Town Wrap-Up


The townspeople are pretty overwhelmed at this point. Too much going on. The zombies, the murders, us busting in, the vampire, and now there's a demon worshiping cult in town and we have no idea who are members of it?

But, they found out that in about 17 hours, the archivist is going to be able to summon enough food for everyone, and then some. It's going to be bland oatmeal, but nutritious, and people on the brink of starvation usually aren't upset about oatmeal.

Suddenly they like us a whole lot more, which is fair I guess. They've even agreed not to kill me when no one else is looking. I'm still wary though.

The paladin has opted NOT to let them know he rides a giant spider. Seems...uh, yeah. But we found a few rooms full of ancient religious lore, and a few useful items. I even found some decent makeshift armor that's good for me, and a collar that keeps me under a constant "Gentle Repose" to prevent me from rotting so the archivist can use his spell slots for more important stuff. (the collar was the vampires actually).

So, yeah, when I have more mental energy, I'll keep going. But I will say that I don't think the BBEG will be a straight up vestige. (if we even have one straight up like that, our DM doesn't always give us one big "Mwuhahah" kinda guy. In fact it's kinda rare). I also don't foresee a macguffin, but it is possible. That's another thing our DM doesn't like to do, big "Omg reach this to save the world" buttons.

I dunno how this is going to go down, truth be told. (also, we're higher level at this point, but we were 8 at the start of this section, so yeah)

The psychos of the party are sleeping in the stone cellar/hidden temple of the church, for lack of better locations. The vampire is staked and beheaded, we've got some loose upgrades to our total party wealth, and the commoners we're with are actually kind of fond of us, even if we creep them out, because the one who mumbles constantly about evil things in the dark and chews his nails compulsively (archivist) occasionally comes out of the cellar and summons enough oatmeal to keep everyone in good health.

The paladin finally named his mount, "Gold Widow", and the people learned about it when we started making runs out throughout the town looking for survivors. We made a ladder system out the second story window so we could get to the roof of the church, and the paladin summoned his giant spider mount.

One of the commoners response to seeing the paladin riding around the outside of the building on a silvery spider? "*throw up hands* whatever, sick of this, things are normal and then BOOM, zombies, giant spiders, vampires, I DON'T CARE ANYMORE, JUST DON'T LET US DIE"

Anyway. The archivist learns some decent new spells, and discovered more about the Orcus problem. Now, for anyone who doesn't know a lot about D&D demons, or binders, I'll summarize what's up and what we have figured out.

Orcus is a demon lord. Arguably, he's one of the three most powerful demons in existence, warring with Demogorgon and Graz'zt (two other demon lords). At one point in this endless parade of death and slaughter, Orcus was killed.

Orcus, was resurrected however. A surge of negative energy transformed him into the undead demon, Tenebrous, who became so wrathful and powerful that he even became a deity. For a time, Tenebrous existed in this form, trying to find a way to return as "Orcus" instead of as tenebrous, until one way or another he too was killed. His power managed to cause Orcus to rise once again, but as a living demon, not a god.

The power of his divinity, "Tenebrous", faded into the nothingness between nothings, the void that vestiges reside in. Now, the binder base class (using pact magic) can summon forth Tenebrous (as with any other vestige) and bind him to their soul, granting him the ability to experience existence in exchange for some taste of his power. (This was all official D&D stuff, not something our DM made up).

Orcus, however, is not happy with this setup. Orcus doesn't want to be a demon prince, he wants to be a GOD. He struggles to, among other goals, steal Tenebrous back from the void and regain that measure of divinity.

And apparently, he found a way. Or at least, we can only assume

Which leave us with exactly bubkiss. We're level 9 (12 now actually, but 9 at this point), and we discover that the world is broken because one of the three more powerful beings in existence did something horrible. Sounds like business for the gods, right? Except divine natures: 1) aren't simple, and 2) aren't something they just chat with mortals about. We kinda feel hopeless here.

To distract ourselves from how helpless we feel, we spend some time trying to get the town in some semblance of working order. There's too many zombies to just start hacking away at, even with ranged weapons and magic it would be a waste of effort. So our paladin weaves a web from the top of the church to the next building. And so on. Meanwhile, we're using whatever material we can find to build makeshift ladder/bridges, and laying those between other rooftops. We didn't find many survivors, but the people can now move across the rooftops, and we did save a few of them (though they all freaked out when they saw their 'champion' come descending down on a strand of spider silk and a monstrous vermin). The dragon shaman can spider climb at will, thanks to his dragon type, so he used that to good end as well.

