Chasing the Devil

03: Marital Law

From the hospital, Rapture, Grilmund, Prospero, Balusar and Leton are awoken early by bells ringing through the city.  The Council of Archons have sent out riders to collect the dwellers of Cair Marin to the Town Square for a second day in a row.  The Polemarch has instituted martial law.  After the affair with the Basilisk and the attack of imps the previous day, all able-bodied citizens are ordered to assist in the defense of the town.  Having been so involved in the fights from the previous day, all five volunteer to assist.  

As the guard captain begins to organize, Cael approaches escorted by two of the city guard with news.  

"I have news from beyond the walls, but feel it is better discussed in private."  The captain escorts Cael into the meeting chamber.  

"Archons.  I have been camping outside the city walls for some time now.  I was part of the party that fought and killed the basilisk.  After the events of yesterday, I thought it prudent to make a inspection of the country side this morning.  I have found, what seems to be at any rate, a circle enclosing the town of blighted ground.  It appears continuous, and a steady 20' deep across it's length.  It's too even to be a natural occurrence.  I must ask you, what is it that this town has done?"

At these words, some of the council shift in their seat, some speak out indignantly, everyone is generally uncomfortable.  The Archon Basilius speaks up.

"We do not know.  If we did, then do you not think we take some action?"

Cael notices that there is some hesitation, and there is, despite the united front presented by the council, there is dissent.  Some fear remains unspoken by certain council members toward other members, but the exact factions are not clear.  

"Fine.  I see you have been organizing a militia of sorts.  I propose to take a few useful individuals and investigate this blight further," Cael responds.  The Archons quickly assent with the condition of including two of the best from the town guard.

With most of the town still gathered outside of the town hall, Cael quickly finds and recruits Leton, Rapture, Grilmund, Balusar, and Prospero.  He tells them to get ready to investigate this blighted land, and meet by the side gate.  

"I've got one more thing to do before we set out."

Emtree, meanwhile, is awoken early at her room in the inn with everyone else by the town criers riding down the streets calling for a town meeting.  She goes to hear the same message as the group from the hospital, but instead decides to spend a little of her haul from the previous day getting better fighting gear.  Cair Marin hadn't been dangerous until yesterday, but now it seems it would be good to be better prepared.  She manages to trade for everything she needs by selling her old gear and the leftover basilisk eye.  That done, she falls back into a little pickpocketing, but gets caught by the town guard.  Cael intercepts them.

"Hold there!" Cael yells. "You need to release the halfling.  The Archons have charged me with defending the city, and I need her."

"She was caught pickpocketing.  She is going to jail," the guard responds. 

"You must release her now.  She will return what she took." The halfling looks up, glaring at Cael. Cael produces an order from the Archons to defend to the city. "You must release her, I need her."

With the authority of the town council behind him, the guards reiterate that she must return the goods, but release her to Cael's custody.

"What is it you want?" Emtree asks.

"I am leading a group to look at a blight that has encircled the city.  It's mostly the basilisk hunting party.  I think there is something going on with the council of Archons, I want you to find out what it is.  I say you can pick pocket all you want while you're doing that, just don't get caught. Otherwise, I will give you back to the guards and you can sit in jail."

"Fine.  I'm not giving back the money though." She says and strides off to the town hall.

Cael watches, then also strides off, in the opposite direction to meet the investigation party.  The six exit the gate along with two from the town guard, Brouwie and Gachen.  Upon reaching the blighted ground, it appears to have expanded to a 30' ring.  There seems to be a barrier enclosing the blighted ground, though not an impenetrable one.  With the talents of the Dwarf, Grilmund, and the Tiefling, Rapture, the space appears to be a manifestation of the realm of Shadowfell, an ethereal plane of evil and darkness.  With nothing else for it, Grilmund, Rapture, Leton, Balusar, and Cael cross the barrier into Shadowfell.

They are quickly spotted by two displacer beasts.  After a brief but brutal battle, Leton is knocked unconscious, and the beasts are defeated.  There seems to be no escape and no answers as to the cause of the breach.  The party exits the breach toward town to discover it is yet bigger, and more frighteningly, it is expanding slowly toward the town walls.  After Leton is restored the party sets off back to town to update the Archons.  

