Session 10/17

As the group gathered and headed for the lizardfolk encampment, Nimmik explained the strange undead they had encountered. The Shadowslain, as they had come to be called, were a particularly nasty breed of undead somehow associated with Shar. They possess a Weave draining aura that causes arcane spellcasters to loose spells in their memory. Worse than that, for every significant spell lost in this way, the shadowslain gains life (or unlife in this case) back. They also have an immunity to cold, but a sensitivity to light and the standard undead immunities including resistance to any weapon damage aside from slashing. Mythrella, the Thayan Zulkir of Illusion and Maercus Brand's most hated enemy, has been known to employ the use of shadowslain undead. The exact details of their creation were unknown to Maercus, and thus Nimmik did not have that information.

The Red Wizard also presented each of the PCs with a few vials of antitoxin and a panacea potion, courtesy of the church of Kossuth. He also extended Khalia's greetings and well-wishes to the party. Finally he presented Aenin with a brand-spanking-new enchanted pauldron of Marcus' creation; a +2 ghost ward pauldron. Helios copied some of the new spells from Nimmik's spellbook, and !Chk was given the Red Wizard's old journal of Pact Magic vestiges.

The group finally reached the sharptooth encampment. The crude thatch and mud huts were a far cry from the Wyvern Watch Inn, their last comfortable place of rest. Kessessek offered his hut to the PCs for their respite. Nimmik politely declined, offering instead to put the group up in a Leomund's Secure Shelter. As the surrounding mud rock and reeds assembled themselves into a passable structure, it looked little better than the other mud huts. But, upon entering, they found all of the comforts of a fine tavern including; barred windows, a large table with seating for eight, four bunks, a fireplace with cookware, and an unseen servant to clean-up after them. If that weren't enough, there was also and alarm in effect on the structure. The group turned to the shaman and summarily, but politely, told him he could keep his hut. Silas slipped away from the rest of the PCs temporarily to find anything of value in the encampment, a fruitless venture. Once back in he hut, they all divvied-up the loot from Noory and Coobert's stash (Session 09/05).

Tenth of Eleint, 1374 DR

After a restful evening, Kessessek attempted to remove the mummy rot from Percival as the rest of the group gathered their gear and prepared their spells. Miraculously, his first attempt was successful, and the knight could breathe a little easier knowing he would not slowly rot-away. Helios scribed a scroll of combust as !Chk made a pact with a vestige that would prove very helpful against the agents of darkness; Marduk. The group had their first glimpse of the former deity whose temple they'd braved; above the circle !Chk had etched into the soft ground a warhammer fell from unseen heights to strike the ground. Shadows coalesced above the circle from which a glowing blue female form emerged. She was holding a glowing white orb and seemed quite sad, but as !Chk spoke with her her form changed to that of a muscular four eyed man that glowed with firey orange brilliance. Marduk's demeanor turned abruptly hostile, but again, before the lizardfolk binder finished his pact, Marduk's form changed back to that of the calm blue female. Afterward !Chk's features looked slightly different and his scales glowed ever-so-faintly. Quite a strange show for the PCs.

Around ten bells the group headed out toward the Lost Refuge, the forgotten keep that was believed to be the hide-out of the Sharrans and/or Cyricists. The short trip took only about half an hour. As the approached the trees parted to display a massive crumbling keep. Fifteen-foot stone walls covered in ivy, a gatehouse with arrowslits, and a rusted iron portcullis could be seen from their vantage, as well as a squat tower at the far northern end. They immediately began to formulate a plan of attack. Silas borrowed Shank's ring of invisibility to scout ahead and inspect he gatehouse.

He first skulked to the nearest wall and, using his slippers of spider-climbing, scaled the wall to get a look at the courtyard beyond. The surrounding swap had all but claimed the keep; reeds and algae choked the once perfect flagstones paving the courtyard and even a strange-looking shadowtop tree had managed to take root through the flagstones. Silas then decided to get a look at the gatehouse. As he got closer he noticed a torch burning next to the portcullis and the sound of rolling dice. Peeking into an arrow-slit, the spell-thief spotted three guards sitting at a table playing a game of dice, as well as a pair of the shadowscale lizardfolk standing near the door leading to the courtyard. The portcullis opened to a covered entryway with more arrow-slits along the wall of the gatehouse. The entry led to another portcullis, also closed. Wanting to experiment with the new toys they'd found in the Tomb of Chonis, the idea to toss a blast disk into the gatehouse came instantly to mind. Restraining himself long enough to return and run it by the rest of the group, they all approached the keep as quietly as they could. Before heading-out they cast any spells that might prove useful; including see invisibility, ebon eyes, shadow mask, fly, greater mage armor, shield, and greater invisibility.

