For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Having recovered bodies and regrouping from the Dread Swamp, the party returned to the safety of the Camp post-haste and saw to remedies for the many maladies they had suffered. Brother Vang was once more resurrected, the crusader freshly returned from beyond the mortal coil–and soon came face to face with the Broken One, the tarry demodand whom had returned with the group from the swamp. Anxious to question the young cleric, the Broken One declared that Brother Vang had returned to Tsar–yet with further clarification and much confusion, it seemed that the strange man meant a far longer span than mere days or weeks.
With insistence, the Broken One explained that hags had foreseen the return of the ‘marked one’ to the city–and was convinced Brother Vang was who they spoke of. The hags had guided Brother Vang to the temple-city of Tsar, nudging the cleric along the course of his adventures and rise to powerful strides–but more worryingly, that he had seemingly -left- Tsar hundreds of years ago which proved concerning given the man’s young present age. Feeling restless and conscious of the occult mark he bore beneath his shirt, Brother Vang resolved to speak later with Mama Grim and others in the hopes of determining just what an ominous portent might entail.
While the others recovered and rested and work was done on further crafting and brewing, Cassandra received a strange parcel delivered by Asharru–which the raksasha noted had arrived via courier in her absence. The parcel it seemed was from the enigmatic Sunset Captain–an otherworldly merchant of mysterious means who visited her home of Katapesh once every seven years. The parcel contained a fist-sized ruby which bore powerful abjuration magic she could not identify, along with several other items of interest: an exquisite copy of the Songs of Shazathared, a jade sculpture of a lizard, a strange globe with a scale model of the group’s base of operations, a withered monkey’s paw and an elaborate scroll case locked with a complex puzzle mechanism–the contents of which radiated all schools of magic simultaneously. These objects bore a cryptic note: that Cassandra would know when the time came for such.
Ill-content to simply wonder at such mysteries however, Cassandra sought out Anselme, Emma and Meryk to accompany her on a trip back to Katapesh–an endeavor made more manageable by powerful teleportation magic. With two jumps, the four were amidst the marvelous merchant-city in the south–bustling as it ever was, yet bearing the signs of recent confrontation in the streets. Swiftly Cassandra sought out a temple of Abadar to secure information regarding her parents wherein a clerical clerk politely asked the sorceress to accompany him to a private office. Once inside, Cassandra found herself in the company of a well-dressed gnoll nobleman with an eyepatch–and it was then that she was informed of most troubling news.
It seemed that Cassandra’s parents had rose a staggering debt among many debtors, the gnoll present one such debtor; to Cassandra he furnished a lengthy list of expenses and items accrued by her parents which tallied some 287,000 gold pieces–while the cleric noted that other debtors had significant balances levied against her parents in kind. Tensions rose as the pair leaned upon the daughter of the duo to make good on their debts or to provide collateral; the gnoll suggested Emma might be held as a pit fighter until her debt could be satisfied, but Cassandra declined. After terse negotiations, Cassandra was able to convince the pair to allow her to leave Katapesh with the promise that she would make things right–both with her parents and their debtors–in her efforts far to the north.
Making her way to her family estate, Cassandra found it occupied by a great many gnolls instead of familiar faces; after flagging down a young gnoll for questioning, the sorceress gleaned that roughly a month prior her parents had begun to spend excessively in the retaining of multiple mercenary companies and other expenses. In the process, something they had done had earned the ire of the Pactmasters of Katapesh and soon they had fled the city, leaving incensed debtors in angry pursuit. All, supposedly, had been in concern for Cassandra–that a great danger would befall her in the north–but the present whereabouts of all remained unknown. Pursued by a great many gnoll children anxious to sell her baubles and trinkets, Cassandra spent a few gold coins before rendezvous with her friends that they might meet the Sunset Captain.
A brilliant ship was found moored at the docks, sails a vast ruby-red and vessel ornate; upon deck Cassandra spied a most enigmatic being garbed in heavy robes and silks–and with closer inspection, much to her considerable surprise and unease, she recognized the figure as a Denizen of Leng. Travellers from beyond time and space, such beings were among those paramount of cryptic mysteries; Cassandra was unable to secure an audience with the Sunset Captain, instead assured once more that she would come to understand in time–and that she should not pursue undue courses before their fruition. Flustered, Cassandra relented and rejoined her companions before returning via teleportation to the brink of Tsar for their continued adventures northward.
Back at the base, the party had finished preparations for another venture into the streets of Tsar; setting out, their intent was to make their way up and into the second tier, the steppes of the Harrow Lanes in the city! Though able to do so via teleportation or magical flight, with the intent of opening up avenues for easier access and other adventuring parties to delve deeper, the party decided to make their way up via road to and through the gatehouse blockading the way above. Reaching the small fortification, it appeared deserted at first blush which naturally arose suspicion among the group.
