall, followed by one of the rats. Another hobgoblin, who had been hiding around the corner in the adjacent room, loosed an arrow, which punctured Belvin's arm. "Help!" he called out, while releasing an arrow right back at the goblinoid before snapping the arrow in half and yanking the shaft out of his arm.

   Mythlos charged into the room after him. The room was roughly 20-foot square. It contained a large, grotesque statue in the far corner. On either side were three stone sarcophagi each, these ones somewhat more ornate than the ones in the hallway walls. Another archway was across from them to the left. Mythlos swung at the hobgoblin archer in the corner between the two archways but missed.

   In the other room, Leokas moved quietly past the fallen hobgoblin to the opening in the far corner. Here he could see to his left into a larger chamber, but without the light from Mythlos' sword he could not see far. To his right, he felt out another room or hallway and moved that way, hoping it would lead to Belvin and Mythlos from another entrance. Success! he could see a blue light emanating from an opening along the wall ahead to his right. Vashti, coming behind him, stopped to stab the hobgoblin in the heart to make sure he was dead.

   Leokas peeked into the room, just as Mythlos was lunging again and swinging and Belvin was nocking another arrow. The hobgoblin was pinned against the corner, unable to even draw an arrow without opening himself up for an easy attack. Trusting that Belvin and Mythlos could handle themselves, he rushed past the archway toward another light. There, to his right, 50 feet down a hall was the back of a hobgoblin, and beyond it, Hakam, glowing, struggling to pick his sword up from the ground. Leokas sent an arrow into the hobgoblin's exposed back, and it fell to its knees. Hakam, having recovered his blade, ran his sword through its heart.

   Then Leokas heard Vashti gasp and curse. Looking over his right shoulder he saw her standing outside the archway where he had just stood five seconds prior. Beyond her was yet another combatant, but not a hobgoblin. This "creature", if it could be called that, floated in the air. It had no legs, no discernible head, but two stubby arms. Its amorphous body seemed to change shape constantly and appeared made out a dark cloud. Two darker spots near the top of its body were perhaps its eyes. "What is it?" he shouted.

   "Whatever it is," Vashti answered stepping back defensively, "its blows are more solid than one would think."

   Stepping closer, Leokas sent an arrow at the beast, but it seemed deflected by some strong wind. Likewise, one of Vashti's magical ice daggers was deflected away. The thing moved toward Leokas with shocking speed and swung one of its appendages at him. Leokas avoided the blow but felt a blast of air pass over him.

   Then the monster quivered; it seemed that Jayce had come up behind it from the direction of the room with the rats and stabbed it in its "back". From Jayce's point of view, it did not feel like striking flesh, but it seemed to have some positive effect, as the creature obviously felt the attack.

   Having finished off the hobgoblin archer in the adjacent room with Belvin's help, Mythlos rushed out to see what the commotion was. He appeared just as Jayce's dagger struck. Mythlos joined the fray without hesitation and plunged his sword into the creature to the hilt. In response, the monster looked as if it were going to swing its short arms again, but instead, it spun around violently, almost like a top. Its form became less and less corporeal, until it morphed into a miniature whirlwind, throwing dust and debris into the air, briefly choking and blinding the four adventurers surrounding it. The small tornado rushed right over Jayce, who had to struggle to maintain his balance against the powerful gusts. It rushed past the entrance to the room with the rats into the larger chamber they had not yet explored but only had glanced at briefly.

   Vashti, hunched over from the blow from the air creature, took this chance to drink a bottle of healing potion. The others followed the sentient whirlwind, weapons ready.

   Hakam had moved around the corner, past the dead hobgoblin to where Leokas had stood moments before. He saw Vashti and his other companions rushing after he knew not what, only he heard what sounded like a rushing wind. He considered continuing further down this hallway in hopes of circling around to the others by another route when a large and angry rat, crazed from the fire that had earlier struck it, rushed toward him up the hall. He doubted he could avoid the beast, so he readied his sword, waited, and swung. The enormous rat darted to the side and then bit into Hakam's leg, its sharp incisors piercing through the leather.

   In the nearby room, Belvin heard the high pitched squeak and hiss and followed that sound rather than the sound of wind that confused him. Coming up behind Hakam, he tried to soothe the angry rat, but Hakam continued to swing at the animal, angering Belvin. He tried calming the rat again, but it kept snapping at Hakam repeatedly, who kept swinging his sword in return. Both the rat and Hakam were missing the other repeatedly.