After a failed first attempt to gain access to the Archon's chambers, Emtree talks her way into a private meeting with the Archon Basilius and the Archon Eponymous, but discovers little beyond the information Cael managed to extract from his interview.  The only important piece of information was that while the Archons had tried to contact the King for help with the Basilisk, they had not heard anything back.  The most probably reason for this, was that the messengers had been waylaid on the way there or on the way back.  Waiting the town square for Cael to return, she observes nothing more than the normal official comings and goings during a town crisis.  Dipping into her criminal connections Emtree does ask for a meeting with the local Thieves Guild.  

Cael and the rest return meeting Emtree at the center of the square.  After a brief review of the little Emtree discovered in her interview, a quiet female half-elf with a subtlety dangerous aura sits next to them.

"You rang?"

Emtree turns to her other side. "Cael, take a walk." Cael stands and enters the Town hall to brief the Archons about the battle.  He reiterates that there is something rotten in town.  Furthermore, according to the orders of Sorcerers residing in the town, this type of attack could only be caused by someone or something inside the town.  If that could be discovered and destroyed, the town would likely be saved.  The Paladins and Sorcerers are preparing defenses, but those defenses will only be effective for a short time unless the root problem is taken care of.  Cael promises that he will do everything he can to save the town.

Back outside, Cael finds Emtree sitting alone where he left her.  

"Well, there are some interesting things we didn't know about before.  There seems to be a church of Wee Jas, the neutral goddess of Death and Knowledge.  The church itself is harmless, but a couple factions have risen up within the ranks that are less so.  There is a faction of Tharizdun, the god of eternal darkness and of Vecna the god of evil secrets.  My contact suggested they might be involved.  Most of the criminal activity has been normal, but there seems to be a slight uptick over the past month in the humanoid trafficking.  There is also a rumor that one of the Archons, don't know which, has been bought.  There have been some unusual ruling recently; tariffs that seems to benefit a particular business venture more than normal, land grants to unusual owners, that sort of thing."

"This martial law business strikes me as strange, I feel like the Polemarch might be the one bought," Cael replies. "He triggers the threat, declares martial law with the support of the council, and suddenly is flush with power." Cael stands.  "Look, the circle of blight is expanding inward toward the town, and we think that the where ever the center of the circle is where we will find the person or thing causing this.  We think the center of the circle and the center of town is the same location.  Let's go join our comrades." He strides off toward the large obelisk that sits at the center of the town.

"They're not my friends," Emtree says under her breath following after the elf.

They meet the rest of the party at the obelisk, but discover neither secret doors or anything unusual.

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02: A Fight for Dinner

After the events of the day, what with killing the basilisk and discovering a devil under the hills outside of Cair Marin, our heroes were a little spent.  Rapture, the Tiefling Cleric wanted very much to sleep and regain his fortitude, others were more wary of spending the night outside the home of a known threat.  Most everyone else decided there was more comfort to be found in town then out amongst the grass and trees.  The wood darkened with the end of the day, threatening to spew forth some other fowl beast for the party to tackle, but it was kind today revealing nothing more than the normal fauna until the town was almost in sight.  In the woods, off the path, not half an hour's walk from town, the smell of blood mixed with the smells of the evening meal.

It was Prospero, the Half-Elf Sorcerer who noticed it.  A man had been savagely attacked.  Multiple claw marks raked his body. The ground around him was mashed down with the violence of the struggle, even the tree branches above were bent and broken, and the spot itself was open to the sky.  It was no animal that did this looking for it's next meal, almost as if the kill itself was the point.  The poor man had died some 2-4 hours before.  

Ever respectful of the dead, Rapture decided the body must be buried.  Gilmund, the Paladin Dwarf, and Leton, the Human Monk, agreed, and started to dig.  Leton was, unfortunately, not much help, but gathering their strength, Rapture and Gilmund made short work of the burial.  Having no such compulsion, Emtree, the Halfling Rogue, Cael, the Elf Ranger, and Balusar, the Dragonborn Warlock, parted ways, continuing the hike to town.  