Silas noticed something odd as he approached the gatehouse; the torch was gone. Spending little thought on the strange disappearance, he approached the nearest arrow-slit and tossed a blast disk through.

As the metallic, skull-emblazoned disk clattered to the floor of the gatehouse a stroke of lightning lashed out from an unseen source to hit Helios. The PCs searched the skies for their attacker, but could find nothing and no one. Nimmik, invisible and with invisible sight, loosed four force missiles into the unseen attacker and called out 'Will o' wisps!'. The guard closest to the arrow-slit stood and picked-up the blast disk to inspect it while the other two cursed and moved as far from their companion as they could, knowing better than to pick up strange items tossed into arrow-slits. An arrow zipped-in at Nathan but he brought his shield up in time to deflect it. The group searched for their second assailant. Helios Shank and Percival all managed to spot a strange, dark, wood-like creature crouching atop the wall and taking-aim at them with a bow. Helios let loose a trio of magic missiles from his wand striking the creature unerringly. The blast disk ignited as the guard holding it finally realized his mistake; he tossed the disk in the corner of the gatehouse as the blast threw him clear of any harm. The gatehouse wall, however, did take a little damage, as did the chair in which the guard was previously sitting. Cursing at the lack of blood-curdling screams caused by his blast disk, Silas decided to scale the wall to atop the gatehouse. Meanwhile, two more bolts of lightning struck down at the mystic theurge, one striking true. Aenin surmised the source of the bolt and, in one fluid motion, drew his bow knocked an arrow and let it fly. The arrow must have struck something invisible, it disappeared from sight (without completing its path). Percival, likewise drew his bow, but fired at the skulking wood-creature on the wall. He was not so accurate with his shot, though. Nathan healed his leader and moved to a better vantage to avoid being peppered with arrows. !Chk saw Aenin's arrow strike something invisible, so, calling on the pact he'd made with Marduk earlier that day, he cast moon motes (the same as faerie fire) in it's general area. Two small globular forms were revealed, bathed in strange moonlight. The group now had slightly easier targets. Shank scaled the wall like a pro and got atop the gatehouse.

The group continued to exchange fire with the creature on the wall and the now-glowing orbs. Helios used his magic missile wand again, this time aiming for the plant-creature on the wall. Nimmik began to maneuver into the courtyard, flying invisibly, as he loosed more force missiles at the wounded will o wisp. Shank cast flaming sphere at the plant-like being on the wall, which he recognized as a strange dryad, scorching it a bit. Silas made his way toward the door of the gatehouse as the guards and shadowscales took-up positions near the arrow-slits, waiting for a shot at their attackers. The spell-thief scored a shot on the creature on the wall. Percival moved closer to the portcullis as !Chk grasped a flaming hammer from the ether and flung it at the dryad, striking true. Aenin fired a shot at the dryad as well, also hitting. Nathan followed his leader's tact and used the second wand of magic missile on the dryad, taking it down. The will o' wisps loosed their lightning again at the cleric/mage, both hitting, as the moved toward the courtyard and out of line-of-sight.

Helios, the mystic theurge, along with the rest of the group, began to head around the corner toward the still-shut portcullis. There they waited patiently for Silas to lift it from inside. Percival stood at the head of the group,eyeing the arrow-slits in the corridor warily. Nimmik fired his last prepared magic missile for the day and took down the already very wounded will o' wisp as the second fired a bolt of lightning on the small druid on the roof. One of the gatehouse guards moved to the door of the courtyard and opened a crack to check for any intruders that might have scaled he walls. Silas fired two quick shots at the remaining will o' wisp, but the strange creature, even though it was now visible, deftly dodged both missiles. Shank moved his flaming sphere off the wall and into the courtyard as he took-up position above the gatehouse door. Marf, all the while, had been skirting the wall of the keep, staying out of sight.

