For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
With destinations winnowing and the arrival of the citadel nearing, the adventurers next sought a showdown with the Dust Coven–the drow assassins, having been indicated by the gnolls and long lurked among Tsar’s temple-city streets, were decided to be a significant threat; by Pandora’s reckoning, the lot were liable to also have a considerable collection of valuables to help with the party’s endeavors against Orcus as well, added incentive to draw their rivals out for direct confrontation.
As best as the party had managed to deduce, however, the Dust Coven were located somewhere within the Maze among the highest reaches of the city; spending great time and considerable resources the group deigned to prepare for such a fight, heavily layering themselves with protective and empowering magics, making improvements to their equipment and setting out to seek out their chosen enemies. To do so, the adventurers made their way to the Maze once more–traveling incognito as to avoid conflict with the others denizens within the densely populated section of the temple-city.
After several hours of wandering the Maze seeking a lead on the Dust Coven, the party managed to catch a lead to a small plaza with a fountain overlooked by several tall buildings; despite clear recognition that such would be an excellent venue for an ambush, the adventurers steeled themselves and began to cautious enter the expanse fully expecting trouble. Trouble, indeed, was in order–as five large black dragons descended to land about the rooftops surrounding the party!
A pair of burly ogres burst forth from nearby buildings in tandem with the arrival of the dragons and swiftly the party sprang into action; Emma charged to engage one of the ogres, finding the fellow remarkably resilient–while Meryk, Cassandra and Anselme loosed a powerful barrage against several of the dragons above. Breath weapons streaked the party in the plaza from passing dragons as the melee was engaged, with Leone leaping into action against the second ogre–but Pandora and Brother Vang were wary of the attack, their suspicions further raised when the dragons did not seem to cause as much injury as expected.
Sure enough, the lot of the aerial assault were soon recognized to be shadow conjurations–partly-real illusions which nevertheless left partly-real wounds upon their foes–and after a number of potent spells had been spent to ‘slay’ the party’s attackers, the true ambush was sprung as a salvo of arrows loosed from hiding nearly slew Meryk outright. Chaos quickly unfolded then as the ogres were seen for their true forms in kind: a pair of powerful glabrezu, treachery demons with fearsome strength and potent magic at their disposal!
From the far end of the plaza deadly arrows continued to let fly dealing startlingly grievous injuries–for near to all of the party was comprised of humans, and it seemed that one among the drow was an expert at slaying just such a foe; as well, powerful arcane and divine magic erupted from another alleyway, spells loosed by a cleric and witch in turn–and quickly the party sought to divide and conquer their unseen foes.
Emma stood toe to toe against the glabrezu she faced, hoping to buy time and breathing room for her fellows; Meryk laid down obscuring fog, but was soon felled and left bleeding in the plaza square. As Leone and Anselme struggled with the second glabrezu, Brother Vang weathered a harrowing assault and Cassandra took to potent invisibility to reposition herself–only to receive a barrage of arrows herself, nearly slain. As Vang hastened to reach and heal his companions, the cleric was stabbed in the back by a suddenly revealed drow whom swiftly vanished as he had emerged.
Pandora stole her way inside a nearby tavern–only to fionly to find that same-such drow assassin joined by a sizable wolf; panicking, she bluffed that she deigned to turn allegiance and work with her brethren–managing through a swift and skillful wordplay to allay confrontation with the shadow-dancer for a moment. Re-emerging from the tavern, Pandora swiftly ascended the nearby tower whence spells had been loosed, hoping to find the cleric inside–and throwing the door wide fully ready to fight the drow within, Pandora was startled to find a lady drider awaiting her entry.
From behind, Pandora was engaged by a flying hag cackling as she descended into the battle; between the pair, Pandora managed to dispel the drider’s anti-life shell which she had raised for protection, but quickly withdrew and sought to regroup from the ensuing deadly magics which nearly slew her as well. Down below, Emma was nearly killed by the combined onslaught of arrows and blows from the glabrezu she faced, the demon disengaging from the barbarian to pursue Cassandra that it might slay the sorceress at the behest of the hag’s shouts above.