   In the other room, Leokas shot at the whirlwind. As one might expect, the arrow was blown far off course by the rotating gusts and struck nothing, as there was nothing substantial to hit. The whirlwind moved behind a massive pillar in the center of this 40-foot square room. Mythlos chased it counterclockwise around the pillar with his sword raised, though it was moving at least three times faster than he could move. Leokas headed clockwise to attempt to cut it off.

   Jayce shouted loudly at the creature. "We will destroy you, beast of wind! Coward! Take form again and fight us." Vashti shook her head. However, she was surprised to see the now-coporeal form of the creature float into view and rush at Leokas, who nocked and released an arrow into the center of the creature's body. They could see the arrow floating inside its cloudy form as it charged. It reached Leokas and slammed him back violently with its arm, throwing him back against the wall, but Mythlos at last caught up, and swung his moonblade from one end of the creature to the other. The monster immaterialized in a sudden puff of vapor that quickly dispersed.

~~~~


"Did we kill it?" asked Jayce, coming over.

   "If not," said Vashti, beside him, "it has gone invisible, and we are doomed."

   "You are such a pessimist," said Jayce.

   "Speaking of invisibility," said Mythlos. "One of the hobgoblins drank an invisibility potion, I think, when I was stabbed."

   "Wait," said Leokas. "There were three hobgoblins, right?"

   "No, four," said Mythlos.

   "Four? We only killed three."

   "Where are the other two of us?" asked Vashti.

   "I think I saw Belvin run that way," said Leokas, and he ran back the way they had come.

   Vashti followed, but Jayce had noticed some writing and imagery on the walls. "Mythlos, bring your light over here. Look at this!"

   "What is it?"

   "It seems to be Alzhedo, but I do not know the words. It's an older dialect, I think. Perhaps it is a spell of some sort?" The text was interspersed with simple images of clouds and whirlwinds.

   Mythlos took a small crystal from his spell component pouch, held it up, and cast a spell upon it. It glowed faintly, and he glanced through the crystal at the words on the wall. He read out loud:

O Mighty Akadi,
Lady of the Winds,
Queen of the Air,
Blow on us.
Fill this chamber with thy cloud.
Accept this offering of incense to thee.
Send rain upon this desert land.
Cool this heat with thy sacred breezes....


   "I think these are all simply prayers or a liturgy," said Mythlos, lowering the crystal. "These are divine chants, but not spells as such, I think."

   Then he asked, "Did you see those sarcophagi in the other room?"

   "Not the ones in the walls?"

   "No, by the ugly winged statue with the goblin archer."

   "I can see nothing down here if I am not near you or Hakam," said Jayce.

   "They look fancier than the others; we should check them for treasure or magic. I am sure that the other four can handle a single hobgoblin."

~~~~


Yet it was not a hobgoblin; it was two dire rats. Hakam struggled with the same one, while the rat that had been following behind Belvin had run over to join the other and was running in a circle excitedly, unable to pass by the other angry rat to get at Hakam. Likewise, the hallway was too narrow for Belvin or anyone else to squeeze by Hakam as he pivoted and stepped to avoid the rat's snapping bites. By now, however, Hakam was bleeding from several bite wounds. The agile rodent had red gashes in its tail and in its shaggy hide.

   Belvin was growing frustrated, convinced that he could calm the rat down if Hakam would just get out of the way. Leokas, behind Belvin now, was frustrated that he could not get a clear shot at such close range at the specific rat. He tried aiming through Belvin and Hakam's legs, but it would be next to impossible to not hit one of them. "Move back," he said. "We can't get clear shots."

   "Stop swinging at it and step away," ordered Belvin, "or I'll drag your ass out." He grabbed for Hakam's shoulder, but lost his grip.

   "Let go of me, elf! The rat bit me first." Belvin found himself elbowed in the nose at a second attempt to pull Hakam away.

   Vashti, further up the hall, sat down and munched on some of her rations.

   "Pull back, both of you!" said Leokas again from the entrance to the side room.

   Belvin did and followed Leokas into the room. "You better follow me, you son of a...." In the room through the archway to his left, he spotted Jayce and Mythlos lifting a cover off a sarcophagus. "Lawman! They are tomb-robbing again. You'd better come."

   Missing again, Hakam finally obeyed, grumbling as he stepped away from the angry rat and followed. "Fine. Deal with the stupid rats."