Most of the group stood in wait, stymied by the portcullis, as Nimmik silently drifted down to the guard peeking out of the doorway and blasted him with a charge from his wand of colorspray. The guard went down immediately, stunned and blinded. The other guards and the shadowscales were too engrossed in searching for the other intruders through the arrow-slits to notice their fallen comrade. Silas tok the opportunity to slip into the shadows and into the gatehouse unnoticed. The one-room structure had arrow-slits in the eastern and southern wall, the southern facing into the portcullis corridor. He skulked over to the winch on the northern wall and prepared to lift the gate, but realized that if he started turning the winch he would most likely be spotted immediately and have to face the two remaining guards and the pair of shadowscales. So instead, the spell-thief prepared to hurl some of the poisoned daggers the group had previously found on the cyricist archer. The nearest guard being his target. Shank attempted to maneuver his flaming sphere to leap up and scortch the will o' wisp, but the spell passed over the creature harmlessly.

The rest of the group was getting anxious of their advance team; when were they going to lift the damned gate? Inside the keep, the Red Wizard floated into the gatehouse, swallowed a handful of dead ants, and spewed forth a cone of viscous acid. The guard in the corner took the full hit of the spell and dissolved into a puddle of dross. The already weather-worn walls took a great deal of damage, as well as the table and chairs in the gatehouse which were all but vaporized. Green mist poured out of the arrow-slits as the screams of the guard reached the other PCs; What in the hell were they doing in there? The remaining guard watched the whole spectacle in horror and began to flee the gatehouse, calling to the shadowscales to follow. As she sped toward the main keep, Silas slipped into the doorway and fired a deadly shot straight into the base of her skull, killing her instantly. The shadowscales spun on their scaly-undead heels and prepared to charge the spell-thief next round. The will o' wisp fired again at Shank, jolting the litlte druid. Shank attempted to strike the will o' wisp again with his flaming sphere but to no avail. Tired of waiting, the crusader of Kelemvor summoned up the might of his god and used a Mountain Hammer Strike on the rusted portcullis. The gate bent inward sharply and broke from its bracing. It toppled inward to rock back and forth on the massive dent Percival had made. He calmly moved into the corridor trying to spot any forms hiding behind the arrow-slits. Aenin, Nathan, Helios, !Chk, and Marf all made their way into the corridor as well. The warblade, upon coming to the second portcullis, decided to follow the crusader's lead, employing another Mountain Hammer Strike, but augmenting his with an Iaijutsu Focus. His blade flashed from its sheath on a brilliant pulse of light, and a split second after slicing through the rusty gate there came a crack of thunder. The rusty bars of the portcullis scattered into near-neat pieces across the floor of the courtyard. The way into the keep was now clear.

Helios rounded the gatehouse and spied the remaining will o' wisp. Using the tried and true tact, he blasted it with his wand of magic missiles. Inside the gatehouse, Nimmik calmly floated over the prone and helpless form of the guard and finished him off. Silas found himself being rushed by the pair of shadowscales. He attempted to duck aside but one of their blows connected. Additionally, as they both came within 10' of the spell-thief, he lost two of the three spells in his memory. Silas tumbled out of reach in a spectacular display; using his slippers of spider climbing he tumbled up the gatehouse wall and onto the roof beside Shank. He then sent an arrow into the nearest shadowscale, allowing the truedeath crystal on his bow to smite the foul powers animating the lizardfolk corpse. Nathan entered the courtyard next, wielding the back-up wand of magic missiles (his goddess allowing him to use wizard items) to blast the will o' wisp with yet more bolts of force. Percival skirted the western wall of the gatehouse to come upon the pair of shadowscales. He kept his distance and prepared to make them pay if they decided to advance on him. Aenin took-up a position with a clear line to the shadowscales, preparing to charge next round. The halfling druid dropped into the courtyard, tumbling to avoid any damage and rolled into the gatehouse, out of the line of sight of the damned will o' wisp. He also managed to maneuver his flaming sphere in to attack one of the shadowscales, scorching it a bit. Marf, meanwhile stayed in the gate corridor, out of direct fire. !Chk then entered the courtyard and spotted his shadowslain kin. He prepared to release them from their curse next round.