While we were doing this, our archivist (who took "Craft Wonderous Items") is warding some of the hallways with divine traps to prevent anything from coming in that way, and crafting something for the townspeople. He made a series of dishes with lids that, once a day, can produce enough food to feed three people each. He made enough for everyone (and a few extra) and kept three of them for us. (as a note, yeah, our DM will let us design our own magical items, and is pretty lax on XP/gold costs for it, as long as we don't abuse it (and everything is approved by him in the end anyway, so we can't really abuse it)).

(Also, I used my ability to go ethereal (now twice per encounter, and twice a day anytime in addition to that as 'ace up the sleeve' uses) to good ends while searching the town, and looted the heck out of it, not that there's anywhere we can spend anything currently. Hey, good team or not, dead or alive, I am still a rogue.)

We tried to figure out who was in the Cult of Orcus in the city, but there's no way we can tell, as far as we're aware. If anyone in the crowd of survivors WAS an Orcus worshiper, they're smart enough to not draw attention to themselves now. And most of them are probably shamblers at this point, so we're kind of at a loss on that front.

While we were trying to figure it out though, we picked up on something some of the commoners thought was just rumor, and some swore was true, about a witch who was visited by 'otherworldy forces', and who was driven away and lives in the woods outskirting the city as a result.

So left between searching the town for clue about the Orcus cult, or the catacombs under the city to see exactly what's up with it, or go to see this spooky witch. We did something that, any horror movie fan knows to never do.

That's right suckers. We split up.

Team "Lunatic" set out through the city to get to the woods and look for the witch. The dragon shaman, the duskblade, and the paladin (and Gold Widow). We figured they'd be doing the most sword swinging, so having both heavy hitters and a heal-battery would do them to most good.

Team "Dora" (....really). The Archivist, me the rogue, and the warforged bard, all set down into the catacombs. We're all the exploring type, the archivist would know more about what was going on, I'd know more about getting us through whatever we found, and the bard would be good backup for us.

For anyone wondering how this works, we'd go back and forth between the teams at natural sticking points, but we were all interested, even if we weren't actually actively participating in between teams.

The Shadow Lady


Now, I talk about moving around the town like it was no big deal. It wasn't. There was enough zombies that just being mobile enough to get through was problematic, and they weren't that dangerous, but even zombies hit on a natural 20, and some of them were heavy hitters. No sentient ones, thankfully.

But it was stressful going rescuing people, much less leaving with no guaranteed route back in, or wondering when a zombie was going to smile at you and spring a trap because it still had a brain.

So, the 'hitter' team sets out across the rooftops, weapons ready. Some of the zombies follow them as they move across the rooftops, but most don't pay that much attention. They make it to the edges of town fairly easily, move down off the buildings, and out into where it starts to turn rural, keeping their eyes peeled for signs of trails or travel that might lead to a house or cottage. They wished we had a ranger, or druid, or something.

The woods were... rough. But more creepy than numerically troublesome. They kept getting attacked by undead animals. A rough patch was a swarm of squirrels. Zombie squirrels. Like I said, numerically they decimated everything they had to fight, but it was just kind of depressingly creepy. The undead animals were attacking the living ones, most of the wilderness had no real chance to speak of. It was a dead place. Sunny day after the storms or no, this was horrible.

After enough traveling, they started seeing obvious traces of something more than just the dead wildlife. Obvious low-scale harvesting and hunting, things like that. They follow the paths they pick up to find a small cottage, Now, this cottage was assembled hastily, and some long time ago at that. Part of the cottage was ALIVE. Specifically, it was built so close between trees, that when the trees grew, they grew into and around the walls (anyone who's seen trees growing through powerlines knows what i'm talking about). Bulging masses of living wood like... like cancer or something. It wasn't a friendly looking place. It was dark inside.

The paladin opted to approach it first, knocking and asking if anyone was there. He received no answer, but opened the door slowly, sword drawn, announcing that he didn't come with violent intentions, but would defend himself.

He enters the cottage. Nothing but Blackness. It's like he stepped through a veil and there was nothing on the other side. He immediately stumbled backwards back into the bright, natural, streaming sunlight. The duskblade steps forward and pushes her hand through the doorway. It's The sun is shining normally, and the cottage is surrounded by windows, but there's nothing but blackness inside. And worse, all three of them are humans, with only natural light sources, and nothing that will let them see inside.

But this is where they NEED to be. That much is clear. What choice do they have? The dragon shaman refused to enter. They didn't blame him. But the paladin knows no true fear, and the duskblade was always way too brave for her own good anyway. So the Dragon Shaman waited outside with gold widow, eyes peered for trouble, standing nervously at the entrance to the door (just so his aura would still affect the two inside) staring into the abyss.