   Vashti dropped her food and stood up, as the two rats now scurried after Hakam as he backed away into the other room. One of the rats, the uninjured one was snapping at Hakam's heals. An arrow from Leokas missed it.

   "Don't shoot it!" shouted Belvin. "I calmed that one. Leave it alone." He moved between the rat and Hakam and tried to pet it. It seemed to recognize that Belvin meant no harm and sat back.

   The bloodied rat, however, lunged at Vashti, still in the hall, who leapt back and released ice haphazardly from between her palms. It bit her hand.

   "The other one is biting Vashti now, Belvin," said Leokas, who could see part of the action. He moved back into the hall to see Vashti throw something at the rat as she stepped back. "Can you calm this other one?"

   Belvin tried, and Leokas assisted, but the angry, injured rat paid no heed. Worse, the other rat now rushed past all of them and began biting at Vashti as well as she retreated further up the hall, throwing another object behind her.

   Leokas, at last, put an arrow into each rat. They tumbled over. Belvin fell to his knees and raised his arms. "No!" he cried out.

   "I am sorry, Belvin," said Leokas. "We tried. I tried to help you. Sometimes animals cannot be reasoned with."

~~~~


Vashti, Belvin, and Leokas entered the room with the statue to find Hakam arguing with Jayce and Mythlos.

   "Calm down!" said Jayce. "We were just looking for Mythlos' lost dagger."

   "I am not an idiot," Hakam replied.

   In reality, Mythlos and Jayce had passed through the "rat room" to see the fallen hobgoblin there being gnawed on.

   Beyond there, in the room with the stone coffins, they looted the hobgoblin archer. They found five gold and silver coins each in a leather pouch, a sunrod for Jayce, some arrows, and a recurved shortbow they thought Belvin might find useful.

   The sarcophogi were marked with inscriptions in Alzhedo, the names and ranks of soldiers, chawalli and musarri but no one of high rank. They had time to open three coffins while the others had dealt with the rats, each was empty beyond ash and bone fragments, and Jayce could detect no magical auras either.

   Hakam stepped past the other two and examined the hideous statue. It was a winged, deformed beast with horns, what one might put as an ornament on the corner of the roof of a large building in other lands, a gargoyle.

   Belvin now noticed the pain throbbing in his arm from the puncture wound. "Mythlos, can you heal me?"

   "You are fine," said Leokas. "We may need to conserve our limited magic. Have we even seen half this floor? Here, wrap it tightly...."

   "The treasure must be in the other parts we have not explored. Let's go."

   "No!" said Vashti. "You wait for the rest of us."

   "Come, Mythlos," said Jayce. "Let's see if the hobgoblin Hakam and I fought in the hall has anything valuable."

   Besides its punching dagger, they found an odd assortment of items, which Mythlos collected: some little hardened sacks, which Jayce figured were some sort of alchemical item; a set of caltrops; some chalk; three flasks of holy water; some rope; a smokestick; a sunrod; a set of thieving tools; an assortment of coins; rations; water; and a pack of playing cards.

~~~~


When Jayce and Mythlos returned, the others had stepped out into the larger chamber in the center of this level where they had defeated the air creature, except for Leokas, who was searching for hobgoblin tracks by the light from one of his sunrods. It was a difficult task, because of all that had ensued. He was also conscerned that they had seen no sign of Mythlos' fourth hobgoblin. Was it stalking them while invisible?

   In the room where Leokas was standing, where Vashti had first encountered the air creature, there was a large hole in the wall, roughly where the rat hole was in the similar room across the way. On closer examination, it appeared to have been blasted into the wall. Peeking through, Mythlos found nothing of interest. It was a tight space five-feet by ten-feet, behind what appeared to be the underside of a stairwell going up.

   The large chamber where the others were had entrances at each of its four corners. In the center of each wall was a stairwell descending deeper. Hakam was reading the inscriptions on the walls, searching for any sign of necromatic prayers or spells. Jayce and Belvin were peeking out one entrance and listening for any signs of life (or undeath). Vashti, not trusting Mythlos to be careful, followed behind him as he explored the opposite corner from them. He pushed ahead into a room much like the other two that did not contain coffins, a room about 15-feet by 25-feet. The symmetric arrangement of this level of the Altar of the Air was becoming more and more apparent.

   He moved into the center of the room, near an archway to his left. Vashti lagged behind him. Before he noticed his next attacker, he smelled it, a horrible stench of death. A creature spotted him through the doorway and charged, bearing its sharpened triangular teeth. He could not recognize the monster. It was humanoid in form, with mottled, rib-hugging, decaying flesh. It was not a zombie; it was too deformed and corrupted for that, but it was certainly undead. Its eyes glowed red in sunken sockets.