Pursuing the glabrezu, Emma intervened before a killing blow would be dealt–slaying the demon with a decisive critical stroke before attempting to shield Brother Vang and Cassandra as the pair regrouped from the carnage. By now, Anselme had been stunned by the second glabrezu while Leone continued to fight it; the demon reversed gravity to send the druid and his lion aloft–only to be charged by Emma in turn.
Foisted aloft into the clouds, Anselme witnessed a terrible creature among the clouds–a multi-headed monstrosity which seemed to take an immediate interest; having long been warned against flying over the maze, the young druid now had ample evidence why. The terrible multi-winged bird began to fly a strange circuit about the area, a turbulent storm beginning to brew over the battle below; Anselme had little interest in lingering to see what would transpire next.
From above, Anselme, once recovered from his reprisal, took to the form of an immense air elemental to ferry himself and Leone back to the battle–while Emma slew the second glabrezu, clearing the way to the cleric and hag matron ahead. Leone leaped atop the tower to pursue the hag but was laid low by a wave of ecstasy before she and the drider fell back down an alleyway–though not before Pandora loosed a dimensional anchor on the drider.
Back in the square, Cassandra disintegrated the wall and window which the archer had been using for cover, exposing a surprised drow ranger behind it; Emma immediately charged and leaped into the room, leveling a vicious blow against the archer–who in turn, disengaged from the barbarian and beat a remarkably hasty retreat down into an alleyway. Purple lightning had begun to surge among the clouds above in the meantime–and as Anselme described what he had seen while the party regrouped; Brother Vang then recognized the creature above as a Nasr–horrifying predators among the timestreams and that which he had been warned of before.
With time rapidly dwindling, Meryk broke off from the party in tandem with Emma to pursue and attempt to locate the drow–before Meryk swiftly found them, regrouped in a nearby alleyway; as Meryk frantically signaled for the party to descend and engage their foes and Emma rounded the far end of the alley to face them down, the Dust Coven collectively vanished with a word of recall–exiting the battle altogether. Pandora made a point to recover several of the arrows fired by the drow ranger, intending to divine the location of the Dust Coven later.
By now, light and dark had begun to cycle beyond the plaza square and the party realized the Nasr was culprit to such; with precious little time to spare with the coming of the citadel, the party quickly gathered for their own withdraw from the vicinity–before spying several bundles near to the fountain in the plaza. Checking such, young gnolls were discovered within–quickly scooped up before the adventurers teleported away from the Maze, escaping the Nasr’s predations.
In the aftermath of the showdown, the party returned the gnoll young to the encampment, much to the bewilderment and surprise of the beastly humanoids therein; a feast and celebration were held most raucously before the party was bequeathed with a modicum of treasure for their efforts. After consideration, Cassandra became determined to ‘relocate’ the gnoll tribe, suggesting that they might find better circumstances in Katapesh and its surrounding environs; a plan was formed among the party then to arrange for just such a shift, and quickly Pandora and Cassandra set off across the many thousand miles via magic in order to make arrangements.
Given Cassandra’s circumstances with her parents’ debtors in Katapesh, Pandora moved in the sorceress’ stead to endeavor for negotiations; meeting with the noble gnoll to whom Cassandra owed a great deal of money, Pandora convinced him to accept the arriving tribe into his organization’s care, in part as a gesture of good faith. After consideration, an agreement was reached–and over the course of the next several days, Cassandra worked in tandem with Anselme and Brother Vang to relocate nearly the entirety of the encampment within Tsar to Katapesh–seemingly closing that chapter of their affairs.
Nearly all matters and locales the party was aware of had been attended now within the temple-city of Tsar–yet only five of the nine necessary statues of the disciples had been recovered thus far. Knowing that the trolls possessed one of the statues, and with confidence that Karkuune possessed another–it was decided that the next destination for the adventurers would be said trolls, reinforced by the Children of Steel’s mercenary companies and backed by Cassandra’s djinn allies; the battle ahead would be significant, there was no doubt–but little did the party know just how potent the stakes yet lay…