The cleric/mage used another charge from his wand as he maneuvered further into the courtyard, but the will o' wisp remained, floating and glowing. The Red Wizard flew out of the gatehouse, still invisible, to hover above it. He then sent a bead red fire from his wand to explode amongst the shadowscales and will o' wisp. The wisp was unaffected, but the undead lizardfolk took a hefty hit. Silas took aim this time, not wanting to waste his shot, and tagged the will o' wisp with a deadly accurate shot. The aberration dropped from the sky, carried by the arc of the arrows path. The shadowscales, sure enough, advanced on Percival and payed for it. The first did manage to slip through the knight's defenses, but its attack glanced off of his mithral armor. The second was not so lucky; Tripped, knocked prone, and given a follow-up smack across its undead skull. Shank moved his sphere onto the prone shadowscale and let it finish-out it's duration as well as the sorely wounded undead. Nathan moved in and tagged Percival with a minor healing spell as !Chk flung another flaming hammer at the remaining shadowscale. The warblade, already in position from last round, charged in and decimated the last undead opponent with a Battle Leaders Charge.

The group quickly searched their downed foes. The unfortunate guard whom fell victim to Nimmik's acid breath was little more than liquified flesh and bone. But the two remaining guard corpses has some fairly nice items, including magic armor. The shadowscales had primitive javelins, poisoned with some foul toxin, as well as spears. Aenin inspected the fountain sitting in the courtyard amidst a sheen of green algae, and found more of the bright green liquid in its basin. He also inspected the large tree growing from the cobbled of the courtyard and found it to be a strange-looking shadowtop; its bark was unnaturally black. The gatehouse contained crates of foodstuffs but little else of value. If the guards were gambling at the table, their bets were vaporized by the acid, along with most of the table. Shank moved into the small structure with Marf and asked Silas for his ring back, before the rest of the group went on to inspect the eastern-most door of the main keep. With no traps found, they moved beyond to find another section of courtyard. Tentatively, the PCs made their way into the eastern courtyard. They immediately spotted another door at the northern end of the space. This area was similarly choked with weeds and small undergrowth, though it lacked the waterlogged appearance of the previous courtyard. Shank entered shortly after the rest of the group, warning them that there were a group of people exiting the main keep doors and headed that way. They were hiding almost as well as Silas and the druid had just barely spotted them. The spell-thief pulled another blast disk from his pack and placed it right in front of the door. They all then took-up ready positions, keeping close watch on the door. Sure enough, the door did stir. It opened a fraction of a crack and then quickly closed. Cursing, Silas lamented the loss of another disk. Though it did sufficiently provide them with a makeshift alarm, should anyone attempt to access that door. The group moved-on to the next door and, after the standard trap-checking practice, Silas and Shank (invisibly) moved beyond. This third courtyard had a similar odd-looking shadowtop as the first yard and surrounded the exterior of the tower. In the tower wall was a hole large enough for medium and smaller creatures to move freely through. the spell-thief kept to the shadows and skulked closer to the portal. Inside he could see doors leading to more interior rooms as well as a crumbling spiral staircase that led to the second level. Just as he was about to signal the rest of the group a canine form lashed-out from the shadows and clamped down on his calf with powerful jaws. The shadow mastiff pulled Silas to the ground as two swarthy humanoids with spiked chains appeared, flanking the thief. The first one scored a nasty hit, causing a bleeder, and the second followed-up on the prone Silas with another strike.

The rest of the group sprung into action, seeing their scout take a nasty spill. Silas managed to get to his feet and tumble up the wall of the tower (again, with his slippers of spider climbing). After a small skirmish; in which Helios lost his newly scribed scroll of combust due to a flubbed attack roll, Nimmik summoned a small fire elemental, and one of the dusky chain-wielding humanoids fled back into the tower, the PCs regrouped. Silas was summarily healed, but still nursed a wounded ego; how are these bastards sneaking around so well? 'Thats my forte.' The group awaited their next move; should they venture into the small dark tower, or finish their circuit around the keep's courtyards? And, how soon, if at all, will the keeps forces descend on them en-masse?

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