   The stench from the monster was so overpowering that Mythlos retched. Vashti did not seem bothered at all. "Come!" he shouted between vomiting, as he raised his arms to block a slash from the monster's claws. "Something nasty!" The monster's claw failed to cut through Mythlos' leather bracers.

   Everyone came running. Jayce got a glimpse of the creature around the corner and began threatening it verbally. Leokas entered the room from the opposite doorway to see Mythlos take a swing. The moonblade hummed and glowed, and positive energy was unleashed. Sparks were jumping from Vashti's hands, but she could not get close enough to the creature to shock it. Belvin and Hakam passed Jayce and entered the room.

   The undead monster lashed out over and over, a claw, another claw, and a bite. Mythlos managed to avoid the blows or else his armor absorbed the hit, but he vomited all over his chest piece. Two arrows from Leokas flew past.

   Hakam held up his holy symbol. "Anachtyr rebuke you, foul beast. Return to the dead." At the same time, Belvin cast his bow aside, and charged the monster, drawing his scimitar and yelling a war cry. The creature turned and fled, but Leokas was blocking his escape. It cowered to the ground, hiding its bony head between its skeletal knees.

   "Can we talk to it?" Jayce asked Hakam.

   "I will not hear words from an abomination," he replied.

   "Do you surrender?" Jayce called in Common, as he approached. Leokas had an arrow pointing directly at the monster but slowly backed away from its smell, though he controled his gag reflex.

   "Stay away!" the monster hissed.

   "Do you surrender?"

   "I listen, I listen," it said.

   "Step back from my friend," Jayce said, meaning Leokas.

   "Stop the light," the creature moaned.

   "Back away from me," ordered Leokas.

   "Hakam, step back a bit," said Jayce.

   Neither Hakam nor the monster moved.

   "I demand to know the source of your power," said Hakam.

   "Flesh!" said the monster, with rising excitement.

   Mythlos tried to speak, but bent over sick instead.

   "It is not wise to reason with undead," said Vashti.

   "Then let us destroy it," said Belvin. He charged again, this time striking the creature in the back. It fell into the fetal position on the ground. Then Belvin put his hand over his mouth and nose, as he began to gag. Hakam tossed a flask of holy water, which shattered over the creature.

   "Whom do you serve?" asked Jayce, hoping to get more information out before his companions finished it off.

   "Hunger!" it cried out, before Leokas shot it through the throat and Mythlos struck it with his sword. It ceased moving after that.
Session: 15th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 2 — The Altar of the Air: First Basement Floor
~ second-day, 22nd of Alturiak, The Year of Wild Magic, dawn
the Altar of the Air


As the sun rose, Mythlos came out of trance earlier than the others and spent a good deal of time searching the Altar grounds but not finding anything of interest, except that he wondered how they had missed seeing the now-obvious lines of the corner columns that served as the entrances into the base of the pyramidal shrine.

   When the others returned to the waking realm, Vashti decided against using her own magical power to reach the top of the Altar, instead floating up and back again with her carpet. The metal pole at the top having been electrified once again, the columns slid out to their open positions, and the adventurers cautiously entered the ground floor chamber.

   There was no sign of any further mold on the walls, only shriveled remains upon the floor, and the air felt warm and dry. The walls were bare of any markings and were made from regular sandstone bricks. In the center of chamber, a breeze was blowing upward from a circular opening in the floor to a similar one in the ceiling above. This was clearly the source of the magical wind that they had encountered above. Four stairwells descended into the darkness away from this central wind hole, one in each compass direction. As usual, Mythlos wasted no time in descending one of the stairs, his sword drawn and glowing before him.

   They descended together into a ten-foot wide hallway with sandstone walls. The ceiling was also ten feet above them. Immediately on their right and left were two open archways, leading into adjacent rooms. About 15 feet ahead, the hallway met a narrower one passing orthogonally to them. At that junction, it also appeared that another staircase descended.

   Mythlos led the way through the right archway and into a room 25-feet square with an open archway in the center of each wall, empty except for a stone slab about table height and large enough for a humanoid creature to lay on.

   "Vashti," said Jayce, "as a servant of Akadi, maybe if you lie on the stone, something will happen."

   Vashti walked away from him.