The paladin and duskblade held hands, so they wouldn't lose each other, and started feeling their way around. Knocking into this or that with a thud or crash. Sound was fine, they just couldn't see anything. They reached out carefully, finding a wall and padding their way along it, trying to discern what they were touching.

Finally, they feel something warm. After a bit of 'manual' exploring, they realize it's a person, curled up in the farthest corner of the cabin. As they touch it, the darkness folds back from the doorway into them (revealing that it is a she, so it must be the witch they're looking for). Her eyes are 'gone', as in focused on nothing, staring into the distance, pupils dilated all the way out. She's shaking slightly, just staring. And now, even with the light streaming through the cottage naturally, she still looks like she's in some lightless corner, as if she had a thin layer of shadow smudged over every inch of her.

And the entire cabin is full of bones. Bones everywhere. Human bones, animal bones, bones bones bones... and the paladin notices at least one human skull with horns and sharp teeth.

Dragon Shaman: "Get out of the cottage right now."

But they both start trying to figure out what's wrong, shaking her gently, asking her what's going on, who she is, ect. Trying to get any response out of her. She looks up at the paladin and says, shakily, tearily, and very slowly, "....he.......hates."

Then the door slams shut.

"It's all he does.... he hates... it's all he does."

The dragon shaman starts pounding on the door, moves to break a window and finds that they're not glass. Whatever they are, he can't do anything to it. He breaths a line of acid onto the door? nothing. It's acid-proof.

psycho woman: "He can't escape."

And the walls start bleeding acid.

To quote our paladin: "Oh holy wow jesus wow that sucks!"

The woman just sits there, shaking, holding herself, the acid doesn't seem to be bothering her. But it's dripping from the ceiling and burning the paladin and duskblade. The dragon shaman switches his aura to provide acid resistance, but the cabin is literally puddling up with acid, the resistance won't protect them when they're swimming in it. They start freaking out, the duskblade punches the woman, but she doesn't respond, they start beating the walls. Nothing. The paladin bullrushes the door, hoping to knock it off its hinges. It buckles, but he hits it hard and stumbles back. He takes another charge, the door finally cracks, breaks, and the two of them come spilling out.
They look back. The blackness has returned.

The cottage is some kind of freaking venus flytrap. It's assumed that the bones are from other people and animals which were brave or stupid enough to wander in, and the woman apparently calls it home. The darkness, the walls, the acid, the window (which the duskblade checks, and apparently they're panes of force). It's all to keep everyone else out, and the woman in.

But they need her, right? She's not responsive, but we need to know what's going on. So after much debate, the paladin breaks the door off from its hinges, chucks it into the woods, and charges in alone. He reaches the woman, and the darkness fades again, and the walls start dripping acid again. But he has an exit. He picks up the woman (who's now screaming in rage) and charges out the front door with her. She's fighting, weakly, but Gold Widow spins her up into a bundle of web.

She immediately calms down. She still looks like she's covered in shadows, even with the sunlight beating down on her. She speaks. "Don't....let me go. Don't let him go" and resumes staring into nothingness and not responding.

The cabin now looks normal, aside from, you know, the bones of everything that died in an acid bath. The paladin goes in again (yes, he has a death wish. He's a death delver, remember?). He can't find much that survived the acid. Wood and bone is just about all of it. But he does find a few items that were apparently treated to be acid resistant. Some kind of magical experiment. He came to the conclusion that it was the woman herself who set this up. Whatever's wrong with her, she didn't want anything coming for her, and she didn't want any way out herself.

So, you know, hopefully we didn't screw up by tearing her out of her little burning nest.

Team "lunatic" starts setting out back to the church in the city, unsure of themselves.

They run into real trouble coming back. The shamblers that followed after them are thicker on this side of the city now, and they have a helpless 'hostage' in tow. They can't get to the rooftops. But they CAN get to the cemetery.

Long story short, they go over the wall, up into the cemetery, and start hoping it's not a dead end. They find a mausoleum that is locked like a bank vault, and break into it. And find out that it's not a mausoleum. It's just a marble shell around a pit into the darkness below.

Gold Widow starts dropping on a silk strand down into the pit, carrying the psycho witch woman, and the three others start climbing down after them.

(And as a side note, my DM apparently does a really good "crazy woman who can barely speak" voice, because when he said "....he....hates?" It seriously sent a chill up my spine. It helped that his face was behind a screen.)

