- Adam B. – Adamo Preda the Catfolk Swashbuckler (11th)
- Adam J. – Token the Catfolk Warlock (11th)
- Ben – Bondar Ironskull the Dwarven Cleric (11th)
- Pete – Zartan the Human Ranger (7th)/Rogue (4th)
- Seth – Whisper the Human Duskblade (11th)
- Gretchen – Human Paladin (10th)
- NPC – Yakov Smirnoff the Goblin manservant, Warrior (1st)/Scout (6th)
During their rest they receive a Sending from Jenya. “The Lord Mayor has disappeared. Evil is afoot. Please return as soon as possible. May the Hand of St Cuthburt guide and protect you.”
After preparing for another day of adventuring they enter the skull once more. After a brief battle with the Clay Golem it is finally destroyed and the cursed wounds it inflicted upon various party members are healed.
Knowing there is a Lich upstairs, the party cast some spells to magically enhance their movement. A few party members rush past the undead abomination as it stands within its protective column of negative energy and rush up the next set of stairs. It gets off a few spells with minimal effect as others run by and finally in an exasperated voice it calls out to the party, “Who are you People?”
A little diplomacy goes a long way and the party promises to let the undead being continue its research unhindered in exchange for passage to the next floor.
Once there they see yet another column of energy, only this time it’s a blood red column of energy that flows out of the socket of the massive skull and into the blood red sky of Occipitus.
The proctor appears and announces “Adimarchus, most potent ruler of Occipitus, bids you welcome to the final Test of the Smoking Eye. A worthy successor to the throne of Adimarchus must complete only one more task. To rule Occipitus – to grasp its power and use it for good or ill – means to sacrifice everything you hold dear. The final test is this: Sacrifice an ally to the plasma, and Occipitus is yours!”
Much discussion follows. There is talk of going back to drag the petrified remains of Kaurophon and casting him into the plasma. A few eyes are cast in Yakov’s direction and he nervously moves closer to his master. He then moves nervously away from his master.
Then talk turns to voluntarily entering the plasma and perhaps drawing straws. Finally the decision is made when Zartan steps forth and bravely volunteers to enter the plasma.
His party members are already laying claim to some of his equipment even as he removes it to step into the unholy flames. He steps in and his flesh burns with fire and unholy energy.
He feels the hand of death rip his soul for his disintegrating body. He finds himself floating in a realm he does not recognize, surrounded by what he identifies as avatars and servants of most, if not all, of the good aligned gods. They seem to be talking about him. The voice of Nidrama is heard, extolling those gathered of Zartan’s heroic deeds and service in the name of good. A loud voice speaks, “Then it is decided.”
The voices of those gathered ring out together, “It is our Wish that this human be returned from whence he came and fully restored to life so that he may continue in his quest against the evils that endanger the world.”
Zartan finds himself back with his friends. A wisp of bitter smoke rises from his left eye as it burns with the brightness of a candle but gives off no heat. He feels a subtle connection form with Occipitus and is able to draw on its power and protection. He knows he cannot yet exert control over the plane, but someday…
The other members of the party are only mildly disappointed as they hand him back his equipment. Their mission here finally complete, Zartan uses his connection to the Prime to Planeshift them back to their home plane.
They arrive near the re-established Lucky Monkey and rest for the night.
In the morning they travel to Cauldron. At the gate they see the town guard holding a discussion with what appears to be a cloaked female form. Behind this woman stands a huge creature that looks like a cross between a Minotaur and a Black Dragon. As it notices them it screams in rage, “You! You killed the Dragon Father! You have stolen my chance at revenge and for that you shall pay!”
Zartan quickly pieces it together. “By the gods this is yet another of the offspring of that damnable Black Dragon we met in the temple of the Kuo-Toa. I guess we should have known if he’d breed with a slimy Kuo-Toa he’d breed with anything.”
The huge creature quaffs a potion and charges. Around about the time the paladin and her mount find they must feign death to avoid the real thing, the party sees they are up against yet another heavy hitter. They quickly pile on the damage and a trio of Scorching Rays from Whisper finally drops the creature. They harvest the creature’s horns and equipment. Token labels Whisper as “The Bastard Slayer”. As this sounds more than a little like “The Bastards Lair” she is less than thrilled.
The group meets with the guards at the gate, Sergeant Krewis is there and seems genuinely pleased to see them. He tells them the latest news. The mayor has disappeared and Lord Vhalantru has taken over in the interim until a special election can be held. Taxes have skyrocketed and the guard has been flooded with “extra troops for security reasons”. These troops consist of Half-Orc mercenaries that seem to care little for the well being of the populous. The feeling in town is one of a city under extreme duress.
They meet with Jenya who tells them a similar tale. She informs them she has put out a call to all who might help, the heroes, the Chisel and a group known as the Striders. She hopes to have everyone together for an emergency meeting soon and will let the party know when.
The group returns to their home and almost immediately there is a knock on the door. A gaggle of Dwarves bearing the standard of the Splintershield Clan stands outside. They insist they are looking for Zenith and, after some confusing discussion, clarify that they are actually looking for the “Eldest son of Dahkved Splintershield”.
After even more very confusing discussions, it is realized that Bondar is the one they seek and he is labeled as the new lord of the Splintershield Clan and they are at his service. They inform him that they have purchased Keygan Ghelve’s Locks and hope to have the way to the Malachite Fortress cleared soon. The fortress shall be the seat of Splintershield power once more.
They also learn from these dwarves that Dahkved Splintershield is dead, he never journeyed to Cauldron to find his son and none of the Dwarves has seen or heard from Zenith since he left the Malachite fortress and ran off into the Underdark on his foolish crusade. The party quickly realizes it had been duped into finding and handing over Zenith for some unknown reason. Woe to those that fooled them should the heroes ever determine who it was.
Remembering the oft-true idiom, “Follow the Money”, the party decides to do a late night recon of City hall and attempt to steal the logbooks from the tax office. They are successful and return home to begin to pour over the complex tomes that contains the financial records of the cities bankroll. They find that the books would be a nightmare to comprehend even for a trained accountant. They settle in around the kitchen table, prepared for a late night of cumbersome deciphering and math. Someone at the table asks if anyone knows the cost of an abacus.
Eventually, they determine that a lot of the cities funds goes toward something called the Cauldron Defense Initiative. The costs associated with this program seem to be incredibly high and are not itemized or broken down in any way. Who runs this program and who receives its funding are not noted either.
They are about to call it a night, when all of a sudden…
End of Session 21.