   They gathered around the slab, examining it. It was made from mortared bricks as were the walls. There were no moving parts or writing. Mythlos tried pushing it and then climbed up to stand upon it. Looking past him, Jayce spotted something by sword-light through one of the archways in another room about 50 feet away.

   "Companions," said Jayce, "I think I see a reptilian humanoid in that other room, behind a similar slab."

   Mythlos, looking where Jayce pointed, confirmed this. "I think it's a troglodyte, a cave lizard."

   "Does it see us?" asked one of the others.

   "It doesn't seem to be moving."

   "It must have heard us talking."

   "Trogs are known to be as evil as the vilest demons," said Jayce.

   Everyone moved into a combat stance. Leokas launched an arrow into the dim light of the next room, but it missed. Mythlos hopped down off the slab and Leokas replaced him on it, readying a second arrow. Jayce knelt in front of the slab and launched a bolt from his crossbow, which also missed. Hakam cast a spell to set his armor studs aglow and approached the archway. Belvin and Vashti moved toward one of the other doorways, assuming the floor layout was symmetric and that they could come around at the troglodyte from another direction.

   The bipedal lizard began moving toward them, walking more slowly than they would have expected.

   Jayce noticed something else odd. "Its ribs are exposed!"

   "And it's missing an eye," said Leokas, loosing another arrow. This one went cleanly through the reptile's chest and out its back, but it did not even flinch and continued its slow, methodical walk toward them.

   "Is it a zombie?" asked Jayce?

   Hakam stepped into the hallway, 15 feet from the approaching creature. "It is," he said somberly. Clutching the holy symbol of Anachtyr, he shouted at the undead troglodyte, "Anachtyr rebuke you, abomination! Return to the dead!" but the zombie kept approaching.

   Jayce rose to his feet, leaving his bow on the ground, and pressed past Hakam into the hallway between the two rooms. As he moved, he chanted a quick melody that set his hand aglow with positive energy. He reached the zombie and touched its dry, cold, rotting shoulder with his palm. A surge of white energy flowed through the monster, and it convulsed, emitting a sort of moaning hiss. It swung its club down on Jayce and struck a blow just as Mythlos, entering the hallway, delivered a gash from his sword. In addition to nearly severing the troglodyte's javelin-bearing left arm, the moonblade hummed and glowed, emptying more positive energy into the undead's body.

   Now Belvin and Hakam pressed around the monster, Belvin coming down the hallway from the other direction and yelling his warcry while lashing out with his silvered dagger and missing. Hakam's hand was aglow with holy energy, and his touch at last obliterated the zombie, as positive energy ripped through it and reduced it to ash and bone.

~~~~


The group gathered around the pile of remains, as Jayce rubbed his bruised shoulder. "Are zombie remains useful for anything?" asked Jayce.

   "I do not know of any such use," said Mythlos, as he bent down to pick up the troglodyte's javelin and club and examine its empty belt pouch. Beyond that, it had borne no further equipment.

   Leokas said, "Surely this was not a creature who was buried here. Its flesh would have decayed. This monster must have been recently animated. Hakam, you are a cleric; what can you tell us about undead?"

   "You are correct, elf," said Hakam. "Zombies indicate that someone has performed a necromantic spell somewhat recently, far more recently than the dark magic that has animated the skeletons I have been destroying."

   "What are their weaknesses?" asked Leokas.

   "Mindless ones like these are not so much of a challenge, as they can only follow simple commands from their creators. If enough positive energy negates the negative energy that powers them, they are destroyed, as you have just witnessed."

   "What if one does not have such magic?"

   "Physical attacks are less effective. Piercing weapons and blunt trauma do little to stop a zombie. The magic that animates them can still function, even if the monster has a crushed skull, for example. But if you chop off a zombie's legs, it cannot move toward you any longer, can it? For skeletons, the best non-magic option is to crush their bones to dust with a mace or the like."

   "You implied earlier that there are sentient undead?" asked Belvin.

   "Yes, of course, such as this mummy who supposedly resides in this shrine. Such undead are far more resistant to being turned by positive energy, and each has its own methods of final destruction. Vampires, for example, can only truly be killed by destroying their coffins, provided, of course, that one can find the things."

   "What are a mummy's weaknesses?" asked Jayce.

   "They are few," replied Hakam. "They have an extraordinary resistance to physical blows of any kind. Fire is their main weakness."

   "Vashti," said Leokas, "what do you think about all of this? Are priests of Akadi typically necromancers?"

   "Clerics of Akadi rarely follow any dogma except that one's dogma should freely change," she answered.

   "What if that dogma changes?" asked Bevlin.

   "What I mean is that the interests of a fanatic follower of Akadi tend to change like the wind. It is indeed very strange for any cleric of Akadi to focus on any sort of hobby for a long period of time. One might toy with necromancy for a season, but to have one's followers mummify her so that she can live eternally...."