The Sound of Music


The Striker team leaves the church through the rooftop pathways we've constructed, while the exploration team, me the rogue/factotum, the bard warforged, and the archivist, all set down into the stone halls branching out from the church. The DM describes the halls, including mentioning that everything's extremely dusty. My response? "So am I. Even this outfit is dusty".

I joke, but this part is actually pretty chilling. While the attack team is topside, in stark unforgiving sunlight and running past moaning zombies, we're lowering ourselves quietly into what amounts to one giant tomb. We know there was a vampire down here, what else?

It's slow going too. I'm creeping forward looking for dangerous situations, the bard is aiding me and doing some searching himself a few footsteps behind me (never know when the bard will roll a 20 while I roll a 1 right? We might as well both be checking). The archivist is a few steps behind the both of us, shining a small wooden pole with a magical light on the end (which doesn't provide much illumination) and scribbling notes about the construction of the area and some of the markings/designs of the stuff we encounter.

Every now and then, we come across a door. I didn't have any trouble unlocking them, and there were no real traps to speak of (actually, there was one door that sent a small spike into the openers palm. 1 piercing damage, and a wicked STR damage poison with a high save DC. "I'm glad I'm dead". Even managed to get a few doses of the poison out of the device, after it pricked me).

Inside the rooms were, sadly, a lot of nothingness. There were tables and chairs, tapestries, occasionally you'd find a weapon or two. We found a vial of black liquid that we had trouble identifying. The archivist couldn't figure it out, and it didn't seem to be magical. Out of sheer curiosity, the archivist popped it open and let the smell of it reach him. He actually had to roll a fort save to resist vomiting.

"it's just ichorous sludge. Blood, or some other biological matter that's gone far rotten. Probably collected from a gravesite or something for a dark ritual of some kind"

The warforged is still humming. I ask him why he hums so much, especially when we might be trying to hear danger approaching. Apparently his creator enjoyed his humming, as silence made him uncomfortable. So he made a point to hum whenever there wasn't much going on.

But he'll be quiet if his new friends want him to.

I hated telling him it was a good idea, but really, when every noise you make echoes throughout the dusty stone chambers of unknown horrors, it's time to shut the heck up. So he agreed to keep the humming to appropriate times.

One of the more significant rooms we discover is, apparently, where the cult of Orcus actually spent time whenever they got together. There are musty old books, and less-musty books (which turned out to be journals about some vague plans of theirs). In the back of the room was an altar made out of skulls and chains, and a bone pile in the corner. The bones were stained with blood, and the room smells like a slaughterhouse.

There wasn't much useful there, but we took a bit of a break while the archivist leafs through the books and journals, putting the ones that seemed relevant in his pack. One of the books he goes through is, at a glance, just a few hundred pages of music sheets. The bard perks up and grabs it from him, and starts reading it intently.

The bard is content to check out the music book. The archivist is more concerned with going through the rest of the tomes. But me? I'm thinking "Why the heck does the cult of Orcus have a book full of sheet music? They don't seem like the jovial singing bunch, and if they do have some kind of ritual chants or something, I doubt they need a thick book of sheet music to keep it up.

So while the other two are nose deep in books, I get to one side of the bookshelf and give it a good stuff push. It slides along the ground (very, very noisily, echoing throughout the halls. Which made me uncomfortable, and cause the other two to stare at me awkwardly). Yup. There's a hidden safe behind the bookcase.

The archivist says he's perplexed, and asks me why I would assume there was a safe behind the shelves just because we found a book of sheet music. I told him that he just couldn't think like a thief, and the if you find one thing that's out of place, it usually means there's something bigger out of place related to it. So while they set back to the books, I set to safe-cracking. Which actually took 3 rolls to bypass. Inside the safe, was some cool stuff. A skull charred black (creepy). A pair of masterwork lockpicks, a dagger with unidentified properties (later, it turned out the dagger was enchanted with the sole property of being able to convert sneak attack damage on the undead into either STR or DEX damage instead of 'nothing'! :D), and apparently the reason the safe existed. A flute, with imagery in Bas-relief from end to end. Beautiful imagery depicting a sunrise and praying hands. The bard flipped through the book, and found some notes scribbled in abyssal, which the archivist translated. Apparently, the flute had belonged to a powerful priest of some unnamed religion. It was stolen by the cult of Orcus, and was being smuggled around looking for someone powerful enough to destroy it. The book too, was tied to the flute, and would re-appear near the flute even if burned to ashes. It was full of "disgusting" (to the cult) beautiful holy music, most of which was mundane, but some of which apparently had real magical effects. The book was supposed to be locked in the safe too. Apparently, the book decided otherwise. Not that it's intelligent, just.... yeah. There must have been a reason it was on the shelf, right?

