Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 4

Deadly foes and deceitful allies have haunted our steps of late. It is with a heavy heart that I resume this journal, for one of our party members has been revealed a traitor of sorts. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Ruined city
      After we had made our preparations, the wizard Xanan teleported us to the Old City. It was nought but a sprawling mass of ruins. In the distance we could see Koidarra, the town that rose in the aftermath of the Old City's fall. We set out to find our answers there.
       The guards seemed anxious; they were reluctant to let us enter and told us they could not guarantee when we might be able to leave. Even stranger, people moved nervously in the streets, avoiding us and even each other. No children were to be seen. Alarmingly, we found the temples of Pelor and St Cuthbert empty and abandoned, although as we inspected the latter a furtive figure slipped Bakari a note asking him to return to the temple district after nightfall.
      After settling in at our inn (which the innkeeper, Aaron, claimed was the only left open — a falsehood, as we later found out), we set out to explore the town some more. Alinestra had gone separately, but before long we stumbled across her in the midst of an altercation with three men. The whole business was being observed at a distance by a slight figure whom we didn't recognize. Before we could act, Alinestra attacked her interlocutors, killing two before we made it to the scene. I disarmed the third one, whom Bakari then grappled. As Alinestra predicted, all bore the symbols of Nerull. Foul cultists! Our prisoner would reveal nothing, despite Synast's best efforts. (Question, stab, heal. Repeat.) The observer, however, turned out to be a man named Devlin. He bore a fine bow and was accompanied by a rather intelligent cat named Alfie. He had caught something of the words exchanged
Credit: Vincent Tan
between our ally and the cultists: something about infighting between the devotees of Nerull and those of Hextor. It seemed to have something to do with the fact that a high priest of Hextor was in town. Suspecting that Devlin could reveal yet more of what he had overheard of Alinestra's conversation, Bakari arranged to meet him later at another inn. (Yes, another inn!)
      While Bakari was gone, city guards appeared at our door. We had the cultist imprisoned in our rooms, so I feigned drunkenness to stall them while Synast and Alinestra made their escape through the windows. I too departed and went in search of Bakari, whom I knew intended to make his clandestine rendez-vous in the temple district around midnight. Synast had the same idea, and so too did Devlin, evidently curious about what Bakari had revealed to him. We all found ourselves together outside the temple of St Cuthbert. It was not truly abandoned, as it turned out: some clerics and paladins remained, and they took Bakari inside and spoke with him at length. They explained how followers of Nerull had effectively taken over control of the town, controlling its administration and its guardsmen and keeping the populace in fear. They warned him about Alinestra although they had no strong evidence against her.  As it turns out, they were quite right that she was not telling us everything.
      While awaiting Bakari's return, Synast and I spotted a man spying on the temple. We pounced. He turned out to be a simple townsman whom the cultists had bullied into following Bakari. We induced him to flee and take his family into hiding, promising that we would take care of the cultists if only he revealed their headquarters to us. This he did. With Bakari back in our midst, we set out for the warehouse district to confront the evildoers.
      We soon located the building and its sole entrance, well guarded. Alinestra used some hitherto unrevealed magic to assume the guise of the erstwhile 'spy', managing to approach the guards and convince them to patrol elsewhere. This allowed us to slip inside, where Synast soon located a secret door leading underground. We knew we were in the right place for we found murals depicting Nerull and much evidence of foul and bloody rites. Devlin took the precaution of spiking each and every door shut behind us, but this made it difficult for the guards we encountered — mostly fearful townsfolk, desperate to escape the terror inflicted upon them by the Nerullites — to leave the complex. As we proceeded further, we found an ever greater number of traps: thankfully, Synast was able to disarm most of the them... emphasis on "most."
Graffiti by Bakari
      Behind one secret door we came across a frightened gnome hiding in a barrel. He seemed harmless enough, so we let him be. But behind a skilfully trapped door we found our real target: a cleric of Nerull who had just finished summoning some kind of skeletal creature. We leapt into battle, Bakari calling forth a storm of holy rain that inflicted terrible damage upon our evil foes... and upon Alinestra as well! While Bakari and I dealt with the Nerullite and her skeletal minion, Synast and Devlin battled Alinestra, whose evil nature had now been revealed to all of us. Despite being thus divided and weakened, we prevailed, in large part due to the effect of Bakari's divine tempest. We found that Alinestra bore a holy symbol of Hextor, not of Wee Jass.
      Seeing our victory over the wicked Nerullite cleric, the gnome Vek'nash became willing to provide some more information about this place. He was a mage who had helped the cultists  discover the
Credit: Astates
probable location of Oeridien's body: somewhere on the border between Artuare and Lanthiriel, the Elvish lands to the north, as mentioned in a tome on the civil wars of the Elves. Although he knew few details about the cultists, he warned us to beware of Ixal, a human warrior; Kirinafor, a winged demon; and the Mystiarch Atael, a powerful wizard. The Nerullite cleric we slew was Chakami, a death enchanter.
      Pushing our way further into the complex, we came across a demon — not Kirinafor, but some other fiend, eager for living beings to torment. We feigned servility while we maneuvered to strike. The battle was sharp, for the thing's partial incorporality meant that our blows did little damage. Nonetheless we managed to send the foul thing back to the abyss. Weakened, we retreated to the Temple of St Cuthbert to rest and to heal. A momentous decision awaits: do we finish cleaning out the next of vipers here in Koidarra, or make haste to the borderlands to find the body of Oeridien?