~~~~


The room from which the zombie had come contained nothing but another stone slab, appearing exactly like the other. Moving clockwise around this floor of the shrine, they passed into a third such room after passing through another hallway with Mythlos leading the way.

   "Be careful not to disturb any potential hobgoblin tracks," said Leokas. "They have likely passed through one of these rooms."

   "There is a mark on that wall," said Jayce.

   "A scorch mark," said Mythlos. "Any number of spells could have caused that." The scorch mark was about chest high.

   "It was likely cast from this side of the room," said Leokas, "and here are some hobgoblin footprints as well."

   "Where do they lead?"

   "Out this...," began Leokas, when suddenly a dinosaur-like creature appeared out of thin air among them. The thing was seven-feet-long from head to tail and stood on two clawed feet about four-feet-high. It had thick, bluish, mottled skin. For a head, it had a gaping maw with three mandibles lined with black teeth. Between each pair of mandibles was a single red eye. The monster had barely appeared before it opened its triangular mouth and snapped down on Bevlin's right arm, tearing a bit of flesh and leather. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the blue monster vanished.

   Vashti leapt up onto the slab in the room and glanced around, ready to cast a spell at anything that appeared. Likewise, Leokas nocked an arrow and backed against a corner so the monster could not rematerialize behind him. Hakam cast a spell to detect magic but could see no disturbance in the Weave.

   Ten seconds passed. No one moved. Nothing appeared.

   Belvin broke the silence by raising his arms and screaming a battle cry. As if in response, the blue monster appeared again, on the other side of the room, ready to chomp down on Mythlos, but an arrow from Leokas' bow pierced through one of its red eyes and into the back of its head. It dropped to the ground.

   Belvin shortly decapitated it.

   "What was that?" asked Jayce.