The bard tucked the book into the pack, and gave the flute a good looking over. Without thinking, he brought it up to his mouth (mouthpiece?) and started playing a few notes (and when the DM asked if he'd give up a use of his bardsong, he agreed).

The DM actually played the theme to Pan's Labyrinth here. Which, if you haven't heard it, it's really beautiful and haunting. He described the area around the bard starting to glow faintly, spreading out in a soft but all encompassing light, driving back the shadows.

Which is when we saw it.

Bad News


Through the doorway, along the wall across the hallway, a pale humanish figure with flat gray-green eyes hunched, apparently wearing nothing but a few light chains wrapped around himself, watching us intently. When it realized we could see it, it hissed and ran forward out of our field of view. The bard stopped playing, startled, and everything was plunged back into shadows.

We stood motionless for a while, nervous. Okay, terrified. We didn't want to leave the room, wondering if that thing was right around the corner waiting for a fight. We had no clue what it was (even the archivist. Rolled knowledge rolls, came up with nothing).

Finally we realized we had no choice but to exit. The bard lifted the flute and played his tune again while we walked. It cast light out to a 60 foot radius (30 feet past my darkvision I got from being undead). The bard had to make perform rolls to keep playing the song every few rounds). We'd advance carefully, making spot checks. The archivist had his bone shard pistol out, I had my new dagger and a few other daggers in my belt. We didn't see anything.

Then the bard failed a perform roll. The song ended, and the area was plunged into black again. The archivist had 20 feet of light around him, the bard could only see the archivist, and I could see in 30 feet around me (I could just barely see the archivist at this points, he was 30 feet away. (well, mind you, we were in a hallway, so I could see 30 feet in any given direction from where I was, not a 30 foot radius).

The DM rolled some kind of attack, and then told the archivist to roll a reflex save to hold otno his light-stick. he failed. The DM didn't give us tactical information, he just told us what we saw. And he gave a lot of the information to us individually, so we didn't automatically know what everyone else was doing)

Me and the bard both saw the archivist raise off the ground a few feet, and then the light source dropped and he was pulled.... well, away. Up, down, backwards? We didn't see, he was gone. The DM rolled for hitpoint loss on the archivist. Then he let the archivist take a shot with his boneshard crossbow, but he had to roll for direction, not anything specific. He did it by rolling 4 D20's. 2 D20's would be for the '2d' axis paralell with the floor, and 2 would be for opposite axis. Anything higher than a 36 on two dice was a re-roll. 1 and 36 were 'west' and 18 was 'east'.

We didn't get to see what he rolled, but the DM said we heard a 'tick' sound as the boneshard hit in a specific spot between the two of us.

Now, personally? I thought that was really darn clever. The archivist get s ablind pistol shot, so the DM rolls two 360 random directions and gives us the location the dart goes? It kinda pulled me in. Made me feel for the archivist, firing blindly, and really showed what a blind shot meant.

The DM made the archivist roll some checks in secret (escape artist checks, with the benefit of hindsight). He failed.

I had to roll a spot check. Then I got hit flat-footed, because the thing successfully closed the distance between us while hiding. It was a good hit on its part, and the DM said I could "Tell it was trying to sneak attack me, not realizing I wasn't alive".

The bard runs to the light source, naturally, he can't see anything and isn't sure what to do.

I debate running towards the bard, knowing he was probably freaking out as much as he does (I'm sure the DM just told him that he "heard the rogue shout in pain" or something). But instead I took a slash at the thing, hit it solid, and twice, but have no clue how much damage the thing can take.

The archivist fails another 'unknown' check. The thing disappears. The bard runs towards where he heard me, ready for trouble. I run towards him.

Heh, now, our DM is great, but he's also willing to be a jerk. The bard apparently told him that he was gonna attack as soon as he saw it (or something comparable). The next thing he saw was me sprinting into his field of view. BOOM. The bard socks me hard in the stomach, knocks me over prone. He's very instantly apologetic.

I down a light healing potion, not sure of what else to do other than getting my hitpoints back to full, and take a scan for trouble, or seeing if I can see the archivist.

The archivist fails another check. Manages to make a noise we hear through his gag. He's on the ceiling, 20 feet up. Tied to some random creepy architecture and trying to get loose.