Venturing inside, Pandora saw to the gates set within the pass-through of the watch tower–and as the party began to pass through it, near to a dozen black skeletons sprang into ambush in a pincer from ahead, behind and even above through murder holes. Black skeletons were the reanimated remnants of heroes and adventurers who had died in places most foul, such as Tsar itself–making them more powerful and far more devious than their lesser brethren; the skeletons began to maul and mash against the adventurers, dealing blows which sapped at their very strength, weakening and crippling as they went. Meryk and Emma saw to destroying the skeletons left and right, though durable and stout they were, while even Brother Vang took up his holy sword against them, empowered by his faith.
As the melee continued to unfold and further reinforcements emerged from the tower proper, Cassandra dimension doored the short distance to put herself out of reach ahead of the party, flying over the road beyond. Loosing a fireball against friend and foe alike, Cassandra destroyed a great many of the skeletons and injured more–before a surge of healing energy from Brother Vang scattered and destroyed near to every one which remained. Then, Cassandra received a sudden volley of arrows from a great distance away–the unseen sniper of Tsar had struck again. With one such arrow, the sorceress felt a great seizing of her heart–and much to the horror of her companions, Cassandra fell dead in an instant, slain by a magical arrow.
Outraged and despondent, the party remained beleaguered with further black skeletons while a pair of portcullises had slammed down to trap them within the tower; as they watched, a golem fashioned of brambles and wood lumbered into sight further down the road, scooping up Cassandra’s body as it did. Panicked, Brother Vang and Pandora were swift to make exodus from the midst of the skeletons with magic–hastening to wrest the remains of their friend from the golem before they could be taken away or worse. With a volley from Meryk and righteous blows, the bramble golem was sent packing while the last of the black skeletons were destroyed.
With the death of their friend, the venture into Tsar had proven a brief one–and doubtless, they had a long walk back to the Camp to see to Cassandra’s state; while they began to double-back down the winding cliff-side road however Pandora spied an exceedingly well-camouflaged figure clinging to the cliff face observing both she and her fellows; calling out the creature, Pandora attempted to reveal it via fairy fire–and much to the dismay of all assembled, it was found to be an immense woodwrack dragon who then engaged the wounded adventurers!
From on high above the cliff, six dire baboon appeared–and much to the confusion and then mounting awe of the adventurers, the six took up martial arts stances before leaping down into the fray. Surrounded again, the party engaged in melee the towering powerful monks of strange training and means while the dragon above loosed wicked arcs of lightning to tear through their ranks. Battered and bloodied, the group was able to dispatch most of the monks–slaying several and even tossing one rendered unconscious over the cliff’s edge. With this, the dragon left the scene with haste, disappearing back over the cliff face above–and so the party sought to render the last baboon simply unconscious, to take him back to the Camp.
Further exodus from the temple-city went without incident and near to sunset the party returned to the Camp with their strange prisoner en tow. Once brought back to consciousness, they sought to question the ape–and were surprised to find him able of fairly fluent speech. The baboon spoke of service to the one called the Khanjar, that he and many others had been shown a path to an enlightened state and made skillful in the dragon style of martial arts; he said as well the doctrine that adventurers were doubtless the most evil and cruel of creatures, for their proclivities to slay monsters indiscriminately and steal their things.
While the observation was close to home and some among the party conceded such points, the group saw to attempting to sway the monk to more amenable relations with their number; Pandora was anxiously keen to hire the baboon to serve as the doorman to the boarding house and bar and the party on the whole became curious about the potential to arrange for an audience of parlay with the Khanjar. From what they were able to gather, the Khanjar and the Blood Mage were scarcely fond of one another–and in this, the group saw the potential to garner an ally among those in power within Tsar, with the right touches if such could be arranged.
Some among the party favored the notion of seeking Aurakraul out and seeing if the dragoness might be introduced to the Khanjar as well; such are the fancies of adventurers as ever. Nevertheless, from what they were able to gain from questioning the monk, the Blood Mage was frightfully powerful–and had apparently turned one of the Khanjar’s most powerful disciples into a vampiric servant himself; wary of having to face such a foe, the party nevertheless began to ponder preparations for another foray into Tsar.
It was said as well that the site of great darkness the party had witnessed was known as the Doom–and that none within Tsar dared to tread there; this naturally encouraged Pandora to seek to do so, but the party decided such would remain a destination for another time. Pandora, after much persuasion and bargaining, convinced the monk to stay on as a new hire at the boarding house–a most dapper and powerful of a doorman if ever there were.
With Cassandra resurrected and their next course clear, the party began to plan and gather new resources–for their next destination could well prove to be their most dangerous yet: the Crooked Tower of the Blood Mage would serve as their next battleground in Tsar…