   None of them had any idea.

~~~~


Leokas returned to tracking the hobgoblins. He was convinced that they had gone down one of four staircases that descended from the outermost hallway walls. The floor layout turned out to be predictable, an outer narrow hallway forming a large square with four identical rooms at the corners. The adventurers had a minor debate about whether to spend hours searching for hidden treasure on this floor or to follow the hobgoblin tracks to the next floor down.

   "More monster heads are our best bet for treasure," argued Belvin.

   Mythlos and Hakam at least wanted to examine the slabs more closely. Along with Jayce, the three of them tried pushing, standing on, and jumping on the slabs, but nothing happened. Content at last that they were simply stone tables for some unknown purpose, Mythlos led the way as they descended down to the next floor.
Session: 14th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 07 2013 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 2 — A Sacrifice for Akadi
~ first-day, 21st of Alturiak, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
the Altar of the Air


Early the next morning, the adventurers, Hakam, and three adepts of Ilmater set out on as many camels west-northwest across the sands. They traveled for nine or ten hours, pushing their camels to finish the journey with daylight to spare. Near the end of the afternoon, they had traversed the 25 to 30 miles to the ruins of Dashadjen, garrison city of the djinn during the Calim Empire. The adepts began setting up a large tarp to provide shelter for the camels and themselves while the adventurers proceeded to Akadi's shrine.

   The Altar of the Air was impossible to miss, the only construction still standing amidst the broken rubble scattered in a field of sand. The building was a stepped pyramid, with each successive level taller than the one beneath it, such that the highest level was a 25-foot square spire. The entire sandstone shrine was about 7-stories tall.

   The shrine rested on a square stone dais or courtyard. No sand seemed to cross unto this courtyard at all. Mythlos stepped onto it; however, when Jayce kicked some sand in that direction, an unseen force prevented the sand from crossing the invisible barrier. Sure enough, a spell revealed a steep, pyramidal magical aura to cover the entire shrine.

   "Maybe an Omlar gem is at the top of that spire," said Leokas, "just like in the minarets."

   "Perhaps Allu sent the other hobgoblins here to retrieve it," said Mythlos.

   "We still do not know why Allu wanted the Omlar gem we have," said Belvin.

   "Gods," cursed Jayce, "we forgot to ask our prisoner that before you executed him."

   "We have also forgotten to ask you why you lied to us about the gem, Jayce," said Leokas.

   "What do you mean?" said Jayce. "I never said anything about the gem."

   "Vashti told us that you told her that the hobgoblin had stolen the gem from you, that it was a family heirloom."

   Vashti nodded in agreement.

   "I'm no jeweler!" protested Jayce. "My family had a sapphire of a similar size. I thought it might be the same stone."

   "Or you lied to us," said Belvin.

   "Calm down, calm down!" said Jayce. "I've saved your life. Don't forget. When I first met you, I didn't know if you could be trusted. I was afraid you might kill me in my sleep if I said the wrong thing."

   "I have not forgotten," said Belvin. "And for that reason you have not died in your sleep."

   "If you recall, that particular lie was so that Vashti would talk to us and give the gem back. Tell him, Vashti."

   Vashti did not reply.

   "That particular lie?" said Belvin. "What other lie have you been telling us?"

   "How did you become a slave?" asked Vashti.

   "Ah, that's a long story for when we have more time. We should find the entrance to this shrine."

   "No, now is a good time to tell us," said Belvin.

   "If I may give my judgment on the matter...," interrupted Hakam, but then he himself was interrupted. A large claw snapped at his back. A giant scorpion, twice the size of the one they had previously encountered in their travels had come around a corner of the shrine and charged at their circle. Hakam had spotted the monster just in time to avoid being snapped in half, but the attack still injured him severely. He stumbled back, and called on the power of Anachtyr to heal himself.

   Jayce quickly sent a flash of magic light at the scorpion in an attempt to daze it, but it had no effect. Vashti darted up the shrine steps behind her and began raining down her magic icicles on the beast. Leokas and Belvin each leapt back and began unleashing arrows. Several reflected off the giant arachnid's carapace, but a few punctured it and released goo from the wounds. Mythlos stumbled and missed a swing. While he attempted to recover his balance, the scorpion caught him in his right claw. Mythlos managed to free himself before the monster could sting at him with its poisonous tail.

   Jayce's yarting music encouraged them on. More arrows and icicles and now sling stones from Hakam rained down on the creature, but still it snapped at Mythlos, who remained facing it.

   "Mythlos, you are shielding my shots!" shouted Belvin.

   "Back away from it!" called Jayce. "Make it come to you."

   "You are going to get stung!" shouted Vashti.

   Mythlos listened, and backed up defensively. A series of further projectiles punctured the creature's armor, and then Mythlos lunged out and delivered a final stab into where he hoped the monster's brain resided. Its legs buckled and it fell to its belly. All of them rushed toward it and plunged what blades they had into it to ensure it was really dead.

~~~~


After they had tended to Mythlos and Hakam's wounds with their magic, they had removed the barbed stinger from the scorpion's tail and entrusted it to the three adepts. Now they returned to the shrine. A quick sweep of the perimeter did not reveal any further dangers or any further magic beyond that of the protective field.

   Four sets of wide stairs rose up the sides of the pyramid. A story and a half up, each set narrowed and passed between ten-foot walls up to a doorway.

   "I thought you said there was no way in," said Belvin to Hakam, when he spotted the doorway openings.

   "Go up those stairs and you will find what I mean," said Hakam. "Except for a small room at the top of these stairs, there isn't anywhere else to go."

   Leokas had begun looking for tracks and was confident that he had found a set of hobgoblin tracks leading up the stairs. "The hobgoblins went up these steps," said Leokas. "That must be the way in."

   So they all proceeded up one set of steps and entered into a 15-foot-by-15-foot room, two narrow stone staircases spiraled along the four walls up to the ceiling 25 feet above them. In the center of the room was a circular opening in the floor about five feet in diameter.

   "The entrance?" asked Belvin of Hakam, pointing at the hole.

   "It may well be, but I could not outwit the magical enchantment upon it. Watch. Does anyone have a torch?"

   Mythlos handed Hakam one of his. It was ignited, and then Hakam held it over the hole as everyone looked down into the darkness. "Do not lean over to far," said Hakam. "You might get hit." They backed up a bit, and then Hakam dropped the item. They saw it fall about ten feet down what appeared to be a smooth cylindrical shaft that opened into a larger chamber below, but before it passed into the chamber, they heard the sound of a rushing wind, and the torch was blasted by a surge of air and ejected from out from out of the hole. It traveled up into spire above them and out a hole at the very top.