The thing comes sprinting, charging full speed, hits the bard with some kind of charging grapple, because it wraps around him and the two go sprawling past me down the hallway, tumbling over each other. The thing lands on its back and kicks the bard over him in one fluid motion, sending him another 40 feet down the hall into a metal door, 4d6 damage. The bard hastes himself and throws the light down the hallway, shouting at me to take it. I shout that I don't need it, and he says "SO I CAN FIND YOU"

Why didn't I think of that? So I tumble up to the light, grab it, and then coat my dagger in kython venom (I can make it once a day, 'spiritually', remember).

The archivist makes his escape artist check (natural 20) and wriggles out of the chains. But now he's clinging to a bunch of creepy spiked designs 20 feet up. He opts to drop, taking the 1d6 damage for the fall. The thing takes another dash this time past me towards the archivist (JEEZ it was fast. it must have had 50 foot move rate before adding running or charging on top). I got an attack of opportunity, and nailed it with the kython venom. It staggered, but didn't stop its charge, and bullrushes the archivist hard into the stone corner, think it was 2d6 damage. The bard sprints towards me, I sprint towards the creature.

The archivist? Casts the only spell he has prepared besides cures. Light. On the chains wrapped around the creature. The creature snarls in rage and opens a full attack on the archivist, and drops him to negatives. The bard manages to close the distance between the two, get to the archivist, and give the creature two solid punches. I get up to the whole brawl and sneak attack the thing. It howls in rage and sprints down the hallway away from us, leaping up to the ceiling.

The bard realizes that it's 50 feet away. His sound burst has a 45 foot radius. BOOM. 1d8 sonic damage, fails its save and is stunned. Drops from the ceiling and takes 1d6 damage from the fall. I UMD a cure wand, and bring the archivist back to consciousness.

The archivist looks down the hallway at the thing covered in glowing chains, he's sitting there covered in his own blood, he has about 2 hitpoints. Takes his boneshard cossbow and fires. Hits the thing. 1 damage.

It was the things last GOD D*** HITPOINT.

The DM ruled that it hit the thing in the neck and tore open an artery. It slumped against the wall and fell into a pile, drowning in its own blood.

Our jaws, all 6 players, are dropped. The paladin player (remember the other teams are still watching entertained) managed to erk out a small "...what?". The DM has his eyebrows raised, he was a little stunned too. The archivist player holds his hand like a gun and looks at it wide eyed. We all stare at the archivist.

Archivist: ".... uh. Hmm. For how little damage this thing does, it's been extraordinarily useful to have at hand. I guess I'll just keep hanging onto this".

One freaking damage. Un-freaking-beleivable.


Oh, also, he immediately came back to life, and was still pretty quick (which means he was probably a sentient vestige, just, you know, he wasn't smart to begin with, and they have the same mental faculties), but we cacked him pretty easily the second time. Basically just punched/stabbed him until he went down.

The Six-Fingered Prince


So we patch ourselves up, and keep on pressing down. We came to the conclusion that the thing must have been a hunter for the cult of Orcus. Or an enforcer. Or something. Whether it used to be human, or was just some monster they managed to wrangle into their service, it was obviously down here to keep victims chained up for sacrifice.

If we were nervous before, now we're jumping at our own shadows. The archivist actually panicked and shot a rat just because it squeaked near us.

But we're adventurers. More than that, we're explorers. An archivist of forbidden religious lore, a one-of-a-kind (in this world) sentient golem talespinner, and an undead rogue. If we aren't brave enough?...

The archivist pointed out that we were under the cemetery. The bard asked how he could tell, and he gestures to the ceiling. There is, what looks like, upside down blades of black grass. "Soulroot. It's a type of grass that only grows underground, near dead bodies or sources of negative energy. We must be under a gravesite of some kind".

Of course, when he tells us something like that, it's info the DM gave us. But having the player who would know about it explain it? So helpful for immersion.

We also start finding spell components. More vials of, uh, that icky black stuff that smells bad. Small bones, animal parts, traces of gold dust glittering. We start noticing strange patterns etched into the walls. "Sealing symbols... they're often used by demonologists to keep their summons from turning on them. We need them in church rituals sometimes... they can weaken or hold evil outsiders in place..."

I've got a terrible feeling about this, but it's not like we're going to turn back. Finally, we come to the end of the line. Long stone hallway, metal door covered in "Sealing Symbols", with a red light glowing out from underneath it.

We didn't even talk. We could have bickered about whether it was a good idea or not, but what would be the point. We all knew, one way or another, that door was getting opened. So I set to work on the locks.

...It wasn't locked.