For reasons of his own, Prospero stayed with the burial party, was but was not of it, as his passions lay in chasing butterflies.  His gaze skyward after the latest shiny wing, something strange in the distance caught his eye.  A large cloud of something was dark across the sunset sky.  It moved and pulsed like a flock of birds, but it was not any type of bird he knew.  Rushing to the fresh grave, he exclaimed to his friends, pointing toward the now closer cloud of things.

"Not Bird!"

"Knot Bird?" they responded.

"Not Bird!"

Meanwhile, reaching the town, the party of three discovered that the gates were shut.  Reaching into her bag, Emtree pulled out the Basilisk fang, and held it as high as she could, a full four and half feet in the air, continued to walk toward the gate. Balusar and Cael rushed forward.

"What are you doing? We have to do this differently!" Balusar said as he pushed her arm down.  Emtree slowly put the fang back in her bag with a little cock of her head.  Balusar turned away, striding off with Cael.  He didn't notice little Emtree relieving him of all his gold and his two daggers.  Together, they approached the gate, shouting up to the guards to let the Elf, the Dragonborn, and the Halfling into the city.  After a brief exchange to establish identities, the guards wanted some proof that the basilisk had been killed.  Forgoing the clean lines of the fang, Emtree produced instead a slimy eye for inspection giving it a little squeeze as she handed it off to Balusar.  This satisfied the guards, and the proper authority distributed a prize of 100 gp each to Balusar, Emtree, and Cael.  Emtree took this opportunity to relieve Balusar of his money again.  The job finished, Emtree and Cael retired to the inn and camp respectively.  

(I don't remember where Balusar went. To the wizard tower?)

The rest of the party finally makes it to the open city gates.  Recognizing the rest of the party, the guards guide the newcomers to the town hall.  Gilmund raises the head of the basilisk, eyeless and fangless, above his head and parades through the main street.  After receiving the prize money, the group runs into Balusar in the main square.  Leton, the Monk, asks Balusar about the "not birds".  Balusar looks at the still approaching cloud, but now can make out that it is a large flock of imps.  After a consultation with his order, the alarm goes out Rapture and party split up to man the gates and defend the city.  Rapture and Leton head to a side gate while Gilmund and Prospero head to the main gate.  Balusar climbs the wizard's tower, to overlook the battle field but doesn't end up seeing very much.  

The bells ring out across the city.  In a quieter part of town Emtree hears the bells, pokes her head out the window, but with nothing to see shuts it tight, retreating back to her room.  Out the side gate, the bells ring faintly across the plain to reach Cael's ears.  He slumps his shoulders, wondering what trouble they've gotten themselves into now. He turns and trots back to the gate to find it closed behind him as 24 imps arrive and start to land.  With nothing else to do, he starts to pick them from out of the air.

Inside, the battle starts to rage.  Our heroes, aided by the city guard hold their own, mostly.  Rapture amplifies his voice and manages to scare away one imp, but is eventually knocked unconscious.  Hearing the sounds of battle, Emtree also arrives at the side gate, firing arrows to aid the defenders.  

At the other end of the city, Leton and Gilmund fare about the same.  Gilmund is the first to go down under the onslaught, but is saved by a medic attached to the city guard.  Leton tries to assist, but he too is knocked out.  Coming from the Wizard's tower, Balusar attacks at range with fire and arcane energy killing imps.  His aim is not perfect, and in the process kills at least one guard who was too close to a imps, and in a critical misjudgment kills the medic just as he was about the help Leton.  Not immune to damage, Balusar also earns the wrath of some of the imps.  

The battle is won.  Many guards fall, as do most of the 48 imps at the two gates.  Cael tries to climb the gate to assist in the clean up, but sadly only makes it up about 10 feet before falling straight onto his back.  Well, he tried.  Cael stands up, dusts off his pride, and starts his walk back to his camp outside of the city walls to rest and heal.

Rapture, Gilmund, Leton, and Prospero are carried to the guard hospital, followed by a limping Balusar.  They will get the care they need after a very long day fighting Ettins, a Basilisk, a Devil, and a horde of imps.  

After confirming all is well, Emtree walks back to her room at the inn, flush with profits and the excitement of the day, having survived without a scratch.