   "See," said Hakam, "it is as I told you. Magic blocks the way down."

   Mythlos was trying to detect magic again. "There is an aura in this shaft, yes," he said.

   Belvin was looking up the spire above them. The steps around the walls appeared to go up into its base and out onto the roof above their heads, but they could see sunlight coming in through the shaft of the hollow spire. "Let us climb these stairs."

   They did so, and now looked across the barren landscape around Dashadjen from a height of about four stories. The spire extended 25 feet above them with no discernible way up to the top.

   "I sense an aura from the top of the spire," said Mythlos, "distinct from the protective field around the whole complex."

   "How are we supposed to get up there?" asked Jayce.

   "I can float up there, you idiot," said Vashti.

   She did and began shouting down to the others what she could see. "There is a metal rod up here, about ten-feet tall. It has four other rods holding it above a cylindrical opening. This shaft descends down the whole height of the spire into the room where we just were."

   "No gem?" shouted up Leokas.

   "No gem."

   "Vashti, drop something from up there," said Jayce. "I'm going down to see if the wind stops anything dropped from that high.

   The wind did stop the coin she dropped. They tried a small stone; it shot up the spire. "Be careful!" shouted down Vashti from the top of the spire. "That almost hit me!" The wind also repulsed a rope with a grappling hook tied to it. It launched up and then fell back down again right back into the hole and was shot back out again by a second gust of wind.

   "Did you ever try jumping in yourself?" Belvin asked Hakam.

   "No, that would be crazy," replied Hakam.

   Belvin jumped in the hole.

   The bottom of his feet almost passed into the chamber, but then the air forced him back up so that he was hovering just over the opening and could easily step back onto the floor of the room. He tried again, this time daring to dive in head first. As much as he tried, he could not grasp the ceiling of the chamber below with his fingers; the wind pushed him back out, and he tumbled over onto the floor.

   "There has to be a way down there," said Leokas. "How did the hobgoblins manage to find the way in, but we cannot?"

   They heard the sound of static from above them, followed by a rumbling sound from outside. "I am a follower of Akadi myself," Vashti shouted down to them. "I should have known what sort of sacrifice she required at her altar. Look outside." They saw that four five-foot square columns, which were the corners of the pyramid, had moved away diagonally from the rest of the shrine.

   "What did you do?" they shouted back up.

   "Akadi controls the air. I offered her my lightning. The pole absorbed it."

   "Good work, Vashti," said Jayce.

   "There is a problem, however. I foolishly used all my power to float up here. I cannot get down."

   "Jump!" said Mythlos. "We'll catch you."

   "You won't be able to catch me from this high up."

   "The wind will," said Belvin. "Drop down the shaft."

   It took her a few minutes to build up the courage to do so, but she let herself fall into the opening at the top of the spire. She fell down the shaft, into the room at the top of the stairs, and directly into the hole in the floor. The magical wind did indeed stop her descent gently and raised her back up to the others.

   They descended to the base of the pyramid and approached the openings in two of the corners, Belvin and Vashti the southwest corner and the others at the southeast corner.

   They all felt a very notifiable change in temperature at the entrances. It was drastically colder inside the pyramid.

   "There is mold on the walls," shouted Belvin. "I do not recognize what kind."



   "Be careful," said Leokas from the other entrance. "Some dungeon molds release poisonous pollen into the air."

   "Let us burn it off the wall," said Hakam.

   Mythlos handed him another torch from his pack. With lit torch in hand, Hakam stepped into the pyramid. Three things happened simultaneously. The mold on the walls nearest him began growing at an extraordinary rate, almost doubling in size, the torch was extinguished, and Hakam felt the warmth in his body sucked out of him. He fell over backwards towards the others, nearly frozen solid.

   Leokas checked his pulse. He was still alive. Mythlos touched him with his sword, and color returned to his skin.

   "Cold will kill this mold," said Leokas. "Vashti, destroy it with your ice magic."

   Leokas guessed correctly. Vahsti's rays of frost froze the mold, which shattered like glass and fell from the walls.

   Just then, the ground began to rumble. The columns were moving back into the corners of the shrine. They stepped away so as not to get crushed as the pyramidal shrine sealed itself again.

   "Akadi is telling us to rest for the night," said Vashti. "Besides that, I am magically spent."

   The others agreed. Hakam was conscious again but too weak to even stand, and it was beginning to grow dark. So they joined the adepts under their tent and passed the night.
Session: 13th Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Epic!