The door creaks open normally. The room is bathed in red light, and symbols on all the walls are glowing brightly with a more violent shade of red. In the center of the room is a tall dark figure with yellow eyes and sharp teeth. Circling him, are pillars of red light that seemingly have shapes of their own. The figure grins a wicked grin and waves slowly. We see that he has six fingers.

Me: What? But, how? What's going on here?

Archivist: It's... Graz'zt. A demon lord-

"PRINCE!" it interrupted with a smile, in a deep and confident voice.

Archivist: "A demon prince... wait. It's not him. it's an aspect... a lesser aspect."

The figure gives an overly friendly smile with his eyes closed.

So, yeah. To elaborate specifically. It was a weak splinter of the true Graz'zt, an aspect who arrived on the material plane to complete some minor but specific task he wanted done personally. We didn't know what, but he did tell us that the cult of Orcus 'intercepted' his planar travel, magically, and bound him here to prevent him from succeeding in whatever he wanted to do.

We asked what he came here to do. "To destroy Orcus, of course". We kind of panicked a little at that. Asked it if Orcus was on the material plane. He simply rolled his eyes and dismissed us with a wave. Told us, actually very politely, that we didn't know the tiniest fraction of what truly going on. We asked if he would tell us more (the archivist, in particular, was wide eyed to actually be talking with an entity such as Graz'zt, even if through an incredibly weak aspect).

He said that he might be inclined to shed some light on the darkness Orcus had shrouded us in, if we would do him a favor. Hesitant to make a deal with a demon, let alone a demon lord (er, prince), but really, REALLY needing to know what we were fighting against here, we asked what he wanted us to do. He told us that, somewhere in the area near the city, one of his more notable 'pets' was waiting to contact with him. He needed very much to come into contact with her, but was confined, mentally and physically to two locations. The True Graz'zt was still sitting in his palace in the abyss. The aspect of Graz'zt was currently confined to this small room with no way out. "Even if you somehow broke the seals binding me here, my time on this plane has run low. All that holds me here are these seals, and I don't know when I'll be able to return, or if I can avoid Orcus's forces the next time."

Me: “So you want us to bring her...”

Graz'zt: “Yes. Bring my pet to me, so I can do what I came here for originally. Then I might be inclined to tell you what, exactly, is "going on"".”

Archivist: “Very well then. How can we find her?”

Now, I'm sure you all see what's coming. We had our suspicions at the table.

At that moment, a bundle of human wrapped in spider silk descended on a thin strand, to land off to the side of the figure. Graz'zt lets loose a low chuckle, turns to us, and says "I'm impressed. That was very fast."

Come crawling down after her, are a dragon shaman and a duskblade, with a paladin riding a silver spider descending on his own line on the other side.

Paladin, from above: "What in the 9 hells is this?!?!?!"
Graz'zt, shouting up: "It's actually a tad bit more ABYSSAL than HELLISH down here.

Graz'zt turned to the witch, who was apparently his thrall/servant/worshiper/'pet'. She crawled to him like a worm, inching forwards in her silk cocoon. All she managed to say was "Master".

Dragon Shaman: “I knew this was a bad idea.”

The two didn't even look at us. Graz'zt held his hand near the edge of his 'cage', and the woman ran her face slowly along the other side with her eyes closed. Graz'zt told her to stay strong for him, all she could do was nod.

So then we get the exposition. Finally. We know, at least part of what's going on.

A Long-Awaited Revelation


We've already established the nature of vestiges, binders, tenebrous, Orcus. We know Orcus is trying to get Tenebrous back from the 'nothing' to become a god, which would essentially make him unstoppable. Orcus is already immensely powerful, Tenebrous was powerful enough to slay deities. If Orcus and Tenebrous managed to exist at the same time, in the same form? Well, we're talking about a being that would be able to go toe to toe with Asmodeus in a steel cage match, and Asmodeus is one of the most powerful beings anywhere. But Asmodeus has a calm collected restraint, he's a creature of law and rules. Orcus/Tenebrous would revel in nothing more than outright CARNAGE on a multi-planar scale. We're talking end of days, in more ways than one. No more world, no more AFTERLIFE, NOTHING. In the end, that is. First there would be a few hundred thousand years of slaughter and pain and inescapable suffering.

But why hasn't it happened already? Vestiges are crossing over at an alarming rate. Some true powerful vestiges have come back as sentient creatures, and still more are probably inevitably going to come back with their power intact. If there's one vestige who should have already found a way in, it's the one the 'jailbreak' was PLANNED for, right?