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01: The Thing in the Hills

Seems the town of Cain Marin has a problem.  There were some strange going ons out in the forest surrounding.  People were turning up as stone, or disappearing.  Only one thing to do, draw lots to go investigate.  One, a Half-elf Sorcerer, was the first to draw, and the first to be volunteered with the black ball.  Slowly, of the roughly 5,000 inhabitants of the city, others were chosen.  A Dwarf Paladin, an Elf Ranger, a Tiefling Cleric, a Human Monk, an old drunkard, and 2 other useless folk of no consequence.  

One of the last was a young Halfling Rogue.  At first, it seemed she hadn't been picked after all, presenting a white ball to the guards.  No word yet on why the guards were not drafted into investigated missing persons.  Upon inspection, though, the guards noticed that a ball had gone missing.  They pursued several, and it was discovered that the young Halfing had palmed the final black ball.  She was drafted and joined the others.  Just before the group left the front gate, the Halfling managed to slip away from the guards, but she was pursued by guards and a couple of the party, including the Ranger.  She talked her way past the guard, but not the Ranger.  The Ranger returned the Halfling to the party carrying her by the scruff of the neck.

The town fathers had given the Half-Elf a rough map to the site of the events, but with the Ranger's knowledge of the surrounding area, it was quickly clarified, and the party set off in the correct direction.  Climbing into the forest, some started to noticed that something was "off".  The trip was far from uneventful, however, when the party ran into a pair of Ettins living just off the path.  

The Cleric, Monk, and Paladin took on one of the Ettins, while the Sorcerer and the Rogue ended up taking on the other while the Ranger fired at a distance.  The Sorcerer didn't do much damage, choosing instead to take the form of a female Ettin to distract the giant.  There was an ill-advised gambit from the Rogue to convince the Ettin to flirt back, but not speaking any language that the Ettin could understand made that rather useless.  The confused Ettin was additionally subjected to Ettin erotic imagery as the Rogue and Ranger wore down his body, eventually defeating him.

The other Ettin managed to do a little more damage before being subdued, mostly through the efforts of the Monk, who scored several high damage strikes including some critical hits before being knocked unconscious himself.  The Cleric and the Paladin finished off the enraged Ettin.  The entire party survived, though most of the party had suffered damage, some greater than others.  The cleric was most helpful in healing what a short rest could not. The drunkard and the 2 useless persons proved their title.  The Ranger and the Cleric had a bit of a debate as to whether they should be left behind, but the Cleric's morals allowed them to stay with the party.

Arriving at the crest of hill, the party discovered one stone person broken, and another laying on the ground, surrounded by blighted ground.  The party proceeded to the opening of a cave surrounded by more blighted ground.  The party at this point was pretty sure that a basilisk lurked in the cave.  The Ranger and the Paladin set bear traps outside the cave entrance, then the Cleric fired flaming arrows into the cave to draw the beast out.  It worked.  The basilisk emerged, and got caught up in one of the two traps.  The entire party started attacking from all sides, but the Basilisk was tough, and everyone kept missing, or doing only a little bit of damage on a hit.  A voice started speaking from deeper in the cave in Inferno.  A barbed devil emerged.  The Cleric charged followed by the Monk, and soon a second furious battle started. The basilisk pulled the trap free from the ground and started to drag the trap, a tree and the fight into the cave.  The Dwarf charged the creature and critical failure hits notwithstanding, pinned the creature against the wall, fended off at least 3 bites, and took multiple attacks allowing the others to do more damage.  As put by the Ranger after the battle, the Dwarf was the "critical miss master", but the Dwarf asserts his ability to "TANK LIKEBOSS".

Meanwhile the Tiefling and the Monk struggled with the Devil, desperately trying to not be drawn too far into the cave, and fighting with all their might.  Both ended up grappled at different points, taking cuts from the barbs on the devil's arms.  The two finally escaped the Devil's grasp, and made a dash for the cave exit.  They turned the corner in the cave to find the Paladin Dwarf had been knocked unconscious by the constant attacks of the basilisk, and the Halfling's arrow bringing the fight with the basilisk to an end.  The Halfling collected both basilisk eyes and one of the fangs.  The Drow kept the other fang, and the the head of the basilisk was cut off.  Deeper in the cave, fading away, the Devil could be heard cursing the party that killed his pet.

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