Except Graz'zt knew something was up, and Graz'zt is one devious, devious bastard. He managed to get enough servants, with enough power, to learn pact magic (become binders) for him. In the final days before the veil between this world and the nothing was pierced, his servants summoned Tenebrous to them.

Tenebrous did not want to make pacts of course. His freedom from the nothing was close at hand anyway. But apparently, that's not how pact magic works. He couldn't just refuse, not yet, not before the veil was actually pierced. The difficulty in binding him (to make a good pact) was astronomical, but he could still BE bound.

Now, it's been pointed out that when you bind a vestige and make a pact with them, you show their sign, and are influenced by their behavior. Actually, you don't HAVE to show their sign, or be influenced by them. If you make a good pact (beat the vestiges binding DC on a charisma roll), you stay in control. You supress their sign, control their influence, but still get their powers.

But because Tenebrous didn't want to make any pacts, the DC for binding him was outrageous. No one had a chance of succeeding. So any of those who forced Tenebrous to bind with them automatically made bad pacts. They had to show tenebrous' sign, and behave under his influence. What are his sign and influence?

You look like you're standing in shadows no matter what the light source, and you become apathetic and detached. One of your powers? You can create an area of blackness around you at will.

The witch was Graz'zts servant. Always has been. A powerful one at that. When Graz'zt saw that the veil would be pierced, and tenebrous would escape, he had the witch (and several other people, 22 others in total, apparently) bind Tenebrous, knowing it would be a bad pact, knowing he would be fighting them to be freed.

As long as one living soul has Tenebrous bound to a pact? He CAN'T LEAVE THE VEIL. They're anchoring him away from Orcus simply by continuing to breathe. Tenebrous is fighting them to escape, it's a terrible strain, they're forced to hold him longer than pacts are meant to be held (24 hours. It's currently going on weeks).

The witch set up her cabin (using power granted from Graz'zt) as a pit for her to hide in. She's been there for weeks, eating scorched fragments of cultists or animals that have come to the house after her (or randomly), and alternating between catatonic staring into her own black shroud, or fighting the urge to kill herself (Tenebrous trying to escape). She's actually RELEIVED to be bound head to toe in spider silk, because being powerless means she can concentrate all her energy on holding Tenebrous inside of her.



So, in the end, Graz'zt gave her encouraging words and reinforced her resolve and power in her servitude towards him. He convinced us (reluctantly) to undo the bindings holding him in the room, and true enough, he immediately vanished back to the abyss, no longer able to visit the material plane.

He has no help he can give us, "Unless we come to the abyss to see him first hand, *evil chuckle*". But we really have only one SANE option here. We have to keep the witch with us. We have to keep her alive, defend her from the cultist of Orcus who would gladly kill her on sight, try to find as many of the other 22 as possible before they die, keep THEM alive, and try to find some way to get them to Graz'zt's layer of the abyss for safe keeping.

We feel very very small.

The dragon shaman asked if the paladin should 'fall' for consorting with Graz'zt and the witch. The DM pointed out that talking to a bound demon isn't the same as making a deal with it, and that the witch, despite being evil, is our PRISONER, being held to prevent greater evil being committed.
Really, sorry to bring up the paladin falling deal. We don't need another discussion about paladin ethics. Our DM said it was fine, it's fine :-p

So that's all there is about THAT. We have the witch, who can act as a beacon towards the other servants of Graz'zt by her masters guiding hand. And we're, you know, screwed. As is the rest of the world.

And lest we forget, EVERYTHING THAT DIES is still coming back to life, so it's not like this new problem resolves the old one.

So, we set out northeast. We told the commoners we were leaving, even though we aren't beholden to them anyway. We gave them dishes that produce free food, we've really done all we CAN in this world to help them. We're setting out to help more, if we can.

But try this on for size. As we're setting back out over the rooftops in the city, watching the swarms of zombies moaning angrily at us, I spot something. One of the zombies isn't moaning. it's not even moving. And it looks very familiar. It's rotten and beat to hell, but... it looks, like....
And then the zombie flies out of the crowd and swoops over in front of us for a moment to wink and blow us a kiss. It's the wizard. The one who used to be in our party. I draw my crossbow and move to open fire, but he snaps his finger, and he's gone with a laugh.

OF COURSE he found us. He knows us personally, and is a diviner specialist. CRAP.

We kept our eyes peeled, but apparently he was just stopping by to make us wet ourselves. He seems to take great joy in making us uncomfortable. I wonder what vestige he was.


Ah well. That's all for now. It's gonna be a pain getting caught up in time for Halloween, especially with the sessions going on :-p